I knew it was going to be hard, but hadn’t really realised how hard it would be. The job entails me standing at a sink, washing the heavy stuff of the plates and pans and thinks from half past 10until 5 o’clock. It is the standing that is the hardest part. The kitchen is quite small, so there is not a lot of room to move about which is made worse when there is a couple of the table team in there too. Still, I couldn’t stay on furlough forever, so the bullet was bitten and I was back in work again.
By the end of the first day (of two!) my feet felt like I had done the walk I used to do when I was in my late teens. I often walked the 5.7 miles from work to home, especially if I had spent all my money in the pub at lunchtime. They just ached and it was even worse the next day when it happened again. What made it worse was that the café wasn’t as busy as it was expected to be. People are still a bit wary of eating indoors, so there were more customers outside than inside.
Oh well, I’ll see how it goes over the next few weeks, then look at my options.
Thursday saw both of us at the Harrogate flower show, or Spring Essentials as it is called this year. I’ve been before and there used to be huge displays in the exhibition centre, but because of the current circumstances, all the indoor spaces were closed and everything was outdoors. There were two times when we could go, a morning session from 08:30 until 13:00 or 13:30 until 17:00. When my wife booked, only the morning session was still available as the numbers were limited to 5000 per session. So we arrived at 08:35 exactly. As the day progressed, it became obvious that we had got the better deal. By 12:00, it had started to rain, and from the pictures on the local news, the place became waterlogged very soon.
Back at the beginning of 2016 our Head of Service, brought our team together for it’s monthly ‘Team Talk’. The theme, if you could call it that, was staff cuts. There had been a lot of hushed chatter among some of the more senior members of the team regarding the reduction of office staff in the department. The Council’s solution was a programme called ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI. What people liked to think was that it was Early Retirement, but was actually Voluntary Redundancy, with the benefit of being able to draw down the works pension scheme early, albeit slightly reduced.
It was made clear to everyone in the room, that the Department were looking for ‘volunteers’ to take advantage of this. It was also clear that this was a case of ‘jump before you are pushed’. If that had been the case, then it would have been compulsory redundancy, with no arrangement to take the pension early. After a lot of discussion at home, I decided I would go for it.
The day came, and it seemed to be just like any other day. I was taking calls and trying to keep my excitement under control. My manager asked what time I wanted to leave, and I had worked out my hours so that I could finish at three pm. At about half past two the office manager appeared with a large cake which was shared with the staff on duty. It was significant that my line manager and the service head weren’t present.
I decided that I would have a couple of weeks living the life of luxury, then get a part time job. It took a lot longer for something to come up. After about 18 months, my current part-time job suddenly happened. Now furloughed (as at 11/03/2021) I am now just waiting to return. It is not looking god, but I will have to just wait and see. But . . . on the 19th April this year (2021) I will have reached my state pension age and will have to decide the future. Do I carry on with two days a week? Or do I cut down to one day a week? Or . . . do I just stop all together?
The 2nd day back at work was really busy. One of my colleagues, who lives just around the corner had gone sick. Not the virus, but I think it may have been stress related. So the effect of that meant that the boss was working. It can be quite difficult when she is in, as she will not say no to a customer. For example, the chef was due to finish at 15:00 (he’d been there since 07:00). Five minutes before he took off his apron, she asked if he could do an ‘afternoon tea’ for 2 people. She explained that they had been in since 12:30 and had bought many drinks. The lady of the party was Canadian and had never had a proper English afternoon tea. The chef looked a little annoyed, but he agreed. So it was 15:30 when he finished eventually. Now the deputy manager would have said no! She would have explained it takes a bit of time to prepare and that they had some customers waiting to come in. Which was true. We seem to be getting the same or more numbers in with only half the tables.
They have a young lad, still at school who does the washing up on Saturdays and he is covering my Monday shift. Because I can be furloughed, it seems that they can give him a couple of extra shifts, until he goes back to school in September. Seems a bit cheeky to me, but I’m not losing out and he gets a bit extra pocket money. How legal or even moral it is I don’t know, but it’s not an issue I feel I need to raise.
Youngest was home on Friday. He now comes home every 2nd weekend as opposed to every weekend. He seemed very content. It has taken a long time to get to this stage and he coped really well with being in lock-down, and not coming home for 4 months. We wouldn’t have thought it possible a year ago. His medication helps. It seems to relax him. The only downside is that he put on a lot of weight. We were asked to monitor his weight back in October last year as there were concerns that his weight was dropping. But some of the medication he was on, is not appropriate for his age and this is being reduced and replaced with a better solution. This where the problem lay. The old medication had a side effect that suppressed hunger a little. With this gone he began to increase his weight going from 9 stone in October to nearly 12 stone today. It seems to have stabilised now, but it means that most of his clothes no longer fit.
I’m going to have to go sick tomorrow. I’ve somehow got an infection on my left leg which I need some antibiotics for and I’m having a problem with my right knee. It started on Friday night, with my knee feeling just a little tender. By this morning, it’s got to the stage where I need a stick to get around. There is an art to correctly using a stick to help with walking, and I’m finding how difficult that art can be, but I think I’m getting there. Just texted the boss to explain that I will not be in tomorrow. Not sure how well that will go down, but I can’t be bending up and down with a walking stick. We shall see what happens.
My last working day was the 16th of March. I got an txt from my boss on the evening of Monday the 23rd of March to say that the cafe was now closed, and that I was to be furloughed until further notice. I wasn’t too worried, as I do the job (only 13 hours over 2 days) more for the interaction rather than the money. I had been ‘retired’ since October 2016 and this job came up in September 2018, and I was more than qualified for it.
I was a little concerned when the call came through last week, that they wanted me back. It was only for one day this week. I am now on what is ‘flexible furlough’ which apparently means that I can be called in to work one day and be on furlough the next. My main concern was the safety aspect. The kitchen that I work in is very small and can get a little crowded when the chef, me and one of the waitresses is in there. Social distancing is not possible and because of the heat, the wearing of a face covering is just not feasible.
I got through it. Safely I think, but only time will tell. I have no knowledge of next weeks work, but they do know that I would rather them bring in people that need the money more than I do. The staff for who this job is their main source of income should be the priority at the moment.
I was quite weary when I got home, as I expected, but a warm bath and a cold beer soon had me sorted. Interesting thing though, I’m never hungry after work. I don’t eat much for lunch, usually a sandwich and a few chips, but it’s not a large portion, so I can only assume that it is being around food takes any edge of hunger. Who knows!
My boss texted me on Thursday about our re-opening. They attached a copy of the ‘flexible furlough’ scheme. Now I had not heard of this, but it seems that staff can be brought back to work, as part time. The employer will pay the employee as normal for the day/days they work, with the Government paying 80% (for now) for the days that the employee are furloughed. It is ‘designed’ to assist businesses get back to some form of normality. I’m not sure how this will work for someone (me) who only works two days a week. It has already been mentioned that they need to prioritise the full time staff, which makes perfect sense but leaves me wondering if they will ever need me. The place seats about 48 customers when full, but the tables are very close together. I can foresee that the number of seats could reduce to 20 or even less, which means that the number of staff needed would have to be reduced. I wait in anticipation.
My strawberries are starting to ripen. My wife had the first two on Tuesday, but we now have four or five just turning that first shade of pink. I’m quite pleased with how they have turned out. I bought two small plants last year and when they finished fruiting I noticed that they were producing what a friend called ‘runners’. He told me that they were basically plantlets and that I should peg them down into small pots to created. I did this and it resulted in me growing on another twelve plants, all of which are starting to fruit. I think I initially lost about four of the plantlets, probably due letting them dry out too much as some were in very small pots. I wonder how they will fare next year, as some of the plants are already producing runners, which I have had to remove.