U3A Todmorden had clearly bargained for 45 minutes from Philip Caine on 21st February, but it got a lifetime’s worth of fluent storytelling (and a chance to buy a book at the end of it).
Leaving school at 15 in Barrow usually meant a trip to Vickers-Armstrong and signing up for an apprenticeship. But Philip bucked that for the excitement he’d been having behind his dad’s back – cheffing at a local hotel.
After a two-year apprenticeship in the kitchen, a series of jobs in Bowness, Harrogate, London and Paris and some hotel management led to Philip’s indomitable wife, Sandra, suggesting oil rigs. Two weeks on, two weeks off – what wasn’t to like? For both of them!
And that led to ten years on rigs in a variety of roles, followed by seven working in logistics for BP in the North Sea.
But boredom was setting in. ‘So, Sandra, how about my going to Algeria to build an accommodation block in the desert for 500 people?’ ‘No way, I can’t be sure what you’ll be up to.’ ‘Tax-free salary, though.’ ‘Off you go, Big Boy.’
And the same again in Nigeria.
Philip’s next big challenge came as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, and he took a job with Chevron building accommodation for 2000 in a new gasfield in Kazakhstan. Six weeks on, three weeks off and Sandra was still happy.
Supply lines were a challenge – 6000 meals a day require a lot of meat. The route from Russia was through bandit territory. If you keep losing $20,000’s worth of meat, you need a new supply route.
A certain Russian Colonel Alexei offered his help. He had two business associates in Moscow. They could charter planes. The meat was flown in.
And when Alexei wanted his nightclub running, Philip was his man, assisted by bouncers from the local judo club. A nice little earner for the lonely evenings.
Then the big gamble. Resign, start a company, borrow money and build two hotels in Astana. A pity it coincided with the crash and Philip was left with $250,000 of debt.
But Sandra believed in him. After 2 years working and managing to service his debt, he snapped up a job in Baghdad – building accommodation for 30,000 troops in three months.
Complicated security and travel logistics meant the camp was often short of 400 migrant workers for up to eight days.
Alexei’s business associates obliged by operating charter flights between Dubai and Baghdad. Changeover gap reduced to 36 hours. Brilliant.
In spite of the dangers inherent in this workplace, Philip had paid his debt off in 2 years and finally quit in 2010. After which Sandra got a bite of the cherry and they lived in Dubai while Philip set up companies in Kurdistan.
When that got tricky, he closed his company and went home to Barrow.
Where he was bored. ‘Write a book about what you’ve done,’ said Sandra. And thus the Jack Castle series was born, all based on a lifetime of experience.
And if publishers turn you down? Become your own publisher and enjoy rejecting those same people who gave you the thumbs down. And tell them you’ve a screenplay in development.
What a whirlwind of a life! A terrific talk from a most engaging speaker. U3A Todmorden salutes you, Philip Caine!
U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, March 21st, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45.
We will be welcoming back Maria Glot. Last time we heard her lively, detailed and entertaining take on Titus Salt and Saltaire; this time she will be talking about ‘After Titus’.
Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), firstname.lastname@example.org
(email), or 01422 886021 (phone).