I was working on the Railways!
A guy has got to have some money and he has got to impress his girl with some money and a set of wheels. The wheels came from Dad and they weren‟t very good wheels, but they were all right. It was January 1974: This time I would not make the mistake, money was important I had learnt my lesson. I was determined to succeed.
Time to knuckle down and do some work. Off I went to Margate Station. All dressed up with the suit on, to talk to Mr Nuttall. Mr Nuttall was a short gentleman with ginger hair. Always shouting a lot, a bit like the Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank Engine, a very accurate character portrayal. He was very abrupt and brusque, but he liked me. I think he like my dad, too. He said, “You are exactly what I need. I can offer you a six-month job on Broadstairs Station, which will allow me the time to look around for somebody more permanent. In that way I won’t have to be rushed into appointing somebody. So I am very pleased to offer you a position as Upside Railman at Broadstairs Railway Station.”
Gosh, I was chuffed. I didn‟t ask about the wages or anything. Apparently it was £25.00 a week, but it would be tax-free.
I didn‟t really know anything about money. All I knew was that I needed money and that it was £25.00 a week, but being tax free I could earn £600 in a tax year without paying tax so it was worth doing. Luckily enough the job started in January, which would allow me to earn £300 before the tax year in April 5, 1974. And then to earn £600 afterwards but I decided that as soon as I started paying tax I would pack it in because one doesn‟t want to give the Government any more money than one has to.
So I went to work on the railway. I didn‟t know what to expect. My first job in the real world, if you like. Boots had been very civilised. I had parted company with Boots on amicable terms, they were a bit disappointed that I wasn‟t going to be a pharmacist, because I had decided to read Agricultural Zoology, but I was doing something I liked doing and wanted to do. Everything seemed to be going along smoothly in the matrix.
The railway job began in the January of 1974. It was seven days a week, with double time on Sundays, 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The job was, quite simply, to make sure that nobody fell on the tracks. To ensure that all the doors were shut on the train before it left the station. That was what you were employed for, really. The other duties included sweeping the platform, polishing the brass, of which there were three items, one doorknob, one hand plate on the sliding gate and one brass tap. That was on the duty roster, polish the brass.
The Upside railman in the morning was responsible for seeing the commuters off on the train. The little robot-like people that get on the train every morning and if the train is three seconds late they go absolutely ape!
They usually look around for someone to complain to and as you are dressed in a British Rail uniform - a porter’s jacket with a hat on - they make a beeline for you and start making abusive comments. Meanwhile, you try to ignore them and keep trying to put the boards up, because the trains are coming in very fast in the mornings and the commuters are all trying to get to London.
Once past 9 00 a.m. it slows down. Mornings were always very busy. You then sort of fiddled about, two trains an hour up to 2:00 p.m. The odd parcel, which the guards were always reluctant to take. People seemed to make an art on the railway of doing nothing. They spent all their time trying to avoid work.
I couldn‟t believe it to start with. My father used to tell me stories, but they had it off to an art form. It really was quite amazing nobody wanted to do anything. In the end I found that one had to learn how to pass the time. My father said that he had seen people roll cigarettes and spend half an hour rolling one and smoking it, which is again, an art form in wasting time.
You weren‟t allowed to read books. I tried reading books, but they frowned on it. Far too intellectual, you‟re supposed to be a porter on the railways, so what are you doing reading books?
One had to find ways of passing the time. I suppose I developed my cartooning techniques, because I started drawing in my little British Rail notebook, cartoons about life on the railway. I still have the cartoon book. It looked as though I was actually working so I did cartoons of railway life, and things like that. I invented my cartoon character.
My first cartoon character was Newcalithic Man, which was a sort of caveman who was extremely dim. As I was going to Newcastle University it was based on Newcastle Brown and basically every invention mankind had ever made was to do with Newcastle Brown, so hence the name Newcalithic Man.
He then evolved into Railman Ron and the Broadstairs Gang, which was a satire on my colleagues. There were six of us working on the station, two on my side of the platform, the upside, and two on the other side, of which Gordon was the archetypal railman. He used to shuffle around and had a little Hitler-type moustache and glasses and his hat. You couldn’t understand what the hell he was saying! In the rest room he used to fry cod's roe.
He would come in and do something totally bizarre like take a frying pan and start frying the roe and smoking the place out. It really stank and it looked more like we had just had a major fire than lunch, a beautiful experience!
I liked trains, but these weren’t steam trains, these were electric trains with a live rail - it takes all the fun out of it, having no steam. Steam engines were powerful roaring lumbering beasts with individual character. I always had a thing about the old prototype Wild West trains, with the big black smokestacks. My favourite being the old General 4-4-0 locomotive. Years later I had a big G scale model of the General over my black board in the Physics laboratory. I had even altered the shape of the smokestack to make its profile more accurate to the original, complete with nameplate and paint job of the Western & Atlantic Rail Road.
Jock’s Mobile Cleaning Gang
I did absolutely nothing really, except count my money, because the money rolled in and I was busy saving. I had to save to acquire funds for university. I just literally went to work and went home and slept. I had the only bonus when I was on 6:00 am to 2:00pm and spent the afternoon chatting with my dad and having some rather nice long conversations about the war and his life. This proved to be really valuable father/son time. A good thing too, as during that second year I was at university he died. All of a sudden, aged 64, with a massive heart attack and then a stroke, just like that. This was mainly because of smoking - he was a soldier during his early life, tried to stop, but couldn't, in the end it killed him - I was glad that I had all those afternoons with him. It was a really precious time.
The job continued, in the mornings and evenings you could see the foxes at the end of the platform, I responded to their presence and they taught me about nature and survival. They became my friends.
Then there was a guy called Bob. Now, Bob turned out to be one hell of a character! He was a man out of place. He was far too intelligent for his job. I made good friends with Bob. He had been stuck in the job for 14 years and he realised that he was stuck, that was the tragedy. He was too bright. He lived at home with his mum. He was a very handsome looking guy, always immaculately turned out in his uniform and the women always liked him, but he was stuck in this dead end job. He had a totally manic sense of humour, which was absolutely brilliant for whiling away the long hours on duty.
We had many, many practical jokes, which were fantastic. It broke the day up and he became my hero on the railway. He would announce the football results on Saturday, followed by the weather forecast. The passengers on the platform would all applaud.
I followed in joined by announcing the trains in French and in English and also deliberately mumbling announcements. We also had signals and the signals at the end of the platform would turn orange, which meant the train had to slow down, because orange is caution. So the train driver would slow down on the up line, over on the other side and as he slowed down for the lights it would appear that he almost stopped and then the lights would go green and he would speed up again. So, as the train came in, I used to announce on the tannoy.
The passengers would be sat on the railway platform with their bags waiting expectantly for their train, and I would say, “The train arriving on Platform 2 (and they would all stand up, grab their bags and shuffle forward) ... pause... - is not stopping at this station. Please do not attempt to board the train.” They would look totally amazed and all sit down again. At the time I found this to be most amusing.
I learnt a lot from that. All you had to do was to sound as though you actually know what you are doing and have a certain air of authority and you could get away with absolutely anything. Especially when wearing a uniform. People always expected things to be properly done by people in uniform.
Another thing about the illusion of the matrix is that everything is supposed to be proper and people are supposed to act in proper ways. When somebody does something totally unexpected the normal reaction from the average person in the matrix is to ignore it, or to pretend it doesn’t exist. So long as one does it with an air of authority you get away with it.
Back to my friend Mr Nuttall, the Fat Controller, he would always try and catch you out to see if you were not working. He would only inspect the station, once a week, but one never knew quite when he was coming. He would try and catch people on the hop, not doing anything. Most of the average railway employees there had very little imagination. They would suddenly grab a dirty rag and start polishing a window to look as though they were actually working. But, I had worked out a scam. I would hide in the Gentlemen's rest room and flood the floor with water and bleach. Then scrub it up to a nice big lather with a stiff bristle broom. I would then stand there amongst all this foam, waiting for him. I could hear him rummaging about, trying to find me. Suddenly he would burst in to the rest room and I would be scrubbing away up to my armpits in this foam, looking so impressive. He would say, “There you are Baillie, well done an absolutely fantastic job, really spick and span.”
I would reply courteously, “Yes Mr Nuttall, I try and do my best sir!”
Suitably impressed with my endeavours, because he hadn’t seen anybody like me, he would then say, l “Well done, carry on,” and disappear rapidly. As soon as he had gone I would get the hose pipe out, spray all the foam down the trough and then walk out. Simple as that! Rather pleased with myself! That was one of my perfected techniques for impressing the management. It worked every time.
Life continued on the railway very satisfactorily. I used to often plan escapes as I worked seven days a week and inevitably I would take time off, catch the late train down to Dover, get on the ferry and go over to Holland to see my friends. I did this a total of three times. In those days going abroad was considered something you only ever did in your wildest dreams therefore, even if I had explained what I was doing to people, they wouldn‟t have understood. Now of course, nearly 50 years later people travel all over and going to Holland or Belgium is not a big deal.
I was very proud of this because I was able to plan my escapes. I once worked 52 days on the trot and planned my escape. I think that was the longest I ever did in one stretch and by the end of it I was starting to go a bit crazy with the same old routine. I would sit there working out exactly what I was going to do, how I was going to do it and then the big day would come and I would go for it!
I was always very interested in learning other languages because I could see a future with Europe, working in Europe, and also Holland is where all the blonde girls are. It was the natural calling of my sub-conscious. All told I made a total of 3 such excursions to the continent during my 6 months on the railway.
One day we had some trains come in with holidaymakers, getting towards the Summer, and I remember all the passengers getting off with loads of bags to come to Broadstairs for their summer holidays. It must have been May. I found very quickly that you could earn quite a bit of money by carrying people‟s bags to the taxis. I think I made about £3.00 in one day, which was a third of my salary. I very quickly learnt how to take advantage of this situation.
Finally the railway ended in June, so I decided to take a busman‟s or rather railman's holiday. I had successfully earnt £900, which was quite a lot of money in those days. £8,000 for example was the price of a bungalow then.
I was always taught that money was vulgar and one should never talk about it. Unfortunately we live in a monetary system on this planet and we have to get on with, to cut cards with the devil, so to speak. So I did my duty and the money came in very useful for University.
I kept the other £300 by me and I planned an around Europe inter-rail trip to broaden my education. I went with my friend Larry Hemmings from the previous year and had many adventures during the next month of July.
Baillie loved trains and loved travelling on them and still does!