Celtic Illumination, part 291, When we get to Canada Chief.
So, the maternity fortnight has passed and I now find myself back at TPT. In the classroom nothing has changed in my absence. The TPT management has successfully kept all fifteen course participants sat sitting where they were, so nothing has been achieved or accomplished, apart from TPT managing to maintain the low standards it constantly set for itself. TPT has earned some money, and that’s what it is all about, see; told you I didn’t understand business. No, sorry, it was them what told me. It was nice to see all the smiling faces welcome me back, well; at least in my classroom. Foremost in my mind was my letter asking that my salary be doubled. TPT too had money at the front of their mind and had devised a cunning plan to make themselves even more money.
Action For Blind People had been very generous. They made every effort to help each individual, something I completely empathised with, for they were trying to improve people’s lives. They offered to refund any travel costs involved for participants who attended the course. Some wheelchair bound people and some blind, caught taxis to and from the course. Others used public transport, and everyone sort of managed to get to TPT about nine o clock in the morning, even me sometimes, and Action For Blind People refunded all costs involved. TPT however came up with a brilliant plan to make money. They bought a bus. Not just any old bus, not some piece of junk that would block the A5 road in North Welsh Wales now and again, no; they bought a specially adapted bus for disabled people.
It was like a small inner city bus with the back three rows of seats taken out and a wheelchair lift on the back. They were so excited when they explained their little plan to me. To make it easier for the participants they would all be collected from their respective homes and taken to TPT every morning, then, at the end of the day, they would be taken home in the bus. Initially I approached this as a glass half empty or half full scenario. Yes each individual would be picked up from their front door, nice, but with some of the participants living in outlying villages the route could take up to an hour to complete, especially battling through the morning commuter traffic.
I was asked to plan and plot what I considered to be the most effective route for both the morning and afternoon run. I’m sure that like myself you are thinking well; yes, getting an expert in maps and route planning and plotting was perhaps a very smart move on TPT’s part. If you thought that then you have not been reading this properly. This was TPT, the sort of people who would take time off work because of a life threatening paper cut. They wanted me to plan and plot the route because I was to be the driver of the bus. Normally I walked to and from work. It was about a two mile journey both there and back. I followed a ring road which had a single pathway next to the road, but hidden by deep bushes, so it was quite a pleasant walk, the traffic didn’t annoy me, there were normally no other people about and I had time to think and just enjoy being on my own.
They now wanted me to start work one hour earlier, so that I could drive around and pick everyone up, but with dropping them off that would mean I would finish one hour later. That would mean extending my working week by ten hours, which as we all know requires a serious pay rise. Please don’t think that I was money orientated, but I’m not a mug. I asked my manager if he had considered how this new transport arrangement would affect the course time table. He hadn’t, the course time table was my domain, I would have to sort it out, oh and by the way there will be no extra money for you for this extra duty. So TPT were quite happy to completely re-arrange all travel arrangements for the course participants so that they could make a few pounds extra profit. If I had to act as driver then the individual participants would lose up to ten hours per week, as rather than help them, I would be driving the course bus.
I so wished that I was clever enough to understand these fantastic go getter business people. You know the ones I mean, you will see photographs of them every week in your local newspaper giving each other awards. And don’t forget, as if you could, that two hours a day, times five days a week, for fifteen participants, would give a total of one hundred and fifty hours that TPT were claiming money from the government for training these people who were actually sitting in a bus and not in a classroom. Oh and by the way, if one member of the course made their own way in, they had to sit in the classroom on their own until I got there. I went to look at the vehicle on the day that it arrived and found it in the motor mechanics section being fixed. I should have known that TPT wouldn’t buy a new vehicle. This one looked as if an air force bloke had owned it previously, because it was held together with bodge tape and string.
The participants on my course had become affectionately known as ‘The Wobblies’ so the bus became known as ‘The Wobblie Waggon.’ I began to push the boundaries a little. Rather than me walk all the way into work each morning, wouldn’t it be better if I took the Wobblie Waggon home with me? I promise you, if you have never had a personal vehicle with a wheelchair ramp at the back, where your children can pretend to be batman, then you’ve never lived, you can even take a fully loaded shopping trolley, using the wheelchair lift, into the vehicle and unload it in comfort, especially if it is raining, or so I would imagine. After a few days I had perfected the morning and afternoon routes. Admittedly I was starting work one hour later and finishing one hour earlier, but there is only so much you can do against an ineffective system.
My immediate manager came in one day and presented me with a letter. “It’s about the pay rise you asked for,” he said, handling me the envelope. I took the letter and opened it. Great news, I had been given a pay rise, but only three thousand pounds. “That’s a pretty good pay rise,” said John. “But it’s not what I asked for,” I said. “It will make you one of the highest paid tutors in this place,” said John, as if that would make everything all right. “But it won’t,” I said, adding. “I shall not be working here.” John couldn’t understand me. “I will not be asking for my contract to be renewed,” I explained, and far away in the back ground of my mind, I could hear dear old Johnny Paycheck once again begin to strum his guitar and sing, ‘Take this job and shove it.’
It was sort of liberating to know that I was in control, I might not have a job in a few weeks’ time, but at least I would have my pride and I don’t mean that in a chest thumping, jingoistic, sort of way. TPT’s attitude was that having a job is better than not having a job, so you will take our job, on our terms and you will thank us for it. It reminded me of Victorian altruism, where stinking rich mill and factory owners said to the poor, ‘Yes you have a hard life working for me, in bad conditions, for pathetic wages, which is no good for your family life or your health, but look, I’ve opened a library for you!’ TPT had unleashed the inner beast in me and I promise you they didn’t know what was about to hit them.
One morning I had picked up the last course participant on the route, it was a grey old day; I was approaching the final roundabout, after which I would turn in to the TPT site. I looked at the traffic sign before the roundabout. All the guys and girls on the Wobblie Waggon were staring blankly out of the windows. Turn left for Skelmersdale, straight ahead for TPT and Ormskirk, right for Liverpool. As I hit the indicator to show I intended to turn right, I thought, a day out in Liverpool would now become ‘Life skills’ on my course timetable. What would it entail, I wasn’t sure, but I could see all the Wobblies begin to smile, it was like something from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It was forty minutes to the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The first lecture of the day would be about slavery and I could show them all the history, carved in stone, about the slave trade in Liverpool. The second lecture, I don’t know, I wasn’t sure, but I would be next to the Beatles museum and not too far away from the Cavern Club. I knew it was going to be a good day out, Day Trippers on our very own Magical Mystery Tour, and when I got back. Who cares, all I would have to do would be to ‘Act Naturally.’