“When I started at the shop, the closest I’d come to manual work was reading the instructions for an exercise bike. And, now here I was, after 30 months, with a sackful of new skills under my belt.”

safe behind the counter, though this was soon to change. At the same time, he’d allowed his whopping big Irish wolfhound (never on a lead) to wander into the cutting shop where it proceeded to dump a massive dollop of steaming dog waste. Some memories just don’t fade. Good for character building, though.

Closing doors We’d set Spring Bank holiday for the grand opening. The big green doors had been removed and a low wall built to support the huge plate glass window. I don’t remember how we managed to engineer this – I mean, how did we build the wall, stick a frame to it and then get the glass in place; and all in one day? Not possible, so how did we guard against security breaches that night? Had we left even the tiniest chink in security, we’d have arrived the next day to find the

whole building stripped back to the stone walls. I’m still baffled about how we pulled it off.

When I started at the shop, the closest I’d come to manual work was reading the instructions for an exercise bike. And, now here I was, after 30 months, with a sackful of new skills under my belt, such as wiring plugs, painting ceilings, welding cars and setting fire to them. And, I set-to with other jobs in the rush towards the big day, including knocking through a wall for a new doorway. A Fawlty Towers episode had alerted me to the use of proper lintels; so another skill. After the boss made a super mix of concrete to form a ramp (that’s still there), I painted the floor with tile red paint. So, stark white walls and a red floor. I suppose it did look a bit like a slaughter house – until the stock took over.

Maccessing stock

Speaking of which, for some time I’d been buying stock from Maccess, a motor trade cash & carry, where one had to produce stiff credentials to prove – and I mean beyond any possible shadow of a doubt – that you were a member of what was known as “the motor trade”. The motor engineer, whose daughter I was acquainted with, vouched for us, so job sorted. I remember one special promotional evening there where the guest of honour was the famous cricketer Freddie Trueman. But he spent so much time in the manager’s office that we were lucky to get a split-second glimpse of him. I digress. So, the motor accessory shops were being well-catered for with this massive warehouse and mouth-watering range of stock. I bought 80% of our personal camping gear from there, and still have some of it and the trailer to this day, 40 years later. So, we were able to fill up with lots of motor-trade-based stuff including fillers, abrasives, tools, drill bits, batteries and butane gas. If only there’d been something similar for the traditional hardware stock. And then, by 1982, there was Stax, son of Maccess. Owned by the

same company, it amused me how Maccess staff would almost turn themselves inside out rather than admit any connection, despite them having a fleet of new trolleys with Stax emblazoned across the handles. But back then Stax wasn’t quite the same. I’m not sure what was missing, but by the following year our local- ish Stax depot winked up. It appears that the management buy-out in 1986 was the great turning point in the company’s fortune, from which it has gone from strength to strength. If only all management buy-outs were so successful - and I’m thinking Black & Decker Service Centres here, but that’s another story.

Cut-off point I’ve just remembered how we solved the issue of building the window wall without leaving a big hole through which the local villains could suck away our stock faster than the taxman with your pension pot: the boss shortened the doors so they could be locked closed above the newly-built wall. Simple! I still have one of the thick tongue-and- groove boards from those very doors and just checked it for the tell-tale saw marks. Sorted.

01 JUNE 2018 DIY WEEK 9

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