"The Old Fart"

Looking back over the past years I began to realise that I have been very lucky to have done some of the things that most people would never have had the chance to do. I did adopt the attitude of “er’e Mister lets ‘ave ago” and quite often it worked.

I always wanted to build boats (real ones, not models, that came later) and when my father died when I was 15yrs old I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with a local shipyard. After a few months the yard went into receivership and I was out of work. After about a year working in a factory and racing Hornet sailing dinghy’s every minute of my spare time I built my own Hornet with the intention of winning the National championships that year on Lake Windermere. Well the boat was very fast and won a lot of races (when someone else was sailing it (the story of my model racing)) but I let it down and didn’t win. Anyway the old boatyard suddenly opened again under a new name and I was off like a shot. I got taken on again and continued my apprenticeship.

One day I was trying to look busy and was wondering around outside in the yard when I noticed a blue Lotus ‘Elan racing car in the fibreglass shop being repaired. Now this was just to much to ignore so I stuck my head inside and came face to face with the Managing Director (Hallowed be His name) who seemed to want to know why I was there and who was I. I left. Having returned to the great inside and carried on with my work (stirring a 40gal drum of red and white lead and linseed oil) the Foreman came over to me and told me with great delight ‘To get my arse into the Managing Directors office right now’. I thought this is the end of another good job and dragged myself, terrified into the outer office. I was still plastered in a gooey mess of red and white lead because I was too scared to waste time washing and anyway if I was going to get the sack what difference would washing make?

The Office girl who in my dreams had been trying to lead me astray and had not succeeded (well I did say in my dreams) took great delight in saying that Sir was furious and I might as well clock out now.
She showed me into the Inner Sanctum where I knelt down and kissed the M.D.s shoes. I was asked how I liked working for the firm and that he had been reading my Technical College report. I knew I was sunk then! He then asked me if I would like to work in the Design dept. helping to design the new boat that the firm was going to produce. This was enough to make me get up off my knees and start jabbering a load of rubbish about that’s all I had wanted to do for months. I was on my way out feeling very relieved and pleased with myself when he called me back and asked what had I been doing looking at his racing car instead of stirring my drum of goo. I don’t remember what I said but it must have been the right thing because next minute we were off walking together past all my mates and into the fibreglass shop where we spent ages (I lost my tea break because of that) looking over his Lotus. He asked me if I would be interested in going to Goodwood the next weekend with him as he raced in the club meetings at weekends. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with the boss.

By a strange chance I had an Uncle who I hardly knew who also raced a Lotus ‘Elan (which I didn’t know). He unfortunately passed away leaving me his Lotus, which was way up north in my Aunt’s garage and “would I get it out please”. I was only 18 at the time and what the heck was I going to do with it let alone how to get it back. When I told my friend “The Boss” he was delighted and sent one of our engineers with the car trailer up north to get it. I was never asked to pay a penny . the car came back to the boatyard where it spent the weekdays in the fibreglass shop alongside Sir’s. At weekends It was tailored down to Goodwood where I had joined the club and had obtained my racing licence from the British Automobile Racing Club. I had great fun and learned a skill that is now long lost

I did get a reputation for re-designing the chicane almost every time I raced. The point that it also re-designed my car at the same time seemed to get overlooked. This went on for a couple of seasons until the day I sunk a Landing craft. Well it wasn’t really All my fault. The cleaners left the two scuttling hatches open in between the engines having swept the boat out earlier and now the big wigs from the Admiralty had arrived to watch the launch and tow round to the outer slipway to be craned onto a low loader. It was part of my job to sea that the vessel was “In all respects ready for sea”. I didn’t check the engine room did I. We slowly went down the slipway, The big wigs saluting, and when we entered the water we carried on down. The two of us on board (the other was the Foreman, Oh fabulous) had to swim for it. The vessel was retrieved at low tide but I never did see that as the firm felt that they might be able to get on better without me.

After that I took up Flying but that’s another story.
The Old Fart