Posts filed as 'Listen'

Geoff Smith


Listen to Geoff Smith’s memories of a BU life.

USA 1985. Teaching technicians.

USA 1985. Teaching technicians.

Born in 1940 at 45 Cromford Street. Attended Melbourne Rd infants school, Charnwood St junior School -Just failed 11+ exam – Moat Boys senior School, and left in Christmas 1955

Started at BUSMC April1956 as an Electrical apprentice: RAF 1960-1964 (Air Radar Mechanic): Back to BUSMC in 1964 on Electrical Assembly.

1968-1974  Drawing Office Electrical Draftsman.

1974-1997 Commercial Office (Bottoming Dept) Maintenance, Installation, Technical Teaching, Trade exhibitions. 1997 Redundant.!!!!

Total 329 overseas visits to 29 different country’s in 23 years!!

Top photo; Geoff in the 1990s and now. Photo beneath; Early days, second left, with Gordon Green and Ernest Martin.

Above; Geoff in the 1990s and now.
Below; early days, second left, with Gordon Green and Ernest Martin.


Sudan 1974. With Arthur Longland, Cyril Petch and Stan Ashworth.

Sudan 1974. With Arthur Longland, Cyril Petch and Stan Ashworth.

GS. Teaching USA 1989

Teaching in the USA. 1989.



Demonstrating a Roughing Machine to Chinese delegation.

Demonstrating a Roughing Machine to Chinese delegation.

Automatic Roughing Machine BUAR5

Automatic Roughing Machine BUAR5

Date posted: January 8, 2018

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Shan Gohil























Listen to Shan


Shan introduces himself: Came to England in 1976 from Bombay. 0.30, Started in the hosiery at Corah’s in Leicester, did 10 years there. 1.12, Left Corah for an extended stay in India. Returned and got job at BU in 1988 which lasted 15 years before being made redundant. 1.57 Worked in IVI Department where they made tacks and nails. 2.10, then worked in the heat treatment plant. 3.00, Shan has been with only three firms in his working life and they were all good firms. 3.50, 2500 people working at BU when Shan joined. 4.03, How Shan got the job. 6.17, Explains how he had a heart attack and found ways to carry on doing his job. 7.45, IVI began reducing numbers of workers; Shan felt his health difficulties contributed to him being chosen for redundancy. 8.41, Ends.


Date posted: September 19, 2013

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Bob Duncan


Bob Duncan 2

Bob Duncan was a pivotel figure in the seven year struggle of BU pensioners to receive the company pension they lost when BU closed down in 2000. Now retired and living back in his native North East, Bob tells us about his time at BU and his involvement in the ultimately succesful campaign to win back the pensions of hundreds of BU employees.

Listen to Bob’s Story (5.55)

Summary of recording made on August 7th 2013

Bob explains how he came to work at BU from the North east.1.00, worked in the Assembly Shop building toe-lasting machines, did this for 34 years. 1.20, became a shop steward because nobody else wanted to do it. Later became the trade union Convener. 1.55, Dave Tipton became Deputy Convener, and the two worked closely together. 2.15, became a Trustee of the BU pension scheme in 2000; only six months before BU unexpectedly closed. 2.42, when the firm closed everyone who was still working there lost their pension. 3.00, the Government had said company pension schemes were ‘safe and secure’. Bob and the group took that to mean they were ‘guaranteed’, and this was the basis of their fight for justice. 3.25, Bob became one of the four campaigners in the Pension Action Group led by Ros Altman. 3.40, there were many visits at all hours to Parliament and meetings with politicians. 4.20, met with the Public Accounts Select Committee and Bob was asked by a Labour member whether he would have joined the pension scheme had he known it wasn’t safe and secure. Bob answered ‘I might be a thick Geordie, but I’m not a stupid Geordie’. That is now recorded in Hansard. 4.50, After nearly five years the Government eventually caved in prior to the case going to the House of Lords. People were paid 90% of their entitlement. 5.30, Bob retired six years ago and now lives back in the North east. The BU pension struggle he was involved in for many years now seems like a distant memory. 5.55, Ends.

Date posted: September 5, 2013

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Paul Gill



The BU Pensions Fight

Paul Gill was a Crispin Software Developer at BU between 1993-97.

As well as recalling his life at BU, Paul details the struggle BU pensioners had to go through in order to be paid following the collapse of the firm and disappearance of the pension pot.


Interviewed on14th April 2012.

Listen here – Track 1 (3.03)

Introduction. 0.48 – Paul decides to leave job at BU. Originally joined BU because of the type of work and because of the good pension. 1.30 – 4th October 2000, heard BU had gone into administration. 1.45 – Believed his pension was safe; Govt said so in the aftermath of Maxwell pension’s scandal. A letter arrived from Richard Main, pension scheme administrator, suggesting all was not well. 2.38 – An alarming letter appeared in the Leicester Mercury stated only 10% of the expected pension would be paid! 3.03 – ENDs

Listen here – Track 2 (6.42)

0.30 – Two years after BU closed people began to realise how much they would lose.1.18 – Some felt the venture capitalist owners (APAX) of BU were to blame.1.50 – Started meeting with other BU pensioners. 2.10 – Complained to the Pensions Ombudsmen. 2.41 – Ros Altmann became involved in the campaign. 4.05 – BU group joined with Altmann’s existing pensions campaign. 4.20 – Hoped Labour Government would be sympathetic as it was ordinary workers and Trade Union people who were losing out, not the wealthy. 5.05 – Paul researched the subject deeply. 5.40 – The pensions handbook provided vital evidence. 6.42 – ENDs

Listen here – Track 3 (1.55)

Trustees had categorically told BU staff that these pensions were safe. The Govt had made it clear in their publicity that there was no risk to these pensions. 1.55 – ENDs


Paul (holding banner) with local MPs and fellow campaigners outside Parliament

Listen here – Track 4 (2.31)

Bob Duncan was misled. 0.25 – Test case/ judicial review. 0.40 – Complaint made to OPRA, as some believed owners had asset stripped company contributing to pension shortfall. 1.02 – The High Court and possibility of going to the House of Lords for a review. 1.15 – Government claimed it hadn’t misled people. 1.35 – European legislation. 1.56 – The DWP threatened to take Bob Duncan to court, one of the campaign leaders, to reclaim their legal costs – over £100,000 – this would have financially destroyed Bob. 2.31 – ENDs

Listen here – Track 5 (3.48)

European Court case. 1.18 – Result of the European Court case. Call from BBC – could they come to discuss? 2.10 – BBC came to interview Paul at his home. 3.05 – John Hess. 3.48 – ENDs.

Listen here – Track 6 (6.17)

People interviewed by the media. 0.45 – Brant Inn interview with Ros Altmann. 1.30 – Ros went through each persons losses on the TV film.  I asked people to describe their particular situation. The TV people were very helpful. 1.56 – George Curtis. George was persuaded to appear in an interview. He was incredibly unwell at the time. This made an enormous impact, and ultimately helped George overcome some of his problems. 5.08 – There were many less happy events. Dave Tipton struggled. People with terminal diseases. 6.17 – ENDs.

Listen here – Track 7 (1.42)

Paul describes himself as a technical person, not so much a social person. 0.25 – If people tell you everything’s fine it’s not necessarily true. 1.10 – Paul felt able to help other pensioners whose plight was worse than his. 1.42 – ENDs.

Listen here – Track 8 (16.58)

Complaints to The Ombudsman. 0.22 – Complaint to DTI. 0.50 – Demerging had provided an escape clause for APAX. 1.12 – Ombudsman didn’t seem interested (whitewash). 2.12 – Bob Duncan complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman via his MP. About being misled. 3.20 – PO upheld the complaints! The Government didn’t believe it. This had never happened before. 4.12 – Complaint then to Public Administration Select Committee (PASC). Lots of questions for Bob Duncan. The PASC came out in agreement with PO. 5.40 – Entries in Hansard in ‘Geordie’. 6.15 – PASC report published. Once again rejected by Government. 6.40 – Ros Altmann suggested the campaign seek a judicial review. Bindmans, a firm of London lawyers, offered to provide free legal advice to the campaign. 7.42 – The campaign won the review. Government then appealed, and lost. 8.40 – Campaigners went to Westminster to meet their MPs. One who didn’t show was Keith Vaz. Instead he was showing actress Shilpa Shetty around the House of Commons with Tony Blair. 9.50 – Keith Vaz interviewed on the BBC about this matter. Paul complained to BBC. 10.40 – Paul contacted by Keith Vaz’s office: and told that Keith was in the process of arranging a meeting with the Pensions Minister James Purnell. Great news, all is forgiven. 11.35 – Meeting with James Purnell took place. Andy Reed arranged a second meeting with some of his constituents + Bob Duncan & Paul where James Purnell explained the enhanced Financial Assistance scheme.  We were all interviewed on TV afterwards and Andy reed put the story on Youtube. 12.00 – Nobody at this point had received a penny from their BU pension. It was time to prioritise payments – for those in greatest need first. 14.00 – David Taylor, Peter Soulsby and Keith Vaz were all at the meeting.  15.00 – Victory! The Government announced they were going to pay up in full in the budget of Spring 2007. 16.58 – ENDs

No 10

Listen here – Track 9 (1.22)

BUSM public domain documents. Explains how APAX, by splitting the company  were able to also split the pension schemes, and at the same time keep things legal. 1.22 – ENDs.

Listen here – Track 10 (1.02)

Describes discussion Paul had with Stephen Dorrell MP, and how coincidently some time later Dorrell’s family business company pension scheme was found to be short after going into administration leaving former employee pensioners out of pocket – Paul was very disappointed to find that the assets had been transferred from his own company prior to its insolvency. (see Wikipedia – Stephen Dorrell). 1.02 – ENDs.

Date posted: June 14, 2013

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Manharlal Solanki


Manharlal Solanki was born in India in 1950. He came to England as a 28 year old in 1978 and very soon afterwards began working at the BU.

Manu recorded these memories on May 8th 2013 at his home on Roberts Road, just round the corner from where the BU stood in Belgrave, Leicester.

Manu Solanki


Listen here – Track 1 (9.08)

Introduction, Name, date and place of birth. Came to England in 1978.

Married a British Citizen girl and came to the UK when he was 28. He met his wife in India; Surat in Gujarat state. Came to Leicester straight away and stayed with father in law for the first few days.

Got a house on Green Lane Road. Found work because Manu was a qualified electrical mechanic. First started at BU as packer, printer and general labourer.

Visited many factories looking for work, before getting in at the BU due to his qualifications later on in 1978.

Hoped to have a good life with the family when he came to England, didn’t come for the money.

Was a skilled technician back in India before he joined BU. Printed information on product cardboard boxes.

Not a lot of progression – did any job, nothing fixed. Eventually became a shifter of tack and nails. Long service with IVI, 25 years. Did a lot of training. Also worked the furnace that hardened nails so they would not bend. IVI all the time.

Made lots of friends at the BU, and often met people when delivering training. Became redundant in 2000.

Listen here – Track 2 (1.54)

There were no problems for Manu because he was Asian at the BU; already many working there when Manu joined.

Found it difficult to do labouring job at first as he was a trained technician.

Life was very similar between Leicester and Manu’s home city, although much less congested. Lived in terraced house all his life – not a country man.

Listen here – Track 3 (3.01)

Spoke English well before coming to UK. Because the language of engineering is English. However didn’t improve greatly because always working, not much talking!

Retirement parties. However sometimes people died after their retirement parties. Mr Smith and Mr Mistry. ‘Think very carefully before you take early retirement!’

Listen here – Track 4 (15.20)

Started at 7.30 daily at the BU, Friday finished at 2pm.

Manu’s wife was working in plastics factory. She had many jobs mainly in hosiery prior to retiring.

Has lived in his Roberts Road house since 1980. The first house he bought, loves this house and loves the area.

When he had to move packed nails; he was asked to move very heavy weights on a trolley. 120 kilos when it should be 60 kilos. Feeling effects now in his knees.

Trade Union was there but they were like friends so Manu didn’t want to make trouble for them by complaining.

Enjoyed working with ladies as he organised work for them. Lots of parties in the factory, Christmas etc. Misses BU and the factory; “the best”. The best factory in Leicester or the UK. Best of everything.

Manu used the Institute on Hildyard Road and was a member – for dancing and cinema. Beautiful place, had a drink and sometimes played snooker. They also provided the best dinners in the Institute canteen; good food at good prices. Talks about the old days when he sees old work mates.

Mick Roser, an old BU supervisor, is now working with Manu at the hospital.

ManuSolanki 2

Very proud that BU club is now a temple for the Asian community. 80-90,000 people visit the temple every year.

Very sad about the closure; cried for the factory when it was bulldozed. Lives close to the old factory. Along the canalside only two or three buildings survive.

Tries to keep in touch with old work mates; in the supermarket etc. Also talks of pension as some people struggled due to non payment after 2000. Long wait, but eventually paid.

Tries to organise meetings with old workmates, but few interested. Sometimes they come to Manu’s house. BU the best; the biggest factory in Leicester – 800 people there when Manu started.

Describes the Siren at the BU telling people what to do at different times of day.

27.53, ENDs

Date posted: June 12, 2013

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Gordon Biggs


Gordon Biggs was born in 1922. He began work at the BU aged 14 years in 1936 and retired 46 years later in 1982. This recording was made on 20th March 2012. Gordon describes his progress at the BU and talks in detail about the tasks he carried out.

1944 'training for a career' checking teeth of a cutter


Listen here – Track 1

Introduction – 1936. 0.30 – First day, met Joe Moore. Errand boy for the first year. 1.25 – Sticking blue prints on boards. 1.35 – How Gordon got the job. 2.12 – Transfer to the Tool room. Making marking tools. How this was done. 3.45 – Working on a speed lathe; making taps and gauges. 4.40 – ENDs

Gordon Biggs and friends at QCC dinner

Listen here – Track 2

A typical working day. 1.08 – Clocking in. 2.08 – Taking lunch to the canteen. 2.56 – Smoking time. 3.20 – Knocking off, 5pm. 3.46 – Wartime changes. Asked to work nights. 7.30-7, night  and day, six shifts a week. 5.14 – Quiz time at breaks. 5.57 – Sirens going off. 6.50 – BU firewatchers. 7.20 – ENDs

Gordon school recommendation

Listen here – Track 3

After the war. Tool design office. 0.54 – Worked in the Drawing Room designing tools. 1.08 – Back to the Tool room as assistant foreman. Then foreman after two years. 1.50 – Stayed as foreman until 1980. 2.23 – Job satisfaction. Producing good machines. The BU was a good firm to work for. The Institute. 3.32 – The Ambulance room during the war became a dentists. 4.28 – Hairdresser came in two days a week. 4.56 – Money not great, but job for life. 5.08 – Today no job secure. People did leave for extra money. BU apprenticed people were well trained and skilled. 6.15 – Quarter Century Club. 7.12 – Annual dinner. 7.40 – Made a trustee in 1980. 8.12 – Associated companies that attended club meetings. 8.36 – ENDs

Gordon work record BU

Listen here – Track 4

Appointed equipment engineer. Reponsible for purchasing new machine tools, and selling old machines. 0.53 – Management secretary of joint production committee. Met monthly. 1.50 – The work chugging along happily. 2.30 – Cannot remember a BU dispute. 3.05 – Permanent job: Good friendships. 3.56 – Daryl Watkins. 4.30 – Emhart pension. 5.22 – ENDs


Date posted:

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John Tointon


John was born in 1937 and became a Welder at the BU. Here he remembers stories from his days at the BU and remembers his Dad, Chris, who spent all his working life there (recorded on March 12th, 2012).

John Tointon


Listen here – Track 1 (9.59)

Introduction. 0.32 – John’s dad Chris worked at the BU for 51 years. Mostly doing 12 hour shifts, 7-7 days and nights. 1.16 – Describes the BU Hooter and what the different time soundings meant. 2.30 – apprenticed. Benefits of being a BU apprentice in 1953. 4.30 – The canteens at the BU. 5.25 – ‘The Institute’; the BU Social Club and the many different activities and sports available. 6.30 – Trips out with the Fishing Club. 8.15 -Remembers employees leaving the factory en mass on their bikes. 8.38 -Various tasks and activities at the factory. 9.07 – The Ambulance room. 9.59 – ENDs

Listen here – Track 2 (10.05)

Various departments; B2 Welding. Women employees. 1.30 – Women working on lathes; monotony of the work. 2.04 – One particular lady; on the buffing machine. 100 screws per minute, incredible patience. 3.53 -Foreman; Alec Neil in theWelding shop. Oxyacetylene welders. 4.46 -Working with bronze and cast iron. – 5.25, Job satisfaction? 5.55 – Daft things. 6.18 – Russian visitors and Len Gearey. 8.00 – Working men’s humour. 8.08 – Sister Adcock and the rats! 10.05 – ENDs

Listen here – Track 3 (5.45)

Typical day at work. 0.23 – Being single, then being married, the effect. Living on Halkin Street.1.15 – Being at your bench by 7.30am. 1.45 – Lunch time. 2.38 – describes all the machines coming back to life after lunch. 3.00 – Maintenance work. 3.25 – The Lift Maintenance Fiasco!  5.45 – ENDs

Fishing trip

Works outing. A young John leans into the aisle half way down the bus.

Listen here – Track 4 (5.25)

Leaving the BU. 0.30 – National service medical; then getting married. 1.23 – £20/week offered elsewhere. 1.40 – John told he would be next foreman. 2.30 – Personnel office meeting and John’s dad brought in from sleeping at home. ‘A job for life’. 3.25 – They weren’t wrong! 3.45 – Moving around, different jobs. 4.05 – Settling at TNT. 4.25 – Missing the BU. 5.05 – First redundancies announced at BU. 5.25 – ENDs

Date posted:

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Frank Smith


Frank on retirement, 1981

Frank Smith (DoB, 20th October 1918), interviewed in July 2012, recalls his life and work at BU.

Starting with the desperately sad death of his father in World War One, one month before his birth, and concluding with the summing up remark ‘Been Busy’.

Frank’s Story

News of Appointment to the Board

Track 1 (9.05)

0.12, Lived in Loughborough. Recalls the sad death of his father in WW1 a month before he was born

0.30, Lived just with his mother until 10 years old. Mother met a chap who was a knife-smith who worked in the Knife Shop at the BU.

0.58, At the BU they used large 4 inch knives to cut thick sole leather

1.30, Frank’s mother married again; to Herbert Arnold; who already had three children. They moved to new house in Leicester on Turnbull Drive.


2.05, Frank moved school during scholarship year, went to Folville Rise in Braunstone, but didn’t get the A1 grade needed for grammar school, instead he went to intermediate school.

3.25, When he was 14 Frank was taken to the BU where a number of simple tests took place

4.00, First job at the BU; Errand Boy in 1932. Assigned to a works department at 12 shillings a week, for 48 and a half hours (2.96 pence per hour!).

5.25, Family men were earning £3 week –  £3’10 shillings with bonuses


5.54, Frank’s saving grace was the apprentice scheme.

6.22, Invited to be apprentice. Two full days at technical college, plus three evenings a week (7-9.30) in your own time.

7.25, Assigned to X Department. Not production, but design for new machinery. Huge variety of tasks. Great for learning and training. Something of everything.

9.05, Record ends.

Track 2 (5.43)

Born in Loughborough 20/10/18. Coming up to 94 years of age. Moved to Leicester in 1928 and started at the BU in 1932.

1.06, Frank knew of BU before starting there. Of Mr Klee, who ran the knife shop. Of the Bennions, and Bennion and Pearson. On the front of Union works, by MacDonald Road, there was an inscription to these men.

2.35, There were two major shoe machinery firms in Leicester then. Gimson was the other (later became Bostik), on Ulverscroft Road, which later amalgamated with the BU.

3.40, Claude Bennion, MD, introduced the Quarter Century Club scheme. £100 gift when you became a member. Which bought a £99 Ford car then. That figure hardly rose.

4.33, The American USM had amalgamated with the BU previously. Still US foremen about; Mr Hussey in charge of the Milling dept.

5.43, Recording ends.

Track 3 (6.29)


Frank Smith during the War

0.50, The Government brought in conscription for all men over 20 years of age. In the services or in the mines.

1.40, Many 19 year old young men (every walk of life) joined the Territorial Army, including Frank.

2.30, Joined an Artillery battery; lack of uniform. Spring 1939.

War declared

3.22, Summer camp for two weeks. Still paid by BU. Back to work on Monday morning then on Friday night of that week – Called up. War declared on the Sunday.

4.10, Shipped off to France in Jan 1940. Equipment was all relics from WW1.

5.04, After Dunkirk. Back in UK, all BU conscripts offered chance to return to factory as new fighting machinery needed. 80% did. Frank stayed on, as a gun fitter. Knew only one other man who did. He was glad he did.

6.29, Recording ends.

Track 4 (8.25)

BU took on about a dozen Cambridge engineering graduates every year. Ensured the future backbone of the company – along with qualified apprentices.

0.55, Technical college (later DeMontfort Uni) training was very good; almost up to degree standard.

1.43, This training helped Frank in the army and helped him get commissioned. As well as better set when returned to BU post war.

2.20, Time in the Forces. From France to India as Seargeant. Then Ceylon, then officer training. Then Indian Army Ordnance Corps on NW frontier. Made Captain, in the Indian army.

5.45, Moved across road to Burma, held up by floods at Karampur. Posted on to another division in Burma.  A workshop company. Chittagong then Burma proper. 70 men to command. Their main role was maintaining guns for an infantry brigade

8.12, Three years service there, till end of war.

8.25, Recording ends.


Track 5 (0.51)

Flurry of bicycles; bicycle racks

0.25, Only the directors had cars at the BU

0.29, Belgrave Road looked like the Tour de France

0.36, Getting your bike wheel jammed in the tram lines

0.51, Recording ends.

Track 6 (9.36)

Total service of 48 years at the BU. (subtract seven years for war service and pre apprenticeship) Returned to BU in ’46 or ’47.

Career at BU after the war

0.35, Given full training programme on return. Wages back to £6.19 shillings and sixpence after receiving a Major’s salary in the army

1.28, Initially put in the Drawing Office. Followed by the Experimental Drawing Office.

2.08, Joined the company pension scheme. 5s a week it cost.

3.33, 1951. Moved into the chemical side of things from mechanical engineering. Describes the different components used in the factory. Frank had a small development team for all these tasks.

6.48, The BU wanted a new machine for impregnating and coating base materials. Many specialist jobs like this. Ideas into production units. 12 years working here.

9.38, Recording ends.

Track 7 (3.25)

Transferred to shoemaking machinery side from accessories research.

0.25, Three research sections; Upper Machinery; top parts of shoe and sewing and sticking together; then Closing. Then Lasting, the shaping of the shoe upper into shoe form.

1.30, Frank had Section 1. Lasting. 1962-76.

3.25, Recording ends.

Frank standing behind Charles Bennion

Track 8 (6.44)

Later years

0.30, ‘FS’ team – George Barton, chief designer; Phil Reader, assistant manager.

0.56, Test fitters role.

1.25, Helped design a new automatic machine that won a gold medal in Leipzig. Alas gold plated, not solid gold.

2.10, 1979. Asked to be President of the Quarter Century Club.

3.20, QCC Annual dinner. About 1500 people attended. Used to be at Granby Halls, but moved to DeMontfort Hall in Frank’s year.

4.30, Handed over presidency to Tom White

4.40, Continued managing Lasting dept research then promoted to Technical Manager; therefore left research dept. Was responsible for Works drawing office, time setting office, all technical functions, and appointed to board of management, although not a director. Tim Watts appointed at the same time.

6.20, Four years there until retirement in 1981.

6.44, Recording ends.

Handing over the reins...

Track 9 (3.30)

Retirement – Demise of BU after Frank retired

0.20, New director brought in at BU, Burton.

1.00, Retired as an ‘Emhart pensioner’, as this was the owner of BU at that point.

1.30, Emhart bought out in 1990s by Black and Decker and then Frank became a B & D pensioner. Soon got a good rise! But nothing since 1997!

2.12, Then followed a management buy out in the late 90s. Business diminishing due to foreign competition. Gradual closure and disappearance.

3.30, Recording ends

Track 10 (1.18)

Frank wearing the President's Chain for the Quarter Century Club

Retirement – Frank’s son was working in a shoe factory in Blaby. Frank helped there for a year or two. Then that factory closed.

0.40, Since then mostly doing reading, painting water colours and watching sport on TV. And caravanning with his wife.

1.15, ‘Been busy.’

1.18, Recording ends.

Date posted: June 11, 2013

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