My "National" Service

There are few things that unify people in this country. That's because of the diverse nature of all the people in the UK. However there is one thing that many people agree with, even though their reasons will be very different.

I recommend a programme of National Service along the lines of my first job upon leaving school.

For reasons that I do not wish to go into on here, I started work in a factory after finishing my A-Levels. Thankfully my school career wasn't one of the exam results hot-houses that were the feature of many newspaper articles since the 1990's. My first job, however, was hot.

I worked in a ceramic decorating factory. Unprinted glass and ceramic bottles were delivered to us, we printed designs on them, and then the finished products were taken away by lorries to be filled and then sent to retailers.

Now, as a young lad I remember buying little books of tattoos that were really transfers that stuck to the skin.

I had no idea how this ceramic decorating thing worked but hoped for transfers.

The simplicity is quite delightful. Workers printed designs onto products (getting paid for how many they did), other workers fed these on to a lehr (worker paid flat rate) then someone else packed the products at the end (worker paid flat rate - my job).

They just don't stop!
As you can see, the job was very repetitive and physically demanding. It required people desiring high output (printer and company owner) to be pitched against - or supported by -  people who just had to get on with it.

So imagine that you are 18 years old and doing this job. From 10pm to 6am. Monday to Friday. For 8 months. The wage was pretty typical of manufacturing. My pay rate was £3 per hour. The working conditions were quite yucky. The factory was very hot. It smelled. The chemicals being used were more toxic than a Pot Noodle. The noise was constant and industrial.

Working on the night shift was also one of the greatest physical challenges that I have ever had to constantly face.

But I would not change what I did for a single moment. It taught me the discipline of work. Real hard industrial graft. The constant packing of boxes, carrying of boxes, wrapping pallets in shrink-wrap, using a mini flame-thrower to shrink the shrink-wrap, fetching and carrying more boxes. As a young bloke with bags of energy I was able to operate under these conditions, but it was tiring. I survived my National Service. I became a 3 shift worker for the last 4 months of my employment there.

The rhythm of my industrial heritage started beating within me.

I imagine that it beats inside many of us.

Send the youth of today to factories. Pay them poorly but give them some hard graft. They'll be too tired to raise a smile, never mind cause a riot.