Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Last day

I'm listening to Martin Collins on Virgin Radio. It's like having an old friend back.

No-one really understands this time of night like Martin Collins, and he plays and says exactly what I'm feeling this time of night when I listen to the radio. I remember him on Capital when I was much younger; he'd always been the chilled-out one to follow the increasingly annoying Neil Fox, and when I was up late doing coursework, I really appreciated the company. I lost touch sometime after that, and it's great to see that he's back on the late slot. The show's moved on, as has his life, and he gets so many messages from people who listened as kids and found him again as grown-ups.

Of course, the return of Mellow Madness was always going to put me in that sort of mood, and given that tomorrow's the last day of the job I really wanted to keep, I'm reflecting on what I have to do next.

I've accepted that I'm not going to get over my sense of injustice just yet, but it's not quite as sore as it was three weeks ago. I remember how much we all rooted for the managers when all of their jobs were in jeopardy, and it worked out well for them. Unfortunately, down at my end of the scale, it hasn't. I can't hold this against Manager, and although I've looked for other people to blame, it really does just come down to money.

I was closing my cases today, and I've got a few loose ends to tie up tomorrow. And then after that I have to go back on Friday and start doing my old job again. I'm not looking forward to it at all, but what I've always done working in this place is bounce back. When I've had a particularly bad day, I've come back from it by coming in early the next day with my best shirt and tie and just faced it head on. It's never been easy to do, but this week it just seems so much harder. I can, and have done, incredibly difficult things in this job, and faced it all again. I've never had to do it with this nagging sense of being shat on, and I haven't felt this way for as long as this. I was absolutely set on resigning when I got into work this morning, and that feeling still hasn't completely gone away.

But to walk away now is to give up, and so far I've come a long way in this line of work by never doing that. I have to accept that the next month or two is going to be hard for me in the hardest way possible, keep my eyes open for opportunities to move on, and just remind myself that something usually does come up. For now, that's going to have to do. And getting a driving licence would definitely help.

But for now, I just need to go out and get really drunk tomorrow night. I'm calling it a celebration, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, as it is. Despite the fact that I'm not going to be able to do it any longer, I have to cling to the fact that I've achieved a lot in these three months, and that's something to celebrate.

From 8 in my local if anyone wants to join me.

Surprise visitor

I slept surprisingly well last night. I blame him.

I didn't get woken up by the birdie this morning, but when I did look out at the reasonable time of 7.30, I saw next door's cat looking particularly smug and licking his lips.

I'm very suspicious. Is the birdie still out there?
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Up with the sparrow

Mog would be very pleased to be woken up at dawn with a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. Except today was her day off.

That lousy birdie was back at it today, making a noise like an alarm clock on speed continuously from 6.30 onwards. And somehow that just spurred me into action, producing coffee, breakfast and a near caffeine crash.

I just want to share with the world just how psychotic this noise really is. And in the first steps towards the new, sexed-up blog, you might just be able to hear it by clicking here. The quality's lousy, I have to warn you.

Now play that loud. Outside your window. At 6am. Three days in a row. And you'll understand why Mog thinks I've lost it.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Oracle All Night

Facing a 24 hour void in my schedule, I decided to stay in last night and read a book. There's no escape from a compelling story, and I ended up awake until 3am, reading the whole of Paul Auster's Oracle Night in just 6 hours. I haven't done that in a while.

At 6am I was running round the garden throwing candles at songbirds. I haven't done that in a while either.

Oracle night is one of those books that just stays with you and haunts you, and the only thing I could do was totally surrender to it, and live the story from beginning to end. As ever with Auster, there's stories within stories, and a whole series of images that pop into my head when I least expect it. Of course, with my hold on reality more tenuous than usual at the moment, I was worried this would be like taking an out of control chemistry experiment and tossing it into a vat of nitrogen-based fertiliser for safety. I was wrong, and I feel so much better for losing myself in a book. I also had a few moments of inspiration for things I want to write during my Two Weeks Off.

Unfortunately, I was still thinking about the man who collects telephone books at 3.30am. And at 3.45 I was searching for clues in the text as to whether Orr's imagined reality really happened (I could only think of one).

Around 6am I got woken up by a smoke alarm. I didn't think we had any, but there was a psychotic beeping noise somewhere in my room. I checked on top of the cupboards, I checked all my electronics for disturbances, I even switched off the electricity. Then I looked outside the window. It was a songbird making the strangest noise I've ever heard coming from a living creature. It may have been the same one that had imitated a car alarm a few days ago at 7am.

Which is why I picked up the nearest thing to hand (a handful of nightlights) and hurled them in its general direction until it flew away with a scared "eeeeEEEEEp". These urban songbirds are going to take some getting used to.

I'm not losing it, but between 3-6am the whole city's insane. And now I feel lousy.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Lousy Friday

My bus is being delayed by a man in front carrying a massive wooden cross. I feel like he's just showing off.

I'm finding it very hard to get work off my mind today. It's not just the sheer injustice of it all that's left me feeling wounded, still. It's also that there's a lot of work I still want to do with my guys, which means I have to plan the remaining three days incredibly.well. And I'm hoping they'll remember me, as that means I must have been good at the job.

Actually, it's still mostly the injustice.

We were in training about this lousy waste of money computer system, as Manager insisted I go. At one stage she asked the man in charge of the training if we could have an extra tick box in the field for client details.

"We could", he replied, "but it would take a long time and be expensive. One of these boxes costs £25,000."

Apart from blowing mineral water through my nose, I'm wondering how I was expected to react to that. I cost a lot less than one of those boxes, I'm significantly more useful, and my employers have decided they can't afford me as a social work assistant, so I have to leave.

On top of that, I'm not exactly solvent at the minute, and that's before I face a pretty hefty pay cut. This Spring's not going to be much fun.

We're all dragging crosses up the Harrow Road. At least my one isn't holding up the traffic.

Great moments in Google Ads

If the story doesn't give you nightmares, the automatically placed adverts certainly will

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Just a little addition...

...to last night's post- Baby Alana came into the world with some difficulty at 9.31 this morning.

It was a difficult birth, but all three seem to be doing just fine now.

Congratulations to them all!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On my way

Over the weekend nature kept her promise once again, and almost as if she flicked a switch somewhere, the seasons changed. Walking round without a jacket for the first time in months, I had to remind myself that only two weeks ago I was shaking the snow off my umbrella. And although that big grey cloud has come back into our lives, looking out at the crocuses and daffodils it's clear that the promise has been fulfilled, and there's no going back.

And on the other side of town, two friends of mine are sitting at home waiting for another promise to be kept. Their new baby looks like she'll be arriving any time soon- the name's been chosen, the paint's fresh on the nursery, and all they can do is sit and wait for their lives to change forever. I know for a fact they can't wait to meet her.

Over here in Meteor Street, everything feels like it's changing too. I made a promise over the weekend that I'd be moving on too, leaving this job I've done for the past two years, and it's time to start preparing the people I've been spending my days with for the fact that I'll be leaving them soon. I'm saying goodbye to my clients far too soon, and there's one in particular that it's going to choke me to tell him; I'm saving that one for last. Soon, too, I'm just going to be another former worker for them, another name on a file stretching back decades, leaving what we starkly call a Transfer Summary. Within the confines of professional language, I'm trying my best to say "Look after them".

I have to at least pass for a professional for another week- and I've got another six days to make a difference. And I'm not going anywhere just yet, as George put it: "Well there ain't no point in moving on/Until you've got somewhere to go"

I can't help but think that this is the best time of year to be born. She'll be emerging from her sleep at the same time we shake off the greys of winter and the world starts to look beautiful again. Everything I've just written sounds like a cause for a celebration; The songbirds have just come back, I saw my first bee today, and, as promised, the cycle of new lives starts again. There's never any going back.

Welcome to the world little newbie. I hope we all make you very welcome.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kiss me, I'm drunk

Q. How do you tell when I'm on leave?
A. I arrive at work 10 minutes late. Without a tie.

Happy St Patrick's Day to you all!

It was round about 10am I realised I'd actually booked today off work, which they all found very funny. Especially as I was on Duty today. To those of you who don't work in social services, the Duty Officer is responsible for all the random events that occur off the scale of anyone else's caseload. Duty can take you to all sorts of strange places, but fortunately all my crises could be resolved by making the right phone calls.

What couldn't be fully resolved was why I'd left potatoes in Manager's pigeonhole yesterday evening. For the record, it's because I'd headed over to my client's house with a bag full of potatoes, with the full intention of teaching him how to cook a nice healthy snack. Like most things in my job, that's not how it worked out, leaving us with several potatoes left over.

It was round about 3pm when Manager went past my desk.

"Can you call _____ and ask her what time the meeting is on Monday. Anything come up on Duty?" Her eyes flipped down to my hand, as did mine, and she paused.

"And why are you holding a potato?"

"I brought my client a present, and he really wasn't interested. And you were complaining you didn't get any lunch all week."

The perplexed expression dropped for a moment. Then Replacement Secretary chipped in.

"Oh, I thought it was for St Patrick's Day."

Manager inhaled deeply, as she often does when I'm around.

"No no no. Definitely not. It's been in your tray since Tuesday anyway."

She laughed. "I was gonna say... St Patrick's Day, famine?"

She came up to me again a bit later. "So, any plans for your days off then?"

I paused. "I thought I might take a long walk in the sunshine, listen to some birdsong, maybe go to a nice country pub for lunch." Again, she stared at me. "Or drink far too much tonight and take four days to recover." She seemed to approve of this one.

So the plan for tonight is to catch up with Mog and the tail end of the Willesden Green St Patrick's parade. Now I'm on holiday, some bad behaviour is in order. Is it too tacky to keep the green shirt on?

Thinking about it, the green shirt probably did me a favour. The potato thing could have gone horribly wrong.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Dry, White and Bitter

I'm in an achingly fashionable Soho nightclub trying to explain to the girl next to me that my current routine of sounding cynical and angry, supplemented with cigarette and whiskey props, is merely a comic tribute to Dave Allen. In reality I'm tired and soul-destroyed, and she's never heard of Dave Allen.

It was a good week for the forces of chaos. My future carreer path is up in the air at the moment, and with my defences down absolutely everything seemed to get to me. And I spent three hours taking a client shopping on Friday, pausing only to let him suck the life out of me.

On Tuesday I decided the only possible reaction to my job problems was to do what I've always done in this case; I put on my best shirt and a tie and got to the office at 8.30. By Friday I was wearing jeans for the second day in a row and seemed to have acquired a beard from somewhere. And on Friday evening I was lying on my bed, totally unable to move, despite the fact that it's my mate's last night in town and I really had to go. So for a second time I made myself look as smart as possible, ignored the first traces of gangrene around my eyes, and went out. It was actually a good move, as my angry outburst was exactly timed to be incredibly rude to someone who really deserved it, and the beard definitely impressed the blonde who'd never heard of Dave Allen.

This weekend I'm very deservedly doing absolutely nothing. And like the wine I was knocking back on Wednesday, this week has had a few playful notes of citrus fruit. I think word's getting around that I'm unsettled, and I might just have a job interview lined up for Friday. And I might just have defeated the evil computer system; sometimes it really helps not to hold back.

And I got the blonde girl's number. Followed by 12 hours sleep. The recovery starts here.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Look crap in anger

I was in the pub when my mate brought up the job issue.

"I'm not really sure if we've got anything in the company at the minute."
"Oh, don't take any notice of that. I sent that text in Bargaining."

I can safely say that I've passed through most of the major phases of grief today. I was never much good at denial, thank god.

As I predicted in the last post, my job's pretty much coming to an end at the end of the month. Which means I have to resume my old post of secretary, say goodbye to all my clients, and take a pretty substantial pay cut. I was quite up for a dramatic gesture topped with my letter of resignation. But, let's face it, they really don't pay the bills. I think I briefly passed through Despair for the first time when Manager was giving me the news, coupled with profound apologies. It turns out I had a vein popping out through my forehead, and really didn't look too good.

I went through Anger, soon after talking to Manager about the lack of a new job. She'd asked me to come up with a list detailing our concerns about the new computer system. I'd produced a very detailed list of concerns, and she'd asked me to pass it round the team.

"It's point number four that I'm a bit worried about. 'IRIS has reduced staff morale, damaged our care management responsibilities, and, worst of all, made me lose my faith in a just and moral God. Because if there was one, the Iris team would have been wiped out in an al-Quida atrocity....'"

She stared at me for a little longer. " 'Because having spent time with these people, give me a set of boxcutters and, hell, I'd do it."

Manager was quite understanding today, and asked me to rewrite it.

Bargaining occurred about 12.15, when I pretty much decided to up sticks and move to Mexico. I'd decided to resign, get a dodgy temp job for a while, and then move out to Latin America and teach disabled street kids or something. I've always believed that good decisions are not made when overcome with emotion, so I'm not going to make any major career moves when I'm in this kind of mood.

Acceptance came after about my third drink this evening. I've been really good at this job, but it still doesn't mean I get to keep it. Which means maybe it's time to go and do something else. But I'll think about that one later.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Too early to tell

Cricklewood, 8am
Mobile- check
Ticket- check
ID badge- check
Sense of proportion about these things- Um...

My job's looking a little shaky at the minute.

I haven't punched a client or showed up to work drunk. It's all about budgets you see.

My employers have concluded that it's politically impossible to raise council tax by much. Therefore, like every council- and council employee- we're a bit skint.

Meaning my post isn't guaranteed from April. I'll know next week, but maybe it's time to check the newspapers.

Hmm, Camden's got the best logo.