AWE Aldermaston – Part Two

Posted on January 26, 2011

I arrived on my first day at Aldermaston (or “behind the wire” as it was affectionately known) full of trepidation. I had to go through my security procedures at the main gate, then I was handed a plastic pass on a chain which I was to show to heavily armed policemen on arrival and departure. I was informed by Russell my immediate boss that he had found me the right mix of people to work with in A6 rather than the old fuddy duddies in F6.1, which was an imposing grey building that was the heart of the Administration on site. Russell was a funny little man who reminded me of the character Timothy (Ronnie Corbett) in the awful 80’s sitcom called Sorry. As it turned out he did live alone with his mother and always appeared very repressed.

I arrived at the door of my office to find that amongst about four or five others I had a plaque saying Mr R.W Lethaby stuck to the door. How impressive was that??? As I walked in I was heartwarmingly greeted by my new colleagues, but I felt more than a tinge of disappointment in discovering that there was no sign of the ravenous secretaries featured in the magazines my brother kept under his bed. If my limited sexual activity was to change, it wasn’t going to be in this office, unless something horrible was going to happen to me.

My colleagues were, Fran, Andy, Dave (who left soon after) and Nobby. Fran was a tomboy two years my senior with a friendly smile. She liked heavy metal, TT racing, Rolling Stone magazine, smoking roll ups and drinking pints, she wore no make up and lots of black clothes. Andy was five years my senior with a love of sport and the band U2, so good and bad there really, I hated U2, but told him they were okay. Dave had lots of credit cards and lived beyond his means, and Nobby was a semi retired ex BA worker with an efficient tone, an addiction to a pipe and Superkings a handlebar moustache and mischievous wink which made me sense a colourful history. I liked all of them….apart from Dave who seemed a bit of a tit, but he was leaving anyway.

Later we were joined by Adrian, the fearsome Ann McLeay (my new boss) and Jacqui. Adrian was part of the equal opportunities programme in the Civil Service. He wore his belt buckle and trouser fly near his hip bone and was the owner of brown nylon trousers featuring dubious stains aplenty. He also had a little Hitler type moustache and would breathe heavily through his nose when he looked at page three in The Sun. Watching Adrian eat an apple whilst he was staring at soft porn is a sight and sound that will never leave me. Jacqui liked drinking pints, TT racing, wearing black clothes, reading Rolling Stone magazine and abstaining from make up, so as you would expect she and Fran were to become great friends. Ann McCleay had arrived directly from a tartan clothing advert in The Sunday Express, she was a staunch Thatcherite who treated the AWE as her “Big Brother”. Her hobbies included Scottish dancing with her Presbyterian Husband, working in silence and detesting anyone under the age of twenty five plus Nobby who she hated because he liked young people and showed signs of joviality.

My job description was as follows. I had a big fat file with all the eight and a half thousand staff members in it. Every morning an envelope would come to me with varying amounts of paper which featured employee name, position and their reason for leaving the AWE, the options being resigned, retired, deceased and dismissed (I never witnessed anyone being dismissed). My job was to match the person on the sheet with the one in the file, then draw a line through it and write the reason for departure next to it. I also answered the phone on occasion and got to walk the details over to F6.1 which was a good twenty five minutes each way through a maze of grey buildings. On a cloudy day in winter it was like being in a black and white film, it sapped you of any youthful exuberance you had in you. The AWE would crush the life out of you if you stayed too long, and I resorted to drinking at the site bar (the Rec Soc) with my mate Foggy as a way to get through the day. I was becoming the character Winston in George Orwell’s famous and brilliant novel 1984. He was only two years out.

Back at the office Fran and I did what we could to keep spirits alive in the face of a tyrant as we both kind of sensed we would not be there forever whereas as Andy and Jacqui had already formed a relationship and were beginning to bear the look of AWE” lifers.” Nobby would join in too as he wasn’t far from retiring unless the fags got to him first as he was developing an alarming wheeze and was a walking advert for packing up the fags. Nobby had a bit of a thing for Fran in a saucy and harmless “I haven’t got a chance” way and he would often comment that Fran had “lovely pins” to which she would cheekily laugh off the compliment. I had never heard the term “pins” before and because Fran had a large chest coupled with ill fitting bras I naturally assumed he meant her breasts rather than her legs. Joining in with the banter one day I lovingly punched Nobby on the arm and said “I bet you wouldn’t mind getting your head between Fran’s pins eh Nobby.”

Our relationship to a while to get over that one I can tell you, but he forgave me in the end.

Next up Episode 3. A written warning, union strikes, a broken ankle and a tearful march to freedom.,

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