One-To-One Time

After the lockdown had been eased in the UK in early July, (The 4th I think: Independence Day) the people who I help to support were finally ‘Let of the leash’ so to speak. They had been locked in for months because they had been collectively labelled “Extremely vulnerable and highly susceptible to contracting the dreaded virus”. So when the green light was given, all the staff worked collaboratively and independently to take them out of their ‘Prison’ and get them back out into society. I was asked if I was willing to take one of the more ‘Challenging’ guys out a couple of days a week. This particular chap has a multitude of learning disabilities and can be very unpredictable in a funny-ish way.

I knew that it would be potentially dangerous for him to come into direct contact with other people (He cannot understand the wearing of the mask concept and violently refuses to wear it) The only option was to drive into the countryside (Which is quite challenging because he is constantly kicking my elbow, especially when I’m trying to change gear) and find a park to push him around in his wheelchair.

It was a task in itself to keep my eyes on his trainers because I quickly discovered that he doesn’t like to wear them. On one occasion I took him for a leisurely push around a lake in the country only to realise that he had kicked his trainers off without me noticing! So I had to backtrack for about half a mile and scan the tree lined puddled path until I spotted them. After that first occasion, I bought him some long thick socks and didn’t bother putting trainers or shoes on his feet! I also discovered I could possibly have been a goalkeeper or a cricketer because everytime he had finished his cup of tea he would throw his cup, one of which was lost because it ended up floating in a duck pond!

The photograph below captures the back of his head (Obviously for anonymity reasons) but this one is very recent. (I think he enjoys getting out and about but I can’t really say if he does) The photographs below the first one are from another occasion that deserve a whole blog to itself, which will eventually follow this one.

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A Little Light

So, several months ago I applied for a job that I really wanted to do but I was unsuccessful in the interview. At the time, even though it was difficult for me to admit it to myself, I was gutted and I felt useless and a failure.

Last Wednesday I managed to get through to the final 6 for an interview for the same job. For the first interview, I thought I was prepared for their questions, but I crashed and burnt like a drowning rat. For this interview I researched the job properly and spoke to a lovely chap who is currently doing the job.

The interview went brilliantly, I was really happy with myself, and the vibes I received from the two people who interviewed me were positive. Fast forward to last Friday. My wife and I had driven up to Scotland, into the highlands for a much needed break on Wednesday straight after my interview. On Friday, we had found a quaint little pub with a water wheel turning away outside. My mobile rang and I answered. It was one of the people who had interviewed me. She informed me I had unfortunately been unsuccessful.

It put a downer on the rest of the day for me. Again I felt bloody awful.

Today, the phone rang again and I was surprised to hear the same voice at the other end saying hello. Apparently, the person who had been offered the job had declined their offer and they wanted to know if I still wanted the position!

Of course I literally shouted “Yes please”. So I now have the job I have wanted to do for a long time.

For the first time in I don’t know how long I’m feeling happy. Just wanted to share it with you.

One last thing. Yeeeesssssssssssssssssss

Nails Led to Sutton

A couple of days after nail bars and hairdressers were reopened after (you know what) I was commanded to take my wife to her friends nail bar in a nearby local village called Holmewood.

So I drove Angie (Wife) to the nail bar, dropped her off and went for a drive to kill time whilst she pampered herself for what would probably be 2 hours!! (Why doesn’t she bite her nails like I do, it’s free and easy)

I was driving aimlessly and suddenly remembered that I hadn’t been to Sutton Scarsdale Hall for many years. It was only a short journey so I made my way there.

I had forgotten what a beautiful spot in Derbyshire it is. I pulled into the carpark and took a stroll around the ruins.

The building you see in the photographs below was constructed between 1724-29 but there was a grand hall on the site before 1002, which is mentioned in the Doomsday book. Apparently some of the halls interiors were transported to the good ole U. S of A sometime in the 1930s and kept in storage in New York City until Pall Mall Films bought them and used them in various movies made during the 1950s.

Some of the baroque interiors are kept on display at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia and the Huntington Library in California.

Despite the shell, it’s still quite an imposing building, as is the wife (Jokeeeee) Years ago, myself and a few workmates went ghost hunting here after 11pm, which I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs.

I thought about that as I meandered at my leisure and thought I may actually become a ghost if I didn’t get back to the nail bar to pick Angie up!

When she got in the car she displayed her nails, waving her fingers around, asking me if I liked them. I replied by waving my fingers around asking her if she liked mine!

It was a surreal journey home. She was talking about her nails at the same time that I was talking about Sutton Scarsdale Hall.

Got to love married life.

Hope you like the photographs as much Angie enjoys her nails!

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Sutton Scarsdale Hall

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I realise that I have no concept or genuine understanding of any religion but I always respect those who have. I like to think I am more than willing to listen to what and why some people believe in a higher entity or a better, alternative place when we die. I’m guessing It’s a comfort blanket for many people worldwide.
However, when all the pointless and mindless squabbles revolving around religious beliefs have been exhausted (Which of course will never happen) surely everyone must realise that we all enter and leave this existence simply breathing and not breathing. So the manner in which we choose to breath and live and grow as individuals is our own personal choice, which of course includes believing and not believing in a religion.

The deeper we breath, the further we are from what most of us dread, which is true even those with a devout, ingrained belief, the dread of the death of our body and our ‘Souls’.

This evolving, beautiful and frightening Frankenstein that we live on, this life we have created for ourselves, is slowly but surely turning against us.
So arguably, the problem and solution is learning to breath with the world, not stifle it with petty, unproven squabbles that have ultimately damaged this beautiful world we are lucky enough to live on.

My grandson Asti, who is 11, has no concept of religion, he just enjoys living, learning, playing, loving and being taken care of by people who love him. He knows how to live and he enjoys living better than many adults, because he is yet to be traumatised and shaped by the influence of ‘Enlightened’ adults who know better than he does!

I’m going to post a photograph very soon of Asti, who has taught himself to draw by watching a demonstration video online during the lockdown. The point being, life should be simple and could be simple if we just lived for the enjoyment. I know it’s not as easy as that for some people but maybe if we all sang from the same hymn sheet, it would be so much better.

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.