My book is not an autobiography. It is a series of anecdotes covering my working life, which was almost entirely working for ‘boards’ — namely the National Coal Board, the Gas Board and the Construction Industry Training Board. I say almost entirely because as I neared 55, an age at which I had decided to retire, I met someone and moved to be with her. My father always used to say,
‘A good woman will drag you further than gunpowder will ever blow you.’
It's true, and as a result, I had a few days packing crisps and a few weeks in a call centre. Try getting an amusing anecdote out of those! Finally, I had a year at a College of Further Education, helping school leavers without academic qualifications find their way in life. Not a lot of amusement but some real heart-rending situations.
Many of my tales are from the 1960s and 70s and will take you through periods of change; change in the mining industry from pick and shovel to mechanised mining. Change in the gas industry with the discovery in the 1960s, of natural gas in the North Sea which resulted in the conversion of the whole of the gas supply system, thus bringing the gas industry out of the Victorian era. And finally, changes in industrial training from attending a course and being seen as competent, to National Vocational Qualifications and competence based on ability proven with work-based experience.
Due to the nature of the industries I have worked in, swear words will litter the dialogue. It is not to offend or to dramatise; it is because it happened. It was always called ‘Pit Talk’ and never heard in the Miners’ Welfare or local public houses.
Throughout the dialogue, I have changed names; not to protect anyone, but because it would be impossible to trace everybody concerned to ask their permission. If any reader thinks they recognise themselves, it may not be so, because I am sure the majority of incidents must have occurred many times in different situations. The one name that has not been changed is Malcolm. He cropped up early in my career through work and also through cycling, but since the day we met, we became good friends and still are.