What a grey horrible winters day it has been - I've been busy making leek and potato soup for my daughters lunch today and stretching a chicken even further by making a chicken and leek pie with the left-overs from Sunday. We were hoping to go to Oswestry to have a look around the market and to see if the fabric shop is still there tomorrow but snow is forecast so it depends on the weather now.
Going back to the start of my working life with the council, as I said before, my first office was considered to be in a reasonable area but it was like a village - everyone was related to everyone else - if you were dealing with someone on front desk - you'd learn that their neighbour was their sister's husbands mother- in- law or their Uncle twice removed!
Everyone knew each other but it wasn't a little village it was a quite large area probably covering 3/4 square miles - I think that the locals just didn't move out of the area, at all whereas I lived in the same borough but in different areas of the borough.
One day I must have been feeling quite bored (unusual) and as a fire engine went by I said - it's so quiet here, nothing ever happens!...........big mistake! the phones all suddenly started ringing with customers reporting that a house had blew up on our patch.
It turned out that the house had been purchased from the council and was the end one in a row of terraced houses. The owners were a gentleman in his 60's and his wife in her 40's. Mr K had always lived in the area and even though he was in his 60's both him and his brother were and had always been known as the bully boys of the area. He was always obnoxious when he came in the office and as his wife was so nice we used to wonder what on earth she'd ever seen in him.
Well, it turned out that his pretty young wife had found herself an even younger than her, new lover and she had the day before told him that she wanted a divorce and also wanted the house sold as she wanted her half of the capital and had then promptly packed her bags and had left him.
Next day, the gas board were due to change the gas meter, which was done during the morning, the gas fitter left and then just after lunch Mr K went to deliver some Christmas cards, and whilst he was out the house went up with a bang! He blamed the gas board but we always thought that it was a case of him tinkering with the gas meter after the gas board man had left (a case of I'll destroy the house before you'll get your hands on the money from it?)
The explosion had completely taken out the side end of their house and as such our property next door was then starting to lean and split, in two, as there was no supporting gable end wall. We all knew the lady that lived there so it was all hands to the pump, we had within an hour arranged storage for their possessions and whilst our repair teams were trying to shore up the house and stop it from splitting in two - we all worked till 7 o'clock on the night packing up their home into boxes for their possessions to go into storage, the removal firm were brilliant and worked with us and we emptied that property that night - when I think back, none of us wore hard hats or PPE - we just knew that we'd got to get their possessions and home out of that building and we did it. Our tenant spent Christmas with her daughter and then we had to put her into a temporary property after Christmas until all the repairs were undertaken and it was safe for her to move back in. Mr K wanted the house re-built, his wife didn't, she just wanted the money for the house and to sell the land - it took 4 years for it all to be settled and the house was re built and put up for sale as soon as it was finished. He never moved back in there. So it looked like she got what she wanted in the end.
I was warned next day to never use the q (quiet) word again!
We had another family who lived in the area, they had a lad of about 14 years of age and two daughters aged 17 and 18. If there was any graffiti or trouble in the area you could guarantee that the son would be involved. But the two daughters both got pregnant by the same young gentleman (share and share alike?!) They had got their name down on the housing waiting list for a flat above some shops in our area, where we were reliably informed the young gentleman wanted to set them up in the oldest 'business' around.......do you get my drift? It was a nice area, we didn't have any problems, with any nuisance from the shops and they were nice flats with good tenants, so for a while every time someone came into the office and wanted to complete an application form to go on the waiting list, we would point out this area, what nice roomy flats they were, what brilliant customers we had living in these flats etc., and then we sat back and hoped that that person would put that area down as one of their choices.
We were lucky - there was always a number of applicants on the waiting list above them when a flat came empty. They eventually opted for another flat in another area, where it soon got back to us, that they'd caused havoc with the neighbours with the gentleman visitors at all hours and we gave such a sigh of relief that we always had such a healthy waiting list for our area.
Whilst I worked in that office, we had a shooting, so the police decided to empty all the bins in 2 streets to see if the gun had been thrown in a bin - guess who had to get a street cleaning team out to clean up after the police had emptied all the bins. (Couldn't expect the police to clean up after themselves could we?!) We also had a gentleman who was beaten up in his own home and left for dead, and then the property was set on fire, as a cover up, however the gentleman was found, in the nick of time and did live but was seriously disabled afterwards - it turned out it was one of our tenants - she'd been his girlfriend and had borrowed money from him then the relationship finished, so he asked for his money back - she didn't want to pay it back, so one night made out that she wanted to get back with him and when they went back to his house and went to bed - she left the rear door open for her new boyfriend to get in and then they battered him and set fire to the house. They didn't count on him living and so they were arrested and eventually sent to prison - she'd got young children too.
At the council you could apply to move upwards on secondment opportunities and not long after I applied and was successful and never returned to this area again. That office was just a wooden shed in the middle of a patch of green but we had some good times there - it's gone now along with the local knowledge we had of the community and the properties.......but that's progress for you.
I moved into arrears and evictions afterwards for 9 years - will tell you about those days another time.