There used to be a time when everything seem to shut for the first two weeks in August.
When I was in RTE we had a holiday allocation for each year [20 days? 30 days? Can’t remember now]. We were free to take those days whenever we liked during the year provided that included at least five consecutive days. It was nice and flexible but it meant going cap in hand and groveling to the boss for permission to take a day or two off. I really fucking hated that.
Prior to RTE, I worked in Pye, back in the early 70s. Who the fuck is Pye, you ask? Well, they were manufacturers of radios and televisions with the odd refrigerator thrown in for luck. They used to have a factory in Dundrum which has long since gone but it used to stand where they built that hideous cathedral of The Church of Consumerism – Dundrum Town Centre.
In Pye, holidays were fixed. You got a day or two at Christmas and Easter and the place shut down for the first two weeks in August. No flexibility No alternatives. If you took a day off outside those fixed days you simply didn't get paid.
Working in that factory was tough It was a vast factory floor filled with steel roller belts for transporting the goods around the factory. As a result there was a constant background roar as stuff got shifted around. Add to that the large number of hydraulic rams, presses and pneumatic screwdrivers which squealed and thumped their way through the day. Add to that a large yoke in the middle of the factory floor that contained a large fountain of molten solder and a bath of liquid flux, pumping heat and fumes into the air. Then there was the radio that blared over the Tannoy all day that no one could listen to because of the rattling, banging, squealing and thumping going on. All this was in a factory that had never heard of insulation so we froze in Winter and boiled alive in Summer.
It was a dangerous place to work. There was none of that fancy namby pamby Elf and Safety shit there. We worked on open chassis with exposed circuits that carried anything between 6 and 20,000 Volts, and if we accidentally touched one of those circuits… well, there was always someone to take our place while [if] we recovered. It was commonplace to hear a loud shriek as someone touched something. There would be a pretty blue flash and whatever tool they had been using would fly gracefully through the air, usually to strike someone on the production lines. Someone would poke the victim [having made sure the power was off] and if they were still breathing then the work carried on.
It was a great place to work. I loved it. It was noisy, dirty and dangerous but the craic was mighty. Everyone shouted cheerfully over the noise and moaners were few and far between. It was a predominantly female place, so the jokes were filthy and the men constantly ran the gauntlet of being slagged. We gave as good as we got though. The pay was reasonable [£23 a week, or less if you stuck your card into the time-clock one second too late].
For some reason, my thoughts tend to travel back to those times in the first two weeks in August. Happy days.
If you happen to have a monochrome, dual standard [VHF and UHF] television at home made by Pye, take a look inside and see if there is a card label tied to the chassis.
If there is a number 67 written on it, that was one of mine.