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Monday, 31 December 2012

As 2012 comes to an end

It's that time of year again, when we stand on the threshold of the new year, waiting for the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It seems like we were only here a short while ago, on the 21st with an altogether more symbolic ending, or perhaps beginning. For most though, who did not see the significance of that day, the real ending comes tonight. Whichever you choose as the most important to you, it marks the turning point where the cycle starts again.

What a cycle then it has been - this past twelve months has seen more bloodshed and more tears than even I would have thought possible, with wars in all four corners of the globe - the uprisings in Syria that continue unabated, the protests in Egypt about the so-called too Islamic constitution, the conflict between Israel and Palestine and more recently the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in India. These are just four examples of much else that has happened in the world at large.

Closer to home we have also seen the crisis deepen within the Eurozone, with unrest brewing also within our own borders at the proposed benefit cuts that will affect thousands if not millions of working poor. It is ironic that this comes at a time when the banks who have been the cause of much of the angst try to out their own house in order - it is a noble effort to be sure, but perhaps a case of too little, too late, for this was also the year in which ordinary people such as myself moved their money in droves, to banks and offered a more ethical stance.

This year we have it seems seen many different chapters unfold with scandals being unveiled almost every day - not only in banking, but also in politics and the media.  This though is a positive thing, as the more these things come to light, the greater the opportunity there is for change, a change towards a society where ordinary citizens and the greater good is at then heart, rather than the vested interests of the small minority. The theme for the year has from my perspective been transparency, for that is exactly what we have seen - where things are no longer hidden from view and everything is seen in plain sight (it has been hiding for a long time). Of course the politicians and the business people have done their best to resist, but in the end, it's a bit like The Borg - resistance is futile, for the tide has already turned.

The tides are of course governed by the Moon, which is in turn purveyor of the feminine principal and all that that represents, and so it is that we have also seen a rise in feminine power - women's rights have been debated like never before - the right for a woman to choose and have power over her own body and indeed her own life. The incident in India only serves to highlight this, as did the case ironically of another Indian born lady in Ireland who died following her Doctors refusal to carry out a termination, despite the fact that the child which was being miscarried, would not have been viable.      

For my own part, the most significant external event has to be have been the Olympics, for this was the year in which the nation welcomed Olympians from around the globe into our hearts. For one glorious weekend at the end of July, the small village in which I live played host to the worlds media as the Olympic cyclists, both men and women, pedalled along our streets (perhaps I should say road, as there is only one of them), which were filled to capacity with people from all around not only our own county, but it seemed like the whole universe. A lot had of course gone on behind the scenes both before and after the events, and I would be lying if I said it had been smooth sailing, for there was trouble on the high and stormy seas. The Olympics were then for me both a blessing and a curse, the highlight of the year, but also a low point for what they showed me about the ability of a small minded minority to spoil things for the bigger thinking majority, but most of all about people's reticence to place themselves above the parapet and champion their own views.

Late spring/early summer was for both Coran and I a difficult time, with the Box Hill News debacle )after months of work LOCOG informed us that we would not be able to sell the planned Olympic issue), and my subsequent resignation from the role as Editor. At the same time, there as a series of deaths at work, other problems with the boss (for this read Director), who wrote some unwarranted and disparaging comments about the quality of my work, and some serious health issues that Coran also had to face. With love and support from each other, and from some very good friends (at times like these,you find out who your friends really are), we managed to get through and ultimately came out much stronger the other side. Adversity has a funny way of doing that.

There has also been much adversity in my own work, mostly from the Directors and the constant movement it seems of different Managers. At the end of October I made the decision to finally move on and put that chapter to bed. The last page will be turned on January 16th next year, the date that I finally leave. It will and has been a grieving process in many ways, getting used to the idea that I will no longer be around to make a difference to our lovely residents lives, but in the new home that I am moving to a new contract is being made on a soul level with a new group of elderly folk who now need me more.

For me it has also been a year of travel - to Avebury at the beginning of the year, Lundy in March, and the Isles of Scilly in June. I also enjoyed a week in North Devon/Cornwall during September and of course for the Winter Solstice once again at Avebury/Glastonbury/Stonehenge.

It has also been a year of books - and there have been some very good ones at that. This time last year, I made the decision to commence the Around the World Reading Challenge - reading a book that is set in every country of the world. I had been unofficially doing this for a while, so had chalked up a number of countries already, but during the past twelve months, have added about forty more. I have a long way to go, but am enjoying the journey, and learning much about the world at the same time - some good, some not so good. The one thing that I have learnt from all of it, as I have from my own journey, is that life although it can be hard, brings us nothing that we are unable to deal with, and beneath it all, there is always an opportunity to change and see the good, adversity as I said earlier, comes from pain, and so the pain and the dark, ultimately serves the light.       

So now that the end is at hand, and we stand poised to usher in the new year, what do I wish for 2013 - there are no grand gestures and no resolutions, for there is really only one, that is breathtaking in its simplicity. I want nothing more than to be happy, and to continue to be the best that I can be, encouraging others, along the way to do the same. We could sit here and debate the purpose and the meaning of life until the cows have gone home, but that is all it really is - to find out or perhaps to remember, all that we are, and to continually recreate that in the next grandest vision that we have of ourselves. My wish then for 2013 is that others see this same vision, and work together to create a world where all that no longer serves this role naturally falls away, a world where growth and evolution of the spirit becomes the goal, rather than the acquisition of material wealth and things, where it all about what we can for others, rather than what they can do for us, knowing that this is the same thing, for all is one, and we are one with the universe. We are the universe manifesting itself through us, so I say, bring it on, whatever 2013 has in store for me, I am ready.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dreams of dialysis

Last night I had some intensely vivid dreams about various forms of medical treatment that I appeared to be undertaking - the most vivid of which was dialysis. With my limited medical knowledge I understand that the kidneys are responsible for keeping the body free of all the substances (waste products) that it no longer needs, and so it occurred to me that this dream must too have been some kind of purge to get rid of all that I no longer need. I have after all been asking for some time that this occurs.

I thought though I would take a look at my favourite mind body medicine guide, the wonderful "Your Body Speaks Your Mind" by Deb Shapiro and copy here what it is I found. My own words have been added in bold:

"You have two kidneys and two adrenal glands that sit on top of them. The job of the kidneys is to maintain a balance of water (emotion) and minerals and the acid/alkali content in the blood, and to act as a filter for unwanted substances by determining what is good and helpful versus what is toxic or damaging.

This is an essential balancing of opposites symbolized by the two kidneys in relation to each other. Issues here are especially connected with relationship, whether imbalances in your relationship with others - particularly with your primary partner - or imbalances of the masculine and feminine energies within yourself.

The kidneys are involved in the production of red blood cells, indicative of their involvement in generating love throughout your being. Yet, they are also about release and letting go, especially of negative feelings, and this is most obvious at times of relationship breakdown. Such a separation causes an imbalance as well as a surplus of negative and insecure feelings.

At times of kidney difficulties it is essential to find ways to release feelings, even if it means hitting a pillow. By letting the negative go the flow of love can be resumed.

In Chinese medicine the kidneys are known as the seat of fear, mainly because the adrenal glands release adrenaline into the body in response to excitement, anger, panic and stress. The kidneys respond to fear, to unexpressed grief and loss. Fear motivates action or immobilizes you into inaction. This is seen in the important connection between the kidneys and the joints. Just as the joints give you the ability to express yourself, so the kidneys let go of that which is no longer needed. Uric acid is normally excreted by the kidneys, but if it is not released it can build up in the joints, as is the case with gout, which causes painful swelling and immobility. Gout particularly affects the toes, implying deep fears about what lies ahead."

This is then interesting reading, and seems to confirm that my initial analysis of this dreams is correct, that it is indeed about letting go. What Deb has to say about fear though also rings true - and particularly about relationship breakdown. The most important relationship with another in my life is of course the one I have with Coran, and there is no problem there, but the second most important one after that has to be, you guessed it, my job, and that is most definitely breaking down as I prepare to leave. As I was writing just the other day, I have in fact been resisting this tooth and nail, and refusing to believe that it was even happening at all, but I can no longer deny the fact this it is. It seems then that my own subconscious had found a way during the dream state for me to start the process of finally letting it all go, and for that I am grateful, as I know several people with gout, and I most definitely do not want to develop this!

So, in the meantime, where's that pillow?

Friday, 28 December 2012

It starts with acceptance

One week after 21st, the world and I are both still standing, while I it seems have plunged right into the heart of that proverbial fire.

Following a relaxing weekend away, it was straight back to work, and a five day stretch during the festive week. While some get to have two whole weeks off work, those in the health and social care sector such as myself are lucky to have any time at all. It seems unfair in some ways that those who work arguably the hardest of all and make the greatest contribution to society reap the smallest of rewards, but I get the feeling that that may be about to change as society reappraises its values. That though is a whole other subject, although vaguely related to what I am about to say.

On Christmas Day I worked a long day from 7am to 6pm and knackered is not the word. Coran came along to help, as she often does entirely off her own back, and without pay, as she likes to do so, and also wanted to help me, knowing that with my colleague working in the kitchen during the morning, I was the only housekeeper on duty, responsible for the entire house. That is a big responsbility and one in a long line of reasons why I know that I really do need to leave. Despite the hard work, Christmas Day is usually reltaively relaxed - the work obviously needs to be done, but everything seems to slow down, as staff and residents enjoy the festive atmosphere surrounded by their own family, many of whom visited, followed by a festive meal, ably cooked by our superb Kitchen Manager.        

Christmas Day was followed by a shorter day (normal for me) of 7am to 2pm, with the same again yesterday and today. I awoke on Christmas Day to the beginnings of what felt like a cold with a distinct soreness in the throat and the beginnings of a vague tickle in the nose. By yesterday it had developed into chills and shivering with watery eyes to boot (the eyes - the right one in particular, have been watering for a while - perhaps due to unshed tears?). I should have gone home, or better still, not gone work at all, but I have my heart set on certain items in certain sales, and sadly they do not buy themselves - and, if I do not work, I do not get paid, so off to work I went.

My already fragile feelings were exacerbated by the discovery on Thursday that a replacement has already been found for my job - a young Polish girl - I met her when she same to fill in her forms. I must admit that this knocked me for six, and I am not altogether sure why. This is not really true, for actually I am very much aware, but do not like to admit it. This discovery, when it came, immediately pushed all my own "I am indispensable and this place is going to fall apart without me" buttons. I realise that this will sound like ego, and of course it is, but there, I have said it. It is out there. I am a flawed and imperfect human, as we all are.

Of course is also means that there can be no going back. With this discovery also then came the realisation that this is real and happening, you see, I have been pretending that it is not, kidding myself that it is all in my head, and happening in some other universe. That though is so I do not have to deal with how I really and truly feel.

How then do I really and truly feel? When it comes down to it, I feel as if I have been pushed out of a job that I love because of others behaviour - there is a large part of me still that does not really want to leave, but there is also a part that sees that there are very compelling reasons why I have to. There is a sense of dictotomy between the two which has led my feelings to oscillate - one day I am happy with my choice and clear in my reasons for doing this, the next when one of the residents tells me they missed me on my day off, I start to think "how can I leave this place, when they need me and love me so much". Pure ego I know, for the truth is they will find someone else to miss once I am gone, and one year from now will probably not even be on this planet.

This morning though, all those feelings came flooding to the surface - what I then felt was a great and overwhelming sense of loss and betrayal - I felt dejected, miserable, fed up, unseen and unnoticed - the same it seems I have felt for most of my life. That then is why when I went to work this morning, feeling worse than I did the day before, after a restless night interspersed with coughing fits, I was not pleased to see my colleague, who is suffering from the same symptoms, gain copious amounts of sympathy from others while I was almost completely ignored. It was obvious that I too was suffering, but not one person asked how I was, or if  I was alright - the Manager did ask just as I was about to go home. When my colleague then decided to go home, halfway through the morning, it all got a bit too much, and I sat on the toilet and cried and cried.

As the tears came streaming out, with great big sobs, so the feelings came out too. I managed to calm down, dried my tears and thought I was okay, but half an hour later, the tears came again for a second time, this time a lot more of them. Half an hour and a cup of coffee later, I finally dried my eyes, with still no one noticing or asking how I was, and reluctantly got on with my work. In truth, I felt like going home, but with my colleague gone, someone had to do the work. I had visions of me ringing Coran, asking her to come and me bursting into her arms with heartfelt sobs that left everyone in no doubt as to what I was experiencing.

I didn't though do this, and the fact that I didn't left me asking, why do I feel the need to continually paper over the cracks and hide how I feel, stuffing everything down out of sight and out of mind. I know it is not good for me, but still I continue to do this. Is it then really that surprising that I am unseen and unnoticed when I hide so much not only from others, but also from myself. I am also aware that unless I take action to clear these thoughts and these emotions that have been a part of me now for much, much too long, I will take them with me to my next job and nothing will change.

While it is true that where I am has become a toxic environment, I have to take some of the responsibility, in fact all of the responsibility for how I feel about and have reacted to that, for it is an undeniable fact that that has been the cause of at least eighty percent of my stress. None of that of course excuses what has happened during my three and a half years here, the four changes of Manager, the things that the Director has said and done, the constant tiredness and lack of respect from certain others members of the team, but all of this has pressed my buttons like mad and triggered what has sometimes seemed like an insane reaction. The first step is as always to recognise this pattern, for it is only then that the clearing can begin, and now that I know that there really will be no going back (for if my job has already been filled there will not be one for me to go back to), the clearing can well and truly begin - it starts with acceptance, and a good rest this weekend with lots of retail therapy and some gluten free cake!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Into the Fire: Thirteen Senses

Come on, come on
Put your hands into the fire
Explain, explain
As I turn and meet the power
This time, This time
Turning white and senses dire
Pull up, pull up
From one extreme to another
From the summer to the spring
From the mountain to the air
From Samaritan to sin
And it’s waiting on the end
Come on, come on
Put your hands into the fire
Explain, explain
As I turn and meet the power
This time, This time
Turning white and sense dire
Pull up, pull up
From one extreme to another

From the summer to the spring
From the mountain to the air
From Samaritan to sin
And it’s waiting on the end
and now I’m alone I’m looking out
I’m looking in, way down
The lights are dim
and now I’m alone I’m looking out
I’m looking in, way down
The lights are dim

Come on, come on
Put your hands into the fire
Come on, come on

Still Here !

Well, the 21st December proved not to be the end of the world as was widely predicted, as I am still here to tell the tale. While some did believe in the Doomsday sagas that the sky would turn black and they would be lifted up in the Rapture to meet their God, I for one was not one of them, preferring to believe in the alternative theory that this was to usher in a new era of peace as the previous era came to an end. This has in fact been happening for a while, not in an altogether easy transition, depending on your point of view. It has been easier it has to be said for some than for others, mostly those who chose not to resist. For the majority who did not and still do not understand, it has sadly not been an easy path, and that is precisely why those who have been on the path for a while and do understand will be so needed in the coming weeks and months. Where Coran and I have been doing the work now for 20 odd years, those who chose not to embrace this change now have just a few short months. I would not want to be in their shoes!

During the weeks leading up to the 21st Coran and I both experienced some very strange dreams - it was almost as if both of us were clearing away all the debris of both past and current lives. The dreams included visits to various ancient civilisations around the world, as well as more recent events where we confronted those who have affected both of us deeply in both positive and negative ways - colleagues for example from former jobs, school bullies, former friends and acquaintances and family members. Some of these dreams were very vivid and intense and immensely real and frightening. It is all though good, as both of us knew that the more we cleared before the 21st, the less we would be taking with us.

One thing that I will definitely not be taking with me is my current job, for four days before the 21st, on the 17th, I arrived home from work to find that my CRB had finally arrived. I telephoned my soon to be new boss straight away to let them know and confirm my starting date - 21st January, exactly one month after the start of this new era. The following day I went to work and handed in my notice. The next few days passed in a bit of a blur and seemed somewhat unreal. Now that it is real I feel nothing but a huge sense of relief. It all feels so right - the timing and everything about it, most of all the fact that I shall start there exactly one month to the day of the commencement of this brand new era that we have talked about for so long.

When I first heard about the significance of this event, at the end of the last millennium, it seemed so distant, but the time has passed so fast that it now hardly seems real. Now that we have moved through it and come out the other side, it seems even less so, but move through it we have, and I for one can think of no one I would rather have experienced it with and had by my side during the entire magnificent process than Coran, the person whom I love beyond all else.

When I realised that 21st was to be my day off from work, I suggested that we go away somewhere together, just the two of us, to be in our space to experience the shift in our own way. At first we thought about trying to get private access to Stonehenge, but this proved impossible, so we decided instead to stay at the Travelodge near Amesbury for one night to be in the energy of the stones, and to visit Avebury at the same time. We then hit upon the idea of also visiting Glastonbury, another of our favourite sacred sites, and so, the Chalice Well being already full, we booked a second night at the Travelodge  in Glastonbury as well. So it was that we found ourselves awake shortly after midnight at the start of the 21st, and at 11.11am later on that day, walking up to the top of the Tor. We were in good company with many others of like mind, all chanting and singing, enjoying the atmosphere and soaking it all in.

It was interesting to see people's reactions at work when I told them of our plans, which ranged from the jealous to the incredulous. As one of them put it "in this day of reason and scientific enlightenment that people should believe such things". Now that it is all over, is it interesting too to see written all over the Internet words to the effect that it was all a damp squib, and as no one saw, felt or heard anything, none of it exists. The fact that countless others may have seen, heard and felt various things seems to be of little consequence, for it is not the person writing this stuff who saw, felt or heard anything, and it is therefore regarded as hokum, or words to that effect.
It does not seem to occur to them that the reason they felt, heard or saw nothing is because the transformation is meant to come from within, and cannot be regarded as an external thing. If you want to create change in your life, then you have to go out and create that change. The cynics may think that thousands chanting and banging drums at the top of Glastonbury Tor, or countless other sacred sites, not only in the UK but throughout the world is only symbolic and had no real effect, but trust me this, the energy at the top of that Tor was tangible, and when groups of people gather together with one common focus, things happen whether you feel it or not!
I know that I have experienced major shifts in my own life over the last few years, and that these will continue to occur, I also know that others have experienced the same, and I say, bring it on. This was not meant to be one event where everything suddenly shifts, but a gradual process - this is then only the beginning. It is up to us the way showers to hasten that process and help others as they come onto the path to speed up their own processes. This is an exciting time to be on the planet, and I for one intend to enjoy every single minute, as we move to infinity and beyond.   
For Coran and I then, it was and is not so much about the day itself, but more about what happens afterwards now that the portal is open and we have chosen to step through. The coming days and months will be interesting indeed to watch and see what happens both within us and within the world at large.

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The end is nigh

With less than a week to go until 21st, the end of the Mayan long count calendar, when we finally cross that portal to the next stage in our evolutionary journey, it has been a relatively quiet week at work. This is of course a blessing in the run up to both Christmas and the 21st, and is largely because for once, on the housekeeping side at least, we have been fully staffed. The carers have not however been without their problems, with one in particular taking extended periods of sick leave with little if any notice, and failing to bring in a Doctors note to certify why. This lady has a reputation for causing problems with not only the staff, but also residents, as she has upset virtually all of us with her attitude on a multitude of occasions. I wonder then if her time with us, like mine, will soon be coming to an end. Whatever her issues are, I also hope that she sorts them out soon.

The net result of this, as I discovered when I read the minutes from the recent staff meeting, is that her absence, among other things (for it is not of course all her fault) is causing the company to spend far too much on agency staff to cover the shortfall. The pay rise that we were, so I am told, due to be awarded in the New Year is consequently under threat. It is news to me that a rise was in the offing at all. As previously mentioned, three months ago, I wrote to the former Manager and Director requesting a rise, and setting out what I considered to be quite a good case. Despite my repeated reminders, I am yet to receive a reply. It is then news to me that a rise was to be awarded after all, and to be honest, the way in which I discovered this leaves a somewhat nasty taste in  the mouth. I do not expect to find out via a memo and it makes me wonder why the Director did not see fit to inform me of this decision in person. This though is not his style, he would rather leave notes criticising our work, in fact he would rather it seems do anything that communicate direct. I bit I have to concede like me. The fact that he NEVER gets agency staff for us housekeepers or indeed the Chefs (to the extent that the Kitchen Manager has not had a proper holiday since she started here three years ago) only adds to the sense of injustice.

It is though what it is, and as the anger diminishes and I begin to accept the fact that I will be leaving (assuming this CRB ever comes through), it somehow does not seem that important. I cannot control the thought processes and reasoning of others any more than I can control the weather, but I can control my own thoughts, and I know that the closer we get to the 21st the more important this becomes, as our thoughts as we go through that portal will determine the world that we create on the other side. I therefore choose not to get caught up in this drama any more but to create a future filled with love, compassion and all those things that the world needs to see it through to the next phase.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Choices, consequences and responsibilies

Today being the 1st of December, we have possibly another 21 days until the end of the world, not that I believe in all of that, well, not all of it. I believe that a great change is coming, in fact has been coming for some time (you only need to read the news to know that), but not that it is the end of the literal world. The material one yes, the me, me. me attitude and the idea that we can do what we like without consequences, that is the thing that is changing, very rapidly now indeed, and I for one hope that it changes as quickly as possible. When it does I can think of one or two chickens that will be sitting on very large roosts ...       

Sadly despite all my good work and effort, things at work this past week have gone from bad to a hell of a lot worse. I know that this is only my own perception and the stress comes from my own inability to deal with and accept the situation, but having said this, none of it excuses what has and is happening there and the behaviour of certain individuals, which has left a lot to be desired.

Due to the fact that one of the other housekeepers moved house on Monday, and was granted a weeks holiday at the very last moment (she is supposed to give a weeks notice), we have had one housekeeper once again, every single day this week. With only one housekeeper in all weekend as well, this means that by the time I return to work on Monday, the house will not have been cleaned properly for nine days - with an epidemic of norovirus (a thought that I definitely do not want to put out there) sweeping across hospitals and care homes throughout the country, this is plainly unacceptable.  

This was bad enough, but when I got to work on Thursday expecting that there would be two of us, plus the Kitchen Assistant, I found that the other housekeeper had phoned in sick. That was one thing (apart from the fact that no one bothered to tell me and I had to ask when I noticed that she was not there),  but a little while later, the Chef came and told me that the Kitchen Assistant was being sick also and had to go home! That meant, you guessed it, that I had to then do the job of all three - cleaning the entire house, doing all the laundry and all the kitchen work.

It seems to me (and I have said this I know on numerous occasions) that all we are doing at this place is continually papering over the cracks. The Director doesn't care one iota about the staff, and they know it, so his attitude towards them filters down to the extent that they no longer care about anything either, and they are surprised that I want to leave!

Now that I am leaving I have got to the point where I am past caring, and I say let those cracks open up as wide as possible, as this is the only way that things will change for those that do choose to remain. On Thursday, I therefore resolved to work as slowly as possible doing only the absolute essentials, and deliberately put the dishwasher on a longer wash cycle so that it took longer and I could not complete all of my tasks - that way the rest of the staff were forced to help. As I said to our maintenance man, it is important after all that the dishes are washed properly - infection control and all of that - there is an epidemic of norovirus in a lot of other hospitals and homes and we don't want to take any risks ... While most of the staff did rally round and do what they could, two of the carers refused to help, stating that their hands and arms were causing them problems - it didn't stop them doing their own jobs though. Strange that, as people weigh a lot more than dirty dishes!

Our new Manager is it seems going to have one hell of a job on her hands to get this lot into line - at the moment it seems to me that they are acting like spoilt children who are testing the boundaries to see how far they can go. She is facing a difficult task - on the one hand she is still getting to know people and needs to find out who they are and how they work, on the other, she also needs to let them know who is boss, and in my opinion at least, down some very firm ground rules as quickly as possible and put her foot down with a very firm hand. It is interesting then that she herself has injured her foot, by tripping over a loose paving stone near where she lives. I would have given her 10 minutes of Reiki on Thursday, but I did not have the time ... I have a good relationship with her fortunately, so can say a lot of things, and tell some home truths and I have, as has the Chef ... She needs though to find these things out for herself, and she will. The trouble with, she is also under pressure from the top.

Yesterday morning though, when the alarm clock went off, it all got a little too much and the combination of a sleepless night, the exhaustion of the previous week, and the 13th anniversary of my Mum's death all got a bit too much. Coran too could not sleep, as she had a halter tape strapped to her body recording her heart rhythms (a follow up to last years tests), so both of us were in the same boat. For the first time I actually shed tears, tears of exhaustion at the thought of going into that place to do my work. I have experienced this before, in my previous job and so knew the warning signs, and knew that it meant that I had to take some me time and rest, and so I asked Coran to let them know that I would not be in. Thankfully it is also my weekend off, so that means three days of rest.

Things there seriously though do need to change for those that choose to remain. The Director, and indeed the staff, need to understand that it all about choices, consequences and responsibilities. If they choose to have the attitude that they have and not work properly together as a team, then that has consequences and they all have to accept joint responsbility for those consequences. If they cannot or will not do this, then they have to do what I have now chosen to do - get the hell out!   

As for me, well I will not be there to see those changes (just the beginnings of them, and that too is already happening). The fact that I am leaving means that the rumour mill is already beginning to work. It may not yet be official, but that is only a matter of time and I know that after this week there will be absolutely no going back and no changing my mind. It is though only a matter of time before an earthquake of seismic proportions tears that place apart bit by bit from the inside, and right down the middle. I only hope that it doesn't affect the residents too much.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

I am sorry. I love you. Please forgive me. Thank you.

A week after my new job offer came in, the initial euphoria is starting to wear off as reality kicks in and I realise that it might be quite some time until I am finally able to leave my current job. As this realisation begins to take root, my anger is also beginning to re-surface, aided somewhat by various conversations with work colleagues, who like myself have observed the way in which the Director behaves and found his morals shall we say, somewhat lacking.

I have begun to ponder in recent weeks exactly why this man seems to trigger so much anger. As despicable as his behaviour has been, I have to admit that it is not all about him, but also about me. If this were not the case then I would not have chosen to experience this and all that he has and continues to do, for I believe that people are only placed in your path in order for you to experience certain things and work through the issues that those people highlight. In this case it is not only what he is, but also what he represents. What he represents to me is all that has gone wrong in the material physical world, and everything that is corrupt, and lately I have seen an awful lot of that. With the news tonight that a former UBS banker has been jailed for his part in almost bringing down his bank, he will no doubt be sweating as he realises once again that this outmoded way of thinking, and indeed of not only conducting business but any aspect of life is no longer relevant and no longer works. I shall not though lose sleep on his account, for I have my own life and my own issues to worry about.

I am aware though that 21st December 2012, the date for the end of the Mayan calendar and quite possibly the most important shift in the consciousness of mankind takes place is fast approaching, and I need to clear as much of this anger as possible. So starting tomorrow I have resolved to send love to the situation in an effort to help it dissolve. If as is likely I am here for another 5 or 6 weeks, then there must be a reason for that, and I do not want to give the universe any more reason to keep me here than it needs to. The faster then that I can do this work, the faster and easier my departure, when it does come will be. So to my soon to be ex bullying boss, "I am sorry. I love you. Please forgive me. Thank you".  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A new job for the new year

I am both celebrating and commiserating this week, strange as that sounds, for I have a new job. I say commiserating because although I know that it is time to move on, I am still sad for the lovely residents and the staff that I shall leave behind who have supported me.

I must say though that I was and am surprised at the speed in which it all happened - the universe in this case seems to have pulled out all the stops. It is almost as if once the decision was made, the universe said to me, "right let's get you a bigger and better position before you change your mind".

My decision to move on was precipitated by the news that the Manager of the home in which I work has once again decided to move on. As the third manager in a little over 18 months, this does not bode well for the home at all, and she will in my humble opinion be a great loss, for above all the Managers we have had, this one was the best opportunity that we had to turn things around and make the home the truly holistic place that it once was and could once again be. That though has all gone out of the window, once again because of the Director and his attitude. During a conversation that I had with the soon to be outgoing Manager, who was originally taken on as a Deputy, it transpired that following the abrupt departure of her predecessor, our former Manager, and her promotion to that post, despite the huge increase in responsibilities, she has not received a pay rise either. Of course once her own decision was made, The Director offered to match her new employers offer, but like me it seems that he underestimated her ability to sense, see and hear, for it is not only about money, but a matter of principle and so it is now for me too.

Following then her announcement and my own decision to leave, I went straight home and logged onto the website of a company that was recommended to me by my neighbour and friend, who used to work there. There I found a housekeeping job in a relatively local home, the closing date for which was that very day. I emailed my application and two days later, they rang me at work to arrange an interview. It was duly arranged for Thursday just gone, and two days after that, I received a letter offering me the job.

The day prior my application I finally found the courage to ask the Director to his face when I could expect a reply to my letter - a letter which was sent 7 weeks ago asking for a pay rise. In typical head in sand stance, his response was that his wife deals with this sort of thing, and that we would have to arrange a meeting. He doesn't at the moment know that I have other plans, or another job,  and I must confess that my ego enjoys this knowledge. My ego would also I confess, love to be a fly on the wall when he reads my letter of resignation. That though will have to wait until  my new employer has obtained the necessary references and CRB.

The new home though is so very different from what I am used to - in every conceivable way. For one thing it is purpose built, which means no more dipping into rooms to get out of peoples way. It also means proper facilities, including storage and no more mountain climbing each time I wish to get clothes out of the tumble dryer (our Director, in his breathtaking stupidity and lack of consideration for our health and safety, has installed the tumble dryer on top of the washing machine, which means that we have to stand on a stool in order to reach it). Everything in the new home is shiny and well maintained, with no nasty smells (and that includes the ones that emanate from Directors). I could tell straight away when I walked through the door that this place is a lot more relaxed, although I am sure they have their moments.

During the interview, I had a long chat with both the Manager and Administrator and was then shown around the home. There were some interesting questions about coping with negativity and so on that did make me wonder, but I don't think it can possibly be worse than where I already am!

Although the basic hourly rate is the same, there are all sorts of bonuses that bring the pay up to considerably more than I am getting here, including double time for Sundays. These will more than compensate for the fact that it is slightly less hours at 35 per week, as opposed to 37.5 which I currently do. The fact that it is a later start at 8.30 rather than 7am will make the biggest difference of all, plus the fact that I will no longer be expected to work seven days in a row - the Manager, who incidentally started her own career in the home where I currently work stated that in her opinion this is bad practise and something that she very much frowns upon. I have then been thoroughly reassured that this will not be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

All in all, no matter which way I look at it I will be so much better off in every conceivable way. Of course when Coran rang me at work on Saturday to say that the letter had arrived, I spent the last hour of my shift walking around with a huge grin on my face. Sunday was much the same, so much so that the other staff on duty must have wondered what I had taken! 

Yesterday then I informed my soon to be ex Manager and the other housekeepers and domestic staff (this has come as a huge blow to them) before ringing the company to formally accept the offer and arrange a time to go and fill in all the necessary forms. That being done today, I now have to wait for the references and CRB to come through before formally handing in my notice.

Now that the news has begun to sink it, I can start to relax and let go of all the anger and frustration that I have been holding on to for so long. I am desperately sad in many ways to be leaving such a (mostly) good team, for they too have had their moments, some more than others, and such lovely residents behind, but life is about change, and I have come to realise that none of these are reasons for me to stay.

It is true what I said in the interview, that I have learnt all I need to from being here and it is now time to move on. I no longer need to experience the negativity that has emanated from this place, and the Directors attitude these past few months. I have no regrets about my time here, for it is all a learning curve, and this has been a wonderful place for me to learn much about life and about hoe the care industry works. When I first began work here 3 1/2 years ago, I had little knowledge or indeed conception of all that awaited me - it has been both an honour and a privilige to spend time with people of such wisdom, with so much to share. They have taught me a great deal, as I have no doubt taight them.       

It is natural that as I start to relax knowing that the end is near the doubts are starting to creep in. I have had several really moving moments with various residents today that have tugged at the heartstrings - one of the residents went home today after having been with us for a few months. He was and is such a lovely man who has been through such a lot in his life - fighting in the war and losing his son in a car accident, where he and his wife had to make the heartbreaking decision to switch off the life support.

I had an interesting conversation too with one of the other younger male residents who has cerebral palsy. Yesterday we were talking about Remembrance Day and I commented to him that I didn't suppose he had been allowed to join the Army and fight - it was a simple off the cuff remark that I didn't really think that much of. He said to me today though that had upset him a little, but he was glad that I said it all the same, as all of his life he has fought against his disability and my stating that has made him reassess and realise that he has to count his blessings and be grateful for all that he has has and all that he has learnt. We shared a little hug and both of us had damp eyes!

All this has though understandably made me wonder whether it is the right thing to leave. I have to though realise that this is all part of the letting go, and remember that the reason I am feeling happier is because I know that I am going. It doesn't then change my decision and there will be no going back. The attitude and behaviour of the Director cannot and should not be tolerated, and if I stay it is sending a signal to him and everyone else there that this is acceptable when it is clearly not. A line has to be drawn.

I have then this afternoon been over to the new home to fill in all the forms, CRB, bank details, uniform and so on as the quicker I do that the quicker the CRB will come through and the quicker I can give my notice. It will be sad leaving all those lovely residents behind but none of them are really a reason to stay, as everything changes, and a year from now some of them may not even be alive. I know that I have done good work and changed lives by being here and that will continue with a new set of people in a new environment. They are though losing a very good person even if I do say so myself, and it isn't just me either, but Coran as well, for she has often volunteered there helping at the parties and so on, and the staff all know her as a friend as they do me. Things at the home though can only go from bad to worse, and I get the feeling that things will get a lot worse before they start to improve. Our Directors His loss is someone else's gain, and I guess that in time he will realise what he has lost. I am not the fist person to leave there, and the way things are, I certainly won't be the last.             

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Living Wage - a flawed notion or the right thing to do?

It will not have escaped the notice of anyone who reads the more serious as opposed to tabloid press, or indeed anyone who listens to the radio, that this past week has been what has been referred to as the National Living Wage Week. The living wage for those who do not do those things mentioned above, is defined as a wage that enables those who receive it to have a decent as opposed to basic standard of living, giving them the means to feed and clothe their families in a proper way using quality products as opposed to the white label goods commonly on sale (this last bit is my own words). This is given my own situation, as someone who earns considerably less than the living wage (£7.45 for those outside of London as I am), a subject which is close to my heart.

There are  arguments both for and against, with predictably those who are against being mostly the business people and economists. They state that the living wage while a nice idea, is not workable, as there is no such thing as a free pay rise, and to introduce this would make business less competitive leading to job losses for those already in employment and an inability for up and coming small businesses to provide jobs at all. They say then that it is a flawed argument.

I though do not believe that it is flawed at all. For me it is really quite simple. The low paid tend to be those in service sector jobs, such as care work, cleaning (my own profession, for make no mistake, this is a profession and a skilled job) And retail, all those jobs that no one wants to do yet are essential, for everyone depends on them. Those that perform these jobs are the cogs that keep everything else in motion, take those cogs away and the whole system collapses.

We have got it all wrong in this country, in fact in this world, where those who perform the most valuable work are the least paid. It stems from several beliefs, firstly that those who do good deeds should do it for love only, and secondly, and this is the important one, that there is not enough. We all to some extent have this belief, no matter how high up we are, from the top right down to the bottom. Those at the top are afraid of losing what they have, and so they cling on to it for dear life, refusing to share with those lower down, while those who are lower down are also afraid - afraid that for them things will never get better and never get easier. Everyone is thus afraid.

The economy is though wages driven. Give people more money and they will spend it, not on credit using money that does not even exist, getting themselves further into debt while the rich get even richer, but using real hard earned cash. Evidence shows that in those companies who have adopted a living wage, it has more than paid for itself through increased productivity, lower recruitment and training costs (for the staff are more easily retained) and less absenteeism.

I find it hard to believe that large employers at least really cannot afford this, and can't help feeling (and this is based on both personal experience and observation) that it is really more a case of them not wanting to afford it - they would rather spend money on pleasing shareholders and funding the bosses (for this read their own) extravagant lifestyles than on the staff who make the company profitable in the first place. When someone says to me that they got rich through hard work, I ask them whose? Perhaps it is time that the bosses began to ask themselves that same question.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pulling out the stops

Things have been a little better at work since Monday, although not much, and I have no regrets about my decision to leave. If anything, I am more determined than ever.

Yesterday I finally found the courage to speak to the Director in person, and ask him outright (looking him straight in the eye) whether he had seen the letter I handed in 6 weeks ago requesting a pay rise. He said words to the effect that his wife and co-Director deals with this sort of thing, which is probably true, since she is the one who does the pay roll. He then when pressed a little further, said that we would need to arrange a meeting to discuss things further. This is typical of his behaviour to try and pass the buck and not deal with things directly. But it is now out there and he knows that I am not going to let this go away, and so if I hear nothing for another week, then I shall ask him again and start gradually chipping away, making it clear that this for both me and him is not going to go away and needs to be dealt with.

It matters not that I have an interview tomorrow for a housekeeping job in another home, for this for me has now become a point of principal. Barring a complete disaster at the interview tomorrow, even if he does turn round and offer me a rise, I will still want to leave regardless, for this is now about far more than just the money, it is about being treated as a human being with dignity and respect, things that while he remains as Director are likely to be in ever shorter supply. It is then about maintaining my own dignity and respect and not allowing my own boundaries to be breached any more than they already have been. As it stands, I am now way past my limit with regard to that. Fingers then crossed for tomorrow.

I have a good feeling about this job, as it all seems to have just fallen into place. My next door neighbour who is a  retired care worker, has often spoken about this company, whom she worked for and said how well they treat their staff, and so I made a point some time ago of looking up their website and adding it to my favourites. On Wednesday of last week, when I made that decision to leave, I went to their website after I got home and found a housekeeping job not far from here, the closing date for which was that very same day. So I filled in my application and emailed it across, and then two days later when I was laying the tables at work, they telephoned to arrange the interview. Then after a I got home yesterday Coran showed me a flyer for a new home that they opening a little further away that had come through our door. Coincidence or what?

The universe then seems to be pulling out all the stops to help me. Now it is down to me to help myself.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Time to move on ...

On Wednesday I made an important decision regarding my job, namely, that it is time to move on. Truth be told, I have been deliberating on this for a while, ignoring the feelings of discontent, stuffing them down, until the anger and despondency finally spilled over, with the realisation that while our current Director remains, nothing will change.

What you may ask has brought this realisation about? The announcement that yet again our Manager has herself decided to move on, this time after eight short months. Bear in mind that the Manager before her, who left in abrupt circumstances, rumour has it not of her choice, lasted just six months and the Manager before that not much more. The Manager before that resigned due to the stress of the job, which was making her ill. Three Managers in eighteen months does not bode well, and I am sure the CQC will be very interested to know why. I shall not though with any luck be around to help them find out, although if I am, rest assured that I will pull no punches and tell them exactly how it is, and has been.

It is then for me the combination of this latest resignation and the continued lack of response to my request for a pay rise (it has now been six weeks) that has led to this realisation. Truth be told, the attitude of certain more senior carers has also played a part. Twice last week one of them had a go at me for "getting in her way" while I attempted to do my own job. More than anything though, it is the feeling, which stems from the top and seeps downwards, that the housekeepers come very firmly at the bottom of the pile. When the chips are down, we are not important enough to help and support, but we are important enough to moan at when a few specks of dust are found.

If you want proof of that then consider what happened today. I was one of three of housekeepers rostered for duty, one of whom (myself) was supposed to be housekeeping downstairs, while the second one housekeeped upstairs. The third housekeeper was rostered for kitchen duty. Both of these other housekeepers phoned in sick leaving me all on my own. What you may ask did they do when other staff were unable to help? Phone an agency, request that one of the carers helped out (bear in mind that there were seven of these on duty for 24 residents, at least 2 more than than they normally have). Like hell they did, no I was told that I had to manage on my own. I then was expected to clean the whole house, do all the laundry, and the washing up, including the morning tea trolley.

I would have hoped that one of the carers would at least have been rostered to do this, but no, I was asked to stop what I was doing and go out into the kitchen and do this as well. It is true that the Manager did her best to make sure I was alright and she asked as well if there was anything she could do to help, but to be honest, it is sometimes easier to do it yourself than to try and delegate to those who are not experienced, and so I chose to struggle on. I realise that this my choice to make, but by doing this and refusing to paper over the cracks, they were there for all to see, so that they will hopefully realise the importance (and more to the point, the magnitude) of all that we do. There is nothing like not having the work done to make others realise what work is normally done and to make then understand and appreciate your role. This has been all too lacking of late.

So this morning, when the Manager asked if I was okay, for the second time following my appraisal I told the truth. I told her that I was totally hacked off and all that today had done was reinforce the fact that I had made the right choice in choosing to go! That day cannot now come a moment too soon.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The start of the beginning

I haven't posted on here (again) for a few weeks, but it has as ever been an interesting time.  As I wrote previously, about 6 weeks ago my boss, the Head Housekeeper had her appraisal and she naturally enough brought up the subject of a pay rise (we haven't had one in all of the 3 1/2 years I have worked here and now earn just 19 pence an hour above minimum wage - bear in mind also that I have recently completed an NVQ 2). She was asked to put it in writing, and knowing that I too want one, thought that if I did the same thing, it would add weight to her argument. So that is what we both did. 2 weeks ago I had my own appraisal, during which the Care Home Manager sang my praises (actually we had a really honest and open talk) and said that if she had anything to do with it, we would get that rise, but sadly she does not sign the cheques. The cheques are signed instead by our Director, a former Director of the investment arm of one of the big four banks, (say no more), who thinks nothing of spending money on vases, mirrors and furniture that we do not need - anything it seems except the staff. His idea of treating us properly is the annual Christmas party, which is a waste of time anyway.

Six weeks later, despite repeatedly asking the Care Home Manager, we are yet to receive an answer, in fact I am not even sure if the Director has even seen our letters, since they appear to have been just plonked in his in tray. So on Wednesday I spoke to the Company Advisor (the Director when he is in uses the same desk), and asked him if he knew anything, and he has promised to investigate. The Director came in later that day, and requested a private meeting with the Manager, and before I left our Administrator informed me that "things were being dealt with", so if there is still no joy by this time next week, I shall have no alternative than to just ask him direct. I did not want to do this, as he is a large and somewhat intimidating man, seemingly with an answer for everything.  I do not though feel that at this stage it is up to me to justify why I deserve a rise, but for him to justify why I do not. I for one am heartily fed up with all this waiting around, and in a fighting mood, and so will be more than ready for him. Wish me then copious amounts of luck.

It seems that lady luck is already smiling anyway, since I received my first royalty statement from Amazon a few days ago since kindleising my book, and have sold three copies - this may not seem a lot, but it is no doubt three copies that I would otherwise not have sold, and I am sure there will be many more.

I had an email from my publisher a few days ago also, informing me that Richard, the Editor and owner of the company has arranged a deal with Gardners Books, the UK's largest wholesaler, whereby Richard's authors can advertise (prices start so I am told at £80) in Gardners next magazine, which is sent to every book retailer in the country. A year or so ago I would have jumped at this chance, and while it is true that this represents a good deal (I would have to sell around 26 books to make to worthwhile),  I do not have £80 at my disposal, not for this anyway. There is a long list of things that need paying for first - the new glasses that I ordered (£364), which I am picking up later on today, the deposit for next years holiday, the cost of my February holiday, my annual car service, a new winter coat, our trip to Glastonbury at the end of the year. I am sure there will be more expenses too before the end of the year. That £10.33 that I received then in royalties is a drop in the ocean, and sadly will not stretch far (a pair of second hand trousers from Ebay perhaps), if I am to afford all of these things, then I am going to need that rise, and if I don't get it, and he tells me as he usually does, that there will be a pay review in April (which one), he will be well and truly taking the rise. 

Yesterday then Coran and I went to Guildford to collect the clothes I had ordered from Rohan, who are rapidly becoming my favourite outdoor retailer (a pair of warm walking trousers and a Merino wool T shirt), followed by lunch in our favourite vegetarian restaurant, while today I need to collect my glasses and then go food shopping - what joy! As it has been some while since I visited my parents grave, I intend to get some flowers and go and see them also later on. If the weather stays kind, I will sit in the car with a cup of tea and my Kindle and watch the world go by.

Two days in a job like mine never seems like enough, and I have a long time to go between holidays this time, but despite my grumblings I do for the most part enjoy what I do, and I know perhaps most importantly of all, that it it so very worthwhile. Unfortunately it seems that in this country, those that perform the most valuable work are the least rewarded, but I have a feeling that all that and a lot more is about to change - the bankers and business people, both current and former have to start accepting that their gravy train is well and truly over. The signs are there that this is starting to happen, with the scandals and corruption that it seems are continually coming to light, but as we go into next year, all of this will start to speed up as more and more comes to light - the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the fuel industry and so on. By the time this is over there will be nowhere left to hide for anyone who has sought to mislead and deliberately keep others down. This is the beginning of the end, or perhaps the start or our own beginning - oh yes indeed, a year from now things will look very different, for I really do believe that our time has come. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Paying off Karma

I have had a really strange week, that this morning has left me feeling really out of sorts. It seems at the moment as if the mind just keeps on ticking over, going into overdrive over what seems like trivial matters, but when put together, add up to make one complete and rather large whole. The pressure is mounting as the weather starts to bite, at this my least favourite time of the year - all sorts of things need replacing - winter clothes, eye glasses, my car stereo and so on, but the money doesn't seem to come in to match.

I have been in this job for almost 3 1/2 years now and during all this time not once have I received a pay rise, or even been told that one is on the horizon. I know that many others are in the same boat, but one has to consider that the health care sector that I work in is one of the most underpaid and overworked in the country, if not the world, notorious for this sort of thing. The problem is not you understand with the job itself, although there are certain things that I would change, or even with the Manager, but lies fairly and squarely with the Director, who in this case is a former Director of the investment arm of one of the big four banks.

To say that he is difficult to deal with is somewhat of an understatement. In the environment that he is used to, people do not communicate but rather, shout, and stamp their feet if they do not get their way. I have seen him do both on numerous occasions. He has this habit of getting angry for the least little thing - a mop and bucket left in the wrong place, a few specks of dust on top of a cupboard, things that in the scheme of life, like I say, considering the sector we work in, are really not important at all. But for him of course they are, for every time this happens, he sees it as an attack on his imagined authority. I say imagined, for although he (sadly) writes the cheques, he does not run the home - we do that, every one of us who works there, cleaning floors, washing clothes and wiping bums. I sometimes think that the carers get a really bum deal, but someone has to do it!

The lack of pay rise has though been on my mind, especially since I completed and passed my NVQ. To my mind this should entitle me to a raise, since this increases my value, but has one been forthcoming? No.

About three weeks ago, the Head Housekeeper, my Line Manager came to see me and said that she had asked about a raise herself, and had been told that she had to put in a formal written request. So, knowing that if I did the same it would add weight to her own request, we got together and put out letters in at the same time. The Care Home Manager, whom I have a very good and open relationship with, has indicated that to her the pay for the entire team is a major issue that needs urgently addressing, and that if she has anything to do with it, we will all get the raise that we deserve, but three weeks have gone by with no word from him. He is as I write, ensconced in Birmingham at the Conservative Party Conference. It worries me that a man like this has political aspirations, and says a lot about those who have already voted for him as Councillor in the London Borough where he lives. I would not have been one of them had I lived there!

He is though one of these people (a growing trend) whose world is quite literally crumbling around them, as the balance of power starts to shift away from those at the top (for this read those with the money), for bankers believe, that is this that brings power and influence, and it is all about who you know rather than what you do. This though is changing, and he can see this all around him, but he does not want this change, for he knows that he will have to change with it, and so he tries every trick in the book to control and manipulate others into doing what he wants so that he does not have to. I can read this man like a book, as I have been there and so know the signs - the look on his face tells me that a lot of the time, he does know what he is doing and the effect it has on others with regard to how they view him, and he knows that he needs to change, but does not know how to do this. In many ways I feel sorry for this man, but sending him compassion is the hardest thing to do when he is shouting the odds and acting like a general, well, one of those things that the carers spend so much time wiping ...

Against the backdrop of all of this lurks the spectre of winter and the cold, frosty, dark mornings with the daily struggle to get to and from work on country roads. This is also the time of year when the deaths start to increase - we have had one already this week - the husband of one of our long standing residents. The gentleman in question has been a regular visitor to the home seeing his wife several times a week. Around a week ago he informed us that he was going into hospital for some issues with his heart, exactly that these were I do not know, and so he would not be visiting for a few days. He was due for discharge on Tuesday, and when I got to work I found a note at the Nursing station requesting the Night Nurse to prepare the paperwork for his own admission - I guess he was coming in for some short term respite.

I didn't think an awful lot of it, and continued with the rest of my job, but then a short while later I had the thought that while he was there something would happen to him, and he would not be staying with us for long. Then, ten minutes later I was told that he had passed away. This understandably was a shock to all of us, as it was so unexpected. Later on that day, I was told that his wife had said to one of the Nurses last time he visited that she would not be seeing him again - somehow then she also knew. It was then for most of us a sad and rather subdued day.

While all of this has been going on, I have been trying to buy winter clothes from Ebay - to be precise, Rohan outdoor clothing - mostly jackets. Last winter I bought a beautiful fleece with matching zip-in waterproof jacket, but I have since lost weight and so both are now too big. They have sold out of the small sizes in the colour I want, and I could not afford them anyway, so I have been looking on Ebay instead. Three times now I have sniped at quite literally the last second, losing garments which I really needed to see me through the next 10 winters. It is heartbreaking and for me a really nasty thing to do, to steal something from right under someones nose like that without giving them time to react. I have though decided that I must wise up, and if you can't beat them I will join them - without feeling guilty, as although this might not be the most ethical of behaviours, it seems that on Ebay at least, it is the norm, so when my next auction runs out, I will be one hovering around my mouse putting in my last minute bid and gazumping the others, and seeing how they like it.

Today though is a day off - Coran is with a client, and the mist and drizzle has descended, so I am off to bed with a good book!  After the week I have had, I can only conclude that I must be paying off Karma at a vastly accelerated rate!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Winter begins to beckon

As winter begins to beckon, and the days start to draw in, thoughts of Christmas beckon, and with them the prospect of work. I know that one of my colleagues has requested time off, as she has to rely on public transport, which makes travel difficult, and Coran and I have arranged to go away for the weekend immediately before. This is a  busy time at the nursing home where I work, with the residents party to arrange and families visiting, so I was lucky to get the time off. Happily my days off coincide with 21st December, which this year marks not only the Winter Solstice, but also the end of the Mayan calendar, and in spiritual terms, the beginning of a whole new era, so Coran and I have taken advantage of that to make it the equivilant of a long weekend.

Coran and I did try to get private access to Stonehenge, but sadly it was already booked, so Glastonbury being our next choice and the Chalice Well also being booked, we have booked one night in the Travelodge at Amesbury and one at Glastonbury, the idea being that we can kill three birds with one stone - Stonehenge, Avebury (which is always open to the public no matter the time of day or year), and of course Glastonbury Tor. The Chalice Well would have been nice, but in some ways this is better since we will be able to just stay in our own private space, unencumbered by the energy of others. This is the last holiday I will have this year, so it is important to make it as restful as possible before the changes start to take place, and I get the feeling that there will be a lot of them.

I predict that during the weeks and months that follow, many more scandals will come to light, and not just in politics and banking - for as those on the path have no doubt known for some time, what we have thus far witnesssed is the tip of a Titanic sized iceberg, and if the bankers and so on think that their whole world is changing and crumbling around them now, they ain't seen nothin' yet. I include my own boss in this, who as an ex banker has been behaving  somewhat erratically of late. While I understand that much of this is borne from fear (he was a Director of the investment arm of a bank whose name I shall not mention during the years that marked the LIBOR scandal), it is not the easiest thing to show him compassion when he is shouting the odds and making your life difficult. Still, it is what it is, and no doubt his (and my) lesson to learn.

Nine weeks into the New Year, on February 18th, I go for my first holiday of 2013, to the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel. This time I am staying for 11 nights, flying out on the Helicopter from Hartland on a Monday and back again the following Friday. It will be a good to have an extended break after a long winter, and even better to have almost 2 weeks worth of lie ins!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Five days by the sea

It hardly seems credible that this time last week I was freewheeling down the M5 towards the small town of Westward Ho! on the North coast of Devon for five glorious days of rest by the sea. There is little to do in the town itself, other than the beach, but that suits me fine, as the town has one of the finest beaches in the whole of this region, backed by the famous pebble ridge and of course the Northam Burrows nature reserve. One can walk for miles all the way to the Tor estuary at low tide and round to Appledore on the other side of the dunes.

I stayed at the excellent youth hostel in the town, which is an excellent base for exploring the area, and took full advantage of everything that the area has to offer. It is a part of the country that I am quite familiar with, being just across the water from the island of Lundy, where until 2009 I holidayed two to three times each year. Since that year, when everything changed, I have visited the island less - maybe once a year in the spring, but I had been missing it so much of late that this time I decided to go for a day trip.

It was the first time I had ever done this, after 32 staying visits, so for me it was a novel experience. I must admit that there had been an element of "us and them", snobbery almost towards the day trippers, yet they bring more into the economy of the island than those that do choose to stay, and as I discovered, these trips do serve a definite need. They provide a taste of the island for those who are unsure as to whether they would like to stay, being unsure perhaps as to whether they would cope with the silence, and the lack of mainland "essentials" such as supermarkets, nightclubs et al. Lundy is for me, one of those places that you either get or you don't, and although the majority choose not to come back as staying visitors, many return as day trippers instead, as a short respite from mainland life, and so it was this time, for me.

It was strange to know that this time I would not be staying, and so I made the most of every moment on the island that I had, walking all the way to the north end via the west coast and back via the east. On my return to the village towards the end of the afternoon, I found myself walking across Acklands Moor towards the cottage where I always stay, almost without thinking, and as I approached suddenly realised that I wasn't this time staying there! I bid then a hasty retreat and headed back to the pub for a mug of tea and more than welcome gluten free chocolate cookie. It was a long day, but so very worth it.

The remaining three days were spent sunbathing at Saunton Sands, exploring the village of Clovelly, and for the final day, walking between Hartland Quay and Hartland Point - famed for some of the finest coastal scenery in the southwest. This is a walk that I shall definitely repeat, next time more slowly so that I take everything in and not have to rush. It was exhilarating climb those challenging hills, which peak at almost 1500 feet, with the sun and the wind streaming through my hair. I have definitely caught the sun this week, which will set me up the dark winter nights which are to come.

Now that I am back, it feels as always a lifetime ago. It was straight back to work at 7am yesterday after driving back on Sunday and right back into the fray. I have been in my current job, as a housekeeper in a nursing home, for three and a half years now, and during all that time have not received one single pay rise. By the time the minimum wage goes up next week, my salary will be just 21 pence per hour above that rate, which considering the level of responsibility that I have and the nature of the work involved, dealing with frail and elderly people at the end of their lives, is to be quite honest, scandalous. So, when the Head Housekeeper informed yesterday that she had just had her appraisal and been asked to submit a formal letter actually requesting a raise, I felt that I had nothing to lose by doing the same thing. The letter was duly delivered this morning and will be passed along the line to the Care Home Manager and ultimately the Directors for their consideration. They can only say yes or no, but either way, I will know where I stand.

Other than that, there is not much else to report other than the fact that it has become very autumnal these past few days - the trees are moving as I write, bending into the wind. Coran is visiting his sister who has been discharged from hospital, having been quite poorly these past weeks, and there is no further news of my own sister.

Corans video also continues to get many visits - it was mentioned in the local paper this week, which was noticed by everyone at work, so it was become a bit of a talking point there. Some seem perplexed as to the nature of our relationship given Corans trans gender status, but they can always come and ask - there is no reason to be shy and I have nothing to hide.

Oh well, back to the armchair and my latest book ....  

Monday, 17 September 2012

The year of the bike

It's hard to believe that barely a week has gone by since the Paralympic Closing Ceremony, and just eight and a half days ago, Coran and I were sitting in the Excel Arena watching the Sitting Volleyball Men's Final.

This week seems to have gone by in a blur, with work, work and yet more work. Our Kitchen Assistant broke his foot a few weeks ago, tripping over a stone step in the back yard, so that has meant plenty of overtime for the three housekeepers, especially since one of us was on holiday at the time it happened (so in effect, there were only two). This time it is my turn to be away from work - my eight days off started yesterday and will end at 7am next Monday morning.

I am off to Westward Ho! in North Devon then tomorrow for a few days by the sea, to sit in my newly acquired beach tent, in the shadow of the famous pebble ridge listening to the surf as it breaks over the shoreline, and if I am lucky, to wander as far as the estuary and around the Braunton Burrows reserve. A day trip to Lundy is calling, although whether I am up to four hours (two hours in each direction) on the boat remains to be seen. I may decide to wait until the spring, as I am not the best of sailors.

It has though been a fantastic summer all round - especially of course for sport. I must say I surprised myself at how much I got into it all - I never considered myself a sports fan at all, but I certainly am now, and it's all thanks to those fantastic Olympians and their feats.

Yesterday another cycling race came through Dorking, the town near where I live - The Tour of Britain, and so Coran and I had to go and see it. Expecting a big crowd, we got there early, around 10.30am to sit in Costa Coffee enjoying a cup of tea and some gluten free biscuits, watching the crowds as they slowly arrived. By 11.30, the town was heaving, so Coran and I bagged our places by the side of the road (myself at Pump Corner and Coran halfway up West Street) to await the action.

The crowds were as enthusiastic as ever, a mixture of the casual fans (which I guess you can say I am) and the enthusiasts, with several cycling clubs on their bikes. The Police riders were great once again, high fiving the crowds as they rode through those narrow streets. Police tape prevented people from getting too close to the road, keeping everyone safe, both riders and spectators.

I was though in the best position I could be, as when the riders approached, I had a clear view of them as they rounded the narrow bend towards the street where Coran stood. I have a good camera with a lengthy lens and reliable sport mode, so used this mode and just kept shooting. I am pleased with the results, even if they are a little dark - the weather could have been kinder for sure.

There is not much more to say, as the action as always, was over almost as quickly as it started and the crowds quickly dispersed. For our part, we went to the local Sports Centre for a veggie burger and chips before making our way home to watch the rest of the race on ITV4, and what a race it was! I have made a mental note that next time anything like this comes through Guildford, that will be the place to be, the crowds, the noise, the atmosphere, what a homecoming, what a year for cycling, one that I shall not forget, that's for sure.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Box Hill - Up Close and Personal - A Personal Journey

As regular readers will know, Coran and I live in the beautiful village of Box Hill, in deepest Surrey, which at the end of July played host to the Olympic Road Cycling Races. As Editor and Assistant Editor as we were then of the village magazine, Box Hill News, we hoped to produce an Olympic special to commemorate the Games. Sadly this was not to be, as after 100 hours of work and numerous meetings and other discussions, we were told that the National Trust areas in which we hoped to sell the magazine were to be ticketed zones. It is a long story, much documented on the Internet (at the time) and local press, and the least now said the better.

Good however can come from bad, as it was as a result of this that Coran first posited the idea to instead produce a video - a video for the village and the wider community (and that includes you) documenting not only the Races themselves, but what went on behind the scenes with regard to planning - and an awful lot did.

Coran is well placed for a project such as this, with his own web design business, having worked for the BBC for over 20 years, including as part of the RDS team. This project certainly stretched her own boundaries and taught her many more skills which will no doubt stand her in good stead for the future. I conducted at least one of the interviews myself, and so have also learnt from the experience.

The video, which can be seen above, comes highly recommended by myself (even if I am in it - and you can see me in person also at least twice), features interviews with Andy Wright, Southeast Regional Manager for the National Trust, Lyn Richards, Chairman of the Friends of Box Hill and Helen Shackleton, an independent artist who provided much of the artwork which was placed along the ZigZag for the Race weekend, as well as around the outside of the National Trust centre itself as a permanent feature.

This is our legacy for the Games, and our gift to the village. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Spirit of the Games - In Action

Once the Olympics were over, with the lull that followed, I wondered along with half of Britain, whether the Paralympics could live up to the hype. Now that they too are over, I have to say that for me at least if anything, I found these even more exhilarating. This may have been because in this case, I was able to see not one, but two of the events live at different venues across London - North Greenwich Arena and the Excel Arena.

Watching the Paralympic opening ceremony was for me just mind blowing. The theme of Enlightenment told me all that I needed to know. It may have been dressed up as a celebration of science, and it certainly was that, but for those who are on the spiritual path, science and spirituality are really the same thing. The search for the Higgs Boson, otherwise known as the God particle is a search to understand not just the origins of the universe, but the building blocks of life itself, life being who and what we are. The words life and spirituality in this context, can be seen as interchangeable, for what else when it really comes down to it, is life about?

As for the motto "Spirit in Action", well isn't that what we all are - and these games were a fine example of just that. To witness the trials and the triumphs that these elite athletes went through (if anyone doubts this, then watch Jody Cundy's completely understandable outburst) was the perfect showcase for this phrase. The spirituality was there in the Olympics too for sure, but much less obvious, with the Paralympics it was right there in your face, with bells and whistles, and it needed to be in order to get the message across - with 21st December and the energetic portal that that represents now just around the corner, we do not have the time to pussy foot around - people either get it or they don't, and they won't unless we let them know in the most obvious way and with the widest possible audience.

If I thought the Opening Ceremony was impressive, then the Closing Ceremony was even more so, with its steam punk theme and Pagan imagery depicting the elements and the seasons with words from the Order of the Druids no less. The more I think about it, the more spirituality I see in these games, even the motto "spirit in action", which can be taken in so many different ways - on the one hand we are all spirits in physical form, taking action to step out into the physical world and be seen, and on the other, the games also represent the fighting spirit of these champion athletes and the trials that they have to go through to be seen as the equals that they are. Lord Coe was absolutely right when he said that disability will never be seen in quite the same way again. The spectacle of blind footballers and one legged high jumpers made even me (and remember I work with those with disabilites - half of our residents are in wheelchairs), think.

Those first few days after the opening ceremony surpassed all expectations, with it seems records being broken each time that I tuned in. Various residents television sets at the nursing home where I work proved most obliging, with the residents enjoying my company and being most bemused by my seeming ability to materialise in front of their screens each time a particularly loud cheer erupted, and there were plenty of them - Richard Whitehead, Ellie Simmons and of course Sarah Storey, the greatest of all the Paralympians with 22 medals in 2 different disciplines.

After the Road Cycling Races and the Olympics that followed, Coran and I knew that we wanted to see at least one Paralympic event, and Wheelchair Basketball being our sport of choice, we were overjoyed to find tickets available on my first day off following the Opening Ceremony. The Basketball took place at the North Greenwich Arena, formerly known as the O2, where almost four years to the day Coran had been taken ill with a suspected heart attack while on the way home from a Stevie  Wonder concert. Initially reluctant to go back to this venue, Coran realised that part of the purpose for this second visit was to clear the negative energy that we were both still holding on to after that night.

Wheelchair Basketball turned out to be an amazing game to watch, fast paced and furious - seeing how the players tackle each other and trip over and manage to get back up again is really something else.

The first match we saw was Poland versus Japan (men's) which Poland won and then after a short break it was the women's turn - Team GB versus Australia. Sadly (sorry Australians) Australia won, but they were the better team and so did of course deserve it - I certainly wouldn't want to mess with those women! Team GB put up a good effort, but the Aussie's got such a flying start that it was very difficult for us to catch up. These were of course only the preliminaries, and many more games followed for all the teams. 

Coran and I were lucky enough though to be seated right down the front, in the very first row in front of the pitch, so for us, it could not have been any better. The crowd were amazing, if a little loud, but hey they were watching our own home team, so that was as it should be. The journey too was uneventful, and the company was good.

The exhilaration of seeing live Paralympic events fed both of our appetites, and was we found most addictive, so having spent a most enjoyable day watching the Wheelchair Basketball, along with many others, I tried to get some more tickets and eventually managed to get 2 for the Sitting Volleyball men's final on the penultimate day. I noticed that the tickets seemed to go on sale around 6pm most nights, which I suppose was the deadline for the corporations to say whether they had filled all of their own seats. While we would have liked to have seen the Olympic Park itself, sadly this was not to be. Actually now that the Games are over, and I have spoken to those who were there, I am glad that we did not go, as I think we may have found it too much, especially had we been in the stadium. I am more than happy with the events that we did see, as you don't often get the chance to see a gold medal event, and to get 2 lots of tickets was brilliant, when there were so many who didn't get any at all.

That night - which was only a few nights ago, was one that I shall always remember. It was touch and go as to whether we would make it in to the Arena as on the journey up in the morning Coran started to feel nauseous and shaky. Thankfully the amazing helpers in the medical room sorted us out, and after an hour or so in the dark room with some reassurance from the Doctor and her helpers (my own honesty and vulnerability helped as well in expressing how I felt, which encouraged Coran to do the same)  Coran felt well enough to go inside. Our seats were at the end of the aisle which helped, as it meant that we could wander in and out without disturbing people.

We had a brilliant view though of the pitch, only about 5 rows back, and the crowds were incredible, if rather noisy - especially the Iranians for the Gold medal match. The first match was Egypt versus Brazil, which Brazil won, and then it was the bronze medal decider between Russia and Germany. It was incredibly close, and by the third set it really looked as if Russia were going to win, but the Germans managed to pull things back and in the end, although it was still close, they won. Sadly we we had gone out for a walk and so missed the actual moment, but the gold match was of course the most important. I don't think anything would have got me out of the Arena for that one.

I have never seen so many Iranians (or Bosnians for that matter) in one place, other than Iran (or Bosnia) - waving huge flags and chanting, blowing their horn type things (I am surprised they let them bring them in), with the women in their colourful hijabs. It was lovely to see such scenes of celebration, cheering on their teams. Every time Iran scored, they got louder and louder.

This was a a very close match as well, like the Bronze Medal - we did go outside a few times when the noise became too much, and for a cup of tea just to keep going. We were sitting down drinking our tea when Coran spotted a games maker with a Paralympic Torch by the Manderville statue, so we went over to investigate and he took our picture with us holding it - a real live torch ! When we got back inside, the crowd were at fever pitch, with Bosnia in the lead. It seemed that every time Bosnia scored, the Iranians would then get another one, evening things out. This seemed to the scene for most of the game until almost the end of the third set, which went to Bosnia. The Bosnians went wild, as it meant that they were in with a chance - if Iran had won the first three, then they would have got the gold. The final set was so close, it was electrifying, but when it got to the point where Bosnia had a 6 point lead, I think everyone knew what the outcome would be, and they swept to victory.

Having stayed for this long, we had to stay for the victory ceremony. By this time my camera battery was threatening to run out (I had already used up by first one, having taken almost 800 pictures - thank goodness for sport and burst mode). I had to be very selective then over what I took in those final moments, but thankfully the battery did keep firing, and I managed to get another 100 or so shots.

By the time we got in it was almost 11.30pm, and it had been a VERY long day - long, but so very worthwhile. We paid for it the following day, especially Coran, who had to go back into London for a hospital appointment, but it was worth every single moment to say that we were part of history and witnessed one of the finest sporting events I have ever seen. Now that the games are over, I am seriously considering a trip to Rio!