Individuality and Character.

One thing I have learnt over the years are that no two people are ever really the same, there may be some similarities in all our lives in comparison to others, but the biggest difference, I believe, is our own personal character and individuality and ultimately how we deal with situations that arise because of those two factors.

One of the first things I learnt about my depression 18 years ago was how long it took me to admit I had a problem and to seek the help I wanted,  I say wanted rather than needed because despite how I remember feeling at the time I knew logically there was something that could be done to help me, and I suppose there was a point that I wanted to get better and wanted to accept help, that I believe was my character and my individuality. Even then it took a long time for me to be open about what I had experienced and what I was going through. I started telling myself I was weak, the more I said this the more I believed it, and as a result of this then the more my confidence diminished, as did my abilities to do things and my interest in life itself.

What we do, how we express ourselves, how we go through life with joy and sorrow are really what define us, how we accept the good and the bad and learn to ‘move on’. We all carry risks that can ‘trigger’ episodes of depression. For most people they are lucky they don’t experience depression, but then at the same time if they haven’t experienced it, they would never understand that there is another path to follow, another direction one could go in once you reach rock bottom.

On over hearing a conversation on one of my recent bus journeys, it made me realize this fact. We all have experienced similar situations in life in ways that people can associate themselves with, in very similar circumstances, but then the answer isn’t always the same as the other persons solution to their own problems. As was the conversation I overheard, I often hear friends talking about a difficult situation and one offers the other their advice because that is what they did in their circumstances, ”oh, but you need to tell him this”. ”No you should or shouldn’t do that”. I’m sure you all get the general picture.

For many years now I have battled my depression and various levels of high anxiety. I know of many people who have had depression and are still dealing with it in their own way.  My own way of dealing with it, is not necessary the same answer for some one else. We all have to ‘find the right path for ourselves’. I know several who like myself have turned to photography or art, we have all found a talent within ourselves that lets us express ourselves, and at the same time deal with life’s problems.

This past week I recently was given some really great news, I had passed my 3 month probation period in my new job. The strange thing was I knew I had been doing well, but there was always those niggling self doubts, always those creeping levels of anxiety, and periods of lacking confidence in myself.  The last 5 years of my life I have  spent looking for ‘security and stability’ in my career, each time I had to settle for a temporary contract. Then in September last year I finally got a permanent job, only to be told 5 weeks into the job that company restructure meant I would lose that job in April this year. Obviously, at the time it was a very disappointing and  yet another huge blow. In April when I did finally get made redundant, what was going through my mind was that I have got to start all over again, the job seeking, finding a new job, settling in with new people, how would we all get on, how would I find the job. Basically all those usual uncertainties, but realistically I needn’t have worried…..which is easy to say now.

I have been lucky, ‘my individuality & character’ I am certain is one of the factors that has helped me get through yet another uncertain period in my life, as has balancing my time with doing things I love such as nature visits and photography.  But more importantly, so has the help of the great team of people I now work with, they all have their individuality and characters which is what make them a great team to work with. On Monday when I was told the wonderful news about my job becoming permanent, I suddenly felt that I was now further along in my life that day than I was the day before. Once again I have found a little self-confidence and enjoyment and a great bunch of colleagues who I am proud to call my friends.

Who knows what lies ahead, but for now life is good.

A Psalm Of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Thinking about it…..

I Sit And Think.

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
and people who will see a world that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet and voices at the door

by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

I was recently asked a question that has made me sit up and do a lot of deep thinking.

I was asked ….Who or what inspires me the most?

The poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘I Sit And Think’ really sums it up well.

Originally I answered the question instinctively. My answer was very simple, I’m inspired by people who like myself have been able to ‘overcome’ severe health issues, whether on a physical or mental level, and escape near death experiences. For me it summed it what incredible abilities we all have, to fight our battles, no matter how hard they are, or what odds are stacked up against us. Then there is the question why have I been able to overcome these obstacles and fight back at my depression?

Then I got to thinking more deeply, as why I gave that answer,  or even why we have been able to overcome these massive obstacles, and I had to try to narrow down my answers and analyze constructively.

To begin with what initially became a ‘recovery tool’ about seven years ago, has gradually built up to become a passion for me, because from it, it has helped me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

My passion for photography has inspired me enormously over the past few years. It has greatly contributed in many ways to my well-being, both mentally and physically.

There is without a doubt a form of art in photography, but for me it’s a lot more than that. Photography has taught to me to evolve, for want of a better word. It has made me understand more, become more knowledgeable and it has taught me self-discipline and in addition to this, it has encouraged me to go to places I probably thought I would never go to. It has opened up my mind and opened up my life. It’s given me a new direction and a new purpose. One of the things it has allowed me to do over the last few years is to move out of ‘my own personal comfort zone’, get back into socializing and mixing with people including family and friends. I still don’t like huge crowds especially noisy ones, it makes me nervous and anxious, but I think in all honesty it is more to do with the fact that I just enjoy peace and tranquility…..which is probably why it explains my love of nature.

On and off over the past 17 years whilst I was going through some of my worst bouts of depression and anxiety, I lost interest in a great deal many things.  With depression it affects each and every one of us in different ways, myself personally, I felt that I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone I stuck to the minimal basic routine of working sometime eating and sometimes sleeping, other than that I sat on my own and cried until I had no tears left to cry, and had no emotions left in me to express. Just always negative thoughts, no ambitions or interest, and no matter how hard people wanted to try to understand how I was feeling, they just couldn’t understand. The only thing I can remember ever wishing for in those dark periods of my life was an off switch so that I could completely switch myself off from my life and the world in general.

Depression is one of those illnesses you have to experience to truly understand what it does to you, how it makes you feel, including the overall effect on your ability to just function normally in life or to just live.

Once I had started in my recovery process, I got to getting back to a little bit more normality, and bit by bit edging out of my depression zone into a new comfort zone. Now I can honestly say, I have moved out of my comfort zone and have become a little more adventurous, enlightened and a little bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. Although, I have to say there are still times I have self doubts, and lack confidence in myself.

My photography has enabled me to go out exploring, it has given me the chance to prove to myself I can do something and do it well and learn something new in the process. It has increased my interest and therefore my knowledge in nature and wildlife as well as history. they all go hand in hand, and that is what inspires me.

How many times does one go for walk or run just for the purpose of needing to exercise to stay fit and healthy?

For instance, I see a great many people in parks taking their dogs for a walk, or people going for a quick jog with their earphones in listening to music and concentrating on running to the beat of the music, some go to local parks with bags of bread to throw down and leave for the wildfowl to help themselves to. Others use park as a short cut to get somewhere else. I see a lot of ‘basic stuff’ going on, but rarely see people with real interest in their surrounding area of beauty.

Whenever I visit a park, any park, I like to take in the surroundings, listen to the birds, sit down near the lake, get close to the flower beds and have a look at the bees on the flowers, watching butterflies fluttering by and trying to identify the species. In the summer especially I enjoy taking a little picnic lunch and I like to explore the area I am visiting. All of this in itself drives my passion to take photos and capture those once in a life time moments for ever. In the past I would just simply hear a bird sound and think about what species of bird it was. Now, however, I love the opportunity to actually try to see that bird, find out where it is, and just watch it for a while, see its beauty and study its character. It encourages me to learn about its surroundings or its behavioural patterns. Just over a year ago, I persevered and made friends with a little Robin who after several weeks of patience, fed out of my hand, and did so every day for several months until it was time for him to fly off with his new little family to pastures new, however I was able to get up close to him and he allowed me to take some photos of him. A permanent reminder of just how close you can get to nature and how fortunate I was to be able to do this.

My interest in birds, wildlife and nature has meant I have been able to explore other places. I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon, and see herds wild Fallow Deer roaming freely over the acres of beautiful parkland next to the River Avon. On the same estate they also have a flock of rare breed Jacob Sheep. This year I was able to sit and watch a pair swans and their little family of  cygnets on the river looking for food by diving down into the weed, and trying not to get tangled in it.

Part of the wild herd of Fallow Deer at Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon. They roam freely on the estate, but are cared for by the estate staff.

Beautiful wild Poppies, and varieties of other wild flowers growing all around the estate.

A beautiful Peacock Butterfly, spotted resting in the long grass.

A couple of the rare Jacob Sheep, part of a large and thriving herd at Charlecote Hall estate.

Walking up to Charlecote Hall and its beautiful estate. Sometimes the Fallow Deer graze on the grass at the sides of the path. It’s lovely to sit on the benches at watch them.

A Mute Swan tending her young on the stretch of the River Avon that runs through the Charlecote Estate.

My photography has also encouraged me to go to different places as well as return to old familiar ones. When I was very young, my brother and I would go on a coach trips in the school summer holidays with mom and dad. A couple of the places we used to go to often was in Wales, normally Rhyl or Aberystwyth, or to Blackpool to see the lights. My memories of Wales in those days were of a little seaside town, shops that sold ice cream and rock.  Beaches that were pebbles and stones and unwelcoming, as well as the unfortunate experience of it raining almost every time we went there. In my mind for many years I told myself Wales held no interest for me to go back there, neither did Blackpool.

When I was in the Special Constabulary back in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, myself and several other friends from the Specials did a sponsored charity jump and rescue in to the sea at Tenby, also in Wales, with the RNLI. I can still remember how nervous and anxious we all were, there were about 10 of us, the sea was extremely rough and choppy that particular day of the jump and we were in old police uniforms over the top of wet suits. On the morning of the jump we had thought about cancelling it, but then realising this is exactly what the RNLI do on a daily basis, it made sense to go ahead and do the jump, thus enabling us all in raising quite a bit of sponsor money for the RNLI and our maternity hospital special baby unit back home in Solihull. I do clearly remember we all joined in with a couple of hymns, Eternal Father Strong to Save…… which included the line ‘For those in peril on the sea’. And a couple of verses of Abide With Me, a last-ditch attempt to stay strong and focused. Fortunately for us, we all did the jump and were all rescued from the sea and arrived back on shore safe and sound. We went back to Tenby a few months later for a plaque dedication and cheque presentation service at the RNLI. That was the last time I went to Wales. At least until May of this year.

An opportunity came about because of my interest in birds and wildlife, it meant I had the chance to go back to Wales to an RSPB  reserve on a coach trip in May. At first I was put off  by the idea of it being Wales, the memories of those old stony, wet seaside towns came back to me. However, I decided I was going to go outside my comfort zone again, and so booked up the day trip to Lake Wyrnvy RSPB.

To my amazement I had the most incredible day, the scenery en route, as well as the scenery around the lake was absolutely magnificent. I saw several species of birds just a few feet away from me through the hide window. The lake itself and the area immediately surrounding it was stunningly beautiful. No more was the Wales as I remembered it so long ago as a little girl.

Looking down and across the incredible and beautiful view of Lake Vyrnwy in Wales from the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.

Looking across and up at the hotel from the other side of the lake.

A chance to see a Greater Spotted Woodpecker up close from the RSPB bird hide window.

Another close up at the bird hide of a male Chaffinch. He was going back and forth collecting food from the feeders to feed his youngsters in a nearby nest.

The highlight of my day….we heard him several times, and then suddenly there he was, a beautiful Cuckoo. My first ever sighting of one, whilst we were walking up a lower section of the mountains to a waterfall.

It was just a few weeks later I went on another trip to Powis to the Royal Welsh Show, it was very crowded and in all honesty very commercialized, but enjoyable all the same. Normally, I would see the outline of sheep in a field from a distance. At the Royal Show you could walk up and down long pathways seeing close up all the different breeds of sheep, and could also see how their character, facial expressions differed.

In July, not long after I started my new job, I went on a long weekend coach trip ‘down south’. This had already been booked up a while beforehand. One of the places I had been hoping to visit the past couple of years was the New Forest, and I had heard of the wild ponies roaming freely in the area. In addition to this the location we were staying was a Warners Holiday Village in Hayling Island, and a couple of day trips included the New Forest on the Saturday morning, Bournemouth in the afternoon and on the Sunday a day in Portsmouth visiting the historical naval dockyard, and the highlight of the weekend was a tour of H.M.S. Victory, the flag ship of Lord Nelson. The combination of all these sights meant I took several hundred photos and as a result have some wonderful memories captured forever on camera.

 

Wild Ponies walking in the road of one of the villages in the New Forest. Of course the coach stopped and gave way to these local inhabitants.

A packed Bournemouth beach on one of the hottest days of  summer.

On board the H.M.S Victory, the chance of a life time be one of the most historical ships in British history.

At the ships wheel on H.M.S. Victory.

A piece of history, the exact spot marked by a plaque, where Lord Horatio Nelson fell and died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Throughout this past 12 months I have been fortunate to have visited many places, odd day trips here and there including Alpaca walking, visiting Monkey Forest, Iron Bridge in Telford, Twycross Zoo, several  parks and nature centre and much more, I have  been able see so much and capture it on camera. I like the idea of challenging myself to do better in my photography by encouraging myself to go the places again and do better next time. I can now set myself goals, and make the effort to achieve them. I have learned to appreciate wildlife, nature and even history more than I could ever have imagined. there is so much more out there that inspires me and its down to my passion for photography but it is also my passion for photography that inspires my love for nature and wildlife.  Capturing the moment and being able to look back and understand something about what is in each photo. All of this inspires me….

As the poem says

and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been:

Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.

Thank you for stopping by

 

 

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