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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Thomas

     

    [TRACK 1]

    A teaching assistant was in attendance.

     

    COLDEN SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Year 6 Colden School, 7th of July 2011, talking to Mr Thomas.  How long have you lived in Colden?

     

    MR THOMAS:

    Not that long actually, only…..five and a half years we’ve been up here.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Have you lived anywhere else?

     

    MT:

    Yes.  I lived all my life in a village called Rothwell in Leeds, about……thirty-five mile from here.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Where were you born?

     

    MT:

    In Rothwell.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    How was it different from Colden?

     

    MT:

    …….well quite a bit different actually, because it wasn’t all green hills and…..middle of farming land it were, quite near t’city of Leeds so it were all built up and….it were a coal mining ….village.  There were a lot of coal mining properties about so they were all estates and….sort of….nothing like up here anyway, it was.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Describe your earliest memories.

     

    MT:

    …..earliest memories……from school or from home or

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    From school.

     

    MT:

    From school…….can’t really describe ‘em…..it were fun it were, yeah……someone might have to help me out here [laughing]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Was it a big school?

     

    MT:

    Bigger than this, yeah….probably double t’size of this school….it were quite a new school so…..

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Who was your favourite teacher?

     

    MT:

    …….favourite teacher….Mr Askew…..my music teacher.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Who was your worst teacher?

     

    MT:

    ……Mr Theobald…….yeah he were bad.  He used to like to use a stick [laughing] but he weren’t allowed to….he used to keep it behind his desk….and pull it out now and again.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Do you like school?  Did you like school?

     

    MT:

    I did, I loved school, and specially when I got to secondary school.  I were one of t’kids actually went all t’time….most of ‘em decided not to go when they didn’t want to, but I enjoyed school.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Did you have any homework?

     

    MT:

    We didn’t really get that much homework; we never got any in t’primary school, and….for what I can remember from t’secondary school was….we used to get three lessons where you could do your homework from your previous lessons that you’d had, or, but a lot of t’kids just used to mess about, so if you got it all wiped off then you had your nights free to do what you wanted to do.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What subjects did you do?

     

    MT:

    Maths and English, and…..when you went into your careers you could…..you could choose what lessons you did, and I think I did five lessons which were…..they called it CDT then – Craft Design and Technology, which….you did it in woodwork, metalwork, art and I think I took cooking as well….lost interest in it but it was better than doing French or…..you didn’t have to do a set language then, so….we opted out of doing French or German.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What career did you go into?

     

    MT:

    I went into shop fitting originally – joinery – and did five year at college to become a joiner.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    How was your primary school different to Colden?

     

    MT:

    ……it was in t’middle of a housing estate, so it were a lot different.  Like I say it were t’Coal Board run t’school nearly cos it were in t’middle of t’Coal Board estate where everybody used to work down t’pit; there were four pits, and everybody…..like just got out of that area because the pits started closing down as I got to t’point of leaving school, but me granddad and me dad, they all went down t’pit and they were…..straight from school, so I just made it out of it, but it was still a big coal mining population there, everybody worked down t’pit, so the school was all t’kids from pit families, so they were a bit different to…..your general kids nowadays….a bit…..bit rough [laughing]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Where did you used to go on holidays as a child?

     

    MT:

    Me mum and dad always made sure we went abroad once a year for a summer holiday which was Majorca or somewhere hot and sunny, but we used to do a lot of camping then we had a caravan that we used to take away, so t’summer holidays were usually spend with me dad taking us with me mum to Filey or Scarborough, then going back to work for t’fortnight and leaving us in t’caravan on t’top of a cliff with no car, in t’wind and rain [chuckling]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What is your favourite holiday destination?

     

    MT:

    Now or when I were a kid?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    When you were a kid.

     

    MT:

    …….Filey.  Filey were great.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Where was the first place you visited abroad?

     

    MT:

    Salou…..I remember that…..I think I were about…..five year old.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    When you go on planes are you worried about your global footprint?

     

    MT:

    …….I used to have a V8 Range Rover so I can’t really worry about global footprints! [laughing]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What was your first job?

     

    MT:

    First job…..after me paper rounds was….I were a chip boy in a fish shop, fish and chip shop, and I worked there from being fourteen.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What did you enjoy about it?

     

    MT:

    Got free fish and chips at t’end of t’day [chuckling]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    If you hadn’t been what would you have liked to have done?

     

    MT:

    If I hadn’t been a joiner?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Yes.

     

    MT:

    Well I always wanted to be a bricklayer because me dad were a bricklayer, but when it came to leaving school he wouldn’t let me go into bricklaying because he said out of all t’trades on t’building site, bricklaying were t’hardest one for t’least money, so he made me go to…..to become a joiner.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Have you got any advice for children leaving school now?

     

    MT:

    Don’t leave – carry on with your education, go to university and then you can choose what you want to do.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    If you were going out for a meal, where would you go?

     

    MT:

    ……well we’re actually going out on Saturday and we’re deciding where to go, and we’ve been thinking about going to that Kitty’s restaurant in Hebden Bridge…..yeah [chuckling]

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What do you do in your spare time?

     

    MT:

    …..I….play squash on a Monday…..I play football on a Tuesday…..I play pool on a Wednesday if I can get away fro bar….I ride me quad a lot……and look after t’children.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Have you any hobbies?

     

    MT:

    I enjoy riding t’quad and I think t’biggest hobby, I don’t do so much now, but from being five year old I played squash for…..probably every day until I were old enough to drink alcohol, and then I stopped.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What do you remember of the miners’ strike?

     

    MT:

    I remember it were hard work cos everybody in t’village, like I say, were mainly coal miners who were there; they were all on strike and there were no money to go anywhere, so nobody had any money, but there were a lot of……t’time when I were at primary school there were also t’teachers’ strikes which made it even harder for people cos the ones who could go to work, they had to look after their kids in t’dinner times and stuff, when it were on. 

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    How old were you?

     

    MT:

    ………I would have been about eight, nine when t’strikes were on.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Do you think it is a safer place to live?

     

    MT:

    In Colden?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Yes.

     

    MT:

    Yeah, much safer without a doubt……even down to t’roads and stuff like that.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What’s changed over the years at Colden?

     

    MT:

    Like I say I’m not that sure cos I’ve only been up here for five year, so I can only see what’s changed between where I used to live and where I live now……and I can see a lot’s changed where I used to live over t’years, but up here I can’t really say, it just seems….

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Has the quality of life improved in Colden?

     

    MT:

    It’s certainly improved for me from where I used to live.  Coming up here, it’s just world’s apart, yeah….it’s…..you can’t really compare….bringing up kids here and bringing up kids in a city is just completely different.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What are your views on pollution?

     

    MT:

    ………well I know you all try to do what you can do to…..help with pollution…….I know we’ve been going into a lot of this at t’moment because we’re looking at changing us boiler for t’house and we’ve been looking at a wood pellet boiler to save on emissions and basically a lot of it is to save on money, because the price of oil and stuff is going up that much, so I’ve looked into it quite a bit lately, yeah, it’s…..I think we need to do summat about it…..quickly rather than…..wait about…..until it gets worse.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What are your views on education?

     

    MT:

    ……at this age or….a later stage?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    At this age.

     

    MT:

    I think at this age it…..t’main thing that kids need to do is just enjoy being at school and not be worried about going to school or…..be stressed into doing more and more work; they need to just be able to enjoy themselves and…..and enjoy learning instead of…..getting pushed into doing stuff that they don’t want to do.  I know when I were a kid a lot of it were….you had to do….this and that and t’other, you didn’t just enjoy it as much.  I think in Colden at this school especially, kids enjoy coming cos…..a lot of it’s fun, what they get to do, instead of…..it just being sat down…..writing all t’time.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Where wood you get the wood chip from?

     

    MT:

    For the boilers?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Yes.

     

    MT:

    There’s a couple of plants.  There’s one just opened up in Huddersfield but it’s made out of the old…..basically if you go to a joiner’s shop where everything’s cut up and all your sawdust is put into extractors and stuff like that, then they take all that and they compress it all up into little pellets which….so it’s all used wood, non of it comes from trees as such; it does come from trees obviously cos it’s wood, but it’s all used, recycled stuff, so the place in Huddersfield what’s just set up is….gonna feed a lot of this area with the wood pellets.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What are your views on the recession?

     

    MT:

    ……..I don’t know if I’ve seen so much of it really cos……..it’s a bit different.  My wife’s a doctor, so she’s not been hit by t’recession as such, and the work what I do at the moment’s…..I’m not in the….the house building trade any more, I’m more doing extensions or alterations to houses which people, cos they can’t afford to move to get a bigger house, they’re going into building an extra bedroom or a kitchen or summat like that, so I’ve not actually been hit by it.  The recession to be honest has done my trade t’world of good because people are staying where they are and extending or using the little bit of money they’ve got to alter their houses, so, you need it being a bit away up  here as well.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What are your views on climate change?

     

    MT:

    …………I don’t really see much of it cos they said it were gonna get really hot didn’t they and I ain’t seen that! [chuckling]  It’s important to stop things; I think it’s more important for these little lower down countries what are gonna get flooded out when all t’ice caps melt, but twelve hundred foot above sea level, you know, I don’t think we’ll see much water rising up.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    How often do you ride your quad?

     

    MT:

    ……..about four or five times a week.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Do you like it?

     

    MT:

    Aye, I love my quad. [chuckling]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Are there any more questions?  Have you got any more questions?

     

    SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    No.

     

    TW:

    Well I have one or two, and if you want to do follow up questions on what I ask then feel free to join in.  I wanted to ask really about, you said you did five years at college to become a joiner.

     

    MT:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    Was that like an apprenticeship, or how did it work?

     

    MT:

    Yeah it were t’first of the…..I’ve forgotten what they used to call the old one…..City and Guilds, but I did the first year of the NVQ which were a three year course; your first and second year and then your Advanced Craft, then I went on to do the 600 Series for two years which took you into an higher class of joinery, which also gave me t’possibility to….I’ve looked into t’possibility of going into lecturing, cos with the 600 Series I’ve just got to do a six month Maths and English course to be able to go into teaching at university, at colleges, so…….it were worthwhile doing my extra two year then than it were trying to do it later in life sort of thing, and I got t’opportunity to do it so I took it.

     

    TW:

    Would you recommend that to anyone else who wanted to become a joiner?

     

    MT:

    Yeah, definitely, I mean I’m not sure how it all goes now, I think they’re still doing t’same courses……but I mean you can go and become qualified in two year as a joiner and then you can go on to the Advanced Craft, which in three year you can be qualified as a joiner, but…..if you’ve got t’chance to do your 600 Series then, it’s…..it’s just another bit of paper really and ……I mean I’ve never……I’ve never actually shown me qualifications to any…..anybody I’ll have worked for, literally, it’s always been if you walk into a workshop they’ll say ‘have you got your tools with you?’ the interviewer says ‘right I’ll set you on for t’week, I’ll pay you at t’end of t’week’ and they’ll ask you if you want to come back t’week after or not, and they go on the merit of what you can do, so…..you never seem to use your paperwork, where in other jobs you write your CV down and everything goes on what you’ve done and….but in t’building trade it’s more hands on, let’s see what you can do, and obviously you wouldn’t be able to do it if you hadn’t been and learnt it first.

     

    ANOTHER PERSON (Classroom assistant):

    Have you ever considered or being able to take on an apprentice?

     

    MT:

    ……..I had one lad who I were gonna put through college, who worked with me, but it were when we worked in Leeds and I’d started working alongside me dad a lot doing extensions and stuff; we had a young lad who worked for us labouring and we looked at putting him through college but it turned out that expensive to put somebody through college that it wasn’t worth its while trying to do it because t’Government used to pay for….for you to go; they used to pay the company, like when I went, I worked for a firm called Walter Shopfitters and when I did my apprenticeship, and it were on a CITB course, and CITB paid me, I think about twenty nine pound fifty a week….paid from t’Government, and then I worked for Harry who were my boss on a block release sort of thing so you’d have six week hands on working there and then you’d have six week in college, and then you’d go back for six week, and my boss used to make me wage up when I were working for him; I used to get extra in me wage packet, but t’Government used to pay for it.  Nowadays it’s….if you want an apprentice you’ve got to pay for the college which can be a thousand pound a year, plus you’ve got to pay their wages when they’re not…..with you, if they’re on block release they’ve got to go to college, so you’re not actually getting any work out of ‘em but you’ve still got to pay their wages, and you can’t get a seventeen year old now who’ll work for twenty nine pound fifty for t’week – they’re all wanting that for…..well, for t’day, and I think…..when I did it, I knew I were gonna get an apprenticeship out of it and it were worthwhile doing, where nowadays they can go and work stacking shelves in Tesco’s and get fifty pound a day. There’s work worth 250 pound a week. But I used to work…..me being in shopfitting, we used to do a lot of out of hours, so when I were at college I’d get picked up from college by t’boss at four o’clock when I finished and we’d go off to Liverpool to fit t’shop out for t’night, and I’d be back at college t’day after, so I’d get paid for me night work, so it’s a bit different now – nobody wants to work any more.

     

    TW:

    What brought you to this part of the world in the first place five years ago?

     

    MT:

    …..a better place for t’kids I think, yeah, we’d Daniel who’s six now and…..basically thought it’d be a better place to bring ‘em up than it would be in t’middle of a city, so we got the opportunity to do it through…..we’d done a couple of houses up from ruins which put us in a position to buy somewhere nice up here, and with being in t’trade we could buy somewhere what were run down and cheap and do it up and basically get away from….from t’city……still used to travel to Leeds every day from here…..and till I had Ben who’s three now, and then I actually went full time house husband, so me wife worked and  I looked after t’kids and….did a bit of work in between when I could, and that’s what I’m still doing now, I’m still……I look after t’kids before school, after school, whenever they’re poorly or….I have Ben every Tuesday so…..it’s….I’m still a  house husband really.

     

    TW:

    Do you like that?

     

    MT:

    Yeah I love it, I love being with t’kids.  It’s hard work but it’s easier just to get up seven in t’morning and put your work clothes on and disappear for t’day than it is to stay at home and have to look after ‘em and make sure they’re at school and make sure they’re home and….fed and then t’wife walks in at half past six and just puts ‘em to bed [chuckling]

     

    TW:

    So do you have a family firm that you work for then?

     

    MT:

    I work for myself.  I’ve got me own business, but I’ve just really wound it right down until t’kids are old enough to be able to….get theirselves to school and……stuff like that cos you can’t really….I’ve done a lot of big extensions lately, but I’ve sub-contracted work out to other people, so I’ve just basically been organising and….sorting stuff out like that, and doing smaller jobs until….I mean, I’ll probably just keep doing that now, but it all depends on what work’s there, I mean I’ve been rang up to do back shopfitting again but I couldn’t take it on at t’moment cos of t’kids, so….

     

    TW:

    Is there a sort of creative element in the work, in the joinery that you do, or do you just work to specs and you just do it as quickly as you can?

     

    MT:

    No, cos at t’moment most jobs what you do is….like I’ve got a job tomorrow for….well I’ve got to go and look at a job tomorrow and what’s she’s explaining is, she wants some garden decking putting up off t’back of her house but she overlooks a river so it wants to be up on stilts and she wants some designs doing, so I do a lot of free drawing to….or scale drawings to….it’s t’same with kitchens, when you go to somebody and they want a kitchen doing, they’ve just got a space where they know what they want but you’ve got to try and fit it in, so you do a lot of your scale drawings and measuring up and trying to show people what it’s going to look like before you go in and do it, cos I’m not working to….if you get an extension or owt like that to do, you work to a drawing what’s come from an architect and then….but they’re always way out anyway, nothing ever fits from an architect because they’ve just got a tape measure and a little….and they just make things fit as they want, so you’ve always got to….change things and…..do what you can with what you’ve got.

     

    OTHER PERSON:

    Do you find you’re doing more and more work that’s more environmentally friendly and people are wanting work done to suit the environment?

     

    MT:

    Yeah, I mean……well a good thing is, I’ve just had a….what needed making, but the lady wanted it making, she didn’t want….she wanted Canadian oak because in Canada they actually set it up years ago to farm oak trees, so for every tree what’s taken down there’s another one planted, and like in this country no-one’s done that so the oak what you get from England is….basically a three or four hundred year old tree what’s been taken down and not being….where the ones from Canada, they’re all like farmed, you know, so she wanted it from a sustainable place which costs twice as much money as getting…..you can get it from Jamaica or you can get it from places what are a lot cheaper than just demolishing forests which she wouldn’t have, she wanted it definitely sustainable oak, so you do get people who are like that, especially up here

     

    TEACHING ASSISTANT:

    More conscious.

     

    MT:

    Yeah, and a lot of people don’t want PVC, not because of how it looks, but because it….of what it’s doing to the environment to make it, because obviously plastics, it’s……how it’s made, it puts stuff into t’air, so…….yeah.

     

    TW:

    Is there anything else anybody would like to ask?

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    What was your business called?

     

    MT:

     My business?  It’s Steve Thomas Joinery and Building Services.

     

    ONE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN:

    Would you like your children to go into the building trade?

     

    MT:

    ……I think they’d be best doing it as a hobby [laughing]  I think they’d be best….I want them to be hands on, I mean Dan’s already hands on with everything what we do, but…..I think they’d be better…….going into something what’s…..they’d go to university and going into a job what is gonna pay the money and then being able to say ‘right, I can go because I’ve got the skills what I’ve learnt – I can – I’ve got the money to go out and buy an house what I can do up myself’ or…..you know, instead of trying to do it as a full time job, but if that’s what they’ve decided to do, then that’s what they’ll do, I mean I think Dan’s at the moment going to go into farming which I’ll try and talk him out of, but….we do quite a lot of that at the moment as well, so….we’re always up and down on different farms….looking after stuff, so, they’ll do what they do, I’ll just make sure that they’re….educated at doing it.

     

    TW:

    Your family’s a bit like, your father was a brickie and he said ‘don’t be a brickie’

     

    MT:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    And now you’re a joiner and you’re thinking about going into sort of higher education with the knowledge that you have with that, and so you’re trying to pass that on to your children as well, like, and get them advanced and whatever it is that they decide to do, being at an advanced level

     

    MT:

    Yeah…yeah, basically I’ll teach Dan how to bricklay, I’ll teach him how to…..just like, I mean, I never went to college to be a bricklayer but I can wall bricks cos me dad taught how to wall bricks when I were nine year old; I built me first garage when I were twelve……in t’summer holidays when I were on t’six week holidays, because me dad were working for a company…..on an housing site and I went with him every day in t’summer holidays, and t’bloke who were t’Clerk of Works on t’job, he turned round and set me up building a single garage; it took me six week to build it and in  t’end he paid me for building t’garage which were…..about twelve year old, I think it would have been about three hundred quid, which for six weeks’ work weren’t a lot, but for a twelve year old it was; I bought a new bike, [chuckling] so I’ll teach my kids…..building and joinery and looking after t’farm and t’animals, stuff like that but, you know, it’s like me dad, if he decides he does want to go into…..the farming side and work with animals and stuff like that then I’d look at seeing if he could go through as a vet or…..so it’s t’same, he’s still working with the animals which he loves doing, but instead of working as a…..looking after horses for somebody else, looking after them in a different way, looking after them as a vet, so he’s still got the…….the money in it instead of……

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  I mean, was it your grandfather who was a miner then?

     

    MT:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    And I mean, did the stories of being a miner not…….you know, sort of that kind of lifestyle, not very nice, did that kind of get passed down through the family then, and that’s why you have this sort of attitude?

     

    MT:

    Yeah, when it came to t’miners strike me granddad, he…….he went into…..into t’building side, that’s why me dad ended up as a bricklayer.  Me granddad Percy, he……basically…..he clicked on very early in t’miners strike like, it weren’t gonna be over in a couple of week, and instead of messing about he went straight to t’building sites and he got on as a builder’s labourer, and then left the mining side of it completely, he just got of it and that’s how me dad ended up taking over as……instead of going to t’pit he went and became a bricklayer, but it were all self-taught then, it wasn’t….you didn’t go to college and learn how to do it, you just started off as a bricklayer’s labourer, watching and learning and doing a bit and then…..you carried on and…..so that’s what me granddad and me dad both did, so…..and now me dad owns a firm in Leeds which is a building company, so……

     

    TW:

    Is that it then?  Well we’d like to thank you for allowing us to talk to you, and everyone just say ‘thank you’.

     

    CHILDREN:

    Thank you.

     

    MT:

    No worries.

     

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

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Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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