As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.
Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.
Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accomodate those wanting to take part.
Submission length is limited to no more than 5,000 words, and a suitable spellchecker should be used to remove errors beforehand. A personal photograph should also be included (no avatars please), together with a brief biography.
Mailing address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am 65 years old born in the North Derbyshire town of Chesterfield to an ordinary working class family, having an elder brother and sister.
Father was a skilled Turner in the local Staveley Iron and Coal Company whilst mother did various part time jobs to compensate the family income.
I went to the local infants and junior school, then on to secondary comprehensive as it was called in those days and began my working career as a motor mechanic in a local garage. I married and fathered three boys who in turn have given me five grand children, three boys and two girls.
Over the last fifty years I have been all over the country both in my job and on holidays, been divorced twice and now live with a lovely lady, Catherine, in the town of Heanor which is situated about six miles from Derby and about the same from Nottingham.
My interest are varied and range from making and flying model aeroplanes and helicopters, going to see steam engines when working, growing vegetables, trying to play the organ, supporting Derby County, and, when inspiration comes to me, writing short stories.
“The time is getting on Herbert, better get a move on. After all you do not want to make a fool of yourself today now do you?” That was Renée the wife of forty five years encouraging her spouse to get off to work for the last time, because Herbert was about to retire today from the company he had served for forty-nine years and six months. He was in mental torment this morning for it was as if he was being thrown out of the job he had endured through thick and thin, good times and bad, and was at the pinnacle of his skill of working a twenty-two foot long lathe turning machine and creating a first class finished article accurate to the last thousand of an inch.
He donned his coat and hat, swung his snap bag over his shoulder, looked Renee deep into her eyes and those few seconds of silence said a thousand words. They kissed, and off he went to walk the two miles to the engineering works for the last time. As he meandered along that well-trodden familiar way, his mind was slowly unfolding all those years and thinking how they have flown, and then memory of that very first day he knew he had a job to go to came to him so vividly.
He saw in his mind’s eye the excitement on his face and recalled the butterflies in his tummy when running home to tell his mum and dad he could start with the fitters in the fitting shop in the local engineering works straight away. He wasted no time running and telling his favourite aunt, Betsy, he had found a job and wanted the pair of overalls which he knew she had waiting for him. She too was really thrilled for the persistence Herbert had showed in an effort to get work had at long last paid off. This was in the early nineteen thirties when jobs for the school leavers were scarce, and many a lad failed to get any job unless they went to the pit, and Herbert vowed he would never go underground. All his paternal relatives were miners, and from the tales they told it made him more and more determined that he was having none of that.
In his dreamy state, folk were walking past him on their way home from the night shift saying “Morning Herbert”, and he automatically responded. Bodily he was in his local village, yet his mind was in the adjacent village where he grew up. A Victorian terraced house, two up, two down, with a garret, no running hot water, just a range to warm water in a cast iron well by the side of a constant coal burning fire. A lavatory and a bath were in a “wash house” outside. This was all he knew in those days, and so when he came home from his days as a learner who was given all the filthy dirty work, he was as black and grimy from soot, and had to hope there was enough warm water to wash and clean himself. He could not recall how he did manage, yet being so deep in thought he failed to realise he was at the works entrance. His last words to
himself were “I have come a long way since those days.”
By now, fully awake, he was at the clocking on machine. He took a few seconds to lift out his clocking-on card, and stare at it. The same time, within a minute or so, was recorded on every day this week, so in went the card, down went the handle, ding went the bell, out came the card and into the vacant slot on the arrival side. All the familiar faces were now around him, and so he was rudely transported back to the present with all the banter of “Morning Herbert, last un’ today?” and “All rate Herbert, lucky sod, no more wok for thee after t’day.”
He acknowledged them all with his usual courtliest smile. Some of the comments from his colleagues were a little harsh, yet were all said in good faith, after all, he had “lived” with them day and night and he knew they all meant well.
When he got to his work station, his first task was to make a brew which he did, then get his coat off and slip into the well-worn overalls. As he began to do so, into the machine shop strode his foreman with the charge hand. These two people were the scourge of his life. If he had the chance to dismiss any persons from his life there would be no hesitation, this pair would be the first to go. Herbert could turn nasty when he wanted to, and his immediate thought was to have a rant at them for now was his chance for retaliation. It was his last day, and the pleasure he sought for revenge owing to the hassle they had given him over petty issues and being asked to do other jobs because he was considered the only person capable, then being chastised if it did not suit the criteria, plus other stupid issues, had driven Herbert to his last limits of his patience.
Now was his moment of glory. However, before he could draw a breath George, the foreman, held out his hand to Herbert and wished him all the very best, and not to bother doing any work today. He continued.
“Now, I know that over the years we have not always seen eye to eye, Herbert, yet I must tell you this. We are losing the best turner we have on the works, and I for one will be sorry to see you go. You are welcome to have a wander around today and say your farewells to all your friends, and there will be a presentation to you and the others in my office at about two o’clock.”
“Well, George, that has took me by surprise. For the last forty years you’ve been telling me to get busy. Today is the first time you’ve told me to do nothing. Does it mean that I won’t have to finish this last job before I go?” Stuttered Herbert.
“Oh for goodness sake Herbert!” Stormed George in his usual hasty manner. “Just enjoy the last day and be in the office at two.”
Frank, the charge hand, stepped forward and shook Herbert’s hand, paid him a similar compliment, then they both turned away and disappeared out of the machine shop. Herbert watched them go with reservations. By now Jack, who works the adjacent machine, had arrived and heard all the conversation. He sauntered up to Herbert, cup in hand, to share the brew with him.
“Do you know,” Jack began “that’s just typical of him, that, after saying a few nice words George cannot stop himself from saying a hasty hateful retort. His attitude has created such animosity between me and him and a lot of others for years. You know that bloke wants a lesson in human psychology then again I’ve no need to tell you, Herbert, why on
earth did they make him a gaffer?
“He was made Foreman in the first few weeks after the end of the war and he’s kept it ever since.”
“Aye, typical. I bet he couldn’t do a good job so they made him a gaffer, is that what happened?
“If you ask me he ought to have gone in army, on t’front line like I were in Aden by gum, he wouldn’t be like he is now, my sergeant would have knocked all that bull-headed attitude out of him. You were reserved occupation weren’t you Herbert?”
“Yes, I got a job with the fitters in the early thirties, up to me neck and beyond in muck, so when they were wanting somebody on the small lathes in the other machine shop I asked for the chance and got it, eventually getting up to these twenty footers. You know, it’s not all been bad. I’ve had some really good enjoyable times here, especially during the war, and since there were some good lads that got signed on and never returned, it was like a ghost town when they all went. Then women come in to take their places on the cranes, and packaging, and even on the small lathes. That created a different atmosphere, let me tell you. Yet all in all it was a more friendly place then than it is now.
“Tell me what it was really like here during that time because I’ve been in the army, as you know, and the sights I saw and suffered are to horrid to recall, I was talking to, err, what’s his name? Union man, other day he told me he were in Italy during the war and some other places that I were posted to.”
“You mean Fred Barker. Oh aye what a feller he is. He can tell a tale or two, and a right nice chap as well. We mated each other for years, him on other shift to me, and then when we went on days regular, golly did we had some laughs. You want to ask him about his encounters with George, especially when he got a bent tube in his lathe.
Just as he said that Fred came sauntering up to them. “Well, talk of the devil and it makes an appearance. Morning Fred.”
“Morning, Herbert and Jack. Herbert, I’ve just dropped in to say ta-ra and to wish you all the very best, hope you enjoy what is coming to you, and take care.”
“Thanks, Fred, we’ve known each other a good few years haven’t we and never had a cross word. Fred, it has been a pleasure to know you; you look after yourself.”
“Hey up, Herbert, you’ll get me crying in a bit so all I can say is likewise, and enjoy your retirement - that’s an order.”
“Fred, before you go, tell Jack about your fall-outs with George, because Jack wants to know what he can be like.”
Jack interrupted, saying that he knew what he can be like, and what he wanted to know was what cross words he’d had with George. Herbert tells me to ask about a bent tube.
Fred began. “How long have I got? Well, never mind about the time. Let me say that, in my humble opinion, George is no more than a bigot; he considers himself to be the top dog at everything, and we are not here to prove him wrong; yet the day came when I was having a problem with one of these big pipes we make. On the day this pipe insisted in bending whilst I machined it. As much as I tried the dam thing bent out of limits. Of course I was running over the time allowed for the job, I was getting worked up over it, when along he comes, ‘Sarky George’.
He stood at the end of the machine and shouts, your taking your time over this one aren’t you? What’s up? Can’t you do the job, Barnsey? If not, pack up and I’ll get somebody who can. I looked him full in the face and told to, well you know, clear off.
“You do not talk to me like that, Mr Barnes, says he, to which I replied, you do not talk to me like that Mr Walters, and stared him out. His attitude melted for a second or two and so then he asks me what the problem was. I told him in a few well-chosen words that this pipe insists on bending to about six or seven thousands of an inch whilst I machine it. I had done all I could to stop it yet it still does it and, if he knew why, then tell me, and if he could stop it bending. Do it. He stood looking at me thinking what to say. I knew he hadn’t got a clue what to suggest. So, what does he say? Well it’s no good if it is bent. I bawled out yes I know. It’s no good if it’s bent. To which he shouts and why is it no good if it is it bent? Come on, Clever Dick, tell me. Why do they have to be straight? I stood straight up, shoulders back at attention - inside I was seething. I sneered. Because if all the pipes are all bent, when they lay them down in the ground, instead of getting to where they want to go, they will come back to where they bloody well started from.”
Hearing this Jack fell about laughing, and Fred and Herbert laughed with him. Eventually Jack regained composure.
“Is that true?” Asked Jack.
“Absolutely.” Replied Fred. “Here, I’ll tell you this as well. When I was in the army fighting for George’s freedom and shooting those blasted guns, he were here pretending to be doing his war effort. Now, one day, just for a change, we were being quite friendly, talking as you do about the war and this and that then it got round to these pipes and how they bend. Then out comes all the garbage about during the war how he was turning gun barrels for the army, and these had to be straight or they would be no good, and how he had no trouble ensuring they were straight, and how accurate they were to within half a thou’ in bend, because you know he says they needed to be accurate, so they would shoot accurately. Not like today where the tolerances have almost tripled, and you lot think you are working under tight restrictions. He reckoned he was under more stress then than I could ever imagine making sure his gun barrels were the straightest. Then he points to Herbert, ask him he was on gun barrels as well so he can tell you what it was like. That remark drew my wrath. I give him the dead eye, I looked him right to the back of his head and feeling really wound up I had the very words to stun him. With no qualms I told him. They were bent.”
“Wow. He turned on me, and in a violent mood shouted, what the hell do you know about them you were not here doing the job so how can you justify that remark?”
“Shouting back at him, no I weren’t here. I were on that battle field shooting your guns, your bloody guns!! Under more stress than you were hoping that Gerry‘s guns were worse than yours, and me missing every bloody target He never spoke to me for a week.”
Again Jack was in convulsions. When the chuckling and laughter died away, Herbert remarked.
“Now Jack, you can see what I am leaving behind. Seriously, you know I love this job, because I am good at it. I enjoy being here, perhaps because I have been here for so long, and never known anything else, and as I feel now at this point in my life it is a little daunting, for so many of my old mates have gone before me and it seems like only a few months later they are being buried. That’s true isn’t it, Fred.” Fred nodded. “So I will not be sad to wake up tomorrow morning knowing I will not have to face that man any more, yet it will be strange knowing I will not be coming here any longer. In myself I feel happy, yet at the same time, sad, and as I do not know what I will be doing tomorrow or this time next week very daunting. Fifty years of doing almost the same thing at least five days a week is a long time, and it will take a while to readjust.”
For a moment they all stood in silence, until Fred spoke up.
“Hey up, Herbert. Come on, this is your day; any more of that and we will all be getting our hankies wet from tears. Hey, let’s be cheerful and to hell with that bugger. It’s your day today, so do not let him spoil it - in fact I’ll make sure he doesn’t.”
That created more mirth, and none of them realised that the time was passing by and nothing was being done, so away went Fred to do his job, and Jack did likewise. Herbert decided to have his wander around the works. Of he went to meet, greet, and chat to all his colleagues to say his farewells. Two o’clock came, and into the office he went to find a group of workmates already assembled to greet him. As he entered they all applauded which made him feel a little emotional.
The works manager was there, and he gave a very nice speech about Herbert, and what a role model he is to all the workmates he is leaving. As a big surprise, many gifts were bestowed upon him, and one in particular took him quite by surprise. It was a very nice hand-sewn badge depicting a gun, and the wording referring to the manufacturing of the gun barrels during the war. This was a memento for his skills during the war effort. As he stood in silence reading and admiring it, Fred Barker sidled up to him and so that all could hear him jokingly, said “I knew which were yours, Herbert, when I pulled that string I hit what I aimed at.” Then he fixed a glare at George.
This remark sparked off laughter and gave the ceremony a comfortable finish, yet left George to
eat his past words. The assembly dispersed; Herbert gathered his stuff together, and with a smile on his face yet a heavy heart walked out of those gates for the very last time.
It would be about six months later when he was beginning to get somewhat anxious because of being at home all day, that a very old friend called him up to ask him if he would like to do a part-time job. Being a little hesitant, he agreed to meet and discuss what it was all about. When told he laughed a little, then accepted the chance to be the lift attendant in the big store in town. He began this job with a little trepidation for having spent almost fifty years in an engineering works, to working a lift is rather a big change. However, he took to it and enjoyed all the day going up and going down and meeting all various people, their pets and children, listening to all their ailments, failures and successes. The management of the store took note of this, and realised that Herbert was the type of person who could communicate with all and sundry, and as the festive season came nearer, they called into the office and told he was to be given a new job, if he wanted it. When told what it was, he thought a while, and then accepted it.
On the first Saturday in December, all dressed up in seasonal regalia, he was assisted on to the top of a fire engine and rode in state to the outside of the store to be greeted by hundreds of cheering screaming children. Taking it all in his stride, he waved and threw sweets into the crowd and the whole area was in uproar. Eventually, he was able to dismount and take an unsteady walk into the specially created grotto in which he sat greeting the town’s population of children, grandparents and guardians, even pets.
One Saturday morning two little girls came running in and jumped on his knee and chatted away to him as if they had known him for years. When they had finished voicing their wishes, and Herbert had given them both the usual advise, they went to collect their gifts whilst their Granddad stood watching.
“Good morning Jack.” Said Herbert, Well this startled ‘Granddad’, who was taken fully aback. Looking more intensely at Santa Claus, Jack, with eyes wide open, blurted Blimey! It’s Herbert! The two little girls looked around at this, yet could not quite grasp the situation. On realising who the man in red was, Jack laughed out loud then quietly and in a whisper expressed how glad he was to meet him and to know he was in good health and doing a good job. Herbert and Jack passed pleasant chat in the quiet way, and when the girls had their chosen gifts all three bade Herbert, Santa Claus, farewell.
The days passed by all too quickly when at last Christmas Eve, the day, and the evening, arrived. The management invited Herbert into the office and told him that he had created such an impact that his stint had been the most profitable and successful of all time, and for this he was given a twenty five pound bonus as a complimentary gift. When he got home he was somewhat quiet, and sat watching the television in silence, and hardly saying a word. Renee was busy as usual doing the last minute jobs as only a woman can find, and then of to bed they went. The next day was Christmas day, and the whole family descended upon them.
Herbert tried his best to be happy, yet for some reason the smile had left him and he continued to be sombre.
“What’s up with Dad?” Said Geoff to his mum.
”He was made redundant last night as you will gather, he so enjoyed doing what he did for the last month so much, that he thinks he will not be going back to that lift, because somebody else is now doing it So if you can get him out of this miserable mood he is in, then do so.”
Returning to the front room, Geoff looked at his Dad and began to laugh.
“What’s up Dad, are you all right? Why do you sit there with a miserable face as if you have lost a tenner and only found a tanner.”
“I’m alright, lad, I just feel a bit washed out.”
“Is it because you have lost that job?”
“Aye, could be.”
“Dad, how can you be so miserable over losing your job on Christmas Eve? Come on, get real, it’s Christmas day. After all, you were Santa Clause in the Co-op, and there must be hundreds more Santa’s who have suffered the same fate. Are they all miserable as well?
“Trust you to say something realistic.” Came the reply. “You are right; it’s just me being morbid.” Smiled Herbert. “I suppose it’s just that, well, it’s as if I have retired for the second time.”
“Now give over, Dad. You’ll go back on the lift, up and down all day, listening to them folk moaning and telling you all their ailments. Helps to keep your pecker up don‘t it?” Remarked Geoff, trying to be facetious.
They both laughed it away and allowed the day to continue. Thus, Christmas passed with everyone having a good laugh at the tales ‘Santa’ recalled whilst in his grotto and hearing about all the different folk who come to visit, from the excited children to lonely Spinsters, even old ladies bringing their dogs and cats to meet Santa Clause. It came to pass, about February time, that Jack, Herbert’s old mate, and his wife bumped into Renee and Herbert whilst they were out shopping in the town.
After the usual hellos, and asking if all is well, Jack interrupted the niceties.
“Herbert, must tell you this. When we got home after seeing you in the Co op as Santa, those two little girls of ours went running into the house to tell their Mum they had seen Santa Claus. They were thrilled to bits with their toys and their mum asked what Santa had told them they must do on Christmas Eve. Julie, the younger one, says “Well, just to be good and go to bed early. Then Carol, eldest said “Yes, but mum do you know that Granddad knows Santa, and, and that Santa’s name is Herbert?”