At The Mill With Slaves
Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves
Samson Agonistes - John Milton
Schoolchildren left school, started work, worked until retirement, and then died off. Itwas a fact of life that jobs were for life. A career, once begun, was to be maintained atwhatever cost. When I left school, I imagined that the employment I secured would lastforever. That was the culture and expectation of the times and it seemed as if nothingwould ever happen to alter it.In my later school years I entertained a desire to become a merchant seaman. I had become increasingly aware of the many peoples and cultures in the world, and wished tosee them, taste the differences, and try to understand why they were so different from thatwith which I was familiar. The merchant marine was the only way I knew to achieve thatambition.When we left school, Pete West and I went along to the Employment Exchange together.A man who interviewed us cautioned us against
‘holding each others’ hands’
throughlife. Neither of us intended to so that, we just shared a common idea. Peter said hewould like to join the merchant navy also.The truth about my desire for a seafaring life was that it was just an idea. I had not thekind of drive that impels men to follow a dream until its completion. I was a drifter: a passive spectator at what life did to me. Powerless, I went with the flow, and landedwherever it threw me up.Peter and I both started work at Sykes and Tunnicliffe's Bankend Mills, Almondbury. Iworked in the weaving shed and Peter worked in the finishing department. As places goit was a good place to work, and sported some interesting characters, among which wasmy mentor, Vincent.