I suppose a lot of memories relate to the things we couldn’t obtain both during and after the war when food was still rationed. For a time dad kept chickens at the bottom of the garden so we had eggs. This was not always the case however and on one occasion my enthusiastic sister had obtained some new and greatly improved kind of dried eggs (or so it said on the packet). It was claimed that three spoonfuls of this miracle mix were the equivalent of one fresh egg. Accordingly Gene dug out a recipe from the faithful Mrs Beeton for Angel Cake, which started out with the words “Take 8 eggs”. Well that was pretty straightforward .. multiply by three, that’s just twenty four spoonfuls of the miracle mix.
Come to think of it her serving skills weren’t too good either as she once gave a good vigorous shake to a tomato sauce bottle without having first ensured that the top was screwed on. The result was a highly satisfactory (to me at any rate) column of tomato sauce which erupted upwards, hit the ceiling and the descended to liberally coat the initiator. I seem to remember that it was me that got into trouble for overdoing the hysterical laughter. Sometimes there was just no justice !
Dad and I don’t come out of the culinary stakes with an entirely clean record. One Sunday when mother and Gene had gone to mass (something I used to try and avoid by lying in bed and hoping they had forgotten me until it was too late) Dad discovered a recipe for crunchy toffee in the Sunday People which involved the use of baking powder to produce all the little bubbles (we worked that out for ourselves) so in an attempt produce super light crunchy toffee that would rival the stuff that Fry’s made we upped the baking powder content (doubled it in fact if memory serves me correctly). The stuff was duly mixed up and put in a large saucepan on the stove. It started to rise… and rise…. and rise. It soon became apparent that the saucepan was not going to be able to cope with this stuff, so another one was produced and some mixture `poured into it, where it continued to rise …. And rise. before long just about every flat surface in the kitchen was covered in an assortment of pans and dishes full of this stuff. When the ladies arrived home from church you could tell that they weren’t entirely happy from the outset. I can record that they were even less happy when we tried to chisel the stuff out of the pans. Still, unlike the angel cake we did manage to chop it up and it did taste OK so we weren’t entirely ashamed of our mornings work. Neither did dads serving skills greatly exceed those of Gene with the sauce bottle. He used to pop over to the off license on the corner of Oxford Street and Green lane and buy draught bitter in a tall white jug which must have held about a litre on one Sunday he had collected his beer and whist he had gone mum served up the grub which include the rather thin gravy she always used to make in a tall white jug ……
One of the more interesting laboratories that I worked in and which in hindsight was historically significant was a small section comprising two engineers (Ken and Roger)and two trainees (Mike and myself) under the leadership of Godfrey Hounsfield, who were working on data storage using rotating drums coated with an oxide film (in effect the first hard drives) and memory composed of hundreds of tiny ferrite beads through which yours truly had to thread extremely fine wire using a standard fine sewing needle.
Godfrey was a great chap to work for, he was always known simply as “H” and had brilliant intuition for all thing electronic. In many ways the typical absent minded boffin he was very likeable and I was not entirely surprised many years later to learn that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for his work developing the body scanner. Mind you H was by no means the only eccentric in the team. I clearly remember Ken, one of the engineers explaining to me that he knew that he had started to have a nervous breakdown when he found the he could see the water boiling in our kettle through the lid ! .. nuff said!!
By this time my years at EMI were drawing to a close. I had completed my Higher National and signed on for an extra year to study advanced radio engineering and design. If I didn’t do so my exemption from national service would be ended and I would be hauled off to serve Her Majesty.. something I was not at all keen on. It will have become apparent by now that I was something of what we would today call a Nerd and Nerds tended not to fit into military environments very well.