When I was eighteen or nineteen I used to go out and about, a bit of a Jack the Lad, seeing the ladies and what have you. Quite often it’d be 11pm by the time I got home and the next morning my dad would come upstairs and say, “Now, this is the last time I’m going to wake you, if you don’t get up I’m leaving you here and you’ll lose a day’s pay.” Blurry-eyed I’d go, “Yeah, okay.” When I was first going out with my now wife we’d go to dos then I’d go straight to work from partying – I’d be in a bit of a state! When my lads were old enough to go drinking we used to go out on Christmas Eve. I can remember two or three times them saying, “Come on Dad, wake up, we’re taking you home.” I’d say, “It’s only eight o’clock?” and they’d go, “Yeah, but you’ve been asleep for an hour.” My mates used to say I could sleep on an old sixpence I’d be so shattered.
I was well known in the family for sleeping anywhere at the time. If we had a family do they’d say, “Bloody hell, look – Steve’s asleep again.” When I worked in the retail side, I’d be down the market for 4am and wouldn’t get home until 6pm. It was fourteen hours a day, six days a week and especially tiring in the winter when the weather was rubbish – there would be horizontal rain and I’d be trying to get the sheets out to cover my stock. At Christmas time, you might as well not bother going to bed.
Even on Saturdays, thinking back, I was so busy I’d struggle to get down to see Forest kick off at three. I too could fall asleep anywhere – not long before I retired I remember my partner Vonne doing me a nice steak and chips. I sat down to eat and thought, “Great!” The next thing I knew she was standing over me saying, “I spent all that money on a beautiful steak and you fall asleep with your knife and fork!”
A lot of people outside the trade underestimated what damned hard work it was, starting work at 3am, working right through in all weathers till the job was done. It was exhausting, mentally and physically. In the winter periods you’d be up to your blimmin’ kneecaps in snow. It deterred lot of the younger people coming into it, because they just didn’t want that way of life. During the eighties, youngsters had more freedom and there were more jobs for them to choose.
A lot of the older workers would say, “Oh no, my lad’s not coming into this.” I thought, “Well, hold on, you’ve not done too bad out of it.” I left school with the most disgusting school report you could imagine – my dad never saw it till the day he died, it was so bad. I’d got no qualifications, but I’ve had a decent life, two lads at university. It was one of those industries where if you worked hard and you’d got a bit of gumption about you, you would succeed.