The amazing life of Britain's oldest floorlayer - Chapter Seven

Sixty-nine years after beginning his first job in the flooring sector, Keith Shenton is still working on his knees. His astonishing life story will be serialised by CFJ over the next few months.

WE concluded last month’s instalment of Keith Shenton’s life story describing how he was doing part-time flooring work with his friends Derek Rideout and John Butler while also working behind the bar at The Peach Tree public house opposite the Theatre Royal on Parliament Street and Foreman Street.

One evening, he was with his girlfriend and a group of friends at The Goldsmith Arms when he got the sense someone was staring at him. He turned around, causing the woman, who looked like she’d been in a trance, to look away. She continued with her bar work

The next time Keith went to the bar on his own. While ordering a drink, Sally the managaress said in a serious voice: ‘I need to tell you what Daisy said.’

‘Who’s Daisy?’ Keith asked.

‘Daisy Penman, a well-known clairvoyant who works here, behind the bar. She told me you’ll very soon meet a girl with big brown eyes and within six months you’ll marry her as she’ll be pregnant.’

Keith was alarmed. He had a girlfriend, for one. And on top of that, Daisy Penman apparently had such a good reputation as a psychic that she was used by the police to locate missing people.

We can’t speak to Daisy about how she saw into Keith’s future, but we might get an idea by looking at how mystics help the police in their duties. In September 2015, The Express ran an online article titled: ‘Meet the psychic detectives who help solve police cases’

Diane Lazarus from Sutton Coldfield was at the time a professional psychic who says she’d travelled all over the world to help police investigate crimes.

I first saw spirits at a young age so for me it’s nothing out of the ordinary. When I’m working on a case I don’t refer to the dead as spirits, I call them ‘energy’. The police give me a photo of the victim or they arrange a face-to-face meeting with a member of the victim’s family or occasionally the family member contacts me directly. I always record these readings and take notes so the police can refer to them, which makes it easier if the case goes to court.

Diane’s first case was nearly 20 years ago when she lived in Swansea. Two officers visited her, told her a man was missing and that they wanted to see if she could pick up details about what had happened to him. ‘Using my psychic skills I could see the man had committed suicide and was slumped in his car. The police later found the man in his vehicle in the location I described.’

We can assume Daisy was able to ‘predict’ Keith’s future in much the same way Diane was able to determine how the man in the car had died.

However, there is evidence of Daisy’s abilities online. The following question regarding her appeared on Yahoo about 10 years ago:

‘My dad told me about a lady called Daisy Penman who knew almost everything. She was so good that the police consulted her. I just wondered if anybody else knew of her? My dad is 76 from Nottingham and he used to be a steeplejack.’

The following response came from Barbara about five years later:

‘Yes, I remember Daisy Penman who lived in Nottingham. I found out about her through the mother of a schoolfriend and I visited her twice when I was about 17 (in about 1959). We’d heard she was very good and was even consulted by serious businessmen. I visited her out of curiosity and didn’t give much weight to the things she said about my future. My mother also visited her once. In a few months, several things she told us came true - quite specific things and, looking back now that I’m at the other end of my life, I can confirm that several things she told me, including the fact that she could see me living abroad for a very long time (although not necessarily for the rest of my life!) turned out to be very true! I eventually did live abroad for nearly 30 years but returned to live in England nearly 20 years ago - both events were completely undetermined at that time and my return to live in England was never envisaged until it actually happened! Daisy Penman may well have been a pseudonym used only when she was working. I don’t remember the name of the street where she lived (a dead-end street of terraced, red-brick houses) but I’ve a friend who may know the answer.’

Despite being alarmed about what Daisy had told Sally, Keith continued with his life and forgot all about it. He knew many people his age including Jenny* who worked at The Nottingham Evening Post. One day, three weeks after Daisy’s prediction, Jenny walked into The Peach Tree with her friend Margaret* who was ‘a short brunette with big dark brown eyes, very attractive’.

‘Who’s your friend?’ Keith asked Jenny.

‘Margaret. You like her?’

‘She’s fantastic!’ said Keith, clearly smitten.

Jenny introduced Keith and Margaret.

‘Fancy going to the pictures?’ Keith asked her.

‘Yeah, I don’t mind.’

‘How about Sunday night?’

Keith arranged to meet Margaret at Lion’s Café in the market square because that’s where everybody met in those days. He ‘made an effort’, dressed in a suit and waited. And waited.

Alas, there was no sign of Margaret. Two coffees and 45 minutes later, Keith decided to give up. But as he walked downstairs towards the front entrance, she walked in.

‘She was dressed in a purplish leather coat and my heart went boom!’ he says.

‘I didn’t think you were going to come,’ he told her.

‘I wasn’t,’ she replied.

Oh well, that’s a good start, Keith thought to himself.

‘But my mum pressured me to turn up,’ Margaret continued.

After cinema, the two went to The Denman Arms and had a quiet drink which was promptly interrupted by one of Keith’s previous girlfriends.

At 10pm, Keith took Margaret to The Goldsmith Arms where Sally stared at her. When Keith went to the bar to order a barley wine for Margaret and a pint for myself, Sally said: ‘Do you remember what Daisy said?’

The penny dropped. ‘Margaret had the biggest brown eyes,’ says Keith. ‘I sat there, contemplating the prediction and not saying anything while Sally continued to serve other customers.’

Keith and Margaret started dating. ‘She lived in a beautiful house while I had a hovel,’ said Keith. ‘But that’s the way I am – warts ‘n’ all, no airs-and-graces, take me or leave me. You get what you see. At least I was fit in those days. I did weight training three nights a week.’

Keith says he fell hard for Margaret and that it was an exhilarating but unsettling experience. ‘I’d never felt like that with any girl I’d dated before.’

Not long after meeting Margaret, he told Derek: ‘I’ve met this girl and if I get the chance, I’ll marry her.’
Keith’s friends knew this was serious. ‘Hell will freeze over before Keith gets married,’ they joked. Well, in that case, the devil must desperately have been applying anti-freeze to the walls of hell because it looked like Keith was – as per Daisy Penman’s prediction – heading for the alter.
But all that was not yet.

SHORTLY before he met Margaret, Keith faced a situation that resulted in a criminal charge and dented his professional reputation. It also brought him the ire of his father, which devastated him. The incident, even after all these years, clearly haunts him. ‘The only stain on my character happened when I was charged with fraud in Nottingham in 1964,’ he says.

According to Keith, he knew the owners of a restaurant near the city centre. They asked if he could add an extra carpet on top of the original carpet in-between the tables and from the entrance doorway. He had to buy single naplock bars to complete the job. Naplock bars are aluminium bars which enables the transition between carpet and vinyl. The word naplock refers to the locking of the carpet nap (pile).

‘As I didn’t own a van in those days, I travelled by bus to the shop in Nottingham where these could be bought. I introduced myself and a shop manager asked me if I had an account with the shop. I told him I didn’t.’

‘If you don’t have an account, I can’t help you,’ said the manager.

‘Could I buy the materials on someone else’s account?’

‘Yes,’ was the answer.

Keith provided the name of a carpet shop in Nottingham for whom he’d fitted previously.

‘Can you phone them so they can grant permission telephonically?’ said Keith.

According to Keith, the manager went to make the call and returned 20 minutes later. ‘The answer is yes,’ he apparently said. ‘It’s okay for you to buy the goods on their account.’

Keith bought a tube of single naplocks. ‘I tendered the cash, but the manager said he couldn’t accept payment and that I’d have to settle my debt with the company which had the account. The manager said he’d send the invoice to the company and it was up to them to invoice me in turn. I thought no more of it and walked out of the shop carrying 8ft tubes of naplock. I couldn’t get on a bus with them, so I had to walk the two miles to the restaurant.’

At about 11pm that night after the restaurant closed, Keith began fitting the naplocks, then he fitted the carpet to the naplock, hand-sewing up the seams where they joined. He gave the proprietor the cost and the next morning he was paid in cash. The proprietor congratulated Keith for a ‘great job’ and Keith thanked him for the ‘superb’ complementary meals with which he’d been provided.

Over the next few weeks, Keith says he visited the shop on whose account he’d bought the naplocks, expecting to get invoiced for his goods. But when it didn’t happen, he let it go and forgot about it.
The shop from which Keith had bought the naplocks had billed the company with the account, as per the arrangement. But apparently unbeknown to Keith, the company on whose account Keith had bought the naplocks returned the invoice with an accompanying letter stating that the naplock shop needed to invoice Keith directly.

Unfortunately, Keith says nobody at the naplock shop had taken down his name, address or contact details, and even though he’d since visited the shop, nobody had stopped him to explain the situation. ‘I was blissfully unaware about what was going on,’ says Keith. ‘I was just living my life – doing the odd carpet fitting job during the day and working behind the bar seven days a week and Saturday lunchtimes.’

One evening two detectives Keith knew called in to see him and told him they had to interview him regarding the tubes of naplock and that the naplock shop had apparently accused him of obtaining goods fraudulently.

Keith says he was horrified. ‘How long have you known me? You know I wouldn’t do anything like that. I went to school with most of you. You come to the pub and drink with me. In some cases, I know you because my dad was a policeman.’

But his appeals fell on deaf ears. The officers took his statement and a few weeks later, he received a summons to appear in court. ‘The charge was that I obtained goods fraudulently. That was a huge shock to me!’

Keith related his story to a friend on The Nottingham Evening Post when he came into the pub for a pint and the reporter gave him the name of a solicitor he’d used in the past.

‘I consulted this solicitor who told me I should’ve given the money I owed to the shop on whose account I’d bought the goods the first time I visited them, not hung around waiting for someone to invoice me. My mistake!’

However, the solicitor agreed to represent Keith, so the case went to court and was twice adjourned because earlier cases were dragging on. Five weeks later, he finally appeared before the magistrate, and pled not guilty.

‘Evidence was given by representatives of both shops, one of whom from the naplock shop allegedly said he’d okayed the transaction because the phone had been constantly busy when he’d rung to get permission on my behalf,’ Keith claims. ‘I was incensed. I was found guilty, fined £12 as well as the cost of the naplock bars.’

This meant the incident cost Keith more than he’d made doing the actual job and he ended up with what he describes as a stain on his character. His name was mentioned in The Nottingham Evening Post and his father, an ex-policeman, looked on him as a criminal who’d blackened the family name.

‘I should’ve been shipped to Australia in chains – or at least that’s how I felt about myself,’ said Keith.

BY the time Margaret walked into his life, though, Keith was ready to let go of his shame and move on with his life. Their relationship was fiery, stormy, passionate. Margaret had a creative temperament which appealed to Keith and after five months of dating, she fell pregnant and he decided he was going to put a ring on her finger.

‘I went back to The Goldsmith Arms and told Sally that Daisy had been right – I would end up marrying the beautiful girl with the big brown eyes.’

Sally wasn’t surprised. ‘Daisy’s never wrong,’ she said.

Keith started making wedding plans, setting a date at the registry office in Bourne. But Margaret fell ill and tragically lost her child shortly before the wedding.

‘My whole family – aunts, uncles, the lot – were waiting at the registry office when it emerged that Margaret wasn’t going to make it as she was so unwell,’ says Keith. ‘So, I went around the corner to a callbox, rang the registrar office and cancelled the wedding.’

‘You can’t do that,’ said the man.  

‘The lady isn’t well,’ said Keith. ‘I can’t go on my own.’

So, the wedding was called off. Margaret eventually got better, but the relationship remained stormy or as Keith describes it ‘a love-hate affair’. By 1967, they’d broken up. So, Daisy Penman’s prediction might not have completely panned out, but it wasn’t the end for Keith and Margaret.

Meanwhile, Keith was thinking of taking the next step in his flooring career by moving to London. He went on a reconnaissance to look for work, targeting between eight and 10 wholesalers in one day. They all said the same thing: ‘Get yourself an office, get your cards printed, and we’ll give you loads of work.’

So, Keith returned to Nottingham and started to prepare for a new life in London.