Time flies

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Time just flew as I became involved with Skypak and the operation.

I was pleased to note that I could call on at least fifteen different languages amongst the staff, so if I had a problem with any shipment overseas, I could take advantage of our time zone and speak to a customer, airline or customs officer during their working hours.

The newspaper reading supervisor thought I was being unreasonable by asking him to supervise the processes that were happening in the warehouse.

He left soon after.

I was fortunate in having Helen, the Tongan lady, to help me understand various aspects of the operation. She was a fund of knowledge.

It was time to study the international cargo rates that Skypak was paying the airlines.

Iata_official_logo

All the airlines were members of IATA (International Air Transport Association) and even when I worked for an airline,I found it odd that they supported an operation that was illegal in most countries i.e price fixing.
In 1980 there were 100 members from 85 nations in IATA.

All airlines charged the same rates on the same routes for passenger tickets and cargo rates. If they did offer a different rate and they were reported then they would be fined, so there was a lot of pressure on the airlines not to step out of line.
If you knew your product you could construct a rate that was ‘legal’ but cheaper than the rate for point to point. There was a system called intermediate point rule, which allowed a cheaper airfare to a further destination to be used for the route that you required.
For cargo the description of the goods might be ‘tweaked’ to generate a cheaper kilo rate between two points. For example, newspapers and periodicals are entitled to a 50% discount off the full cargo rate, but if the goods were classed as paper or stationery there might be a special commodity code number that allows for a cheaper rate again.
I had ten years’ experience of tweaking cargo rates to obtain the cheapest rate for the customer, so now I was the airline’s customer, and I knew to what length the airline would go to make a sale.

I loved my job at Skypak.

Qantas-1968

I requested a meeting with Qantas Cargo, and their sales representative arrived for the meeting. I asked for their best rate to London. The rep did not know my background, I was just the new boy on the block for Skypak.

Cargo at that time was offered as follows – a minimum rate, followed by a high rate per kilo for traffic up to 45 kilos and then a lower rate per kilo over 45 kilos to 100 kilos and then a reduction from 100 to 250 kilos and so on.

Once you knew the rates you could work out break points, for example if the under 45 kilo rate is $5 / kilo and the kilo rate over 45 kilos is $3 a kilo I would multiply the 45 x $3 to get $135, and divide this by the under 45 kilo rate i.e $5 , to obtain the break point, which is 27 kilos.
So, if I had a bag of documents over 27 kilos it was cheaper for me to call the shipment 45 kilos on the paperwork than the actual weight.   

Van

In this picture you can see a standard courier bag, which when packed with documents could weigh over 25 kilos. At that time, you would expect a male to be able to lift and handle a 30 kilos bag without assistance. H&S was in its infancy. 

Being aware of the airlines ability to ‘bend’ the rules I asked for a simple kilo rate that was a lot lower than the historic high rates that Skypak had been paying. 
It was as if I had insulted his family, because he was so indignant that I had even suggested such action. IATA would not allow such rates!
Qantas would be fined!

He then told me, in a roundabout way, that I should support Qantas, because Qantas was the national airline. I then pointed out that it was Skypak International that paid me, and my job was to make a profit, not support the national carrier’s high airfreight rates.
He didn’t even stop for a cup of tea.

The next rep I invited in was from British Airways.

British-Airways-Logo-1973-500x292

I knew that they carried cargo from Manchester to London by road, for major British & American air freight companies free of charge.
The amount of money that these major airfreight companies spent with various airlines dictated the level of overall service. 

The rep was not the BA cargo manager that I had contacted looking for job ideas, but a regular cargo rep. He knew that most of our shipments were being carried by Qantas so there was a big incentive to ‘do a deal’.

We did do a deal and came to an agreement that the paperwork would show the correct IATA rates, and an incentive fee would be paid once a month depending on volumes of kilos shipped.

Suddenly Qantas lost the Skypak International traffic to London, but they did keep the Los Angeles traffic – I did not wish to burn all my boats.

At the end of the first month the British Airways rep came in with a small package for me.
While he was drinking his tea, I opened the package just a little – it was the ‘incentive’ payment. I returned the package to him.

‘What’s the problem’ he asked.

‘It is cash’, I replied.

‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’

‘I wanted the incentive fee as a cheque made out to Skypak International’ I told him.
I knew how the game was played and accepting cash would leave me wide open to accusations of corruption.
Accepting a cheque I was a servant of the company and unable to take advantage of the incentive fee.  
Every month I would send a cheque to Max, the company accountant in Sydney, with a note that the enclosed amount was part of Melbourne’s sales revenue.

Sport

BledisloeCup_1120_Photosport

A few weeks after I started, I was invited to a lunchtime businessmen’s function by the Skypak manager to celebrate Australia winning the Bledisloe Cup.
My problem was that I did not have any idea what the Bledisloe Cup was, or even that it was linked to a rugby match.

My Manager was a Kiwi and was a bit down in the dumps as New Zealand had lost, but he thought it would be good for me to attend and meet people who were also our clients.
The lunch was very nice and the people I met were hospitable and pleasant, but I wonder what they thought of me being at such a function and did not have clue as to what was being celebrated other than Australia had won at rugby.
It was huge learning curve for me.

During my settling in period Skypak was sold to an Australian company called IPEC (Interstate Parcel Express Company).IPEC

IPEC had been in business since 1955, and had expanded internationally into Europe and Asia.
IPEC’s purchase of Skypak was followed by extraordinary growth for Skypak and we became the second largest international courier company in the world. 

Six months after joining Skypak the Melbourne manager was promoted to manage the Sydney office and I was promoted to the position of Melbourne’s Skypak manager.

Writing this blog, I thought of the Australian migration officer in Manchester who had told me that I was unemployable.

It would have been nice if he had said something like –

DSC05066 Do not look back, you are not going that way . . .

I took the photo on one of our earlier cruises.

Skypak International

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I think that the background of Skypak makes quite an interesting story.

The seeds of the Company started in Japan, by two Australians.

One had arrived in Japan as a member of the Australian occupying forces after the defeat of Japan and had remained after the formal end of the occupation in 1952.

His command of the Japanese language was so good that he found work in the Japanese film industry playing the part of the ‘idiot’ westerner. Later he would be asked to read the news on television – in Japanese.

I understand that he met his future business partner at a function. His future business partner worked for the Australian Trade organisation in Tokyo.

In 1957 a Japanese company called Overseas Courier Services or OCS for short, was founded to offer speedy document delivery worldwide for Japanese businesses.

As part of this courier service OCS also offered newspaper subscriptions to Japanese businessmen living abroad, and one of their major destinations was Sydney in Australia.

Our ‘film star’ and Australian Trade official could see an opportunity, so they approached OCS and offered to be their agent in Sydney, because at that time the Japanese companies were expanding in Australia.

Their proposal was accepted, and they organised document deliveries in Sydney as well as Japanese newspapers.

Jap

Although the above picture is in English most of the newspapers were in Japanese.

Business was good and as the partners delivered inbound documents, they were asked to take documents back to Japan. Later they were asked to courier documents to the UK & the USA.

This new business would require a different name to OCS so Skypak International was born as an agent for OCS.

The idea of international newspapers took hold, so they started selling subscriptions to various newspaper such as the London Times & the Financial Times.

Times

FT

Demand for American papers generated the import of the New York Times. 

NYT They needed a name for this new product – and ‘Newsfast’ was born to compliment the ‘Document Courier’ service.

The company could not grow without opening an office in Melbourne, some might say the business capital of Australia, so Skypay International opened a Victorian office to service mainly the banking industry.

It was the banking industry that gave them their next idea. The ANZ Bank (Australia and New Zealand Bank) asked if Skypak could take their New Zealand share holder’s annual reports to New Zealand – and post them -Mailfast was born.

At that time (well before the internet) Australian companies had to issue an annual report of their business and each report would be posted to share holders who were located all over the world.
The postage cost was extremely high via Australia Post . . . .so Skypak Mailfast offered to ship the mail for the UK shareholders to London and post them all at local rates – they offered the ANZ Bank a package deal of airfreight and posting, which turned out to be below the price of Australia Post – sold, said the ANZ! 

There was a consideration that this might be illegal in Australia as the postal service was a Government controlled service.

It was illegal for anyone other than the post office to handle personal mail, but it was not illegal for business mail to be handled by anyone.
Mailfast had arrived and even managed to upset the UPU (Universal Postal Union) which is a UN organisation that coordinates postal policy across the world.

They could not fault the service because it was not illegal to airfreight business mail and to allow the destination post office to distribute the mail locally – all post offices currently offer this service and Skypak Mailfast was doing exactly that, by beating Australia Post rates for large volumes of the same type of mail – annual reports. 

This was the company that I had joined as their operations manager for Victoria.

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I spent my first day at work in Australia working alongside the warehousemen who processed the courier traffic.
I made sure that I went out to the airport, which was about 20-to-30 minute drive to see exactly how the system worked i.e lodging out going courier traffic and collecting inbound documents.

Later in the afternoon I was with one of the drivers to do pick-ups in the city centre. Just to clarify the pick-ups were courier documents not a lady of the night.

As the day ended for me, which was around 6.00 pm, the manager gave me the keys to one of the operational vehicles and said that I could take it home for the weekend, and that it had become my ‘company car’ when the office was closed, but it was to be available for anyone to drive during business hours. 

sky

I was over the moon, someone else was going to pay for the fuel, and Maureen could drive the second-hand car that I had bought for the family!
The two children in the picture are our son & daughter, my daughter is now 47 and my son 45, at least I would not have to say to them ‘if only’. The picture shows my ‘new’ (for me) company car.

With keys in my hand, it suddenly dawned on me that I did not know how to get home, and it was now dark and it was raining heavily. I had arrived by tram and train . . . 

I figured that as I had navigated around the world surely, I could find my way home without a map.
Sat-nav for cars had not been invented at that time and a street map was of little help in the dark while driving, so I headed for Port Philip Bay, because I reasoned that as soon as I got my feet wet, I would turn left and just follow the coast road until I recognised an area that I knew, such as the railways station.

map

The trip along the coast was about 40 km (25 miles) and in the rain it took me nearly two hours.

After the excitement of the day, driving an unfamiliar car in heavy rain and in darkness, and not being sure of where I was going or even where I was during the drive, it was great relief to reach home, eat a hot meal and fall exhausted into a comfortable bed. 

Welcome to Skypak and Australia.

I’ve been everywhere man

The leaving . . . .

sea

Over the sea

We put the house with a Real Estate agent this time and on the 20th March 1980 we sold it again, but this time to another family.

The problem was that they would not sign the contract until they had sold their house – which was understandable when mortgage rates were at 15%.

We had six months left before we had to be in Australia, the pressure was mounting. 

Time passed quickly and the second buyer backed out. We had plenty of interested people, but no firm offers because of the interest rate.

Finally, a couple who were moving from London signed on the 22nd July 1980 to buy the house.
The husband was moving from London at his company’s expense, so he was in a better position than all of the others.

In early August I booked our flights to Australia – our flight was Manchester/ London/ Bahrain/Singapore/ Sydney/ Melbourne. 

Tatten Arms

12th August 1980, we attended our farewell ‘do’ at the Tatton Arms, and my friends at work presented us with some fine presents including a ship in a bottle and a cut-glass decanter. 

goodbye

After the night in the pub I was unemployed.

The following week we did the rounds on Merseyside of saying goodbye to our friends and relatives, which include my Mother and Maureen’s Mum & Dad. An emotional time for all.

The legal side of the sale of our house was dragging on and on, and in the end, I had to leave power of attorney with our solicitor because I could not change the flight details, or allow a delay because we had to be in Australia by the 20th September 1980.

British_Airways_Boeing_747-200_Silagi-1

As it happened, we arrived safely on the 4th September and our visa was validated so we were now permanent residents of Australia, but with limited cash because the legal process had still to take its course. We took a few days to get over the trip and to settle the children.

Now I had to find a job.

By the 17 September I had been offered three jobs – so much for being unemployable.
Prior to flying out I had contacted the BOAC (now British Airways) cargo rep in Melbourne, and he was kind enough to check a few things for me, which helped me to gain interviews & a job offer from TAA (Trans-Australian Airlines) and Ansett Airlines, both in their cargo departments. 
I also spoke to the Manager of a company called Skypak International who were looking for an Operations Manager. 
I was invited for an interview at 88 Miller St. in West Melbourne, at 1145 am, a strange time I thought for an interview.
I duly arrived at the appointed time and the Manager and Administration Manager were waiting and asked if I had eaten lunch.

I said no, and they said come on then we will chat over lunch.

Lunch was a short drive from the office which was in a restaurant that was part of an old Australian pub.

The food was particularly good, as were the drinks.  . . . . .

It turned out that the manager was an ex Royal New Zealand navy officer, who on leaving the navy moved into car rental management and then to Skypak. The administration manager had been a bank manager for many years before running a newsagent and then becoming the Skypak’s administration manager for Victoria. 

The one thing that they had in common was a desire to expand the company, but they were unsure of the international process. They asked questions and I gave my answers, but I could tell that they were unsure of my answers because of their limited airline and transport background.

The lunch was great and when I arrived home Maureen asked how things had gone, and I said I was not at all that sure, but I did enjoy the interview, it was the best I’d ever had . . . fortunately I was not driving a car but had used the train. 

The next morning, which was a Thursday, I received a phone call from Skypak to offer me the job as their Operations Manager for Victoria, I accepted, because it sounded a lot more interesting than the other two jobs that I had been offered, and the salary was a lot better than my salary in the UK.

The land of opportunity had proved itself to me.

I asked when I should start, being a Thursday I expected them to say the following Monday, but they asked me to start the following day (Friday). I was very pleased to accept. 

To get to the office I went by train and then tram and arrived at 9.00 am to be shown into a small office where I met a supervisor reading a newspaper, and Helen, a Tongan lady, who was the office secretary.

The family and I felt at home very quickly, and soon became Australian.

I’d hate to say – if only . . to our children in the future.

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All ready for a wedding.

The flight from London to Melbourne was particularly good considering the last time Maureen & I flew to Australia, which was not long after we were married in 1970, we were also travelling ‘staff travel’, and we were ‘off-loaded’ in Hong Kong and we were stuck there for about four or five days.
As a couple it was inconvenient, but with two children an ‘off-load’ would have been a problem.

The wedding went well, and we all had a great time, and the children just loved the beach.

After the wedding we stayed with Maureen’s aunt & uncle who had emigrated from the UK in 1951.  They were very hospitable and during one visit to the city via the old ‘red rattler’ we thought we would check something out.

Chelsea

The above shows Chelsea station, although part of the Melbourne network living in Chelsea gave the feel that you were in a small town rather than a major city.
Note the level crossing to allow the train to pass through . . . it was quiet, and the beach just a couple of minutes’ walk from the station.

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Red Rattler 

inside

inside of a ‘red rattler – I think the red rattlers was discontinued in 1985.

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We arrived at the terminus in Melbourne, which is in the heart of the city.

Walking around the city we passed the Migration Services centre (I am not sure what the exact name was in 1978), but this was what I wanted to check out. 
From memory this office could give you permission to stay in Australia permanently. 

I queued and when it was my turn an Italian-Australian asked

‘What de u vant’

I said ‘I’d like to stay in Australia, please.’

‘What skil av u ?

‘I work for an airline.’

‘We don-t-a need you.’

‘But I can fly a B747!’ said, I lying to my back teeth.

‘We plenty pilot we don-a-need you – NEXT!’

A Vietnamese chap behind me with limited English was smiled at, and asked to sit down – PC had not been invented in at that time . . . 

After our holiday we arrived home in November 1978, and now I had to settle back into the routine of shift work and selling frozen food, and it was cold after the beautiful beach weather of Australia. 
To add to the cold weather mortgage rates were about to go up in early 1979 to just under 12%, we could no longer afford to live in our house or even in Congleton because of the cost of petrol and the proposed mortgage hike.

220px-James_Callaghan_(1975)

In March of 1979 the Prime Minister, James Callaghan lost a vote of confidence in the House, and he was forced to call a general election.

As all this was happening Maureen and I were discussing our future and we both considered that since our last visit eight years earlier, Australia had change in a positive way.  The living standard of the average man had increased considerably, but Maureen & I had the feeling that we were going backwards in the UK, because we were being forced to move closer to work because of the high mortgage rate and the cost of petrol to get to work.
Discussion in Parliament anticipated that the mortgage rate in 1980 would reach 15%. 
By July 1979 petrol prices for 2-star petrol had jumped to £1.40 per gallon (£7.13 today). The fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979 caused oil prices to skyrocket.

Instead of moving closer to Manchester airport we decided sell up and migrate to Australia – if they would have us.
The decision was made easier for me than Maureen, because I woke up one morning and found myself looking forward to retiring, I was only 33! 
I had to do something!

1280px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Australia.svg

We booked a meeting with the Australian High Commission branch office in Manchester and arrived at the appointed time.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House in Manchester, where the Australian Migration offices were located. 

The meeting started a little ‘coldly’ because the person that we were meeting did not like living in England and told us so.
He complained about the way the British park their cars on the wrong side of the road. In Australia one would not dream of parking a car facing the wrong way.
He then told us that he was being posted to Germany and he was looking forward to the Munich beer festival because he did not like English beer.

We did not feel as if the meeting was going well.

He then asked if I had a criminal record, and in a fit of trying to lighten the meeting I replied that I did not think that I still required one. There was a long, long silence.

At that time migration to Australia was based on a point system, the applicant had to reach a certain number of points in total.
Points were given for being able to speak English, the education level of the applicant, the number of children, the age of the applicant, job skills of the applicant, the amount of cash that we were taking and so on. 
He then told us that if it was up to him he would not allow us to migrate because I was unemployable and at the top end of the age group, and he expected me to go on the dole as soon as we arrived in Australia.
But, under the points rule he had to sanction our migration because we were paying our own way and did not require government support – at that time the £10 POM had finished, and it was now a £50 POM system, which was not available for us.

We had our interview on the 9th April 1979 and it was 15th October when we received permission to migrate. 

sheet three01012021

On the 24th October, our passports arrived, which contained the visa to live in Australia. We had until 20th September 1980 to arrive in Australia, any later and we would not be allowed to migrate.

On the same day we put the house up for sale. 

house

I took this picture in 2008, during a driving holiday in the UK.

When we lived in this house the front living room window was a picture window from ceiling to floor giving us spectacular views over the valley. The bow window must have been put in by the new owners.  

The house was sold in two days, on the 26th October 1979. We could start packing . . . Australia here we come!

The legal process began at the speed of a snail. 

Late November / early December the mortgage rate increased to 15% and our buyers withdrew their offer.  

BOAC to British Airways

boacBOAC 

I joined BOAC in 1969 and in 1971 an Act of Parliament merged BOAC with BEA to take affect from 31 March 1974, which would create British Airways.

The UK had joined the Common Market, as it was called then, in January 1973, so the merger of the two government-controlled airlines made sense.

BOAC was a small cargo unit at Manchester Airport so it was obvious that the dominant partner would be BEA, who were focused on Europe, as against the global focus of BOAC.

The writing was on the wall for the BOAC staff, so I started to look at my future and perhaps changing jobs, but my skills were limited, except in transport.

So, I decided to go back to school, or to be exact a college that was connected to Manchester University, to study transport. I did this while working shift work at BOAC.

During my time studying I considered going back to sea on short trips to perhaps the Mediterranean ports. The wine trade from Spain and Portugal looked interesting, but this would still require me to be away from my wife for several weeks, which was not an attractive idea.

One weekend I saw an advert for a deck officer to work on the supply boast to the oil rigs in the North Sea.

I had seen pictures of the oil and gas rigs and thought, not a problem, so I applied and was invited for an interview in Great Yarmouth, which is in Norfolk, UK.
To get to Great Yarmouth from where I lived near Manchester Airport would require a six-hour drive, which I did with great anticipation.

On arrival in Great Yarmouth, I met the manager (owner?) of the supply vessels that serviced the gas and oil rigs off Great Yarmouth. All went well and I was offered the job of 2nd Mate on one of the supply vessels. I was over the moon with happiness.

The Manager explained the details of the job and offered suggestions of whether to move to Great Yarmouth or remain in Manchester and commute when require.
Each ‘shift’ was about a week on and a week off, so I had the choice of commuting.
The phone rang, and the manager answered it and asked me to sit in the waiting room while he took the call.
When I had arrived, I did not spend any time in the waiting room but was shown straight in to the manager’s office.

I sat in the waiting room and looked at the framed photographs around the walls.

Note the flat deck at the stern. This picture is from the internet

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I then began to study the other photographs around the wall.

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This was not what I had in mind when I thought of going back to sea . . . 

water-on-deck

The money was good, but was it that good???

N sea

Would my stomach accept the violent movement??

The above pictures are from the internet to illustrate what I was looking at while the manager was on the phone.
Eventually he came out of his office and saw me looking at the pictures, ‘What do you think?’ he asked.
I assumed he was asking about the quality of the photographs, but I deliberately ‘misunderstood ‘, and said ‘Thank you, but I don’t want the job.’

He thanked me and commented that I was not unusual once people had seen the photographs, at least he was honest with the lifestyle that he offered. 

I drove six hours back home and collapsed into bed. It had been an awfully long day & I would go back to college to study transport.

I was still restless and felt that I wanted a change before the amalgamation took place. There were jobs going in the Middle East working for Gulf Air, which my direct manager applied for and gained the position of cargo manager Bahrain.

Gulf-Air-Logo

I did see an advert for a cargo manager Saudi Arabian Airlines based in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
Maureen thought I was tailor made for the job. The money was particularly good, and we would have a house in a compound.
I explained that Riyadh was not the place to be for foreign women, and that she would not be able to drive or go shopping without me . . . . plus, the weather in July and August was not for the faint hearted, we lost interest in Saudi Arabian Airlines.
At that time BOAC had engineering staff based in Riyadh, and they refused to fly home with Saudi Arabian Airlines because they were DRY!  and they still are as far as I know.

SAU

A Saudi B707 plane at Heathrow.

A few weeks later one of my BOAC friends left to work in Dubai, I was not the only one who was unsettled. It would be over forty years later before I met this friend again in Dubai – by this time he considered Dubai to be his home, and he had his own company. Maureen & I had arrived in Dubai off a cruise ship. 

In 1974 our first child was born, so I had to pull my head in and concentrate on cash flow.
We lived 32 km (20 miles) south of the airport and the trip to work was through the countryside which was mainly a pleasant drive. I did not have a company car so transport was at my own expense.CCI23122018_0002

In the winter getting to work could be a problem – Maureen outside our house wondering if we can get the car to start, or even if we should bother because more than likely the roads would be impassable. 

The town in which we lived was Congleton and was over 700 years old. It was a quiet country town of about 11,000 people.

Congleton The Motto is ‘Sit Tibi Sancta Cohors Comitum’ – To Thee be the band of comrades dedicated.
The town also had the nick name of ‘Bear town’ hence the bear at the top of the town crest, which is from an incident in Elizabethan times when bear baiting was popular (today we leave the baiting to the media).
It is said that the town bear died before an annual holiday period so the people decided to use the money that they had saved to buy a Bible, to buy a bear instead, so as not to spoil the holiday period.
Later a rhyme became popular, which can still be heard, even when we lived in the town – ‘Congelton rare, Congleton rare, sold the Bible to buy a bear.’

We loved the house and the views across the valley with the River Dane flowing through the farmland. (left picture)

CCI23122018_0001      CCI23122018

As we stepped out of the front door and looked to our right there was more countryside. (right picture).

By now I’d passed my exams and became a Graduate of the Institute of Transport – in other words a right ‘GIT’. 

Our mortgage at the time was £5000 or £71,000 (approx. today), and income was £30 / week or £422 / week today, and the mortgage rate was 8.9%.

In 1976 our second child arrived, and things were getting tight, mortgage rate had jumped to over 9%, and would soon reach 11.2%

In 1970 petrol was 33 p a gallon (£4.65 today), in 1975 it was £0.55 (£7.75 a gallon today), I needed more overtime or find a way of earning extra cash.

I worked a five-shift pattern –

Day shift 9am – 5pm / early shift 7 am – 3 pm/ late shift 2 pm-10 pm/ evening shift 6pm – 2 am the following day, and night shift 11pm to 7 am, we were never more than two days on the same shift, so I had daylight time to consider how to add to my income. 

The people that I worked with were mostly males, but there were a few females, so I started buying eggs from local farms and selling them to the staff on the airport. Later I branched out by selling potatoes from other farms.
I could see a demand because buying from me saved my work colleagues shopping time when off duty.
Fortunately I had what the English call an ‘estate’ car, which the US and Australians call a ‘station’ wagon so I could carry quite a lot of goods if I dropped down the back seats. 

datsun

                            The above was not my car just the same model.

As time went on people started to ask for other items and I found out where ‘end of line’ products went when after the production line changed in a factory. I was now selling frozen food, all branded names such as Birds Eye, it was just that Birds Eye had changed their product line and sold off the excess of the old product to a dealer, and I had found the dealer.

This became so popular that I rented a 20,000 cubic foot freezer chamber from a Congleton butcher, to be able to buy larger volumes at a better price. In addition, I had three chest freezers in my garage.

I then moved into Steak Canadien, which were one pound (in weight) frozen packs of ten slices of beef in single packs. I began selling this item to pubs as well as staff on the airport.
These packs went down very well in pubs because each slice with a little lettuce & sliced tomato on a roll were popular with the public. I sold the packs at £1.00 a pack of ten and the pub sold each slice with the bun and salad for at least £1.00. The profit to the pub was huge.

sheet three27122020I also sold packs of four lamb steaks, each steak being four ounces of pure meat, very popular with children, as well as the pubs because one lamb steak and chips was a lunch time meal, and of course everyone would buy a beer . . .   

custard

One unusual product, that I have not seen since, was a large frozen custard tart (catering size), which was very popular with families, including mine!  
Similar to the above, but frozen so you did not have to eat it all on the same day.

By 1978 I had earned enough profit for the four of us to fly to Australia to attend Maureen’s cousin’s wedding. We would be the only members of the UK side of the family able to attend. Few people went to Australia for a holiday!

Because I worked for British Airways, I could take advantage of ‘staff travel’, the airline sold discount tickets to staff.

beach 78

Chelsea Beach in Victoria, Australia.
October 1978.
Which was a short walk from Maureen’s uncle’s house.

Something different

Aer Lingus

Our third and final promo was with Aer Lingus – the above shows Aer Lingus B 707 at Manchester Airport.
We picked New York again, but this time we didn’t fly direct, but via Dublin and Shannon.
The memorable thing about this flight for me was at Dublin Airport while we were in transit. I visited the Gents and when I finished, I opened the door that I thought was to the concourse, but it was not and as I stepped through I found myself in the street! The door closed behind me – panic how do I get back inside the transit area??

Working at Manchester Airport during the ‘troubles’ we were warned to report anything unusual, because the airport was a possible terrorist target, so having stepped from the comfort of the transit lounge in to a Dublin street I was not sure how I was to convince anyone that I’d only visited the Gents.

I looked at the door and turned the handle which opened the door and I walked through the Gents to the other door, it was easy . . .

The flight was uneventful, except for my short visit to Dublin, but the ‘troubles’ in Belfast were still going on in the early 1970’s

maxresdefault  Picture from the internet.

Our transit stop in Shannon was uneventful, but it was an interesting stop considering that the Shannon Estuary had been the main port for transatlantic seaplanes in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. They landed in the estuary and the terminal was located at Foynes on the south side of the estuary. Land based planes lacked the range to fly the Atlantic at the time. 

Seaplanes_at_Foynes

To warm the passengers off the flying boats a hot drink was invented . . 

220px-Irish_coffee_glass 

Irish Coffee!

In 1947 Shannon airport was the first airport in the world to offer duty free shopping. 

447-4471066_ireland-map-river-shannon-on-a-map-hdThe above map shows the location of Shannon – circled

To return to security, during our earlier BOAC trip to New York we were at the airport checking in for our return flight when we spotted a brown paper parcel in the corner of the of the check-in area near the BOAC counter.
Our first thought was that BOAC was a target and perhaps the parcel was a time bomb.
We reported this to BOAC security and a security guard came over to us and asked us to point out the parcel – which we did. He then slowly walked over to the parcel and as the man got closer he recognised what it was, it was an empty wine bottle in a largish bag. He thought our reaction was funny because the airport was a common place for a ‘wino’ to leave empty bottles.  He picked it up and brought it back to us . .  from our angle at the check in desk we could not see the shape of the bottle.

 

Bottle

We pointed out the BOAC regulations about reporting strange parcels or anything unusual. We then told him of the ‘troubles’ and that BOAC could be a target.
Living in the US he did not seem to have any concept of what had been going on in Belfast. 

On a happier note our visit to New York was full of site seeing and experiencing Macy’s on 5th Avenue-of course!

macys_lauramiller_img_6215__large

On our first trip (which was early winter) we visited Macy’s.

One of our friends entered the shop wearing a pair of sandals – outside there was snow about.
We wandered around as pure tourists, not buying anything just looking, when we were approached by security and asked to leave, because they did not encourage a ‘hippy’ to frequent their store – our sandal wearing friend was not welcome, so we all left.  

Mus

In the evening we visited ‘Your Father’s Mustache’ on 7th Ave & 10th St. They did not care what we wore on our feet.

Father's mustach

  The location was in Greenwich Village.

We visited Your Father’s Mustache  (the music in the clip is banjo music but when we visited it was mainly jazz)a few times during our two trips, but on our second visit to New York we sat at a table and ordered a jug of beer – it came quite quickly, but it was green!

largerI asked the waiter for a normal coloured beer and was told that as it was St Patrick’s Day and that we would only be allowed to drink green beer – and me a English protestant, but beer is beer !   

One might think that the green beer is a modern-day marketing trick, but they have been making green beer in New York for over a hundred years.

Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin was an Irish American, his family had emigrated to the USA when he was five years old.
To celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 1914 he created the green beer –  his recipe was one drop of wash blue in a quantity of beer.
Today he’d be in prison, because ‘wash blue’ is an iron powder used to whiten clothes – it is also a poison.

Nowadays they use a few drops of food colouring. . . . 

G&B

How can green beer compete with a nice drop of Guinness?

wales

Not wishing to upset the green apple cart, but St Patrick was Welsh, and had been sent to Ireland to convert the population to Christianity.

shamrock

So instead of the green Shamrock beer they should have had the daffodil yellow beer . . . 

flower

Mug+of+fresh+beer+with+foam  We enjoyed our time in New York, but on the negative side we were concerned at the amount of security required by our hotel – I cannot remember the name of the hotel, but I do remember that we were on the ground floor and the windows were barred.

custom-window-guards

Something like this 

and the locks on the door to secure the room –
images

again, something like this, but I think our room had larger locks and more of them, and all I wanted to do was make sure we were not involved in a fire!
By the time I’d worked the locks out we’d have been dead.

Obviously, society dictated that this amount of security was required, which was a disappointment to me and changed my long-held image of America.

It would be about twenty-three years before I would return to New York, but this visit in the 1990’s would be from Sydney in Australia, via London, not Manchester, UK.

 

Promos

AF

Working for an airline sometimes (very occasionally) we were offered cheap trips on a particular route if the airline was doing a ‘promo’ to encourage people to fly to a particular destination.

Air France in the early 1970’s offered a round trip ticket to Paris via their  Caravelle service for £7, (£100 today or US $130) which included two nights in a hotel.

Maureen and I had been married for about eighteen months and we had not had a honeymoon, because we decided to take out a mortgage to buy a house, so the £7 sounded a good deal. We left on Friday and arrived back late afternoon on Sunday.

We stayed at the Hotel Pretty, but I am unable to find any details of this hotel online and my lasting impression of the hotel was that it was cheap, but it did have a memorable breakfast.

The large oblong table was covered in a blue plastic table cloth, and a bread board was placed in the centre,  along with long sticks of French bread and a large knife for cutting the bread and of course a pots of jam – but we did not have any butter.

breakfast

The above picture gives you an idea –

il_794xN.2583176853_iawk

Each of the hotel guests were given a plain white bowl (without a handle) for our coffee, and for me it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I’ve never been able to recreate the taste again.
Bread sticks were passed up and down the table and chunks hacked off by a hotel guest to be smeared with jam.
Our group consisted of  Maureen & I, another couple and two single males – all the males in our party worked together for BOAC cargo at Manchester airport.
We were not offered cereal or bacon & eggs  . . . but we did share the smell of . .

fags

I think smoking in Paris at that time was compulsory . .

Overall, we enjoyed our ‘foreign’ weekend away and it was not long before we decided to take advantage of our ability to fly with BOAC at a discount rate. This time we picked New York.

From memory once again I think we were accompanied by others from the BOAC team.

VC10 The aircraft was the VC 10 – Manchester to New York, non-stop.

VC10-Interior

Inside the VC 10 – Maureen & I were fortunate because we had three seats for the two of us.

I asked a stewardess (this was their title at that time) if I could visit the flight deck, she said she would ask, which she did and a few minutes later I was invited to meet the captain and his crew on the flight deck – how times have changed.

VC 10

Captain, first officer, engineer & navigator

The flight deck was quite crowded when I was included. I was offered a small pull-down seat while I chatted with the captain as he explained the routine of the flight. I was particularly interested in the navigational officer’s duty having been a deck officer at sea.

In the early 1970’s satellite navigation for commercial aircraft was still in the future. The first NAVSTAR (Navigation System with Timing and Ranging) was not launched until 1978, which was part of the US defence department system, and it was not until the 1980’s before the system could be used by commercial aircraft.

VC 10 buble

To navigate across the Atlantic the navigating officer would use a ‘bubble sextant’ . . . 

sextant

When I was at sea we used a sextant to navigate around the oceans, (see above picture for a marine sextant) the idea being to measure the angle of the stars or the sun by bring the image of the star or sun down to the horizon and reading off the angle from which we would work out our latitude etc.

Obviously when flying one could not measure the angle of a star by bringing it down to the horizon, because if it was night and cloudy the aircraft would be above the clouds so the navigation officer would not be able to see the horizon at 30,000 feet.

On the aircraft they used a bubble sextant, which has a bubble in a liquid filled chamber (think a carpenter’s spirit level), which provides an artificial horizon. While the navigator holds the instrument, the pilot does his best to fly straight and steady, and at a constant speed, because if the plane is jerked in anyway the navigator receives an incorrect reading. The pilot may do his best to keep the plane steady, but wind and air density can cause alterations, so the navigator will take several readings and average out the result. 

The black and white picture above the picture of the marine sextant shows a VC 10 navigator taking readings.

Thanks to the bubble sextant we did not get lost on the way to New York.

Richard Byrd, 1888-1957 (not the same Dicky Byrd that worked for BOAC) developed the bubble sextant using a modified standard marine sextant, and in May 1919 he flew the Atlantic in a NC-4 seaplane and landed in Plymouth U.K.  
NC = Navy Curtiss flying boat.

Richard Byrd’s flight took three weeks after stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon,

At that time there was a prize of £10,000 (worth about US $600,000 today) for the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, and it had to be completed within 72 hours. The prize was only open to non-military flyers. 

Alcock and Brown won the prize in June 1919 in a Vickers Vimy bomber, they completed the flight in less than sixteen hours.

Alcock_Brown_2-1

As they approached Ireland, they thought the ground that they could see was flat grassland and ideal for a place to land. The landing area was a bog . . .but they were the first people to fly the Atlantic non-stop.

The visit to the flight deck was interesting and it helped pass the time because it would be some time before airlines introduced films (movies) on a regular basis, which mainly came about with the advent of the B747.
Oddly enough the first commercial inflight movie was shown on Imperial Airways Ltd (the for runner of BOAC) from London to Paris in 1925, it was a silent commercial film of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book – The Lost World.

Movies

Cargo passengers ?

Some months after Ollie’s weather forecast incident I was again on nights, but this time with another colleague, when we received a message from the inbound aircraft that they had an emergency.

We asked for details, and it was not an emergency of the aircraft, but a passenger problem. Knowing the aircraft was a freighter, why did they have a passenger problem? 

Frt deck

To give you an idea of the inside of a freighter the above picture is of a B727 which is smaller than a B707, but the principal is the same with the ‘ball bearing’ roller beds to roll palleted cargo to the correct location.
The larger planes of today can carry a higher payload than the B 707C. (C=cargo)

B747

The above is the main deck of a B747 freighter, as you see they can now load pallets side by side rather than one behind the other.  During my BOAC days the pallets were pushed in to place by airport loaders, whereas today it is mechanically controlled.

There are aircraft that are called QC – quick change – which means the passenger seats can be stripped out and pallets loaded in their place.

B_737_QC_2-13-695x461

This is a B 737 QC – note that the passenger overhead lockers are still in place only the seats have been removed to make room for cargo.

Of course you don’t have to remove the seats if you don’t want to . . 

B737 cargo

The above is a B 737 where the seats have been left in place, but protected, and cargo loaded instead of passengers. Thanks to Covid-19 this system has been used a great deal due to the lack of passengers and the demand for cargo aircraft.

Back to the emergency on BA 066 freighter from New York to Manchester and finally London.
We asked more details of the emergency and what we could do to help.

Part of the cargo on this trip was a live dolphin –

dolphin

The dolphin would be in a hammock, which was in a water tank, the ‘passenger’ would be accompanied by a ‘handler’. 

tanks

I have included this picture to clarify the ‘hammock’ system, which shows a ‘multiple’ system. Obviously every care would be taken for the health and welfare of any animal.

The emergency was the dolphin, it had given birth earlier than expected, and this was perhaps due to it being her first flight. . .

The request was for a smaller tank for the calve, and can we have it ready for their arrival?

We asked how large will the tank have to be?

Not smaller than about 45 inches (1.1 mtr) we were told, at that time the UK was still measuring items in feet and inches.

The two of us at the BOAC base put on our thinking caps – a baby dolphin, 45 inches long, the tank has to be large enough to hold the dolphin and a certain amount of water . . . . who would have such a tank?

So, being resourceful (as we thought) we rang Manchester zoo and asked if they could possibly bring out a container for a newborn baby dolphin born on a B 707 over the Atlantic? . . . . . click!

They didn’t believe us. . .

Never mind we will ring Chester Zoo, they are a much larger concern and we were sure that they would know what to do . . . click! again.

The dolphin was consigned to a zoo in Yorkshire, so we rang the Yorkshire zoo, but the zoo did not answer the phone.

I suppose ringing at 3.00 am didn’t help. . . .

Then we had a brainwave we would ring up an undertaker for a waterproof coffin that could hold the dolphin and the water. We rang a few and didn’t get anywhere, well, we thought it was a good idea.

Thinking caps again, and the aircraft was getting closer and closer . . .

Finally, we thought outside the square – just a little outside, by offering a largish sum of money – who to ring – Scotland of course! (A very un-pc thought in today’s world)

We rang our office at Prestwick airport (they were awake) and had a chat and suggested the coffin idea – they agreed and said they would let us know.

Eventually our Prestwick office found an undertaker who was willing to take a chance that we were telling the truth.

So now it was up to us – we called up BA 066 and explained the problem that we had in getting anyone to believe us in Manchester and suggested that they divert to Prestwick where an undertaker with his plastic lined water tight coffin was waiting.

There was a long silence until at last we heard the Captain telling us that he had been in contact with air traffic control, and he was diverting to Prestwick, but he would not be calling at Manchester after Prestwick because he would be out of hours if he did, and would not be able to take the aircraft to London.

We agreed, and told him that we would deal with the cargo agents in the morning – well to be exact, dealing with the agents who were going to be as mad as anything due to their cargo being in London, would not be our worry as we signed off at 7.00 am and went home to bed.

The cargo would be trucked from London to Manchester and would arrive the following morning.

Both mother and calve survived and were trucked from Prestwick to the Yorkshire zoo, and everybody was happy including the Scottish undertaker.

Yorkshire

Perhaps things have changed, because I have read that Yorkshire now advertises boat rides for visitors to visit dolphins in their natural state rather than going to a zoo.

More diversion problems . .

a small monkey eats bananas in a national park. Asian jungle with monkeys
 

On one diversion that had monkeys as cargo we had to remove them from the aircraft to have the hold cleaned and also to feed and water the animals. Unfortunately, one of the monkeys escaped and ran across the warehouse floor to the wall and within a few seconds had scaled the wall and was now sitting on one of the roof beams.

This was a huge problem because we did not have any idea if the animal was healthy or what deceases it could spread amongst British animals and humans.  

How to get it down . . . use bananas of course – a monkey will do anything for a banana, or so we thought.

We tried to tempt it down with various fruits in the hope that we could capture the animal.
Ollie, one of my colleagues, was adamant that we should do our best to keep the problem in house before we called in a sharp shooter. 

rifle

Ollie tried his best to entice the animal down and spent a considerable amount of time placing fruit at strategic places. The animal did come down partway and took some of the fruit, but it was always just out of reach of being captured.

Ollie was very concerned and kept telling me that it was only a matter of time before the animal would trust him . . . 

Finally Ollie did get close to the monkey, which emptied its bowels and threw some of the contents at Ollie and hit him in the head – Ollie was upset to say the least, so he rang the police for a sharpshooter muttering about the ingratitude of monkeys. 

The monkey was shot with a tranquilliser dart from memory, rather than a bullet.

asleep

Found the picture on the internet of a tranquilised monkey.

I’ve called my colleague Ollie, which was not his name, I haven’t seen him for over forty years, but I do not wish to cause him any embarrassment if he sees this post.

Ollie

I named him Ollie, because he reminded me of another Ollie, not in looks, but in ‘off set ability’.

One night Ollie and I were on nights together (there were two of us because a freighter was due from New York), I was working on the load plan for the final leg of the flight to London and I’d left Ollie to listen on the radio.

Our call sign was ‘Speedbird Manchester’, and the inbound flight was ‘Speedbird 066’ (i.e BA 066). 

Around 3.00 am the aircraft was still over the Atlantic, and they called us for the local weather to assist them when landing.
Normally we would ring the airport control tower for a full weather report because the aircraft dealt with us rather than the tower.

This night Ollie decided to go outside to see what the weather was like, and then wandered back to the radio.

‘Speed 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, – it’s raining!’ this in a strong Bolton accent

There was silence from the aircraft, until the aircraft replied and asked if we could be a little more explicit!

What they wanted was cloud height, wind strength, and wind direct etc.

Ollie held the microphone and said ‘Speedbird 066, this Speedbird Manchester please hold . . . ‘
after which he wandered outside again and on his return to the radio he said – ‘Speedbird 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, it’s pissing down!’

After that night I refused to work nights with him ever again.         

Damn the dams in Laos

LA

In 2010 eight of us (four couples) from Sydney thought it was time that we visited Indochina, and one of the countries on our list was Laos.
We flew to Thailand (Bangkok) and then domestically to Chiang Mei.

From Chiang Mei to Luang Prabang, which is in Laos, we decided to fly with Laos Air.

Loas Air

It was not a large plane, but I have flown on smaller, and not as modern.

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Coming in to land at Luang Prebang – Picture thanks to KI.

After clearing customs and paying USD$30 each for a visa on arrival, we were met by the hotel transport, which was a large minibus, for the trip to the hotel.

delux

A modern day picture from the hotel’s website for a Mekong Delux room.
The room is much the same as the rooms that we had in 2010

The Grand Hotel overlooked the Mekong River, hence the name of the rooms.

M river

View from our bedroom.

Hotel

Part of the hotel’s gardens.

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Breakfast was outside and it was often cold first thing in the morning – we were there early March . . . pic thanks to KI

M river01

Yours truly wondering why the water in the river was so low. I was told later that it was due to Chinese dams being built upriver, the flow had been considerably reduced.

M river02

We booked one of the boats for a trip to Pak Ou Caves also known locally as the caves of a thousand buddhas – the trip would include lunch.

M river03

A further indication of how low the water had become. We just boarded by climbing from the sandy riverbed into the boat.

Mriver04

 

Not far from where we boarded the river boat we saw the above boats just sitting on the bottom due to the low water.

It was an enjoyable boat ride to the caves.

Homes

A home along the river bank, they did not have many modern day conveniences but they did have satellite TV, which is more than I do :- o) 
Other homesMore homes along the bank.

approach

Approaching the caves, as you see they are popular

inside

Inside the caves . . it was quite cool.

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There were a large number of statues in the caves. 

After the caves we returned to our boat to cross the river for lunch.

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The old white-haired guy is being very careful going down the stairs – pic thanks to GD

Lunch

Lunch – with a beer or two of course – very pleasant, overlooking the river.

MT village

After lunch we were shown around a small village, but due to the heat (early afternoon) most stall holders were inside – they did come out when the ladies showed an interest in a particular item.

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                           Of course we found the moonshine man  . . . . pic from KI    

   

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                      We watched the booze being made . . .pic from KI

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                                                            The moonshine man . . .pic thanks to KI

Bottles

I was offered a free drink of locally produced wine, which was pleasant, but I did not fancy a pickled scorpion – even a free one! 

 

M river05

On returning to our boat we were able to appreciate just how low the water had become. 

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Our boatman had moved our boat to a small pier, which highlighted the low water – Picture thanks to GD

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Luang Prebang main street – following pics are thanks to KI

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   Main street

   

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Plenty of restaurants and we found the food to be tasty, very fresh and ‘sharp’. Beer, wine & spirits were available in restaurants & bars at good prices – of course the locally produced beer & wine were cheaper than the imported drinks.

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The Night market came in handy for small gifts to take home. Pic thanks to GD