Peter’s Bananas

As I stood alongside Peter, working away, trying to keep up with the product that sped by on a warp speed production line, he told me a very funny story about the first job he managed to get when he first came to jolly old England.

He saved up just enough money to pay for a cheap flight to England and arrived in 2005. He couldn’t believe his luck when he landed a job in a banana factory in Loton. He made the move across from his native Poland because in his words “It was on its arse”. He couldn’t find a job for love nor money in his homeland, and he had travelled the length and breadth of it. He had found temporary work on various farms but the pay was insulting and the long hours made the insult tantamount to criminal. He left his girlfriend behind (Who he eventually married. At last count, they have 3 children) and chanced his arm at coming to England in a desperate attempt to make them enough money to eventually live a life they wanted to live.

When he arrived in England he knew nobody and spoke little English but he was/is very industrious. He found and bought a broken down and rusted old Volvo, worked on its engine and made it work. Not only did he drive it around trying to find work, he also lived in it (For about 3 years) Peter didn’t tell me how the banana factory opportunity materialized, but it did. He found a field to park his Volvo in a few miles from the factory and made that his base.

He told me on his first day nobody really spoke to him, even though, as far as he could tell, most of the workforce were Polish or eastern European. He said all they did was nod they’re heads and occasionally say hello, but they would stare at him continuously. Every time he looked up from the crate of bananas he was sorting, half a dozen people would be watching him intently. He said he had considered that they were staring at him because he was so outrageously tall and said he asked them several times what they were staring at, but their response was to look away and concentrate on their job until they thought he wasn’t looking, then they would stare again!

This behaviour continued for the next few days and he admitted to me that it made him self conscious and nervous.

Then it happened!

He was working as usual, picking bananas from the crates, looking up occasionally to watch them watching him. As his hand emerged from the yellow mass of bananas, his head turned from watching the watchers to see the biggest blackest spider sitting on the top of his hand!

He told me he ran down the middle of the factory floor screaming like an old lady, his screams barely muffled by the sound of laughter and clapping as he ran past his audience.

He’s terrified of spiders, especially big mother f#$%ers!!!

After a while he plucked up the courage to walk back into the factory, greeted by applause and “Duza dupa” which translates as big ass!

They had waited patiently for his reaction the first time he came face to face with the spiders.

He admitted he must have been a funny sight. Him, 6.7. Running and screaming, his long arms flapping around uncontrollably.

Anyway, he stuck at it for 3 years, living out of his Volvo, living a paupers life so he could save enough money to move to Chesterfield, rent a flat and pay for his girlfriend to join him.

Peter told me so many funny stories about his life in Poland and England.

I have the utmost respect for him as a person. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a person with so much tenacity and determination.

My Polish Friend ‘Big Peter’

When I worked at Gunstones Bakery, (See my Gunstone posts) I stumbled across my piss taking soulmate in the form of a 6 feet 7 inch Polish guy called Peter. He ran one of the production lines that made sandwiches for Marks & Spencer, and he instantly struck me as extremely enthusiastic in doing the best job possible in the least amount of time. It was the sound of his broken English accent that caught my attention first. Everyone across the very large factory floor couldn’t help but hear him calling out enthusiastic and encouraging words to the people who worked on his line.

Standing by the machine I was in charge of, I would look across at the source of the voice and watch his red hair net marching up and down the line, aided by his stilt-like legs, clapping his hands, focusing on all of his ‘players’ to get the best out of them. I watched with amusement as he occasionally paused his goose steps to linger around one of his team members who were not working to their full capacity. He would shout words of encouragement, immediately followed by an encouraging slap on the back for the recipient. More often than not, as Big Peter continued with his hand-clapping march down the line, the recipient of his enthusiasm would flip him the middle finger, quickly followed by a ‘Wanker’ sign, which I found very amusing.

I got to know Peter when I was asked to help out on his line after I had finished what I was doing on the piece of machinery I was working on. I very quickly got to know him and discovered his sense of humour actually reflected mine. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that when I helped out on his line he would spend lots of time stood by my side, working alongside me, talking and laughing.

The fact that he spent most of his time with me meant a vast reduction in the amount of time he had previously spent on his relentless clapping and shouting. (Result for everyone else on the line)

We actually had one slightly panicked but very amusing accidental incident that neither of us took responsibility for but both of us knew it was a shared cock-up. We were deep in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other, laughing and not paying attention to the sandwiches that passed before our very eyes on the fast moving belt. The sandwiches we were producing had to be a certain weight to pass final inspection before they could be packaged for distribution.

A loud, panick stricken voice from the next department boomed for the attention of Peter . “Stop the line, stop, stop, they’re underweight!” Peter hit the red stop button and shouted “Fucks sake!” He then stormed up to the plastic curtain that separated the departments and stood momentarily talking to the person who had discovered the mistake. Peter whizzed past me, hissing “Fucks sake!” Whilst looking at me with a ‘Help me’ expression. The management had somehow miraculously appeared at precisely the wrong time for Peter. One of the management, a nasty piece of work, immediately jumped down Peter’s throat, barking expletives at him. Peter turned around and called to the people on the line to “Go for break”. I knew what was coming because I usually helped Peter spot a mistake with the sandwich ingredients, helping to keep production going without to much of a hiccup. I went down to the plastic separator and asked how many were underweight? He replied with “About 4 thousand”.

Peter caught up with me, heard the other guy say 4 thousand, shouted “Fucks sake” and said “We need to get rid of the underweights, and fast”. I replied by stating the bleeding obvious, “Management already know mate!” Pointing towards the office, to which he replied by informing me it was their idea to get rid of the evidence.

The ‘Incompetent’ mistake would look bad on them, so they wanted them to ‘Disappear’. They would make sure the vast amount of waste would vanish into the system. So, Peter and myself grabbed huge plastic bags of the underweight sandwiches and ran to the waste bins, about 100 metres away, empty the bags and run back for more! We filled 3 waste bins up, big bigggg bins, until they had ‘Disappeared’!

At the precise moment the last sandwich had been thrown away, the team reappeared to carry on with producing the remainder of the sandwich order.

Myself and Peter missed our break, I took my place on the line whilst Peter marched up and down the line looking flustered, but still managing to ‘Bark’ words of unfeeling encouragement! Every 5 minutes he would walk past me and whisper “Asshole” to which I would reply “Dick”.

Over the months, poor old Peter made a few similar cock-ups without any assistance from me, which unfortunately resulted in his demotion. Apart from taking home a lighter pay check, he seemed happier. I eventually trained Peter to work my machine and eventually, we worked side by side for a few months before I was made redundant, laughing most of the time.

He taught me how to say rude things in Polish, and insisted I pronounced them with feeling, which of course, I did.

It was during our witty and less than serious conversations together that he told me about his first job in England after his arrival.

I’ll relay what he told me in the next post.

What does friendship mean to you?

I published this 5 years ago (It seems like 20) but probably wrote it a few years before that. I vaguely remember sitting down at the computer feeling angry and depressed (I can’t remember why)

Friendship, pardon the word, conjuring

Visions of companionship, closeness

Bordering on the edge of marriage,

Extending the limitations of a secret alliance.

How wretched are people?

The true meaning of friendship,

A common fallacy, almost every

Friendship is flawed, scarred by the weight

Of expectation.

Being there, through the good times,

Being there through the bad,

Sharing a multitude of likes, opinions,

A multitude of dislikes,

Smoking the last cigarette together,

Socializing together, fighting together,

Conscientiously objecting together,

Laughing, crying together.

All associated with “friendship true”,

Only half the truth.

How about hiding the truth,

Even though it may force you to take your last breath?

How about instinctively sensing when unhappiness

Is killing your friend?

How about knowing instinctively when to sit quietly and just listen.

How about knowing instinctively when to walk without words?

How about knowing instinctively when to pause the music, so your “best friend” can sing?

Even when they can’t.

How about sacrificing your moments of happiness

When it hurts you the most?

How about kicking the pebble away

So they won’t hurt the their (Soul) feet?

How about never, ever contemplating using your

Friend for your own ends?

How about coming second best,

So they can come first?

How about not measuring friendship

By distance?

Or the amount of spirits drank together?

How about not pretending to be someone they want you to be?

How about pretending to be the person they ask you to be?

How about encouraging your “best friend”, even when you’ve

Given up on yourself?

How about never asking or taking, just giving?

Unrequited friendship, it’s difficult, yet easy, inconvenient, painful,

An oft-time thankless task, even though

Thanks are never sought.

True friendship means just doing, because it’s the natural thing.

True friendship is not just being there,

It’s knowing, sensing, feeling your friends pain so they know they can

Rely on you, even when you’re not there.

True friendship means whatever the situation, however difficult, whatever the outcome, it’s never a thankless task.

Heartfelt words

Of thanks are never necessary, truth

Means true friendship.

The Hebe Bush

I planted this Hebe bush years ago in my garden as a memorial to my dog that passed away. I wrapped him up in his favourite blanket and buried him there (Binza) and planted this over him.

Over the years it grew out of control, so every year I’d cut it back a little bit to tame it. (Show it who the boss is)

Over the weekend (I managed to get Friday afternoon and all day Saturday off work) I decided to breath in some inspiration from my friend and yours, Mr Miyagi and allow my inner-self to shape it into what you see in the photograph.

By no stretch of the imagination am I a gardener but I’m quite proud of it. I think if Binza had still been around today he would have given it his seal of approval by lifting his leg affectionately.

But I kind of like it.

Patrick

I feel like I need to do this for my friend and colleague. A young man I work with has been in isolation for the last 10 weeks because he suffers from pretty bad asthma. He’s such a caring and vibrant young chap, brilliant at his job with the world at his feet.

We found out at work yesterday that his mum passed away at the tender age of 47.

He comes to me often for advice or just for someone to talk to. Not sure what to say to him or how we can help him when he eventually comes back to work.

We’re all thinking about him at work.

When he does come back we’ll do our best to take care of him and help him back into some form of normality.

So this is for Patrick, as he is prone to saying “Love ya man”.

Important Addon

I just wanted to make it very clear regarding the last post that I am very appreciative of George and the many hours of help he has given us so far. We couldn’t have made it through the days without his selfless help.

He’s a genuinely lovely chap, and despite the leg pulling he has received, it’s all been in the best possible taste. In fact his leg pulling antics have revealed themselves much to the amusement of all the staff.

Long may George continue.

George Receives The Full Steve Monty

So every 30 minutes or so I would pop around to ‘Check’ that Steve was doing his fair share of the work, knowing full well that George would be doing the lions share!

A very funny episode unravelled on one occasion. I opened the patio door, and the aroma of faeces hit me full-on in the nose. Poor old George was at last taking a breather from playing Cinderella, with a steaming hot cup of tea teetering on his bottom lip with Steve sat in exactly the same position as he had been previously. I entered the living room and said “Phewwwww, something smells very funky in here”, which immediately alerted George, who stood up quickly, spilling tea on the floor. Steve remained motionless, looked at me and said “What smell”?

Then George confirmed what I could smell, so I moved stealthily around the residents until I pinpointed the culprit! Steve watched me intently (Clint Eastwood style) as I helped the culprit to his feet, at which point George took over, leading pepe le pew upstairs to the bathroom. I offered to help George, at which point Steve announced he would help, ordering me to go away in a high pitched shrill!

I could tell Steve was reluctant to take part on the cleaning process, so I told Steve that i didn’t mind helping out. At which point George insisted he didn’t need help. So i turned to Steve and told him (whilst trying to be serious) that I was bitterly disappointed in his work ethic, which drove him to take drastic action and chase me out through the patio doors.

At that point I returned to my work and left them alone for a while (But not to long) in fact George came around to talk to me a little later with a look of confusion painted across his face. I asked him if everything was ok and he replied by saying “You told me I was in good hands with Steve! I’m not being horrible but he’s f#$%g useless” I laughed whilst insisting that Steve was THE man to learn from.

He walked away from me promising he would “Get me back” which very nearly made me collapse on the kitchen floor with laughter!

I hope I’m not painting a bad picture of Steve because he is very good at his job, very reliable and able to handle any situation that crops up. However, I also knew through experience that he preferred to ease the newer members of staff in by throwing them in at the deep end so they understood from day one what they were in for!!!

The good thing for George was that Steve told him to go home at 8pm, after administering medication because Steve knew George had a 2 and a half hour drive home. George was reluctant to leave 2 hours early but Steve insisted.

I couldn’t help but have one last leg-pull as George popped his head in to say goodnight and promise to bring down vengeance upon me! I said “Goodnight, nice to meet you”. But as I unlocked the garden gate I said, with a very straight face ” I can’t believe you’re leaving Steve to work on his own, 2 hours early! Shame on you” George didn’t think I was joking and stated that he wouldn’t leave, that I was right, until I admitted I was only joking, at which point he growled with pretend anger and asked me if I really thought it was acceptable that he was leaving Steve to work alone, to which I jokingly replied “Well, to be honest, you haven’t really done anything anyway”. He looked at me seriously then laughed whilst calling me an “Infuriating twat”.

I actually waved him off whilst shaking my head to indicate disappointment whilst Steve stood by my side, slapped me on my back and said “He’ll never return “.

But return he has, several times in fact, armed with the knowledge not to work with me or Steve ever again!

The Bright Side Of George

A few days after George had bid us a swift but temporary farewell, his car pulled up outside the residence where I work at 2pm and he came bounding through the garden gate like Lassie with a pack of dogs in hot, horny pursuit.

I watched him pull up in his car and I went to open the the padlock on the gate to let him in and for me to stand outside the grounds and take in some of my ecig (I’m doing my best to stop smoking!) I greeted his gazelle bounce with “I’m just having som…..” and he stopped me mid sentence by saying “It’s ok John, I understand how things work, so do exactly as you always do, I’m not that kind of manager, I’m one of the lads”. So I closed and locked the gate behind him and made a smoke signal to indicate big chief sitting bull had declared peace and tranquillity.

I immediately recognized an opportunity for a gentle wind-up when one of my colleagues walked out through the patio doors of the house next door and onto the back garden to greet his ill prepared workmate! Steve (I’ve spoken about him before in a previous post, the man with the vocal ability to render dogs stone deaf) stood there smiling his Sunday best. Steve is a devout Christian (I have no problem with that) so as Steven’s eyes locked with George, I shouted over an introduction, saying “Steve, this is George, he worships the Devil.”

Steve’s expression changed instantly and he turned around, walked into the house and slammed the patio doors shut. George glanced at me as he hurried towards the patio doors and utter the word ‘Twat’ in my direction.

I disappeared into the house I was working in chuckling to myself.

Not 10 minutes later George came around to my house and asked if Steve was for real, referring to his voice. George genuinely thought Steve was pretending to speak in a way that was difficult and painful to understand!!

When I explained that Steve genuinely spoke in that way, George said “You’ve really stitched me up haven’t ya, I canny understand a word”. Whilst laughing I explained that Steve was a lovely man who knew the job better than anyone, to which George replied whilst grinning “Bastard “, which made me laugh even more.

Throughout the first few hours of the shift, I popped around to ‘Check’ on their working relationship! Every time I saw them, Steve would be sat in the living room, interacting with the residents whilst watching television with them and George either mopping, sweeping or on his hands and knees, disinfecting the skirting boards, drips of sweat falling onto the laminated flooring. Of course I seized on the opportunity to ask Steve if he was busy, which caused George to look over in my direction and shake his head. George’s reaction didn’t go unnoticed by Steve, who ordered me to “Go away” and “Stop causing trouble “.

Between fits of laughter I informed George that a nice cold drink awaited him at the house i was working in if he was feeling dehydrated.

Strangely, as George mouthed “Piss off” in my direction, Steve shouted in tandem with George, an ear splitting “Gooooo” in my direction!! 🤣

In the next installment, I’ll carry on with the antics of George’s first shift with us.

Fun Times On The Bright Side

So, during lockdown I’ve been working as normal, albeit with a watered down staffing issue. Everybody has been covering the hours left vacant by 4 members of staff who have been personally effected by the virus.

For a few weeks we were literally down to the bare bones, spending the majority of time at work, leaving home life behind.

That was until the arrival of George. He arrived one morning unexpected by myself and my colleagues, but as it turned out, expected by our manager, who had decided to make a rare but welcome appearance. The doorbell rang, the door was opened and there stood George, asking to see the manager whilst brandishing his identity card. I ushered him in whilst attempting to prevent one of the residents from. A- Escaping and B- from jumping on our visitor (As he’s prone to doing)

George rushed past me and ran straight upstairs to the open door of the office, where our manager was waiting to greet him with a smile, immediately followed by “John, this is George, George, this is John, he’s going to help out whilst we’re in a pickle”.

I could tell by his accent he wasn’t local, he sounded like Paul Gascoigne. For those who aren’t familiar with that name, he was/is an imfamous but mercurial ex-professional footballer.

We didn’t see him until just before he left the property, popping his head in to say “Sees ya next week”.

Our manager informed us a few minutes after his departure that he was one of the upper tier managers of the whole company but didn’t act like one! He was a down to earth, no bullshit, get your hands dirty type of chap and that he wanted to help our team out during the pandemonium. We chatted about the shifts he was willing to cover and he had offered to pick up most of the afternoon shifts that we were struggling to cover. I asked if he lived locally, and our manager said he didn’t and that he lived in County Durham, 135 miles from where we work. I said “Bloody hell, surely he’s not travelling to work for an 8 hour shift then driving back after”? She said he was with an exaggerated nod of her head, to which I replied with “Is he a full shilling or hasn’t he got a life”? She laughed and warned me to behave.

In reality, nobody at work actually expected him to come to work, and we wouldn’t have blamed him! I ask you, a 270 mile round trip, 3 days a week to be attacked by flying faeces (An aspect of the job he didn’t know about) is not exactly an attractive proposition.

Miraculously, he came to work to following Monday, which is a whole blog that I’ll talk about in the next post.

Unfortunately, I have chores to do for most of the afternoon but, as my mate Arnie once said “I’ll be back”.