Sunday, 21 December 2014
Sunday, 16 November 2014
Monday, 10 November 2014
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Saturday, 12 July 2014
It takes planning to organise a trip like this and with such short summers, accommodation gets booked up quite fast - it is wise then to plan well in advance. Although Iceland is a relatively small island, approximately the same size as Ireland, it takes time to travel around, especially if like me, you do not have the luxury of a car. I usually then choose one or two areas to explore in depth - this time they were the Northwest and the Northeast respectively - using in this instance Isafjordur and Hesteyri in the Northwest as base and Myvatn in the Northeast. I stayed in the capital Reykjavik at the beginning and end of the trip, and for a few days in between as the various bus and air routes that I used all radiate from here.
I prefer to stay at hostels in order to keep costs down, but even these are not cheap at an average of 5000 ISK (around £25) per night. Compared to hotels though, these are a snip. The other advantage is of course that you can self cater - important if you have a specialised diet as I do (wheat free pistacarian - if you don't know what this means, look it up). I shared rooms and met with some great people from all corners of the world but also found that doing so does not guarantee a good nights sleep as many of them snored and had early flights to catch. The positives as always outweighed the negatives, for choosing to use this type of accommodation meant that I had more funds to spend on other things, which is let's face it, the whole purpose of travel.
I started as always in Reykjavik being as it is the capital (in fact only) city, just 45 minutes from the international airport at Keflavik. I spent 2 days there before catching a plane to Isafjordur in the Northwest fjords, a relatively unspoilt area off the beaten track for many visitors due to is remoteness. I had hoped to be able to get there by bus, a convoluted affair which meant travelling first to Stykkisholmur before catching a ferry which then connected with another bus, but sadly the connecting bus was cancelled due no doubt to the increase in car rentals, leaving me with no option than to fly.
Isafjordur is a small town with a spectacular town on a spit of land at the end of a narrow fjord which is ringed by snow capped mountains. From there I journeyed on to Hesteyri, an abandoned village in the even remoter Hornstrandir Peninsula - one of Europe's last known wilderness areas. Less than 1 percent of visitors to Iceland venture this far, the majority of whom are backpackers who since this area has very little infrastructure, have to be completely self sufficient and prepared for pretty much anything. I know that I will never be one of them, able to carry 20 kilos of weight on my back for up to 7 days while scaling high mountain passes and crossing rivers, so staying at the Doctors House, which has been converted into a summer hostel, was for me the next best thing.
My time here was certainly an adventure involving walks through snow fields, across mountains and beaches as well as an impromptu embrace from an icy cold river - I misjudged the strength of the current and ended up toppling over and very nearly being swept into the fjord. Luckily the ranger, a burly Yorkshireman saw what was happening and together with his German friend, came running down and got me safely to the other side - freezing cold, wet and very scared. It was alright in the end which I guess is all that mattered, but the experience nevertheless taught me an important lesson about respecting the power of nature.
Being early in the year there was a lot of snow in those mountain passes, so I appreciated my hiking boots and walking poles, both of which were put to good use. This area also proved to be an excellent area for photographing and watching birds, the light having an altogether different quality to that here at home, being much drier and free from pollution.
After 2 days it was back on the boat and a return flight from Isafjordur back to Reykjavik for another 2 days, before heading on to Akureyri and ultimately Myvatn in the NorthEast. It was here that I spent the longest time (5 nights) as there is plenty to see with walking trails to various points to explore. A definite highlight was the walk back from the active region of Krafla across the lava fields and through lush green valleys on one of the warmest days of summer, and also the day trip to Askja in the highlands where I walked through ankle deep snow for 2.5kms to reach the crater which was still frozen and eerily silent.
After five days here in Myvatn it was back to Reykjavik again at the end of the trip for a further 2 days of exploring the city before going back to the airport via the Blue Lagoon.
High points of course abound, but there were one or two low points too - falling of course in that river, but also walking for an hour in the torrential rain on my birthday with no offers of a lift. It was worth it though to spend 2 hours reclining in the relaxing blue waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths. The sun came out by the time I had to walk back. This sadly affected my views of the car renters, whom I came to see as quite selfish in their own way - it is not a green way to travel and it does affect things for the rest of us who cannot afford or do not wish to drive. I have noticed a definite move in recent years away from the traditional method of travelling around Iceland with a backpack and bus pass towards renting cars, which I feel is a shame, as new services when they spring up are being geared more and more towards this market, making it more difficult for those who cannot or do not wish to travel in this way. I can see the advantages of renting a car, but at an average cost of £85 a day for a small automatic in high season before you even put fuel in it, this is way outside of my price league. Low season though , which is any time before the middle of June or after the end of August is more feasible I could have had a campervan during these things for just £70 a day, which compares very favourably with the costs for this latest trip, allowing for fuel and food. This then is something that is definitely worthy of consideration for the future.
I made the most of every minute of holiday time I had, so it was straight back to work a mere 12 hours after landing. I did wonder at the logic of this, but actually it turned out fine, as I had trained Coran well, instructing her with what food to get in and what laundry needed to be done so that I had clean work clothes for the following day and food for lunch. The staff and residents alike showed a keen interest in the trip once they realised where I had gone, even more so when they learnt that I had travelled alone. I think it helped more than one of them to change their perceptions of me, which is all good - I am no longer hiding who I am, but letting my light shine bright and clear, and for once it seems it is finally being seen.
I had saved for this trip for about 8 months, since last October, but now the bills are coming in, I have another reason to save, for our wedding is now less than 6 weeks away. We collected our rings today from the jeweller and will start to send the invitations out without the week - for both the wedding itself and the blessing one month later. Plans for both are well in hand. I have finally heard from my brother who said that he would like to come, although he is yet to text me with his address - there are still a few weeks though to go. This then is the start of a very exciting summer.
Sunday, 1 June 2014
Earlier this week though it seemed as though we had hit a glitch. We were supposed to go to the Registry Office on Wednesday with all the pre wedding paperwork, including Coran's decree absolute from his first wife, with whom s(h)e split almost 20 years ago - long before we met. The only problem was that it had not been signed or dated, meaning that they were unable to accept it. My first thought was did this mean that they were still legally married, we both having kittens wondering what to do. Coran accordingly had to telephone first wife to let her know, which was a surprise for both of them.
The Solicitor who dealt with the divorce was unable to help, since their archives only went back 15 years, so it was back to the courts. After three days of trying in vain to get through, finally she did and they arranged for us to receive five certified and signed copies. Thankfully then it turned out that they were indeed divorced and all ended well.
It left me though wondering what this was all about, until last night when the ex wife rang again, wanting to see if things had been resolved. As Coran and she began to talk, they found themselves apologising to each other for the way that things had gone wrong between them, and after all this time clearing the air. The universe in its wisdom understood that before both of us took this step and began this new phase in our lives together, this was necessary for there to be no baggage from this past relationship. This was the only way to get them together and to get them talking, as otherwise Coran would have had no reason to contact her. The last time they met was 7 years ago at her father's funeral and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Neither of them are the same people that they were, and they were both finally ready to put the past to bed. It did not escape my notice either that this took place on the last day of May - today being the first day of June which is of course my own name.
Coran and I discussed things afterwards and we have both decided that it would be really nice to actually go one step further and invite her to the wedding together with her own partner of 20 years, if she is free and wishes to come. We both feel that this would be a lovely gesture of completion.
In the meantime, a new appointment has made for the Registry Office this Wednesday coming - and this time we have been assured that the paperwork is well and truly in order.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
The planning has already begun with a visit to a caterer yesterday. Nothing has been decided as yet, but we have a good feeling about this one, who seems to tick all the boxes - being not only vegetarian but also wheat free does tend to complicate things, but she is used to catering for all different dietary needs and can she says guarantee no cross contamination, which is of course important. Once we have worked out our budget and have a better idea of numbers, we will be in a better position to make a positive choice.
At the moment it is early days, but there is a lot to do - paying for the venue, finding someone to perform the blessing, flowers, food and drink, the rings, our clothes, invitations - goodness, the list is endless. I am glad it is to be a small affair, as one can only imagine the nightmare of planning a big Church do. Thankfully neither of us are religious, so this was never on the cards for us.
The wedding plans though at the moment are overshadowing my trip to Iceland which is coming round fast as well - less than four weeks now to go. There is loads still to book for that too - airport transfers, various excursions and domestic bus tickets, plus of course spending money, and smaller things like gluten free food, SD cards for my camera, toiletries and so on. That too takes planning. Coran and I plan to go into Guildford next weekend once I am paid and get everything I need. As for the excursions and bus tickets, now that this months credit card has been processed, I might as well start booking these now. The next one after all will not be processed until after I have gone, so it makes no difference as to when it will have to be paid, so there is no reason really to wait. With the new job then as well, this is turning out to be an exciting year.
The job continues to go well - the clients all like me, and there have been only one or two small comments from staff, none of which my boss, a lovely man is worried about, so I am not worried either. I am earning £150 more per month, which certainly helps and enjoying having all my weekends free. The extra money certainly makes a difference, and with the expenses coming up, is very much needed.
The one thing I have been battling with though since the announcement was made, and indeed since I started at this and every new job I have had, is how to tell people about Coran and her gender change. It is not after all something that you can casually drop into a conversation. I would imagine it is the same thing for gay men and lesbians - when people hear me referring to Coran as "she" they naturally believe that this is what we are, a pair of lesbians, but of course the truth is much more complicated than this. Coran was born and legally still is a man, but is going through a hormonal (not surgical) transition from male to female. That is by no means an easy thing to explain to a anyone, even in the relatively non judgemental healthcare environment in which I work.
The judgement if anything has come from me, for that is the thing I have been battling with - my own inner homophobia. Don't get me wrong, I am not homophobic, and believe in anyone's right to love whom they love and have sex with whomever they fancy, as long as it is safe and consensual, but there is huge resistance to others thinking that I am gay. I am not sure where this comes from, and what it even means - maybe it is because although I respect others rights to be that way, it is not something I could ever see myself doing, the idea of having sex with a woman does not exactly turn the stomach, but it is not something I would want to do either. I think that this is where the resistance really comes from, that and the thought that I am not really telling people the whole truth. I think then I need to start being more honest with not only others but also with myself and this is showing me that I still have work to do with regard to overcoming my own judgements and fears around these issues. As we move closer towards our "big day" this is something I will no doubt have to deal with and confront. It will not be easy for well, people like to keep their private lives just that, but people are also curious about others lives, especially when they spend time together working, as let's face it, work is an important part of your life, so for me, it is time to start being honest. I should I guess take a leaf out of Coran's own book.
Sunday, 30 March 2014
I am though thoroughly looking forward to this trip. It doesn't seem like I was only there in October - just five months ago. My flights and accommodation are all booked, and all that remains are a few buses and excursions, which I plan to book during the final two weeks before departure. That should not be a problem when many people turn up on spec - I prefer to know what I am doing, and have a proper itinerary - as ever organising everything (as much as possible) to plan. When you organise all your own holidays as I have always done, you develop a need to be like this, which comes I believe from knowing that certain things only run on certain days of the week - the bus from Brjanslaekur for example to Isafjordur, had it been running this year would have been from memory, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
It is not though running this year which means that I have had to change my plans. I had hoped to get the bus to Stykkisholmur in the Snaefelsnes Peninsula, gateway to the West Fjords and sail across Breidafjordur Bay, catching the bus on to Isafjordur via the famous Latrabjarg bird cliffs on the other side. This though was not to be, so I am instead spending an extra night in Reykjavik and doing a Snaefelsnes day tour instead before flying in to Isafjordur early (around 9am) the following morning. I am used to getting up early for work, so all this activity will not be a problem for me. I am though beginning to wonder at the wisdom of landing back in England a mere 12 hours before starting back at work the following day - that is airline timetables for you - it was either that or get up far too early to catch the 6.45am flight from Keflavik - a little too early for me.
So, the new job is great. I have a lovely boss, and a fellow (male) cleaner who for the most part keeps out of my way and lets me get on with the job. The Carers and other staff too are great, and even the CEO shook my hand and said how pleased she is to have me there. This is something that has never happened in all the years I have been at work, something I was at pains to inform her of. We had a meeting with some members of the Board earlier in the week to inform us of the changes that are being planned to the site - some of them are quite ambitious, so unlike my previous job, they understand communication. If my experience so far is anything to go by, they also understand honesty and respect - which is something I never got from anyone in the old place, apart from my friend in the laundry, who unfortunately for her is still there.
They are still doing their best to make her life difficult, and although I have not spoken to the Union Officer, she acknowledges, so my friend tells me, what a lucky escape I had, and how I seem to have landed on my feet - but then again, I usually do. You always get the experiences that you need, and like it or not, that includes what happened there. From what I have been told, things there have gone as predicted, from bad to worse. The new rotas start tomorrow (today in fact, as their week starts on a Sunday, they could not even get that right), and my ex boss leaves in less than two weeks time. Something tells me I will not be invited to her leaving do. They are it seems though running on agency staff, as almost everyone else has left, or succumbed to Norovirus which swept through the home the week after I left - the staff were sick of being treated like crap! That Union Officer was right then when she said I had a lucky escape.
After three weeks in this new job, I finally had a response to my grievance. As predicted, it was a total whitewash with them blaming me for all of it. I was upset to begin with, but I am okay now, as I have moved on to pastures new and found them out for what they are. They do not deserve even a second though, so I am not sure why I am even writing this - I suppose it is a gradual process of letting go, and the more I write and talk about it to others, the more I am able to do this. Unbelievably, they had the audacity to suggest that when my boss shouted at me, calling me antagonistic, I actually provoked her - for once I am almost speechless. I had I was told, five working days - until this Friday just gone to appeal.
After I thought about this for a while, I sent off a long email detailing my thoughts, and just to let them sweat wrote right at the end that I did not intend to do that - appeal that is. There really is no point, as I have achieved what I set out to do (i.e. speak my truth), and I do not believe that dragging this out any more will in any way affect the outcome. They have made up their minds, and that as they say, is that. My former boss is leaving in less than two weeks time, so it is best to just leave things and put it all down to experience. She has her conscience to deal with, as do all the others that took part in this, and the truth as I said, will out, for I know that my complaint will be just one in a long line of them. Unlike those whom I leave behind, my honesty and integrity remain firmly intact.
That as they say then is that. It finally really is all over, and I can relax and enjoy working for a company who knows how to treat and communicate properly with staff and residents alike. For today though, the sun is out, and set to remain that way, so I am off for a nice long walk up to the viewpoint to partake in some even nicer coffee and to finish my book. It's not such a bad life.
Saturday, 1 March 2014
It all started just over a year ago when I started a new job in a care home about 10 miles from home. I left my previous job because of bullying on the part of the Director (that is to say, the man who actually owned the home) and so hoped that this would be a new start. It was not to be.
From the very beginning it was obvious that they had lied. During my interview, I specifically asked whether I would be the only housekeeper to work at weekends, and was told no. On my first day of work I found out that they had lied. When I arrived for work on that first day, they had not been expecting me at all - nothing was ready, no uniform, no ID badge, nothing. It transpired that this is the normal thing - this company new order anything for new staff until they have actually started work, the reason being that they do not trust people to turn up. They therefore start off from a position of mistrust, assuming that you will do not do as you have said. I on the other hand like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are trustworthy and can and do tell me the truth. That has been my failing, for I have learnt the hard way through 13 months of hard slog and very difficult learning that there are people there who are more than capable of lying through their back teeth and will do anything to protect their own backs.
Following this somewhat shaky start, the first incident took place a mere three days after I started work, when I was told off for carrying and drinking from a bottle of water - yes, you did read that right. I wasn't just told off, I was shouted at and taken into a room where notes were being taken, making this look like some sort of disciplinary hearing. These notes have since mysteriously vanished, as have many more, some for more serious misdemeanours. This among other things will now form part of an investigation.
The list goes on - after 6 months I was told off for not wearing bra (in temperatures of almost 100 degrees), and for allegedly (something I continue to deny ever even happened) going to the staff room one minute early to get changed and go home - the notes have also disappeared re this. I suggested that they set the clocks by TIM but this was refused. A few months after that they threatened me with the sack (again, no notes) for daring to suggest that a resident should not be taking toilet rolls from the communal bathrooms. I have also been shouted at for having the temerity to ask for a holiday form half an hour after starting work, for sitting down waiting for my boss to arrive so that I could get some keys, and for having the audacity to ask for a copy of notes from a meeting I had attended a few days earlier.
This one proved to be the last straw. At that last episode I was shouted at and humiliated in front of other staff and told that I as antagonistic and that my boss would be glad to be made redundant (something which happens in April) and never have to see me again. A month after that she was granted her wish, as yesterday was my last day of employment there, a few weeks after I put in that aforementioned grievance. All in all this does not paint a pretty picture at all.
The only reason I wanted those notes in the first place was because she had brought up some matters that were completely unrelated to the meeting in question, insinuating that I had not been doing my work at the weekends. I also suspected due to the words used (and the notes contradict this, so I do not believe they are accurate) that she had asked another member of staff to report back to her on this - by asking this person to ask me to do certain things and see my response. The reason I believe this is because four days earlier, I have it on good authority the exact same thing had happened to my friend, who also works at the same home.
Yesterday then was the hearing. I was accompanied and supported by a wonderful lady from my Union - GMB. It strikes me that with all the goings on at the moment in the world of work with bosses laying down the law and employment laws changing (as usual in the employer's favour), Unions have never been more needed. I have a friend who works at the same place. She had her own grievance meeting earlier the same day - hers was unrelated to mine, being more to do with non payment of wages and changes to her duties at work. Unfortunately for her, for the moment at least remains. This lady though from the Union also supported her. For anyone considering joining a Union, particularly if you are in a manual or semi-skilled job, I cannot recommend this Union enough.
When I put the grievance in, I asked for seven incidents to be taken into account - going back to that first one with the water bottle, just three days after I started work. Unfortunately it seems that there is a three month and one day time limit in putting grievances in - the thing you are complaining about needs to have taken place within this three month time limit. I had not been aware of this, but it didn't matter in the end, for I was still able to talk about these incidents, and while they did in the end agree that things had been done in the wrong way, while they cannot consider them under current laws, it does help to paint a picture of a long line of incidents and bullying.
The only incidents then that they were able to consider were the last three - one in October of last year and two in January of this year. This latest one where I was shouted at was the worst of all. Of course the reason why a lot of these things happened in the first place was because of all the gossip and tittle tattle that has gone on, whereby certain members of staff act as Management informers. I had a good idea as to who some of these people were and did my best to avoid them, but when one of my fellow housekeepers provided a written statement in support of my boss, basically saying the exact opposite of everything she had said to me, that knocked me for six.
I think it was at that point during the meeting yesterday when the energy changed, when they realised how much this upset me and that I had been telling the truth on all of these incidents all along. This was shown by the two statements that I provided - one from my partner which spoke of the way this has effected both of us, especially our sleeping patterns, and one from that aforementioned friend.
The conversation seemed after that point to take on a new dimension when the room went much more quiet and the questions more sympathetic rather than challenging. I also provided a 40 page diary of events. One of the questions, right at the beginning had been why I felt the need to write all this stuff down when I had only just started the job - I have though always kept a diary, from when I was a child, and so for me this was nothing new. Furthermore, when I did an NVQ for my line of work a few years ago in my previous job I was also encouraged to do this as a means of building up my evidence portfolio. This is then a habit that has continued - and I am glad now that it did.
I am pleased with what I achieved yesterday and let go of all attachment to the outcome - for me it is not and never has been about wanting heads to roll, this would achieve nothing - it is more about wanting an admission that this behaviour was and is wrong and that things need to change. This is perhaps the one thing I would like to achieve from all of this.
The representative from HR indicated that they will only read the bits from my diary that pertain to the dates I am actually complaining about, but the lady from the Union, and I am inclined to agree with her, thinks that the District Manager who heard the case, and whose job it is to decide, will in fact read the whole lot. I hope she is right, for if he does, the quality of my writing will quite literally blow his head off. He said that himself, that he had never seen a letter written as well, or as eloquently as mine. He said I was wasted in this job and should consider a career as a writer instead - something I did pursue for a number of years. That though is another story ...
What now remains is to wait for an answer - a decision and an answer. The waiting in some ways will be the hardest part, but I know that is where the real changes will be made - as a result of that reading that I hope he will now do. As for my colleague, she has her conscience to answer to, and a lot of anger to address. It is a nasty and vicious thing that she did, but my own conscience is clear, for I know that I did nothing wrong at all - I walked in and out of there yesterday with my head held high. What goes around comes around, and she as one of only two housekeepers that now remain will experience all that I experienced during my time there, she will then come to regret her actions in the end.
As for me, I have made at least one good and lasting friend from my own experience at that place, and I know that I have touched and changed many lives - both staff and residents alike. I did well, and I should give myself a huge pat on the back. I should also thank my partner Coran, who was as always by my side, waiting patiently downstairs for the meeting to conclude, and whose ear has been severely bent by all of this. Were it not for her, all of this would have been a lot harder.
Sunday, 23 February 2014
This is not of course the first time that I have had to issue a grievance - when I first did this five years ago, I was also the subject of a disciplinary from them, and this I suppose is what makes it difference this time around. That and the fact that I also have Union representation to back me up. It feels different, it feels this time around as I am much more in control. Yet in many ways this has been much more difficult to deal with, because I have been there the whole time having to deal with it, rather than being placed on garden leave, which strictly speaking I should have been. The company's harassment and bullying policy (for this is what it has been) states that in a case such as this, it is normally the perpetrator who is sent home, but in certain circumstances where there is a need to separate the perpetrator from the "victim" (How I dislike that word) , it is the "victim" who is sent home. That is why after I sent my grievance I became convinced that this would happen, as I knew they would not be without their Managers. My immediate Line Manager was however on annual leave this past week, and since she was the main perpetrator, I guess this is why this did not happen.
It has worked in my favour though to an extent, as it has given me the opportunity to speak a little more freely to those members of staff who are prepared to help. One has been with the company for 32 years and other for 6 - she has grievances of her own to deal with and so knows only too well what they are like. They will give me their written statements tomorrow. Coran is also preparing one, as she has seen the results perhaps more than anyone, and has had issues with at least one of the Managers herself, who accused us of walking around the home together in work time, when Coran was actually visiting a resident. Coran is very good at reading people's energy, as am I to a lesser extent, and she knew straight away that something was not right about this Manager, that she was carrying a lot of anger. Aren't we all - the difference is though in how and whether we deal with it.
This grievance is not then about wanting heads to roll, or even for things to change, although that would be nice. None of that matters, as I will not be there to see the results. No, this is about me, and about having a chance to say what I need to say, and to clear my own unresolved issues, of which there are many. Much clearing was done after that last grievance, but there is always more to do. It is though like I said to one of my colleagues, all I want is a job where I will be treated with respect and paid what I am worth. The signs are encouraging that I have found this in my very soon to be new place of work.
This past week though really has been a nightmare, and if I were not already going, I would have seriously considered walking out. Three others have resigned since I handed in my notice, which kind of sums of whole place up. I get the feeling that before these new rotas come in, many more will follow.
The state of the laundry during my last weekend in was truly appalling - red bags strewn everywhere with piles of washed linen that was waiting to be dried just screwed up and thrown in heaps, seemingly wherever there was a space for it. Once again, two of the washing machines and one tumble dryer were out of order, and rather than having them fixed straight away (my former boss for all his faults always did this, making sure the service contracts were up to date), we had to wait for over a week. In a place such as this, where laundry and infection control are so vitally important this is utterly ridiculous.
It has not been the only issue with infection control this week - I have lost count of the number of pads placed in incorrect bins - they are supposed to placed in the yellow bins for clinical waste, but half the time end up in just normal bins in residents rooms, and sometimes in the bathrooms. While I concede that it may be residents placing them in bedroom bins, the residents do not bathe themselves, so this is clearly the carers. It has been mentioned numerous times to the Management, but nothing ever changes. My colleague though got so fed up with it that when she found a clean pad in one of the communal toilets, she wrote on it "I am a pad, put me in the yellow bin" before pinning it up on the noticeboard!
I have also discovered that one former resident has scabies and one current resident whose room I clean every day, has shingles and dementia. I had not been told about any of these - it was left to the resident herself and her family to inform me. It is not the first time this has happened. One of the things I am complaining about is the fact that they did not inform me of this with another resident with whom I had a disagreement. It seems that nothing has been learnt.
I suspect this is a common problem in many homes, not giving housekeepers the same level of information as the carers, but it is not acceptable. The message that this contains is that the housekeeping staff are less important when this is clearly not the case. They are every bit as important as carers, arguably more so, for it is they who are responsible for infection control, for keeping the place clean and safe for everyone to live and work in.
I will get my chance though to say all of this on Friday 28th, my last day of employment, which is the date for my hearing. The time has been set for 1pm. This may though chance, as the Union Officer who is accompanying me has another appointment that day at 4pm, and asked whether it may be possible to hold my hearing a little earlier. The District Manager did not come back to me on Friday with an answer, so I shall send him an email in a minute, just in case he did not receive my voicemail. He is a busy man, so is more likely to respond to this.
I am sure I will see him at the home before then anyway. as he will have further investigations to carry out with the Manager who has been on holiday. They will have the shock of their lives when they realise that I have been carrying out investigations of my own, and have written statements from staff to back me up - not to mention a hefty diary.
I do not expect to have a decision straight away, for these things often do take time, but after that meeting, I hope I will finally be able to let this go and begin to move on. Coran and I (especially Coran I suspect) will breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
I have at least one member of the care team who is willing to help, and may even have a relative from one our own residents. She has her own issues with the Management team and the care that her relative has received, and has said that if I am able perhaps to help her, then she may be able to help me. We shall see what transpires. In the meantime, I have made copies of the latest residents survey for the home, as this is as much about my own issues as it is painting a picture of a failing home and by implication Management. If I am able to do this successfully then it can only strengthen my case.
I knew that it would take at least two days for the Regional Manager to receive my letter, as it was sent to him via the Registered Office in London. Yesterday then my stomach was in knots all day wondering whether he had seen it and what he thought. When I hadn't seen the Managers for several hours I began to wonder whether they were in a meeting discussing it all and trying to worm their way out. It would be just like them to do this. Of course this was all conjecture and as usual, my imagination running riot, for as it turned out, he did not receive my letter until today.
One of the residents though said an interesting thing. I was hovering just outside the Dining room when she began talking to me, as she often does. The carer who has stated her willingness to help was also there, having recently finished administering the lunchtime medication. This resident became a little emotional as she said that she felt the home had changed in the last few months. Somehow she said, it did not feel the same. I sat next to her and asked her what she meant, and whether anyone had done something to upset her. She said that while no one had, the staff did not seem as nice as they once were. I have heard it said that those with dementia are sensitive to atmospheres (this is a cross that I too have to bear), so this is not surprising. There have been very significant changes in not only this home, but across the whole company in the last few months, which have been well documented on this blog. I thought that this was important enough to document in her care plan, which we housekeepers can write in, so I did this as one never knows how significant this may later turn out to be.
It turns out that I was right to do this, as when I looked at the Diary today I found a note from a member of the night staff stating that this same lady had seemed confused about her interactions with the care staff. She had mentioned care staff being rude to her and declining to help her. She had also been very confused about who it was that had actually helped her. While it is true that this may a sign of her dementia worsening, it could also be a sign of something else. This team member had then also made a note of this in her own care plan entry.
What a day though today has been. The Laundry Assistant was not in today, and as we have been experiencing problems with the machines (again), I was asked once again to do both housekeeping and laundry. I was in the Laundry folding some linen just after my tea break when my Line Manager came in and asked me whether I could spare a minute to go and see her.
When I went into the room the Head Housekeeper was also there as note taker, so I immediately knew that something was up. There had been a complaint about a room earlier in the day, so I asked them whether it was about that, to which she replied that it about a letter that they had received from me - I didn't need to ask which one. My Line Manager went on to ask whether there was anything she could help me with, to which I replied that I could not speak to her as procedures needed to be followed. She then stated that she doubted this was the case, as the Home Manager (bear in mind that this grievance is about both of them) had asked her to come and see me and she must surely know what the procedures are. Knocking the wind from her sails I then offered to ring the Union and check before stating that I would not speak to anyone without the presence of my Union rep. I then calmly got up and left the room.
As soon as I returned to the Laundry I rang the aforementioned Union Rep and she informed me that as I suspected, by doing this they were acting outside the law. When you are in a hole you really should stop digging ...
One of the issues I am complaining about is an incident during the summer when I was accused of entering the staff room one minute early in order to go home. You could have knocked me down with a feather when during our own housekeepers meeting just before home time today, this same Line Manager told me to go and get changed a full five minutes early. I reminded her that I had five minutes still left, but she insisted in front of I hasten to add the rest of the housekeeping team that it would take me this long to get changed anyway. Being very much aware that this could be a trap, I did not do as she said but went downstairs first with my keys before going back to the Laundry. Only then did I enter that staffroom and by the time I signed out it was several minutes past my home time.
All of this has really taken its toll on my stress levels this week, with all sorts of strange feelings in my digestive system and interrupted sleep. That is in addition to a blinding headache that I had for much of the last two days, which until I spoke to the Union this morning, refused to budge. Coran who like me is very sensitive and finely attuned has been coming out in sympathy with similar symptoms herself. I know though that I am doing the right thing.
Ultimately this is not about wanting compensation, or even wanting head to roll, the only thing I want from this is change - a change to values that are more than just words, but which are acted on, and most importantly of all, to a Management style, and this starts at the top where compassion is the overriding value that is expressed. Before that can happen the managers have to start having compassion for themselves. That though is a whole other ballgame.
Saturday, 8 February 2014
Gimme one good reason why I should listen to you
I need one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Gimme some air or I can't breathe
I can't see so I can't believe
Show me just a little more
Oh oh gimme one
Gimme one good reason why I should listen to you
I need one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Under your thumb ain't no place to hide
I can't choose and I can't decide
Gotta be a better way
Oh oh gimme one
I keep making the same mistake
No win no lose no give and no take
I'm just playing a simple game
And I don't wanna ask you again and again
For one good reason why I should listen to you
Just one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Under your spell ain't no place to be
Don't mess around with a fool like me
Help me just a little more
Oh oh gimme one, gimme one
Well I keep making the same mistake
No win no lose no give and no take
And I'm just playing a simple game
And I don't wanna ask you again and again
For one good reason why I should listen to you
Just one good reason why I should do
What you want me to
Pull on the string you hold in your hand
Making me jump like a one man band
Gotta be a better way
Oh oh gimme one
The Managers then are tearing out their hair, as they realise that there will very soon be just two Housekeepers left - and even that is doubtful as from what I gather the two that remain (brother and sister who share a house) have requested a Council house swap to move out of Surrey altogether. If that happens - and if it does it will relatively fast - maybe within six weeks, then they may find themselves in the position of having no Housekeepers at all. After the way they have treated us, this is nothing less in my opinion that what they deserve.
The carers are beginning to fight back as well. The proposed date for the start of the new shift times and rotas has been changed from the last week of March to the second week of April, due to problems with the consultation process. It seems though that more problems are brewing, as just 3 out of 50 of the staff who work in my particular home have signed to say that they agree to the changes! I think that this is absolutely brilliant. There was a letter from the Home Manager on the Reception desk the other morning asking staff to see her to make an appointment with HR to discuss any issues that they had, but to the best of my knowledge only a handful of staff have even bothered to do that. This shows the utter contempt with which the Management team at this home, and indeed the company in general, for what I have heard their other homes are no better, are held. Those chickens are well and truly coming home to roost.
Not surprisingly now that my time is coming to an end, I am feeling considerably happier and more upbeat about my future. I have to of course continue to do my job while I am still here, but the other Housekeepers with whom I work are not happy at all about the fact that I am going, for they know that this means more work and more stress for them. My Line Manager in typical two faced towing the company line stance wrote to me accepting my letter of resignation and wished me well in my new job. Ten days prior to that she was screaming at me in front of other staff members and saying that she would be glad to leave there and never see me again! She is walking around now all smiley and happy as if nothing had happened. I have not though forgotten her words and how I felt, and neither have I forgotten the other string of incidents that have taken place during my 13 months here, the first of which was just three days after I started.
This being my weekend off I plan to sit down and write that letter to the Regional Manager detailing all of it in excruciating detail and letting him know in no uncertain terms that things at that home need to change. If they do not, then I would not be a bit surprised to learn that 12-18 months from now it has been forced to close and the residents all moved to other homes. No one wants to see that, but it really is that bad. Every day I hear about more complaints from families and the results of the recent residents satisfaction survey were not good reading either.
I am not sure at this stage then whether it needs to be an official grievance (they have certainly done enough to warrant this), or more of a whistle blowing letter. I am in two minds to be honest, as on the one hand I need closure and on the other, I do not want the grief and the stress that may come from making this official. I suspect though whether this may be the only way to make myself truly heard, as I have tried talking to them in the past but to no avail. The trouble is they make everything seem to reasonable and you find yourself almost agreeing with them, but then afterwards you stop and think "what was all that about". I know though that no matter what I do and how I do deal with this, they will try and twist my words and try to make it look like my fault. This is what the Managers there do - abdicate responsibility and blame others for their misdemeanours - anyone it seems except themselves. This is what creates such a toxic environment in the first place.
In the midst of all of this I have been making plans for a visit to Iceland in the summer. I am going on 12th June for 17 nights. The flight and my accommodation are now booked, so I have just a few domestic flights and some bus tickets to arrange. I am starting off of course in Reykjavik before flying up to Isafjordur in the northwest and then going to the deserted village of Hesteyri for 2 nights. I am really excited about this, as Hesteyri is located in one of the few remaining wilderness areas of Europe, where even in the short summer season, very few people visit.
After two nights I sail back to Isafjordur and then back to Reykjavik again, and then I fly (or bus) to Akureyi in the north before going to Myvatn in the northeast for five nights and then back to Reykjavik again for the end of the trip. There is plenty to see and explore around the Myvatn area - bird life, mud pools and waterfalls galore, not to mention of course the Askja caldera which I hope to visit too. It is then going to be an exciting summer.
Sunday, 26 January 2014
Back in October last year, I was offered a new job. It was only after I got my CRB that they informed me I would need to undertake what amounted to induction training prior to handing in my notice at my existing job - something that was clearly not possible. After several weeks of going backwards and forwards, trying to speak to various people on this (including my Union, who backed me up), the new company said that the training would be put back to January. I wasn't for obvious reasons happy with this, so I wrote to both the home itself and their Head Office expressing my concerns and asking them to come up with a solution. Neither of them responded.
Early in January, I received a message from them on my mobile phone, asking me if I could do the training on 3 separate days in January not one was suitable. I rang the home and predictably no one was there, so I emailed them again telling them where to go, and of course asking for a read receipt. I was sorry that it came to this, but I clearly could not work for a company that did this, and continually mucked me without having the courtesy to even respond to my emails. It may not have been perfect where I am, but I was and am not about to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. I get the feeling that with this lot, it would have more like a furnace.
After a day or so, I received an email from the woman at the Head Office of this company that I was going to work for, acknowledging receipt of the one I sent to her. It stated that she had forwarded a copy of my emails to their Operations Manager, who she said, would be in touch with the home concerned to investigate their procedures with regard to mandatory training. It is obviously too late for me, and it is clear that I have made the right choice. If this means that things there change and it stops this from happening to even one more person, then I will consider that all that time and aggravation was not such a waste after all. The interesting thing is, I have since heard from a friend who was also to go there, that the Home Manager is leaving. I can't help wondering if this has anything to do with my correspondence.
Given the stress of this situation and other things that have since happened, it is just as well that I now have a week off. Coran and I have booked a few nights near Amesbury in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge. I had the idea to ring them to arrange a private access visit to go into the Stones themselves at sunrise. It has been a good ten years since the last time we did this, and it will be very different in the middle of winter.
I have come to the conclusion though, if I did not already know this, that my boss has questionable parentage after shouting at me in front of 2 of my colleagues and stating that I am the most antagonistic person she has ever met, and that she will be grateful when she leaves to be made redundant in 12 weeks time as she will no longer have to see me. My crime was to ask her for a second handwritten copy of the notes from a meeting the previous day, as the first copy that I had been given could not be read as half the words were on the edge of the page and had not been copied correctly. The only reason I asked for this in the first place as because during that meeting the previous day I believe that she may have been indicating that she had asked another member of staff to "test me" by asking me to undertake certain tasks and then report back to her as to whether or not I done them. Of course when challenged she disputed this, which is why I asked for those notes - not a typewritten copy, as this can be altered, but a photocopy of the handwritten original.
Needless to say, I contacted the Union and am awaiting a call back on Monday, when my Rep returns from holiday. I do not feel at this moment in time that I want to let the matter rest, as it is not the first time she has shouted at me like this, and enough is enough. It is time for me to take more positive action, whether she is going or not, as I know if I do not this will only happen again. The reason I felt forced to leave my last job was because of similar behaviour from the Director there, and I am very much aware that from a universal standpoint, this is the reason it is happening here - because I did not deal with the situation properly when it happened, choosing instead to walk away. I will of course act on any advice that the Union offer me, but it seems that it may be time for a formal grievance. No one likes to do this, and it will take much courage and strength, but I feel I been left with very little choice.
The Head Housekeeper, whom I have discovered this week is almost as bad (I have a pretty good idea hat she has been relaying information that I told her in confidence on to the boss), is also to be made redundant. She had an interview for another job today on Thursday. What neither of them realise is that I also had an interview at the same place on Friday, for the same job. You could say that she led me to it, as she and the Receptionist (who is almost as bad as she has also passed things on and had a go at me for not coming to work due to the floods over Christmas), were sitting in the Managers office a few weeks ago while I did the hoovering looking at jobs online. I asked them what site they were looking at and went home and looked it up myself where I found this job.
Initially I felt a bit guilty about this, as I knew that she had also applied, and that this job would be ideal for her requirements, being so close to home, but after this I do not feel guilty at all, as she has proven beyond doubt that she is more than capable of stabbing me in the back. I have a friend who used to work there, so know a bit about the place already, but I consider what I think was a very good interview, so it's fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I have spent much of this weekend, which was supposed to be time off work, bringing my work diary up to date, detailing all that has gone on there since I started just over a year ago. They do not know that I have been doing this, and will have the shock of their lives if and when they find out, for it goes into considerable detail about who said what and when, and perhaps more to the point, how it made me feel. If I am to prove that this does indeed constitute bullying, then this is every bit as important as the other details.
It seems to me though, that the sooner I can get out of here the better. At least I have another seven days off to mull things over. There is nothing like a change of scenery to clear your mind.