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Someday My Prints Will Come

I don't know about you (well, obviously I don't, I'm not even sure who you are) but Amazon and their associates have the happy ...

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Making a Packet in the Wages Office

This month's Derby Telegraph article deals with the trials and tribulations of making up pay packets in the inflation-ridden 1970s.  This is the link to the article on the DT website but below is the thing itself, in print, and the unedited version in full:

It seems really odd to consider how dependent we were on cash in the 1970s.  I thought of this after ordering some books from a U.S. supplier online.  Throughout this process I haven't had to put my hand in my pocket once.  One tap of a button was sufficient to order the goods and add a chunk to my burgeoning credit card balance.  The folding stuff never entered into it.  Yet it wasn't always this way.
I mentioned last month that my cosy office environment at Wesley's in Victoria Crescent was rudely interrupted by a spot of reorganisation in which Gwen, my office companion, was moved to act as secretary to the M.D.  Our office was converted into a secure home for the Wages Office and Phyllis, the wages' clerk, came to join me.  About the only thing that Phyllis and I had in common was that we both smoked but whilst I was trying to keep a lid on my habit, Phyllis more or less chain-smoked her way through the day. 

I was to act as Phyllis's assistant, calculating the gross pay for each employee from their respective timesheets on Monday and helping put up the pay packets on Friday.  In the intervening days, I still had to calculate the production statistics (although this was now a doddle with my new calculator).  My week wasn't totally filled but I had enough to do to keep me out of trouble.

Phyllis was quite a character and I grew to be very fond of her over the months we worked together.  In her style of dress, hairstyle and, to a certain extent, attitudes she seemed as if she had been transplanted direct from the 1940s.  She was devoted to her husband and spent a good deal of time thinking about what to get him for his tea.  She also had the odd habit of drinking a large slug of sherry with a raw egg in it after every lunch break, an idea which I found revolting but clearly suited her.

Friday was when Phyllis came into her own.  The cash was delivered to the office on Friday morning (unbelievably, she used to go and fetch it from the bank herself, accompanied by Mr. T. from the Crepe Dept. but thankfully it was now delivered by a security firm).  We then had to make up the pay packets with the cash all folded in with the payslip so that the details were visible without the employee having to open the packet (in case of arguments over discrepancies).
In most cases this was reasonably straightforward, although as rampant inflation and threshold pay increases made their presence felt, it became difficult to prise the sheer quantity of money into the pay packets.  However, we had one employee who presented more difficulties than most.  Her father had decreed that she was not to be trusted with any notes greater than £1 in value, which was fine in the days when her net pay was just a few pounds but became more and more impossible as the 1970s wore on.  Prising a thick wad of one pound notes, plus the payslip, into a pay packet became one of my least favourite activities.

The other aspect of Fridays, at which Phyllis excelled, was dealing with the queue of complainants who inevitably formed by the Wages Office window every Friday afternoon, usually after a lunchtime visit to the pub had bolstered their courage and stoked their sense of grievance.  Phyllis dealt with this with incredible patience, her trademark cigarette in one hand as she listened to each tale of woe.  Occasionally there was a genuine mistake to be put right but, more often than not, it was simply a refusal to accept that the deductions were correct and Phyllis had to patiently demonstrate how the figures had been calculated and why they couldn't be any different.  One particularly obstreperous employee turned up every Friday afternoon, without fail, and she had to go through this process every time.  He always went away with a look that said 'you've got away with it this time, but I'll catch you out one of these days'.  He didn't!

Philip's latest collection of stories, 'The Things You See…' is now available as a print edition from Amazon at, or order through your local bookstore.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Someday My Prints Will Come

I don't know about you (well, obviously I don't, I'm not even sure who you are) but Amazon and their associates have the happy knack of pleasantly surprising me.

For example, I've recently been wrestling with turning one of my 'nostalgedy' books into a print edition via Createspace.  This started out as an innocent fishing trip to see how much it might cost to do this and sort of escalated out of control.

To be fair, it's been a relatively painless process although it took a bit more editing and formatting that I anticipated.  The most tricky bit was the cover, largely because (a) it hadn't occurred to me that a Kindle cover is just fine and dandy but doesn't have a back cover and spine, so you can't just upload your Kindle cover and forget all about it.  Well, you can and I did but you just finish up with blanks where the title and the blurb should be on the spine and the rear cover.  We're not all locked up yet, you know!  Secondly, (b) you need Adobe Photoshop or similar to use Createspace's cover template and I've never had anything remotely like that, nor would I know how to use it if I did.  Cue screams of anguish to the chap in my village who does know what he's doing with these things and who managed to sort it all out for me.

When you have the content hammered down into a format that will work and the cover set up correctly, it then just remains to check it all online and order a proof copy for yourself to see what it will look like in reality.  I was a bit disappointed at how much this was going to cost if I wanted it delivered in my lifetime.  There are three delivery options, you see.  In order of increasing cost I could either wait until March 23rd (this was on 8th February) or wait a fortnight or pay a huge amount and get it sent to me in the blink of an eye.  I'm a cheapskate but I'm also an impatient cheapskate and I didn't fancy waiting until the end of March.  I thought I could probably cope with waiting a couple of weeks but I resented this delay in the process, nevertheless tightness prevailed over urgency.

I could quite understand why it might take a while.  After all, it had to be set up and printed in the good ol' U.S.A., packed and then despatched to the U.K.  I was therefore surprised to be informed that it had been despatched the day after my order and I was even more astonished when it landed on my doormat just four days after my order (which included a weekend).  I've often found, with Amazon et al, that the cheap-rate option can often result in a delivery that is at least as quick as the premium rate, all singing all dancing job.

So it was that I was able to press the 'Go' button and release 'The Things You See...' print edition onto an unsuspecting world on Valentine's Day.  This is it:

Now available through all aspects of Amazon and should soon be available to order through your friendly, neighbourhood bookshop.  Hope you like it.  If it does reasonably well, the plan is to work my way back through the series and produce print editions of each in turn but I need to recover from this one, first ;-)

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Hi-Tech on a Low Budget

This month's Derby Telegraph 'nostalgedy' article is all about how some very small technological advances can make a big difference to your working life, particularly in the 1970s.

You can find the article (with more photos and links to others in this series) on the DT website hereOr read the unedited full version, below:

And this is the unedited original text:

When we talk about technological advances and their impact on the workplace, I can't help but think how two pieces of technology could easily have made me redundant from my job as a Statistical Clerk at Wesley's in Victoria Crescent, Burton in the 1970s.

Wesley's were not known for their spendthrift nature.  Even the machinery on which their manufacturing depended was either ancient beyond belief or second-hand.  Therefore, I half expected I would be given an abacus when I enquired about having a desktop calculator.  Up to this point, I had been laboriously calculating production statistics via prodigious feats of long division.  To my surprise, after some weeks of careful consideration, a brand new calculator appeared.  Admittedly, it was about the size of a small laptop computer, weighed about the same and had the sort of display (which my research reliably informs me are called nixie tubes) that tended to fizz and blink out when it felt like it.  In terms of functionality, it didn't have much but what it did was to enable me to make, in a matter of minutes, calculations which had taken hours and reams of paper.    I could now do, in less than a day, that which had taken up half my week!

The actual make and model of my first calculator

The second technological advance which affected me, related to how I shared my calculations.  In the past, I had copied out a sheet of figures, showing the production cost and production rate per unit, for all of the departments so that each Department Head had a copy as well as the Works Manager and Managing Director.  This took some time but at least forced me to develop a nice, neat style of writing.  Then, wonder of wonders, we invested in a photocopier.  Before you get carried away, this wasn't something the size of a small car which could print and staple entire manuscripts in the blink of an eye.  No, this was a device about the size of a modern-day inkjet printer, which operated much like a scanner. 

It was something of a convoluted process.  First you had to place the original face down, covered by a sheet of pink flimsy paper which acted as a sort of film, on the scanner plate.  The document was scanned (for how long depended on the degree of exposure you set it to) and then you removed the pink paper, carefully aligned it with a sheet of A4 photocopy paper and allowed both sheets to go through a pair of rollers at the front of the device.  If you were lucky and nothing had happened to crease or wrinkle the papers on their transit, a reasonably good copy came out, albeit almost always blackened around the edge and a bit blurred here and there.  If you wanted another copy, you had to do the same thing all over again, you couldn't just re-use the pink paper.

Overall, it wasn't remarkably quicker to photocopy than it was to write the thing out in the first place, but it was fascinating to watch and it wasn't long before even the most technophobic managers found the necessity to make copies of everything and you had to join a queue.

The combination of these two technological leaps forward meant that I could now complete my week's work in the space of a day and was struggling to find something to fill my time.  However, two things happened to change all of that.  Firstly, my cosy and very sociable set-up with Gwen and Paul in our office came to an end when she went to become the secretary to the MD in the main office block and Paul, our youngest manager, was given his own office. 

It was decreed that my office would now become the Wages Office and it was altered accordingly, with mesh wiring for all of the windows, the ancient safe moved down and a sort of serving hatch created for dealing with employee queries.  I was to be joined by Phyliss, the wages clerk and I was to help her with the payroll, which would be a whole new string to my bow, as I'll tell you next time.

You can find all of Philip's stories collected in the five books of his 'nostalgedy' series at 
The Nostalgedy Collection

and, check out the latest 5 star review of the new collection "The Things You See..." here.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

An Early Christmas Present

This month's Derby Telegraph article strays into the territory of romance!  If it ever appears on the Derby Telegraph website (which I doubt) I'll post the link here but, until then, here's a scan of the article with the unedited text below:

This is the time of year which hotels and the like, have rather tweely christened 'Twixmas', in an effort to give an identity to that awkward period between the business-end of Christmas proper and the yet-to-begin mania of New Year. 

It's as good a time as any to take stock of presents received and desperately try to remember who gave them to you.  It was in this frame of mind that I thought back to one Christmas at Wesley's, in Burton upon Trent in the early 1970s, that was rather different from the others.

I think I've mentioned before that I used to suffer from a crippling shyness, which was rather at odds with surging teenage hormones and a factory full of girls.  I happened to mention my dilemma to my mate, Colin, the Serviette Department Manager, who was my absolute opposite in that he had self-confidence in the same way that Blackpool has frontage. 

I went on to point out one particular girl in his department with whom I had chatted in passing and who was rather attractive.  Shortly afterwards he said he had fixed me up with a date and we were to meet at the Wetmore Bus Station.  That early winter night, I stood in the Bus Station, muffled in an old car coat of my Dad's (which I thought looked rather sophisticated… I was wrong) and watched bus after bus come and go, as did our appointed hour.  After about two hours, I realised that this was going nowhere and headed to my local, rather dejectedly and to the surprise of all of those who were expecting me to be out on a romantic interlude.

The following day, in some dudgeon, I collared Colin.  He was full of apologies and went to find out what had happened.  It turned out that she thought Colin was joking (he had a well-deserved reputation as a kidder) hence the non-appearance.  I went to have a chat with her and she was sorry but it clearly wasn't going to happen.  Consequently my self-confidence descended to a new low. 


However, shortly after this a rather attractive girl started working right outside my office, on a dilapidated piece of equipment which assembled the cardboard packing for toilet flats (flat sheets of toilet paper, as opposed to rolls).  Not an evidently romantic setting but you have to work with what is there. Colin had clearly put a good word in about me and, after a few bits of light-hearted banter as I came and went from the office (which was necessary a surprising amount of times), I finally screwed up the courage to ask her out, and she said yes!

We met at the Midland Hotel, a pub on Guild Street/New Street corner which I fondly imagined was somewhere posh (wrong again!).  She looked amazing and we got on like a house on fire.  After a couple of drinks, she asked if the Midland was my usual haunt, which I had to admit it wasn't.  The problem was that my regular haunt, at that time, was The Alma Inn in Cross Street which was a back street pub to end all back street pubs.  Nevertheless, she suggested we should pop in and visit, so we did.

Den (from my boozy Majorcan holiday, if you remember) was looking after the pub for his dad, who had been taken ill, and he and Kev (also from that holiday) were propping up the bar.   I must admit that the image I will always regard as my favourite Christmas Present of 1974 were the looks on the faces of the regulars, and my mates, when I wandered in with this stunning girl on my arm.  Life doesn't get much better than moments like that!

Of course, the actual Christmas present from my new girlfriend, some weeks later, was not quite the same success, consisting as it did of a figure-hugging woollen top (and I've never had a figure worth hugging) which looked like a knitted migraine.  Oh well!

Thanks very much for reading my articles in 2017.  I hope you had a pleasant Christmas and I wish you the very best for 2018.

Philip's latest collection of stories "The Things You See…" is still available at the special introductory price of just £1.49, for a few more days, at

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Chocolate bar gave inspiration for theme of Philip's new book

I'm delighted that the Derby Telegraph has been able to feature my new collection of 'nostalgedy' stories in today's edition.  You can find the online version here and below is the print edition.

This the content:

By Jane Goddard (13/12/17)

Readers who enjoy PhilipWhiteland's amusing monthly trips down memory lane in Bygones are in for a real treat.

For the Doveridge-based author has just published his fifth collection of stories, which consist of both 'nostalgedy' (Philip's own term for a mixture of nostalgia and comedy) and other observational pieces in which he takes a wry look at times past and present.

Every one of his previous books has had a theme and the structure for this one came, he tells me, while he was idly munching a chocolate bar.

He said "You know, that one which used to promise to help you work, rest and play?  Well, this book consists of Work, Play and the Rest."

In the section covering "work", Philip recalls joining the ranks of the employed at the beginning of the 1970s, firstly as an inept packer of plastics before moving to "a nice dry job with no heavy lifting" in a dark, satanic paper mill.

We learn about his struggles with punctuality, the difficulties of working in the darkness of the Three-Day-Week and why he had a real reason to be grateful for Ted Heath.

"Play" brings together an eclectic mix of tales of a boozy holiday in Franco's Majorca in the 1970s, a fleeting role in a "Look at Life" documentary, singer and entertainer Cilla Black, soap operas, an insight into the Cultural Quarter of Stoke-on-Trent and some tales from a trip to Australia.

Finally, "the Rest"shovels up everything that wouldn't fit into the first two.

This includes a tour around a pub in the 1960s, getting a brace fitted at the dentist's, difficulties with sanitary arrangements, why grass should be left alone, why shopping with your wife is an overrated pastime, a grumble about grammar and why it is absolutely fine to be a NIMBY.

And, with a return to the chocolate theme, not forgetting some "Mis-shapes" at the end.

All of this literary delight is wrapped up with the title article, "The Things You See..." which Philip assures is not for the faint-hearted!

"The Things You See..." by Philip Whiteland is only available as a Kindle e-book edition, priced at £1.99*  You can find the book at

*  Although this will be the regular price, the book is currently on offer at the introductory price of £1.49

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Strange Kind of Union

November's Derby Telegraph article, hot off the press (if they have such things nowadays) tells of my brief flirtation with militancy ;-)

You can find the whole sordid story on the Derby Telegraph Bygones website here, or read on below:

and here's the unedited content:

Last month, I was writing about my minor act of rebellion in leaving the work’s radio on over and above the allotted hour, which was popular with the girls working in Harold Wesley Ltd. in the 1970s, but less so with the management.  Recalling this reminded me that I had actually been a little more rebellious than that, not that it actually got me anywhere.

The 1970s marked the height of trade union membership in the U.K., with over 13.2 million members in 1979 and a corresponding 29.5 million days lost to industrial disputes, whereas in 2009 there were just over 7 million members and just 455,000 days lost.  Industrial strife impacted on all of us at some point.  I’ve written before about the eerie quiet of the factory and the difficulty of trying to work by torchlight during the 3 day week in the winter of 1973-1974.  Not a T.V. news bulletin went by without the sight of masses of men, at some factory or other (usually in the motor industry) dutifully raising their hands to signify their readiness to walk out on strike.  Against this background, Wesley’s was something of an oddity in that it had no trade union presence, now or in its history.

I think the original Harold Wesley might have been something of an enlightened factory owner in his day.  Certainly, the ancient letterheads we still used showed the H.Q. in Harlesden surrounded by green fields and with happy employees playing healthy sports.  Whether it was like this, or had ever been, I couldn’t comment as I was never important enough to go down there, but the Burton paper mill had none of these advantages. 

For example, the catering provision for the shop-floor staff, when I first joined, was pretty dire indeed.  It consisted of a run-down ancient cottage in the grounds of the factory, filled with third-hand furniture and some dodgy, and distinctly unsanitary-looking kitchen equipment, including a stove on which a kettle was permanently boiling, filling the place with steam.  During my time there, we did move to proper vending machines for tea and coffee but that was about as good as it got.

It was hardly surprising, therefore, that a recent recruit to our warehousing staff was appalled at the low wages and poor provision for the workers and started to recruit as many as he could into joining his union, which was the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU).    Inspired by this, I thought it was a shame that the management and clerical staff were going to be left behind and I tried to encourage a number of them to join the relatively new trade union, ASTMS (Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs) recently launched by Clive Jenkins, the charismatic Welsh trade unionist.  This was quite daring of me, really, because I felt sure that my days at Wesley’s would be numbered if it was ever found that I had been stirring up dissent in the ranks.  I think it even went as far as a representative of ASTMS coming down to the factory to talk to our M.D., but as they had no membership at that time, I think he was sent off with ‘a flea in his ear’.  Ultimately, although the various managers listened to me politely and quite agreed that our terms and conditions were pretty poor, no-one was willing to take the leap and join a union.

Things were different on the shop floor, however.  The warehouse bloke had been successful in getting a reasonable number to sign up to the TGWU and, inevitably, a District Official from that union came to talk to our M.D. about union representation.  It was at that point that our management obviously realised that they had to make some concessions, but they decreed that, whilst they were willing to recognise a trade union, it should be one appropriate to the industry, which is how we came to have the wonderfully named Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT) with their titles for their branch officials of Father of the Chapel and Mother of the Chapel, which, when you think about it, was rather appropriate for a firm called Wesley’s!

You can find all of the stories leading up to this, plus a whole lot more, in the brand new bumper 'nostalgedy' collection 'The Things You See...' available now at the special introductory price of just £1.49.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

All I want for Christmas is...

...the two latest books by Philip Whiteland?

Well, why not?

A Christmas Cracker  at the giveaway seasonal price of just 99p (or equivalent)

Are you ITCS yet? For those who don't know, we're talking about being In The Christmas Spirit here. Before you throw anything at your e-reader, just remember that this is a state of mind that advertisers and manufacturers try very hard to induce in you, and yet the answer is right here, in this little book. Being ‘In The Christmas Spirit’ is impossible to define. It’s a bit like love, you know it when you’re in it. Philip has gathered together a whole bunch of stories he's written about Christmases past and present, some factual, some fictional, over the years. 

Some of these, if you’re a regular reader of his ramblings (and we know there are some of you out there...we can hear you breathing) you may recognise from previous collections, although updates have been made where it was sensible to do so. Interspersed with these familiar stories are others that have never previously seen the light of day, including a story featuring Josiah and Archibald, the two fictitious undertakers, written specifically for this collection. We really hope that you get as much enjoyment from reading these stories as we've had gathering them, and that you're ITCS before you can say "Ho, ho, ho!"

What people have said about "A Christmas Cracker":

Francesca wrote: "What a brilliant read, especially during the 'run up' to Christmas - although there's much to be said for reading this at any time of year to get that lovely warm nostalgic Christmassy feeling!
If you are one of the 'baby-boomers' this book will especially have appeal. So much reminded me of my own childhood, that I laughed out loud with recognition.
A mix of whimsical, amusing stories, along with true events and tales from the author's childhood, A Christmas Cracker can't fail to entertain. Philip has great way with words, and I love his sense of humour.
Beware though: it's difficult to put down!
Recommended reading for curling up on the sofa with a nice glass of something warming..."

and Mrs. E.J. White said: "I'm ITCS now, due to the author's comedic touch and nice line in self-deprecating humour. A mixture of Christmas comment, short stories and true tales, I recommend it for winding down after the deccies are up, the cards are done and no more forays into large towns are needed. Goes really well with a nice cup of tea and a warm mince pie."

Whilst L.F. Falconer in Nevada suggested: "Ah, the musings of Christmas Past. The best way to spark up one's own memories is to hear another tell his, and Whiteland's whimsical exploits can do just that for the more mature among us who can easily relate to the nostalgic draw. I got such a kick out of the Smith's Christmas Letter it nearly makes me want to write one of my own! And my dark sense of humor left me delighted by the antics of Archibald.

A pleasant kick off to the holiday season!"

The Things You See (published 31st October, 2017) Introductory price of £1.49 (or equivalent)

Philip’s back with a fifth collection of stories, both ‘nostalgedy’(a mixture of nostalgia and comedy) and other observational pieces in which he takes a wry look at times past and present. 

Every book has to have a theme and the structure for this one came whilst he was idly munching a chocolate bar. You know that one which used to promise to help you work, rest and play? Well, this book consists of Work, Play and the Rest. 

In ‘Work’ Philip joins the ranks of the employed at the beginning of the 1970s, firstly as an inept packer of plastics before moving to ‘a nice dry job with no heavy lifting’ in a dark, satanic paper mill. We learn about his struggles with punctuality, the difficulties of working in the darkness of the 3-Day-Week and why he had a real reason to be grateful for Ted Heath.

‘Play’ brings tales of a boozy holiday in Franco’s Majorca in the 1970s, a fleeting role in a ‘Look at Life’ documentary, Cilla Black, Soap Operas, an insight into the Cultural Quarter of Stoke-on-Trent and some tales from a trip to Australia.

Finally, ‘the Rest’ shovels up everything that wouldn’t fit into the first two, including a tour around a pub in the 1960s, getting a brace fitted at the dentist’s, difficulties with sanitary arrangements, why grass should be left alone, why shopping with your wife is an overrated pastime, a grumble about grammar and why it is absolutely fine to be a NIMBY. All wrapped up with the Title article, which is not for the faint-hearted.

Come and join Philip in his Slightly Odd World, you won’t regret it!

What people have said about 'The Things You See...':

An Amazon Customer said:  "As usual Philip pushes those memory buttons long switched off. His humour makes it a local book that must be read. Off now to finish the last few pages."

and Jonty gave this warning: "I have read and enjoyed all of Philip Whiteland's books and this book was no exception. But a word of warning. Do not read this book in bed if you don't sleep alone. I got in big trouble because I was laughing so much I woke up my husband. He was not impressed. Especially watch out for the kick towards the end at the Post Office. I shall say no more, other than ENJOY!"