A Character To Enable

One of the people I began to support during my first week of shadowing was a real, correction, is a real character !

Before I go on, I’ll briefly explain the process. Each person who is referred to enablement is given 6 weeks support. (6 weeks is a ridiculously small amount of time to help and support someone turn their life around, and it’s a constant bone of contention) Every so often, an individual is granted a 6 week extension if they’re not fully engaging with support or their improvement would be compromised if support was withdrawn. In my opinion, support should never be stopped until the individual is in full remission mentally and fully independent. Sometimes, support should never be cut off ! What’s the point in supporting and enabling someone if we’re not going to see it through until the end, whatever the end may be ?

So, back to the ‘Character ‘. A colleague of mine has ‘Supported’ him for about 2 years! He’s a long term client, someone who has been deemed ‘Beyond’ everyday support and almost impossible to enable. The difference that makes him long term is this. There are no other services out there who are willing to offer him support. The general consensus is, the other services don’t know how to support them, so it’s handed over to us. (This is the overall opinion of my colleagues, who have far more experience than me)

The first time I met him was entertaining, confusing and pretty demoralising. We pressed his flat intercom (Which is no longer in existence because it was mysteriously ripped off the wall, and hasn’t been replaced) and waited for a reply. It crackled but we could make out intermittent words. If you remember the British comedian Norman Collier and his ‘it’s working, it’s not working microphone sketch’, you’ll know what I mean. We waited outside the building for a few minutes, waiting for some kind of coherent communication, when suddenly, the door opened. He came bouncing out to greet us, his arms flaying around, his eyes wider than a black hole. He looked at me in surprise and my colleague introduced me. He went to shake my hand but there was some sort of radioactive glue stuck to his fingers, so I offered a fist bump, which he accepted with a pretend explosion to decorate our greeting.

All three of us walked into the local town centre. Well actually, my colleague and I walked, but he bounced like an exaggerated moon walker, gliding on marshmallows. Every few seconds, he stopped to speak to a random passer-by and repeatedly said, “Have a nice weekend, lovely to see you, look after yourself, merry Christmas “. And during the times he wasn’t be pleasant to strangers, he stood by the side of the road extending the middle finger to passing cars, giving them his ‘I’m going to kill you ‘ stare!!!

In amongst all of this erratic behaviour, we tried to convince him to follow us into shops so we could support him to buy essentials. And, he never, ever stops thanking us for our support! When I say never ever, I mean to the point that you want him to stop. I hear it in my sleep!!!

He has a problem with drugs and alcohol, which plays a major part in his behaviour but he also has psychological problems, so it’s quite difficult to know which ‘Problem’ has the biggest influence over him. As I mentioned, we eventually persuade him to go into shops and encourage him to buy healthy produce. He’s emaciated. However He, he has been deemed to have ‘Capacity’ by psychiatrists, so if he wants to buy items that are not really healthy and nutritious, he just gets on with it.

His flat/Apartment looks like a bomb has exploded, smothered with street garbage has exploded all over it. We support him to clean it up as best we can, but often, he will stop us from throwing things away by saying “Don’t throw that please, I found that yesterday. I like it”. When he says “Found” he means he’s worked his way through a bin in the streets, and found something he may be able to sell or swap for money or drugs.

I discovered very quickly, that I really like this chap, I Don’t know why, I just do, he possesses real character born out of a life of mental illness and hardship.

There’s quite a lot to say about this character, who I will refer to as Mr XYZ, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Hope everyone’s well?

Enabling

As I understand it, (And I understand things in very basic ways) to enable someone is to give a person the best chance of becoming more able to help themselves. In a nutshell, it should be liberating. It should help and support a person to find the strength to get up off the floor and walk in the direction that gives them the best chance of freedom, both physically and mentally.

My first day on the job was like no other first day I’ve ever encountered (And I’ve had lots of first days) I woke up early, excited and a little nervous. My new manager contacted me to inform me I could pick up my work laptop and phone from the offices at 11am. She arranged to meet me outside the offices (We were not allowed to go inside because of the dreaded covid: We’re still not Allowed in the office!)

I arrived on time and approached the entrance to the office, and waited, and waited, and waited. I tried opening the door but it was locked. The boss was 30 minutes late, and couldn’t apologise enough. She seemed really nice, in fact she is a lovely lady. She used the intercom to ask someone to bring said items down to us. (I hadn’t noticed the intercom!!) A really friendly looking chap came out to us waring his mask and gloves, and handed them to me and welcomed me to the team, obviously smiling because the little crows feet around his eyes were prominent and he was squinting like Lee Van Cleff. Boss lady briefly explained the procedure I should go through when I arrived back home concerning the set up of my equipment. After a lengthy, formal, informal and lighthearted chat, I casually turned on my heel, and headed towards my car, fully intending to drive home, only to be halted in my tracks with the words “Do you want to come on a visit with me? It’ll be a good experience for you and give you an idea of what to expect “. What could I say, I couldn’t refuse! Boss lady instructed me to follow her in my car (We’re not Allowed to car share, covid policy. We’re still not allowed to car share!) So off we went, boss lady leading, taking corners like a F1 driver, and I’m trying to keep up, acutely aware of the fact that we were breaking speed limits and my work laptop was possibly taking a battering in the boot!!

I eventually followed her into a cul-de-sac and parked up alongside her bat mobile. I was quietly informed by my boss that the new referral was a working prostitute, who was also a drug addict, was in loads of debt, was a victim of abuse and wanted to turn her life around, but didn’t know where to begin. Whilst I stood there, mouth agape, trying to process what she’d just whispered to me, Boss led the way to a door and knocked as if the resident was profoundly deaf. Whilst we waited for the door to stop trembling, she told me that it was the initial visit so she/we didn’t know what to expect.

The following account brings to mind a quote from Nietzsche. “If you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss stares into you”.

The door opened and a woman of about 25 asked us to come in. She looked forlorn (I discovered later that she is 26) She led us into her living room, stumbling over random pieces of clothing and empty fast food containers. When I walked through her living room door, I was greeted with the sight of a floor to ceiling chrome pole. It happened to be the pole she slid up and down to entertain her clients before the real action started ! I must admit, I missed some of what the boss was saying to her because I was transfixed with the state of the pole. It appeared to have ‘Stuff’ stuck to it. I think some of it was congealed food, but I could be wrong. An inappropriate thought went through my mind. ‘Why doesn’t she polish it’?!!!

The young woman spoke openly about the way she makes money, even though we didn’t ask her and had no interest in pole dancing. It transpired that she is the mother of 5 children, all of whom have been taken into care. I listened to her talking and felt a deep sense of sorrow for her. Her family had “Washed their hands of her”. In more ways than one, she was alone. Her family are gypsies and before they turned their back on her, they shamed her in front of other gypsy families and friends. She told us she was glad that her children were being brought up by families who would look after them without abusing them. I could see the sadness in her eyes. In reality, she didn’t know where her children were living.

Boss lady asked her if she would like to go for a walk. ( I think the intention was to get away from the squalor) We walked for a while and the boss explained to her what we could do to support her to make positive changes to her life and then we went to a shop, where we bought her some food, tea, coffee, milk and sugar. On the way back to her house, she started to sing, and she sang beautifully. She told us that she had been a member of a church choir, but didn’t go anymore. After a brief chat outside of her house, we followed her inside and helped her to tidy her living room and kitchen. Boss lady advised her when she should expect a first visit from a member of the team and we left her to make herself something to eat. I felt like we were abandoning her, but knew that help and support was not far behind.

That was the last time I saw this young woman. She was allocated to a colleague with much more experience than little virgin me. However, a few weeks later, we had a group meeting to discuss the clients we are supporting. The young woman’s name was mentioned during the meeting. She had been on a well known website to drum up some illicit work. A car with 3 men had pulled up outside her house and she was subjected to a violent assault. As a consequence of that, she had taken an overdose and taken to hospital. She recovered physically but psychologically, she was in hell !! The latest report is that she is living in relative safety in shared accommodation, policed by carefully vetted security personnel.

Enablement didn’t or couldn’t do much for her, but at least she’s safe now, and hopefully getting better.

That was my first day on the job. Thankfully, the rest of my time has been less harrowing, but nevertheless, still extremely challenging. I’ll leave that for another time.

Enabling The vulnerable

It’s been a while. It actually feels like its been forever.

The job I started way back in late February of this year, has not only taken up most of my time, it’s also effected how I look at and see people, and I mean REALLY SEE people.

I took this job because I thought I could help those who truly need help, stupidly or naively believing I could perhaps make a difference, however small the difference.

It’s kind of strange, a foolish kluge, a conundrum that makes my attempts to sleep at night a real struggle. Yet, it’s the most fruitless and rewarding job I’ve ever undertaken throughout my working life. It’s a brilliant, cruel nightmare that never stops spewing out rewards and failures and triumphs at the exact same moment. And I love it.

The team I work with are very experienced and a little bit cynical, but brilliant at what they do and always give it one hundred percent.

This is just a very brief post before I try to make some time to actually write again, which is what I love to do.

By the way, my job title is Enablement Worker, supposedly employed by the local council to enable those who need to find the motivation to restart their lifes. The experiences I’ve had so far have altered how I see life and view other people.

Some of us really are very fortunate and I’ll begin to write about the people I support and help when I find the time and motivation. I hope everyone is safe, well and happy.

From Out Of Tragedy Came Honest Comedy

I haven’t been able or felt the need to write anything on here for quite a long time for a number of reasons. My ‘New’ job has taken over most of my time (Even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about it and how I can do it better) Also, I’ve been under the weather for quite a while and I just haven’t ‘Felt it’ if you know what I mean! There’s more important things to life than writing!

My family and friends have been directly and indirectly affected by covid and lost loved ones to this bloody virus. One very close friend was hit by a car in a hit and run and died. She was on her way back home to her husband after working a shift in a nursing home. Anne never made it home. It knocked everyone for six. Still can’t believe it! Still can’t believe she’s gone! I’m not religious, but if there is a God, Why !!!

So, you can see it’s been difficult, but I guess no more difficult than it has been for thousands of others.

However, funny incidents can come from tragedy.

A friend of the family lost his mum during lockdown, she died of ‘Natural causes ‘. She was cremated, as was her wish. What with the rules surrounding funerals, not many people were allowed to pay their respects. Her ashes were taken home, and sat on the fireplace, taking pride of place, i guess, giving her son and our friend Dave a sense of comfort and closeness.

The weeks went by and Dave asked his wife Christine, if she would go with her sister-in-law to the cemetery and scatter his mother’s ashes over his father’s grave. (Dave is very unstable on his legs and has to move around on an electric scooter. He also suffers from chronic lung disease, which has made him suceptible to covid and afraid to leave his house)

Of course, Christine said yes and a few days later, walked to the cemetery with Jackie, her sister-in-law, the urn safely tucked away in Christine’s coat pocket, wrapped in a silk scarf, Jackie carrying a large bunch of flowers.

At the graveside, Christine thought it would be a loving gesture to dig a small hole at the head of the grave to place the whole urn into, so they could be together in their entirety. They did exactly that, placing the soil over it and patting it so it was compact and safe.

When they stood up, Jackie mentioned that she was worried they had just broken the law, saying she was sure they needed permission to bury the urn with the name and date still on it because it would be classed as a burial!! Christine went into panic mode and dug the urn back up, again replacing the soil. Then she opened the top of the urn and started to sprinkle the ashes over the top of the grave. The wind changed direction and blew the lady’s remains in different directions. Christine explained this to me, whilst trying to look sombre but every few seconds a mad giggle escaped, along with a high pitched laugh. She said when she looked over her shoulder, Jackie was moving her head in jerky movements, one of her eyes closed. Some of the ashes had blown directly into her face and mouth, and her hair had changed colour, from a dark brown to ash grey. She explained she felt ashamed but they both started laughing hysterically.

Christine admitted that Dave’s mum would have seen the funny side.

So you see, even in moments of tragedy, it’s possible to smile.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this with you. By the way, Dave will never know.

Finally! Relief.

So, I was offered a job with Derbyshire Council Council way back at the end of October. After waiting for over 3 months they finally got in touch with me yesterday to tell me they are now in a position to offer me a start date. They asked me how much notice my current employers need from me. After explaining that I had already given them my notice in late December, they replied by saying they are looking at the 20th of February and would that be ok!!! Of course I said “Yesssssss”.

To be honest, their timing was kind of uncanny. Yesterday was my Mum’s birthday. If she had been alive she would have been 95. Strangely, I’ve been decorating my bedroom (I don’t like decorating) and was sorting through suitcases that were blocking the stairway that was built for the attic and came across some of my mum’s possessions. In amongst her things I found a headscarf that she always wore. I put it to my nose and could still smell her. I wished her a happy birthday and carried on sifting through her things. A little later I was painting and silently told my mum that I was going to give DCC until Friday to get in touch with me or I would give up waiting and go back to my former job. Half an hour later I took a break, went downstairs and made myself a coffee. Whilst relaxing I checked through my emails and was pleasantly surprised to find the message from DCC.

Although the last 3 months have been a mixture of relaxation, cooking, cleaning, washing, revamping the garden and decorating, I haven’t really been able to relax properly because of the tender hooks I’ve been hanging by on, waiting to hear if the job is still mine.

So now I’m in the alien world of being relieved and relaxed whilst still decorating! Life! Sure is strange!

Supporting The Vulnerable

At times, all to often, everybody’s life can be cruel, unfair and for some, life events unjustified. In one of my previous posts in December ‘Last Day, New Beginnings’ I alluded to how a small proportion of the general public regard and react to those who are visibly different from what is perceived to be ‘normal’. This is especially true for those who have been dealt a cruel twist of fate by suffering from a severe learning disability. Unfortunately, public reactions often materialise in ways that defy logic!

In the very recent past, I was fortunate to support and work with several men who were born with and in some cases develop extremely severe learning disabilities. I remember the very first day I walked into their large, adapted house. I admit I was surprised with how they acted, but not horrified or judgemental. One of the men who I would eventually support and care for, unexpectedly lunged at me and grabbed one of my wrists with both hands, trying with all his strength to pull me towards him. Luckily, I’m physically strong so his efforts came to nothing, in fact, he let go of me, smiled and walked away. My manager at the time informed me I’d have to get used to that sort of behaviour because that’s just the way it was.

During the early days, I discovered that all this gentleman wanted to do was drag me to the kettle to make him a cup of tea. The following months and years were filled with the exact same behaviour. Nothing changed. He wasn’t violent in any way, he just couldn’t communicate in the usual ways. When he was taken out of the house to go shopping, go to the bank or just go for a walk, he would walk alongside me, hold my hand and grin a mostly toothless grin. The only time he would pull away from my hand was when he noticed a piece of rubbish on the pavement or something else blowing in his path, especially if it was an empty polystyrene cup. The thing that I noticed when we were out and about was that some people would cross over the road to avoid walking past us. I found this very strange and extremely rude. I would often notice people pointing at the man who was holding my hand, or maybe they were pointing at me, and talk about us, sometimes bursting into fits of laughter!

When I escorted my gentleman to the G.P. some people would unashamedly get up from their seats and move to the other side of the waiting room. It was as if they thought whatever was wrong with him was infectious! Bloody ridiculous!

It was only a small minority, but nevertheless, it was a ridiculous attitude. I remember one episode when I escorted the same gentleman to a bank in the town centre. I had put some clean jogging bottoms on him before we set off and thought I had tied them up securely. I was wrong! I led him through the door into the bank, holding his hand when he spotted some leaflets neatly stacked up on the counter. He quickly pulled away from me, lunged for the leaflets and proceeded to throw them into the air like confetti! During the process of attempting to prevent him from enjoying himself, his joggers fell to the ground, completely exposing him (Underwear barely covering his arse) to a busy but watching, goggle eyed bank! When I bent down to pull his joggers up he took the opportunity to throw even more leaflets up into the air, laughing with glee as they floated down around my head.

I looked at the bank staff and apologised. One of them couldn’t stifle a laugh but indicated it was no problem. (It was easy for her to say!) However, two members of the public looked shocked and alarmed. An older woman, who must have been strong because she was carrying a giant dead grizzly bear across her shoulders, said “He should never be allowed in here, can’t you control him!” Whilst I was tying his joggers up I looked at her and calmly said, “I think you shouldn’t be Allowed in here, you should go and get yourself an education”. She looked flabbergasted 🤣

The gentleman who I was supporting was oblivious to everything, he merely smiled and clapped his hands, his eyes firmly on the leaflets. As luck would have it, we conveniently jumped the queue and were served at light speed!!

The woman who had complained in the bank was still muttering to her partner, with the bear silently growling, so I took the opportunity to wish her a very good day and left the bank, gently pulling my gentleman away from the tempting leaflets.

Although that incident was amusing, it was a situation that was predictable in a minority of public reaction. The point is, everyone is different, everyone is dealt a different set of life cards and most people have the ability to learn and grow as individuals. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be born without physical and mental disabilities, but everyone deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect and dignity, regardless of what they look like. So to the ignorant woman in the bank ‘Up yours’! And to those who haven’t got the sense or decency to know how to react and/or treat people less fortunate than themselves, ‘Get a life and grow up’!

Mushroom Head!!

Just a quick one afore I forget. I looked down onto my repaired and flourishing lawn (Which I worked on in the autumn of last year) from my back door about an hour ago. I noticed what looked like 4 large mushrooms standing tall and proud above the green blades of grass. I called to the wife, saying “Have you seen these mushrooms growing in the garden, they’re massive”!? She came to the door, peered around my shoulder and started laughing, saying “They’re not mushrooms you twat, they’re left over Yorkshire puddings that I threw out for the birds “! I looked again to make sure she was right, and she was right. I’m a mushroom head.

The Cherokee In Me.

When I was a fledgling teen, maybe not even that, possibly 12ish, we (The family) were deliciously treated to a new neighbour. She moved into the house directly across the street from our house. She (Can’t remember her name) was very pretty, youngish (I think) wore multi coloured beads on the ends of her wild flowing, very dark hair and always seemed to wear the same bright coloured clothes. (She probably didn’t wear the same clothes but it just seemed that way to me)

She, let’s call her Amira, simply because I like that name, was very pleasant but never forthcoming (If you know what I mean) She (Amira) always took the time to say good morning every time we saw her, naturally accompanied by a beaming smile, set off with beautifully white teeth and lips that required no artificial gloss put definitely required my lips!! Admittedly, I was besotted with seeing her make fleeting appearances.

She was single, at least I think she was because I can’t remember seeing her with anybody. Mum guessed Amira was Indian, simply because of her olive skin and the tantalising tint in her voice that brought to mind foreign shores. Looking back, I can sort of understand why mum came to her racial but Innocent conclusion. All I could see was perfection.

Anyway, over the weeks and months, my mum somehow became very friendly with her (Yippppeeeee) Occasionally, mum would pop over the street for a cup of tea and a chat, which was very out of character for mum, and Amira would reciprocate mum’s visits.

I guess Amira had more money than my parents, or maybe she was just kind, because for the one and only Christmas she lived on the street, she brought a big wicker basket to our house, packed to the rafters with all sorts of festive goodies, festooned with coloured tinsel.

Anyway, mum discovered, much to my fascination, that Amira ‘Read palms’. I really had no idea what that was at the time, but mum explained it to me. You can probably imagine my fixation with Amira quadrupled. Beautiful and mysterious.

I remember arriving back home from school one day (Unusual for me because I didn’t like school so was mostly truant) Throwing my school bag on the chair I heard my mum talking to my sister in the kitchen, who is 4 years older than me and had just left school. Mum was talking about Amira, and how she had read her palm. I was listening intently, not really understanding mum and daughter dialogue but interested because Amira was mentioned quite a few times. A few days or weeks went by without much sight of my fascination. Then one afternoon, she came walking through the front door with mum. I was asked to make them a cup of tea, which I did with dribbling enthusiasm, wanting to make Amira the best cuppa she had ever tasted. I sat watching something on tv, half listening to their chitter chatter unfold when mum slipped into their conversation that Catherine (My sister) wanted to know if Amira would read her palm for her. What followed astounded and excited me. Amira answered in a matter of fact way that of course she would, but she would like to read my palm because I interested her. I looked at Amira with what must have been a bright crimson complexion, but she calmly looked at me and moved her hand onto the vacant chair next to her. When I sat down, Amira looked at my mum and said, very openly that I was special! (To be honest, judging by my life that has unfolded over the years, I have to say I am very special, lots of people have told me the same thing, but they put it in layman’s terms, such as “Twat” “Nobhead” “Pillock”) Anyway, my secret love and I sat across from each other and I believe, despite my best effort to hold it in, I allowed a little fart to escape. I wanted to disappear down the little hole that my fart had created in the chair! Amira let out a little giggle whilst mum told me off. Remarkably, despite my embarrassment, Amira kept hold of my hand, palm facing up.

Amira told me, and I remember this almost verbatim, that in a past life, I had been a holy man, a quiet Cherokee, respected and trusted. Of course, as an impressionable boy, I believed every word that escaped those beautiful lips. I hung onto her every word, listening but not listening (If you know what I mean) mesmerized by her soft tones. When she let go of my hand I didn’t want her to. Amira eventually left the street without any sort of warning. One day she was there, the next, she had simply left. It took me ages to get used to not seeing her. I remember looking through the windows of her house, expecting her to come back. But she never did.

Funny thing is, ever since then, I have been fascinated by the native American way of life. It seems so simple and stress free. I’m sure it’s not but that’s the way I see it. I even bought a Grand Cherokee a few years ago but it kept on breaking down so I sold her.

The one thing I’d love to see in my lifetime is a Native American becoming the president of a land that is rightfully theirs. Let’s face it, if Trumpy Bum did it, then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Is it ? Sod it, I may just go over there and run for it, I am, after all, a Cherokee in spirit!