Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, September 25, 2006

Splashing Around On The River...

"It's time for my medication, _______"
"I know, I'll be right with you, I just need to tie up _______'s shoelaces."
"Do you know how to do my medication, ______?"

I'm glad my client finishes every sentence with my name. Because right now I need all the help I can to remember it. It doesn't help that he seems to have twigged that I don't really know what I'm doing.

Yep, it's Sunday afternoon on the canoeing trip, and I'm reluctantly starting to enjoy myself. I've spent two lovely afternoons rowing at high speed in a two-man kayak down the River Wye, very quickly bringing out my inner Viking. But the rowing was the easy bit.

Sometime on Saturday afternoon I was doing up one guy's shoelaces, dishing out a set of medication to another, using another hand to do up a rucksack whilst providing verbal reassurance when a birthday cake came past. So I managed to carry on doing all of these tasks (I did appear to have an extra pair of hands), whilst breaking into a verse of happy birthday. I'm not sure exactly how I did that, but I'm starting to feel a new empathy for parents.

It's also bizarre to be on this sort of trip as an adult. In the scouts it was quite usual to spend the weekend sleeping on a floor with 20 other people before engaging in some exhausting outdoor activity. Except now I have to keep on reminding myself that I'm a leader.

It's made even more difficult by the fact that one of the guys was clearly a policeman in a previous life. I was excited to receive a text from my lady, so I sneakily pulled the phone out whilst we were standing around a canoe in a car park, staring constructively in the way men do. As I texted back a reply, a voice commanded me:
"Excuse me, can you put the phones away please?"
"Yeah, s-" Hold on a minute, I'm staff. "_________, I need to contact the office, and I'll be with you in a minute. Is that OK?"
"Yeah, sorry."

Having been on since 6.30 two mornings in a row, and unlikely to get away until at least 11pm, this is turning into the longest shift ever. I've done an entire week's hours in just two and a half days and two sleep-in shifts. And I've got to bond with the guys pretty well, even to the point of being invited to next month's birthday party. And, yes, I've enjoyed myself, despite my very low expectations of the weekend.

Of course, I'm not telling the Chief that. I'm sure there's a drink or two in this.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What have I done....?

"But it's twice as hard for two people to fall out of a boat right?"
"Well, it's not that simple. If you opt for a two man canoe you might find it's more stable, however..."
"Just say yeah."

Friday morning, and just as the rest of the world prepares to wind down for the weekend, the thought of my weekend is winding me up. Usually I'm fine as soon as I know all the facts, however, the more I learn about this the worse it seems.

I agreed to take three service users from Greenborough on a camping trip leaving this evening. However, it was only yesterday anyone mentioned canoes. And on talking to the leader of this trip, apparently it's not really camping at all. It's more sleeping on the floor of a scout hut. With 20 other people. Suddenly every rubbish scout trip I went on as a kid, which to this day has put me off taking any sort of holiday, has all come rushing back to me. I've slept on floors in halls, rickety bunk beds crammed into tiny rooms, shared a double hotel room with *five* other kids, and slept under decaying canvas on a postage stamp-sized swamp in the pouring rain with 22 others whilst the leaders have enjoyed a rather fine Swiss chalet.

Essentially I had some crappy holidays as a kid. And this has all the potential of being another one of those. I like camping on my own terms- Unlike any other scouting things, I've actually chosen to pack a tent and hit the road since turning 16. But I don't see how sleeping on a floor in a scout hut counts as camping. And why didn't anyone mention the canoes? Because I fucking hate those.

Just as when I was a kid, the Chief assures me that it will be character-building. Problem is I did all these 'character-building' things as a kid, and I still swear, smoke, drink, engage in risky sexual behaviour, go to bed late, manipulate, lie, cheat and do all those other things that would give Baden-Powell a heart attack.

OK, I'm a professional. I have £5.80, a sense of humour and 18 fags to get me through this weekend. Problem is, if any of those run out, we're all screwed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Impressive customer service....

I'm on the phone to HSBC demanding to know why they've taken £20 out of my account. Usually this wouldn't bother this much, but it's pay day on Tuesday, I'm going away this weekend and *really* need the money.

Of course, this is complicated by the fact that despite living in central london, o2 have never really managed to provide any sort of phone coverage in my flat. So I'm making the call at the end of the garden on a windy day.

"I've never got any letter warning me about this, and I thought I cancelled the policy years ago."
"OK, can you confirm the first line of your address please?"
"________________, Willesden"
"What was your previous address?"
"________________, Watford."
"That's not the one we have either."
By now it's quite obvious they've sent it to Mum's address in Harrow, where I haven't lived in 8 years. Every so often my bank do this, and it's extremely annoying. So to make my point I quote *all* my previous addresses.
"________________, Dollis Hill"
"________________, Earls Court."
"Could you-"
"How about ___________Gloucester Road"
"Can I ask you to-"
"_________, South Kensington"

Point made, I get a full apology and the policy cancelled. Unfortunately, there is an unwritten law that if a large company owes you money, it takes so much longer to get it back then it does when you owe them money. It's the same reason why five months after Greenborough started taking pension contributions (despite receiving an opt-out from me), I'm still waiting to get my money back. And my unauthorised transaction will take at least five days to refund.

So, thanks to my bank's incompetence, I have £17 to last until Tuesday. And I'm really going to need some comfort items to survive my weekend...

I'm so looking forward to dumping both HSBC and O2. Unfortunately O2 have me tied into a contract until November 8th...and I can't leave HSBC until I've paid them back the money Greenborough owe me.

But one day, I'll have petty revenge...