Selling Yourself: Part One

Back in 2013, I wrote a six-part series about my life before I became an EMT. This is the first part. I warn you, it is quite a long read. Not many of you have seen it before ( Except Jude and Vinnie) so it may interest you to know more about my early working life. If you enjoy it let me know, and I will re-post the rest in order.

beetleypete

From the time I left school, until I joined the London Ambulance Service, was a period of less than twelve years. During that time, I had an unusually high number of jobs, all but one of which involved selling, in one form, or another. I have written about some of those jobs before, but I have recently reflected on just how easy it was to get work, to come and go as you pleased, sometimes starting and leaving three jobs in the same year. In today’s world, of high unemployment, no-hours contracts, reduced Trade Union rights, and a return to the Victorian era. with no paid holidays, or sick leave, it makes me realise just how easy it was, to live in the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the present day. My own employment history, before settling down in the Ambulance Service, may seem like a poor CV. In those…

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Nice Times (3)

As much as I enjoy living in the countryside now, I will always be a Londoner. This post is about some beloved memories of that city.

An intimate gig at the famous Soho Jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s. It finished late, and after the club closed we walked across the street and were lucky enough to get a table outside the iconic Bar Italia coffee bar. Sitting on the pavement, heated by patio heaters, drinking lukewarm espresso at inflated prices. Watching the world go by in London at night. And then I had a glass of Grappa. Fabulous.

Standing on an almost deserted Waterloo Bridge, very early in the morning. Facing east, looking at one of the best views in London as the sun rose behind Tower Bridge. I loved being a Londoner that morning.

An evening trip on The London Eye (big wheel by the river) for my 49th birthday. Disappointed that the thing faces the wrong way, so all you get to see is the dull stuff heading west out of London. Then we walked down to Gabriel’s Wharf for one of the best pizzas in the city, an English Breakfast on a pizza. As we ate, we laughed about what a let down the London Eye is.

A late drink in a pub in Smithfield Market. When we left, the meat traders were setting up, much as they had done for centuries. The end of our day was the beginning of theirs, and it felt just right.

Sitting in a car in a street just off Brick Lane, east London. I had driven to the Bagel Shop in the middle of the night and bought two salt beef bagels. My mouth was watering at the thought of eating them, so I sat and ate them in the car, instead of driving home first.

Visiting an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, on the South Bank. I was on my own and had enjoyed the exhibition of historical propaganda posters. I had even bought some to take home and frame for my wall. (I still have them, now stored in the loft) I bought a large glass of wine from the Festival Hall terrace cafe, and sat watching the buzz of London life by the river. It was such an enjoyable experience, I had a second glass before going home.

Meeting friends at the Mar/Terra tapas bar, off Union Street, Southwark. Eight of us enjoying many small courses and lots of wine, for as long as they remained open. The owner was from Seville, and served some of the best tapas in London. A small restaurant, always full of atmosphere. A place to feel alive in.

Nice Times

As the rain lashes down outside today, and I put on a heavier top to keep out the autumnal chill, I am in a positive frame of mind, and thinking back to nice times in the past. Good memories are so much better than bad ones, and are to be treasured. They arrive in my brain in no time sequence, and in no particular order.

The first house I bought, after we sold our flat in Wandsworth. The thrill of moving into a 3-bed house with a small garden, close to Wimbledon Park in London. Having a separate dining room with a large table, and an Edwardian house with so many original features retained. Friends coming round for dinner, new carpets, a new car, and only being 27 years old. My life was stretching out ahead of me, and I was feeling ready to enjoy it.

My first shift as an EMT after completing training. A busy day in central London, feeling nervous and unsure. I coped with it, and as I travelled home, I thought ‘I can do this’.

The best live gig I ever went to. Swing Out Sister, at the Jazz cafe in Camden. I was living a very different life then, and almost 50 years old. But that was one of the best nights of my life, never to be forgotten. I can still recall the whole night, despite the amount of red wine I consumed during that gig.

My third wedding, in 2009. Perfect weather, everyone happy, and an ideal location at a lovely hotel in Kent. When it was all over, those of us staying at the hotel met in the bar. Exhausted, happy, and having a quiet drink before bedtime. One of those perfect evenings.

A wonderful Greek meal in Camden, with two great friends. We all had the Mezze, endless courses of food that lasted for a few happy hours. Even when we tried to leave, the owner called us back from the street to join him for free drinks. One of those friends has since died, and that evening we spent at the Greek restaurant is one of my enduring memories of him.

Leaving London, and my retirement party. Moving to Norfolk was the best decision I ever made. I had a big leaving party in a bar on The Embankment before I left. As well as colleagues from the ambulance service and the police, friends and family came too. I was feeling very emotional, not least as my mum had died a few days earlier. They bought me lovely gifts, and some spoke nice words about me. I knew I was leaving for a quiet life, with no stress of work. I also knew I would miss them all. A fabulous evening.

Writing this cheered me up. It may become a short series!

An Unpleasant Memory

Sometimes, I watch real-life documentaries about police work in England. As I worked for the police in London before I retired, the procedures interest me, and I like the ‘behind the scenes’ look at how cases are investigated and solved. (Or never solved) I was watching one last night, and it brought back a memory that I hadn’t thought about for some years.

In 1977, I was working as a depot supervisor for a large food company that sold sausages, pies, bacon, and cooked meats from fleets of vans around London. I was based at the Battersea Depot, and we had twelve vans covering west London, out as far as Heathrow Airport.

Because of the nature of the work, it was a very early start. I had to be at work by 4 am, and the vans would be loaded and on the road by 5:30. For the rest of the day, I had to phone in the orders to the factory, deal with routine paperwork, and occasionally drive out to take care of customer complaints about short loads or missed deliveries.

To compensate for the early start, everyone finished early, and the last van was usually back well before 3 pm. Because the drivers/salesmen were sometimes paid in cash by establishments like roadside cafes and restaurants, I had to sort out the banking before I could lock up and leave. The nearby branch of the bank we used was always closed before I could get to it, so we used the Night Safe facility. This was a large opening in the wall of the bank with a pull-down drawer sealing it. I just had to place the sealed leather bag containing the money into it and it dropped into a container out of reach.

Most days, there wasn’t much money involved, but on Fridays some customers paid for a full week’s deliveries, so there could be as much as five hundred pounds in cash in the bag. A fair sum back then. Friday was also a late finish for us as many vans came back to the depot during the day for extra products, with shops and supermarkets asking for more if they anticipated a busy weekend. It was our habit to meet in the local pub when it opened at 5:30 pm, and have a drink before going home.

One Friday, I told the others I would meet them at the pub after dropping off the cash bag. I drove the short distance to the bank, not wanting to walk around that part of south London carrying over four hundred pounds in an obvious night safe bag. I parked (illegally) on a yellow line on the corner of Battersea Park Road and Meath Street, right outside the bank. (I don’t think that bank is still there) There was solid rush hour traffic in both directions, and lots of people waiting at bus stops on both sides of the busy main road.

Walking to the Night Safe which was on the same main road, I could hear someone running fast behind me, and presumed they were running to catch a bus.

The impact of a big man barging into me knocked me straight over onto my side. Another man appeared, trying to grab the bag from my right hand. As I hung onto it, a third man appeared, and kicked me repeatedly in the head. Luckily, he was wearing trainers, or he might well have fractured my skull. The second man stamped on my arm repeatedly as I lay there, until I could no longer hold the bag. Then the first man grabbed it, and all three ran off, turning into Meath Street and heading north.

For some reason still unknown to me, I ran to my car and gave chase at speed. What I was going to do if I caught them I had no idea. But I was angry, and still only twenty-five years old. I soon drew level with them, despite their head start, but being in the car, I couldn’t follow them into the housing estate at the next junction. Only then did I realise that I was still holding a hat I had dragged off the head of one of them. It was wrapped around the gearstick.

They had all been of West Indian appearance, dressed in the ‘Rasta’ style; with casual clothing, and large floppy hats covering their hair. I had this oversized velvet cap, and was determined to keep it as evidence. I turned the car around and drove back to the bank. There were no mobile phones in those days, but many members of the public had seen this happening, and had phoned the police from call boxes or by asking shopkeepers along the road to ring 999.

There were four uniformed police officers there in two cars. I spoke to one of them about what had happened, and he took down the details. I handed him the hat and told him where I had last seen them, minutes earlier. He shook his head wearily. “They will be long gone, I’m afraid”.

Moments later, an unmarked car drove up at speed, and two plain clothes officers jumped out. One flashed a badge at me and said “Flying Squad”, we heard the call go out”. Under his jacket, he was wearing a shoulder holster containing a revolver. Seeing armed police was rare back then, but the Flying Squad from Scotland Yard was world-famous.

I was expecting the police to set off to try to find the suspects. I had given a pretty good description, hung onto the hat for evidence, and declined medical aid. Instead, the Flying Squad officer with the gun took me into the side street, and started to suggest that I was involved. “Where did you dump the bag? What’s the names of those blokes you used to set it up? Come on, you might as well own up. It has to be an inside job, how else would they know what time to be here?”

To say I was outraged is an understatement. I told the police officer just what I thought of him, using language that cannot be typed here.

Eventually, they let me go on my way, and a uniformed officer said “I will be in touch”. But he never did get in touch, and neither did anyone else. There were no arrests, no suspect questioned, (except me) and we never again heard anything about the incident. It was robbery with violence, and as far as I know was never even followed up.

My bruises soon faded, leaving me with an unpleasant memory of not only being a robbery victim, but then being accused of staging it myself.

That memory never faded.

Clearing Up A Bridge Confusion

As someone who lived in London for most of his life, I do get unusally annoyed by the same old mistakes concerning that city. Because of recent protests by climate change activists, both Tower Bridge and London Bridge have featured heavily on the news media and social media over the past few days. Twitter is busy today with many videos and photos about the protests, and hundreds of people are also posting photos of themselves by the bridges in question.

Trouble is, many of them don’t know which bridge is actually London Bridge, even when they are standing on it. Allow me to clear this up for you, once and for all.

THIS IS LONDON BRIDGE.

THIS IS NOT LONDON BRIDGE, IT IS TOWER BRIDGE.
SEE THE DIFFERENCE? IT HAS TOWERS. AND IT RAISES IN THE MIDDLE TO LET SHIPS PASS THROUGH.

Twitter users, bloggers, social media maniacs, tourists, and photographers. PLEASE REMEMBER!

Rant over.

Exploring London’s Pubs: A Video Guide

Robert Lordan is a licenced London Black Taxi driver, and a great blogger and writer too. He has a love of London, and wonderful knowledge about the history of that city too.

He has produced a 13-minute video on You Tube, looking at ten famous London pubs. In his London accent, he describes the buildings, the history, and the often quirky details concerning each pub.

I am pleased to report that in my 60 years in London, I have had a drink in nine of the ten pubs featured. Only the one in Brixton escaped my patronage.

He covers a wide variety, all over the capital, and some of them were also featured in my own blog post about historic London pubs.

If you live in or near London, or are thinking of visiting the city as a tourist, this is an essential guide to some fascinating places to have a drink in while you are there.

Exploring London’s Pubs

London Walks: Bermondsey And Rotherhithe

Two more of Joolz’s Guides London walk videos. This time with a very personal connection to beetleypete!
(Each short film is around fifteen minutes long)

The first is a tour of Bermondsey, the district just immediately south and east of Tower Bridge, on the banks of The Thames. We see how the former leather-making district has becme ‘gentrified’ since the 1980s, but all the historic buildings remain. I was born in Bermondsey, and lived there until I was 15, when my parents moved us away to the suburbs. In my youth, the leather industry was still very much in evidence, and the modern-day food markets and smart delicatessens were traditional street markets, and cheap cafes.

The second film features Rotherhithe, which is a continuation of the walk from Bermondsey, along the riverbank to the east. Once again, we see the preserved history, and how docks and warehouses, where my grandfather and my mother worked during WW2, have now been converted into smart (and very expensive) apartments and restaurants. Joolz continues to the famous riverside pubs The Angel and The Mayflower. I moved back to Rotherhithe in 1985, and lived not far from The Mayflower. In fact, I had my second wedding reception in the upstairs restaurant of the pub, in 1989! It has famous connections with The Pilgrim Fathers, and the founding of America.

If anyone is planning a visit to London, watch to the end of the second video. You will see that you can book Joolz for a personalised tour of London, and contact details are shown. I couldn’t think of anyone better to show you around, except me of course!

Video: Another London Walk

My friend Antony has sent me another very interesting video from Joolz, the London tour guide. This time, he walks around Fitzrovia, delving into the fascinating history of the area, and some of the quirky shops and buildings too. I often walked through those streets to get to work, and as I lived close to the Post Office Tower which is seen in the film, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

If you ever visit London, you might never see this district, but it is so close to some of the traditional tourist sights, it is worth a short diversion.

The clip is just over twenty minutes long.

Ambulance life

Reblogging a 2012 post that nobody (except A) has seen. It is about my early days as an EMT in London. It is all very different now of course.

beetleypete

For those who read my posts on a regular basis, you may see a pattern appearing in my ‘Ambulance Stories’ category. That pattern is that many of the calls we were sent to, differ greatly from the description given to us by Ambulance Control. This may seem fanciful and affected to the outsider, though I can assure you that all these stories are 100% accurate. Perhaps some explanation of general life as an Ambulanceman in London (at least when I was still in it ) will put some of this into better context.

At the time I joined, the London Ambulance Service was a very different organisation to the one it is today. It was short-staffed, under-funded, and the staff were poorly paid, and did the job with very little equipment. Many of the operational managers were ex-military types, and the uniform reflected this, in being totally unsuitable for the…

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Tourist London: A Walk In History

My friend Antony sent me another of the You Tube videos of Joolz presenting one of his very informative walks.

This time, he is walking around some very famous Central London tourist areas, and giving a detailed history in his inimitable style.
(The film is just under 30 minutes long.)

If you have ever wandered around the same places, you may well be interested in the background to them.