130. Fellow passengers to the grave…

“You do realise that the work can be quite heavy? Loading the autoclave, lugging stuff to be sterilised and so on?”

The candidate nodded. “Yes, I don’t mind lifting. I’m stronger than I look.”

Mrs Valley ticked her list of questions and then I weighed in with some routine probing about previous work history. Just like they’d taught me at Personnel Management School. I handed back to Mrs Valley, the Head of Department for the hospital’s Sterilising Unit.

I’d not been in post for long and this was the first time we’d interviewed together. I’d heard that Mrs Valley had the reputation of being as mad as a box of frogs but so far she’d been absolutely charming. I was starting to relax: the hunt for a new assistant in the Sterilising Unit seemed to be going smoothly.

Mrs Valley looked up from her notes and smiled at the candidate. “Just one more question. Are you pregnant?”

There was a sharp intake of breath from both candidate and rookie Personnel Manager alike. Lawks! This was definitely something I needed to deal with but, as I frantically tried to figure out the best course of action, the candidate took the initiative.

“No,” he said, “I’m not.” Mrs Valley nodded her head, then asked her deputy to show him around the department. As the door closed, I turned to Mrs Valley, mouth open. She smiled sweetly.

“You see, my dear, if you don’t ask the men, you can’t ask the women. Equal Opportunities, you know.” And, stately as a galleon, she sallied forth to call in the next candidate.

Working at our local hospital in the ‘80s came as a real eye-opener to a freshly-minted, Guardian-reading, personnel manager. Mrs Lather had left me similarly stunned when she gave details of the advert she wanted placed for a new sewing-room assistant.

“We’re all English here,” she trilled blithely, “and we’d like to keep it that way.”

I spluttered. I told her the law. We had to recruit on merit, not race, I said. But I also knew that, with unemployment as it was – these being the days of She Who Must Not Be Named – I’d have a fight on my hands to make sure that all the candidates had a fair chance.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the Sex and Race Discrimination legislation and the event should be celebrated as a landmark. Whatever they might think privately, few today would admit to discriminating on the grounds of gender or skin-colour.

So when I caught the news of this week’s Freudian Slip, with the Welfare Minister implying that he thought some disabled people were not worth the minimum wage, it felt like being jolted back to the ‘80s. I would not want to be the poor Personnel Manager involved in deciding which people were only worth two quid an hour. Pregnant men would be child’s play in comparison.


Little Bro’ and I were discussing GiveAsYouLive this week.  Being a good cove, he’s very keen to do all he can to help bring a cure closer.  But he says that sometimes the donation doesn’t seem to kick in when he’s shopping with Amazon.

If you’re shopping on a PC, the easiest thing to do is to download the toolbar from the GiveAsYouLive site, so that it opens automatically when you go onto a site that is part of the scheme.  If it’s Amazon you’re shopping with, there can be a delay of about ten seconds before the bar opens up and the you have to click ‘Open’ to turn on the scheme.  If you don’t wait and plough straight in searching for widgets, you miss the chance to turn on the tool bar.  And Amazon miss the chance to donate.  Which is probably why they’ve built in a delay.  Many other sites just automatically open the scheme.  Good on them.

If you’re on an iPad, the simplest thing to do is to download the GiveAsYouLive app and then to click on Amazon through that.

Sign up to GiveAsYouLive here by clicking on the link.

One response

  1. That was a funny story. It reminded me of some of the staff I worked with in the East end of London in the 80’s – who would have thought Lord Freud would be such a rich seam of nostalgia?

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