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Learning the Drainage Industry

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

In the beginning (Part 1)

When I sit and think about it, it's hard to believe that I started out in the drainage industry back in the last century.1999 to be precise. What a different world it was back then. We had never heard of COVID-19, mobile phones were like bricks and there was no such thing as 'social media', we even still had a 4 year wait for the rubbish 'MySpace' to launch. The internet was still in its infancy, and probably a much nicer place than it it is today.

I had completed my construction qualifications some years earlier and although it included plumbing, I never really considered drainage as a viable career. Not many people do. In the interim before I found the wonderful world of sewerage I had travelled the country installing better Boots (The Chemist) stores, this was where I was to meet my wife, but that is a story for another day!

When the contract with Boots finished I decided I needed a career change, something away from construction and retail and I ended up at Aviva in the insurance game, it was short lived because in my time there I was dealing with homeowner claims and soon got involved in 'Accidental Damage to underground services', working closely with one of the selected supply chain which in those days was really built on personal relationships.

Now Worthing Sixth Form College
The old Norwich Union building in Worthing. I remember standing outside here to watch the eclipse.

Whilst working with Aviva (then of course called Norwich Union) I was able to learn a lot about tree roots and pitch fibre pipe de-lamination, in those days shared drains were everywhere (pre 2011 private sewer transfer) and it was a nightmare for insurers like us. That is where the experts came in. We used a supplier that could give us the expertise and help we needed. Very important to outsource to the experts!

On my first day at Norwich Union I got talking to a friendly chap called Warren (more about him later). We were both super keen and had come from similar backgrounds in retail, we had even been to the same college although not at the same time. We had a lot in common, including a love of football, beer and generally having a good time (we were in our 20's then!). After a few months it was clear that Warren and I were not cut out to work in an office, we had more about us and knew we were going to move onto other things.

I left Norwich Union after 10 months, I had been working with the supplier and between us had realised we were a great match. We had to be careful and ensure things were done correctly, as we did, and I went with Norwich Union's blessing and a fantastic leaving do and presents (one of the best in my career actually, so I must have made a decent impression in my 10 months there!). To be fair, the people were great and we had some fun times and made some lasting friends. The workplace was different in those days, we could even smoke inside the social club! Things were a little less 'watch what you say' and more 'do what you do'. No one thought about things too deeply and I don't remember anyone arguing insensately about there beliefs and trying to force their opinions on others, maybe it was just because I was younger but the world seemed a less stressed place.

Well actually it was January 1st 2000
The eve of the new Millennium, yes I did used to have hair.

I miss the team spirit and great nights out especially New Years Eve 1999, one to remember for everyone and I spent it with some of my Norwich Union friends.

As the year 2000 started and none of my computers crashed or exploded my attention turned to learning a new trade and industry. I was excited, I had found a strange fascination with, rods, plungers, and CCTV cameras that went inside pipes! This was to be a new era.

The company I had joined were called 'Druants', yes thats right, not 'Druids', 'Durrants' and numerous other names we got called. They were imaginatively named after the 2 owners - Drew and Antony. Two very interesting characters with fascinating backgrounds who had also 'found' the drainage industry. They had an office in Runcorn - yes where is that I hear you say, I said the same. Well its 'Cheshire' don't you know.

Runcorn is basically one big industrial estate, Astmoor, and that is where the office was. A strange place, it was huge, lots of offices and space for vehicles and equipment, I was quite surprised at how large the operation was.

Dad had kept my card for 22 years.

I had already got to know Tony quite well, and his general manager Chris. We had shared a few drinks and I had earned the nickname 'Ice Man' (again a story for another day but has an interesting link in future years). So when I started I already felt at ease with the team. On my first day Chris came to pick me up at my house. I was still living at home in those days (yes yes I know I was 26, it was the year I moved out, but I loved living there with my Mum and Dad). Dad had a good chat with Chris, he was very interested to know what I was going to be doing, as he always was. My Dad always showed so much interest in me and my job, he gave me the confidence to try new things and be positive about every situation, and he always backed me, no matter what.

This was not the job.

As we left the house that cold rainy April morning, I was really excited. I can remember exactly where we were headed for our first job. Worcester Park near Chessington. I can still remember the house, the street, and where the manholes are. I remember it like it was yesterday even though its nearly 22 years ago. My drainage journey was about to begin.

To be continued......

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