C’s over in the UK spending a few days with E and the boys before heading home on the same flight as our next house guests, our old friends the Worthies. I’ve been busy getting the pool de-algified, the garden strimmed and getting on with my unromantic anniversary gift to C, re-decorating the lounge whilst she’s away. It’s not quite as bad as buying a set of pans but it’s hardly a love token. I’m a crap husband.
Anyway I was drying some dishes first thing this morning and I noticed the name Winkler on the manufacturer’s label on the tea-towel. It took me back to when I worked at Mother’s Pride bakery during my school vacations. My dad was the king of the sales/delivery guys so getting a job was no problem even though I was a little young at 15 to be employed at the time. Because I was so young I was assigned to the confectionery department which was largely staffed by women. Within the hierachy of the bakery it was the Conference League but I enjoyed working there enormously.
I graduated within a year or so to the top dog job inside the bakery – working the ovens on 12 hour shifts (and earning huge amounts as a tax-exempt student of course) although I was still regarded as a boil compared to my father. My dad could shift bread – huge amounts of it (this was Blackpool, the home of 1000’s of B&Bs and the days of bread and butter with every meal ) and he was revered within the company and indeed within the industry. They reckoned my dad kept at least 50 people employed because of his sales achievements. He was universally known as Bob or Bobby and no matter that I had a christian name of my own, for at least 2 years I was always refered to as Bob’s lad. I was happy enough with that. Today I still call him Bob rather than Dad (all my siblings do too). He’s cool with it. If ever a man was so identified by his name, it is Bob.
The confectionery department; this was mostly staffed by women as I said earlier, producing tons of cakes and doughnuts and other sweet stuff. But that is half the story because the department also produced all the bakery’s output of rolls, baps, buns, finger roll, french sticks and so on. Loads of it and strangely all this was produced by rather strange men. ‘Knobby’ Clarke for example. He was a little bloke with huge bottle-glass lenses who produced the doughnuts and I was always worried that he wanted to impregnate them too. He was the only guy in the area where all the women worked producing the cakes etc. They teased him mercilessly and he would tell me about what he wanted to do to them all. Mostly it involved taking them roughly from behind. I don’t think he got much sex which is ironic given his nickname.
Then there was the guy who looked a dead ringer for Giant Haystacks who worked the confectionery department’s oven. He used to go on about how macho his job was compared to all the other male roles on the floor but his oven was a cinch compared to the beasts downstairs. He also used to run little fiddles (everybody did in the bakery) which he thought no-one knew about. But anyone with eyes – apart from the department head – could see how he overproduced for some of the drivers.
The department head Jim was a nice man but lived on his nerves. He had a miserable demeanour and was forever bollocking people though with me he was always decent. I suspect it was more to do with his high regard for my dad rather than my sweet nature.
His number two was chargehand Dave. He used to be one of the lads but had become a management lackey and was largely despised. However I liked him enormously. He was bloody funny for one thing (I’m sure I was the only one who got his arch humour) and he had an interest in northern soul. He had a huge collection of soul records which he used to trade in as a side-line. I was fascinated by is knowledge of the subject. Just occasionally he would give us an example of his dancing technique, which was truly impressive.
There was a little gay guy in the bakery who enjoyed the ‘softer’ atmosphere in the confectionery department, although he was actually supposed to support the guys in the main area of the bakery. But the macho guys on the plant used to flick little pieces of dough at him with incredible accuracy and cruelty. So he escaped upstairs whenever he could. Anyway that’s where all the young lads were employed and he was nothing if not persistent in chasing young ass. There was a tiny lift which we used to get flour supplies and stuff from down stairs. It was less than a yard square and his trick was to dive into it just as you got in and to ask if you were up for going down. Ho ho. It was always wise to keep some bags of flour between yourself and his wandering hands.
But the king of the strange guys was the weirdo who operated the wondrous Winkler machine, a device for cutting and shaping lumps of dough into perfectly formed baps or currant buns or sandwich fingers. I can’t remember his name – we always called him the Wankler on the Winkler – but he was truly scary. He was the only guy in the department who didn’t move round the various areas – he just worked that Winkler day in, day out. The machine would spew out around 20 pieces of roughly cut dough then a series of cups would come over the pieces and agitate them for a minute or so to shape them correctly before they were transferred to the damp prover to allow them to rise before being placed in the oven.
The thing was that it took two people to take the shaken lumps of dough off the machine’s conveyor belt and to put them onto trays for the prover. The words you didn’t want to hear was Jim saying ‘Go and help the Wankler’. His problem was that he treated that machine like his personal sex toy. It’s vibrations would give him the horn and he would press against it. He would also hold the upturned cups as they shook the dough balls and with a leer on his face he’d lean across the conveyor belt and say things like ‘Oh yeh’. He had a little pencil moustache and dark brylcremed hair that made him look like some Maltese pimp and I had to endure his company many times over school holidays. A very strange guy.
ps have come across a link to a site which shows a range of bakery equipment. Spookily there’s a photo of an old Winkler machine (it’s about the 5th or 6th one down) on the following page. check it out. I can see his leeering face poking out from the back of the machine now….