v Bramley (home) 10th Jan 1970
Its ten past six when he gets to the works entrance and he's got his excuses ready for Wilkinson, the miserable bastard of a timekeeper that will be stodd next to the clocking-on clock waiting for him, probably holding his card out ready for him with a sarcastic look on his face and a sarcastic comment to match, it'll make Wilkinsons day this will, knocking quarter an hour of him at time and a half.
He opens the big wooden door into the factory and the swirling denseness of the fog which has dulled all external noise so far in the young mans morning is instantly replaced with a bedlam like cacophany of banging, clashing, hammering, screeching and wailing of steel plate as it is cut, beaten, heated and moulded into shapes as specified by the management, strange shapes, pieces of steel moulded into something that not even the machine operators could tell you what, just that they are part BS376328A/98E, 20 dozen required by end of shift, no tolorance other than that stated on specification and drawing, everything inspected by George and his cronies in QC.
Being inside the building is a mixed blessing, its nice to be out of the freezing fog and even though the factory is not yet warm, its dry, and the noise of productivity will at least prevent that miserable bastard Wilkinson from hearing the outside door open and close, now if he can only just sneak past the old bastards office door he might find that one of his mates has already clocked him on this morning.
Wilkinsons office is a wooden room just ten yards inside the building from the entrance door. Its half glazed so that the old bastard can see whats going on in the factory and also spot anyone trying to sneak in late or sneak out early, the young man has little or no chance of trying to avoid Wilkinsons eagle eyes as the clocking on clock is mounted on the outside wall of Wilkinsons office giving him the perfect view of any shirkers.
The young man steps silently up to the first window of Wilkinsons office, presses himself against the wooden wall and ever so slowly leans forward to peer through the window, if Wilkinson is in there he'll duck down and crawl along underneath the windows, get changed, start his lathe up and then come back in an hours time and tell Wilkinson he forgot to clock on, but to his suprise he doesn't see Wilkinson in there, and while he stands there pressed up against the glass, both hands cupped around his eyes to eliminate the glare from the overhead flourescent lights he jumps in fright as a hand taps him on the shoulder from behind.
"You looking for me Enright ?" and instantly the young man relaxes, its not Wilkinson behind him, but his mate Gordon doing a very poor impression of Wilkinsons miserable flat Yorkshire vowels.v
"Yer daft bastard, ah nearly shit meself then" the young man turns to face his friend, "where is the miserable bastard anyway"
"Hasn't come yet, probably the fog, we're going to quarter him when he turns up"
"Thank christ for that, I missed me bus cos the bastards wouldn't stop for me, so did ah get clocked in then ?"
"Aye, I did your card with mine, you were five minutes early this morning"
"Cheers pal, I owe you one, going to 'Cardigan later"
"Aye if you're buying"
"Reet, best get started then before the bastard turns up eh ?"
"Your lathes running already"
"eeeh Gordy, you think of everything, what would ah do without you eh ?"
And the young men clap each other on the back and laugh as they walk down the length of the factory to the bank of lockers where the young man can leave his sheepskin coat and start the work that he started twenty minutes ago when he wasn't here - according to the company records anyway.
Its nearly twelve and Eric is ready to knock off and go to the Cardigan when Wilkinson the timekeeper approaches him from behind, clipboard and his time and motion stopwatch clutched in the crook of one arm. other hand thrust firmly in his brown overall pocket.
"Now then Enright"
"Aye up Mr Wilkinson"
"A little bird tells me that your lathe was running all by itself this morning"
"No, never Mr Wilkinson, why would it be doing that eh, thats daft that is"
"Aye lad, running all by itself for twenty minutes and not hide nor hair of you to be seen"
"I don't understand that Mr Wilkinson, no, thats not right, did your little bird tell you where I was ?"
"My little bird Enright, my little bird tells me that you rolled in at quarter past six, what do you think of that then eh ?"
"I think your little bird needs his eyes testing Mr Wilkinson, I was 'ere at five to six, 'ave a look at me card, its in the rack there"
"I've looked Enright, I've already looked, I think there was a bit of callyfudgery going on this morning don't you ?"
"I don't even know what that means Mr Wilkinson, see, I was here at five to, came in, started me lathe up and then I had to go to bogs, gippy tummy see, its a bug I think"
"No its true, I've had trots all morning"
"I don't believe you Enright, I'm quartering you, you know that ?"
"You can't quarter me for having shits Mr Wilkinson its not right"
"I can do whatever I like Enright, and I know for a fact that you were late this morning and you got someone to clock you in, you're lucky I don't give you your cards right here and now"
"Ah bloody didn't Mr Wilkinson, ah wor 'ere at five to, and I wor on t'crapper until twenty past, you can't quarter me for bog breaks, you know what union'll 'ave to say if you do"
Mention of the union stops Wilkinson in his tracks, so he changes tack,
"Well just don't let it happen again thats all, I've got my eye on you and your mates Enright, alright ? So what have you done since five to bloody six then eh ?"
"Don't forget I've had shits an all Mr Wilkinson, ah've hardly been off crapper all morning"
"Thing is Enright, you're here on time and a half this morning, time and a bloody half is what this company's been paying you to shit your load in our own toilets, and I bet you've used all the bog roll and all haven't you ?"
"Well, ah've got to wipe me arse Mr Wilkinson"
"Well I think you've a bloody nerve asking for time and a half for this morning you cheeky little bugger, I bet you've only put in an hour at best, and you're asking for six hours at time and a half ? You must be bloody joking lad"
"Not my fault Mr Wilkinson, its a bug see, in fact we thought you must 'ave it too seeing as you weren't here at six either"
Wilkinson stares long at hard at Eric and strolls slowly over to the steel mesh bin where the fruits of his labour have been placed for this morning, to his suprise there are more finished parts in there than he expected, truth is of course that Eric hasn't spent all morning in the toilets at all but has been working steadily since half past six, not breaking any records, not really producing one and a half times his normal rate, but working steadily never the less, the story of the stomach bug is a well known and well tested worker vs management ploy, something that Eric was taught by the older men on the shop floor when he was a first year apprentice - never raise their expectations, never let them think you can do the job quicker, and when Wilkinson has his stopwatch in his hand slow right down because if you do the job quicker than the rate that your workmates have already set then Wilkinson will apply it to them too, and you'll be right up shit creek then, your name will be mud.
The siren finally sounds for the end of the shift and Eric hits the stop knob on the control panel and before the lathe stops turning he's wiped the last of the machine oil off his hands on an old rag and he's turning to head for the lockers and onwards to the Cardigan Arms with Wilkinsons final words hanging in the air between them, "I'm watching you Enright, don't forget that"
And as Eric turns his back he answers with a "f&%* off you t%&t" under his breath, the Cardigan is waiting, not a minute to lose and by the time they reach the factory door he and several of his workmates are running and the first man hits the door and bursts out into the yard and into....the fog again.
Bloody hell, its thicker now than what it was this morning.
More next time....