Celtic Illumination, part 383, Worship the trousers that cling to him.
Bemused is, I think, the best word to describe how I felt. Most other people within the company gave their impression of headless chickens, panicking and worrying about what had happened to Richard. The three service managers withdrew to their offices and refused to speak to anyone, everything was now double top secret hush hush. No one knew why Richard had been fired, but dismissed he had been. Rumours abounded about what was happening next and who would take over steering the ship. All we knew was that someone new had been put in as boss in Manchester and for a week or two Richard had not controlled the Manchester operation.
This was good for the company, I felt, because he was playing scrabble with the service managers. Guys from the Liverpool operation were being asked to manage houses and teams in Manchester, without knowing anything about the people they were supporting, the associated teams and of course the local infrastructure. It was plain to see that Richard thought that a manager could manage wherever, and they probably could, but there was still a huge piece missing from the equation. The new person in Manchester had been a gossip feature ever since she arrived, but for me something more important was happening. NWCS was a private company owned by two individuals. Because social services were still ultimately responsible for the people supported they, so we were told, had stepped in, told the owners that they were putting a new senior management team in place or else the company was to be closed.
This was a believable and acceptable scenario. So how now could the owners turn around and fire Richard? All we knew is that it had something to do with the new person in Manchester. Many of the team leaders would have worn sackcloth and ashes given half the chance, they were all so sorry to see Richard depart, especially the born again Christians. I hope you all don’t think too badly of me but I saw an opportunity. Richard still had his other job as a highly paid consultant, and with his reputation wouldn’t be hanging around at home for too long. The corridors were quiet, people kept themselves to themselves. The gossip soon moved from having Richard as the focus to the new person in Manchester, Delia.
It would also appear that the two owners had a different interviewing technique than Richard, no ten minute presentation or practical scenario for prospective candidates there, not even an application form. It might also have been a little difficult to give a ten minute presentation in the back of a car. Rumour control had it that the new person, Delia, had been interviewed in a car park in Manchester and had subsequently been given the job of running the Manchester operation. All we knew about Delia was that she had been a senior nurse at the Calderstones mental asylum. She had also been the lead person responsible for placing all the people supported by NWCS in the actual community. The whole thing stank to high heaven of back scratching and returned favours, which you may think would annoy me, but it didn’t.
I could see that the two guys who owned the company were not that interested in the welfare of the people supported they were only interested in the cash at the end of the year. There was nothing any of us could do but wait and see what happened. The small clique who had always ran the company were now getting their heads together and putting people in positions. I assume there was no scientific management technique, lauded by Richard, that would be used in this process. Nothing could be done or said to effect what was happening, everything would be determined by your past performance. For me the opportunity of moving up to service manager was the best that could happen so fingers and everything else was crossed and locked in place.
I was asked to report to the Manchester office, which I did, all I was told was that Delia wanted to meet me. Garry had been put in charge, on a temporary basis, in Liverpool, meaning that there was a vacancy in the Liverpool office for service manager. I didn’t need to be wasting time in Manchester I needed to be in Liverpool getting that service manager position for myself. I have to admit that I didn’t take to Manchester, Liverpool to me was a warm welcoming place but Manchester was just a collection of houses and buildings. I reported to a day centre and met Delia. There had just been a meeting for the team leaders so the place was full of people. I was given a mug of coffee and shown in to Delia.
Her name was Delia Murphy; she was surrounded by little plastic dolls of Our Lady of Sorrow and Jesus. On the wall beside her desk were prayers and poems, images of Christ and other Holy icons. I immediately knew not to trust her. She was at pains to tell me that she was Irish, like me. Whereas I had wanted Richard to meet me toe to toe as an Irishman, Delia seemed to be going over the top to secure my trust or friendship. Delia now asked if I would be interested in becoming a service manager for her in Manchester. I believe it is what you call a sticky wicket. Was I really being no different than Joe had been, was I just in the right place at the right time? I knew the people in Liverpool, not just the staff but the people we supported. I didnt know anybody in Manchester.
Delia wasn’t interviewing me, she had made inquiries and it was understood by those in power in Liverpool that I should have been given the service manager job. I had only been a team leader for ten months and I was being offered a guaranteed position as service manager. I could return to Liverpool, turn down the Manchester offer and fight half a dozen other team leaders for the job in Liverpool. Knowing that the recruitment and selection procedures used by NWCS were as scientific as flipping a coin I accepted Delia’s offer. We shook hands and she told me that I would be starting the following Monday morning at nine o clock. Had this happened to anyone else, for example the way Delia had been given her position or even Richard for that matter I may have raised a concern but now that it was happening to me I knew it was the correct method of selection. These people really knew what they were doing.
I returned to Liverpool and knew that I would have to leave my four houses in worthy hands so that the guys supported continued to receive a good service. I went to see Garry who was now running the Liverpool operation. I explained that I had two people in mind that I wanted promoted to team leader to take over the houses that I managed in Liverpool. Garry had been sitting at Richards lap for far too long and insisted that the people I recommended could be put forward and he would consider them, but there were other people that Garry might want to put in to the mix. For my new house I had chosen a woman, Linda. She was a married girl, mid-thirties, and could do the job with her eyes closed; everyone liked her which was a good start. She had a small tattoo on her wrist so I had always called her my biker chick.
I had a meeting with her and asked if she would like to take the job. She was excited and said yes. I explained that I would have to submit a report along with her application but I would also do whatever else I could to make sure that she got the job. Not only did she deserve it she would be good at it to. Not as good as me, but then there never will be anyone as good as me. Jimmy and Andrew were special cases to me. I cared about them and knew that the only fellow who could really take over would be Tony, the big black fellow from Bootle. The unfortunate thing is that there were two other chaps on the team who would have made good team leaders, I felt that I was letting them down but I decided that I would write reports suggesting that they be considered for any new team leader position that might come up. I felt it was the best that I could do for them.
I took Tony to one side and sat him down. I explained that I was putting him forward for the team leader slot. I further explained that I was putting in a report that would support his application and that together we could make sure he got the job. Tony seemed to be a little reluctant and I was concerned. He began talking to me and explained that although he was pleased that I was putting him forward he didn’t want to let me down and would prefer it if I withdrew his application. This didn’t make sense to me so I pushed further with my questioning. Tony explained that he didn’t want to embarrass me, that it was all very nice for me to support him, but there was something in his past that would hold him back. Something I knew nothing about but which would hold him back forever.
Tony and myself had spent many a night trying to drink each other under a public house table in Bootle and even one memorable evening in my private club in Bootle and I was surprised that something this big could be lurking in his past. I pressed him to tell me what it was and he said that he had once had a problem with customs. He had been caught with some marijuana once and there had been a police report and a customs report about it. I laughed at him and asked if he had been stopped by the police and customs at the airport with a couple of joints in his pocket. It’s not every day that someone tells you they were arrested and jailed for four years for smuggling six tons of marijuana into Liverpool. I drove away having convinced Tony that it really didn’t matter, it was all in the past, he had paid his dues and he knew it. But that’s what niggled me, I was surrounded by all these people and I didn’t really know any of them. Told you at the start of this piece, bemused, that’s how I felt, and it wouldn’t be long before that turned in to the old song, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.
Celtic Illumination, part 382, Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru, but don’t forget Shizaru.
For a lot of the time I actually felt that I was living in a Hans Christian Anderson story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. I was surrounded by all these brilliant people yet I could see no evidence of it. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t so far up my own arse that I thought I was the most brilliant person on the planet, well; not too far from it. I would often wonder if in fact I was wrong and they were all correct. I know that I am so clever that some mornings I wake up and can’t remember my own name. Richard had not just been put in to NWCS by social services to run the company, but he was also a learning disability consultant with a private company that operated from the Wirral. For those of you unfamiliar with the Merseyside area, on one side of the River Mersey sits Liverpool, on the other side of the river is The Wirral Peninsula where the people like to think they are better than everyone else, so they are not Scousers, it is not Liverpool, it is the Wirral. It didn’t matter one iota to me as I was still a bloody foreigner whichever side of the river I was on.
Now I had this company full of ‘experts,’ and ‘consultants,’ who seemed to make a very good living out of presenting courses, or talks, on the evolving world of learning disabilities. I never questioned these people and their pedigree, although I have to admit I did wonder how on earth they could justify such high fees. It was one day when my service manager Joe, informed me that he was going to become a consultant for this company and earn himself five hundred pounds a day giving talks that I began to really wonder about them. This is the fellow who had given his aunt, the one who couldn’t read or write a job with my team. This is also the fellow who had noted my comment that I loved the company so much I was going to have the company name and logo tattooed on my forearm. He actually lived close to the two main houses I managed and I was surprised one Friday evening to get a telephone call asking me to nip over to his house.
I did so, and didn’t think it strange at all. Richard had every second senior managers meeting held in their private houses. Moving from one to another, he even had his secretary attend to take notes. I wandered over to Joe’s house and actually liked it. It was a solid red bricked house, well-proportioned and very relaxing. It was clean and tidy and decorated in a lovely ‘arty’ way; it certainly didn’t match the persona that Joe dragged around with him, like his knuckles. He was having a party and wanted to show some of his guests something on his computer, the computer wasn’t responding as he thought it should, so he asked if I would have a look at it for him. I don’t think Joe knew that when I said my tool kit consisted of a GFH and a GFS, a great fecking screwdriver and a great fecking hammer, that he believed me.
He left me with his computer and I began to work my way through the system to see if I could figure out his problem. His first problem was that he was only five feet tall but there was nothing I could do about that. People were wandering about, as you do at parties, and before long I had an audience, luckily for me they didn’t contribute to my task. They didn’t give me any assistance with the computer but brought me beer and pickies and one even produced a joint which was sparked up and passed around the little group. I learned that Joe had spent most of his working life selling washing machines till the shop closed down and he joined learning disabilities. Through a bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time, he had made team leader and then catching Richards eye, was promoted to service manager as they moved over to NWCS.
So it would be fair to say that I am not impressed. In fact I had learned that the top honcho in the private consulting firm, the fellow with all the letters after his name who was producing learned paper after paper, was only waiting until he had enough money before opening his own restaurant in Liverpool. I fixed the problem with the computer and left Joe’s party returning to work. It was at our next assessment that Joe told me he was not going to report me for drinking alcohol on duty, or for taking drugs, which he had been told I had done at the party at his house. However he was going to report me for hitting Jimmy. I was sporting three short scratches on my cheek received from Jimmy during an incident which I had recorded in the appropriate diary.
I was talking Jimmy out for the afternoon and had opened the front door of the house. There were one or two steps, nothing tricky or dangerous but Jimmy was sixty plus so could be unsteady on his feet. I reached out both of my hands to offer him support but something spooked Jimmy. He leapt back and I turned to see what had made him jump. Before I knew it Jimmy attacked me. Nobody with learning disabilities can put together a coordinated attack, so it’s not like being in a real fight where your opponent will usually aim for a specific target. People with learning disabilities usually just lash out, as Jimmy had done. Depending on their mood, and how badly spooked they were, would determine the length of the attack. The other thing you have to remember is that unlike a real fight where you would immediately take a step back, gauge your opponent and then decide on your course of action, here it was better to close straightaways and put an end to the attack.
A big bear hug usually did the trick, clamping their arms along the side of their body so they can’t harm themselves or you, and always remembering that a head butt might come next. I had gone straight for Jimmy and using a sort of grab, twist and trip, had placed him on his back on the floor. His focus is now of course off attacking me and his energy is used to try and get himself back up, should he attack me again, I would grab, twist and trip, placing him back on the floor until he hopefully became more exhausted than me. Joe had asked me how I had received the scratches on my face and I told him that Jimmy had attacked me and I had to put him on the deck. Joe had thought about this for a couple of days and had now decided that ‘Decking’ someone meant hitting that person and he deduced that I had actually hit Jimmy. I explained to Joe that I accepted that some people might use the word ‘deck’ to mean hitting someone, but as an ex member of the armed forces it is how we referred to the ground. To place, or put, someone ‘on the deck’ meant that we had put them on the floor. Joe wasn’t having any of it, he was convinced that he was correct.
I was in a horrible situation, there was no proof that I had hit Jimmy, but Joe was convinced that I had, so it was his word against mine. I could then see that if Joe mentioned the beer and joint at his party, again which he hadn’t seen, there was a good chance I could be out of a job. Of course Joe was a very clever man, who had made a name for himself in the world of washing machine sales, so he wanted time to think about it. Normally I think I might have convinced myself that I could argue my way out of a situation like that. What had happened at the party at Joe’s house was away from the workplace and was absolutely nothing to do with the incident with Jimmy. I could sit beside Jimmy and have a bit of a laugh, which would be impossible to do with someone you may have attacked, people with learning disabilities might not have skilled capabilities in the communication world but if they thought someone was a bully they would certainly show it through their body language.
My only problem was that Joe, the would be consultant in learning disabilities, was a fecking idiot, and it doesn’t matter how clever you are, an idiot will always manage to bring you down to their level. As George Carlin said, “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” I don’t know if he was playing a game with me or not, but he kept putting it off, saying that he was still thinking about it. My gut feeling was that he was not going to report the incident, because if it had been true, it would have been serious and by delaying reporting it, he was in fact getting himself in trouble, for if I was a danger to Jimmy I should have been removed immediately.
The situation rolled on for a week or two and I have to admit I was looking around other companies for a new position, I had had enough. I had almost completed a night shift and received a telephone call from Joe. At the end of my shift I was not to go home I was to report to head office. I could tell from his voice that he was in a pretty serious mood so little else was spoken between us and I feared the worst. I was surprised to see a group of bleary eyed people gathering as every team leader in the Liverpool side of the company had been called in. I couldn’t understand what was going on as we were all invited to sit in the meeting room. Kath gave the game away as she smiled at me and said, “The Irishman’s in trouble,” I could see she was delighted and wondered just what was being said about me throughout the company. I couldn’t work out what Joe was playing at but was determined to fight my way out of the situation. With all the team leaders in the room the service managers came in. I could hear myself reminding myself not to swear when it started. Then the two owners came in. “We’ve gathered you all here to inform you that Richard no longer works for the company.” Richard had been fired. Well; thought I, the king is dead, long live the king.
Celtic Illumination, part 381, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,”
I suppose it would be fair to say that I was confused with the world of learning disabilities. The theory was all very good and proper but it didn’t match what was happening in the real world. People were living in communities and they were being supported but they were not participating in those communities. They didn’t have jobs, they were not members of the local amateur dramatic society, they didn’t play football every Saturday morning in the local park. In fact many of them were quite old and had had their lives stolen from them. It would have been easy enough to become a barrack room lawyer, although in my case I suppose I would have been a barrister, and played the old semantics game.
And thank you to Ken Clare who yesterday sent me a link to a project in Liverpool that is trying to highlight the lives, that some of these people endured, although their focus is now on creating a better future for them. I remember that at Natural Breaks a fellow, Stan, who would have been Jan’s deputy, encouraged us all to get the people we supported to record their views, opinions and memories of the institutions they had been in, on video tape. Some of this stuff was very basic, I know that Stan used to take people back to Calderstones and, with the hospital in the background, would ask the person supported a series of questions to which we would be given either a thumbs up or a thumbs down gesture. We were unsure how this material could be brought together but knew that the first step was to get it recorded.
I think that the biggest problem in learning disabilities is the fact that most of the staff are not up to the job. I am aware that they subsequently invented qualifications but they are not worth the paper they are printed on and are not viewed by management as having any real worth at all. I suppose I am a bit of a dipshit really as in I am quite a trusting fellow, I see no reason to go around lying my arse off, so I don’t expect others to do so. Not really the sort of view one should have in this cruel world of ours. Richard had been asked to take over NWCS and brought his crack team with him. I never questioned his or their ability. Joe was my service manager for all of the four houses that I managed. At my new main house was a chap called John. For months he had been promised his own house, but nothing had been done about it.
Joe took me to one side and told me that he was far too busy to even begin looking for a house for John. Every time I saw John he would ask how the search for his house was going and I had been told to lie to him. I had been told to tell him it might happen next week. Not a bit of wonder many of these people exploded in rage now and again. There really was a mountain of work to get stuck in to, it was new to all of us but it would never get completed unless we made a start somewhere. Like the old Chinese proverb states, the journey of one thousand miles starts with a bird in a bush. I was doing what I could to give the people I supported the life they wanted as best as I could. I was lucky that I had some very good staff members, even though some of them couldn’t read or write, they did what I asked without question.
It was the world of the service manager where I needed to be, where the life changing decisions were being dealt with. Richard not only ran the Liverpool office but the Manchester office which I believe was in a much worse state than Liverpool. A vacancy came up in the Manchester office for a service manager and I didn’t hesitate in applying for it. This time I couldn’t care less what people thought of me, I just knew that I could do more good as a service manager than as a team leader. In fact there had been a social evening arranged in the Liverpool office, where the families of the people we supported were encouraged to come and meet the staff and have any questions or queries answered. I got on really well with Jimmy’s brother. In fact Jimmy’s mother had died and his brother asked me not to tell Jimmy but then asked if I could submit a benefit claim so that the system would pay for her funeral on Jimmy’s behalf.
It was during this social gathering that I was moving about meeting and greeting people when I met another team leader, Kath, she was with someone’s mother and introduced me as, “He thinks he’s the best, but he isn’t.” I thought it was a strange thing to say, especially as it was almost out of the blue, but it certainly kept me on my toes. It didn’t concern me too much as I had been asked to come forward for the Manchester post whereas Kath had not. Richard had arranged the interviews to be held in some sort of motel on the outskirts of Manchester. I couldn’t understand why he just didn’t give me the job and save the company some money, but such is life. I arrived at the motel and eyed up my opposition, there wasn’t really any to speak off.
I think there would have been about six of us. Richard introduced himself and then explained that, we would be given a group exercise, and then we would have lunch. After lunch we would each be interviewed and would have to prepare a short ten minute presentation before the interview. Once briefed, we were led in to an anti-room, which had been laid out ready for us. It was a map based problem so I knew it was right up my street. The position of service manager is quite a senior position so I decided that I would show Richard what a real manager could do. I took over. I wasn’t forceful, I didn’t bully anyone, I just used reasoning and took over the project, coordinating everything and seeing the problem through to a satisfactory conclusion.
You don’t normally expect the person who will be interviewing you to join you for lunch, but Richard did. Two of the six had left so the five of us sat and ate, in a most awkward setting. It was bad enough that we were eating quiche and rabbit food when what was really needed was a bit of comfort food, like a juicy hamburger and cold beer. I was informed that I would be the final interview of the four remaining candidates. Well; I suppose they do say that you leave the best to the last. I was sitting in the foyer of the motel when the receptionist came over and gave me a slip of paper. She told me that my interview would begin in half an hour and I was to prepare a ten minute presentation on the statement written on the piece of paper.
Seems that Richard had an interview format that fitted all occasions. He had been very clever, making sure that those who had completed their interviews did not communicate with those still waiting, and as for being monitored by the reception staff, well; pure genius. So speaking about myself I may as well tell you that I cannot remember what the presentation had to be about but it was a technical based talk based loosely around the proposed new white paper. I might not have been a great supporter of the proposed new white paper but I did know what it contained, shame that my copy was in my briefcase, which was at home. I took out my mobile telephone and called Irene. I asked her to get my briefcase and open it. I then asked her to take the actual white paper out and let me check one or two facts. It wasn’t really cheating, it was using ones initiative.
I knocked them dead with my presentation which this time contained no jokes at all. I amazed them at the interview and went away from that place quite content that I had been successful. It was about ten days later, I remember I was catching forty winks on the settee when the telephone rang, it’s all right I was at home, not at work. Richard had called to tell me that I had been unsuccessful and that if I would like to book an appointment he would be happy to explain to me why I had failed. It was a few days before I could get myself in front of him. Seems that I had been too militaristic in my approach. I had forced myself in to the practical situation and taken over. It didn’t matter that I had successfully led the team through the project.
Learning disabilities needed people who were calm and easy to approach, not ex-army people like me. I was furious because I could see that Richard had not even read my CV, ex-army indeed. But I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t, I was confused. The Manchester operation was in disarray, people were stealing and cheating and conning the system left right and centre. People with learning disabilities were being abused. The position was paperwork based, so who better to send in than a fearless, ex forces, well educated, person who actually cared about people with learning disabilities. Richard, in his infinite wisdom, gave the job to a dyslexic, homosexual, from Blackpool who looked as if he would fall over if a gust of wind caught him unawares. Kath seemed happy that I had failed and wasted no time in telling me. What she didn’t know was that I lived my life according to my old squadron motto, Aut Pugna Aut Morere, Either fight or die.
Celtic Illumination, part 380, Leading from the front.
It’s absolutely fantastic the way many of you, The Illuminati, support me and back me up with your very own research, comments and suggestions. Only yesterday Frances O Neill, sent me a lovely report detailing the genetic imprint of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Frances, as some of you may remember, is very heavily into Irish research and would be our very own specialist in Irish monarchical studies. Niall of the Nine Hostages was the first in the long line of O Neill Kings of Ireland and Prof Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin has now proven that where some families might, genetically, pass on green eyes, or blond hair, or a particular skill or ability, a specific group of O Neill’s in the North West of Ireland, linked all the way back to Niall of the Nine Hostages, share ulnar polydactyly which he believes is associated with a cis-regulatory element. So now that science is on my side there shouldn’t be much problem in anyone believing that I am the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and therefore the true High King of Ireland. Chosen by God, backed up by science and supported by you lot, The Illuminati.
We should now all raise a glass, or two, and celebrate, don’t worry about it I’m paying, so cheers and bottoms up. And believe it or not drinking is what I was going to speak about today. Strange the way these paragraphs seem to come together, I’ll have to look in to how they do that one day, it’s quite freaky when you think about it. I read a small report yesterday, although I also read some heavy scientific papers about genetic research and biased polyphenism of a spontaneous complex variation, but it was the small report on a military site that made me smile and I hoped I would be able to pass that on to you. It also made me think of the differences between the military and civilian working relationships. Civilians seem to accept failure, as if it is usual, whereas in the military there is no such thing as failure. But what interested me was the underlying knowledge that teamwork was the key to success, teamwork, something the military person practised, while civilians could only talk about it.
I was trying to think of some raucous times I might have had with NWCS, but found it very hard to recall any drunken shenanigans. A new fellow did arrive who showed promise, he was an ex Royal Marine and we immediately clicked. That’s the thing about military men, and women, there is a sort of unwritten understanding. I still approached my work with a military head on, whatever Richard asked the managers to do I would do twice that, if not three times. I volunteered for anything and everything, playing Santa at the Christmas children’s party, organising social events, joining all sorts of committees and attending the most ridiculous courses possible. I understood that having a good attendance record was not the key to getting promoted. I used the same model as we had in the forces which was that it didn’t matter how good you were at your job, it was your secondary duties that got you promoted.
Reading what I have previously written many of you may think that a lot of what was happening in the learning disabilities field was made up as people went along, and you would be right, even the government was making it up as they went along. A government white paper was to be introduced called Valuing People and it would set out an ambitious and challenging programme of action for improving services. Richard wanted all of us to be at the leading edge of this event so asked me to book a weekend retreat where we could come together as a team and discuss the forthcoming white paper. I would have thought this a little ambitious on Richard’s part, but I waited so see how much I had to spend on booze before making any decisions. Well; how can you have a decent discussion about government stuff without some booze?
I actually booked Rhydtalog, where I used to take the cadet squadron, however it had changed hands and claimed to have had half a million pounds spent on it on improvements. Seems that some of the funny handshake brigade had wangled a grant from the National Lottery fund. I was really impressed when I arrived to find that money had been spent on the place, it was double glazed, had clear water coming out of the taps and even had heating. There were still the three main buildings but I warned everyone that the smallest of the three buildings was known as the morgue and was haunted. Surprisingly everyone chose to find accommodation in the other two blocks. My new Royal Marine friend and myself took the keys to the morgue, because I knew it was now a self-contained cottage, with its own kitchen and sumptuous bathroom, but it was still haunted of course.
Richard arrived with his three service managers and was waiting at the main entrance door when the caretaker announced that he had handed everything over to the boss, me, and hoped we all had a good time. Well; I was in charge. I knew the first thing we had to do, when discussing a government white paper, was to have an alcohol based game of rounder’s, a sort of baseball for the physically challenged. Then we had an alcohol based quiz, which I felt had us all relaxed enough to begin discussing the white paper. Unfortunately some of the mangers were lightweights when it came to alcohol and were as relaxed as farts. We sat outside in the moonlight drinking beer and having a laugh. Richard had left early as he had some important business to attend to. So we lit a camp fire, Richard should have stayed and led us in a few verses of Kumbaya.
The evening drew to a natural close, which as you all know, means the booze was running out. Myself and my marine retired to the haunted cottage and got ourselves in to bed. Now, before any of you preverts start, we were not sleeping together, well; we were, but he was in the bed next to me. I don’t mean he was next to me in bed I mean he was in another bed that was alongside the one I was in. It was dawn and I can remember saying that I needed a drink. Before you know it the marine is up and out of his bed. He sprints to the double doors and out through them, to the main hall, where he collects whatever booze he can lay his hands on and then returns triumphant. There were still one or two people lying about the camp fire and most were wondering why a naked man was running about the place collecting bottles of booze.
He managed to find some whiskey and some Baileys which we mixed together and drank and which we discovered made a very good sleeping draught. We returned to Liverpool and we all probably dealt with our hangovers in our own particular way. Not one word had been spoken about the government white paper although everyone had taken their copy with them. I do believe that this is the way most companies dealt with the white paper and how they could contribute toward it. I wasn’t being facetious but I couldn’t see how one white paper could deal with so many individual problems, it wasn’t written in such a way and it was obvious that the government, or those advising them, hadn’t a clue what they were doing, it really was making it up as they went along. Even the great American leaders in the learning disability movement didn’t seem to be able to steer the beast in any specific direction.
I only wished that I could have had some more military men around me or military men involved in the upper echelons of the learning disability and mental health fields. Not only would the whole shooting match been sorted out but we would have had a laugh doing it. Which reminds me, the article I read yesterday, that made me write what I did today. Well, seems that a certain squadron had a party in a mess. A senior, bomber command, squadron, commanding officer, found himself in hospital with a heavily plastered shoulder and upper arm. He was required to fill out a detailed report on how he had received his injury as it was now affecting his capability to fly and therefore the combat readiness of his squadron. He wrote that he had been standing on the mantelpiece, drinking beer from a fire bucket, when he became disorientated and fell off. Unfortunately, he continued, when I hit the floor the Air Officer Commanding ran over me with his motorcycle and I passed out. I wonder which white paper they had been dealing with that night?
Celtic Illumination, part 379, It’s only the depth that varies.
There is a wonderful public park in Liverpool called Sefton Park. It is huge and has lots of attractions such as a boating lake, tennis courts, fountains, miles of pathways and of course, the café. When I was with Natural Breaks I was invited in to the inner circle of support staff and given the most important tool that you could have in learning disabilities, like a Mason being given his silver trowel. I was given the RADAR key to the disabled toilet. RADAR stood for the Royal Association of Disability and Rehabilitation. The key will open over nine thousand disabled toilets in the United Kingdom. They are about four times the size of a normal toilet cubicle, always clean, and warm, and a safe environment if you need to get someone out of the public gaze for ten minutes or so. Any support staff, out and about with someone who could turn violent, will know exactly where the closest disabled toilet is. It is like second nature to you.
There’s a disabled toilet in the café in the centre of Sefton Park. Normally you would ask a staff member in the café for the key but we all had our own, still do. Of course they were a good, clean, safe environment that we used on many other occasions I think the one I favoured most was one of the disabled toilets in the Albert Dock complex. Inexperienced staff liked to use the café at Sefton Park as an informal meeting place as usually there would be more experienced people about who would lend you a hand should you need it. So during the week you would find the café full of support staff and the people they supported. The people supported tended to know each other, as they would all have come from the same mental asylum, so for them it was quite a social occasion. Outside lolling about, especially in the fine weather, would be a dozen or so drug addicts all stretched out, dealing or tripping. Now and again the local constabulary would provide some entertainment as two or three van loads of them would race toward the café.
We found it quite funny as there would be no attempt to make a subtle or concealed approach to the café. The white vehicles with their Day-Glo orange stripes, which I have to admit did stand out a bit against the prevailing green of the grass, bushes and trees, would hammer their way along. The druggies would raise themselves up on their elbows and watch the approaching coppers who would screech to a halt and erupt from their vehicles chasing whichever druggie that had taken to his, or her, heels. While the main body of police would begin to round up the druggies all sorts of shenanigans would unfold usually resulting in a free for all punch up, involving Tasers, CS gas and batons. It would be a grand form of entertainment and it was free.
You would never know what would happen in Sefton Park. While still with Natural Breaks myself and another fellow, a qualified social worker, would pick up one fellow and take him to Sefton Park where he would walk around for two hours. We stayed about ten feet behind him as he liked to feel that he was on his own, while he shouted at the trees and expressed himself with all sorts of involuntary arm movements. After the two hours walking about we would then drive across Liverpool to the area where he lived and buy him two cans of beer and a serving of curry and rice from a chip shop. He would drink one can of beer in a single swig and then eat the curry and rice, as if he were in an eating race, then, almost without taking a breath, he would swallow the contents of the second can of beer, emit a huge burp and consider himself satisfied. We would then take him home and leave him with his parents.
There were two of us with him as he could be quite unpredictable and if we came close to any other people we would close the gap between ourselves and he, just in case we had to leap in to action. So here we are one day, we arrive at the park and we are strolling along. Our man is shouting and waving away to his heart’s content while in the distance we see two young boys come on to the path and begin to approach us. Trying not to make the situation obvious we remain at a safe distance but gradually begin to close the gap. We watch our charge very carefully for any change in his behaviour which might indicate that he had noticed the pair of fellows approaching. Both of the young chaps approaching have bicycles and are pushing them. As the gap closes sufficiently, so that we can begin to identify features, we see that the two boys are about twelve or thirteen years old.
We close the gap and, if I dare say, almost with military precision, now find ourselves flanking our charge as the two youngsters pass us. I promise you my heart was in my mouth as I expected that at any moment I was going to have to leap in to action. Having passed each other we begin to fall back, to allow our charge his personal space again. The two young fellows had stopped and were getting on their bicycles, but were watching our small party of three. The danger had almost gone. Our fellow was happy, shouting and punching the air, when one of the youngsters called out an insult. I suppose if you were walking along with a fellow who was shouting random obscenities at the trees and punching the air erratically, you might expect some little guttersnipe to call him names, like the school children who would taunt Gordon, but no, they left him alone. It was me they were insulting. My colleague was a slight five foot six tall fellow, nothing out of the ordinary. I was an impressive Irishman, even though I say so myself, but I did not expect a twelve year old boy in Sefton Park in Liverpool to start shouting, “What are you looking at you fat bastard?”
Had they attacked or insulted my charge I would have dealt with them swiftly and sharply but I was stunned. I may have carried a little more poundage than the ordinary fellow in the street but I couldn’t believe that they were insulting me. I do remember that I was embarrassed beyond belief and when we reached the café my ears were still ringing. As a team leader I was beyond giving one to one support now, I am not saying that I was above it and I have to admit that I loved going around all the historic buildings in Liverpool, admiring the architecture and detail of the buildings. In fact I felt that I needed to get much higher so that my level of employment would match my skills. But despite how good I thought I may have been I was only far too aware that I was still learning every single day.
I was now directly responsible for supervising the direct support given to eight people living in the community. Each one of those individuals brought their own specific requirements that could involve violence, but one brought much more trouble than that, he brought his brother. It was rare that we would meet relatives, we would be aware that they existed, and would facilitate meetings or get-togethers as and when they were wanted. The only relative I had come across who had a regular meeting was Jimmy and his brother. In my new house one of the guys had a brother who insisted on attending every team meeting and demanding that his brother was first in the queue for everything. At my first house team meeting most of the staff warned me about his attitude with lots of raised eyes and most of them stating that he was a real pain.
The brother arrived and sat himself down. It was quite obvious that he thought himself to be in charge of the meeting. He was an officious little oaf, a four feet six tall Englishman who would have made a proper little modern major general ordering the char wallah to polish his boots. I honestly didn’t think that this fellow had much interest in his brother; it was as if he was interested in telling us all just how important he was and that we should be pleased he was there as he knew how to run a meeting, properly. It was strange that the four points I had highlighted in my ten minute presentation during my interview were not just correct but were coming back to haunt me. It may have been nice to secure myself away in one of my offices and immerse myself in the accounts but every now and again life seemed to be so much more simple and pleasant just wandering aimlessly around Sefton Park, watching some fellow call the trees and bushes every name under the sun. Come to think of it the worst thing that had ever happened to me in Sefton Park was being called a fat bastard, which in a way I missed for all I had to do now was walk out of my office with my hair combed the wrong way and I could have started world war three.
Celtic Illumination, part 378, The function of freedom is to free someone else.
What is it they often say? “Be careful what you wish for, as it will come around and bite your arse!” Well they do where I come from. I can remember driving in to Liverpool on that first morning, the first morning that I had four houses to manage. I wanted more, but I was terrified. I wasn’t playing a game; I knew that I was actually dealing with individual lives and just how important that was. I wasn’t out to prove that every social worker in the United Kingdom was a waste of space; they were doing a pretty good job of that themselves. I felt that with the approach I had learned at Natural Breaks and my ability for coming up with weird and wonderful solutions, I could actually do some good for these people we supported.
I think it would be fair to say that I felt lost, there was just too much to do, but I knew this was the environment where I functioned best. If I had to sit around with absolutely nothing to do I could be dangerous, ever wonder why they called me the Newry Bomber on the Desert and Mountain Rescue teams? I checked in with Jimmy and Andrew, like touching base, looking for a bit of reassurance and then with the standard deep breath taken and expelled walked my way over to my new house. I suppose I only considered myself having two main houses as the other two, both requiring six hours per week, were more of an irritant that an involvement, like spinning plates on poles. One of the fellows at the new house, John, had a Motability car. Many disabled people in the United Kingdom are given a financial benefit by the government for help in getting around. Some people use this to buy into a scheme where they are given a brand new, taxed and insured motorcar every three years. All they have to do is put fuel in it.
I was surprised to see that the car was missing, but not as surprised as the staff were to see me. John’s car was missing but John was sitting at the kitchen table eating his breakfast. John’s car should never be used unless he was in the car; after all, it was his car. I asked where the other member of staff was and was told that he was doing his normal morning run, which was picking his girlfriend up, from her home, in John’s car, and dropping her off at her place of work. He would be back soon. I think in the armed forces, the moment you are promoted in to a position where you can take disciplinary action against another person you promise yourself that you never will. Here I was finding myself feeling that a paperwork disciplinary exercise would not be enough, behind the bike sheds with baseballs bats kept springing to mind as an alternative.
The missing member of staff came back in, his name was Kev. I took the car keys off him and went out to give the vehicle a quick check. It was a nice little standard run about, brand spanking new, although I cannot remember what flavour it was. I do remember switching it on and noticing that there were only about fifty miles on the odometer and the petrol tank was empty. I knew that the other member of staff would not admit to having snitched on Kev so came back into find him, in my face, saying that he had a personal emergency that he had to deal with. Normally he wouldn’t have used John’s car but he had no alternative, it wouldn’t happen again. By the way, could I give him twenty pounds as, here he hands me a receipt for twenty pounds, he has just put twenty pounds worth of petrol in the car. I promise you I was screaming at myself inside my head not to rip his face off.
I retreated to the office, which was a converted front bedroom, and told them to bring all the paperwork in the house to me. I am now of course in geek heaven, working my way through all the accounts and diaries. I wasn’t impressed. I trusted my original staff with Jimmy and Andrew implicitly, even though Tony would always be whispering in my ear, “Do you want some knock off gear?” Tony lived in the Bootle area of Liverpool which kept up the age old tradition of looting from the docks. I knew that if I wanted to buy guns, or drugs, or knock off booze, or even half a dozen flat screen televisions Tony was my man. He didn’t steal the items he was just one of thousands of middle men in Bootle. But I also knew that I could trust Tony with the accounts in the house, a strange dichotomy, but I really do believe that when you are fed a diet of how corrupt our politicians and supposed leaders are every day of our lives and they see that they take no responsibility for their actions many people think along the lines of what is good for the goose…….
Well, I certainly thought along those lines, not exactly, I thought what is good enough for a sneaky little shit who steals from disabled people is to be fired, publicly humiliated and never ever allowed again to work in this environment. I began to build a case against Kev but I was worried in case he wasn’t the only one involved in corruption in the new staff team. Where I had seen corruption in Natural Breaks and obviously wanted to stop it, I was now in a position to do so but wasn’t really sure where to start. I knew that the whole affair would have to be presented to Richard, so understood that everything would have to be provable and in black and white. It was only because I managed both houses that I discovered another con that Kev was involved in and I have to say that it was so cheeky I was impressed.
I mentioned some time before that Gordon came from his house every Friday evening and sat with Jimmy in his house watching films. It was always Kev who dropped Gordon off and who returned to pick him up and escort him back to his own house. I had been there once or twice and could see that Kev was always in a real hurry to get back to his house. Now that I managed both houses I could see that there were always two people on duty every Friday night, specifically for this visit. However Kev was supposed to stay with Gordon. We, in Jimmy and Andrew’s house thought he was running back to Gordon’s house, the staff member in Gordon’s house thought he was with Gordon in Jimmy’s house. He was in fact working for another company and took a fellow out every Friday night to a local pub for beer and darts. So while the rest of us were busy dealing with Gordon, Kev was in a pub somewhere being paid an hourly rate by two companies to drink free beer.
Now apart from being so cheeky you have to admit that it is quite a con. It was the only provable fact that I could record against him. Richard as an accountant agreed with me that the receipts for fuel and beer were quite obviously not genuine but we couldn’t prove that he had fiddled money from the company. Richard didn’t impress me. I didn’t expect Richard to hold Kev across his desk while I battered seven bells out of him with a pair of brass knuckle dusters, I’m sure Tony could have found me a set. But an indication of indigence that the people he was responsible for supporting to live in the community were being ripped off didn’t come, absolutely nothing. Richard went through the disciplinary process and fired Kev. He refused to inform the other company that were being ripped off on a Friday night what Kev was up to, which I couldn’t understand.
In fact he didn’t speak to me about the incident until I was summoned to his office a week or two later. I hoped he would turn in to a human being and say something along the lines of, ‘I know where Kev lives lets go and get him,’ but no, this was born again Richard. I was now under investigation as he had received two written complaints about me and my treatment of the people I supported to live in the community. Despite the fact that we could open the house diaries and match the hand writing in the letters to various entries in the diaries and with the fact that they belonged to the old team leader and Kev, both of whom had just been fired, Richard insisted that he would have to follow the investigation through.
I couldn’t believe it; I had never met a boss like it before in my life. Richard was a proper civilian manager, he knew nothing about leadership. I often remembered Jan in Natural Breaks putting the violent fellow in the front seat of her car to take him to a family barbeque at her house while Andrew would ask me who Richard was and what was he like. The problems I faced in my present position were difficult enough without receiving what I considered to be the proper support and encouragement. But as I was aiming for the top, I knew that once there, there would be no support, so I may as well get used to it now. They say that it is lonely at the top, but no one ever mentions how fecking lonely it is as you begin to make your way up the slippery pole.
Celtic Illumination, part 377, Responsibility is the price of freedom.
I am going to ask you to imagine a square. On the bottom right hand corner was the house that I managed where two people, Jimmy and Andrew, were supported to live in the community. It always annoyed me that such a phrase was used, ‘supported to live in the community,’ because we couldn’t really let either of them out into the community unsupervised. It truly was a misnomer and it did make me constantly question what was going on. The only logical explanation I could come up with was that it was a small part of the government’s bigger plan to close down the NHS. They could get rid of a huge lump of the NHS without too much resistance, especially by constantly claiming that these people had the right to live in their community.
Anyway, back to the square. If the house that I managed was the bottom right hand corner then at the bottom left hand corner was another house managed by our company. At this house four people were supported to live in the community. Both houses were lovely red bricked middle class residences, solid and respectable. Now look at the top right hand corner of the square and there you will find a secondary school. This is a school where children between the ages of eleven and eighteen will attend. One of the guys who lived at the other house was Gordon and Gordon would patrol outside the house that I managed, when the school had closed for the day, warning passing children that, “You don’t drink ink.”
I don’t know why Gordon warned people not to drink ink, but this is the first thing he would say to you upon meeting you. The school children would not be as understanding, or as polite, as most adults and would fire back their own warning to Gordon and even sing to him. Unfortunately when they sang they would choose lines from the Jilted John song, stating that ‘Gordon is a moron.’ I knew Gordon, as he would come over most Friday evenings and sit with Jimmy and watch a film on the television, so to hear him outside getting involved in what could be quite aggressive banter, was concerning to say the least. The social workers would say that Gordon had the right to involve himself in such shenanigans and that we should try to get involved with the school and educate the children.
The interaction happened almost every school day and if I was around I would ask Gordon to come in and have a cup of tea with his friend Jimmy. The confrontations would agitate Gordon and someone could end up getting hurt. I felt it was better that he was safe and calm, drinking tea and eating biscuits rather than working himself up into a frenzy. But then what did I know. It was a pretty exciting time as we all knew we might be given more responsibility. NCWS were busy picking up contracts left right and centre. There were a lot of people who had been given houses to live in but only five or six hours support per week. This five or six hours support really had to be the best form of support that person would need and might involve shopping or managing their budget. The reality was that you spent a lot longer than six hours a week with them, but the illusion that they lived in the community, with minimal support, was maintained.
We began a process of getting to know our new charges. I was horrified, the guy I was to support was determined that he needed no support at all. I went to the house where he was living and my heart sank. He deep fat fried everything that he ate. Apart from the health issues, there was the mess, as he was not the most careful person in the kitchen, and of course there was the fire hazard. He couldn’t see the point of cleaning up the mess after every time he cooked because it happened after every meal. I liked his logic but I knew that unless I documented my worries, anything that went wrong would be my fault. The same sort of blinkered reasoning that the social workers used time and time again seemed to prevail throughout and across the world of learning disabilities.
Then one day the manager of the other house came in asking if we had seen Gordon. I tolerated this fellow as he was a real barrack room lawyer type. You couldn’t have a conversation with him without him bringing it around to the rights and wrongs of employment law and of course focusing on our own employment. I hadn’t seen Gordon and told him so. This wasn’t something simple like Gordon being thirty minutes late for his tea, Gordon had been missing for twenty four hours. Nobody had surplus staff members that they could send out looking for Gordon, where would you start? This is just one incident where the inadequacies of the system erupted into plain view. Now that we knew someone could go missing what plan were we going to come up with to prevent it from happening to anyone else?
At the time mobile telephones were becoming more popular and there were location monitors, the most common being the notorious ankle bracelet used for individuals under house arrest or parole. As you may expect the suggestion that any of these devices could be used was dismissed as it would be a breach of the individual’s human rights. Why should Gordon have his movements monitored as he had not broken the law? I wasn’t suggesting that Gordon be fitted with an ankle bracelet, but I was suggesting that either a mobile telephone or monitoring device be given to him to be kept in his pocket so if a situation like the one that had arisen, came about, we could locate Gordon and make sure he was safe.
It was frustrating to have to listen to such bollocks, but then again, what did I know. It was three days before we heard Gordon shuffling his way along the road, warning all passers-by that they shouldn’t drink ink. He was dishevelled and agitated, but at least he had returned. Unfortunately with social services and the police involved in the search for Gordon, the moment he started to complain of having a sore bum, matters took a more serious turn. I was pleased to see that the police took the same view as myself that some sort of tracking device should have been given to Gordon, but the social workers were not convinced, but then I suppose that is the price you have to pay for being a moron. Gordon had been abducted by a person, or persons, unknown, taken to a house somewhere and repeatedly raped.
It is horrible when you learn about just how depraved some people are, but such is the world we have created for ourselves. The social workers insisted that Gordon still had the right to go for walks on his own and that he would not have to carry any form of tracking or location monitoring device. We were all quite annoyed at their intransigence, but if the truth be told didn’t expect much more from them. The manager of the house where Gordon lived was incensed and went straight to head office to Richard. I know that he demanded that he be given an extra member of staff so that Gordon could have someone with him at all times. Richard, as we were all learning, was a business man. I couldn’t understand how or why he had such a good reputation in the learning disability world as the people the company supported to live in the community didn’t even know what he looked like. None of his decisions were people based; he could only operate if it looked good on paper.
Don’t get me wrong, NWCS was a large company, with over one hundred and fifty people supported in Liverpool and a similar number supported in Manchester. It was a ‘going concern,’ it had to make a profit. In fact the main focus was on winning contracts as more and more people were being returned to their community, and every company was fighting for the new business. At one manager meeting Richard introduced us to his, ‘Bidding formula.’ It appealed to the inner geek in me. He had produced a formula where you could work out exactly how much it would cost to support one person; depending on the total amount of weekly hours support they had been awarded. It covered three pages and was very detailed, but he assured us that by using this formula you could submit a bid that would be the exact figure needed so you would never lose money. This he considered to be very important as some companies would put in lower bids just to secure the contract and have their margins squeezed in the long term.
I remember that we were all sitting in a large lazy circle and he gave us all a copy of his formula, told us to select one person we supported and work out how much the annual budget for supporting that one person would be. Time for me to shine, again. I chose Jimmy as my subject and set about the calculations. Five minutes later I waved at Richard to say that I had completed the task as many of the other managers were still working out how to switch on their calculators. Richard cast his eye over my calculations, nodded and walked away. It would be safe to say that we didn’t have a very friendly working relationship. So I was expecting a bit of a confrontation when I was summoned to his office after the Gordon affair.
I expected someone had reported something I would have said, or had been accused of saying and I was in for a telling off. But no, he was nice to me. He still didn’t acknowledge that we were both Irish, which annoyed me, slightly. Instead he informed me that the manager of the house where Gordon lived was no longer employed by the company and would I step in to the breach and manage both houses until he could find a suitable replacement. This would mean that I would actually be managing four houses, which put me a good bit ahead of the pack. He may not have given me any praise but being such a dry and calculating fellow I knew that he would only put someone he thought capable in to that position and he had chosen me. I may have felt good leaving head office knowing that I now managed four houses, which put me one step closer to achieving promotion to service manager, but this was now replaced with the knowledge that I was now responsible for supporting Gordon to live in the community.
Celtic Illumination, Part 376, If you are not a part of the solution….
It’s quite appropriate that today, Sunday, but not just any Sunday, Easter Sunday, I can announce a sort of rebirth, a new beginning. But I’m not going to say anything until you lot are all sitting up straight, that means you Ed Mooney, sit up straight man, has no one ever taught you how to sit to attention? Bloody civilians, he’s probably sitting there dreaming of a dry stone wall in a remote area of county Kerry. And by the way Colonialist I don’t want to have to mention haircuts again! Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, it would appear that the Celtic Illumination blog, the life blood of The Illuminati, is to be turned in to three books. So you can all congratulate yourselves on a job well done. If everything goes to plan, then the first actual, physical book, or downloadable file, will be ready in four months’ time. All I have to do is re-write the beginning of the blog, smooth out a few bits, here and there, add a few more funny tales and we are home.
So thank you all very much for your support and your comments, and when we get the first book to the top of the best seller lists you can tell your friends that you had a hand in it. At your next lavish dinner party you can casually mention, to your assembled guests, that your great friend, the King of Ireland, has five books, yes it is a five book deal, only three on the blog though, you can say that your great friend the King of Ireland not only has five books in the world best seller lists but is well on his way to becoming the greatest Irish novelist of the twenty first century. And of course once again you can claim to have played a part in it.
When I first began to write these stories I clumped them together under the title, “Do Abseiling Spiders wear Crampons in Winter?” As perhaps the more funny incidents, and the ones I wrote about the most, were during my time spent on the Desert and Mountain Rescue teams, this is where the focus of the work was. The more astute among you may have noticed that this title is perhaps a direct rip off of the title of the book from which the film Blade Runner was taken, which was, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by the American writer Philip K Dick. As we will now be judged by professional critics, I feel that I should change the title, they would perhaps see it as a form of plagiarism, and we can’t have that now, can we?
So I need a main title for the three books, perhaps something along the lines of ‘The life and times of the King of Ireland.’ Which even I will admit is a bit boring, but does it convey the thrust of the narrative? You tell me, for as the reader you hold that information and I really need to know it, please. Then a sub title for each book, I was thinking the first book covering my life in Belfast, sleeping with priests, having three hundred, pitchfork waving, torch burning, Orangemen standing outside our house asking us to leave so that they could set fire to it, and being used by the President of Ireland for snogging practise as, ‘The Formative Years.’ The second book would be about my time in the armed forces, not just being a hero, but a hero with the loveliest legs in Ireland. Being left naked, tied to mountain tops, getting demoted more times than I got promoted, celebrating my twenty first birthday in Venice and missing the flight back home, meeting some fantastic chaps and chapesses, I would be tempted to call this book ‘The Big Stagger,’ in deference to The Grand Tour, of Victorian times.
The final book, where I discover that I actually am the next High Chief of the Clan O Neill and therefore the true King of Ireland, where I begin to gather my trusty and dedicated followers, The Illuminati, around me, could be called The Return of The king, although Peter Jackson and J R R Tolkien may have a few things to say about that. So if any of you would like to make a suggestion, and no Clancey, I know what you are going to suggest, and I don’t think “Don’t get the fecking things published in the first place,” to be a very helpful or constructive suggestion. So if anyone has a suggestion, it doesn’t matter how wild or daft you may think it to be, I would love to hear it. Perhaps the sillier the better, as we have to have something eye catching, something memorable, as we are entering the world of the public relations people. Normally about now I would mention something like the fact that the title of the satirical novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller was originally Catch 18, when it was submitted to a publisher. So we need to get our thinking caps on people, please.
It is a very interesting time for as the audience will increase from the three and a half thousand of you, that read this blog every day, I begin to wonder about the names I mentioned and the trouble that may be coming my way. Many of you might immediately think of the thief Paul O Grady and that what I have said about him could see me in a little bit of legal trouble. I couldn’t care less about the lying, cheating, thieving, asshole, Paul O Grady. I have tape-recorded proof that he, indirectly, stole food from the mouths of my children and if the multi-millionaire would like to hire the most expensive legal defence in the United Kingdom I welcome the challenge as I will defend myself. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough. No, I am not worried in the least about that fellow, it is some of the other stories I have told that worry me. Everything that I have written in this blog is true, all five hundred and twenty thousand words, so far.
Initially I worried about my very good friend John Games, Docker. The stories I told about Docker were all true, but didn’t really show him in a very good light. I hope that you could tell that I never intended to belittle Docker, I love him to bits, he read the stories, was a little flushed with embarrassment, but gave me permission to go ahead as he knew my intention was not to offend. The stories about Clancey’s wedding, and Tim’s wedding, were all true, it’s just as the great Frank Carson used to say, “It’s the way I tell ‘em.” Rick Stocks taking his fountain pen to be serviced, Dave Magee emitting an enormous fart in a German brothel making me race to the toilet with laughter, while he told all the prostitute’s gathered around that I had shit myself.
None of these worried me but I have to admit that the time Graham and myself were offered ten thousand pounds to kill a guy, might have the local constabulary around, asking questions. Is admitting smoking a spliff on the Queen of England’s front lawn, in Windsor, an offence? To say that all social workers are idiots, will probably see me get another award on the New Year’s Honours List. And what about actually admitting being the leader of the world’s newest double top secret society, The Illuminati, will that get me in to trouble? It could be embarrassing as we don’t even have our secret handshake worked out yet, so come on you lot, all I’m asking you to do is work out our secret handshake and come up with the main title for the three books and then a sub title for each book. I’m not asking much when you consider that I am now off to a darkened room to re-write the beginning of this stuff.
You know it’s been a good journey, hard going sometimes I suppose, especially when I go off on one of my rants, but hopefully I’ve made you all smile along the way. That was the single intention of this book, plus to deliver a good read, which I hope I have managed to do. It annoys me when I see people who published one joke a day, or one hundred words a week and then call what they do blogging. As I have said before I have spoiled you lot, fifteen hundreds words per day, every day, but then you deserve it, after all, you are The Illuminati. But please do not think that the story is over, there’s so much more to come, there’s not just a fantastic journey though the world of learning disabilities and mental health world, there’s death and destruction. There’s me setting up a secret military network where we have a certain, ‘Pact,’ between us. The fun and games when I attend a local university, for a course, with most of the other students being social workers. Remember this is a double top secret society where you all have taken a blood oath so, if you are not a part of the solution….
Celtic Illumination, page 375, Education is light, lack of it, darkness.
Despite the fact that I was an up and coming star in the learning disability world, well; to the people supported and hopefully most of the staff, I was a star, those in charge, the social workers, felt, I think, that I was more of a pain in the arse; it was all still secondary to me. Apart from being the best dad in the world I was determined to be the most famous Irish novelist of the twenty first century and still have at least two days a week off. Once I had re-arranged all the procedures in the house where Jimmy and Andrew lived things settled down. I could put on a nice film for Jimmy and Andrew was happy to watch as long as there was a steady supply of beer. This allowed me to stay in the dining room and write, or read, which can be as equally important.
There was still a flow of suggestions, plots and plans between Jeffrey, my literary agent, and myself. For some reason the celebrity world had really thinned out and there really was no one of quality about and those that did fall within my remit were all as gay as a bag of chocolate marbles. I hated gay men, they were always well dressed, usually with fit bodies, great well paid jobs and they always seemed to be happy, bastards. My next prospective client was a fellow called Craig Revel Horwood, an Australian dancer. He came to prominence on one of these daft celebrity dancing shows with his acerbic wit delivered with his drag queen persona. It was nothing new to me to work for gay men or even a drag queen. Jeffery and myself were still chasing the thief Paul O Grady and his boyfriend manager Brendan Murphy. The final contact between us was when I had spoken to Murphy, and I still have every word of the conversation preserved on tape, when he actually apologised and agreed that we should move forward with the book deal.
Murphy agreed to allow Jeffrey to set up the best publishing deal that Jeffrey could find for the two Lily Savage books I had already written, and that they had read and loved, and we would see what happened, I agreed not to write the third book until we could see how successful the first two were. So once again Jeffery and myself complete our end of the bargain, I have the two novels typed, edited for the umpteenth time and ready to go, Jeffrey has secured a publishing contract, a cheque was waiting for me in London all Murphy had to do was sign a bit of paper. We were used to waiting around for Murphy and O Grady, Jeffrey still thinks the funniest time was when he tracked them down on to the Orient Express, I didn’t think it was funny then. And I didn’t think what Murphy did next was funny either. Murphy went and died.
O Grady now had his excuse to go to ground, but I refused to let him rest and still wrote to theatres, where he was appearing, advising the venue manager that Paul O Grady was a thief and a liar and he should be careful while the fellow was on his premises. I wouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush but Craig Revel Horwood made me cringe a little. I know we are all supposed to live in a more enlightened era, but after years of being brought up as a Catholic in Ireland and then years in the British armed forces, it had been beaten in to me that homosexuality was wrong, even though I could probably claim that my first boyfriend was a priest, not that I knew what the pervert was up to. To get a bit of background on Craig Horwood I read his biography. He was very open and truthful about his life and on the one hand I admired him for having the guts to do what he did, but on the other hand my upbringing had me throwing buckets of holy water at him and shouting, in a very Monty Python sort of way “Unclean!! Unclean!!”
He freely admitted that while surviving as a struggling actor in Australia he operated as a drag queen and prostitute. His big break came along when a wealthy admirer offered him a free around the world trip in exchange for one years’ worth of sexual favours as and when required. Craig says that the man wasn’t exactly repulsive but the deal was too good to refuse. Despite the fact that occasionally my Catholic education backed up with the instilled armed forces revulsion towards homosexuality, I would find myself having mini outbursts of Tourette’s. But I have to admit I kind of liked working with gay men; I liked the frivolity, the gayness of it all if you like. Whatever project I was working on, for a gay person, would always involve music and of course with Craig being a dancer, and choreographer, it made things that much more believable.
On top of all the hassle from London and the gay mafia, not to mention the ridiculousness of my new managementspeak role in Liverpool, I still made sure I had time for my children. We still went fishing and hiking, dragging my poor mother in law around every mountain, lake, river and beach in North Welsh Wales. We always claimed that the children could do as they wanted, career wise, but of course, as parents, we were lying, every action and every word we spoke to them would be to guide them along one route or another. They were teenagers now, well; the eldest three were and they all attended a school in the next town. It was called Cross Hall and it was supposed to be a very good school, well; it was supposed to be ten times better than the existing schools in Skelmersdale.
You may think my poor regard for social workers stems from the learning disability and mental health world, but you would be wrong. My attitude toward them was only reinforced there; it was at school where I first held them in contempt. At Violent Hell we were all expected to become doctors or dentists, lawyers or surgeons or barristers or even priests, real jobs. There would be a secondary level of acceptable positions like architect, or vet, or pilot. For this we would be expected to attend Trinity in Dublin. If you were too stupid to get a real job then you would be considered a failure and would go to Stranmillis teacher training facility. However if you were too stupid to become a teacher, you could become a social worker, and that is where my attitude stems from. Since then social workers have not let me down in helping me to maintain my estimation of their abilities, unfortunately teachers haven’t fared too well either.
Like any parent I knew that my children were quite able, I had put a lot of time and effort in to their upbringing. The one statement from a parents teacher evening at their primary school was, “We don’t know what you are doing to them, but whatever it is, keep it up.” What I now found was that each school had one or two good teachers, the remainder were run of the mill. At each parents teacher meeting you would find one teacher who was strong and disciplined who the children would respect, and this would usually be the best teacher. Gerard the oldest boy did what he was told, as did Jane, but James was running rings around them. They couldn’t handle him.
Gerard’s plan was to finish Cross Hall then move on to Sheffield University where he would study electronics, while being sponsored by the RAF, which he would join as an engineering officer on completion of his degree. The deputy head at Cross Hall called me in one day and told me that his own daughter had become the first girl from Cross Hall to be accepted to Oxford University to study medicine and that he hoped Jane would be the second. We were impressed, not just with Jane but with Cross Hall. James was a real boy, he couldn’t sit still for a moment, he had to be doing something, as long as it was outdoors. He really was, and still is, a most beautiful boy, six foot six tall and a smile that could melt your heart at twenty paces. He’s almost as good looking as his father too.
James refused to do any homework at Cross Hall, it was boring, the subjects were boring, the teachers were boring, he was turning in to a parent’s worst nightmare. It was bad enough for a parent to think that their child might waste their natural talents but of course the school now had league tables to contend with, comparing them against other schools. They could see that James would be a negative mark against them so one day I got a call from the head teacher, He explained that James had problems but there was a solution, a specialist team was coming to the school to assess the more difficult children, would I give permission for James to be assessed? Stupid question, the more I could find out about what made James tick, the better.
It was some time later that the head teacher rang me to say that the assessment had been carried out, not just on James but on a number of children at the school. I could see that this was nothing more than an exercise to manipulate their statistics. James had been graded as above average. I told the headmaster that this was great news, that as James had been officially assessed as being above average, then I could expect him to achieve above average grades in his upcoming exams. Seems that once again I didn’t understand things, but I quickly explained to the head teacher that I did understand, only too well. I explained to him that in my opinion most teachers at his school were hopeless and that if my son didn’t achieve above average grades then he too would have proved himself to be utterly useless. The telephone went quiet for a moment or two. The head teacher informed me that he was just finding my address and asked if this was still where I was living. I told him it was. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘I think I’ll have to pop around and we can sort this out on your front lawn.’ Probably shows that perhaps not everything you are told as a child is true.
Celtic Illumination, page 374, Promoting collaborative, critical, thinking.
Things were ticking along quite nicely; no one had been damaged too badly, or killed, yet. I was still two members of staff down, which my team didn’t mind as they were all getting extra work. Normally there would be no problem getting cover if one of my team went off ill, but the problem was Jimmy’s reaction to new members of staff, so we tried to keep him surrounded with familiar faces, so that we were not covered in faeces. I bought steam cleaners and carpet cleaners so that we could all feel a little better about our working environment. Then one day I get a call to inform me that I have a new member of staff, she would come around and introduce herself to me that afternoon.
It was Joe, my manager who had called me, so I hoped he had found me someone good. It was a lady, Mary, in her late fifties, perhaps early sixties. She was a local girl, had never done this sort of work before and was looking forward to getting started. So first thing the following morning she started, we brought her in to work day shifts so that she could learn the job and meet most of the team. She settled in very quickly and got on great with Jimmy. She loved to cook and would prepare proper almost family type meals for us all, as we would normally be pulling easy cook meals out of the freezer. She was perfect; at least on the surface you would have thought that she was perfect. I started getting complaints that she wouldn’t fill out any of the paperwork like the daily diary, or activity books, or even the medication records.
As the system had Joe come to me every month and give me an assessment, I had to give every member of my staff team an assessment each month too. I was still convinced that these were utter horse shite, I mean if a sixty year old lady has managed to find herself a little job, does she really want or need an assessment every month to encourage her to improve her career options? No matter what I thought of them I had to complete them and submit them for Joe to read, which annoyed me. I thought we were there to help people live in the community not play stupid management games. I waited for Mary’s assessment to come around and settled her down for our chat.
Being ex forces meant that I never had a problem with addressing issues, we spoke our minds, told it as it was, or as they say in Ireland, called a Lurgan spade a Lurgan spade. Mary hesitated when I asked her about why she didn’t seem to want to complete any of the paperwork. It took her a moment or two to compose herself but then she told me that she couldn’t read or write. I felt sorry for the woman who must have had to hide her secret for so long. On the one hand I thought she had done so well, filling out the application form and getting the job was one hell of an achievement for her. She was a really hard worker, everybody liked her, she was easy to get along with and Jimmy loved her cooking, in fact I would say it had a calming effect on him.
My problem was the medication, if she couldn’t read then she would not be able to follow any of the written down procedures. I could colour code the medication bottles and have her issue the routine medications that way, but when it came to issuing PRN medication we could have problems. By the way PRN is a Latin phrase, Pro re nata, meaning as the circumstances arise. It is commonly used in learning disabilities and mental health to describe the medication used when the situation requires it. I understand that in the asylums the patients understood that if they were good they were given their medication, even their PRN orally but if they were bad it was needle time. A system that is understood by every person who ever came out of a mental institution?
So once again I needed the wisdom of that fellow Solomon. I felt that my primary duty was to Jimmy and Andrew, to protect them and support them with the best staff team possible, so it would be easy enough to let Mary go. But on the other hand she was a hard working member of the team and she did contribute to the both of them having an improved life. At least I could pass the problem on, so waited for my monthly assessment and explained my predicament to Joe. Joe was shocked, he never knew that Mary couldn’t read or write and I mean really shocked. It was now that I discover that Mary is Joe’s Aunt, there had been no application form in the first place, Joe had simply given her a job.
We agreed that Mary would be allowed to stay on the team; we would all chip in and fill out her paperwork for her. I think I did the right thing, although to tell you the truth I’m still not sure. The one good thing that did come out of it was that Joe agreed that we needed a recruitment drive, perhaps he didn’t want to give any more of his relatives’ jobs and be embarrassed by them. I now needed one new staff member and looked forward to a bumper recruitment day. I was surprised to be told to report to head office on the recruitment day bright and early, but did so. Another team leader was there, the girl who I had stood up for in the managers meeting, Joanne. We could see eager hopefuls gather in the foyer and gave them the once over, as you do, to see if anyone caught our eye, perhaps I might have seen someone I knew from Natural Breaks.
I was quite surprised to be told that Joanne and myself were running the recruitment day. To me recruitment, interviewing, staff selection, was almost a specialist task and it was strange that Richard had not given us any training or arranged any training in interviewing techniques for this event. We were told that we were to get them all in to one room, do the old group interview thing then split them in to groups and have them build a platform from newspapers, then select who we wanted, interview them and report back on who we thought was suitable. I was quite angry because I felt that the people we supported to live in the community deserved better. For me the two sides of the equation did not match up. On the one hand you had people who needed practical support to live in the communities and on the other side, rather than deliver that support; we were focusing on playing at being managers and learning managementspeak.
I can remember walking around, listening to the groups discuss the phrases, or statements, we had given them, wondering if any if them suspected that I didn’t know what I was doing. It was an interesting exercise for me because I knew that in this situation many people might judge a person on how they dressed, or how they looked, or even how they spoke. Although I have to admit every one of them had a Liverpool accent that day. It was also interesting realising that you had a little power and perhaps saying ‘little’ is the wrong thing to say, when you could actually give someone a decent job and improve their life no end. The people we supported deserved better and the applicants deserved better too.
Joanne admitted to me that she felt lost but we had no real option but to soldier on and see what happened. The practical exercise was a bit of a laugh where we gave them all newspapers and sellotape and asked them to build a platform that would hold an egg four feet off the ground. It reminded me of my time at Hereford where I had been told to build a platform to hold my men and our weapons four feet off the ground, I don’t think I had been laughing as much that day. Whether they succeeded or not didn’t bother me, I had no way of knowing what I could deduce from their actions. After lunch we settled down and began the interviews proper, Joanne led on the females and I led on the male applicants.
I found it really interesting that having read the application form and then began talking to the person just how much information you could pick up from them. I don’t know what it was but I seemed to have a natural ability for working people out. But what I also realised was that it didn’t matter what they were saying to me at the interview, it could have been lies it could have been half-truths, for me, the job would determine if they could do it or not. If I thought they were capable then I would give them a chance and the job itself would determine if they would be successful or not. If they could handle waking Jimmy up after their very first night shift, then that to me would have been a much better selection process than building a fecking platform out of newspapers.