Bateman Street resumed ...

I know I'm skipping about a bit, chronologically speaking, but the more I write and think about those days long-gone, the more milestone events seemed to emerge out of the churning mists of memory and time. It's back, now,  to Bateman Street, Cambridge.

Before that, one final thought about the National Service concept. It may have been of doubtful value to the nation's military capability but its value to the individual male youth of the country was very great. For sure you went in as a boy and came out a man, all strings to the comforts of home well and truly severed. You emerged very much aware of , and largely content with your individual place in this world and your value to this world. Whether or not you had been subject to much or indeed any prior discipline, National Service's military life had instilled in you that essential self-discipline, arguably the most valuable of all the tools each of us has to live by as we gain our maturity and then live life beyond.

Post National Service, my three or so years in Bateman Street flats were in the main happy ones . Married life and love and parties with friends in adjoining flats and picnics and nappies soaking in the bath tub and walking, walking, walking. That Silver Cross pram must have had a thousand miles on its clock! Of course it was not ideal for Joan to go out to work in a clothing shop but we needed - (wanted ?) - the money. Because of that we had to consign our baby girl to a nursery each morning before work and pick her up after work. She didn't like being left and I didn't like leaving her. Anyway I knew I had to develop some kind of career, manufacture some kind of family security, especially when Joan became for the second time pregnant. Our sparsely furnished accomodation may have been OK - just - for we two plus baby Karen, but it was no way suited to an expanding family. Besides, our USAF friends Richard and Beaulah had gone home and so my life of adventure had lost some of its lustre. Adventure? Oh yes, but that's a whole story for another time.

Ouch! I've just reminded myself of the giant tsunami that overtook us when we lived in Bateman Street. Joan was heavily pregnant with our second daughter, Julie, when she lost her sight. I mean, without warning she became completely blind. Her eyesight had always been excellent. She was taken to that famous hospital, Addenbrooke's. There she underwent all kinds of tests including I remember the very uncomfortable spinal tap. For ten days no change and then, as suddenly as she had lost her sight it just came back. No medical explanations were given and, frankly, we were only too relieved to get out of the place, so probably didn't ask enough questions. Twelve years later, in 1972 and by then with four lovely offspring Joan developed a series of physical impairments. We were summoned to a consultant neurologist in Southampton, there told  she was suffering from a condition we knew literally nothing about. He called it 'multiple schlerosis'. The consultant gave us the forward prognosis. My head was in overload shut-down. Joan nodded. As calm and controlled as always she asked him, "How long have I had this, whatever it is?". "Well, it was diagnosed when you were in Addenbrookes," came the response.

If I ever reach 1972 in this series I'll tell you what happened next and for twenty odd years beyond.

Bateman Street: Ambition stirring, this junior buyer of fireplaces, copper pipe fittings etc paid for driving lessons. At the second attempt he secured his licence. He could now apply for sales jobs as advertised in the Daily Telegraph. Somewhat to my amazement I was invited to interview in a large London hotel. Lily Cups and Containers Limited was the company's name. It was a new venture, part of the long established, highly respected packaging group, E.S.&A. Robinson of Bristol. Liverpool was the new venture's factory base, paper cups (virtually unknown at that time) its product and the charismatic John Williams its marketing director.

A week after London came Williams' letter - report for short list interview in Fazakerley, Liverpool 9. I invested what little we had in a new suit, rented a Morris Minor and set off with Joan , (pre-motorway!), from Cambridge to Liverpool. I shall never forget that nightmare of a journey. I had allowed eight hours but was held up at every point by road works or slow moving traffic. Half an hour before my appointment I was still more than an hour away. Added to that, I was wearing a detached shirt collar and the front stud had broken. Joan did her best to calm me down. I stopped at a shop with telephone box to purchase a replacement stud and report my situation to the company, half expecting to be told 'forget it, Mr Islip', but John Williams' secretary must have taken pity on me. She shifted the interviewee roster in my favour and, on my arrival, ushered me into a quiet corner to repair and restore myself. My exhausted wife slept off the nightmare in the carpark outside. I was offered the job! Would I take it? Would a fish want to swim? Of course I did.

The position was that of of sales representative covering the whole of East Anglia and the north western home counties. I was on my own, expected to find my own way around and, of course, had no motor car. Believe me, I got to know extremely well all the train and bus timetables around that widespread territory, Five hundred pounds a year was my salary, plus minimal - and I do mean minimal - expenses. Plus a tiny commission on sales but, bearing in mind that there was virtually no existing market for paper drinking cups and only a small one for dairy products, etc, it was pretty slim pickings. Never mind, with some success and growing confidence I was on my way.

I loved my family, my job, my company and myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.