Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Nine
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Nine Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
All Pages

We discovered the joys of colour television and one of the first programmes we watched after connecting up was a news bulletin covering the situation in Cyprus, and of all things, showing me waving my little flags standing on a rock down on the beach. As Andy Warhol once said, we all have 15 minutes of fame, and here was mine! I had forgotten that we had been in the company of professional BBC cameramen. Unfortunately, we never managed to work out how to get a copy for posterity.

We gradually set about organising our future, knowing that our present accommodation was only temporary. I have been told, subsequently, that people in our position, i.e. homeless and jobless, looked for a job first and then a house, in that order, in case a job, when found, happened to be somewhere different to where I was living. We did not know things like that in our rather muddled state, or indeed anything that might have been helpful. My first fumbling attempts to find work were memorable for me because, just like when I had come home from the Navy, I had to stand in a queue with all the other unemployed down at the labour exchange in order to register for work, and eventually get back into the system. As non residents, and not having contributed towards the welfare state because we lived in the colonies, we were not entitled to unemployment pay, and the benefit system was a total mystery to us.

This was the time of the 'winter of discontent', the three day week, petrol rationing, major strikes throughout industry, the transport systems, the coal mines, public utilities and local government. It was also the year when county reorganisation happened, with the amalgamation of some local authority services. One consequence of this was a surplus of redundant senior Fire Officers after some adjacent Fire Brigades merged to became one. In other words, 1974 was a bit like 1947 only more so. Work was not easy to find for the young and fit, and much less so for middle aged ex colonials with no particular skills outside of their own line of work. My early rebuffs included phrases such a 'too old', 'not what we are looking for; 'not qualified', and once even , 'overqualified'.

However, after the experience of Cyprus I found that none of the problems that came our way fazed me in the slightest. Compared to recent events, nothing was seen as a problem, just something to be sorted.

The time was fast approaching when we would have to vacate our temporary house and so I began looking at house buying or renting. Renting was out of the question once I disclosed that I was out of work and had no income. It was also made clear that mortgages were not available to the unemployed either.

It was here that good fortune smiled on us yet again. I had been unable to take vacation leave for the last ten years and had accrued the equivalent of one years salary in leave pay. As I mentioned elsewhere, I have made two good decisions in my life and the second one was to have this paid as it became due into my bank in England rather than in Zambia where we would probably have spent it. Had we not spent it, we would certainly have lost it. We needed to open an English bank account for the purpose of the BACS allowance [British Aided Conditions of Service] when we were compulsorily retired on pension after Independence. As it happened, both the Federal and the Zambian pensions stopped shortly after we returned to England and no further payments were ever made.