Celtic Illumination, part 385, Be — don’t try to become.
The best part of the working day in Manchester was the drive to work. It took me one hour, but that was only if I left home at seven in the morning. By the time I got to the Denton turnoff I could see the traffic backing up in front of me, and although I was in work one hour early, I wasn’t snarled up in the morning rush hour. A bit of a misnomer that, as nothing rushes, everyone just drives to their nearest motorway and parks up. I would like to apologise to most people in the North of England, especially those living along the West Lancs Road between Liverpool and Manchester. That seventeen year old with the crazy loud music passing your house, and waking you from your slumber, was in fact little old me. It was like when I was writing, I needed something to blank everything else out.
At this very moment I have David Bowie performing Drive in Saturday playing on a loop. It’s already been going for an hour and a half, but hey ho, if it aint broke and all that. The hour long journey would actually pass very quickly, all I knew was that my head was usually throbbing when I got to Manchester. All my team leaders knew that I was in work for eight so if they were on night shift they knew they could contact me should they need me, before going home. I don’t know how to describe how I felt at that particular time. There was so much to do I really didn’t know where to start. I’m sure some smartarse would say remember the old Lao-tzu proverb about the longest journey beginning with the first step, well this was more like Riverdance, first step my arse. And don’t you think problems are like the fabled lemmings and their cliff diving? They don’t come in ones.
I can remember sitting at my desk, shell shocked would probably best describe my mood. One of my team leaders had been acting as duty manager the previous evening so in he comes to hand everything over to me. Nothing much out of the ordinary except he has had a little problem with the duty manager’s telephone. He pressed the wrong buttons and now the whole telephone will only function in Spanish. And there’s no apology, the phone is now in Spanish, it’s your problem, get on with it. Neither was I impressed with Delia and her recruitment procedure, which is a bit pot calling kettle and all of that, I know, seeing as how she chose me. But as I had compiled a report stating that Pauline should be fired I was concerned that she now was a service manager, like me.
I was worried but decided to put my military head back on. If I worked harder than everyone else then I would become invaluable to the operation and could feel proud of myself. Although I wanted the position so that I could actually make a positive improvement in people lives, I also knew that I was now in a world of back scratching and stabbing. I needed to distance myself from the other managers. There were four service managers altogether. Pauline and myself ran all the houses, we had seven each. Another service manager ran the respite side of things and the forth manger ran the low level support, the people who only needed two or three hours support per week. I was the only male on the team, plenty of people were warning me to be careful, that such an environment could turn nasty. Truthfully I never thought like that and I don’t think I ever had a sexist thought about the abilities of any of my colleagues.
They were all women, but that wasn’t the reason they were not very good at their jobs. What I now became involved in was what was known as, ‘empire building’ in the forces. You would build your own little empire, within a section or squadron, where you could ensure that you remained top dog. I knew that most people were afraid of mathematics so I volunteered to take over the accounts system. You could tell that an awful lot of people were pleased that I had stepped forward on the accounts front, but I often wondered if they secretly hoped for me to fall on my face. They would have a long time to wait for that to happen, for not only did I have the most loveliest legs in all of Ireland, I was a fecking genius too.
I realised that all of the houses both in Liverpool and Manchester had their own way of submitting their regular accounts, but each house was different. Really couldn’t believe that Richard, a professional accountant, hadn’t picked up on this. Perhaps he thought that other problems like the theft or sexual abuse needed his attention before this. For me this underlined the whole problem, it would provide a solid base from which to build. I did a wee bit of research and came up with a set of forms that I felt covered all requirements. I passed it through the senior management team and they all nodded their approval. I then took it to the local printers and asked for two examples, one A5 size and one A4. I would choose from the examples they provided me with.
All I had to do now was wait. I wasn’t sure what sort of budget or accounting system Delia was operating from but she seemed to favour buying people flowers. I have always looked on buying bunches of flowers as a complete waste of money, despite the fact that I found out mother number two has her own flower shop. And neither am I a follower of Osho, who said, “If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up it dies and it ceases to be what you love.” Delia was buying bunches of flower at forty pounds a time and sending them as thank you gifts to other people in the company. For a start why someone should be given a gift for doing their job was beyond me, Delia was currying favour; she was playing the long game. The reason I remember the flowers and extravagance of it all was that when I got my examples back from the printers, I decided on the smaller A5 accounts book, and asked for five hundred pounds to order enough in for the Manchester operation.
This was a decision she would have to pass to the directors. So it’s okay to buy flowers and chocolates and wine but not anything that will improve the operational effectiveness of the company. I was summoned to Liverpool and met with Steve, one of the directors and company accounts director. He was impressed with what I had set up and offered there and then to fund my project, explaining that if it worked well in Manchester, he would bring my system over and implement it in Liverpool. I knew that I was theoretically one step ahead of the pack but of course this was civvy street. I had intended getting each team leader in, explaining what the new system was all about and how it worked. I would be able to address any question or queries they had but no. I would have to organise a training day.
Present the project in one foul swoop and make it official. I knew that half the team leaders were bent and that in a group I was going to face some opposition. My new system would stop any little scams they had going. And they did, they bitched and argued, mainly Pauline’s lot, saying that only my team leaders should do this, they, as Pauline’s team leaders wouldn’t have to do it. I was certainly learning how to be very diplomatic very quickly indeed. The people in Manchester had been allowed to do their own thing for so long they felt that it was their company and basically who the hell did I think I was coming in and telling them what to do. I knew that I was going to have to replace at least half of them but I had been told that I had a zero budget for recruitment, by the way, which I was now in charge of. Delia could spend two hundred pounds a week on gifts but I could have no money for advertising for new staff!
Something very interesting happened then, there was some form of national fuel strike. People couldn’t get any petrol so couldn’t make it to their place of work. This of course affected me as people couldn’t drive to work and the public transport system was in chaos. It was bad enough being understaffed but now with staff not turning up for shifts I was in a right pickle. The team leaders, who should be dealing with the problem on the ground, threw their arms in the air and then came to me for help. They knew the people being supported better than me, they knew the staff and how closely they lived, they were the people best suited to sorting the problem out. I’m sure Richard and all those other professional managers in the UK would have some form of parlour game to sort this all out, but I didn’t have the time to play games. We got through it with a lot of pleading and overtime, but one morning soon after the fuel strike I was blasting my way across the country, probably with someone like ZZ Top with me in the car, when it came to me. A new approach to recruitment, you will buy flowers but not advertising for staff, well, as they say in all the best public relations firms, watch this space.