Intially I had worked for United Biscuits down in their Osterley factory - just off the A4 - and I had lived in Acton. When I had been offered the UB job, following an interview up in Ashby, nothing was said about me working in London so it was a bit of a shock to receive a letter telling me of the change of plan. I enjoyed my time in London and there was always plenty that needed to be done.
I was never really clear why, after 3 months, I was moved (back) up to the Ashby site. If anything the department there was rather overstaffed even before I started work there so when I arrived in January 1977 there wasn’t much for me to do. Most, if not all, of the more interesting work was hijacked by the senior staff and as the “new boy” I either had nothing whatsoever to do and was literally sitting around all day feeling bored and demotivated or, if I was really unlucky, I was sent off on fairly pointless missions to Grimsby or Fakenham for several days at a time so I could feel bored, lonely and demotivated over there instead! I spent many nights at the Humber Royal or at the Grimsby Crest hotels and many days at the Grimsby factory for no tangible benefit to either me or to my employer.
Eventually I started working with Doctor Terry Sharp. He was OK as a line manager and I rather suspect that he shared my reservations about the department. Most of the time he and I seemed to be working on “Lewis Wheat” products. I think the idea was to make instant wheat rather like instant rice by soaking the wheat grains in salt water, then cracking the grains open by passing them between rotating steel rollers before drying them prior to adding flavours. I thought we made some quite good products but as far as I can remember none made it to large scale production.
During my time there we took on even more staff – including the former Nottingham University graduate Ruth Henry (was Ruth Biggin) - but without there being any increase in the total amount of work that needed doing. Even with hindsight the unrestrained "empire building" that went on was bizarre. I do think that the people that ran the graduate trainee scheme didn't co-ordinate well with the people who were supposed to supervise the graduates on a day-to-day basis. .