I retired from Northumbria Police three years ago and entered into a state of happy lethargy. I was roused from it temporarily when I went to work on a holiday scheme run by Gateshead MBC for youngsters on the autistic spectrum. I fell into it by accident. Reading through the council job site one morning my eye caught the word “play”. I was staggered to be granted and interview, and my mental equilibrium was shattered into pieces when I received a phone call asking if I fancied popping into Dunston Activity Centre for forty hours per week, for six weeks.
I enjoyed the summer of 2017 very much. I was with teenagers of whom I became very fond, and I think most of them quite liked me. I picked up several new skills, I can draw a frog and I’m fab with loom bands and painting toe nails. We had a mini bus and a driver (James) and we explored most of the north of England; Fountains Abbey, York National Railway Museum, The Baltic, Seven Storeys, Gibside …. every day was a holiday.
Last year I was placed with younger children and it wasn’t for me. My physical stamina is declining rapidly – I can’t go tearing after runaways. I wouldn’t swap the experience though, it was a wonderful time.
During a further spell of contented laziness, I sent a hard copy of my CV (old-fashioned Royal Mail) to the local branch of a large retail company and they took me on for a time. A police friend of mine took voluntary redundancy and went to work elsewhere. We bumped into each other outside the fruit shop and he told me, “I used to complain about Northumbria Police, but you know Tammy, having worked outside of the organisation I find that maybe they weren’t so bad after all.” He’s right. Within the police family I took certain rights for granted and assumed they applied to every strand of employment. Apparently not. In the outside world it’s eight quid per hour irrespective of whether one is working on a Sunday, a late evening, or a sociable Tuesday morning. No shift allowance or time and a half. The strangest rule of all (in my last experience of the workplace) was the pedantic fuss over what you were allowed to carry about your person. The mobile phone ban I understand completely, and you don’t really want to see a customer assistant digging into a pouch and applying a full make-up while they serve you at the same time. However, pocket checks were carried out and staff made to return single house and car keys back to the locker room. I know all this because the confidential pocket check sheet was left lying about, so obviously I picked it up and had a butchers. Only a pen was allowed, though I daresay you would have a case to argue if you were caught carrying a hanky. I got around all of this rigmarole by the expedient of hiding forbidden items down my knickers. No one dares go there.
I’m unemployed again but I assuaged some of my guilt at 6am today by getting up and de-icing the car for my hard-working spouse and filling up with diesel. She landed on her feet the day she married me I can tell you.
It seems that I can get an interview when I settle down to taking trouble over applications, but I’m picky. I want a part-time job (a couple of shifts per week) to fund Darren our gardener and to employ someone to clean. Cleaning and gardening are two activities I detest. I tipped up for an interview with a lady with disabilities who had placed an advertisement for a driver.
“You will be part of a team,” she told me enthusiastically. “You will drive me to my meetings and to social events with friends. You will, however, be able to fade into the background whenever I say. I expect you to be upbeat even when I’m down. Your tasks will include driving the children to rugby and hockey and household duties.”
“Do you mean cleaning?” I enquired.
“If you don’t like cleaning then this isn’t the job for you.” She beamed at me, clearly thinking I was dying to step aboard. “Also, the children have several small animals which you will be expected to feed and clean out.”
“Are the children’s fingers broken?”
And to think how it had all started out so well.