I arrived at 12-00 on the dot and sat in the bar seating area and ordered a slim coke (decaff too or I`ll be flying around the walls in minutes) at 12-15 I was wondering if I had got the right day? :o))
At 12-30 the guy who had to come the farthest (Duncan, a guy that joined as a labourer and became a qualified electrician with our help) about 70 miles turned up with his second wife and went to the bar, I remained where I was and waited for a few more to arrive, then came the department manager and his wife and then the welder and then the electrician, by which time my cover was blown (no I wasn`t trying to hide from buying a drink, honest! I think I was actually shy and embarrased in some way) about ten others arrived progressively.
I`m not a "hail fellow well met " type of person, so I spent time with each and gained a lot of information about their now lives after "Chessington" only a couple of them still work there with most retired early or running their own companies. One engineer out of now 27 turned up and only about 4 in that total still work there, from my time.
It was great to chat but disturbing to find that quite a few have had major illnesses including one chaps daughter whom I know well actually contacting breast cancer at 21 years old but I am told that she seems to be coping well with it now?
Others have had bypasses and one a 40 year old, now a senior member in an information technology company has a degenerative muscular illness and expects to be in a wheelchair within six months :o(( so sad so very sad! I of course said all the usual things like there are plenty of other things in life that will kill you first, and live for today, etc! but I guess that I was just being selfish and I guess that it was really more for my grief that to help him that I said it? (what does one say in such a situation having done the gambit of questions as to, is it cronic? can they see a cure in time, etc?) and such a really nice guy too!
It makes me wonder why old B*st**ds like me still survive, reasonably unscathed, not that I`m ungratefull you understand. We broke up after about 17-00 (yes it did really go on that long) vowing to make it happen within the year. I got the general feeling that they all enjoyed their time at Chessington and that perhaps I wasn`t such a bad boss.
More than a few actually said that it was "the best thing that they could have ever done"! Given that those now retired probably had no pensions when they joined and after being there for over twenty years? in that time, a few had actually, with the now regular work, paid for their houses and retired drawing their pensions, and enhanced by "old age pensions" too, were living quite comfortably.
As we all shook hands and started to part I felt quite humbled and priviledged that they would wan`t me at their meet. Long live the old members of the Maintenence and engineering departments of Chessington world of adventures! :o))