I was born in May 1946 when times must have still been extremely hard after the second world war, my Mum and Dad and then myself where living in one room with Mums
sister Con, husband Bill and daughter Tina ‘my eldest cousin’ and it was here that my interest in cooking and baking was to begin, I guess I must have been about 3-4 years old at the time and had just started infant school, after school Tina and
I would sit and play with her showing me how to boil eggs, make a omelette, gipsy toast and how to make little cup cakes and put the icing on top, I did not realize it then but this is when the seeds of my future career where planted, so I guess it was my
dear cousin Tina who started me on the road of my profession to be.
Then when I was about 6 years old we moved to a council flat in Enfield that was to be my Mum and Dad’s home for the rest of their lives.
In fact I never wanted to be a baker as my boyhood dream on leaving school just before my 16th birthday was to be a chef but I did not have the aptitude to get into college so the school careers teacher suggested
baking, I thought why not as it’s the same as cooking and I managed to get a job working with a family bakery in my then home town Enfield called “Painters Bakers and Confectioners” earning the grand sum of Three pounds ten shillings a week
which seemed a fortune at the time, here I started with the basic training starting at the bottom cleaning the baking trays, greasing the tins and sweeping the floor, I was told right from the start if you can’t get a basic thing right like cleaning
the trays and how to keep the bake house clean how can you expect to make cakes, it was here that I was to learn the profession of baking and always remembering the advice given to me by my dear granddad before I started my first job he said (Keep your eyes
and ears open, but keep your mouth closed unless you have a question, your there to work not to talk)
The owner of the Bakery Mr. Painter was a fantastic man,
short, stumpy, but very fast on his feet and an avid table tennis player so much so he was known efficiently as the flying doughnut and always had a habit of calling my LAD, but it is thanks to Mr. Painter and all the training and experience I had working
for him that taught me how to use my hands which are the most important tools a baker has, the 7 years working at his bakery held me in good stead all of my working life.
Then one Saturday when working here I was clearing out the rubbish and came across a copy of a bakery trade magazine inside there was advert
for a bakery exhibition in London and thought it would be good to have a look, there was just about everything you could think of there to do with bakeries but what captured my utmost attention was the displays of decorated celebration cakes, one cake in particular
had me spellbound and my entire thought it was a three tier cake decorated by the then renowned cake decorator (Ronny Rock) the man was an absolute genius with his excellence and intricacy of decorating and from that moment on I knew what I wanted to specialize
in and immediately enrolled in a 3 year course of (Cake Design and Decoration) at Hendon collage, I completed the course and passed with flying colours.
Learning the art of decoration, the theory, design, and heraldry was to stand me in good stead latter in my career when decorating cakes with Royal coats of arms and for
cakes for different members of the British Royal family, for stage and screen celebrities and many Television adverts.
I consider myself to have been very lucky in my working life and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time when new job opportunities came up and “must
say this” that my family always encouraged me and supported any job move I made.
Yes very fortunate getting to travel round many European countries, living and travelling round all the Middle East counties and then Asia as the regional bakery adviser, first living in Thailand for four years and then Indonesia,
always travelling round the region from country to country, Indonesia, Thailand, All of China, Sri-Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong, often travelling round the visit country by car, train, boats or plane but always demonstrating
and teaching both the local company bakery advisers and customers about the function of ingredients and anything to do with bread and cakes, and yes I often got to see interesting places like bakery’s in the Jungles of Sri-Lanka and historical sites
like the Forbidden city and to walk on the Great Wall of China.
Often people would ask me which country did I like best, but I always replied all of them as each has its own individual beauty in the people, customs, culture and traditions, in no way could you compare one country with the other as even the
city culture compared to rural culture of any of the countries I visited was vastly different, a really fantastic job but do I have regrets? YES two big regrets, sending my children to boarding schools, no matter how good or expensive they are nothing can
replace the lost years with my children and the quality time I should have spent with them, all be it that at the time you think you’re doing the right thing and in their best interests and then moving to live in Indonesia as I never wanted to “on
high in-sight” it was a bad job move pushed on me by the company I should of listened to my head and my heart not my pocket and money.
But one of the things I learnt with all my travels is that you can’t change a persons or a country’s culture you are only the visitor there so you must try
to blend in with the masses and there way of life, this has taught me some wisdom of life and how to adapt and fit in.
But now with my dementia all I can do is to sit and look at my shaking hands and body, and think
of all the cakes I’ve made and decorated which at times just makes me want to cry, yet with a sense of satisfaction that I had a career I loved so much but now the skill and magic has gone from my hands, someone once said to me “You don’t
become a baker, Your born a baker, with the love of the trade in your hands and heart”
Here is a poem I wrote that reflects my inner feeling about the
profession I loved so much...
I had always been a travelling man,
the world with a trade in my hands,
To the distant realms and cultures of afar,
Where golden sunsets gave
birth to the nights stars,
Thence came the day when my journeys did end,
As my wandering
mind found an unwanted friend,
That led me astray from my chosen path,
Without hope of new life, just memories
of what’s past,
Now my thoughts go wandering
all on their own,
Forever yearning the green, green grass of home,
Just to stand once more upon the Britannic
Where my childhood dreams first began their birth,
To hold my grandchildren of
whom I’ve never seen,
Listening to their laughter that resounds in my dreams,
There eyes might shine
and with shrills of delight,
When I tell them stories of my adventurous life,
But I know
from within this will never be,
As the demon inside has a tighter hold of me,
Now the more I struggle to get free
of its bonds,
So my home land doth fade with the setting sun…