My Favourite Contracts in IT.
Nuclear Electric IT Contract
This was one of my favourite contracts. I’ll tell you why.
When I went to Nuclear Electric in 1991, it was the middle of a severe downturn in the contractor market. Although it was in Bristol and I lived in London, and the rate wasn‘t great, I was glad to get it. Working for a Nuclear Fuels company didn‘t sound very exciting. However, it turned out to be one of the best jobs that I ever had.
It wasn‘t a great start, as they told me on my first day, that I was taking over from a permanent guy whom they were making redundant,. They had already told him so.
He was working out his one month‘s notice and I had to get him to pass all his information over to me. The poor guy was also going through a messy divorce as well. However, things got brighter from there (for me anyway).
Visiting Nuclear Power Stations on IT Contract
My job was to contact the 10 Nuclear Power stations in England and Wales, and go and visit them to map out a conversion from the old system to the new American Document Control package that they were putting in place.
It soon became clear to me that all the Nuclear Power stations were in beauty spots throughout the land. It was almost a case of picking out the beauty spots and then looking for the Nuclear Power station. I enjoyed, most of all, my visits from Bristol to Anglesey in North Wales, to Snowdonia and to Romney Marshes.
In case any of you live in these areas, and are a bit annoyed at having a Nuclear Power station in your area, I am only glorying in the beauty of your area, and not in the fact of the Nuclear Power station in your midst. Besides, I was only working on contract for the company.
Good People of Hartlepool and Nuclear Power
Having visited the sites and spoken to the local citizens, I know that this has to be said. I remember that on my first visit to Hartlepool, that I was staying in a local hotel. I decided to have a few beers in the bar the night before my site visit.
Soon I got talking to some of the local people, who asked if I was on holiday or on business. I told them that I was up on a visit from Head Office to the local Nuclear Power station to help put in a new computer system.
There was something about the juxtaposition of Nuclear Power, computer systems and Head Office that seem to make their dispositions change instantly. I told them I was merely a contractor. I agreed with everything bad that they said about Nuclear Power and the Nuclear Power Station. That seemed to mollify them a little (I‘m no fool).
Mediterranean Beach from Nuclear Power
They told me that when the government first wanted to build a power station there, they told them that Nuclear Energy would make electricity so cheap that it would hardly register on the meter. They also told them that because the station would take in cool water and send it out again as hot water, that it would affect the surrounding air temperature to such effect that the climate at the beach in Hartlepool would be similar to that on Mediterranean beaches.
‘OK, we‘ll take it” they said.
Instead, Nuclear Power was more expensive than fossil fuel power or hydro-electricity. Also, instead of the beautiful vision of the local people of Hartlepool cavorting on a Mediterranean style beach, they said that they were too afraid to even let their children go into the water there.
It was quite easy to agree with them, and avoid potential damage to my person. I said that I would mention their concerns the next day, but the opportunity never came up.
I wondered when I was there, what you called people from Hartlepool. I knew that you called people from Liverpool Liverpudlians. Was it possible that you called people from Hartlepool Hartlepudlians?
The people that I asked didn‘t know and they asked around the bar. A couple of the older ones confirmed that they were, indeed, Hartlepudlians.
What about people from Blackpool? Is it possible that they might be Blackpudlians? It would certainly suit the Lancashire image.
My favourite place, though, was Anglesey and I used to go there regularly (one has to make sure one has it right, mustn‘t one).
It isn‘t normal that contractors are able to tour the country, staying at fancy hotels for several days in the nation‘s beauty spots, taking advantage of expenses in so doing. It also saved me paying, often, for my bed and breakfast in Bristol.
In North Wales, and in particular, that part of the country, many of them speak Welsh as their first language. That makes it a little bit more difficult to get to talk to them in the local hostelries.
Once I had been there once or twice I was fine though. They are quite happy to speak English to anyone – as long as they aren‘t English.
They told me that they were True Welsh, and that the people in South Wales weren‘t True Welsh as they had been so heavily penetrated by the English.
I worked opposite a guy from South Wales (who happened to be my boss) back in Bristol. I was happy to carry this news back to this proud Welshman. He‘d heard this before and didn‘t agree with it.
I asked him, if he himself had been penetrated by many English people. ‘Watch it! Watch it!’ he said, and I did, as I had the feeling that I had gone too far this time.
A Yorkshireman in Snowdonia
I remember, one time, driving back from Snowdonia with a Yorkshire contractor. This was his first visit out to the stations. We had a great time and we stayed at an ancestral home which they had turned into a hotel. It was out in the countryside, and our allowance enables us to have a nice meal and a nice bottle of wine each night as well as having a few beers in the bar.
Anyway, we were driving back through the mountains of Snowdonia past a beautiful lake, in his convertible car, when I said, ‘This is the life isn‘t it John’? ‘Hmm’ he said, not very enthusiastically. I continued, ‘It was a very enjoyable stay.
It‘s not like work at all. And the best bit about it is that we‘re paid contracting rates whilst driving through Snowdonia in an open roofed car on a beautiful sunny day’.
‘Hmm’ he said again (he wasn‘t very loquacious), and with even less enthusiasm than before.
My Favourite Contracts – He Though Was Not Right
Then it clicked with me. He thought that this was wrong. It wasn‘t right to be enjoying work so much. It wasn‘t right to be driving through Snowdonia on a beautiful summer‘s day whilst being paid contractor‘s wages.
I put this to him, and he said that this was correct, that this was how he felt.
I told him that we had to get from one place to another, that the job needed to be done, that management were ‘˜au fait‘ with it, and it was fine by them. He said that he still felt in his bones that it ‘weren‘t right’.
I think that there are some people in life that aren‘t able to enjoy life, no matter what, so I just let him drive on (Oh yes, I was in the passenger seat), as I soaked up the beautiful countryside on this sunny day.
The fact that I was being paid to do so, made it all the sweeter for me, even it soured the whole thing for John.
I was glad to get home at the end of the contract, as my wife had just had our first child just a few days before the end of my contract, but I have many happy memories of my time with Nuclear Electric. It’s one of my favourite contracts.
I do wonder sometimes though.
My second child was born a couple of years later with Brittle Bone Disease and died 31 minutes after he was born. A couple of years later, I had a son and he was born with six fingers on each hand (both extra digits are now removed).
I have wondered whether this had something to do with my time at Nuclear Electric. I have been assured by several experts that this isn‘t the case. However, I was also told by several Nuclear Power Station managers that you get as much radiation in a long haul flight as you would get in a year working at a Nuclear power station, and I only ever visited them.
I‘m sure that‘s true, but I wonder what the proud people of Hartlepool would say to that piece of reassurance, as they sunned themselves on their scorching ‘˜Mediterranean style‘ beach in the North of England.
So, that’s one of my favourite contracts in IT. Share your favourite contracts with us too.
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