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Creamery emergency

I had been working with Clancy in Grassington, Yorkshire, when a phone call came in, it was mid-afternoon, and my supervisor wanted a word with me. It would seem that an emergency repair to an alarm in Kettlewell had not been completed as the service engineer’s car had broken down.

It was not by any means normal for an apprentice to be sent to an emergency repair, however all other engineers were busy, Clancy did not have a car so was on public transport, and as I had a motorcycle I was the only person within thirty miles who had transport and could attend.

Suddenly the gloves were off, I could claim overtime and car mileage if I was prepared to attend the emergency, I agreed without hesitation. 

Leaving Clancy, I drove to the premises in Kettlewell, the property was a small creamery attached to a farm, access was via a track for the final two miles and it was winter, snowing and getting dark.

When I arrived, I knocked on the door of the farmhouse and after an age, a middle aged, ruddy faced farmers wife opened the door, she had old wellies on her feet which had been cut down making them shorter, wrinkly tights which reminded me of Norah Batty in the TV series Last of the summer wine, next was the old apron, with years of fingerprints wiped down the right hand side and topped off with an old cardigan which was full of holes, some darned, some not.

She took one look at me and spoke, “Ai lad, tha’l be ere fur t fix t larm then”, I nodded, and she went back inside for a coat and hat. I followed her around from the four hundred year old farm house, passed several similar aged farm buildings of various sizes and uses, until we turned a corner, the creamery building could not have been a more stark contrast to the rest of the farm, brand new and standing detached on a new concrete slab, the building was state of the art in its day.

The farmer’s wife unlocked and opened the door, putting on the lights she ushered me inside out of the wind and the snow, tis parky oot there, she muttered. Stepping inside I was struck by the machinery and the walls, there were huge glistening stainless steel vats and storage cylinders for cheese making, row upon row of stainless steel shelves with large cheese wheels obviously aging and pipes connecting everything. The interior was clad entirely in shiny plastic food grade cladding. 

The building made the farmer’s wife look completely out of place, however she started to take white wellingtons, overalls, gloves and hairnets from shelving in the entrance, we ave t put this clobber on in ere, she said, so I copied her in getting dressed for work in a food grade room. She was unrecognisable in the whites, with only here ruddy face visible.

It transcribed that alterations to the shelving meant that part of the alarm had been disconnected, a door contact on one of the loading bay doors which had been increased in size during the alterations requiring just a few minutes work to re fit. She left me to the work and said, put t clobber int black lorndry bin when yu’s done lad, I’ll see yu back at t farmhouse, and left.

I completed the work, taking my time as I was on overtime rates now, and when done I, returned to the farmhouse, standing in the cobbled yard waiting for the farmer’s wife to answer the door whilst snow was falling was a scene almost from a Christmas Carol, The large door knocker I had used to attract attention could have been Marley.
The door opened, and once again the ruddy faced farmer's wife character appeared, recognisable again without the whites, she said, come in lad what does that need, I replied that I needed a signature for the work and followed her into the kitchen. 

The scene reminded me of childhood holidays staying in a chapel in Grassington, immediately the smell of cooking hit and overwhelmed the senses, roast beef I thought. A wood fired Aga was centre stage, a stone sink in the window, a huge pine table which looked like it had been a feature of the kitchen for over a hundred years stood in the middle and church pews were either side.

She said, ang on a minit love, I gotta just do this tha knows. And with that she opened the oven and pulled out a roast beef joint, putting it on the table she put trays of Yorkshire puddings into the oven and covered the joint to stand. 

I had paperwork, but did not have a pen, so she went in search of one. Fully ten minutes later she returned and had only found a pencil, this l ave t do, she said, signing the document.

She must have noticed the way I looked at the beef when it came out of the oven and she said, yu fancy a bit eh lad? What could I say, nodding my head I was suddenly transported back in time to Reg Umpleby’s farm. 

She picked up a knife and a loaf of freshly baked bread, cutting two thick uneven slices from the loaf, she then uncovered the beef, the look and smell were now making my mouth water, cutting a generous slice, she placed it in between the bread and handed it to me. It was absolutely delicious.

The long drive home in the snow and dark seemed to take no time at all, with the taste of the beef still with me when I arrived.

The following day however, my favourite supervisor Gordon wanted a word. He withdrew the offer made to pay overtime and car mileage on the spot, claiming that the signature on the worksheet was timed at five o’clock so no overtime had been worked.

Clancy later, when I told him the story, advised that so long as you always expect him to let you down, you will never be disappointed.