After four decades at TW Gaze, witnessing countless changes to the work and the personnel, Paul Head really has seen it all.
On Tuesday, Mr Head marked 40 years since his first day of work on January 10, 1977, at TW Gaze’s Diss office, as an accounts clerk, fresh out of school and having just moved to Kenninghall with his parents from Romford in London.
Now the company’s business manager, overseeing operations at all three locations in Norfolk, he jokingly said the milestone had brought to mind a piece of advice given to him by Jack Martin, who himself was employed with Gazes for 60 years.
Mr Head recalled: “He said never stay with the same company for your whole working life, as they will just use you as furniture in the end. Clearly, I never listen!”
Working for £12.50 a week at the start, Mr Head explained the job was very different back then – with no desktop computers, all of the accounts were carried out using paper ledgers, some of which were the size of a desk.
He said the introduction of new technologies had made a ‘major impact’ on the business, especially as the TW Gaze auction rooms grew, after the fall of Apthorpes, the other established auctioneering firm in Diss.
“The technology has changed the most. In theory, it’s supposed to make it easier, but as with everything, technology brings its own set of troubles,” he said.
In addition to accounting, Mr Head was also called upon to help out in various areas of the business, from measuring field sizes, to calculating stocktaking valuations written in code and lotting up auction sales both inside and outside.
He described the livestock sales in particular as ‘eye openers’, recounting how he often pitched in with weighing and penning pigs for auction.
“Apart from the fact that I couldn’t understand a word the farmers were saying, I managed to wade through pig poo and get the pigs ready for auction,” he said.
“I only ever lost one sow that escaped from the auction rooms. I gave chase across the park but gave up when she decided to swim across the Mere into the town centre, causing a bit of mayhem along the way. She was eventually tracked down on Victoria Road before being arrested by the police!”
He added that during the 40 years, there had been ‘many ups and downs’, with one of the big ups being meeting his wife Beverley, and that while many staff had come and gone in that time, the company always kept a ‘great working atmopshere’.