After my school days were over, I hadn’t a clue as to what I wanted to do or be. I doubt I could spell the word ambition in those days.
I’m A Butcher
My first port of call on the many rungs of the career ladder took me to our local butchers. Bernard the butcher had employed me as a Saturday boy, so he knew me and what a strange lad I was in those days. Looking back, I was lucky to have a mentor like Bernard. He was well respected in the local community both professionally and as a supportive member. I was barely 16 and barely knew how to comb my hair. The next 18 months or so was a huge learning curve not only in butchery, but in my life too.
Sausage Maker King
One day making sausage, the next dressing game. They were long hours too, sometimes starting at 4:00 am on a Monday morning to go to the meat market in Birmingham. I always had Wednesday afternoon off and Sunday, but the rest of the time was spent mostly learning and earning from Bernard. To be honest, I enjoyed it, serving customers, chopping meat and the daily cleaning down of everything from top to bottom and spreading sawdust on the floor.
The Demon Bacon Slicer
I got so good I was allowed to use the bacon slicer, that red looking lethal machine that usually lurks in the corner at the back of a butchers shop. One Monday morning, still obviously tired from the early start to the meat market, I put a roll of bacon on the slicer and started slicing away. I think I must have done half a dozen slices when whoops, I sliced the top of my thumb clean off. Strangely, it didn’t hurt, well, not when I did it, but, oh boy, for weeks after it felt like someone was hitting my thumb constantly with a hammer!
A&E or ER
Of course, I had to dash off to my local A & E (ER) hospital to have it sorted and a Tetanus jab. It turned into a very long day. One thing I remember from the moment of the accident was being told to keep my thumb upright. It was as though I was permanently giving everyone I met the ‘thumbs up.’ It started with Bernard, ‘Keep your thumb in the air’ to the nurses and doctors at the hospital, ‘..hold that thumb upright’, ‘keep it up!’ After what seemed like hours of my thumb being looked at by various medics it was decided to dress it in bandages and to come back the following week to see how things are going. Meanwhile, bend over and the nurse will give you a jab of Tetanus.
To get home from the hospital, I didn’t have my own transport and I was in no fit state to drive anyway. I called a taxi and explained that I was in the hospital and would they mind collecting me to drop me off at my parent’s home. The lady asked if I would make my way to the reception and they would pick me up outside as soon as possible. It seemed like a marathon to find the reception area and when I got by the doors there was a wheelchair, I suppose for any patients that needed one.
It was too good an opportunity to miss, why stand when you can sit in a wheelchair and I’ll always give it up should anyone need it. I remember feeling very tired, probably from being up at 4:00 am together with the adrenalin and everything else that had happened with the bacon slicer, so it was no surprise that before long I was fast asleep. Snoring my head off in the reception area and unwittingly letting my thumb drop down by my side.
The next thing I know is waking from a deep sleep while being wheeled up a steel ramp into the back of an ambulance that taxi’s patients to and from their care home to a hospital. ‘Whoa’, I exclaimed! ‘What’s going on, I’m waiting for a taxi.’ A big burly voice replied, ‘yeah, they all say that you’ll be fine with us Derek.’ Derek? ‘Who’s Derek? My names Trev and I’m waiting for a taxi.’ ‘Ere Sid, this guy reckons he’s not our passenger for the care home, what do you think?’ Sid was the driver and I couldn’t understand him, he was mumbling. I had to wait until we were inside the ambulance when I could actually stand up and remonstrate with these guys that they had the wrong person. Looking through some notes on a clipboard, the one guy uttered something about the other entrance and they’d check there. Meanwhile, I made a sharp exit and went back to the payphone to ask where my taxi was.
Best Sleep Ever
It seems I had been asleep in the wheelchair for about 4 hours. The taxi had been and long gone. I ended up calling my Dad to come and pick me up. At least he’d know who I was if I fell asleep again. It’s a day I’ll never forget. Good job I woke up too as I could have ended up who knows where. I’m pleased to say that my thumb recovered too although it will always be smaller than my other thumb. One benefit is I can push drawing pins into very hardwood using the tip of my thumb and I can’t feel a thing. I’m always in demand at Christmas when those trimmings need hanging.
If you’d like to make your own sausages, look no further than here.