The last 6 to 12 months were difficult, a little sad but very funny. They were difficult and sad because we all knew that the end of the line was coming, we could see a light at the end of the tunnel but it wasn’t as bright as we wanted it to be, because reaching the light would mean we would eventually split up and go in different directions. Over those last few months, the factory floor in the high-risk department went from about 8 or 9 working lines of between 12 to 24 workers on each line to just 3 lines, but more often 2 lines working through the night. It was rapidly becoming a ghost town. The last sandwich line to finish producing was line 6 and Matt had the privilege of running it. As I mentioned before, Matt was/is a large jovial guy with a heart of gold, never rushed things but always got the job done, which made him popular as a line manager (People preferred working on the line he was running) Matt got along with almost everybody, but especially got along with Marshy because their sense of humour was very similar, they were both laid back but most importantly, they had the same taste in music (Smiths, Wedding Present, 80s music in general) As I recall, the last sandwiches we produced were for a famous airline or/and a leading supermarket chain (I think!) but I won’t mention their names. There was all manner of fillings that were placed in the ‘Cobs’ ‘Baps’ ‘Rolls’ ‘Buns’ (Nobody could agree on the proper name for the small round ‘Cobs’) that travelled down the line at a fair old speed.
Working in very close proximity to someone means you have the chance to get to know someone personally if you want to, and we wanted to because standing amongst a long line of people, often shoulder to shoulder was difficult and awkward. The incessant repetition of the job you were doing meant monotony and mind numbing boredom! So we had to talk to maintain sanity, and talk we did. Matt would walk up and down the line to either help with production or just stop and chat to keep his sanity. Marshy would work anywhere on the line wherever he was needed and when Matt wasn’t there to test his knowledge with opportune 80s music questions, Marshy would keep himself relatively sane by occasionally singing out a few words of a football song to elicit a response from whoever wanted to respond. One of Marshy’s favourites was “Guess who’s been on match of the day?” More often than not, Joe would reply “You have, in ya big shorts”, which always made me laugh and join in, which in turn made other people smile, but unable to join in because of the language barrier. I always tried to stand next to Joe on the line because we would talk entertaining rubbish to each other in an attempt to make the time pass quickly. (At Christmas we would sing Fairytale Of New York together) During those last few months of Line 6, Karen worked on the line with us on a regular basis because quite a few people had already left and the need for ad-min was not as urgent as it was when we were busy. Karen would position herself very close to myself and Joe because we usually guaranteed a laugh through the night. We would play ‘Games’ between the three of us to pass the time and our favourite game was ‘Would you rather’. For those who aren’t familiar with this game, ‘Would you rather’ was a game that offered the person you were playing against a hypothetical choice between preferring to do one disgusting thing as opposed to doing another alternative but equally disgusting thing! As I remember, we more often than not ‘singled out’ the same two people to use hypothetically in our sick and twisted minds. (That’s right, the monotony of repeating the same action over and over and over again destabilised our minds) I won’t mention their names (Obviously) but one of the people we always chose, came across as, how can I put it. missing a pickle from their pickle tray. I don’t want to be disrespectful (Ha) but I believe dental hygiene was not at the top of this person’s priorities because it looked like he/she was saving yesterdays pizza for tomorrows supper on their teeth!! The other person was a little unhygienic (Sorry) as indicated by the green cloud that escaped their white coat when he/she occasionally moved!! Anyway, one of the questions was “Would you rather eat pizza off ……… teeth and go in for a French kiss or lick the pungent armpits or bum crack of …….. and chew their hairs? Disgusting I know, but it passed the time and made us laugh, and they never knew, which was a very good thing!
Two of the people who worked on the line were/are man and wife, he was very large, powerful and jolly and his wife spoke better English then he did. His name was/is Marian and his wife was/is Claudia and they were very hard workers who originally came from Romania. At times it was very difficult to understand what they were trying to say but they always managed to put their point across somehow. At one point, on one of the many occasions that I was trying to decipher what they were saying, Claudia, quick as a flash said “You understand English”? We laughed at the irony of her question, they were a lovely couple. Another of their compatriots worked there, on the same line, but for some reason they didn’t seem to like him! His name was Prodan and he once explained to me that he had studied in a rural Indian monastery and had become a lethal fighting machine. (Ummmm) He was a very strange, quirky, unusual, mixed-up character, who spoke very good English and had an air of ‘I’m the boss’ about him. To be fair to Prodan, he was very good at the different jobs he was given and actually informed me that he was the ‘Best’ at whatever he did (Haha…He really believed he was the best) and he absolutely revelled in his triumph of becoming a member of the quality control team, in fact he confided in me that things would change for the better now he had the authority to stop production if he wasn’t happy with the quality. (By the way, he didn’t change anything) Before he was ‘Promoted’ to the heady heights of quality control, he worked on the line with us and seemed to take an uncomfortable shine to me!! Someone (I know who you are) had unfortunately told him that I wrote academic essays in my spare time and so decided then and there that I could and would become his mentor as a writer. (I didn’t) Prodan would seek me out at every opportunity, asking me questions, giving me his life story and laughing at almost everything I said (Even when it wasn’t funny) Marian watched Prodan whenever he approached me and always took the opportunity to inform me Prodan liked me, moving his big index finger in and out of circled fingers (If you know what I mean) which made us laugh and was the cause of Marian eventually calling me Freddie Mercury, which made me laugh even more.
Anyway, Prodan asked me to write a small children’s book on his behalf so he could put it up for sale on Amazon, and after much consideration and attempts of avoidance, I agreed to write it for him. I eventually E-mailed him the finished product and when he came to work the following night he was gushing with so much enthusiasm I half expected foam to come out of his ears. However, after a few days had passed he told me that he wanted to change a few things in the ‘Book’ because he wanted it to transmit a religious message to the children, who were his intended audience. A few weeks later he E-mailed me the result of his ‘Editing’ and I read it before I returned to work the following night. When I came face to face with him, Prodan asked me what I thought of the ‘Book’? I looked him square in the eye and as gently as I could, used the word ‘Shit’ which visibly upset him. He used the word ‘Mate’ frequently, and said “Mate, you don’t like it”? I left him in no doubt that I didn’t and when he told me he was going to write a short dedication to me in the forward, I insisted he could not, under any circumstance, mention my name in the ‘Book’ because he had completely re-written it and it was all his own work. I think he was insulted because nearly 2 weeks passed without Prodan talking to me (Phewwww) However, Prodan came back to me with a beaming vengeance and proudly handed me a copy of his first ‘Book’, which he had signed “To my special friend, John”. I took it home and read out a few lines to my wife and daughter, who, judging by their collective reactions, thought it was a comedy! Despite Prodan’s obvious problems, I believe he was a genuinely nice chap, but since leaving ‘Gunnies’ I haven’t heard anything from him. However, I hope he’s in a good place (Hopefully not an asylum) All of these shenanigans took place whilst production carried on, which was/is a testament to the skill, expertise and dedication of all the people who worked on the line. In the next post I will remember Del boy, Scott (Yeti) Jimmy and Art and a few other characters who I can’t forget.