Alan's Blog




Getting on a bit!

One of the many sad things about getting old is that most of the people you knew when you were young are now dead.

I'm not talking about parents, grandparents and other family members particularly, sad though it is to lose them, but all the people I've worked with in the last 50 plus years. I often think back to many of those people who treated me kindly when I was an apprentice and, later, as a young man.

One man who tried to influence me was Vic, quite an elderly man who worked as a pumping station (drinking water) attendant at Ashurst Wood, near East Grinstead in Sussex. He had a son who was a few years older than me at the time and who had served his time as an electrician, just as I was doing. Vic's son had just emigrated to Canada and completed the required conversion course to qualify him to work as an electrician in Canada. He seemed to be doing really well and Vic encouraged me to follow in his son's footsteps. Vic used to read me extracts from his son's letters and show me photographs of his life in Canada. Needless to say, perhaps, but my path through life took a different route, although I have spent some 12 years living and working abroad. I wonder what Vic would have to say to me now. What a coincidence it is to have married Grace, who has family who emigrated to Canada. At least I could tell Vic that I've visited his son's adopted country. The last time I was in the area of the pumping station I tried to go in and meet the people who worked there and tell them about my past life when I worked there too. Sadly, it was all locked up and no entry was possible. Another site where jobs have been lost because of automation. I expect almost all of the pumping stations I knew so well are fully automated by now – a process which started in the 1960s – and one in which I was involved.

Of course, my time as an apprentice wasn't always spent with kindly well-meaning people like Vic. In those days, apprentices were sometimes treated very badly. In fact, the only other apprentice who was working at the same company as myself left, I believe, before he'd completed his apprenticeship and I'm sure it was because of all the abuse he'd had to endure over the years. How sad is that! If, as I suspect, he hadn't completed his apprenticeship he'd find it difficult to go further in his career. Thank goodness those days are, in the main, over and done with and apprentices are generally well treated these days as bullying in the work-place is usually dealt with very effectively. Although my life as an apprentice wasn't exactly enjoyable, at least I didn't have to put up with as much abuse as my fellow apprentice and I was able to complete my apprenticeship, however, as soon as I was told I could no longer attend college after working and studying for more than six years, I resigned and my path through life went in other directions. How good it felt to leave that company! However, I sometimes think back to the many kind-hearted and friendly people I'd met during my time there with considerable fondness. It's such a shame that the few people who were horrible to me should have left me feeling so delighted to have left the company. Sadly, all the people with whom I worked in those days, good and bad, will be dead now, although some will be missed for all the wrong reasons.

It's also sad that by the time you get old you've got so much useful knowledge and experience in your head that it seems such a waste to die and have all that useful stuff lost forever instead of being able to use it - and pass it on to younger generations.


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