As previously stated on this blog, my employment with a single organisation lasted for 37 years by the simple expedient that no one else would have me. Against their better judgement (obviously) Gateshead MBC have recently given me two bites at the employment cherry. The first was in June, fifteen hours work as a polling station clerk in Rowlands Gill. The job pays a set fee of roughly the minimum wage, and whilst I wouldn’t want to do it every day, now and then it’s great fun. My friend Chris (an old hand at this) advised me to arrive prepared.
“You will need to take a book,” he said. “Maybe a jigsaw too.”
Six hours after opening I still hadn’t lifted my head from my fat wad of voting slips, and my three newspapers remained pristine inside my haversack.
“Where does your friend do polling duty?” enquired the Presiding Officer. “The friend who said you wouldn’t be busy?”
Shortly after Christmas I was browsing through the Gateshead MBC website and I came across an advertisement for play coordinators to work on council play schemes in the borough, throughout the six-week school summer holiday. I filled out the on-line application form, the whole purpose being, to enable me to joyously inform Heather “I’m making an effort you know,” and then to contentedly forget all about it. Much to my abject horror, I was called in for an interview. A couple of weeks later, a misguided soul rang to tell me I had the job. I innocently agreed. It was a sharp learning curve. For the first month I worked with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is the name for a range of conditions, including Asperger Syndrome, that affect a person’s social interaction, communication, their interests and behaviour. More males are diagnosed with the condition than females. ASD affects everyone differently, and I found myself in the midst of some smashing young people, all varying greatly in their interests, what they wanted to talk about, and what they wanted to do each day. Swimming seemed to be a common denominator, with everyone keen to go along to Whickham Pool and splash about for an hour, me included. August passed in a whirl of activity. My innocent agreement became a fulfilling privilege.
I always knew that there was a great deal to see and do in the north of England, but now I see that I didn’t know the north-east as thoroughly as I once thought. Places new to me include, Chester-le-Street Riverside Park and water fountains, Chase Park in Whickham, Dunston Park, Bill Quay Farm, Ouseburn Farm, Seven Stories, and Herrington Park. We went to York Railway Museum three times, and also the Winter Gardens in Sunderland. I’ve learned how to do face painting, make loom bands, and create percussion instruments out of something called mud rock.
For the final fortnight I went to work on a different play scheme based at the Lord Lawson Academy in Birtley. This location is a good ten miles from my home, but it seems that my reputation will always catch me up.
Mother dropping off a child: “Hello Tammy, lovely to see you. How are you?
Me: “I’m fine thank you, how are you?”
Child: “How do you know Tammy?”
Mother: “From the beer garden at the pub.”
Speaking of beer and pubs, Heather and I are delighted that Ye Olde Cross on the village green has re-opened. It means that we can once again look forward to Carols by the Cross, and hopefully, next year, to the return of the Hirings. The previous licensee did an excellent job in catering for my Mum’s funeral, and I’m really sorry that it didn’t work out for him and his partner. I wish them well in whatever they’re doing now.