He’s enjoyed a high-flying career in the RAF and faced the heat as a fireman.
But things have cooled off considerably for Leeds-born Eric Joyce.
He’s now a maker of delicious ice cream cakes, whose concoctions have won prizes in national and international competitions.
Eric and wife Janice run ice cream parlour Vanilla Bean in Slaithwaite.
The couple, who live at Marsden, are in the process of extending the business into a neighbouring property to provide a larger cafe and make more room for ice cream-making and storage.
Janice had set up the business five years before Eric retired from West Yorkshire Fire Service at the age of 52.
“I had plans for what I would do next,” he says. “I’d worked as a painter and decorator from the age of 13 to 17 with my dad and could turn my hand to that.”
But when Janice was unable to mix the ice cream because of a wrist injury, Eric took up the mixing bowl.
“I gradually got involved in the business, helping out by making the ice cream,” he says.
One of the sales reps calling at the shop mentioned there was an ice cream cake course coming up at Rimini in Italy, so Eric took the opportunity to attend – and has never looked back.
As well as making ice cream cakes, Eric has demonstrated the art at a national ice cream exhibition in Harrogate and has won awards for his honeycomb ice cream and Yorkshire toffee ice cream flavours.
He judges competitions, too, and is chairman of the Yorkshire division of the Ice Cream Alliance, the industry trade body.
Eric believes the secret to the success of his products is down to quality ingredients.
The milk and cream he uses come from a dairy farm at Pole Moor and other products such as flavourings and cones come from trusted suppliers.
Eric also makes flavourings to his own recipes using natural colourings and buys the fruits he needs from a neighbouring greengrocer.
“The traditional flavours of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mint are always popular,” he says.
“We have six ‘standard’ ranges and the others I rotate depending on the availability of seasonal fruits. People like something different.”
Vanilla Bean also has a loyal following, including cycling clubs from Lancashire.
“We have an old couple who come here every day from Holmfirth on he bus,” he says. “They get off the bus, call in and buy their ice creams and 20 minutes later they get back on the bus to Holmfirth.
“I have an ice cream seller’s tricyle which I take up to the park at Marsden.
“When Mikron Theatre were staging a new play about an ice cream man I was selling ice creams from the tricycle during the interval.”
The Slaithwaite ice cream parlour has also featured on TV’s Hairy Bikers show – when Janice was making puddings for the local meals on wheels service.
Concocting mouthwatering ice cream cakes seems a world away from Eric’s previous careers.
Eric, who hails from Horsforth, worked with his father, a painter and decorator, between the ages of 13 and 17 before joining the RAF.
“When I was a kid, there wasn’t much for a teenager where I lived,” he says.
“My father has been a paratrooper during his National Service and I wanted to join the army, but my mother didn’t want me to end up going to Northern Ireland.”
Eric got an interview at an RAF recruitment office and joined up.
He served with the air force for more than 12 years – 10 of those years with RAF mountain rescue teams stationed firstly at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire as a senior aircraftsman for five years before transferring to RAF Valley on Anglesey and promotion to corporal.
Eric met Janice at RAF Leeming, where she worked in the officers’ mess. Eric was also stationed at the base at the time that Prince Andrew was training to be a pilot.
During his years with RAF mountain rescue, Eric witnessed some harrowing scenes when his team was dispatched to plane crash sites.
On one occasion, they were sent from RAF Valley to the Isle of Man in the aftermath of a fatal plane crash involving a trainee pilot.
At other times, the team were called out to help with climbers and walkers who had been injured or killed.
He says: “There was a lot of comraderie and I keep in touch with some of the people I knew. Being in the forces gives young people a bit of discipline.
“As members of the mountain rescue team we were looked on as a bit ‘wild’. We would work hard and play hard and you had to have a bit of a sense of humour. When you get a call-out, you’re first on the scene and the scene when you arrive isn’t nice.”
Eric left the RAF as military cutbacks began to take effect – missing out on the opportunity of further promotion and a posting to RAF bases in Scotland.
In 1988, he joined West Yorkshire Fire Service. “At 30, I was the oldest one on the training course,” he says. “But I won a prize for being the fittest!”
After training at the Birkenshaw headquarters, he spent most of his service at Dewsbury fire station. During that time, Eric was among a group of firefighters who cycled 270 miles in 24 hours to help raise funds to restore a neglected memorial to six firemen who had lost their lives in the line of duty and relocate it from a park in Bradford to the Birkenshaw HQ.
He also competed for the brigade in mountain bike competitions.
He says: “Like the RAF, it was a job in uniform, but it was a different environment and the discipline was less rigid.
“In the fire service, you could say what you wanted, which you certainly couldn’t do in the RAF. The physical work didn’t bother me and I was used to working as part of a team.”
Now he’s found his new calling in a part of the world he loves.
He’s too busy with work to find time for hobbies – although he still runs the Fiat camper van which used to take him to mountain biking events and on holidays in France.
Eric and Janice hope to grow the business to the point where they can employ an apprentice – and pass on the skills of ice cream cake making.
They are also enthusaistic about backing other small firms. “We went to Downing Street last year when the government was launching its small business initiatives,” he says. “We were invited along with about 100 other people to talk to David Cameron, George Osborne and Vince Cable.”
Mixing with powerful politicians aside, Eric and Janice are happy to be part of a thriving local community.
“We have grown as Slaithwaite has developed,” he says. “There are plans for the mills and there has been some new housing. Slaithwaite is up and coming with fabulous independent shops and a thriving community.”
Role: Ice cream chef.
Family: Married to Janice with daughter Amber, 33, and son Sean, 29
Holidays: We haven’t time for holidays at present, but we used to go to France and I enjoyed mountain bike racing
First job: I had a paper round and worked in the local Co-op
Best thing about the job? I like the creative side of the job, making ice cream cakes
Worst thing about the job? When someone accidentally switched off the freezer when they thought they were turning off the lights and £400 of ice cream cakes were ruined
Business tip: Do your research about the type of business you are thinking of going into and be prepared to work a lot of hours before you get anything back
Work: Ice cream parlour
Site: Carr Lane, Slaithwaite
Phone: 01484 841611