Celtic Illumination, part 369, Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.
Well I wasn’t in the right place or the wrong place; I was in Warrenpoint, walking around like a man on the moon but without the lead weights. The drugs may have taken some time in getting in to your system. but they were in no hurry to leave. Gerard must have thought he time travelled back five or six hundred years as we were surrounded with quite a collection of people, must have been like sitting in a pirate den. He had only seen The Troubles on television so to be sat sitting drinking beer with IRA men was a little bit freaky for him. I was well used to it but what interested me was Pat, the old girlfriend. There was no pretence with Pat, so for a young lady to be drinking pints of draught cider was not too out of place. But to be off your head after two pints caused me some concern. The doll’s house had been delivered, now her sister Gerry wanted one, good excuse to come back.
I had managed to speak to my brother on the telephone but we were unable to meet up during the time that Gerard and myself were there. However when I got back to the UK my sister, the one I had been speaking regularly to contacted me. She was concerned that we or at least they were keeping secrets from our mother. The oldest sister was angry that I had contacted our mother in the first place so they had come up with a plan. They were going to tell our mother that they knew about me and had been in contact with me. The next step was that they were going to tell all of my brothers and sisters about me and then make a decision about whether or not they would have any contact with me at all. It was strange that it was all mother focused because I had found out quite a bit about my father.
He was a bit of a hero in the county of Tyrone, being the captain of the county football side at nineteen years of age when they won the all-Ireland football championship. And when I say football I mean real football, gaelic football. Since then he had become a leading figure in the Tyrone GAA, a well know local figure and like myself liked to stand in a river, or Lough, for long periods of time. Although I had spoken to my mother once, on the telephone, and she told me not to contact her again, a request she backed up in writing, there was still hope that I might actually meet my blood relatives one day. Eleven brothers and sisters, many married with children of their own. There’s no point in dragging this story out for since the day she explained their great plan I have never heard from one of them. I think they may have reached a decision and I think it may have been a little negative. Their loss.
Of course I wasn’t aware that they would never want to speak to me again when I spoke to my sister, at that point there was still hope and a little excitement in the air. There was also the impending job interview which I had been invited to attend. North West Community Services had invited me to attend an interview for the position of team leader. They had a selection of houses across Liverpool where groups of people lived and were supported to be a part of their local community. The team leader role was to run one of these houses, so you could be in charge of a team supporting one person or a team supporting five people. NWCS had been so badly run they had been suspended by social services and the whole top management structure had been fired. Social services brought in a new man to manage the company and he insisted on bringing in his own senior management team.
I arrived, thinking that I would be in for a one to one interview, or two to one, or whatever, but once again I found myself in a group interview situation. All of the old team leaders had to reapply for their old jobs alongside a group of new people like myself. Once again I was suited and booted and really stood out as the only one there in a suit and tie. I found the group exercise quite embarrassing; some of the people joining in discussions were as thick as two short planks. The group exercises lasted for about an hour and a half. Richard was the new boss and his senior management team was three service managers. The four guys called each of us forward and we were either invited back after lunch or advised to reapply in a years’ time. I was invited back after lunch so skipped out of there and went back over to Natural Breaks for a coffee, a slap on the back and any pointers I could pick up about what I might be expected to go through.
No one had any pointers for me so I went back and took a seat. Like the fellow in Manchester who had thrown away any application that had been hand written, the three service managers stopped each person returning and if they could smell alcohol on their breath, where they would have shown they had gone to the local pub for lunch, they were told to go away and re apply in one years’ time. Certainly was one way of cutting the numbers down. I was then shown in to an empty office and given a little strip of paper. On it there was a statement and I was told that I had thirty minutes to prepare a ten minute talk on the major problems facing learning disabilities. As you all know, the first thing you do when planning out a ten minute talk is doodle, so I began to draw lines and squiggles on the blank sheet of paper. Then it hit me, crap, that was the main problem facing learning disabilities these days.
So I made some notes, structuring my talk, then put my feet up and relaxed for the following twenty nine minutes. I was invited up to the CEO’s suite of offices. Garry, one of the service managers, shaved head, goatee beard and Liverpool football club tattoos all over his arms escorted me. This was the first time Richard and myself had met, I had heard a little about him, mainly that he was brilliant, and I assumed that he had heard similar facts about me. Richard had no tattoos, well; none that I could see, but he did have a full head of hair. He was an accountant and looked like one. He explained what was about to happen. I was to give my ten minute talk and then I would be invited to sit down and be interviewed for forty minutes by he and Garry.
I noticed that whoever had been in before me had covered the flip chart with a series of numbers and calculations. I briefly had second thoughts about what I was going to do, but thought ‘sod it’ they never remember the boring ones. I prepared a new page on the flip chart for myself, took a couple of pens of different colours and checked that they worked, then turned and declared that I was ready. Rather than give a detailed presentation I gave a general overview of learning disabilities. First of all I talked about money, the lack of it, the waste of it and the theft of it. Then I went on to the often unhelpful input from relatives, the attitude of the general population to people with learning disabilities and finally the staff and their questionable suitability for the job.
Thankfully I had the use of a clock and was determined to have my presentation last exactly ten minutes. At the appropriate point I changed my pen colour and said, “And so gentlemen those are some of the problems facing learning disabilities. Money, the filthy lucre, wonga,” and here I wrote a huge letter C on the flip chart, while saying, “Cash.” Then I talked about families, advocates, next of kin, the relatives, and a large letter R goes up underneath the C. When I put the A up I think the penny dropped with the pair of them so I finished off with a flourish and a P. “So there gentlemen,” I said. “That is the main problem facing learning disabilities these days, Crap!” Richard smiled but Garry laughed. I waited to be invited then sat myself down for the remainder of the interview.
It was your standard interview and the forty minutes went past rather quickly. Once over Garry escorted me out to the front doors and rather than a firm friendly handshake gave me a cuddle and said, “You’re a fecking star!” When I got back to Natural Breaks Jan wanted to know how I had got on and I told her what I had done. She wasn’t sure that I had done the right thing for Richard was a very strict born again Christian who didn’t like bad language. I thought I had done well, so once again sat back to wait. I was waiting for everyone in the world, bloody celebrities, NWCS, my siblings. I got changed as I was going on duty with our eight to one fellow. In order to relax a little I took him over to Bootle for a pint of beer. There was an Irish club there declaring itself to be The Famous Bootle National Irish Club. I passed it almost every day so decided to check it out.
We were welcomed in and I could see immediately that it was a drinking den, everything was wipe clean. We sat at the bar and spoke to the barman. I was told that I could have a couple of beers but if I wanted to come back I would have to become a member. “How would I do that?” I asked, and was told to put my name and address on a piece of paper, pin it to the notice board and I would be considered for membership at the next committee meeting. I did, but printed everything and used a ball point pen, didn’t want them to think I was pretentious. I asked what benefits there were being a member and was told that I could get a drink any time of the day or night. If the door wasn’t open just knock on the rear door and you would be let in. As we left I smiled for I was becoming a real little English gentleman being a participant in an exclusive private members club. Couldn’t wait to tell people I was off to my club for a drink.