27 September 2002

Square Pegs and Round Holes

OldEric says :- I am sure we all know the saying. Robbo was a square peg in a round hole. Robbo worked for the British Post Office as an accounts and counter clerk and his hobby was electronics. I met him in my early, late 20s he would have been in his mid 30s. At that time I was working as an electronics engineer for a TV relay company branch in Kendal, Cumbria. The company were in the process of great expansion and we needed part time staff to modify TV sets to work on the relay system. Although this job tended to be somewhat repetitive it needed people able to read electronic circuits and modify circuits as appropriate. Robbo with a young family and expenses needed extra income and he applied for a position and used to come in after hours or at weekends. This suited everyone fine as the company worked semi shift work up to 10pm 7 days a week. Robbo quickly adapted to the work and supervision need only to be minimal. My work was semi shift and I spent all my time in the workshop and working in close proximity of Robbo, and over time I became firm friends with Robbo.
I would sometimes visit his home and we would often discuss electronics and his other love-- hi fi music to which he tried to improve his amplifiers and speakers. Robbo would often lament about his Post Office job and wish he could have trained to be an engineer and be employed in electronics. I used to say "why not, Robbo", The local polytechnic ran electronic courses, then mostly in the evening and he had the intelligence to do it. It would have been slow but quite possible. Robbo used to say "but.....".
Robbo's problem was he was tied to his job, by superannuation. He and the Post Office had been paying into the superannuation fund since he was a boy of 15. Leaving he would have lost the lot. Yes, Robbo unfortunately was tied to his job by family commitments. In today’s environment superannuation is often portable and retraining is the name of the game. Even so before we go down an employment road we should ask our selves the question. Will I be happy in my chosen work even after the novelty has worn off? Will I be unhappy? Or, will I be somewhere in between? To look in hind sight is easy to look ahead is not.
We left Kendal in 1966 to come to New Zealand and I would occasionally think of Robbo and the job he disliked and could not easily leave. As far as I know he did not. He will now be retired. Yes Robbo should have been an electronics engineer, he had the aptitude, intelligence and the analytical mind.
In my children I tried to point them in the right direction to suit their make up to the best of my ability. It is difficult in teenage years to do this, it is a turbulent time. Did Robbo's parents try? Did they try and get it wrong? Or were they ruled by convention of the time? I don't know , I don't suppose I ever will.

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