Yorkshire Pudding kindly posted some photos of the red squirrels he saw on his recent trip to Formby as I’d asked him to and I can appreciate the problems he must have had in getting one of the critters to stay still long enough to pose.
I much prefer this native rodent to its incomer cousin, the grey squirrel, which infest our garden and steal the bird food.
Despite what YP would have you believe, my nickname isn’t, and never has been, Tufty, the eponymous evangelist of road safety, even if Tufty Fluffytail and I are the same age. But we did have a brief connection in my early working life.
The first job I had after leaving school was as a junior with the Town Clerk’s Department of Manchester City Council. My first posting was with the Policy and Finance Office in the old town hall which was quite a grand place of work and the plum job for an aspiring local government bureaucrat. Sadly, that wasn’t for me and when I said that I had no intention of studying for the relevant qualifications, I was expelled to the Road Safety Office, the council’s equivalent of the gulags of Siberia.
In fact, it was good fun, or at least more fun than filing, photocopying agenda papers and pouring tea and coffee for the panjandrums of the committee. Instead, I got involved in all sorts of things, from organising advanced driving lessons and skid-pan training to splicing and editing promotional films, from cycle proficiency training to promoting the Green Cross Code.
And that’s where Tufty comes in. There was a woman in the office whose job it was to organise and run the Tufty Clubs in the city. I wish I could recall her name, but she was a very jolly lady, everyone’s idea of their favourite aunt, which made her perfect for this club for the under-fives. And I did help her out on occasion, although less so than the jobs listed above.
One memory that does stick though is the introduction of the Green Cross Code in 1970. The office was tasked with distributing tens of thousands of leaflets to the Tufty Club members dotted around in the city’s infants’ schools. They were loaded into the back of the council blue Commer van, emblazoned with the city’s arms and the words ‘Road Safety Office’ on its side, and off we set.
The thing is, paper is really, really heavy when packed tightly in cardboard boxes and the van lurched precariously as we drove around Albert Square. Then disaster struck as a traffic light turned to red and the ex-driving instructor at the wheel hit the brakes. The van screeched to a halt, despite the unaccustomed weight of the load. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the boxes of leaflets which continued their forward momentum, passing between driver and passenger and out through the windscreen.
There were leaflets flying everywhere and red faces all round as we had to gather them up as quickly as we could before the Evening News got wind of it and sent a photographer from their Deansgate offices to record our embarrassment.
I have written about my abortive career as a road safety officer before and now realise that I got it wrong when I misremembered the leaflets being about the then new Pelican Crossings and now realise that the dates would have been wrong. So fond, if inaccurate, memories.