Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The joy of work!

Being forced to give up work through difficult circumstances has been a tough adjustment. Having worked non stop since 1988, and most of those years with a second job as well, it was bound to be a strange experience. The motivation is of course money and the hope that progression will follow to a higher level and earn even more money. This never happened to me, sorry to say, so I don't know what it feels like to get a promotion. The second thing you hope for is good environment to work in and that you don't have to work with assholes. Unfortunately, I have worked with prize assholes and it is a shame that promotion does not come your way through the suffering! So, at this moment in time I have mixed feelings about returning to work again, which will I'm sure happen quite soon. When you have had a period out of work the one thing you do have is the time to reflect on your experiences, which has good points and bad. On the negative side, there are doubts that creep in now and again at whether you can cut it again, whether you can fit in to a completely new group of people, and of course the ultimate worry, can you get a decent job. Well I never was in a 'decent' job, so the only way is up! On the plus side, there are organisations out there who do want to help you get back, and I don't mean the Job Centre! They just want to push you to ANY job just to get you off their books. There is such an organisation here called Cam Ymlaen (Welsh for Step Ahead) who will support you in obtaining the confidence to go back to work. I will be starting an 8 week course this Friday at Colwyn Bay and I am hoping that it will help me get back on track. Furthermore, they will assess my strengths and help me get what I want to do. In a strange way, the unfortunate turn of events that we have endured in the last 2 years may be a blessing in disguise, and I am determined to forge something positive from this. I have already signed up for a course in basic counselling skills which will start in January and I intend to carry on this path afterwards.

Talking about work environments has made me think of the best one I ever had. This is easy. From 1988 to 1990 I worked for Essex County Council, with their Historic Buildings Section, a part of the Planning Department. If circumstances had been different I would have stayed here a lot longer. I was 25 years old just received my degree that summer and this was my first proper job since leaving University. I had been working for the Post Office in Ipswich just before and was only there for about 6 weeks. I remember going for the interview for the Essex job whilst I was on strike instigated by the Post Office union, and accepted the job while still stiking. So it was sort of a relief that I was leaving that place. I digress, the job at Essex was, how should I put it, flexible, easy going, fun. I have so many happy memories there, the only down side was my salary. I started on less than £7,000 per annum, hardly enough to get married on! I had my own desk! I had my own drawing board! And I could claim expenses whenever I went on site! I started at the same time as another graduate, Nicola Mawer, we were the junior members of the section but we were always included, even attended planning meetings. It was a nice feeling belonging to this group and we were surrounded by very knowledgable conservationists. In fact these people were the original conservationists in terms of preserving historic buildings and conservation areas as this section was the first one to be set up in the local council framework. They were consultants and were called in to assist planning applications received by the district councils of Essex. Therefore, for instance, our section head had the Rochford, Southend districts, and Judy Enticknap, the grants officer, had Saffron Walden. Nicola and I would go along with these officers and it was wonderful to experience the Essex country settings and witness some truly historic buildings. I can remember going with Dave Stenning (in charge of Colchester area) and visiting the Red Lion hotel which was being renovated. Every time the place was undergoing work, there was the chance to look at a Roman mosaic underneath the foundations. It was very rare to see this and I was just lucky to be there at this time. The site visits were great, and always included a visit to some pub. Don't get the wrong idea here, we did get the job done. There was just this easy going attitude that went with the job. the building we were based at was called Globe House, an old ball bearing factory converted into offices. On our floor, there was also other sections, such as Forward Planning and archaeology, and...a social club! Yes we had a pub down the corridor! Many a time was spent there having lunch, enjoying a pint (or two) or playing darts, pool and a couple of snooker tables. One time my boss, Peter, asked me if I wanted a game. Yeah, why not, I said. We were there till 3 o'clock, drinking pints and sinking snooker balls! We should have been backat least 2 pm, but what the hell I was with the boss, so...! There was another time when some of us went to watch a football international on the telly. Game did not finish till 4pm! So, you get the idea how relaxing it was working there. I doubt that there will be anywhere like this around now. A couple of days before I left, a collegue of mine suggested we go down the pub, so we went out at 11am and didn't come back till 5pm! To this day I think it was a liberty step too far and feel a bit ashamed for treating my colleagues with a bit of disrespect, but that was the mood I was in and I was leaving anyway. I still feel bad about it though. Still the memories of working and being involved with Essex County Council are happy ones for me and my only regret is that I left when I did. My next post was supposed to feel like a promotion but in hindsight was a big let down...

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