Alan Bishop has been a Caretaker at Radley for 19 years. We sat down with him in F Social to ask how he first came to work here. 

It was a neighbour who first suggested I apply for a job and I came for an interview with Helen Smith (Head of Housekeeping until her retirement in September 2021). I remember I met her in the old Housekeeping department in the prefab buildings, where Music is now.

Initially I thought I’d be here for five years, term-time only so I could look after my daughter during the holidays. After about four years Helen thought she might be able to find me something all-year-round and found me the position as Caretaker in Queen’s Court. After that, my role changed to being a Roaming Caretaker and then to being a Social Caretaker. I look after four Socials now, along with Jim Connolly who also has four and Shane Paintin who has three – we fix lights, unblock toilets, touch up paint, mend chairs, move furniture … you name it!

What does a typical day look like for you?
I start at 7am in the week and 6am every other Saturday. My first job is to clean the floor and stairs in Queen’s Court before lessons start. At 8:30, I make my way over to one of my Socials and find out what needs doing – the PHM will have a list for me. Monday is always a busy day with blocked toilets or a collapsed sofa after too many people have crowded onto it after a football match at the weekend and we’ll try and repair it the best we can.

We stop for lunch in Hall – a very nice perk of the job – and then back to the Social. We prioritise the work so a broken chair will be mended as soon as possible so that no injury occurs, and a broken curtain rail will be fixed so that everyone has the privacy they need, spilt milk on the carpet will be shampooed straight away. Sometimes less urgent jobs have to wait until the next day.

I like interacting with the boys – they’re good lads and always very respectful and courteous.

You must have seen some changes in your time here!
The rooms in Socials spring to mind! When I first started a lot of the rooms were in pretty poor condition. Now the rooms are much nicer, they’ve got better and better. They tended to be dark and dingy, with dark paint colours, but now they’re much lighter with brighter paint and better and more comfortable built-in furnishings. Everything used to be done by milk float – rubbish, recycling and deliveries. Every boy used to have a newspaper in the morning, so there was a lot of recycling!

There was a laundry float, ‘The Radley Flyer’ and the Caretakers’ stores used to be where the Coffee Shop is now.

What do you enjoy most about working here?
I like interacting with the boys – they’re good lads and always very respectful and courteous – they’ll say hello, hold a door open for me if I’m carrying a load of boxes, and thank me for fixing something in their room. It’s nice to watch them as they go from quiet Shells to confident 6.2s.

Can you pick a highlight or a moment that shows what Radley means to you?
One thing that sticks in my mind was a retirement party a few years ago where some of the boys did an acapella performance in the Music Department. The singing was amazing, and I said to Suzie-Louise Naylor ‘Wow, that was good!’ and she said ‘It’s thanks to people like you and these ladies here (members of the Housekeeping Department). You all play a part for them because they don’t have to think about anything else but their singing and their music; they don’t have to wonder about whether they have a clean shirt or why their tap isn’t working properly. They just tell someone, and it gets sorted, they don’t have to worry – they can just focus on what they’re good at.’

She might not remember saying that but it always stuck in my mind – we all play a part, it’s about the environment at Radley and I’m proud of that.