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Light at the end of my dark tunnel.

Believe or not I am still around despite the long gap since my last blog entry in December and this one.

The reality of it is that my life has been extremely complicated for me these past few months, I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that with the winter months, severe weather conditions, as well as low mood due to my depression/anxiety it did have a huge impact on my well-being, which was only made worse by some  unnecessary stress at work.  I can now say though, thank goodness that I have now emerged from the other end of that horrible dark tunnel, and once again can see the bright light shinning ahead of me.  With a conversation I had with my GP about 5 years ago, she suggested I might also be suffering from SAD. I brushed this off thinking it was just the fact it was winter months, dark when you go to work and dark when you get home, cold wet weather, and lets face it none of us like the winter months for those reasons, but I have to admit it does now look like my GP was right and I was wrong. One of the things on my agenda this year is to invest in a SAD therapy lamp, and take more vitamin D from October, hopefully this will help keep the black dog from nipping at my heels again next winter.

Over a number of years I have learnt three very valuable lessons regarding depression, firstly, that when some people think they are doing their best by helping you, they don’t seem to realize it can be more of a hinderance, and can in actual fact slow down ones recovery process, I am not saying that is the same for everyone. Secondly I know of and have heard of people who have seen family and friends suffer depression, and they believe they ‘understand’ what it is like for those sufferers, people who have never suffered depression themselves and have not gone through that personal and individual agony of depression will never know or truly understand how it really does feel, in reality they can only actually see or simply imagine what a sufferer goes through, which is not the same. Thirdly, and most importantly, each and every person who suffers from depression suffer the same collective symptoms of the illness, but the cause that triggers it can be for very different reasons. Some may suffer a life changing illness at some stage of our lives, or lose loved ones, they may witness some horrible and upsetting things in their lives, but we all cope with those problems in very different ways. But where as one person can get back up and carry on with their lives, it doesn’t mean others who have faced the same problem can get back up in the same way.

Fortunately for me I have learnt over the past 20 years how I can cope with my bouts of depression without interference from others, daily medication, self-help techniques, CBT, ways to motivate myself and a little bit of time just being left alone to do what I need to in order to pull myself through. I suppose I am one of the more fortunate ones to be able to do this, as I know others are not so lucky, but more often than not they are unable to seek the help they need in the first place.

When I look back to 20 years ago when my depression first started, and I look at things now, I know I have come along way  since then, after all I am still here to talk about it, and prove to others through my blog that it can get better, and that life can be good, in ways most wouldn’t think or believe,  more importantly however, despite every brick wall I have come up against I do some how find a way to crack and breakdown that wall down and turn the next corner. I know I am not the most cleverest of people, and as I have got older I have found I have slowed down mentally and physically, and I have learnt some hard lessons along the way, but in the end I do have this ability to be logical which is one of the tools that helps me to move on. I have firmly believed through logic that yes things can get really bad, but then they will also improve, and I like to make the most of those times as it helps me to look forward to them again if things do go downwards again, trying to focus on that helps me get better, and encourages me to try harder next time. Like my photography, I can be hard on myself to do better. More recently at work, several colleagues have told me I am too damn hard on myself, but in all honesty I have to be hard on myself as it is my way of getting back on top, it is my own way of stopping me sliding back down into the dark pit and staying there. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things in life that help people recover.

The horrible bad weather we went through this winter did mean I was unable to get out with my camera, which in itself was bad enough and made me feel low.  But in addition to that it was also the second Christmas without my dad. Some how it affected me more this time around than it did the first one without him. I think in all honesty the first year it was still so close to losing him that it hadn’t properly sunk in, and my life was on automatic with other things going on causing my stress levels to fluctuate, and get through other day-to-day trials, that I tried not to ‘over think’ about it too much, however this time around it had sunk in more and I felt it more, and it therefore had more of an impact on me.

In February I did get my first chance to go out to my local Conservation Park in Birmingham one of the afternoons I had a half day’s holiday from work, I wasn’t up to venturing off too far, but with the sun shinning a little, and despite  the temperatures being extremely cold, it was good to get out in some proper fresh air, and walk without slipping on snow and ice, but most importantly to be able to get out with my camera and see the wonders of nature. I could sit and watch these animals for hours at a time, especially the little guys below. The Conservation Park do an incredible job at looking after these animals, and they are part of a European breeding programme for the more rare and endangered species. Seeing these animals happily running around up to their own little tricks does put a smile on my face. I sat outside the cafe at the park for about an hour, directly opposite the Capuchin enclosure to have a coffee and sandwich, watching them did lift my spirits.

 

Red Panda, one of my favourites at the Birmingham Conservation Park.

 

Golden Head Tamarin.

 

Emperor Tamarin

 

Capuchin Monkey. I sat and watched this troupe for at least an hour – they are so funny and clever to watch.

 

Geoldis Marmoset

 

 

On the weekend of my birthday, I was also able to do one of my most favourite things, such as walk an Alpaca at Lucky Tails in Hurley, Warwickshire. with three of my very dear friends, I think I have converted them to becoming Alpaca lovers 🙂   I have lost count, but I believe that was my 6th visit in the last 2 years that I have done the Alpaca walks, and I am already planning the next trip there, hopefully the beginning of June…….can’t wait!!    This time I walked the handsome blue-eyed boy Norman.

Norman the blue eyed Alpaca. such a sweetheart and quite  a character is our Norman!

I wonder why it always feels so good to be around animals, they are so soothing and just may be they are far less trouble than some humans!!

With the Spring now upon us and Summer just around the corner, I am looking forward to having odd days holidays out visiting different places with lovely scenery, rivers & canal walks, plenty of wildlife, places like Trentham Monkey Forest, Charlecote Park, Foxton Locks, Albert Docks, Worcester, Stratford and the Costwolds .  All  places I have visited over the years and find that I want to go back to them as each visit is different to the last time.

I wouldn’t say I am a perfectionist, but I am one of those photographers who are critical of their own work. I look back at pictures I have taken, and tell myself I could do better with camera next time around……so where better than to go to places you have already been and try again and improve upon the last time.

Another comfort that I have missed these past four years is my rabbits, especially Sootykins, who I had for nine and a half years….which was a really good age for a rabbit, and they really were a huge part of my life. I do have a budgie called Charlie, but being a bird you can’t really hold and cuddle them the same way as a four-legged furry friend.  I did think again about last year getting another rabbit, but instead over the Easter weekend, after much thought and deliberation I decided to go for a Syrian Hamster. Which for obvious reasons in the picture below I decided to call her Patch.

Little Patch, Syrian Hamster. I was going to call her Dora (as in Dora the explorer,) as on the first weekend I had her she managed to slide down from a table and wandered around the lounge and managed to get under every nook & cranny to play hide & seek with me.

Whilst hamsters sleep during the daytime and come out and play at night, it gives me the chance to spend a good hour with her to play and pet her before I go to bed. Overall, having her climb in and out of my hands and up on to my shoulders is very relaxing, she is very well-behaved, and has only bit me once, that was on the second day as she was still trying to settle in to her new environment. And let’s be honest…. she is so cute and adorable, and to all intense and purposes she is very clever, and she is a wonderful little addition to my home life.

The beauty, survival and wonder of wildlife,flora and scenery amazes me no end, and I am always inspired by this old favourite hymn, and I often wonder what Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)  was thinking about at the time she wrote it, the words are so simple and yet so meaningful.

Chorus
All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all.

Verses
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well….

Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

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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.

 

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.

Outrage with FIFA……how dare they!

With most of the daily news stories I try not to take too much on board, after all too much bad news can after all be very upsetting or depressing.

This morning whilst on one of my bus journeys to work I had a quick glance at the Metro newspaper (supplied free on our West Midlands buses). The headlines caught my eyes and so I picked it up and read the main story. having read it I found myself actually feeling totally outraged and at the same time frustrated for our football players, and at the same time proud that our players are prepared to show defiance over the no Poppy ban by FIFA.

FIFA have said that our footballers will not be allowed to wear any representation of the Poppy on matches that will be played Remembrance Day, and I quote    ”FIFA has banned players from wearing poppies because the world governing body prohibits ‘political, religious or commercial messages’ being displayed on the pitch”.

How dare they term our Remembrance Day as a political, religious or commercial message. They are the ones who are making the political message by making a ban in the first place…HOW DARE THEY!

For me and I dare say for the majority, the day is a day that as a country it is a commemorative occasion, and as people we stand united as a nation to remember and thank so many  who sacrificed their own lives to make this country and the world a better place for all. If people do not want to believe that and pay tribute, then that is their own choice, no one is forcing them to, however it does not give the likes of FIFA the right to dictate to us that our players can not wear an emblem that recognizes something very important in our history  past and present and something that is a long-standing tradition. Without the freedom this countries fallen has fought for, then my guess is  FIFA would most probably not even exist.

Why do FIFA even believe Remembrance Day  comes under any of the headings of political, religious or commercial message?

The only message it says is let us be allowed to show our respect to and remember the many fallen brave men and woman of this country and the Commonwealth who gave up their own lives to make the world a better place for the rest of us. The only difference is that we as a nation choose to remember these brave people once a year every year on the same date because it is a marked time in world history and they all deserve that recognition and thanks even if it is for just only one day each and every year, because after all it is a very important day.

I for one am proud to wear my Poppy as a way of showing my respect and thanks, this is not as a political, religious or even a commercial message or statement.  It is to say our lives could have been so very different, had it not been for the millions of people not have given their own lives to protect the future of so many millions of others.

 

misc-july-2013-special-57

Than you for stopping by.

 

 

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