Now the weather has turned, I have become a little obsessed with keeping warm in the shed: flasks of hot drinks, soup in the East20 cafe opposite, thermal undies, star jumps… got to sort out some form of heating soon.
I am reminded of the cold work mentioned by some of my interviewees. The very first gentleman through my shed door had worked as an Apprentice Engineer in the East End many years ago.
In the cold weather that was a bad ol’ job. It was in a massive warehouse, all steel, and I used to work with a Plater, I was his apprentice, and they used to have a big steel desk with all the tools on and that was my job in the morning to light the brazier up and warm all the tools up like. Phwoar! That was cold. That was your job as an apprentice.
A brazier! That’s what I need!
I was amazed to hear, from a gentleman who worked at Metropolitan-Vickers in Trafford Park, that the warehouse was so high in order to fit the huge cranes in, that when winter came the fog would roll into the warehouse too, to the extent you couldn’t see the top of the cranes.
Another visitor to the shed who was a Sign Writer in the East End for twenty years mentions the cold as being a factor in moving on.
There is more signwriting about now. People want a hand-painted facure. But I am not tempted. It’s not the lettering. It’s the fact you had to do it in middle of winter on the scaffold, while it was snowing – not so glamorous as it sounds. Working in the workshop – fantastic, you can control the temperature and rate that the paint dried. But working outdoors was never great – you had three layers on, fingerless mittens and four hats. I got to the age of 40 and I thought not another winter and made my escape.