A Ragtag And Bobtail Bunch

By Tony Moorby September 10, 2018

Since the early 1900s, the British Aircraft Corp. had a huge manufacturing facility housed on what used to be most of the old Brooklands Motor Circuit. The racetrack was home to Blower Bentleys, Mercedes Benz racecars and was the world’s first purpose-built, banked motor racing course. The first car race was held in 1939, but the rest of the area hosted the first aerodrome in Great Britain and BAC built Wellingtons, Viscounts and VC10s.In the 1960s they were building the BAC 111, a successful rear-engine, short and medium range jetliner. The top-secret TSR-2, bomber and spy-plane, was manufactured in a separate building.

The hourly paid workers had lunch in a huge cafeteria or sat by the production line with a lunch pail while the management had a full, three-course lunch served to them over two sittings in a modern canteen, built for the purpose.

My brother, Robin and I had school holiday jobs in the kitchens, preparing and waiting tables and cleanup afterwards.

A small, round man whose name escapes me, directed the whole catering facility.

Of middle age, hair slicked straight back with Brylcreem, he wore a brown, shop steward’s style coat after shedding the jacket of a natty three-piece suit. He sported owl-like horn-rimmed glasses that gave him the air of constant curiosity.

We rarely saw him.

The front man for food service was the chef. Duly appointed in gingham and whites, topped off with a toque, John was a jovial, friendly character in constant motion.

Like his boss, he was short and showed a spreading tummy. He obviously enjoyed his trade. His gingham kitchen pants were always a little short and flapped around his ankles at break-neck speed as he dashed about his duties.

He had a high forehead, always pearled with perspiration, while long, curly locks licked around the edge of his hat as his spectacles struggled to maintain a grip on his pixie pointed nose.

While there were other specialists in the kitchen, the rest of the staff were made up of a ragtag and bobtail bunch of people; some from the local trailer park, mostly girls and women, who
would look for any amusement, even at the expense of other colleagues or even each other.

They all had a rapacious appetite for sexual innuendo and as young guys, we were often the targets of their overtures.

But it was all in good fun and never taken too seriously. Of course it would never be tolerated in today’s sensitive society.

One of the other colorful characters was Arthur, a skinny retiree from the Merchant Navy. Arthur was flamboyantly gay and adopted many effete postures in whatever he was doing. Sitting ‘cleaning his silver’ before laying his tables, he could curl one leg around the other, elbows spread out on the table while pursing his lips and scrunching up his nose in distaste at seeing some of yesterday’s food on a fork tine.

He smoked heavily and held his cigarettes by the filter at the very end of his index and middle fingers and took a drag (sorry about the pun) sucking his cheeks in as hard as he could.

He cussed as only the Navy could teach, no matter who was in earshot. He was also in love with the pastry chef, Sid, who while not openly returning Arthur’s affections, they were later seen in a mutual embrace in the men’s locker room.

However, they would often bicker at staff lunch and Arthur would take pleasure in dousing his cigarette in the remains of his dessert, which had been lovingly prepared by Sid, whereupon he would repair to his corner of croissants and cupcakes.




Last modified on Tuesday, 11 September 2018 17:33

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