New triumph….a new chapter for 2017.

Since the earlier part of this year my life has been somewhat ‘intense’. This has meant my blog has been put on hold for a few months whilst I focused mainly on job searching and dealing with other personal issues, as well as some occasional days out with my camera to preserve my sanity. Fortunately, I have had some great days out and have some new stories and photos to publish on here in the coming weeks.

The realization in February and March, knowing my job was soon coming to an end in mid April, having to be made redundant after only 8 months in this last job…… left me feeling rather low and at times very despondent. Inevitably, the situation of looking for and applying for and then attending any interviews became rather scary and bought on several panic attacks. In addition to all this I was having to ‘adjust’ to being on two new medication for my diabetes, which also had some rather unpleasant side effects.

Then I had to consider the next stage of my life……starting a new job, settling into it, meeting new people, becoming acclimatized to the new working environment, learning about the job what to do what not to do and so on. At times it became quite difficult…..but throughout all of it, I knew I couldn’t give up and therefore had to ensure it all didn’t become too much of a burden for me.

I believe as you get older, that despite your many years of experience and proven skill sets, it becomes a lot more difficult to compete for jobs, especially with the younger graduates that companies want to take on so that they can ‘mold’ them into shape, and into the image that the particular company wants them to be.  What has become more apparent these past couple of years is that employers are not prepared to pay better wages and so willingly take on youngsters for minimal pay in the name of apprenticeships.

This time however, financially, I was actually in the position where I could allow myself up to a maximum of around 3 months to find and start a new job without having to worry about paying the bills or having to sign on with the DWP and have to claim benefit for being unemployed. The turmoil and stress of that alone, having to fill in forms, attend weekly meeting at the local job centre, keep a record of proof that you were looking for and applying for jobs was something I did not want to have to go through again with them. This time I held the Ace card, and was in a position to be a little bit more selective about what jobs I went after, and whether to accept or not, the first job that came along that I was offered….simply because it was a job, and not because it felt right for me.

Realistically, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I did not want to be dictated to by the DWP or be answerable to them. I worked out my plan, first stage was to update my CV,  I shortened parts of it made sure I kept to the truth but made it a little more interesting and eye-catching to read and posted it on several reputable job sites. I had to work out a routine of job searching, setting up email alerts, covering so many hours per day on the computer looking at and applying for jobs, filling in application forms and so on. And in addition to this I knew I also needed to ensure I had proper breaks on the days in between, and got out into the fresh air and ate regular meals to ensure my diabetes remained well-managed, have plenty of exercise and kept my mind focused on other things such as my interest in wildlife and photography and day trips with a local coach company.

To my surprise, within a matter of 2 days of posting my CV I had quite a selection of different agencies phoning me up….I have seen your CV online on either CV Library or Monster etc and I am recruiting for a job which I believe will be just right for you. Great I thought, some real interest, then came the crunch….wrong location, too far to travel (everyone assumes you drive a car) or it was part-time hours, a temp only position and so on.

I did attend several interviews only to find that I received the feedback I had done really well…. but only just narrowly missed out, and was in a few instances  a close 2nd choice, when it comes to jobs, unfortunately there is not silver or bronze medals…..you just simply have to go for and obtain gold. In another couple of instances, someone had just that little bit better experience having already worked in a commercial office and the other job someone had already had experience working in an insurance office background, in another job I missed out purely because although I had a great administration background and wealth of experience, they believed I would become bored in the particular job and therefore felt I was over qualified!! The most annoying part about that was that I was never given the chance to find out or disprove them. I have always felt that you can’t actually get bored in a job, on if you let it. Even when there are quiet times there are still always things one can get on with.

There was another job which I had to say no to because the salary was ridiculously low, I told the recruitment consultant about this in our meeting, and that I couldn’t afford such a low salary, I was only interested in getting an interview for the job I had actually applied for through her recruitment company. I did get the feeling she wasn’t listening to me, and her mind wasn’t fully focused on dealing with me in the office, which I thought her attitude was very rude, she put me through for the interview anyway for the one I wasn’t interested in but didn’t put me up for the interview I actually applied for, but instead she had got jobs on her board that looked as though because they were only £7.50 to phr she was desperate to get people interviewed for them so she could get them of the board and get her fee for getting the jobs filled. In the end I reluctantly agreed and  just thought anyway the job interview experience would be good for me. When she phoned me about the outcome of the interview, I said no the money was way too low, her response was ‘Why did I not tell her this at the time I was in her office? Suffice to say I chose never to deal with her again.

Then, there was one was for a customer service colleague for a big ‘financial company’ based about a mile or so from where I live. When I attended the interview, I was shown a round a very large office, it was not what I expected and didn’t like the idea that it was in actual fact a call centre, and realistically lacked that personal level of customer service. The company came across that they were more concerned about achieving call targets, and answering the phone quickly, dealing with it and moving onto the next caller without really seeing the problem through.

As an experienced customer services administrator I am more interested in dealing with that one customer, giving them the best service, resolving the issues and completing the task before moving onto the next customer (may be I am just a little old-fashioned in my attitude of what proper customer service is all about!!) When I was asked at the end of the interview if I could see myself working in that office, I had to think hard and be careful what I said. I thought to myself, firstly, I desperately needed to get back into work, the salary and bonus system were good, it was closer to home, I didn’t mind working the odd Saturday on a rota system with a day off in the week, there was a good pension available and the job was permanent, and there was a structured training process….. but somehow I just couldn’t visualize myself working there, instinctively it did not feel right for me personally. I didn’t like the idea of a big call centre  and it made me feel uncomfortable. In the end I had to be honest and said not really, and added that I couldn’t see the job as a customer service role at a level that I have been used to. When I left the interview I had hoped that I had said the right thing to ensure they didn’t offer me the job. As it turns out a few days later they phoned me, they were impressed with me at the interview but took on board what I had said at the end and therefore had decided not to offer me the job. This was a big relief for me.

Two days after that particular interview I attended another interview for a rather well-known company whose humble beginnings started in Birmingham in the same year as I was born in 1965. When I read the advert on Indeed, for me it sounded like a really great opportunity. The salary was lower than I have been used to, but still adequate all the same, but having said that the job details, which would be in customer services appealed to me. It was exactly what I was used to, but in yet another different business background. There was room for progression, benefits, pension and logically being paid a lower salary meant paying lower tax. When I applied for this job, I suppose I really didn’t expect to be contacted by the company, I believed I would just be another application, my CV would not appeal to them and it would go on the no pile of applications.

I have learnt over the past five years that for every 25 job applications you make, whether via an agency or directly to a company, you would be lucky if you heard back from 1 or 2 of them.  Since February I have made, well over 350 applications on-line through job sites and agencies,  most of which I already knew I was over qualified for, or for which the job never really existed, or they were still advertised externally even though internal employees were going to or had already filled the posts. Worst case scenario, if I couldn’t get a job soon I would have to contact the DWP and be answerable to them, and so needed proof I had been applying for jobs in the meantime.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call on the Tuesday morning and asked if I would  be able to attend an interview at their UK Head Office in Birmingham (where the job would be based) for that Friday 23rd June at 2 pm. Of course I would. As usual I did my normal research on the company prior to the interview.  The chance to work for such a great company was now becoming more realistic, all I had to now do was prove myself at the interview.

On entering their big head office, I introduced myself at reception and said I was there for the job interview and who it was with. As I was about 25 minutes early I didn’t mind sitting down waiting in the reception area, and I picked up an old book about the story of the Michelin brothers and what they did, what they were responsible for inventing in the old days  (a bit more valuable research to show my interest about in the interview)

The time of the interview came around, I was met in reception by the customer services manager, then taken to an office and introduced to one of her colleagues and so the interview began. Some how I immediately started to feel relaxed and at ease, and for once had a little bit of confidence, and felt an element of positivity, and said to myself its time for me to shine. The interview, which included a couple of tests, lasted just over an hour and a half. Instead of one job available for a customer service advisor, there was also now a second job available for a customer service administrator. I was asked which one would I prefer if I was offered the job. Either, I replied, I had experience in both roles singularly and as a combined role. A couple of times I even made the two interviewers laugh. I had already thought long and hard the day before, and wrote them down in my notes, about what questions to ask them. Overall, I left the interview feeling a sense of relief it was now done, and I also had a thought at the back of my mind, I really would love to be offered this job…..it just felt right! I was advised that there were going to be more people interviewed after the weekend, and I would be advised of the outcome asap.

Last Tuesday morning, 27th June,  I received the phone call, and to my total surprise I was being offered the job as customer services administrator, they had apparently already made up their minds when I left the interview Friday afternoon. I was asked when would I be able to start….and so a brand new chapter in my life starts tomorrow (3.7.17) Obviously, I am very nervous and a little bit scared, but at the same time I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life, meeting new people, and working with a new team, and learning a new business.

Throughout this entire process these past few months, the most difficult thing I have found myself doing is to try to be and to try remain positive. I knew I would get a new job, but the burning question was how long would it take, and would it be right for me.

Start Where You Stand Poem – Berton Braley

Start where you stand and never mind the past
The past won’t help you in beginning new,
If you have left it all behind at last,
Why that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through.

This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned.
Don’t give the vanished days a backwards look,
Start where you stand.

The world won’t care about your old defeats
If you can start anew and win success;
The future is your time, and time is fleet,
And there is much of work and strain and stress.

Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,
Here is a brand new trial right at hand.
The future is for him who does and dares –
Start where you stand.

Old failures will not hold, old triumphs aid,
Today’s the thing, tomorrow will soon be.
Get in the fight, and face it unafraid,
And leave the past to ancient history.

What has been has been; yesterday is dead;
And by it, you are neither blessed or banned.
Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead –
Start where you stand.

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

Given the circumstances.

Yet again its hard to believe another Christmas is upon us, over the years I have come to accept the fact that as I get older, then so the years appear to go faster. This year has been no exception, the year has fled by, which in some ways is good and in other ways not so good.

Each Christmas time and New Year I take time out to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. This year is no exception. It has certainly been a very mixed one for me, one of personal achievements, some enjoyment, new challenges and one of sadness and sorrow.

Just one year ago this week I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the fact that although my dad had a major health scare, twice in the space of a little over a week, he was still alive and able to enjoy his Christmas with us all. What none of us realized at that time was the fact it would be his last one. looking back at 12 months ago it was all very scary.

As 2016 unfolded and I started to make plans for the year ahead, I knew it was going to be an uncertain year, more so on the job situation than anything. Not knowing if the lady whose job I was covering was going to come back or not. Only one thing was certain I knew I had another 8 solid months of commitment to my job, one that I loved doing. How many people today can honestly say they love their job I wonder. I  had made some incredible new friendships with the team I had been working with, and we still stay in touch and meet up for a meal and a chat every few weeks.

I was looking forward to a holiday, and actually ended up having two different breaks… a week up in Scotland in August as well as a much-needed long weekend break down in South Devon in early July visiting Paignton, Plymouth & Dartmouth. Then in September I started my all new important permanent job….only to find 5 weeks down the line that I am going to be made redundant in the coming April/May. Having to have more surgery, to sort out the first lot that didn’t work

In the February I was diagnosed with diabetes, which has meant some big life changes over the past few months, but the one really good thing that has come out of this is that it has encouraged me to take a lot more regular walking exercise. As  I love to go out and explore nature, and do some photography, it has encouraged me to visit new places and get much more exercise.

Earlier in the year I drew up a ‘bucket list’ I have had the opportunity of going out and doing different new things, for instance for the first time I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall & Park to see fallow deer and shoot them close up (with a camera that is!) In October I finally got to go to see London Zoo, in July the Monkey Forest nr Stoke On Trent, in October, Warwick Castle where I got to see close up an amazing birds of prey display. Early November I achieved a long time ambition of mine to take an Alpaca for a walk, also in November I got to go to the West Midlands Safari Park and a little over two weeks ago I saw the most amazing colourful display of lanterns at Longleat House and Safari Park. In August I managed to finally make the trip to Liverpool to meet up with a very dear friend.

Overall it has been a very mixed and eventful year, and despite the turmoil in my life it has been a year that I have manged to cope with and stay pretty well on top of and come through the other end of it. I’m not going to kid myself or anyone else for that matter, but the combination of the right medication, positive thinking, photography, keeping busy with the new job and an incredible group of family and close friends is what has kept me going.

This season however doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Like many others they too have lost family and friends throughout the year, and it has felt very strange that as we approach Christmas day I have had to come to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be with us this time or ever again to celebrate Christmas.

Because of my Dads failing eyesight the last couple of years, it meant my sister-in-law and myself would sit and write Dads cards for him. This year however I have found it an almost impossible task for me to sit down and write my own cards to family and friends. this past couple of weeks or so it has hit me more harder than ever and I have found myself having a little cry every time I think about how much I miss him, and how much I will miss him not being around at Christmas for the first time ever in my life.

My Dad was always very much a man of tradition when it came to Christmas, and this is something I have always embraced, he always used to look forward to his Christmas lunch, he had to have the turkey leg on his plate with the usual mix of sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes and always lemon & thyme stuffing, a pint of bitter and then Christmas pudding and custard to finish (in the old days every year my mom used to make her own for all the family, from scratch and my dad brother and I used to have a hand in the preparation and mixing of the puds) At 3.00 pm we were always ready to sit down to watch the Queens speech and then later on a cup of tea and mince pie.

Every year since I can remember, Dad  always bought himself, my sister-in-law and me a Poinsettia plant for Christmas. Usually after a couple of months they would shrivel up and die, that’s just the way it is with this type of plant.  Dad always had the knack on how to keep his going for several months. When he passed a way earlier this year, his Poinsettia from last Christmas was still sitting on his kitchen windowsill. I decide to take it home with me, not really expecting it to last very long. Dad had given me a tip earlier in the year as to how to best water it, every few days put some warm water, never cold water, at the bottom of the plant pot and sit the plant in it. The plant is thriving, and it is a year old this week, although it doesn’t have the usual big red leaves, it is full of healthy green ones, I’m sure Dad has been helping me to keep an eye on it these past few months.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead will be another very challenging one for me, come the spring I will have to start the process all over again of looking for another new job. So much uncertainty ahead. Hopefully the chance to go and explore new places and do lots more photography. Health and finances permitting, I am already planning my holiday for next Sept. One of my main ambitions for over 20 years is that I have wanted to go on cruise to see the Norwegian Fjords. I have heard of so many people say what a beautiful and unique experience it was for them, and this is something I feel will be absolutely spectacular to photograph.

At the moment in my thoughts it’s all about trying to remain positive for the year ahead, and getting though my first Christmas without my Dad……and as the poem says, For I know that in my heart you’re here.

 

To all my family, friends and readers I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year ahead.

All Hope lost….literally!

Isn’t it  strange that at the single blink of an eye how life can be so cruel?

Just a mere 5 weeks ago, in my last blog entry, I wrote about my new hope for the future with the company I had just started working for. Finally, at long last, the permanent job and the security that goes with it. It gave me the chance to be able to fully settle down into my new role and give total commitment to it and think about the next few years ahead and feel a little more comfortable about it all before its time for me to retire.

On 12th September I started working for Hope Cement/Construction in a new and very challenging role. I was finally able to start looking to the future with real optimism and start to make some ‘concrete’ plans for my  future. At long last the opportunity I have waited for since 2012 when I finished at D&A. A permanent job, no more temp contracts or worrying about what would happen when my next contract came to an end, where would I need to look now for that new job, how much more disappointment and uncertainty would  I would have to endure, how long would that next job last. An endless list of questions, which I had finally hoped had come to an end.

It occurs to me how strange it is that so many people enjoy the challenge of moving from temp contract on to the next temp job contract and not feel insecure, then there are people like myself (and may be my age has something to do with this) who don’t like that uncertainty, but who need more stability in there lives to be able to function properly and generally get on with their lives.

Over the last 4 years a great deal of my future plans and my life in general has been put on hold, all pending job and financial security, even my pension fund has been on hold, not being in a stable enough position financially to pay into that has been a huge worry.

On 1st August this year Hope Cement was bought out by the Breedon Group who are a major aggregates company in the UK. For those of you, who like me at first didn’t really understand the aggregates and concrete business. A short quick lesson… this means Breedon own quarries around the country, they extract these natural resources from the ground and process them to produce primary aggregates, mainly for the construction business. These aggregates are items such as  gravel or crushed rock and sand (but, I hasten to add, not your bog standard seaside sand) There are other companies who make the cement powder (Portland Cement) which is the binding material.

In short when you add together specific quantities of cement powder and the aggregates and the correct amount of water you produce a concrete mixture. All depending on what combinations of each product you use, plus any additives, then define what type of concrete is produced and for what type of job. When these mixtures are produced, a deep intense chemical reaction happens. However let me assure you that making concrete is not that simple, there is a great deal more to it than people realize.

With Breedon owning and running their own quarries, and Hope batching and delivering concrete mixes to major construction sites around the UK this has now produced a perfect marriage.

Like any major company changes, there is always going to be fallout.  In the short time I have been at Hope’s I have firmly become one of the members of the Birmingham plant and office team, as well as dealing with our Hope Doncaster Head Office colleagues on a daily basis. So the shock news from the announcements made across the company at the same time on Monday morning just gone, blew every one of us out of the water. In short, the new company restructuring means the Hope HQ in Doncaster will be closing with loss of all jobs there, our Birmingham shipping office, which is where I work, along with my two other colleagues in the office, will also be closing,  as will a few other small shipping offices across the UK and these jobs will all be centralised at the main Breedon offices. Unfortunately, this means because of the locations of these centralised offices many of us will not be able to travel there and take up jobs within the new company structure.  Fortunately, however the ‘batching plants’ will remain unaffected and fully operational. We have been advised that whilst the ‘transition’ of the business takes place, with regards to the offices and admin work from the smaller shipping offices into the centralised office, we will in about 6 to 9 to months for all those concerned (around 40+ people) be made redundant.

A bit of De Javu going on here I think!

This looks like history repeating itself, as was the case of Boots Opticians taking over the great Dollond & Aitchinson Opticians. Company restructuring, moving sections of the business elsewhere, job losses etc. It’s very hard to trust in the motives of companies who take over other companies….unfortunately this is what happens all to often now and how the average Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs is affected with their livelihoods. But in all fairness having said that, Breedon is a top company in its field and they want to expand their business, and their growth in the future, so in order to make money and gain that future success they have to find ways to improve their existing business and make saving in the present. However this means in short this is the start of the loss of all of Hope cement/construction.

My decision now has to be based on whether I stay and wait out the next few months, get more experience in this industry and get more shipping/logistics experience and at the same time guarantee myself a monthly salary and pension for that length time, and a small financial incentive at the end of it,  or whether I start searching for that all new important job that will define my future. At present I am having my doubts about whether a permanent position can be found, or whether I will be hopping in and out of short-term contracts, it is all so unsettling.

At the moment time is of the essence. There is a lot of ‘seasonal work’ to be had, which in short is more insecurity, and I do want to learn so much more about this particular job and the industry, I made a commitment to the company when I was offered the job and I feel obliged to honour that commitment and be true to myself as well as them for as long as possible.

At the same time I am feeling anxious about letting any possible opportunities pass me by on the job front in the next 6 months,  but having said that another 6 months job skills is another feather in my cap and will look good on my CV.

In addition to all of this Christmas is almost upon us, and this year will be so sad and different for myself and my family, as it will be the first one without my dad, and this added worry about the job doesn’t help matters.  And whilst I have appreciated so many good and positive comments from my close friends and friends on fb about my employability, this past week as well as in the past, it still worries me that getting potential employers to notice you is still the biggest challenge these days. The hardest part is not finding the job itself,or even doing the job. Realistically the hardest part these days is getting yourself noticed enough to have an interview set up and being able to present yourself and your abilities at that interview, and as so much of this is done through job agencies these days it actually makes it even harder.

A  couple of years ago I was told I should change my CV and ‘tart it up’ by adding some stuff to it to impress  any perspective new employer. This is something I firmly do not believe in, may be my decision to not do that is my own downfall, but I have always been honest about my capabilities and don’t want to mislead any employer into believing I can do something which in actual fact I haven’t done.

For now I think the right choice is to stay where I am, get the next few months out-of-the-way and come the Spring it will be a new beginning for me as well. I do love Spring, it is my favourite time of the year, a fresh new approach, and hopefully a new opportunity. What can I say? This job was obviously not the right one for me.

Why are choices like this so hard to make?

 

 Choices

We all have a choice
to live a lie
or be ourselves
to laugh and cry
or to follow someone else

to look up and smile
or bow down and frown
to walk the whole mile
or take off our crown

We have a choice
to shout out loud
or chant a whisper
to fly through the clouds
or to be blown like paper

to conquer our fear
or hide in the shadow
to the wise words hear
or be thrown out the window

We all have a choice
to climb our highest mountain
or fall into our deepest hole
to drink from life’s fountain
or live life like a troubled soul.

 Allen Steble

Thanks for stopping by.

Now even more hope!!

As my regular readers will be aware, I used the word ‘hope’ in my blog a great deal. With depression there always has to be hope which is through being positive, this has always been one of my best survival strategies. If you do hold on to hope then this does in some way helps fight those dark times in your life.

A month ago my last job/work contract finished, and my hope then was to take a couple of weeks break, feel completely relaxed, recharge ‘my worn down batteries’, and then feel ready to  take on the job searching, with the intention in mind of finally finding that right job which would become a permanent position. Having updated, redesigned and tweaked the finer points in my CV it meant I was finally ready to hit the job hunting scene.

A peaceful week up in the Scottish Highlands, relaxing, taking in the fresh air, ticking a couple more boxes off on my bucket list and of course plenty of photography up there to enjoy.  Then a further week in and around the Midlands, Stratford Upon Avon, Worcester and also a steam train journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and in general taking advantage of our local bus & train services, getting out in the good weather, and doing more photography. Then back to reality for the last couple of weeks in finding that new career and all the rigmorale and stress that goes with dealing with DWP/Job Seekers and so on.

There has been no doubt about it, this has got to have been one of the worse years in my life so far on a personal level, my fathers death, being diagnosed with diabetes, the failure of the surgery and having to go through it again and finally my last job coming to an end.  The one really good thing that came out of it was how much I enjoyed this last job and the new friends I made. The job gave me back a great deal of  lost confidence in myself and my abilities, and for that I am more grateful than my  friends from there will ever know.

Anyway, hitting the job hunting and following an application to an agency at the end of August with my CV and cover letter I was then contacted with instructions to connect to a specific link and apply directly with the companies own recruitment. This took me to a company called of all names  HOPE Construction Materials, which had just been joined with another big company called the Breedon Group now making it the largest independent cement/ concrete company in the UK.

I made my application, and the following day received a phone call from their HR dept, advising me they were ‘impressed’ with my CV/application and could they set up a 1st stage conference call interview with 2 of their managers at the Doncaster regional office and myself for the following morning. No problem I said, and so the following morning at 9.30 am the phone range and so began the first stage interview lasting a good 40 mins. This was a first for me having a telephone based job interview. At the end of it I was told again they were very impressed with what they had just heard as well as my CV and one of the managers would like to hold a 2nd stage interview with me in person at the Birmingham shipping office and work site where the job was based. And so the interview was set up for the morning of Tues 6/9. Overall it went very well, and when I left there I was very ‘hopeful’ that I had got the job.

Just before 6 pm that evening my phone rang and within a couple of minutes I was accepting the job I was being offered and asked to start Mon 12/9.

Finally, Hope in more than one way!!

The job will be very challenging and there is a huge amount of technical information to take on board to understand the role of the job as a customer services agent/administrator. Three days into a month of in-depth training about the in’s and out’s of cement, aggregates and concrete mixes, I have to say I am really enjoying it. The small team I will be working with are great and have really made me feel welcome, as have the other colleagues around our various Birmingham/ West Midlands sites whilst on site visits all day yesterday with the Area Production Manager.

If you think concrete is such a simple and straight forward product, think again. In the first couple of days alone, I have had my eyes opened to it all. There are so many different standards of concrete to do so many different jobs, different types of mixes and so on. Learning about all the processes, grading, combinations really is quite fascinating, as is the history.

Did you know for instance the Romans were reported to have produced the first real form of concrete – the Colosseum was built between 72 A.D and 80 A.D under the Emperor Vespasian, in the heart of Ancient Rome. It was made from stone and concrete, this magnificent monument was built with the man power of tens of thousands of slaves. Fortunately these days machines can do the work. But it is true to say this was a true turning point in history, which has gone from that simple basic mixture into what is supplied all around the world today. Every single day we all somehow have contact with the grey stuff in our lives, and yet take it for granted because it simply is there such as the buildings we all live or work in, the ground beneath us we walk on in schools, hospitals, shops and supermarkets, farms, roads, kerbs and pathways…….the list is endless.

It’s true to say I have now been given a lot more ‘Hope’ than before…..and hopefully this is all a very good omen for me!!

 

Hope

Hope abides; therefore I abide.
Countless frustrations have not cowed me.
I am still alive, vibrant with life.
The black cloud will disappear,
The morning sun will appear once again
In all its supernal glory.

By: Sri Chinmoy

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A new road ahead.

It has been a very long strange and mixed 12 months. Some really rough and tough times these past few months on a health level and with the passing of my father in April,  but also some great times on the work side, and also the chance to develop my love of nature and photography and visit more places in order to do this.

Having said that I am now at yet another crossroads in my life, and yet I am seeking a new challenge and am looking to take the next step forward. In two weeks time on August 5th my current contract comes to an end, and yet again I will be looking for a new job, to some to find a new job it’s as easy as tossing a coin in the air, but for those of us who suffer depression and anxiety, it can be a very daunting prospect.

In many ways I have been very fortunate with this current position, I have far exceeded my own expectations and discovered new things about myself in my ability to tackle and solve problems and overcome a lot of obstacles. I have been able to maintain a  high level of professionalism, Iv’e been able to do so much in-depth work, and not just doing one or two stages of a job and then passing it on to the next person to do their part, but I have been able to follow many stages of an entire process through from start to finish. In addition to this I have been able to implement several new job procedures and carry them through to prove they can and do work, and Iv’e learnt a great deal about the rail industry, and I have also been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible and wonderful people and make some wonderful friendships in the process. Overall I have exceeded my own expectations, and I believe in all honestly exceeded my employers expectations of me, and I have to say that does feel good, and it also makes one feel proud to have made such an achievement.

One thing is for certain, I do feel a little more confident about my future job than I have done for many years, that is of course providing I get the right opportunity by a company willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity to prove myself. For the first time in many years I actually feel confident in my own abilities.

I have had a great year discovering the local nature reserve, through all the changing seasons, made friends with a Robin who I called Buddy. He has in recent weeks  flown the nest with his little babies, and despite knowing I will most likely never see him again, unless we both happen to make return visits to the reserve and his particular favourite tree. I do feel very privileged that I was able to make friends, share a trust and have a special bond with a wild bird and be able hand feed him.

That aside, I have also this year had to cope with the diagnosis of  Diabetes,  problems with my kidneys and cholesterol level, another lot of surgery and then in April the sudden and unexpected death of my Father.  An extreme combination of  similar problems that 15 years ago brought to my knees, and  my first dealings with  depression, but now despite how hard it is to cope with all this…some how I have managed to cope and  I have come to realise that it is due to a combination of the right daily medication, some really incredible family and friends, the pursuance of my love of nature and photography, and a job I love doing, but more importantly positive thinking and the confidence in ones own abilities, and to try not give up so easily.

So, my next step forward is to take a much-needed short holiday up in Strathpeffer  in Scotland the week after my job comes to an end, give myself chance to recharge my worn out batteries, take in the wonderful Scottish air, scenery and hospitality, take plenty of photographs and discover the wildlife up there, and also hopefully treat myself to a glass or two of some very fine single malt whisky from that region.  But, I do realise that I also need time to think about what sort of job I would like to do next, and how to balance my work life with managing my diabetes and also prepare myself  mentally for upcoming job interviews. So who knows what new opportunities await around the next corner.

 

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Many thanks for stopping by

 

Full circle.

As I have mentioned on several occasions before, I love the spring. In spite of everything that has been going on in my personal life these last few weeks, I have tried to continue to live my life as normal as possible. Despite my recent diagnosis of diabetes, and also the surgery a couple of weeks ago,  I have tried to maintain a healthy walking/exercise regime. Although I haven’t been able to get out at the weekends with my camera, I have managed to maintain my daily routine as best as possible to and from my current job by visiting the nature reserve at the back of where I work and taking a few photos.

At the end of June last year I took up a 12 month temp work contract, at a place that is situated close by  the nature reserve. When I first stepped foot into the reserve I have to admit that at first I thought it didn’t look like much and I thought I was going to be disappointed. But I have to say the place has continued to amaze me week in and week out, throughout last summer, autumn, winter and now the spring and as we are now heading towards summer I have now almost come full circle.

I have watched it grow and develop on a daily basis. At the end of last summer I felt very annoyed when the council gardeners went in and mowed down all the waist deep grass in the meadows, I was no longer able to watch the wrens diving in and out looking for insects, or watch the variety of butterflies chasing each other over the tall grass. I have watched as many of the trees have been cut down and disappearing throughout the autumn months along the pathways and down by the river walk.  The pathway I followed at the side of the river became muddy and icy during the winter months, and the trees bare of all but a few leaves hanging on to their branches. All along the pathway the flowers and plants gave the appearance they had withered and died. I have seen so many different species of birds, some I have heard but not seen. I have continued to hand feed my little robin Buddy……and I have met his little lady. Each time I have gone into the reserve to feed him, he has as usual come to my hand taken some food then briefly flown off with the food before coming back and taking some more from me, he has continued to repeat this on a daily basis. By watching him carefully it has become obvious he has a nest where he is feeding youngsters, and I am hoping very soon he will be showing them off to me. At other times his little lady friend (who I have called Freckles) comes close by to me, but still unable to take food from my hand, so he comes to my hand and flies to her with the food, opening her mouth wide he pops the food in to her. He will do all of this several times before he finally will take some food for himself. To have made a little friend like this because of my love of nature and the trust we share between us has been an absolute joy. People walking the path have stopped to talk to me, hardly believing what they have just witnessed, the sight of a wild bird flying onto my hand and contentedly sitting their eating his food and singing to me. Then of course there are the regulars who stop and chat with me, whilst taking a short cut through the reserve, or taking their dogs for a walk, knowing why I am there each morning before and of an evening after work.

As I have walked through the reserve these past couple of weeks, Yet again I have been amazed at the new life that has sprung up, it has been growing back into its former beauty of last summer when I first started going there. Already the grass in the meadow has grown several inches high.  I have seen butterflies around on the bright warm sunny days we have so far had this month, an abundance of young birds especially great tits, blue tits and blackbirds. The sides of the pathways along the river.  in the space of just a few weeks overgrown with wild garlic, their thick carpet of wide green leaves and stark white flowers.

This place has been a huge part of my life this past 10/11 months, but unfortunately because my job contract is soon due to be come to an end, it looks like I may well have to leave all this behind, but hope that I will have the opportunity in the future to re visit the reserve  when I get the chance.  I am so going to miss my Buddy and his friendship, I only hope I get to see Buddy and Freckles babies before I have to go. In one way its sad to have come the full circle, but in another it has been wonderful to see the circle of life at my favourite nature reserve.

I know that the chances  of ever finding a job like this again that I have enjoyed so immensely and found so  challenging are so remote, and I have so enjoyed working with such a great small, but very friendly team of people and I know also the future chance of  being this close to a place of such natural beauty will all be extremely remote. For the first time in several years I also have regained some lost confidence in myself and my abilities…..just how long that will last I don’t yet know. At my age I know only too well how difficult it will be to get another job, and once again feel secure. I can only wish and hope that the lady whose job I have been covering would have made the decision  not to return to work, but instead to take the opportunity of making the very most of seeing her beautiful twin boys grow up, and like nature has her own way of nurturing, that she too could nurture her boys and see them day after day continue to grow, develop and change. I have heard so many friends in the past say, I wish I hadn’t had to go back to work so soon, I wanted to see my babies grow up a bit more, they are at the age when so many interesting and wonderful changes take place and I missed so many of them changes, I wasn’t there when my baby said mommy or daddy for the first time.

Just like nature there are so many beautiful things to see and hear at certain times.

 

 

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life












Felt by my heart.

The past month has been really tough. In the space of a little over one week my father had gone from sitting with us at his bungalow merrily chatting away to each other about steam trains, birds & animals, his national service days and family and one of his favourite TV shows. We had even been making plans with my brother and sister-in-law to take him to Weston Super Mare for a day trip in June, and then in September to The Severn Valley to see the Flying Scotsman whilst it was on tour and stationed on display there, something we were all very much looking forward to. We were having our usual conversations that we have on a Sunday morning gathering, or on the phone of an evening, and then suddenly a week later my dad was gone.

Although it has been in my eyes more noticeable about how much frailer my dad had become over the last 6 months I had never thought we would lose him. It just seems that you feel that your parents have always been there for you in the past and I suppose you feel a sense that they will always be there for you for ever.  I can remember when I was a child I always though mom & dad will ALWAYS be here for me, they would never leave. As I got older and began to see the truth and the ‘negative’ side of life and existence I then realised my dream of them being alive and with me  for ever and a day was just so unreal. Life can be so cruel.

Part of my depression which started just a little over 15 years ago was caused by a really bad year prior to my moms death on 29th April 2001. I had been very unwell physically after having to deal with 2 lots of serious surgery, and then depressed for several months before hand, without really realising it, but as they say the straw that broke the camels back was when I had to face my moms death, and then a few weeks later I had to face major life saving and life changing surgery, and for the first time ever my mom was not there for me anymore, at least not in the real physical sense. Fortunately, my dad was there for me and has been there for me ever since.

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Shortly after my mom passed away, I can remember thinking to myself I never want to go through all that again, I hoped and prayed I never would have to. The decision to stop all medication, agree to a DNR and no further intervention was something  my dad, myself, my brother and sister-in-law had to mutually agree to. All moms organs were failing, and to agree to resuscitate her was pointless. We had to agree the same reasoning  for the same nightmare with my dad. I know deep down the horror of all of this will never go away, and having to make that decision again brought back so many bad memories. Despite of all this, over the past couple of weeks it has been good to talk to family, friends and work colleagues about the good times, the good memories and some of the wonderful times we have shared over the years with both my parents.

After Dads funeral service, as we all came out of the church into the area where all the flowers were laid, people came up to us, family members as well as friends of the family, dads club friends, old friends and  neighbours  from many years ago when my brother and I were still kids,  My sister in-laws, sister and her husband  came up to me, we hugged as normal and then Mick said it all in one simple sentence which truly summed up my dad, he said  ”your dad was a really good man, a really great bloke, a proper gentleman”. And I knew how true this was. The same thing has been said by my family members as well as dads bungalow club friends and his neighbours.

Dad has never been a drinker, only on social occasions or the occasional can of stout or bitter at home. He gave up smoking in 1981/82. He never gambled, just the usual couple of quid on the Grand National each year. Over the last 12 or so years he enjoyed his games of bingo, which for him was more a case of having a bit of a social life with his friends and was a way of maintaining his level of independence. When mom passed away, despite the rest of the family being there for him it had left a huge emptiness in his life.  Being part of the ‘bungalow club’ helped him in some ways to rebuild his life without mom.  It  gave him the chance to take some holidays to Weston Super Mare and Weymouth, as well as odd days out for coach trips or meals out with friends from the club. It was his social life outside the family, but first and foremost he was a family man and with that he was a true gentleman.

I have so many wonderful memories of the times spent with my dad. His passion for coarse fishing was passed on to me and my brother. I can still remember the first time I went fishing with dad and the first fish I caught. I don’t know who was more excited,,,,dad or me. Another great passion was his gardening which I have continued to learn from him over the years, and still love doing when I get the chance (although I have to admit the last 16 months have been difficult to maintain it as I have been unable to do the work physically due to recovering from 3 lots of surgery in that time) I only have a small garden area in the yard behind my flat, but have learnt how to get the best from it thanks to my dads knowledge and expertise. There is a certain satisfaction in growing your own runner beans, tomatoes, rhubarb as well as growing several Fuschias from my own cuttings and nurturing 3 or 4 roses.

My knowledge and love of birds, animals, butterflies, fishing, gardening and the countryside have all been down to my dad. Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s dad rented 2 allotments from the local council. Each weekend and in the school holidays my brother and I used to go there with him a lot. The allotments were adjacent to one of our local parks called Jubilee Park, and each time we went down there we always used to have a game of football or cricket in the field before starting to work on the allotment…just the three of us. Then we would cross over the little brook, and see who could get across without getting their feet wet…..being the smallest and youngest I always lost, but as I got a little older, I also got a little wiser and started  taking  my pair of wellies with me 🙂

I can still see dad now in my mind, at the height of each summer season when it was time to reap the benefits of his hard all year round work, pushing his wheelbarrow from home to the park…empty, and then filling it up with sacks of home-grown potatoes, onions, runner beans, carrots, broad beans, garden peas and beetroot.  Bunches of Sweet Williams and Chrysanthemums for mom as well as containers full of homegrown blackberries and raspberries ready for the pies and jam making.  But there was nothing better than eating a few fresh peas, broad beans or berries straight from the garden. At the bottom of the allotment he dug out a small pond and each year we used to watch the frog spawn waiting for them to become tadpoles, then frogs.

As dad got older, then so his health began to give him problems. Late in the 1980’s due to severe arthritis in his ankles and feet he had to give up first one and then the other allotment. But by then my brother and I were both growing up and those days of kicking a ball around down the park with dad had gone. Dad was now content to grow what he wanted to in the garden and greenhouse at home.

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s I became a Special Constable, and despite mom and dad being very proud of me for becoming one, I was always their little girl and I know how difficult it was for them to see me go out on a late night/early morning shift knowing I was on duty at the pubs & clubs emptying times, where even back then there was always an element of danger involved, and always the fear of being assaulted or hurt on duty. Ever the worrying, caring parents.

It’s always important to hold on to all those good memories, and they have helped me get through these past couple of weeks. I have been happy to share my memories with family and friends. I am so going to miss our little chats, and showing dad my photo’s of my latest find in the nature reserve, his stories of the days in national service, his childhood in Knowle, his grandma who bought him up, but I am so glad he has told me so many stories from his past. My father touched my heart like not other person could, and for that I am truly grateful.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt by the heart. Helen Keller