Exodus 6 v 1 – 13/ Matthew 4 v 18 – 22/ Acts 9 v 1 – 10
Tell me Mr. Turton, what you consider to be the most important aspects of being a Building Inspector?
The words floated across the desk as if on butterfly wings but landed on me as if on a hornet’s sting.
It was July 1969 and I was a 21 years old bricklayer working for my father. Two months earlier Jean and I had got married, and we had a long talk, as newly marrieds do, about the future. Jean worked for Sharpe’s greeting card manufacturers in Bradford and earned £14 per week. She had just returned to Sharpe’s after leaving to be a House Mother in a children’s home in Knaresborough, but the pay in social care did not compare with that at Sharpe’s. I had been given a pay rise on reaching 21 and now earned £10 per week. We had just bought a house for £2,500 and with it came a mortgage of £7-10 shillings per month so the long talk that we had resulted in the decision that I needed a job with better pay.
I had met Building Inspectors when they came on site to check our work and one in particular, was very friendly with my dad, I think they had an army connection from the war, and he told me of a job opportunity at Huddersfield County Borough Council for an Assistant Building Inspector. I applied, and there I was sitting in the Borough Engineers Office being interviewed by the Borough Engineer and two other people. It was the first interview that I had ever had and I was totally unprepared for it.
The Borough Engineer was a man called A. L. Percy who stood for no nonsense. He was short in stature, and had a military stance with a sort of weather beaten face and a very short crew cut hairstyle, the hair turning grey on the top of his head. It was A.L. Percy who had fired the question at me.
If the truth was known I knew very little about the role of a Building Inspector, my only contact was through being on site when he looked down a drainage trench or foundation excavation, but I knew nothing of the legalistic background to his site visits.
I know my dad used to complain when they were late arriving for an inspection and we were left waiting, but he also described his friendly Inspector (George) as being the one who spoke the most sense, so that was it, that was the answer.
I blurted out, ‘don’t be late and talk sense’.
As the words left my mouth my stomach rolled over and over, and I subconsciously realised what a stupid answer that was. The room seemed transfixed in time, no one spoke, A. L. Percy just stared at me and I wished that I could go home.
Why couldn’t he ask me a question about bricklaying, about foundations, about building a chimney breast, anything except a Building Inspector?
Eventually A. L. Percy lowered his crew cut head and with his fountain pen, he started to write in his book in front of him on the desk. Suddenly, without even lifting his head, he said, ‘do you want this job as a permanent career?’
I had given up after the ‘talk sense’ answer so I just muttered something about learning the job and moving forward. Mercifully that was the last question and after a few instructions regarding procedures, I was requested to go into the anti- room with all the other applicants and wait further instructions.
As I sat in the anti-room I looked at the other applicants, all older than me, more experienced, and I bet they know all there is to know about being a Building Inspector. After about ten minutes one of the interviewers came into the room, thanked us all for attending and told us we could all go home, except Mr. Turton who was requested to go back into the interview room. For a moment I was looking round to see which one Mr Turton was, then I realised it was me.
On re-entering the interview room, everyone was standing and smiling, except A. L. Percy who just shook my hand and said, ‘welcome to the team’. I was asked the usual questions such as how much notice I had to give to my present employer, as they would like to get me ‘on board’ as soon as possible.
I suspect they were eager to train me up as a Building Inspector and get me to talk sense.
Sometimes other people see something in us that we can’t see ourselves and I suppose that is the skill of a good interviewer to tease out of an applicant the potential that makes the applicant the best for the job.
God not only sees the best in us but also gives us the skills and ability to do his work. Take Moses for example, he would never have considered himself as being a great leader, in fact he tried every excuse in the book in an attempt to persuade God to send someone else but God knew that Moses was the man and he would successfully do God’s will.
The disciples were taken way out of their comfort zone when they responded to God and followed Jesus. If we consider the journey that lay before them it is unlikely that any of them would have been successful applicants at an interview in human terms, but when God choses someone for his work he gives them skills, strength and power to do the job.
Paul had a complete change of direction in his conversion on the road to Damascus,. Who would have chosen him to be the conduit of God’s message of good news through Jesus Christ to all nations, when he was persecuting the very people that he would later actively save? God knew that Paul was the man he wanted to do his will and would be his servant.
God calls us all to do his work, sometimes in the most unlikely way, outside our comfort zone and what we would consider, to be beyond our abilities, but when God calls we will respond because, like Moses, no matter how many excuses we put forward, God will give us what we need to do his work.
In answer to A. L. Percy’s question about my career, I stayed in Local Government Building Control for over 40 years so my mumblings to his question were fulfilled.