Celtic Illumination, part 388, Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince.
On the one hand it was difficult having a foot in both camps so to speak. I had enough problems in Manchester to keep me going for a lifetime without being dragged into anything new in Liverpool. But at times it was nice being able to let off a bit of steam with Garry; I suppose I was using him as a sounding board now and again. He was a heavy smoker so we would stand outside and he would smoke away to his heart’s content as I would warble on about this, that and the other. I had to visit Liverpool once a month to drop off the wages paperwork, this allowed me a certain degree of flexibility so I would normally give myself an extra half an hour and go and have a cup of tea with Tony and Jimmy and Andrew.
I don’t think Jimmy or Andrew understood what had happened to me and although Tony was my good friend I didn’t want him to let me down. He trod a very fine line between being laid back and being lazy, his time keeping was abysmal, but I don’t think he did it on purpose. He seemed to have managed to forget how to prepare and submit his monthly accounts so I had to do it for him. I really didn’t mind as it only took me a few minutes and I talked him through the process every time I did it for him. It was getting more difficult to bounce from one project to another as the more work I was given the more my timetable suffered. Every week blocks of time were given over to meetings or assessments, the actual time I had to meet with the people we supported and hopefully address their problems diminished each week.
So I was really impressed when I was told that I would have to spend two days a month at big school, big school being Lancaster University. They had a leading department there led by a professor who was instrumental in the implementation of the government white paper, ‘Valuing People.’ The eighteen month long course was to dissect and understand the full implication of the white paper and to suggest changes or amendments. I suppose I could only remind myself of the quote we used so often in the forces of, ‘If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined up.’ In preparation for the Lancaster course there were lots of little side meetings and groups springing up which I had to attend. The other service managers had to attend too but they only did when it suited them.
At one of the meetings I met the head of social services for Manchester, a Welsh fellow and his deputy. I have to admit that for social workers these two guys were actually, ‘switched on.’ We seemed to hit it off immediately and formed a great relationship. I was pleased to find two people who I considered able in the world of social work, pity there wasn’t more like them, but there was always hope. It was a bit embarrassing that they knew so much about the problems I was dealing with at NWCS but it was nice to see that they knew I was on top of the problems rather than drowning. They didn’t know all of the problems I faced and sometimes I wished I didn’t either. I wasn’t impressed with the Motability scheme. Up until Manchester I understood that it was a simple scheme, you basically exchanged your Motability benefits for three years, during which time you were given a fully insured and taxed brand new motorcar. After the three year period you gave the car back and got another vehicle, the process started all over again.
One of my Motability cars was due to be exchanged and rather than a straight forward exchange and swop of keys I was told that the old car had to undergo an inspection. The vehicle was then returned to me and I was given a list of faults that had to be fixed before the vehicle could be accepted. I was expected to put an insurance claim in for little scratches and dents, perhaps a broken wing mirror as well, and have everything fixed before they would accept the car back. This would mean that the voluntary excess insurance for the vehicle would increase for me whereas the Motability Company were the ones who would benefit in the long run as they got the vehicle back in showroom condition. You have to admit that only an idiot like me would sit down and try to set up your own scheme that would provide a better deal than the nationwide Motability scheme.
I was angry that once again disabled people were being ripped off, but what could you do about it. I really did spend about two weeks trying to set my own scheme up but couldn’t work out a better deal than Motability were providing so I had to accept their terms. This is where I moved over to approach number two; Motability was run by civilians and was government sponsored, so the standard of employee should be quite low. I was asked to report to one of the houses I managed where they were preparing to exchange their vehicle. They had a people carrier type of van. The team leader explained to me that when they had got the van, three years previously, no one had bothered to check the oil or water in the engine which accordingly blew up or seized. They weren’t sure which, but in effect the engine refused to work anymore. Rather than worry anyone, or admit to their negligence, the then team leader changed the engine himself and that was what was in the vehicle now. I think the van was Volkswagen and the engine was a Ford.
Never mind the engine number and chassis number not matching up; the fecking name on the thing didn’t really match up either. There wasn’t much wrong with the van, a few scratches here and there but the only thing I could do was to let it roll down a hill into a wall and then put in an insurance claim for a new engine. As long as the accident ruined the existing engine enough to warrant a new engine the plan might succeed and who was going to take the blame as the original perpetrators had long gone. It was a real mess so all I could think of doing was to take the van down to the dealer myself and hound him with bullshit. It actually worked. We had managed to select a new vehicle and were waiting on the report on our vehicle before we could exchange vehicles. I went in to overdrive and was asking all sorts of stupid questions, distracting the mechanics and being a right pain.
The mechanics decided their best course of action was to get rid of me so the exchange was made and with the new paperwork signed I was happy to drive away in our new vehicle and couldn’t have cared less what they discovered once I had gone, they had accepted the old vehicle back and that was a done deal in my book. So on days like this it was nice to nip away from Manchester and visit some old friends in Liverpool. The company had kitted me out with one of those new-fangled mobile telephones so I could contact people as I drove across the country. I rang Tony to find out that he was un-well, again. He was a fine figure of a man, like myself he probably could have done with losing a pound or two of weight, so to look at him you wouldn’t ever had thought anything was wrong with him.
I went straight home and relaxed for a while. I called Tony’s home to be told that he had been taken to hospital so I decided to go visit him and tell him to shake whatever, was annoying him, off. He was always complaining about stomach pains and most of us thought he was swinging the lead. He was in Fazakerley Hospital where I had spent many an hour with people having ball point pens, or paint brushes, removed from their arms and legs. On some of the wards and department I was on nodding terms with many of the staff. I reported to the main reception desk and gave them Tony’s name. I was a little surprised when they told me that he was in the intensive care unit but still thought nothing of it as I made my way up.
I remember reaching the doors to the intensive care unit, which were locked. I was about to press the buzzer when the door was opened by Tony’s father, a lovely old Jamaican gentleman who was always sending fish based dishes over with Tony for me to sample. He immediately invited me in and brought me to a curtain surrounded area where I found Tony in a bed. He was sitting up, wearing an oxygen mask, and didn’t look too well, there was no sign that he recognised me when I entered. His mother, sisters, partner and daughter were all there. I wasn’t prepared for this, we all knew each other and nodded our recognition. “What’s this fellow playing at?” I announced, trying to lighten the mood and moving to the foot of his bed. “Come one Tony, I said, we’ve got work to do, let’s get you up and out of that bed.”
There was some sort of movement in his eye. It was like a smile, as if he had recognised my voice, and I would like to think that he heard me and that it was a smile, because the alarms had started going. The nurse, I hadn’t noticed in the corner, came over and was fussing about. I stepped back, more medics came in and were surrounding Tony. His relatives were holding and hugging each other, while all I could do was stand there and wonder what on earth was going on. It didn’t take long before the medics stepped back and announced that he was gone. We all lined up and placed a kiss on his forehead and wished him farewell, then left the intensive care unit. I got in to my car and began to drive away. My telephone was ringing and I could see it was Manchester and for the first time ever I switched it off. Manchester and whatever problem had arisen now was going to have to wait, I had to find somewhere quiet and get my head around what had just happened.