The World of Work
"You try the handle of the road, It opens, do not be afraid."
(Leonard Cohen: The Stranger Song)
I embarked on an apprenticeship in the trade of electrician with the Department of the Environment, (later known as the Property Services Agency) at RAF Sealand near Chester. Originally a civil airfield, the RFC took over Sealand in 1916, and the Station was used for training and later, maintenance, a role that continues today. No 30 Maintenance Unit first moved to Sealand in 1937, and today is responsible for the third line repair of airborne avionic equipment for all three Armed Services. No 631 Volunteer Gliding School operates Viking TX1s from the South Airfield. Toady, the role of RAF Sealand is as the third-line maintenance and repair unit of all airborne electronics, electrical and instrument engineering unit for the RAF. The DOE/PSA role here (and at all other MOD & Government establishments) at that time was for the installation, service and repair of all fixed mexhanical, electrical and structural services. During my four year apprenticeship here, I also spent a few months training at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (R.A.E.) Aberporth.
Emotionally, at the beginning, life away from home was difficult. I went home for weekends, but life away from home was completely new experience. For the first time in my life I experienced all those things my parents warned me about including drugs, violence and sex. But with sex, there was a deep seated problem, that was only resolved in later life. I was not attracted to women, at least not in the way my mates 'appeared' to be.
On completing my apprentiship, I moved to work as an electrician at a Royal Naval Armanent Depot in Pembrokeshire. In light of the fact that I am unable to find any reference to the place on the internet that indicates what happened here at that time, and as I am a signatory to the Official Secrets Act, I cannot write about my work during the 18 months I spent here, other than to say I hated it. It has since ceased to be MOD property.
In 1977, I was transferred on temporary secondment to RAF Brawdy, also in Pembrokeshire. I was fortunate in that they had a vacancy and as I enjoyed the work, I applied and was accepted permanently into a team of maintenance electricians. A few months later I was promoted to 'Electrical Line Supervisor' in charge of this team. At the same time, I became interested in Hospital Radio, and became a volunteer at the newly built 'Withybush General Hospital' in Haverfordwest. Both this and work were emotionally satisfying and intellectually challenging. And, for the first time since I was eleven, I began to make some very good friends.
Experience at Withybush Hospital Radio was for me, and a number of my friends, to lead to career change. For Karen Walker, and Hugh Turnbull, it was a move into radio. Both now work for the BBC in Cardiff. For Mike Gomm, it has eventually led into a senior management within Microsoft, where he now has responsibility for AbilityNet. I became interested in hospitals, applied for, and was accepted as a Hospital Engineering Officer at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.