I desperately need a job to help offset the cost of my pilot training
Excerpt from my book — “Dancing the skies and falling with style.”
I scraped through my A Levels and I had to decide my future. I had narrowed it down to Medical school at Westminster College or Pilot training at Hamble.
I could imagine myself as an eminent gynaecologist on the cutting edge of medical science, surrounded by swooning pretty nurses. I could also see myself as a dashing, daring, aeronaut battling the elements surrounded by adoring beautiful stewardesses.
Which to choose? They both ticked a lot of boxes.
Super Hero? Yes. Centre off attention? Yes. Respect? Yes. Lots of money? Yes. Sex appeal? Without doubt.
The difference really boiled down to the length of training. For a Doctor it was five years, for a pilot it was two. That was a big difference
Then I noticed an advertisement in ‘The Telegraph’ for pilot training at Hamble. ‘Earn £1,500 a year after 2 years’ it proclaimed in large letters. Alongside the text was a drawing of a steely-eyed pilot walking down the aircraft steps towards a blonde stewardess waiting for him in an MGB sportscar.
She looked amazing. I was sold.
The problem was that I didn’t have much interest in, or knowledge about aeroplanes. I only applied to get out of school.
I was sure I would be able to bluff my way through.
I wrote to Hamble to accept their offer, and by return of post I was told that my course would start in six months.
I needed a job.
Oakleigh Animal Food Products were advertising for labourers in ‘The Ascot Gazette.’ They hired me, the hours were 5am until 3pm six days a week at 10/6 per hour.
I also found a job as a wine waiter at the ‘Coach and Horses’ from 6pm until midnight. I knew absolutely nothing about wines, but I needed to save as much money as possible.
The Oakleigh Animal Food Products factory was in the old goods yard behind Ascot station. It produced dog food from the carcasses of livestock after the butchers and tanners had finished with them.
The factory was a collection of prefabricated metal buildings, chimneys and delivery bays. Steam continuously rose from vents and smoke stacks which condensed on the metal and fell as a fine drizzle. The concrete floors were covered in patches of moss and green mold. The stench of rotting meat and burnt flesh was appalling and permeated every corner of the factory. It was a requirement to be inoculated against all sorts of diseases to work there, even as an office secretary.
It was a dark satanic mill by any account.
I worked in all three stages of the production process.
Lorries from abattoirs dumped the remains of animals in a steaming heap in the holding bays. The first stage was to sort the remains into bins.
Depending on the ‘menu du jour’,the second stage involved loading the remains from relevant bins into a mincer-crushing machine. Bones made a frightful noise as they were crushed, showering us with tiny osseous splinters. Mincing livers didn’t make much noise but sprayed us with a fine ‘mousse au chocolate.’We used meat hooks to lift cow’s udders into the machine as they were slippery and very heavy. Cows’ vulvas were slippery too but only weighed about 1lb. The resulting effluent was piped across the factory to the freezing bay.
Finally, in the freezing bay, the effusion was squirted from an overhead nozzle into trays on conveyor belts. When the trays were full, they were lifted into industrial quick freezers. Two conveyor belt systems were installed 15 feet apart. The trays weighed about 25 lbs. It was back breaking, monotonous work.
About twenty people of all ages worked with me and we didn’t talk much. There was a remarkably strong old man, a pair of twins, Frank, who said he was ex SAS and a Nigerian called Odogwu, who everyone said slept on the sacks in the storeroom and ate the dog food for dinner.
Frank was about 30 years old, tall and thick set with huge tattooed muscular arms. He had short dark hair, a slight lisp and he didn’t like me. He pushed me around, teased me about my accent and ribbed me about not keeping up with him when we were loading the freezers together.
Frank was a bully and I didn’t like him either.
One day I was freezing cow’s vulvas while on the other belt, they were freezing liquidised liver. We wore rubber gowns, aprons, boots and long red gloves. It was hot in all that rubber and I was tired and bored.
For some reason our conveyor belt stopped. I had a cow’s vulva in my hand and I looked over and saw Frank by the other conveyor belt bending over a tray of liquidised liver. I slipped my hand inside the vulva, it fitted like a glove, and I hurled it at Frank. It described a graceful arc through the air and fell dead centre in the tray of minced liver. A tsunami of hepatic goo covered Frank from head to toe.
Everyone stopped working and stared at him.
Spluttering, Frank looked around and saw me laughing my head off. He wiped the liver from his eyes and spat it out from his mouth.
“You bastard!” he yelled and picked up a cow’s udder.
Cow’s udders are very heavy, probably about 10 or 15 lbs, but he was very strong, and he managed to lob it in my direction. It bounced off the conveyor belt and hit the old man next to me in the stomach. He fell backwards winded and knocked over a bin of sheep’s gall bladders. I picked up a pair of pig’s lungs, and with one lung either side of my fist, I threw it at Frank.
It was amazing how aerodynamic a pair of lungs could be. They soared towards him, but missed, and hit one of the twins in the face. Mayhem ensued with one side of the floor throwing projectiles at the other. Bladders, penises, kidneys, vulvas, bones and testicles filled the air. It was chaos. Frank had been hit multiple times and stood with intestines in his hair, chopped liver down his vest and a lung on his shoulder.
He strode angrily towards me with his fists raised. I tried to run away but he cornered me between the freezers. He threw me to the floor and was pushing my face in my tray of slimy fetid cow’s vulvas when the foreman burst in.
I got the sack.
They taught me a lot about wines at the Coach and Horses but my career as a wine waiter was short lived. Diners complained to the manager that I smelled. It was probably true, as no matter how thoroughly I scrubbed myself in the bath each day, I could not completely wash away the putrid smell of dog food.
I was relegated to the kitchen as a ‘plongeur par excellence’.