Most people have a clear idea of what they want to do in life; however I just seem to have just drifted along and fallen on my feet in nearly everything I have done. Retiring from the police at the start of the Millennium was suppose to be a new start; not just for me, but also for my wife Mary. We had just moved to Orpington to be nearer her job at Farnborough Hospital. We had tentatively spoken about “job reversal” and how I would stay at home where I would care for the house and cook all the meals whilst she pursued her career in personal management; well, as you can imagine, that lasted about 3 weeks!
I still wanted to work but didn’t want a role with any responsibility. After 30 years of being “the boss” I was quite happy to step back, take orders and let someone else be in charge. Having applied for and been turned down for several posts I thought about working for a local firm of funeral directors. How hard can that be?
I sent off my CV to Andrew Uden at their branch in Camberwell and within 24 hours I got a call asking if I had a grey suit. When I said “yes” he invited me to come and see him. The following day I travelled up to Southampton Way armed with my Certificate of Discharge, copies of my commendations and letters of reference. Instead of an interview he waived these aside and said, “That’s fine, you’re out in 10 minutes, just follow the boys and you’ll soon learn what to do”.
I remember having a quick practice of carrying a coffin around the garage before jumping into a Daimler limousine and driving behind the hearse on my first funeral. I was paid £20 for the job.
Over the next few weeks I got regular calls from Andrew offering me further work. Although many of the funerals were in or around Peckham I was also sometimes expected to travel up to Camberwell, pick up a limousine, drive out to Sidcup or Petts Wood, take the family to Eltham or Beckenham Crematorium and then return them home before taking the car back to Camberwell and driving home again. Sometimes I would be out for nearly 8 hours and still only got £20 for the job!
Four weeks into my new job and I had some difficult decisions to make.