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Friday, 22 July 2011

Shine, shine on ...

It's five days now since I returned from the Isle of Man, and already it feels like a lifetime ago. I had a wonderful time, in almost complete solitude, and will almost certainly go back. The overriding memories are ones of mountainous glens and rushing waterfalls, a cacophony of birdlife and beautiful sunlit coastal walks. Also of delicious seafood and fresh gluten free cakes (no Ray, it is not pronounced gluton, but gluton is spelt June).

I stayed a small hostel called Junior House, part of King Williams College in the south of the island near Castletown, which once acted as a dormitory for younger pupils at this famous private boy’s school. The accommodation was a little spartan, but comfortable nevertheless, fulfilling my meagre requirements of a bed, a shower and a well equipped kitchen in which to self cater (important if you have special dietary needs as I do). I ate out a few times, mostly at The Sound cafe, near the most southerly point of the island, but for the most part, catered for myself. Doing so meant that I could control what I ate, ensuring that the food would not make me ill, at the same time helping to keep costs down.

I rented a car for the first week from Isle of Man Car Rentals, and despite requesting a small automatic, on arrival was presented with the keys for a brand new Mondeo. This was a bit bigger and much more powerful that I am used to, so initially I was quite nervous about driving it, but once I got used to it, I found the larger engine invaluable for negotiating the mountain roads. The island, despite its small size (33 miles long by 10 miles wide), has a lot of mountain roads. The hairpin bends where I live are nothing compared to these, and the views were tremendous. During the second week I relied on public transport, which I found to be excellent, and for the most part extremely punctual and reliable. I found it was much better than driving, since when you take in so much more when walking, and can stop to take photographs where and when you like, without worrying about whether it is safe to park or who might come up behind you. Given the high cost of diesel (almost 149 pence per litre), if and when I do go back, I am certain to use this method again.

Most of my time was spent around the south, as that is where I was based, but I managed to explore most of the island, from the northernmost Point of Ayres to Peel in the west and Douglas, the capital on the eastern side. I must admit that the car was useful for reaching these out of the way places, as not all of them were directly served by busses, necessitating a walk of several miles from the nearest stopping point. One of the highlights was a visit to the Calf of Man, a small bird sanctuary on an island off the southernmost tip, and also the Manx Museum in Douglas, where I learnt all about the islands history and native language. There is much of which I could write, but the memories are best kept to myself as the personal mementoes that they are.

So, on Monday it was back to work and right back into the fray. While I was away it seems that the boss was complaining yet again - not only regarding the standards in general, but also about me, who committed the heinous crime of going upstairs to get changed on the eve of her holiday, having just worked for seven days in a row, five minutes early. The Director wanted the Acting Manager to ring me at home and reprimand me but to her credit she refused, stating that I had probably already left for the airport! If this were not so stupid, it would be almost laughable, but actually this is deadly serious. There is something seriously wrong with someone who is this petty and it is to my mind frankly ridiculous to get upset over a few lousy minutes.

There is no space for anyone in the care home business for anyone who does not come from the heart. The Director does of course have a heat as we all do, but he is first and foremost a businessman, an investment banker with political aspirations, who thinks that the minimum wage should be abolished to make Britain more competitive, and went into this business as he realised it was a growth opportunity that presented the means to make even more money. Care homes are of course a business like any other, and do have to make a profit in order for the Directors to live, but this needs to tempered with the needs of the residents and the staff who work there and should not come at their expense. His attitude then needs to change in order to reflect this.

Given the problems that we have recently experienced, and the criticisms levelled at the housekeeping department, in order to increase accountability, it has been decided that for the foreseeable future, I will work only downstairs and my colleague only upstairs. I am not completely unhappy about this, as I do prefer being downstairs, as you are more involved in what is going on, but at the same time, it also means that I will no longer see those room bound residents who reside upstairs and whom I have bonded with and have a good rapport. We will I am sure both miss each other a great deal. This though is the decision he had made, and I have to go along with it.

I can though turn this to a positive, as the kitchen, lounge and dining room are all downstairs and these are the heart of the house, where all the activity takes place. I am then exactly where I need to be. These areas are by their very nature much more visible, meaning that I too will be more visible, with the fruits of my work on display for all to see, as will also be my ability to interact with and make a difference to the residents with which I do remain in contact. When one works upstairs, one remains unseen, disappearing into the background, whereas downstairs is the opposite, making this role I some ways, much more important. I have had issues with many of my jobs regarding being unseen and unnoticed, and have often felt this here too; this then is an opportunity to shine loud and clear and be seen in all my glory.

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