Last Day, New Beginnings.

Sunday the 20th of December marked a big change in my working life, and quite possibly, my personal life. Yesterday afternoon was my last working shift of doing a job I never really thought I was capable of doing. Three and a half years later and I’ve proved myself wrong. During my time of working with people who have severe learning disabilities, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and even more about a small proportion of the general public regarding their attitudes towards the people I have supported.

It’s been a huge learning curve for me personally. Along the way I’ve met some fantastic people and made lifelong friends, which is something I can take away with me and keep with me for the remainder of my life. Last night I supported the gentlemen by administering their medication and tucking most of them up into bed. My last words to each of them was “Sleep well, Santa will soon be here” before I closed their bedroom doors. In effect I was closing a memorable chapter in my life. I’ll miss them.

In the coming weeks, I intend to write a blog about the ‘Reality’ of life as a support/care worker, but more importantly, the life of the people who, through no fault of their own, struggle to be accepted in a world that is supposed to be about inclusivity.

The new job (When I start it) is something I have wanted to do for a number of years for the following reason. When I was at university, I met a chap (Gary) who was academically gifted beyond belief and also had the pain of a hard life imprinted in his eyes. He had lived on the streets for over 10 years in and around Nottingham as a chronic alcohol and drug user. He had been given a hand-up by a person who was employed by Nottingham Council to help those who were desperate for help, so they could get up off their knees and face the world on their own two feet. During his time living on the streets, Gary had witnessed one of his closest friends burn to death at the hands of a group of thugs underneath a bridge in Nottingham. Gary told me he was unable to help his friend because he was physically and mentally incapable due to the amount of alcohol and drugs he had consumed.

The morning after he had helplessly watched his friend die through a drug induced haze, when he eventually regained his composure after a night in the local police station, being asked questions then hopelessly trying to settle, he promised himself he would try to change the course of his life. Not long after that terrible night, Gary was eventually offered a bed in a rehabilitation centre, which he accepted. Whilst he was in the centre, a young man came to talk to Gary, offering him help to get his life on a track that could lead him away from drugs, alcohol abuse and addiction. The young man was an Enablement worker. Gary admitted to me that without the young man’s help and guidance, he would probably have died on the streets like many of his friends.

After 2 years, Gary had beaten his addiction, managed to get a flat in the city centre and found a part time job, all with the help of the enablement worker.

He had gone into adult education to try and get basic math and English qualifications and discovered he was well above the levels he was learning at. 2 years later he had qualified for a place at the university where I was studying. Oddly, he rarely turned up to lectures or seminars but in every test, presentation, essay and exam he was awarded 90% plus.

Gary’s story, specifically the help he had been given, awoke something inside of me and made me want to do that type of work, but the opportunity never arose for me, plus I didn’t really believe I could do it, until recently.

So I’m waiting to start my new job as an enablement worker for Derbyshire County Council. I know deep inside that it will be very different from what I’ve done for the past 3 and a half years, but I think I’m better prepared to take this job on and do it to the very best of my ability.

I feel that working with and supporting people with severe learning disabilities has given me an invaluable experience, something I can hopefully take forward with me in my new job.

After A Long, Long Day

Today, I started work at 7am and I’ve just finished. It’s been a long difficult day, full of ups, downs with plenty of mental stress sprinkled in for good fortune!!

When I arrived home this evening, dragging my feet behind me, I was greeted with a Christmas tree newly erected. The cat wasn’t to bothered by my appearance or the tree but it was a welcome sight that immediately helped to sooth my aching bones.

The tree is a sure sign that the Christmas spirit is entertaining our house, punctuated by the fact I only have a few more days to work until I leave my present job.

Right now I have a warm feeling inside me.

Note To Self: I’m An Idiot!!

About 3 weeks ago it was my daughter Becky’s birthday. I hadn’t been able to see her for a few weeks because of this bloody Covid malarkey. Unfortunately, I was due to start work at 3pm on her big day but I made damn sure I went to see her for an hour before I started work. I stood outside her front door, passed her presents to her and had a cup of tea with her whilst social distancing and watching my grandchildren play in the living room (My daughter’s little boy Harry, my grandson, had been unwell and sent home from school, suspected of you-know-what, which it wasn’t) Before I arrived at my daughter’s house, I called into the petrol station to fill up.

When I left my daughter to drive to work, my car started jumping intermittently, slowing down and speeding up. The last thing I needed!

At 10pm, when I finished work, I got in my car with 2 workmates in tow (I was dropping them off at their homes) and put the key in the ignition. After several attempts, she (My car Bonnie) reluctantly spluttered to life. All the way home she jumped, jerked and complained (But not as much as me!)

The following morning I went out to the car and turned her on (Not in a sexual way) and Bonnie spat out a cloud of blue smoke in protest. I turned her off, went back into the house and informed the wife that little Bonnie had Covid! She laughed through gritted teeth and asked me if there was a chance I had put the wrong fuel in her?!?!

It was then it dawned on me. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Bonnie drinks diesel, not fuckin unleaded petrol!!!! (Sorry for swearing) In a feeble attempt to excuse my mistake, I had come off a run of night shifts and only managed to get a few hours sleep before I was back at work. So I was tired and in a rush! No excuse I know, but it’s the only one I have so I’m sticking to it!

In the middle of calling myself all kinds of expletives, I searched Google for a local trusted trader. I felt like I’d murdered Bonnie. I scanned the pages of Google and noticed a company called ‘Fuel Doctor’. I rang the number and they came to my house about one hour later.

I was still cursing my stupidity when I saw a van with a rainbow of colours splashed down the side of it pull up outside my house. I went out to the van and began to hand my car keys to the guy climbing out of his van. My first words to him, before he spoke were ” I’ve been driving for 30 years and never made this f$^#ng mistake, putting unleaded in a diesel car, what a twat”!

The guy looked at me shocked but amused and said “I’m the window cleaner mate, but that’s a bummer “!

I looked at his van and it clearly stated, in big white letter ‘Window Cleaner’. I felt very stupid but Of course I apologised and as we laughed at my mistake, the ‘Fuel Doctor’ came around the corner in his bat mobile.

It took the ‘Doc’ 20 minutes to suck the poison out and pump the life giving nectar into Bonnie’s veins. The doc reassured me that she would fully recover from her traumatic experience.

Moral of the story. Don’t overdo it with the shift work and/or the rushing about like a blue arsed fly, or your very own Bonnie may receive an unwanted shock to the system!!

One-To-One Time Part Two

So, carrying on with my trips out with one of the ‘Cheekier’ residents (See November the 3rd. One-To-One Time) I drove him all over the Peak District and over the border into Staffordshire and Yorkshire. Because of the social distancing issues and the sad fact that my little companion has no concept of what that actually means (There was/is zero chance that he would ever wear a mask, let alone actually keep it on) I chose villages and small towns to park up in (Smaller populations) so I could help him in and out of the car and into his wheelchair. By the way, he has to be pushed around because he refuses to walk any distance (He can actually walk) and very stubbornly lays down on the floor, pavement and grass in protest, crosses his very short legs and scans the ground for items of rubbish or grass that he can play with! For this reason, I always remember to pick up a reel of strimmer wire, which he plays with after a knot has been tied in it! His eye sight isn’t great so he very comically puts the plastic wire as close to his eyeball as possible to investigate it, turning his head from side-to-side to get a 360 degree view! If it has the required knot in it, he very quietly goes about attempting to solve the riddle of the knot, which he does every single time.

Because this knotted conundrum keeps him happy and busy, I always make sure that I have several pieces of strimmer wire ready (Blue Peter style) for when he’s unknotted the one in his hand. I always know when he’s ready for the next piece of the puzzle because the solved wire either hits me on the back of the head or it flys past me and hits the windscreen whilst I’m driving! (That’s the cue that he’s bored, or/and mischievous) So I’m always ready to throw the next knotted piece over my shoulder in his direction to pacify him. However, the strimmer wire does not always do the trick. On several occasions, he has simply thrown the wire to one side, taken his shoes off and smashed them repeatedly on the passenger window before his ‘piece de resistance’, the shoe hitting me on the back of the head or hitting the windscreen with a thud! I’m used to his antics now, so I tend to allow him to get on with it. If I tell him to stop it, he merely laughs at me and continues. My riposte is usually to turn the cd or radio up and sing along with the music, which doesn’t help him but I does my mental health the world of good!! If all his attempts fail to wind me up, he stretches his little legs and kicks my left elbow (Which is quite annoying and quite dangerous when I’m trying to change gear) If I am able to do so safely, I pull-up by the side of the road, get into the back of the car and tickle him, after which he will put his arms around my neck and give me a cuddle.

On one particular occasion, when he had been on his worst behaviour, I drove to a nearby beauty spot called Holmebrook Valley Park and parked in the car park that gave us a stunning view of the countryside. I poured my little companion a cup of tea from his flask, gave it to him whilst he sat in the back with the window down, and sat on the car bonnet looking at the view to treat myself to a little bit of respite. It was whilst I was sat quietly winding down, looking out over the football fields that I witnessed something I had never seen before. At the far corner of the field I saw what looked like a man walking slowly, flanked by 2 ducks/geese, who were waddling alongside him, never straying from his side. The photographs below were the only ones I had the opportunity to take because my little companion had decided it was a good idea to launch his empty cup in the direction of a car that had foolishly parked nearby!

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The man walked the full length of the field with his feathered companions and settled by the edge of the field. As he sat down, so did the geese. I have never seen this before (Have you?) Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. As I drove away (After retrieving the flying cup and apologising to the owner of the other car) the man with the geese was walking down the hill into the distance, his little friends by his side. Luckily, my little companion was oblivious to the strange sight of ‘One man and his geese’. If he had been closer, I’m sure the geese would have flown through the air (Whether they wanted to or not)

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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.