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Becoming a postman.


Finding a job after 12 years in the Air Force was narrowed down to being a postman. I felt I could cope with the early mornings without a problem. The shift work was easy, the over time was plentiful but when I was sorting out the letters, God only knew where the streets in Preston were! Of course, Post Codes hadn't been introduced in 1968. I was meant to pass sorting tests, but I think they needed men more than accuracy. I walked the streets for a while on probation, I “threw off the walk” quickly enough (that means I got the letters into the right pigeon holes) to get the transport to the route I was to deliver to, didn’t get lost, didn’t throw mail away and turned up regularly. What more do you need of a postman? It was all terribly uneventful & boring. Sex-starved women didn’t drag you in houses, very few people were around & you were walking the streets, hail rain or shine. The post office was delivering early in the morning when I worked there and they even had two deliveries a day.

A mate of mine was a stamper (collected the bags of mail, got them to the train on time, labelled up the bags for the sorters). At least I knew the country. I had travelled, could read maps & it sounded the job for me. (Wonder if it was the map in my bedroom, the boy scouts or travelling in the RAF that did it?) I did a lot of hours to get the money.  To get overtime you had to be willing. If you weren’t, it wasn’t offered. We got the name of “grabbers”! Brian, Amjed & Aktar were my main companions; they worked long hours, like no one else. Amjed & Aktar were real family guys,  from Pakistan I think, early immigrants to Preston.

I was working 16 hours a day & 8 hours on Sunday. It wasn’t good for family life as I was never home but at least we were solvent. The boys were happy and we were in Civvy Street!

We bought our first home in Bannister Hall Crescent in Higher Walton. It was £2400! Because of my base pay, I wouldn’t afford to get to £3000. It was a new estate by the river. The builder was a man from St.Annes, I had ordered a house on our plot, he decided to build a “Chalet bungalow”, (early sales spin to sell you something different) This was not a single storey bungalow, nor was it a bungalow with dormer rooms, it was a house with the upper floor pushed in a couple of feet. What a wonderfully pointless idea. I had a barney with him but it was built by the time I saw what it was! It was a case of take it or start all over again looking for the right place at the right price. So we ended up with a “Chalet bungalow”, that was neither a Chalet nor a bungalow! . It was one long lounge/dinner, a small kitchen, a downstairs bathroom and three bedrooms. When you got a house then, you got the walls & fittings, there were no fires, carpets, curtains or kitchen appliances. There were just a couple of cupboards in the kitchen, central heating & single glazing. In December 2006, a similar house has an asking price of £139,000.

I found out I was good at designing gardens, but hated doing it. We had a problem at the back; water would come off the back of the garden, which was at a higher level than the house. Our next-door neighbour (on the left) worked on putting up posts in the motorways, he told us to dig a deep hole & filling it with rubble, which acted as a sump and cured the problem. Good people too, newly married & she was from Italian stock I think. As a gardener, I also managed to electrocute myself while cutting the lawn with my B&Q electric mower! I was never going to be the Alan Titchmarsh, of Higher Walton, or anywhere else for that matter.

In ’68, Tony Hancock died; both Robert Kennedy & Martin Luther King got assassinated. We were in our new house when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. He stepped onto the Moon's surface, in the Sea of Tranquility, at 0256 GMT, nearly 20 minutes after first opening the hatch on the Eagle landing craft on the 21st. July 1969. We stayed up all night to see it. (Or the truth is we didn’t actually see a lot on those early murky TV pictures.)

When Andrew started school, the early signs of trendy educational methods were evident. He was put on to ITA (Initial teaching alphabet). It was meant to be to a way of accelerating reading ability. The idea came from Australia originally. What a total failure, I’m sure it set him back for life! It just seemed to be a way of confusing a young mind with two alphabets, one you used at school & the other one in the real world.   I could imagine the disaster that would have occurred if I had been on a system like that. Just mix ITA & dyslexia, I’d have been in the home for the bewildered. As a young parent, I trusted the teaching profession. What a pity they weren’t up to the job! I bet it sounded such a good idea to promote at the time. No wonder people still believe in the old system of traditional schooling that you can only get now, if you can afford to pay for it. Mind you, Andrew has his own business now, so the damage wasn't terminal!

We had wonderful neighbours in Mr. & Mrs Bailey who lived on our right. They were retired farmers, they were a really nice couple. He served in the Navy & I built him a model of his ship. The trouble was, I built the one from the wrong war! He served in WW1 of course. What a nice man, still displayed it in his glass cabinet!

The post office was incredibly boring. The wages were OK, only if you worked every hour God sent. Drinking instant coffee & eating food at 3am & pretending this was normal was beginning to wear. I always thought I had the verbal skills to be a sales representative. I knew the pay & conditions were better, any old car we bought cost a fortune & having access to a new one was always an important part of the equation. The other thing I knew for certain, I would need training. If I was ever to be successful, someone needed to show me how.

Fairly early on, it became evident that according to my father (& others), before I became a salesman, it was going to be too much pressure as it was house to house selling like the original Hoover team, jamming your foot in your door & ringing a bell in the office every time you made a sale. After I actually got the  sales job, I was just just swaning around in my best suit, on expenses, conning people into buying stuff they didn't want.

Nevertheless, I was convinced I could do this. I had no idea how or why, but I wanted to give it a go. When I saw an advert in the Lancashire Evening Post, for a trainee salesman with reasonable money, car & training, I thought the advert had been written for me!

Next, selling carbon paper.