Thursday, 7 January 2010

A great big greedy nincompoop

The eldest's bedtime read is currently Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Dahl is a superb story teller and the young fella is transfixed. Nearly as much as when he had 'Fantastic Mr Fox' read to him: when it ended he burst into tears, he'd enjoyed it so much. (However, I'm reliably informed the recent film is rubbish).

Yesterday evening I read him the chapter where Augustus Gloop's greed leads him to fall into the Chocolate River, where he flounders before getting sucked up a pipe to be made into fudge, or so it's suggested.

I've had a similar experience to young Gloop.

My first proper job was working in the Fry's Somerdale factory near Bristol (below), part of the Cadbury empire. It made the old Fry's products such as the dark chocolate and variously flavoured 'Cream' bars and Turkish Delight (which contains rose essence made from Nepalese roses, oh yes), as well as a number of Cadbury ones: Mini Eggs, Double Deckers, Crunchies, and so on.
It's quite a beautiful place: a vast, towering, red-brick, 1920s edifice that stands in a rural situation on the banks of the Avon. I had an early start and I've witnessed fewer more beautiful sights than approaching it at dawn, when at a certain point on the road you see it through rising river mist, its storied expanse of east-facing windows aflame. It was also surrounded by playing fields for the workers, being founded as one of those idealistic Quaker enterprises that sought to provide for the health and happiness of its workforce.

Sadly, it is due to be closed by the current Cadbury's management and its production moved to Eastern Europe, a fact that should give pause for thought to those objecting to the current Kraft hostile bid on patriotic grounds, particularly as Kraft have offered to rescind the decision. Not that you can trust any of them, however.

Anyhow. It was not the most stimulating job but it had its small rewards. A large cardboard box containing various chocs in the office, for instance. I am something of a sucker for chocolate and at about 11am and 4pm each day I struggled to resist the temptation, putting on about half a stone in my first three months. In fact, I'm almost ashamed to say that I'm something of a greedy swine when it comes to the brown stuff. And this gluttony nearly led me to Gloop-like doom.

My job occasionally took me up to the Chocolate Making Department (more sexily called 'CMD') which was at the very top of the factory, having panoramic views through its large, many-paned windows of the surrounding cow-strewn countryside.

The chocolate was mixed in vast, eighty-year old, granite-lined troughs, mighty steel rollers pounding up and down, mixing remorselessly and grinding ever finer as they did so. Conveyor belts fed these troughs with something called 'crumb', a raw sort of pre-chocolate, and more belts as well as pipes translated the resulting substance to other floors, where it was heated and made silkily smooth enough to coat nougat, fudge, honeycomb or whatever. These belts whizzed around your head and disappeared through holes in walls and floor.

One day I found myself alone up there. I happened to pause just where a fully-loaded belt was moving past me at about head height. I was fascinated: gobbets of chocolatey goo, with the consistency of stiff cake mixture, were gliding effortlessly past, close enough to just reach out and touch...

Well how could I resist? I looked right and left and stuck my finger out to catch a little blob. However, the mixture landed on the belt however it fell; it was unpredictably lumpy. As my finger poked out, what it had been aimed at had moved on, and instead of catching a little blob on the end of my finger, I ended up catching a large, satsuma-sized blob on the side of my hand.

Panic seized me: could this be a disciplinary offence? Perhaps I could even be fired: I was being horribly unhygienic. Gross misconduct. Totally gross.

I did the only thing available to me. I stuffed the satsuma-sized chocolatey blob into my mouth and ate for my life, or at least my job. I got it down me pretty quickly and then, swallowing madly, had to wait for my saliva to run sufficiently clear to lick its traces from the side of my hand. I composed myself and returned to work, feeling uncomfortably sick and also sweaty - an excess of chocolate can bring on a sweat. Believe me.

But at least I wasn't made into fudge. And it obviously didn't put me off chocs.

Me in my Cadbury days - I had more hair then


Anonymous said...

That's not how I remember you!!!!


Gaw said...

Well, I'm certainly wearing braces now (ask Mum)!

worm said...

save some room for later Augustus! definately one of my favourite kids movies ever (the original that is) book was good too, I spent many an idle moment wondering about vermicious knids

Brit said...

Great yarn - don't tell Nige about your Dahl-love, though.

Gaw said...

Worm 'n' Brit: I remember that debate. But the kids just love him and that's surely a decider.