Mum’s lime green cowboy boots

This February is the eleventh anniversary of my mum’s death. I still can’t fully comprehend where that time has gone. So much and so little has happened in the intervening years:

  • Four family trips to Jamaica, the land of her birth.
  • Our daughter going to university.
  • Brexit in the UK.
  • The global pandemic.
  • Liz Truss.

All the above would have involved some active participation and discussion with mum.

So today, in celebration of her life, I want to share a short story based on the boots we found while sorting through her belongings:

Lime green cowboy boots

The three of us gaze in silence at the boots tucked neatly inside a tissue-filled cream cardboard box. Laughter follows, mixed with some hysteria, as we throw back our heads and howl.

Questions tumble out as each of us struggles to make sense of what we have uncovered, sorting through mum’s things.

It’s the lime we comment on first.

‘Is that for real?’

‘Where did they come from?’

‘Why lime?’

One of us, I can’t remember who lifts them from the box, which is when we discover that they are cowboy boots with toes so pointed it doesn’t seem physically possible for anything to reach the end.

This additional discovery, a winkle-picker boot with a two-and-a-half-inch Cuban heel, send us off again.

‘They must have been a bargain she couldn’t resist.’

‘She might have bought them for Jamaica.’

‘Are they brand new?’

We examine the boots more closely. There are no visible marks or creases on either foot.

I trace my fingers along the dark stitching that swirls around the top of the foot and winds its way to the pull strap at the top of the boot: Julianne, my middle sister, takes a big whiff and comments on the clean new smell of the leather.

Belinda, our youngest, turns the boot over and examines the sole.

‘Look at this,’ she points at a speckled stain, a rough patch. We take turns rubbing our fingers over the textured surface and realise that these boots have been worn.

They have been out in public.

We are silent again as each of us struggles to picture our 70-year-old mum in a pair of lime green, mid-calf length, winkle-picker cowboy boots complete with Cuban heels.

There are more questions as we speculate on the number of times Mum has worn them. All three of us agree, more than once, judging by the condition of the sole.

‘Girl’s night out?’

‘Must have been. Did she ever mention line dancing?’

‘Can’t remember, I bet it was a Christmas do. Someone will have pictures.’

Now the boots are out of the box, the next logical thing to do is try them on. Like one of Cinderella’s sisters, I go first as I pull and squeeze my size 7s into the boots. My two sisters double up again as I totter slightly; it’s been years since I wore anything higher than a one-inch heel.

Feeling the sharpness of the toes, I’m impressed that anyone could walk in these, let alone dance in them. And looking down at my lime green feet, I wonder what our fashion-conscious mum chose to wear with them. I share this with my sisters, and the three of us come up with two viable options:

Option one

A pair of jeans, no one thinks a skirt is credible – accompanied by a stripy top, most likely blue and white with horizontal stripes. Vertical stripes were never mum’s thing. 

Option two

White trousers narrow enough for mum to tuck them inside the calf-length boots, and a plain denim shirt, possibly accompanied by a scarf.

We agree that option two makes more of a statement. If you choose to wear a pair of lime green, winkle-picker cowboy boots, there is no point in putting them on unless they are going to be the centrepiece of your entire outfit.

‘Go, mum.’

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

Word count: 652

African Grey Parrots and Battersea Power Station

I grew up with a view of Battersea Power station. And recently, while visiting the newly revamped building, I was reminded of the time I decided to liberate our African Grey parrot from our two-bedroom flat on the Savona Estate.  

So, who let the parrot out?  

Well, it was me, and after almost fifty years, it is probably time to confess to the disappearance of our family’s African Grey parrot. Time to admit to my role in liberating it from the living room of our South London flat.   

Over the six months (I think) it was with us, this bird became the bane of my life.

It was a constant battle of wits between bird and human each time I had to clean out its cage, top up its feed or refill its water bowl. It was all about speed and agility. Was I always able to withdraw my hand quickly to avoid being bitten? Not always, sometimes I’d end up with bloody fingers from its razor-sharp beak.

I grew to hate that bird and dreamt of getting rid of it.

At eleven inches tall, I can see it now tracking my every move with its watchful eyes. It was intelligent, I could tell, and I relied on this when planning and executing its liberation.

I bided my time and took the opportunity presented by a hot summer’s day and an open sash window.

It was one of those hot, sticky days during the long school holidays; my sister, I and a few others were playing by the bomb shelters around the back of the flats. Daring each other to jump from the highest point of each shelter. In any case, I needed the loo, so leaving my sister, I ran to let myself into our empty flat.

I can’t remember what prompted me to enter the living room, possibly a squawk from the parrot. as I poked my head in to look, I noticed the sash window opposite the birdcage had been left slightly ajar. The critical thing to note here is that it wasn’t me. I was already framing how I would present myself if questioned. At the tender age of eleven, I had decided which lie I might get away with.

Here was the opportunity I’d been waiting for; it was mid-afternoon, and no one else was due home for at least an hour. I would have plenty of time to set everything up and allow the bird enough time to escape.

All I needed to do was help the parrot while covering my tracks. If I were clever enough, it would look like the bird had escaped of its own accord through a series of ‘unfortunate events’😉.

Though I couldn’t be too long setting things up as I’d left my younger sister playing outside.   

First, I hitched up the sash window to ensure the eleven-inch parrot could fit through the gap. And true to form, I could see the parrot watching me very closely. Essential for the next stage, which was to loosen the clasp on its cage door. I wanted the bird to see that its cage door wasn’t quite as it should have been. 

I felt this bird was more than capable of undoing the cage door if given a bit of help and encouragement; that was precisely what I intended to do. Once I’d taken care of the cage door and the window, all I needed to do was withdraw and close the living room door tightly behind me. I didn’t want an irritated African Grey flying around the rest of the flat.

And I certainly didn’t relish the thought of trying to recapture it. My sincere hope was that the intelligence I read in its gaze would be enough for it to realise how to fully open the cage door and make its way to freedom through the open window. All I was doing was smoothing the way.

The operation took no more than five minutes, and I am pleased to say that it did indeed make its escape. As I recall, there was some discussion about the window being left open, but no one ever connected its disappearance with me.

Though I sometimes wonder if mum had her suspicions and kept them to herself. 😉

Until next time

Janice Taylor

Word count 740

(Adapted, amended from an earlier post, July 2018)

Saying Yes

Now that our daughter has left home for university, I am thinking again about how we can best encourage her to live life to the full.

It is the start of an exciting time for her and a new era for all of us. She did brilliantly to win her place and go, only when she was sure it was the right thing for her. 

Forty years ago, almost to the day – I did the same thing and left home to start a four-year degree at Hatfield Polytechnic. It was the best thing I could have done. I left Hatfield in 1986 with a degree in my back pocket, a job to go to, and a higher set of expectations for how my life could be.

And as I approach my sixties – I can also appreciate that throughout my life, most of the funny, exciting, and unusual things happened more when I said yes than when I said no.

So, this month’s post is a re-run of random memories from when I just said yes and here’s to your new adventures, new friends and new opportunities, IT.

Getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to catch sight of a ‘Lesser Spotted Grebe’, well can’t remember exactly what now, but some bird. Travelling in my friend Mandy’s canary yellow Volvo with Martin, our resident Twitcher.   

Swanning – around on campus in my first year at Hatfield in a graduation gown and, from memory, a straw boater. Ten pounds seemed such a bargain at the time for this iconic piece of clothing, spotted and paid for at Camden Market.

Sightseeing in Paris – with no knickers after a night out and a last-minute change of sleeping arrangements. In my knee-length skirt, no one would have been any the wiser if I had not inadvertently stepped onto an air vent whilst crossing the road back to the flat where we were staying.  

Eating frogs’ legs soaked in garlic on said trip to Paris.  

Watching Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi back-to-back in a London cinema with my mate, Jules.

Squatting – in a field, at midnight, somewhere in France on the second leg of our coach journey to Italy. Our driver had consistently refused to allow us access to the coach’s loo but generously allowed us the time we needed to get ourselves sorted in the field opposite the gas station.   

Spilling –  out of a white mini-van to play Gaelic football in a park in North London. I remember lots of running around; I was a lot fitter then, with lots of people (15 aside for Gaelic) but not much contact with the ball.   

Officiating – as Reverend Janice, at the wedding ceremony, between Prince Aloysius Charming and Cinderella in the 2017 production of Cinderella and the Beanstalk at The Old Market, Hove. I couldn’t resist when asked in the show’s final moments. Some of you will already know I love pantomime.

Whooping it up at the Middlesex Sevens Rugby tournament and laughing at the three men bellowing out behind me, ‘It’s not the taking part. It’s the winning.’

Emerging – twenty-four years ago as a newlywed, onto the steps of St Peters, Brockley and being showered with rose petals, appropriated from the garden three doors down. Someone (who shall remain nameless) had figured out that as neither confetti nor rice was allowed, stolen rose petals were the next best option.

Trekking on horseback for three hours in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, we stopped traffic as we trotted across the main freeway and finished up knee-deep in the sea. I’d been under the impression that a paddle meant a couple of inches around the horse’s hooves.

Clubbing – every night for a week in Fuengirola, on my only full-blown girlie holiday with my sister Jackie and my best friend, Fiona. One of the most fun holidays I’ve been on, with its cast of characters from the lovely Jonathon, our tour rep, Lego Man, who we took under our wing, Fiona’s fan club from Newcastle and applique lady, who always wanted a gossip with us’ young uns’.

Spitting out – the chewed, saliva-covered scrap of paper on which her future husband had written his telephone number after a night at Charlie Chan’s. She did have to scream at me a few times before I deposited it onto her palm. But at their wedding reception, I did get a thank you from her husband for not swallowing his number.   

Singing a solo part with Brighton Goes Gospel at their summer concert in May 2013, my first term back after losing mum.

Floating off on a cloud of Pethidine around sixteen hours into my labour with our daughter. The effect was instantaneous, and as the needle entered my arm, all I clearly remember is turning to the nurse and asking, ‘how long does this last?’

Looking back, I can see that saying yes more times than I said no, meant that I did stuff, and at the end of my days, the one thing I know I won’t be doing is boring myself to death 😉.

So, there you have it until next time.

Janice Taylor

Our GCSE Manifesto

It is almost that time of year again; on August 18 and 25 this year, children in the UK will receive their results from the first batch of in-person exams since 2019. I cannot tell you how relieved I am to be on the other side of A ‘levels and GCSEs.

I am deeply thankful that we are through this part of our daughter’s education, which for me, was one of the most stressful parts of her schooling. For many reasons, I think we did well to get her through school relatively intact.

So, I have revised a post I first published in 2018, which reflects where I was then and where I am now:

Our GCSE Manifesto

I’m sure, like many thousands of other parents, my husband and I are counting down the days until the end of June 2018, when our teenage daughter will have completed her GCSE examinations.

I have been astounded by how stressful we’ve found these two years and can’t wait for it to be over. Back in the late 70s, I genuinely do not remember my parents or me being this involved or anxious about my O’ Levels. At that time, they were just a set of exams to take before moving on to either work or some form of further study.

So, what’s changed?

I should imagine quite a lot, but this month’s post isn’t an in-depth treatise on the pros and cons of the current UK education system. Life is too short. 😉

But what I would like to do so that my husband and I can support our daughter through the next six months and retain our sanity is to lay out our GCSE Manifesto.

So, to our daughter, we’d like to say:

We don’t need you to finish with nine, 9***********, or however the hell the top marks are described these days. A smattering of reasonable grades is fine with us, thank you very much. 

Get yourself through this but look after yourself too; your physical and mental health is our top priority. We want you to be resilient, and that might mean sacrificing a few marks here and there.   

We need you to put in the ‘effort’; this is probably the most important predictor of success in these exams. So, if you can look us both in the eye and tell us you have tried your hardest and best. We will be proud.  

These exams are a gateway, a set of stepping-stones to a future we cannot fully predict or control. They may lead you to where you want to go, but they may also lead to unexpected or unanticipated opportunities. They don’t have to determine the rest of your life; that is for you to do.

Learning is a joy and is for life, so don’t allow this small part of your education to put you off. If you can keep your mind open to Learning and your heart open to friendship, compassion and kindness, your dad and I will have done our job. 

And remember, whatever happens on August 23 when the results come out, there is always a plan B, and we will be with you, come what may.

Life will go on; all you need to do is make the best choices from wherever you happen to be.


Mum and Dad

Janice Taylor

Funny how grief hits you

Hindsight is a beautiful thing; ten years after the passing of my mum, I am still learning about the impact it continues to have on me. Like ripples in a pond – the effects will never stop.

During the final months of her life in 2012, I effectively shut down my business and split my time between mum and looking after my family. I did not have the mental capacity and energy to do more.

I watched with mounting respect how mum’s carer made all our lives that little bit easier. The difference she made every day she came in – all while earning less than six pounds an hour. 

Then in the months following Mum’s death, I questioned my career as a coach. I wondered what difference I was making. I asked myself about the meaning of work and its purpose, which led me to explore a couple of completely different roles. One as a personal carer and the other as a support worker for vulnerable young women.

My worldview had changed – but I did not fully realise it then. I could not reconcile the care, compassion, and skill of mum’s carer with her pay level. I still can’t.

I had the cushion, the luxury of not having to work full time. I was not the primary breadwinner, so I could take the time I needed to go to bereavement counselling and start rebuilding my business.

Now I can look back and see more clearly the impact of mum’s death on my view of work and how it caused me to ask bigger and deeper questions.

So, after a lot of soul searching, countless books and webinars, I am outing myself; I can reveal myself to be a staunch believer and supporter of Universal Basic Income. I think its time has come.

I also recognise how my values around freedom and choice for all play into this. Freedom of choice cannot be just available to those with money.

And I think:

  • I will channel my impatience and frustration with the ‘world of work’ as I see it through a podcast dedicated to my mum. I would genuinely love to see more people moving across from earning money for their time to building wealth for their futures.
  • I will continue to support those who speak against Racism, Homophobia, Ableism, and Sexism. And those who recognise and work with Intersectionality.
  • It explains why I was so excited to stumble across the idea of universal Basic Income and the scope I see in it to release human talent and potential.
  • Our current way of working, expecting everyone to exchange time for money, is unsustainable. At some point, work as we know it will stop working. 
  • There is an environmental argument to be made. It will no longer make sense to continue paying people to make stuff, a large percentage of which will end up in Landfills.
  • There must be a better way where people can actively thrive. Asking people to just survive is not an acceptable option.  
  • Say what you like about social media, but I see so much potential and opportunity for individuals and communities to create, build and share. 
  • Let’s help people take full ownership and control of their careers and lives. There seems to be a pernicious belief that because someone is poor/living in poverty, they are somehow not entitled to a choice.
  • I am essentially unemployable (in the traditional sense) at this stage of my life and career.
  • Ideas and creativity are where it is at, I am less interested in stuff, and that is saying something from an ex-engineer.
  • I will complete and find a way to share my collection of stories – based on my life as an undergraduate engineer.  

I’m advocating for rethinking work. I believe that the only work that really matters is keeping yourself alive —Angela Garbes

I am a dreamer, always have been, always will be, from girl to woman. Without them, I don’t think I would have the life I have today. So, if you are one of life’s dreamers, you might as well make your dreams as big as possible.

‘Make it so big that it crowds out all doubt and uncertainty.’ – Dave O’Connor.

So, what is my dream?

All the above.  

Until next time

Janice Taylor

A letter to the Queen……………..

I first wrote about this incident in 2014 and again in 2016 to celebrate the Queen’s 90th. Now, as we approach the weekend of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, I feel compelled to give it another airing. It still makes me laugh to this day, so without ado, I give you:

A letter to the Queen

“Your majesty.”

Is how I imagine the letter of complaint about me and the service I was running might have begun? Unfortunately, at the time, I did not have the foresight to take a copy of the letter, or I might not have had the opportunity.

This incident which occurred in 1997, at the time the UK was handing Hong Kong to the Chinese, taught me one fundamental lesson. If you are going to put ‘pen to paper’ and write a letter of complaint – then go straight to the top, do not ‘mess about with the people in the middle.

Believe it or not, this letter of complaint addressed to our Queen at Buckingham palace made its way over a few weeks (It did not take long) to my employer at the time. I first heard about it when my line manager waved a copy of it under my nose one morning and asked me to give him some background. Warning me that I was to be questioned further by Senior Management.

Luckily for me, or maybe due to some prescience, I had laboriously copied out all the correspondence between myself and the letter’s author, who was studying with us from Hong Kong and so had a thick file of correspondence to present to Senior Management.

I was not worried, to be honest. I genuinely felt that we had done the best we could in the circumstances. We were operating before emails, video links, Skype etc. So perhaps our mistake was in being too optimistic in agreeing to support this student living in Hong Kong.

In hindsight, I probably should have taken this to my manager earlier after being sent the same pieces of work three or four times. Each time with the same mistakes, comments and corrections by the tutor, nothing seemed to move on.

Presented with my file, Senior Management could see what had happened, could see there was no fault attached to either party and decided that it made sense to refund his fees in full. They also wrote to the Queen’s office to assure them that the matter was now closed.

As for me, I continued with this employer for a few more years before deciding to move on and start my own business.

But it tickles me that there is potentially a letter of complaint about me somewhere within the vaults at Buckingham Palace, and it tickles me that it found its way to my employer. Today I also feel a sense of pride that I live in a country where anyone from anywhere can write to our Queen and potentially have their cause taken up.

Now that is what I call accountability. 😊

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

The books that made me

Once I had overcome my problems with reading at school, see it’s probably the way I’m wired; I read whatever I could get my hands on. As a young girl, I was drawn more to action and adventure and a sense of ‘derring-do.’ So, the stories and books that caught my imagination included:

Biggles – a series of books written about the flying ace James Bigglesworth and his adventures flying in the second and first world wars. Mostly I remember his Sopwith Camel in the second, and it never struck me as odd that his flying career curiously stretched across two world wars and beyond into civilian life.

Jennings and his adventures at boarding school with his best friend, Derbyshire. A series of books stuffed with high jinks and school pranks at Linbury Preparatory school, situated somewhere in the English countryside. Like all good adventures, they barely saw their parents because they boarded at the school. And I did attempt to emulate Jennings b starting a detective agency with my sister – but we couldn’t at the time find too many mysteries to solve 😊.

Swallows and Amazons – the story of siblings from two families with their water-based adventures on the Norfolk Broads. It might have caught my imagination as I learnt to row at the boating lake in Battersea Park.

We also spent a week on the Norfolk broads, though apart from mum running us aground and a fair amount of shouting and swearing, I don’t remember much else from that holiday. 

Just William was another favourite – William and his gang always made me laugh. Things never quite worked out according to plan. And I always enjoyed their attempts to enjoy bottles of ginger pop.’

The Chronicles of Narnia series was another favourite; I was drawn to other worlds without taking on the spiritual themes and undertones. Because where else would you expect to walk into a wardrobe and emerge somewhere wholly different.

So, these are the books I remember reading as a child – which might well account for my slightly gung-ho approach to life. Let’s get this done and try something different, a sense of adventure which led to:

  • Three months travelling around Australia – I was so privileged to be able to do this in the 90s.
  • Role-playing the part of a slug on an improvisation comedy course – I’d like to say I had to dig deep, but it turned out my inner slug, Brian, wasn’t too far away 😉.
  • Signing up for a stand-up comedy course – I have managed two so far and still haven’t quite worked it out of my system, so who knows?
  • Completing a two-year life writing course –was a recent adventure and one that I almost ducked out of after the first week.
  • Agreeing to perform as Reverend Janice, in the wedding ceremony, between Prince Aloysius Charming and Cinderella – I was thrilled to participate in the closing scene of the panto.

  • Visiting the highlands of Scotland – I have managed two trips so far but want to go back to that fantastic landscape.
  • Whale watching in Vancouver – we’ve managed it twice so far.
  • Horse riding in Jamaica – we had to cross a four-lane highway on horseback to get to our trail.

  • Eco -camping – three nights at a secret location; thank God my husband stopped me from booking longer.
  • Four years on an engineering course – which possibly made me the woman I am today, the first in my family to get into higher education, and the first opportunity to travel and live abroad.
  • Snorkelling at Runaway Bay in Jamaica – I really wasn’t at my best on that occasion.

I am hoping future adventures will include:

  • Launching a podcast that will complement my blogs – this is already beginning to take shape.
  • One more house move to simplify our lives – I am ready to try somewhere new.
  • A trip to see the Northern lights – we haven’t quite managed this one yet.
  • Interrailing around Europe – this appeals to me along with a trip on the Orient Express.

There has always been a restless side to my nature, so I think I may also be ready for one more career change.

And yes, I must acknowledge that my list of books does not include adventures with young brown girls.   But somehow, this did not stop me from believing I, too, could do the same. How much more might I have achieved if there had been greater representation in the books I could get my hands on.

It probably isn’t an accident that I completed Physics, Chemistry and Maths, A ‘Levels – not my first choices, but when I had to switch for various timetabling reasons, I simply thought, ‘why not?’ Luckily my head was able to pull the strings needed to help me get into my local FE/HE college. I would not have passed all three if I had stayed on at my school.

So, what adventures will you embark on in 2022 and beyond?

Until next time

Janice Taylor

The computer says no

It has been ten years since our mum passed away. In some ways, things have not moved on too much, but then, of course, the Pandemic hit, and the whole world stopped. Strangely, part of me is grateful that mum wasn’t around – I cannot imagine going through the final months of her life and not being able to physically visit her. That would have been unbearable. 

But today’s post is about celebrating mum’s life because during those ten years we have had:

Two trips to Jamaica – to visit the land of her birth and meet relatives we hadn’t met before. The picture below is from our very first visit.

Runaway Bay

More regular contact with our family in Jamaica, especially since the start of the Pandemic and the advent of Teams/Zoom.

Regular check-ins with our dad/stepdad, via phone and in person.

So, borrowing a line from the Little Britain comedy sketch show makes a good title for today’s post and how it felt when our insurers refused our claim when we had to cancel our first trip to Jamaica ten years ago.  

Thank you Pixabay

We had everything paid for; it was going to be a big trip to take our mum back to the land of her birth and to meet our extended family.

We planned, talked, and saved for over two years, however unknown to us, mum’s cancer had already started to return, and it was to prove too late to get her across. It just wasn’t going to be possible to take her and none of us at the time could face going without her.

But today, I want to celebrate the fact that despite being told initially by our insurers that we wouldn’t receive a penny from the £5000 we had paid for seven airline tickets. We did eventually get our money back.

Being told we weren’t going to get our money back was one of my lowest points, as it felt like losing mum all over again. However, as a family, we accepted this and moved on. We put our visit to Jamaica on the back burner as we learnt to manage and cope without mum.

What happened next shows me that if time doesn’t completely heal, it does at least soothe, as, after a year or so, we were able to review the travel situation a little more clearly and came up with the idea of contacting the airline, directly. It seems an obvious thing to do in hindsight, but at the time, it just didn’t occur to us.

It only took Delta Airlines a couple of weeks to reply, with their condolences for our mother’s death and an assurance that we could indeed get a full refund. No admin fees, no hassle; they had, in fact, made this clear to our travel agent, but for reasons no one can fully fathom, this message never got through to us at the time.

Even the travel agent couldn’t quite explain it, though I don’t think they investigated too thoroughly.

In any case, our family trip to Jamaica was back on the cards, and that is what we did eight years ago for our first trip. We travelled out to stay in Runaway Bay and caught up with mum’s brothers, sisters, and cousins and visited the land where she was born.

Thank goodness we didn’t just leave it to, ‘the computer says no’……….

Our resilience as a family and our just ‘give it a go’ attitude brought us to this point, as well as the generosity of spirit of Delta Airlines, who just said ‘yes’.

Here’s to you, mum 😊.

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

The end of an era

Before Christmas, I was saddened to hear that Kessler’s International has gone into administration after being in business for over 100 years. I worked there as a graduate engineer in the late 80s. It was my first ‘proper’ job after finishing my degree, and I will be forever grateful to them for getting my career started.

The giant watch face you see occupies pride of place in our kitchen – it was my leaving present when I left Kessler’s in 1990. The straps are somewhere in our loft.

Kessler’s was a family run business when I joined in the 80s – but more recently, the family sold it, and it became part of the Hexcite group of companies. Hexcite kept the family name because it is well known and respected within the Point of Sale and Merchandising industry.

On balance, my time at Kessler’s was happy, but being an employee there, wasn’t always a bed of roses. Though it could be quite a formidable organisation to work for, they still gave me a second chance when I needed it.

And I worked alongside some real characters, who were mainly funny and kind. And I am still in touch with a few of those characters today. I can honestly say that working at Kessler’s was one of the most memorable times of my employment history.

So, today I want to celebrate the people I worked with at Kesler’s – in all their glory. I learnt something from every single one of them.

 RT – one of the graduates who greeted and showed me around the factory the day I arrived for my interview with such enthusiasm and verve.

JC – the production Manager who interviewed me in his smoke-filled office. I don’t remember him asking me a single question 😊.

Tombstone Roy – the spray shop supervisor; I can’t quite remember how he got his nickname and whether he was aware of it. But I always thought it was superb.

Mike – a senior manager at BDM who regularly invited an impoverished graduate to a slap-up Sunday lunch with him and his wife.

C – we worked together in Buying, but the less said about that time, the better. It was tough working with someone who thought all graduates were a waste of time.

J – the metal shop supervisor who helped me out of a tight spot when I messed up the purchase of some steel plates for a beach-themed display. My error caused him a problem – but he still put me straight with kindness and care.

Whoever voted to give me a second chance after a disastrous performance appraisal after six months, had I lost this job, I would have been in big trouble. Instead, I ended up staying with Kessler’s for over four years. I suspect my saviour was the Managing Director, GK.

NE – The best manager ever, I still remember him with enormous respect and affection, even after almost forty years. NE effectively coached us long before coaching became a thing; his approach made a big difference at the start of my career. Under his management, I learnt how much you could achieve with a simple tool like a spreadsheet and some creativity and imagination. I became Swatch girl – responsible for steering all the related components through production, so everything came together seamlessly for assembly. 

RT, EM and PR – my fellow engineering graduates, you were the best group to go yomping around the countryside with as part of a team-building challenge. Despite our poor showing, I would not change a thing, even though two of us lost sight of the mission, seduced by clear blue skies and roses.

EM- who invited me along to a Gaelic football match – all I remember, aside from spilling out of the back of a van, is lots of people, lots of laughter and lots of running around. EM also helped me move digs on more than one occasion.  

JH – you taught me everything about pulling an estimate together. I taught you all I knew about spreadsheets – namely SuperCalc4. Our time in Estimating was highly productive except when we spent a morning pricing up your garden shed.  

Above is one of our computerised estimates – JH completed all estimates by hand before my arrival.

Old blue eyes – turned up one day, from the other side of the world as part of his work experience and sat opposite my desk while I was in Estimating. I (old brown eyes) did visit him in Australia after I left Kessler’s. 

GT – you were a good friend then and an even better one now.

Finally, I can say that working at Kessler’s didn’t suit everyone; you either stayed for a good while or left pretty sharpish, I managed four years.

But to all Kessler employees, past and present – I salute you.  

Until next time

Janice Taylor

Squid and the games we played as children

Loathe it or love it; there is no ignoring the phenomenal Netflix series, Squid, that is currently taking the world – or at least my corner of it by storm.

I am in the ‘love it’ camp – completely caught up in the storytelling despite the gore, and there is a lot of it right from the start. If blood and guts are not your thing, then probably best to give it a miss.

For me, Squid is an alluring mix of the 1973 American Science fiction film, West World. Yul Brynner as the murdering android is superb and a possible forerunner of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator. But I am wandering from the point. The ruthless and political machinations of the Hunger Games and the naivety and innocence of Jim Carey in the Truman Show. A mix that I find completely and utterly compelling.

Some scenes had my heart pounding; others brought me close to tears at the sheer poignancy and beauty of the acting. Yet others had me reaching for a cushion to cover my eyes at the casual cruelty shown.

I can’t be the only person who is now reminiscing over the games they played as a child, albeit without such dire consequences. I remember we spent a lot of time outside, in the area around the back of the flats where the bomb raid shelters stood.

There was nearly always a small crowd of us in the days when children regularly played outside and were not so tightly supervised by adults. I grew up in the 70s.

So, this is what I remember playing as a child in the 70s in South London.

British Bulldog –as I remember it, everyone except for one person lined up against a wall. The aim was to get to the other side without getting caught or tagged. If you were, you joined the person in the middle to catch the others. So as the game progressed, more and more children were there waiting to tag or catch you as you tried to make it to the other side.

I was a fast runner and could zig and zag with the best of them, so I usually made it through to nearly the end. Which only happened when there was just one person left to try and make it across.

Knockdown Ginger   – this one was and still is more contentious as it did involve a few of us hopping over to another block of flats, knocking on someone’s door at random, and then waiting until the last possible moment to run away.

Most people would shout at us, ‘bloody kids, ‘and leave it at that – but occasionally someone would decide to give chase, and that is when it got really, ‘exciting.’ Especially if the lift was on a ‘go-slow.’

And please note, I am not suggesting that anyone go out and play this game.

Cannon – this game involved four sticks, three placed against a wall with the fourth lined up across the top. As soon as the ‘cannon’ was fired – that is, someone threw a ball to break up the stick arrangement, it was time to run. The aim was to avoid being hit by the ball while rebuilding the sticks against the wall.  

And when we weren’t playing these games, we were either busy putting on dance shows, setting up fights with the children a few streets away or jumping off the 8ft high bomb raid shelters, which is how I ended up with stitches in my knee. But that’s a story for another time.

As the oldest, all I needed to do was keep an eye on the time and remember when mum told us to be home – which we mostly did while avoiding any difficult questions about knocking on doors. 😉.

And if it ever happens, I’ll certainly be up for Squid – series two.

Until next time

Janice Taylor