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Len

WHAT DO / DID YOU DO?

Posted (edited)

Apologies if this is a bit long, but I was bored.

Over the years there have been a number of similar threads on here, which I've always avoided as I liked to keep my work and social lives separate. Those who know me well might know where I worked but I've never sought to either hide or broadcast it. No one has any idea of the specifics. What prompts me to respond this time is a moment from a Weekender I attended last year. I heard a raised voice announcing "yeah, he used to work at Blahdy Blah", and then a louder response saying exactly the same. Why? Was I not to be trusted? Did people need to be warned about me? Anyway, bollox I'm not having that, so here's my work story......

'68 - '70 Left school with one solitary 'O Level' and had about 10 different jobs in Northampton and Kettering. Signwriting, Injection moulding, furniture sales, printing, stock control, hospital porter, etc etc. Those were the days when you could disappear on your lambretta at lunchtime on Tuesday and just get another job by Friday. Simultaneously I got into this music scene and all that went with it - I didn't know anyone that didn't do drugs. Had the time of my life frequenting those hidden venues and early allnighters and enjoying the original skinhead lifestyle (most of us were).

More and more of my mates began turning from pills to dropping acid or using needles. Others were getting locked up, either for drugs or fighting. One (hi Oscar) even nicked a bike just to ask to be sent to North Sea Camp borstal, because everyone else was incarcerated there! My house had been visited a couple of times by the DS (hello Mr Smallwood) and I eventually left home at 16 or 17 and had digs in Northampton and later Corby. I got turned down for a job at Luton on the Vauxhall assembly line, because I'd had too many jobs. Things were still fun, but getting a bit bleak to be honest.

So...I joined the Army.

December 1970 and probably the single best thing I have ever done and really turned my life around. I served for 9 years and 36 days, got City & Guilds qualified as an electrician also as a bricklayer, met my wife Pam, started a family and saw just a little bit of the world -

UK, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Germany, Northern Ireland, Canada, Northern Ireland, UK

 

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- Me on the left, and the vehicle which I (unofficially) learnt to drive in around Londonderry in the early hours.

 

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- I searched everything, even the Dublin to Belfast train. It was amazing what you could find when you really tried!

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- Bandit country - South Armagh. Between Newry (in the background) and the nearby border. Tasked with intercepting an IRA unit that was believed to be regularly using this short route to and from their murder targets in the Newry area.

1979 - The Army was fun but it's a young man's game and at 27 it was time for a change. I spent a year practising my bricklaying skills in Northampton and rapidly discovered that qualifications were no match for experience. My two 6 month courses that resulted in a C&G Distinction were performed in a nice clean workshop and didn't really hold water on a large construction site. Time to move on...

During my training for Northern Ireland, specifically Search Unit training, I'd been impressed with input from police Scene Of Crime Officers. We'd been instructed to call them any time we had a weapons or explosives find, and were taught the value of the evidence they could retrieve.  An interesting job I thought.

Then in 1980 I saw the newspaper recruitment advert for 'Blahdy Blah' ......

.... "If you can spot which two fingerprints are the same, you may be good enough to be trained as a Fingerprint Expert at New Scotland Yard."

I spent all night trying to tell which two were the same. And the next day, and they still all looked the same to me. I thought I'd do what the army taught me best and blag it. I never did get asked which were the identical ones but 6 months later I'd passed my interview and commenced 4 years of training to qualify as a Fingerprint Expert. The Met Police had only recently re-designated the job as a civilian role rather than a police role, hence the recruitment drive and my luck in getting accepted.

Over the next few years I was fortunate enough to add other skills to my toolbox - Forensic Crime Scene Examination, Crime Laboratory techniques, Identification of bodies (in whatever condition - burnt, decomposed, fished out of the river, or just plain dead), etc.

In 1990 I was accepted onto the Anti-Terrorist Fingerprint Team at Scotland Yard and joined some very  dedicated individuals who gave up their home life to provide a 24/7 response to terrorism aimed at British interests worldwide. Just as an insight, during peak times 12 to 18hr days were the norm, 30hrs continuous shift was not unheard of and days or weeks away from home on receipt of a pager message was commonplace. My 1996 work diary (the year the IRA broke their ceasefire with the docklands bombing) shows that I had a 1 week holiday and only 6 other days off that year. That includes Sundays, bank holidays and even Christmas. The money was good though !

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 - Same camo, different job. Training at Porton Down. On a pilot course establishing techniques and protocols for fingerprint/forensic examinations following chemical or biological contamination due to terrorist attack.

Shortly after the above I headed the examination of the premises concerned in the 'London Ricin Plot'. Immediately afterwards I was off sick with the flu. That's when I discovered that other departments had established their protocols too, and I was forced to spend time in hospital with suspected ricin poisoning. BTW, before anyone quips that Porton Down got it wrong, there was no ricin produced and was no such plot - 2 words....yeah right! Incompetence = Innocence if you have a good lawyer and a gullible press.

I had two spells in Counter-Terrorism totalling 17 years and ended up promoted and running the team. Eventually I was ousted by a career pen pusher. I was very lucky then to get seconded to a Ministry of Defence establishment where I had my own laboratory, 2 police colleagues and some fun work messing about with explosives. I'm not going into detail, but it felt worthwhile being back amongst the military, liaising with UKSF face to face and assisting them from afar.

I took early retirement in 2010. No work but at least had a lot more time to attend soul nights. I was kicking my heels in the daytime though and this was bought to the notice of a family friend who had contacts. He arranged a meet for me "under the clock at Waterloo Station", haha you couldn't make it up! It only turned out to be some people I'd worked closely with previously at NSY.  They had set up a company, Torchlight, with some prominent ex police and military guys and were getting contracts through government channels. After being given a few days to think about it I was signed up as an Associate Consultant. The specifics were that I would spend time in Kabul training/mentoring afghans at their NDS spy HQ. My accommodation would be partially at Camp Anjuman, a contractors camp guarded by ex- Ghurkas, and some of the time I would have an apartment in "Kabul's best shopping district" with 2 armed close protection guys available anytime I wanted to venture out. It was month in, month out and the money was, well......a LOT.  The only thing that made me think about it was when I discovered the compound I would be working in had been hit by 5 suicide bombers just a few weeks before. They'd breached the entrance but then got shot to pieces - apart from the one who blew up the gate of course. In for a penny in for a pound, I said yes. Retirement really is hard to get used to at first.

It all sounds very specific doesn't it? That's what I thought. What happened? .....zilch, nada, nowt. No call, no flight, no money, just the expense of setting up my own company and assigning an accountant in readiness.   I did get an offer from them a couple of years later but it sounded a well risky job and I felt by then that I couldn't trust them, so declined.

2016 I had a triple heart bypass and stopped both working and looking for work. All I do now (covid excepting) is drive around, watch TV, use my home gym, teach my 16yr old grandson Krav Maga and Kyokushin before he starts clubbing/drinking, buy a few records and go to a few soul do's. I also enjoy family life and ensure I'm a better grandparent than I was a workaholic absent parent.

Occasionally I look at these bits of paper to remind me of what I did:

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Thanks for reading. Please don't reproduce this elsewhere as I will not be pleased.

- Kev

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Kevinkent
Corrections to pre-emptive text
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Posted (edited)

Kevin, what a great read, a proper eye opener. Great photos as well  :thumbsup:

Ste.

Edited by Widnes63
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7 minutes ago, Rick Cooper said:

Not heard that one before but shows the sort of pride in the high standard of his work. Can't agree that carpenters are "woodbutchers" , take a look at a cathedral or church roof to see what they could do, mind you it helps when the client has loads of money.

I think it was a tongue in cheek re woodbutchers/carpenters, he told me carpenters worked with 'rough wood' which he did, every house's roof trestle in his road was made by him & his mate.  Sash windows etc, door frames etc 'made by hand'. Though, he thought more of his 'Lignum vitae', than he did of my mother!

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Nowt wrong with butchering a bit of wood I'll have you know ... :shades:

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On 21/04/2020 at 11:25, Len said:

WHAT DO / DID YOU DO?

Hi Folkz,

As we all have a lot of time on our hands, I’d like to know what you do for a living, or if retired what you did do for a living (I thought I’d get ahead of having loads of answers ‘Retired’) :D

It would be particularly interesting to hear from any NHS workers, carers, along with delivery / bus drivers, shop keepers.  Basically anyone who are putting themselves ‘out there’ in ref to the current virus situation.

 

I guess they're too busy Len.  Both of my kids and their partners are NHS workers and I'm proud of each and every one of them. I'm keeping out of the way - it's far too dodgy out there for me. I do agree though, t would be nice to hear from some on the 'front line', however briefly.

- Kev

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Posted (edited)

Thanks Len for the interesting thread! I had to leave school aged 15 - I'd always wanted to go in for teaching, but didn't have the parental support I needed to stay on at school to sit GCSE's - my father told me he'd kept me for long enough so I had to leave school, get a job & pay my own way. I had various dead-end jobs - but by the time I was 30 - & divorced - I plucked up the courage to apply for a nursery nursing course at the local college. Once qualified, I spent 20+ years teaching in a nursery & reception class - I'm now retired, but I loved every minute of my life in school.

I have a few friends & ex colleagues who are still teaching - usually in very close contact with children, but with no ppe at all. Understandably most of them feel very nervous in today's situation - 3 & 4 year olds don't understand 2 metres distance & they always want to hold the teacher's hand! 

Nowadays I take great pleasure in hosting the occasional soul night - not for profit - I just like to see a roomful of people having a bloody good time ...….or at least I did until this virus thingy put the kybosh on it all...….

Edited by Kathryn Magson
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Posted (edited)

Some really interesting stories on here - think we all did a lot of daft stuff when we were young - I certainly did - but it looks as though most of us turned out ok in the end!

Sometimes I look at some of the youth of today - no job - no hope - just accepting that a good time means sitting on a park bench with their mates & sharing a spliff or a bottle of voddy - I feel really sad & sorry for them. At least when we were young, we were all lucky enough to have a job - ok sometimes not the best of jobs, but at least we all had jobs - money in our pockets & a bit of self-esteem. If you didn't like the job you had, you could leave work on Friday & walk into a new one on Monday morning - happy days! 

This thread has put me in a very thoughtful frame of mind today...……..

 

Edited by Kathryn Magson
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A lot of the young uns I know nowadays don't do the park bench spliff and vodee thing. 

They are more likely to be vegan, teetotal, gym bunnies obsessed with their appearance. Wanting to look like someone off Love Island while flexing on social media...... And a bit miserable with it.

Makes my/our generation look like a bunch of pi55heads. Seems that Absolutely Fabulous mother/daughter relationship was a bit ahead of its time. 

Sorry.... Off topic. 

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