by Daniel Bysouth
Starting at a new company is always a scary thing to do; Keith and I both started at M.J. Green’s on the 2nd January in the mid-80s. For me only the second place I had ever worked, for Keith over 30 years at Mann Egerton’s made the move very difficult and he was to struggle in a big way.
I had a much easier time; I joined a team of 3 in the paint shop. The team comprised Andy, the chief painter who had been with the company for many years and was also taking on managers duties - he was very good at both. Second was Steve AKA ferret, a very good painter indeed, highly skilled and had a wicked sense of humour, and finally Carl, a prepper / painter and a real clever lad. We all just got on so well. I was looking forward to prepping and getting some painting experience.
Our paint shop was an old wartime Nissen hut which was red hot in the summer and like the North Pole in the winter. The panel shop was across the yard and the only access was an electronic ramp; not ideal but the beaters managed. We had an interesting paint store and mixing room. To enter the store you had to unlock a massive heavy duty thick steel door, and the same again to enter the mixing room.
I think I should have said that we were sited on the old WW2 airfield of Martlesham Heath. It was a far cry from Mann Egerton’s but it appealed to me and also had a strange feel to it. The company was owned by two guys called Dave and Mikey, Mikey being the ‘M’ of MJ Green.
He was such a brilliant bloke - we hit it off straight away as we both had the exact same sense of humour, which got us into many sticky situations, more of which later! One Friday I asked him what he was up to at the weekend and he told me that as his Mum's birthday was on the coming Saturday, he would go to see her. Strange thing was, my Mum's birthday was on the Sat too, not only that but both our Mums lived in the same village. Stranger still, they were great mates. I knew Mikey’s Mum well and always spoke to pass the time of day when ever I saw her. Thus, Mikey and me got on like a house on fire.
Now, down the side of our paint shop was a grassy strip of land that at one time was used to store wrecked cars. Towards the far end was an apple tree which had seen better days. Mikey told me that at one time he had an large Alsatian dog which was chained to the tree at night as a guard dog. The dog had free range of the grass strip and could not get run over as his chain only reached to the edge of the grass. If anyone was about he would go mental, enough to scare any one away. At home, he was Mikey’s pet and as meek as a lamb.
Mike had noticed that the dog was really wound up and upset one morning and this went on for a few days. Mike wanted to know why, so one night he bedded down in the paint shop and kept lookout through the side window. He could see the dog and the road and at around 3am he heard a car pull up. He looked out and saw it was the local Bobby on his beat. Thinking the Bobby may have seen his car tucked away, Mikey thought he should explain why he was there.
Before he could get out of the building to speak to him, Mikey was amazed to see the Bobby had started throwing stones and yelling at the poor dog.
The dog flew towards him - teeth bared, growling and barking for all he was worth. He got so far, then came to an abrupt halt at the end of his chain and landed in a heap.
The Bobby laughed loudly, got back into his car and sped away. Now Mike is clever, he wanted evidence, so the next night he was again in the work shop but this time he had his camera.
Again in the wee hours along came Mr. Plod. Once more he picked up a stone and chucked it at the dog, who immediately raced towards him and promptly sank his teeth into the Bobby’s leg.
Mikey howled with laughter as the copper yelped and ran to his car, hopped in and was off like Graham Hill. That six feet of extra chain that Mikey had added was just right! He didn't bother with the photograph; his chain idea was so off-the-cuff. It never happened again and the Bobby never said a word about it - he was seen limping a bit though!
The next 14 out of 17 years were spent pushing the boundaries of technology in body and paint, we had such great time that even the great Gerald Wiley could not have written. Some of these times will be coming soon in future stories I have in mind.
Now I mentioned that it was a strange place. I was alone in the paint shop late one afternoon, it was dark and I saw a face at the door waving for my attention - I was only 4 to 5 feet away. He was in uniform; an officer's cap, white shirt, tie and braided cuffs. I thought it was probably an American from one of the bases nearby.
I opened the door and stepped outside onto the large open square. I was dumbfounded to find there wasn't a soul in sight. As God is my witness, there was nowhere for a person to hide out of sight. I spoke to Mike about it and he said that this sort of thing had happened to him many times. Fact is that it was not the last time something like that would happen.
There are so many adventures that I could tell you about - it would take years. I will select the best and share them with you in future stories. I promise your chuckle muscle will get some exercise, but for now, thank you for reading my little story – I hope you enjoyed it.
Part 1 - Triumph Stag
Part 2 - Interceptor
Part 3 - Rolls-Royce
Part 4 - Her Majesty vs the Honey Monster
Part 5 - Rolls, Allegros and an MGB causes trouble
Part 6 - Rain
Part 7 - Brassy and a Rover SD1
Part 8 - A P6 and a Big Bird
Part 9 - The End of an Era
Part 10 - Unipart Man Cometh
Part 11 - Honey vs. the USAF
Part 12 - Meeting my Heroes
Part 13 - A Winter's Tale
Part 14 - Winds of Change