As this is my first blog entry, I may edit it now and then!
Inspiration of this was from reading the introductory lines of “Brain Pickings”
After which I was pondering today while eating breakfast about maybe starting a blog when it occurred to me the reason I never kept a day to day diary was because it was so gut wrenchingly boring! My father kept one but mainly it was for keeping track of his appointments and his many sisters’ birthdays, anniversaries and the like.
Jan 10th 2016..
Weather so.. so!
Had breakfast, read emails.
Walked Duff, had dinner with Carmel went to bed.
Is this not the stuff of a lifetime of mind numbing reading?
Well here goes…
My life as a motorcycle mechanic.
My working diary was mainly for repair jobs, parts ordered, delivered and fitted and any problems encountered and cures. Curious problems discovered such as tight or collapsed bearings, holed pistons, corrugated fork tubes etc. Bent or worn out bush’s and shafts or broken teeth or any of the numerous oddities that can litter a busy mechanics week. It’s not that these things come to plague us everyday but when they come it can be at an inopportune time or moment both for the customer and mechanic alike! Such as the end of the day or when someone has come to collect the piece of their life which has become corrupted by a gremlin! These are more interesting stories of derring do to discuss at length and perhaps spawn a new career in blog writing!
The day to day reality of a mechanic can almost be as humdrum as any other profession with the exception that it involves various unguents not usually faced by say your local dentist or candle maker for instance. However certain protocols have to be followed otherwise problems come up and often that is where problems lie.
My early days of twirling a spanner came about from having a natural ability of being able to take things apart, fix them and put them back together while working with the. minimum of tools. Thinking back on it now, I don’t think my parents were too impressed with that ability and were more interested in my taking up a more useful career such as becoming a draughtsman or working in advertising! (Another mind numbing business by the way, fortunately I got out of it before I became frustrated and started drinking like the rest of the genius’s that worked there!
My friends and neighbours went to technical school where they got to play with practical things such as hammers and pliers as well as regular schooling but I had to go to another one in the city. My mother being a teacher had other intentions for my brother and I! That been said, my brother who was a rebellious one, five years my junior did his thang and eventually got out from under and did go his own way or found “it” whatever that was!
I being the middle child needed guidance apparently and was channeled into a school where I would become more at one with the populace and prepare me for work in an office environment. In other words clean hands and fingernails, white shirts and that kind of thing! To be honest I was lost when I left school at seventeen. I left early as I started school just after my fourth birthday.
Two months after leaving school I went into an elite advertising business, Arrow Advertising, now defunct, as a trainee commercial artist on the fifth floor of an old Georgian House beside the British Passport Office on Merrion Square in Dublin 2. The offices below were all part of the business, secretaries and the director and in the basement is where I spent many of my days enlarging and developing blurb and text for the adverts that were being created five floors above me! Of course that was my day job. When I got home after tea my real life unfolded..
Nearly a year into my career as a pencil sharpener, we used various “HB” pencils in our job plus “Cow gum” which was petroleum based so when artwork was created you would thinly apply a coat on both the photo and its base sheet carefully squeezing out the remainder and then using a small ball of dried Cow to remove the now drying compound. Then when we were reusing said photo we would use cigarette lighter fluid to dissolve the Cow stuff.
Anyway the inevitable happened.. my luck ran out and I crashed my Kawasaki going back to work after lunch. The car that I hit from behind had braked for an off leash dog and I being in the process of turning a corner had no choice but to run into it. The bike shot up in the air and mangled my ankle. Accidents are just that and well in the heel of the hunt I lost my job!
It took me seven months to learn to walk again and years to hunker down properly without falling over. Just muscles learning to stretch and hold I suppose. I went to night school to study advertising and drawing but I realized it was not for me and just quit much to the chagrin of my ever suffering parents!
My next foray was in the hospital service business. The Mother was picking up medical supplies for her Dad and got wind of a possible job opening and she suggested I might apply and who knows et cetera and so on. So I applied and was interviewed several times and eventually started work there for the princely sum of five pounds a week. I had hoped to get into the workshop but it was a union job and I would have to get indentured to a craftsman to join the union. Same old BS really! I did eventually make it into the workshop and was a service writer of sorts and also serviced a fair amount of the equipment we sold which was Hospital and surgical equipment, including every possible thing you can imagine from a mosquito forceps to an operating table. Working there was a voyage of discovery and we met interesting people from all over the world and nearly every day was different!
Looking back on my seven years with Fannin & Company it was a real joy. I made lifetime friends there and eventually left of my own accord when offered a position as a mechanic for a motorcycle importer called Pye.
Pye was at one time a manufacturer of radiograms and early tv’s. They manufactured everything including the wooden cabinets. They even had in house chroming plant. Oh the story’s I could tell! But when I started there they were just badge engineers. All their equipment had been auctioned off and they were just importing tv’s from Finland and rebadging them and likewise VCRs and the like. The motorcycles became part of the white division which had at one time made and distributed fridges, cookers etc as did the bicycles both of which were imported from Germany, East and West.
So the story goes that their previous mechanic went to Greece on holidays and didn’t come back! I never saw him again but he was part of the racing circuit so I am sure he was just avoiding the company he’d worked for and he had cleared all his tools out before he left for Greece supposedly? Anyway I started there in February and stayed with them until they went belly up while I was on holiday in Canada two years later.
Fortunately I had had a handshake agreement to buy all their spares from them before I left for Canada not knowing that that was in the works!
I returned from my October holiday with future wife in the works to find a chap outside my folks home living in his car. He had just sold his house and having heard of Pye’s demise was suggesting we buy the remaining bikes and go into business together. But that didn’t play out and he drifted out of the picture when it was discovered that the Sheriff had sold the bulk of the bike stock to a secondhand car dealer in Bray!
So, my handshake agreement stood and my Workshop and all its contents were untouched when I got down there in its own ecosystem!
So I leased the place from them until I found another shop of my own which I set up in Donnybrook. I rented this place from a car dealer. He was a step up from the one in Bray as he sold Jags and Rovers and had his own racehorse. His name was George Dagg! I may have got the place because I happened to notice as you do, that he had an unregistered Bentley on the premises, which was ahem an import that you had to be discreet about, not stolen mind you just the duty was unpaid for so probably brought in to replace a crashed or severely damaged one! Irish duty was in the region of 78% at that time so a considerable savings.. Anyway I stayed there for four years or so finally packing up and emigrating to Canada in 1990.
When I think back on all the shenanigans and all the amazing mechanical havoc played on my journey to becoming a mechanic I feel I was a fortunate guy to have found a career which was more like a dream job than just “a job”!
I have been chided by my lovely cousins especially ‘Duke about my reference to being the middle child. Although my older brother Eamonn never made it, my parents spoke of him frequently as if he were there or merely absent and I often had the feeling of expecting him to appear at any moment. So I was always aware of the pecking order. My younger brother DJ was almost five years my junior. DJ has since left the building!