Before we start, I had a shirt just like Johnny Bristol’s, got it out of my mothers Brian Mills catalogue which is where Johnny Bristol got his from too I believe.
Anyway, its now September 1974, the young JerryChicken is making his way in the world and has now got himself a job working for an electrical contractors in Horsforth and after he’s been there a few weeks its time to enroll at Technical College for some high level training in electrical stuff and all that then you know.
“Its time you enrolled at Technical College young man” said Ron Ransom my boss one day, “for high level training in electrical stuff and all that then you know”, he had a fine way with words did Ron Ransom, and with that he gave me five bob for my bus fare and told me to pop down into town and get myself enrolled at Kitson College of Technology that very afternoon, he even wrote the name of the course that I was to enroll in and told me to tell the college to send him the bill, very kind of him it was, of course this was back in the day when employers PAID for your training THEMSELVES and didn’t expect you to take out a £50k loan that will haunt you for the rest of your life, things were so much simpler in those halcyon days – and better.
So I dobbed off work that afternoon and caught the bus into Leeds to enroll at Kitson College on a course called “ONC Electrical Engineering” which meant nothing to me at all but sounded rather grand and meant that in three years time I could flaunt a qualification to all and sundry, which would be a novelty for me I suppose, having a qualification and all.
Immediately upon arriving at Kitson College I became aware of a slight technical problem though and here is where I will explain to the uninitiated how I had ballsed up my Grammar School education. You see back in those days at the elite Grammar Schools you took a series of exams at 16 years of age called “O” Levels which you were expected to pass with flying colours and go on into a world of commerce and be a big success and all that, but at some point in the final year I had decided that I wasn’t going to take my Physics O level – you had a choice you see, you had to take at least one science subject but at the last minute you could decide to take the CSE level exam instead, the CSE level being regarded scornfully as being only fit for thick kids, the ones who could manage to spell their own names correctly but not spell anyone else s name correctly, kids like my brother Ned who didn’t go to Grammar School but went to the lower grade alternative Secondary Modern Schools where they all took CSE’s and went to work in manual jobs – anyway, I took CSE Physics, because it was easier and I never understood Physics or any of the sciences at all, bizarre really when you note my choice of employment.
The technical problem turned out to be one of the entry requirements for the ONC in Electrical Engineering – you had to have an O level in Physics, and a CSE in Physics just would not do, in fact it would be more acceptable to them if you just said that you didn’t take Physics at all rather than admit that you had a CSE in the subject.
I filled in my application anyway and ticked the Yes box where it said “Do you have O Level Physics ?” but the buggers were one step ahead of me and when I got to the desk to hand in my application and tell them to send the bill to my employer the woman there demanded proof of O Level Physics, and despite me trying to divert her attention by engaging in a conversation about how the weather was remarkably unseasonal for the time of year and wasn’t that a nice perm she had in her hair I eventually had to admit that it was actually a CSE grade in Physics that I had.
“Well you can’t come on the course then” was the reply
“But I’ll get the sack at work” I pleaded, “and I’ve only been there for six weeks”
There was an escape route though, theres always an escape route, and this escape route was explained to me by the woman behind the desk, apparently I could enroll for a one year preparatory course that would include a re-take of a Physics O level, and THEN next year I could enroll on the ONC exam, so I sign up for that course instead and told her to send the bill to Ron Ransom but could they be ever so kind and not mention on the invoice that this wasn’t actually the ONC course just yet and DEFINITELY don’t mention the fact that I didn’t have a Physics O level, what with Ron Ransom being of the impression that I did have one, I may have told him that at the interview you see.
And so I continued on that year with my employer being in blissful ignorance that he was paying for me to take an O level exam instead of an ONC and I had ages yet to think up an excuse for why I’d need to be at college for one year longer than he had normally have been prepared to pay for and it turned out to be a doddle to re-do Physics all along, I can’t think why it had all appeared to be so hard at Grammar School at all, maybe it was because we never listened to what Fanny Hilton was trying to teach us, maybe it was because I sat next to Patrick Stewart who was on a constant quest to steal all of Fanny Hiltons cigarettes from the jacket he hung right next to where we normally sat, distractions like that tempt a young lad from not actually listening to a thing in lessons you know.
And then Ron Ransom left the company to start up his own business and I was in the clear, no-one knew or cared that my day release once a week at college was not for the course that they thought they were paying for and at the end of that year I passed the introductory course and was free the next September to enroll on ONC Electrical Engineering, which I did.
And so in September 1975 I started my second year at Kitson College but this time I was on the course that I should have been on the year before, and all went well for a time, we spent hours upon hours designing scaffolding and working out tension loading on trusses and where would be the best place to put a cross member to stop your building from falling down in a high wind, all very interesting stuff but as the year wore on into the second semester I started to wonder when we were going to start learning all about electrical engineering, being that I’d been employed as an electrical engineer for eighteen months now and still knew nothing about the subject, well not formal knowledge anyway, I was doing a marvelous job of bluffing my way through every day at work though.
And then sometime the following April I put my hand up in one of the lectures and asked the question “Please sir, when do we learn all about electrical engineering ?”
It was like that moment in Oliver Twist where he asks for more porridge, the room went silent and a look of bewilderment came across the lecturers face, “Electrical engineering ?” he asked, “I don’t think that there is any electrical engineering on this course” he kindly explained, “this is the constructional engineering course”.
I pondered this information for a while as he drew yet another diagram on the board detailing structural loads and the importance of moments about a fulcrum and all that then you know, in my mind I was wondering if I could blag yet another year, all expenses paid, at college from my employer and whether or not I’d ever get to see the ONC Electrical Engineering course or whether I was destined to forever enroll on the wrong course until retirement age.
Still, I now know how to build a tower crane and if I ever have to construct the steel framework for a very tall building I can explain all about fulcrums for you, if you were interested that is.
For the record I walked out of the exam at the end of that year, put my name on the exam paper and decided I couldn’t answer a single question on it even if I was interested in the subject, which I wasn’t, so I walked out and scored a zero in the exam and in doing so Kitson College never invited me back to enroll again the following year so I never did get to take the Electrical Engineering course that my job description required – I stayed in that line of work for ten more years until I left to work for my father, who needs exams ?