My working life – Part 1

Geri has kindly put together a history of her career in three parts which is fascinating to read.

THE DAWNING OF A CAREER – OR NEARLY NOT!

When I left 6th form, I had in my hand 2 GCE “A” Levels, both of mediocre grades due, largely, to my indolence.

I wanted to become an Electrical Engineer and attended my first ever interview at the London Electricity Board (LEB), and what a harrowing experience it was; It was a mass interview!

There were 20 plus interviewees sat in an arc in front of a panel of 4 or 5 interviewers who proceeded to question each on personal matters, working from right to left and then came in the opposite direction enquiring about aspirations and technical ability. Hence, the first, and last, to be interviewed sat for about 2 hours without saying a word. No refreshments or comfort breaks were provided. But the worst was when an interviewee’s first question was “Hello John, how’s your father?” I guess he probably got a job!

Ironically, I had accepted a part time job with the LEB accounts section in Carnaby Street, London and recall the first fashion shop opening; Ravel Shoes. Occasionally, I would take my afternoon tea break in a café in Beak Street which is where I met Brian Jones – guitarist with the Rolling Stones.

So, what to do now for a career?

I settled on the Construction industry and became an indentured student for 4 years training as a Quantity Surveyor, eventually becoming a Licentiate Membership of the Institute of Builders. When a Planning Department was created, I joined it. The work involved preparing project time schedules showing the start and end dates of the main activities together with site layouts showing accommodation, large plant and hoisting. This was before computers were widely used so, it was all drawn by hand.

I then attained Associate Membership of the Institute of Builders, and when they became the Chartered Institute of Building I secured Membership and became a Chartered Builder.

Still, I was seeking more and asked my Managing Director if I could become assistant to a particular Contract Manager (CM) saying that I wanted to learn from the best. As my mentor subsequently became MD, I guess I was right; he was the best!

I recall an administration building I refurbished that housed CBS Records and there I re-connected with a guy who had been the manager for a CBS recording studio I had been involved in constructing. At that time my collection of LPs grew considerably!

The London Ryan Hotel, Kings Cross Road.

My mentor was CM for the London Ryan Hotel, which had very demanding deadlines and I was site based for much of the time, devising and implementing progress monitoring tools. It was finished on time, but only just; which, was just as well as paying guests were about to arrive! What a party we had that night! The go-ahead for occupancy was given by an area District Surveyor (DS). The DS for the area was absent and so a DS from another area attended. It was reported he was fond of a libation. As he was sitting at a table drinking, he leaned forward to reach for his glass and a recessed light fitting fell from the ceiling narrowly missing his head. Luckily, I was passing and scooped it up so he was none the wiser.

1977 saw me managing the refurbishment of a large building in Fleet Street that had a balcony at first floor level which afforded a good view of the Silver Jubilee parade. Families of employees attended plus a few select clients.

A project for London Weekend Television (LWT) to construct a new video tape suite and sound dubbing studio was secured and I was appointed CM. There were a number of video booths formed, each with raised floors to permit the vast quantities of wiring to pass through, suspended ceilings hiding the ventilation which was needed due to the heat generated by the video machines and heavy doors with magnetic seals to provide sound isolation.  Site duration was about 2 years but the ITV strike occurred during the build adding almost three months. Both projects incorporated specialist construction techniques due to the sound insulation requirements. I recall the HVaC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) designer wanted to encase all duct work in lead until the structural engineer pointed out the building could not support such a heavy load. Work was often suspended because of noise generation affecting recording.

LWT, Strutton Ground, London

Some of the TV “personalities” were very down to earth but others were extremely haughty. I was queuing for a meal when I heard a lot of laughing behind me: it was Cannon and Ball with a couple of guys. They were having fun but did not draw others into their coterie. Coming face to face with Jimmy McJimmy – aka Russ Abbott – having a coffee on his own was a regular sight.

Geri

Coming soon –  part 2 -Charing Cross underground and government buildings.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “My working life – Part 1

  1. Wow!, Geri that is some career, and quite a bit of name dropping along the way, bit like a friend of mine, she lived in the Angel and was a neighbour of Pete Townsend of The Who, regularly spoke to him when they were out walking their dogs, but didn’t know he was in a band till her boyfriend told her!.

    Looks like your education didn’t hold you back, LEB, not very nice people to work for in my experience, they were called London Energy when I knew them, at least they had changed their interview procedure by then and refreshments were provided, but it was an selection day with about 25 of us, a lot of companies do that now including my own employer, so I suppose you could say they were ahead of the trend!, but presumably the manager at that office was a sadist… I think we have all met a few of them!, you probably dodged a bullet not working for him…

    Love Jay

  2. Hi Jay, I worked near the Angel. Islington, which is where I presume you are referring, for a number of years and knew the area fairly well as my father grew up near Chapel Market and I went to secondary school in Highbury. The acoustic consultant at LWT studios approached me about a project he was getting involved in – a recording studio for Pete Townsend on Eel Pie Island but it never developed into anything. More names dropped later!

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