First day back …


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.

My workplace

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!

Getting back to work …


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.

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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.

From then to now … gets a bit boring !


When I say ‘… a bit boring …’, I mean that nothing really eventful happened. YawnA few new residents zones installed, new staff, new equipment but nothing startling for about six years. The team and me just plodded along. So as I say, when I look back, it was just a bit boring. Still enjoyed the job and most of the staff were easy to work with and I had built up a bit of a reputation, but that was about it.

Then, towards then end of 2012 rumours started appearing about job/staff changes. We had two members of staff leave and they were not replaced and this started to worry a few people. We were told that they would be replaced in the new year, but that we would have to manage until then. Which of course we did.

Around about this time, the Council were beginning to look at reducing staff to cut costs. Central Poundsfunding was being cut and departmental budgets were being squeezed. The Council was promoting what the called ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI. Essentially what this was voluntary redundancy. Staff would leave, get the standard redundancy payment and gain access to their works pension. I thought about this a lot and K*** and me decided that it might be a good move. Leave the Council and get another job somewhere else with a nice lump sum of money in the bank. So in January 2013, I applied for this ‘ELI’. After a few weeks, I received a reply, explaining that I could not be considered as I was ‘too valuable to the service’.

Later in 2013 me and a colleague (one who I had a bit of an issue with) received an email, quite out of the blue which explained that service was being reviewed and that we were part of that review. I Astoundedqueried this ‘review’ with the Assistant Manager who dismissed it as ‘… just something the Head of Service had to do and that it would not affect us …’ His face was a picture when both me and my colleague, G*** forwarded him the email we had received. He still claimed that it would not be an issue and that he would get someone to explain it all to us.

A couple of weeks later someone from HR did come and explain. What was happening was that some Worriedof the posts throughout the department were being looked at, to try and centralise some of the functions. the example they gave was that G***, who was our Training Officer would probably serve the department better if she worked within the Training team, where there would be vacancies in the future. The same applied to me, and I would be of more use in the departments IT service area. We were assured that we would still have a job, but it was still a very worrying time and made a mockery of the reason I was rejected for ELI. Not so valuable now, I thought.

It’s been a while …


It’s been three weeks since my last post, and there have not been any real reasons why. I’ve just been a little bit lazy I suppose. I don’t like writing when there is a chance of being disturbed and with the problems we are experiencing with our youngest son, sitting and putting fingers to keyboard has not been the top of my to-do list. I think I’ve explained here before that Rh*s is Autistic and has several other linked conditions. One of the issues many Autistic people have is routine. Things have to be the same with little or no variation. Rh*s likes to know what he is doing, where and when he is doing it and who with. Changes, even the slightest can lead to anxiety and stress, which often manifests in his behaviour. He currently lives at his residential placement for 4 nights and 5 days a week. He is picked up from home Monday morning and returns Friday evening. It’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and he appears to be happy with the arrangement. He has his own flat and many staff to support him on a daily basis. However, it is now the time to plan his placement for the next year, and this is causing some issues.

I create a planner that shows the nights he sleeps at his flat and the nights he doesn’t. This planner is on his bedroom wall at Planner examplehome and one of his walls at his flat. The current planner ends on the 31st December this year. Since the middle of June, he has been ‘worrying’ that he is not going to his flat next year. Before he can see his dates we have to run it past the representative, of the people who funds his placement and this is where there has been a stumbling block. We believe, that as his placement is fully funded for 24/7 care, that the funders are going to insist on him going 24/7. We, as parents, and the support team do not think he is ready for this yet and we may have some arguments to overcome in the next couple of weeks. The uncertainty has come out in his behaviour, to the extent that he is not wanting to do some of the activities that we know he enjoys. He has also taken to ‘chanting’ about his dates. Every so often and at the moment it seems to be every hour or so he will recite “Friday, Saturday, Sunday” for every weekend up until the end of 2020. This is basically, we think is his way of asking “What am I doing next year?” We think he can actually picture his calendar in his head, rather than actually remembering the dates.

We were supposed to be meeting with the representative for a review of Friday, but the person had got some crossed wires and did not turn up. The meeting has now been rescheduled for early October, but this does not resolve the issue we have. What we and his care manager are now thinking, is that we just go ahead with the dates we are looking at, and if the funders are not happy with that, the issue will be taken to an advocate to speak for him in what they call “Best Interest”. From what I understand this advocate will look at what each party thinks is his best interest and make a decision. Could go either way, but I think that parents and carers know what is best for him more that someone sat at a desk with a financial spreadsheet in front of them. Gong to be a stressful couple of weeks.

From then to now … a huge change


It was expected that future ‘outsourcing’ of services (the Council did not like the word ‘Privatisation’) would result in a Steam Boilernumber of job losses. This was especially true for the catering services providing mass produced meals. The same number of people can produce 50 meals or 500 meals. It is just a matter of scale, and the large industrial caterers were more than used to this.

In an attempt to minimise job losses, Leeds City Council came up with a plan to try and train staff in threatened roles, to work as office staff. It was quite a big undertaking, but it was surprising how few ‘manual’ workers took up the option. It was posted in the monthly staff Word Processornewsletter, but the program only lasted 1 year before it was closed down, apparently due to lack of support. The way it worked was this: one day a week for 15 weeks, a trainee would attend a variety of courses. These were, touch typing, business letter construction, Council finances, office etiquette and, although computers were few and far between, word processing. The problem where I worked was the availability of the newsletter. It first went around the 4 Care Officers (managers in a word) who usually had it for a week or so, before it was passed to the Care Assistants. There were 20 of those, so it was often out of date before the kitchen staff got their hands on it. However the newsletter in question that had the advertisement for the course, was left in the kitchen by one of the officers, so it was only by chance that I saw the advert. I applied and much to everyone surprise, I got on the course.

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The courses went really well and I passed them all without much trouble. I did struggle with the touch-typing, but I had the speed and got away with it. Each course came with a certificate. They wouldn’t be much use to anyone outside the Council as they were not recognisable awards, but it was till nice to get something for the achievement.

Another aspect of the course was interview skills. We all were given a mock 10 minute interview and then we were given an CVassessment on where we went right or wrong. That proved really useful. One of the trainers was in constant touch with various personnel departments and they got the first notification of any suitable jobs coming up. Towards the middle of July, about 4 weeks before the courses were due to finish, a job came up that I was told that I would be suitable for. They arranged an interview and on the 26th July I found myself sat in the Parking Managers office explaining about my computer skills. I have to mention here that I had a personaTexas Instruments TI99 4al computer at the time and was very proud that I had written a game, that had been published in a leading computer magazine. I explained about the need for accuracy whilst at the same time being prepared for boring repetition. I waffled on about being able to work in a team (catering) and being able to work alone (computer). Interview over, I went back to work. I was due to finish at 5pm that day but had been asked to stay until 6:30 to help with some entertainment that was happening that night.

When I finally got home, K**h told me that Car Park Section had rung and could I ring them at around 9am the next morning. I fully believed that I must have failed the interview and that they wanted to give me the feedback I had asked for. So feeling a little dejected, I rang from the phone in the APH kitchen. I’m told, that I changed colour during that call from my Doubtfulnormal flesh colour through white to red. I had got the job, and after discussing the minimum period of notice (only a week surprisingly) I rang back to say I could start the second week of August.

This did not go down too well with the staff at the home. All wished me luck, but I could tell that they thought I was making a mistake. “You’re a cook not a typist” was one of the more often used phrases, along with “You won’t last five minutes sitting at a desk”. All this could have  been true, but I knew that I was going nowhere in the current job, so really had nothing to lose.

So on Tuesday the 6th August 1990, with my expensive scientific calculator, fountain penBriefcase, pocket dictionary and lunchbox packed neatly into my new briefcase, I found myself back in the Parking Managers office having the office rules explained to me.

A new challenge had begun.

From then to now … yawn …


As I mentioned earlier, my time at Hillside APH was a little boring. The job had no prospects and had little in the way of Yawnchallenges. Compared to the previous 15 years, the work was easy, although some of the staff weren’t. But it paid the bills and we were soon back on the right foot again. So much so, that by December 1988 were discussing the possibility of having a child. Early in February 1989 K**h discovered that she was pregnant.

Work for me was much the same as it had been all along. The only thing that changed was that I had started to get paid for any overtime. There wasn’t much overtime and what little there was was paid as time off in lieu. Basically you worked on your day off and you got that day back at some point. For some reason, and I think it was something that the unions had been working, we were now getting paid at time and a half. So the money was increasing slightly but the work load remained the same. The problem had been (as I was led to believe)  that although the APH was owned an run by the Local Authority, the support or ancillary staff were employed by the APH and paid for out of the establishments budget. As I understood it was the unions that had forced a change, so that the support staff were now employed by the Local Authority and now came under their rules and conditions.

The pregnancy followed its course without too many problems (those are for another time) and at Babythe end of October 1998, S***e our son was born. Work was still the same, but towards the end of December things began to change.

Firstly, the Council ‘Rumour Mill’ began to feed stories into the work place. Again, the word LaundryPrivatisation” was banded about. Some APH’s in other parts of the country had trialled outsourcing some of their support jobs with laundry service seemingly the most popular. Then in January it was announced that the laundry at Hillside was to become privatised. It didn’t seem to have any effect in the early days. The staff stayed the same, they were paid the same and did the same hours. But when one retired, she wasn’t replaced. We now had two people doing the work that three used to do.

Things were starting to have the effect that the unions had been talking about for a couple of years.

From then to now … the battle was over


I got the job! P*m was a little miffed about it at first, but it was soon forgotten and we worked quite well together for most of the time. There wasn’t any real problems although P*m was still getting a little bit of grief from some of the staff. We all thought she could handle it though.

We now move forward to 1986, K**h is one of the Assistant Head Cooks in the patient kitchen and people joked that we Margaret Thatcherwere taking over the place. I forgot to mention that my brother P*****p was also a cook and he was working in the Diet Kitchen. It was about this time, that the rumour machine began it’s evil work.  The rumours were “Privatisation”. The rumours were there before 1986, but it was then that they started to look more real. The Government at the time were looking to save money in what was called that ‘Ancillary Services’. These services were essentially catering, cleaning, laundry and portering services. It was a worrying time for all and people started looking outside of the hospital service for job opportunities. K**h and me weren’t really looking too hard as we had been told by the management team, that managers would come from the service. That turned out to be a lie eventually.

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I mentioned before that K**h’s father was a Senior Pharmacist, but didn’t mention that her mother was a pharmacist too. She often worked in a chemist shop in Knaresborough. The person that owned the pharmacy had a brother, Jo*n that ran a pub in Pudsey. The pub landlord was looking to expand his pub restaurant from a The Old Vicsimple lunchtime  menu to a more extensive short order ‘a’ la carte’ style evening menu. It kind of appealed to us both, as we were now beginning to get more worried about our jobs when it was announced that the laundry service was going out to tender later that year.

The restaurant was only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, and we decided to work a couple of evenings, just to see how it would go. We did about four or five evenings and realised that we could not do both jobs. Simply too tiring. Finally we ‘bit the bullet’ and  decided to take it on full time. We both handed our notice in at the hospital, much to the surprise of everyone, and two weeks later were the full time cooks (or chefs as we were now known) at the Old Vic in Pudsey.

Things were on the up … or so we thought!

From then to now … more of the same


The big day arrived and the so called ‘newsome twosome’ started. I have no idea who came up with the name ‘newsome twosome’ but it did seem to fit. The fears we had, with neither ever working in a hospital kitchen Teamwere soon discredited. It turned out that C***s had been the Head Cook at an army barracks and P*m had worked for 10 years as a cook in the Royal Air Force. Both seemed to have good skills and soon blended in with the rest of the kitchen. C***s was appointed as the Kitchen Superintendent and always seemed quite easy going. P*m got the Assistant Head job and so became my so called ‘running mate’. She was not as laid back as C***s and this caused a few tensions among some of the staff. You will know the type, criticising everything that she did, but they didn’t have the courage to apply for the job themselves. However, we were now a team again.

Everything plodded along quite uneventfully for a couple of years. A few initiatives came and went, but I began to notice Splitthat whenever opportunities arose, I appeared to be the preferred choice.  A prime example was when management decided to update and change the menus in the staff dining room. All the kitchen staff were asked to come up with ideas, even the Porters and Kitchen Assistants were included. But when the ideas were pooled, it was C***s and me that were invited to take the discussions further. P*m and the Head Cook were side-lined a little. C***s and I tried to include them but we both felt at least one had taken her ‘bat home’  and was a bit more negative than the other. The Head Cook seemed to just be along for the ride. Never offering advice or criticism and his ‘safety phrase’ was “That sounds nice!”

The new menus were decided on and things seemed to be getting back to normal. Then the next bombshell hit.

The Head Cook announced that he was going to retire. We knew it was coming, but he had never Fightdivulged his actual age or the date of his birthday so we didn’t really know when. He had not taken any of his leave so he used his three weeks holiday entitlement as the bulk of his notice. He had asked the Catering Manager not to tell anyone until he had started his leave, as he didn’t want any fuss. C***s knew, but both P*m and me found out on his last day. After the initial shock, both of us realised that the battle to succeed him was on. Although initially it was a good natured battle, the days leading up to the interview day got a little fraught and tempers spilled over sometimes.

All went well …


The staff party went as well as could be expected, even the short time I was there. I think subconsciously I knew that it would and I also knew that there would be no problem with R***. He was the excuse I used to get out of going for the full evening. I know it’s wrong of me to use the possibility of him having a ‘melt-down’ to get out of something, but it was the only thing I had. The problem is, that I’m not a fan of social get-togethers. They just don’t have any appeal these days. It must be an age thing because when I was in my early 20’s you would not have been able to stop me. Anyway it seems that they were glad I went and wished I had stopped longer.

They are a great team to work with and I enjoy their company. Pomfret'sThis job is just what I wanted from a part-time job. The hours could not be better. The location is ideal and the wage, well I don’t expect any more for what I do. Its quite a physical job, but for two days of 6 and a half hours, I seem to be coping. They made me extremely welcome for the first day, and usually that kind welcome doesn’t continue more than a couple of weeks, but I still feel the same as I felt the first day, which can’t be bad.

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One down, two to go …..


   Well if I had had some flexi time spare, I would have had today off. Possibly tomorrow too. What a waste of a day. I think I did too much the week before Christmas, and left very little to do today. Mind you, saying that, not many people seemed to do much today. Phones were quiet, and with only a few members of staff in, it was never going to be a really busy day. Probably much the same tomorrow and again on Thursday.

   Quiz-nite at the Red Lion tonight. We did not do too bad this week. Twenty nine points is quite respectable, considering the winners only got thirty four points! Not sure if I will go next week. The eldest will be back at his flat, but the youngest is on respite, so it could be me and Mrs H. We have only done that once, and I’m not too sure if she enjoyed herself. We shall see.

   Just thinking. I’m not sure if I can be bothered wearing a suit tomorrow. I’m not meeting anyone or going anywhere, so jeans may be the order of the day. I will decide in the morning.

England – a step closer


   So we qualified !!! About time too. What will happen next, is that we will win the group stage (just), then lose at the quarters, because the player we are banking on the most will have to miss the most important match, due to a sending off ! Job done ! But not to worry, there is always next time. Am I being cynical ???

   Crap morning at work. There were problems with the server, and the client software was not connecting. I could ping the server, but could not logon to it through Enterprise Manager. IT were onto the case, but all the usual people that I would normal contact were off on leave or courses or working from home. You get the picture. D*** had logged the call first thing, but because it was before 08:00, it was the relief team on the ‘help-desk’. The person did just that, logged the call. It was when I tried chasing the call up, at around 08:45, that I found that we had a lack of IT staff. However, someone did call back, and I was able to explain the problem we were having. It took then about half an hour, before they came up with the classic solve all … ‘we are going to turn the server off and then back on again’. This, of course, took another two hours, as the server is located on a different site. By 11:00, all was well again. So not such a bad problem after all. No the ‘crap’ part comes in with the office staff. As usual, they blame the software. The software was working as best it could, without the server. At least the client end opened. I tried explaining to one of them what the problem was, but they just can’t, or don’t want to, understand. ‘Imagine’ I said, ‘that your car has had it’s engine removed. It will not work … is it the car itself, or is it the fact that the engine is missing ?’ This analogy was lost on them.

   A bad episode with the youngest late last night. No apparent trigger. He had been fine. Laughing and joking, and then all change. Extreme to say the least, and it took a good 40 minutes before he calmed down enough for us to go to sleep. And then he was okay today and has been all evening. There just seems to be no rime or reason to it.