In his latest memoir Barry is telling Jonny Brain to hang in there.
Well Jonny Brain, let me be the first to say to you that I made some huge employment related ‘clangers’ when I was your age. But I’ll come back to them later.
It seems to me Jonny that you could keep 20 consecutive clean sheets and some will still protest you couldn’t save in a piggy bank, that they were all coincidental, or that you fluked each and every one of them. You could even score the winning goal from thirty yards out in the F.A. Cup Final whilst wearing your grandmother’s slippers and there will still be those who will protest that the colour of the slippers clashed with your socks.
You know what Jonny? I bet a brick to London Bridge that even though you generously helped out by serving free beer and pies at half time when playing home someone is bound to complain you’re to slow for the job.
Say for instance you gave some time to Gobbyash and Taffy One Eye working on the tannoy before and after home games I’ll guarantee as day follows night some miserable sod would complain your voice is way too quiet to carry across Vale Park.
Jonny, you could even ask the ‘Board to pay you in bin lids and bottle tops. But I’d safely bet ‘My Kingdom for a horse’ that someone would post on onevalefan and rant on that we’re paying you too much.
You see, it’s the way things are because when a side wins the other ten get the praise. But when a side loses it’s ever so easy to blame a goalkeeper.
As I often say Jonny…”Ah well, such is life”.
Jonny, you know what I reckon? I reckon you should take no notice of your detractors and get in there and learn your trade to the point where we’ll all be chanting Jonny, Jonny, Jonny whilst clapping your every move – just like we called out Ray King’s first name when I was just a lad.
That’s it Jonny, I reckon you should take no notice.
Now Jonny, getting back to the time when I made several huge employer related ‘clangers’.
When I was 21 I was working as a milk processor for Brownes Dairy in North Perth, Western Australia. Back then there was no on the job training programme. It was a case of get in there, use you eyes and ears, keep your mouth shut and pick up as best you can with any mistakes made being scrutinised and judged according to severity
Like I say Jonny, I made several huge ‘clangers’ back then and extrapolating the thinking of those less than impressed with your goalkeeping I should have been shown the door with a boot up my backside. But I wasn’t and whilst I became a human resource asset to the ‘Company, according to my peers and bosses, there were always those who continually harped on more about my ‘clangers’ than my many successes.
‘Clanger’ number one occurred in my very first week of starting at Brownes Dairy and was big enough to have seen me out of the door there and then. Back then cream was sold in pint and third pint bottles with the third pint bottles being stored 48 bottles per metal crate and stacked 10 crates high. At 5’ 11” (1.8 metres) the stacked crates of cream were taller than my own height of 5’ 7’ (1.7 metres) and certainly far heavier than my 9 stone 7pounds (60 kg).
Once the cream had been bottled, crated and stacked they were wheeled away on a hand trolley to a nearby cool-room. But Jonny, I’ve got to tell you that no matter how many times I performed that task the height and weight seemed always to get bigger and heavier. There was no easy way to lock the trolley and lean back the stacks before pushing and grunting my way to the cool-room.
Having watched the other dairy workers carry out this task I was pleased when the foreman asked me to assist in moving them too. With hand trolley locked onto the stack of crated cream and with an almighty grunt to pull them backwards towards me I set of in the general direction of the cool-room. But my journey was rudely interrupted when one of the wheels on the trolley dipped into a small hole in the concrete floor sending yours truly and his stack of cream head over heels. There was spilt cream and smashed glass of the majority of the 480 third bottles of cream strewn across every inch of the Cream Room.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the duty foreman approaching somewhat leisurely. My heart was pounding and my mind a racing pace with the thought of being shown the door. With a wry smile the duty foreman – an old WWII warrior – instructed me to clean up the mess and to get the other cream to the cool-room as quickly as possible. Nothing more was said and I just got too and did as I was told.
‘Clanger’ number two was even worse than the one above and involved a small vat of milk – some 600 gallons.
One of my peers, an Italian named Testi, was very fond of slapping others on the face when admonishing their mistakes. Yours truly was no exception to his, erm, unfortunate trait even though the other Italians protested he didn’t mean any harm.
Anyway, it was approximately six months later after the ‘cream’ incident that I found myself working alongside Testi on the vats. There were three of them in the section and these were connected by stainless steel gangways about two foot wide and running parallel at the top of the vats. Our job was to ensure a steady flow of milk to the fillers some twenty feet away.
Testi was a rotund fellow consequence of his fondness for very large serves of pasta and other rich foods. But his heart paid a heavy price for his indulgence and this was very evidenced in the way he walked and worked slowly – sometimes in great discomfort. Still, he was good at his job and that was all that mattered to Brownes Dairy.
During the shift we found ourselves working on the same vat. That is, I had been working the vat when Testi indicated I should go and clean the vat he had just emptied. When I stated that he was responsible to clean up his own mess he slapped me on the face. My request for an apology was met with yet another, firmer slap to my face. By now I was very annoyed and stated most sternly that he must never do that again or suffer the consequences of his action. Did he listen? Did he care? No he didn’t listen or care because he went to slap me again. But this time I put up my arm to block the slap and, at the same time give him a warning slap of my own. What happened next was justifiable cause for both of us to be shown the door with a boot up our backsides.
Jonny, I didn’t get a chance to land a slap on his face because he stumbled when he lurched towards me and fell headlong into the vat of milk. Spluttering, very wet, red faced and as mad as hell he chased me around the dairy threatening to clout me with an empty metal milk crate. At one point I was thinking along the lines of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and stopped in my tracks to turn and face my adversary. Testi stopped in his tracks too and after a Mexican standoff walked away yelling goodness knows what in Italian.
Enter the duty foreman – the one from the cream incident – who somewhat nonchalantly instructed us to drain and clean the vat before filling it again. After that Testi never slapped me again. Oh yes, he slapped others. But not yours truly, choosing instead to mouth off in Italian.
Then Jonny Brain, there’s ‘Clanger’ number three.
One of the nightshift duties was to sanitise the stainless steel lines to the fillers using steam from the wood-fired boiler room. Nothing to it really other than opening the boiler room valves at around 4am to allow steam to flow through the lines and open the relief valves in the dairy – a process reversed about an hour later. Yes, it was easy as that.
It was my turn to open the valves and this was duly done. But about half hour later our coffee break was interrupted when the main walls of the dairy began to vibrate and the stainless steel lines began shaking violently. Only then did I realise that I’d forgotten to open up the relief valves and that I needed to sprint around the diary to do just that. Jonny, to this day my stomach still sinks when I think about how close we came to seeing those lines blow apart.
When reporting the incident to the duty foreman – yes, the one from the cream and vat incidents – he simply stated “These things happen” and walked away. But I got to tell you Bon Ami, I’m very happy those lines didn’t blow apart.
It would be several years later that I found myself asking my boss why I’d been treated so lightly in these episodes to which he replied in his very quiet voice…”I knew from the start you had the potential to make the grade and that time would vindicate me keeping faith in you”.
Jonny, that’s it for this story. Maybe one day you’ll be telling a similar story of an employer being vindicated for keeping faith in you – despite some who will only ever remember your so-called ‘clangers’ .
Hang in there son.
See you later…
October 26, 2004