About Me

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I'm 57 years old, working full time, wife, mother and grand mother, wishing that I wasn't working full time! I love and enjoy our children and grandchildren, our dogs and cat, our garden and allotment. I love crafts - knitting, sewing, crocheting, patchwork and restoring old furniture. I love to go to country auctions and love thinking that I've got my self a bargain!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Like a herd of elephants!

Hello All,

Gosh it's cold here today - the suns out but it is bitterly cold. But no snow yet thank goodness. I've put a stew in the slow oven today - it's 'stew' type of weather isn't it?.

The kitchen is 3/4's of the way done now - I shall be so glad to get back straight and all back to normal and hopefully then I can start to think about going out in the garden and getting work done out there once more.

Work around the house and home is never ending isn't it?

Now the next instalment of my working life - I moved on to Customer Service but only for a short while - probably only 18 months. The council that I worked for by this time were flat broke and had no money for repairs to our properties. it was quite demoralising having to keep telling customers that they couldn't have their repairs undertaken or that we weren't letting properties because we couldn't afford to do the repairs on them to bring them up to a decent state for someone to move into.

It was the time that this country seriously started taking asylum seekers in the 1990's  and this council saw the asylum seekers as another form of income from the government so they turned over as much high rise flatted accommodation as they could for asylum seekers only.

Personally I would say that the first asylum seekers were genuinely unable to return to their own country but as we took more and more of them - it was obvious that they saw this country as a easy touch.

When they came to us, we provided them with a flat which was carpeted throughout, with curtains and then they had their own bedroom with bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers along with all bedding provided - in the lounge we provided a 3 piece suite and coffee table and in the kitchen there was a cooker, fridge and washer along with all the cooking implements that they needed. Then they got money on top of all this for food and energy  - they were unable to work as until they had been given 'leave to stay' by the Home Office, as they didn't have an N.I. number.

Once they were accepted as genuinely seeking asylum here by the home office then we stopped all the special payments and they had to claim job seekers allowance and we threw them out of the properties and made them homeless! The properties were specifically for asylum seekers - once accepted, they were out of the properties and had to wait for a normal property the same as everyone else did. Mind it could take the government up to 5 years to decide if they were genuine or not, so some were sitting pretty all that time.

One day I was on front desk and an asylum seeker came in - he said 'I vant anuk' I must have looked at him a little puzzled because he said 'anuk, anuk' I thought oh we've got one here!. So I said to him 'What do you want anuk for?' He walked over to the wall and said 'I vant anuk for tea towel' and proceeded to show me how he was going to hook his tea towel onto a hook.

I thought you cheeky blighter, haven't we given you enough and now you want a hook fitting for your tea towel!

So I said to him - you know that big shop down the road that's called Wilkinsons and he nodded yes, I continued 'Well, if you go down there, you'll be able to find a stick-on hook that you can buy and put up yourself' ( I put a lot of emphasise on the word 'you') You'd have thought that I'd hit him with a big stick, for the look on his face and he said in a high pitched voice  'Me, Me buy' and I said Yes the council hasn't got the money to run round and stick a hook up for you! I got an 'Oh' in response and off he trot.

If I had a pound for every time that I had a customer come in for a new toilet seat to be fitted by the council then I would have been able to retire even earlier. They would come in and say I need a new toilet seat fitted and I would say that's your responsibility and you'd get 'But it's a council house and I would say it's quite clearly stated in your tenancy agreement that toilet seats are the responsibility of the tenant. You'd get again 'But it's a council house! and I'd think yes and it's your backside that's going to sit on it! then you'd get 'Don't the council fit them' and I would smile sweetly and say' No we don't - Wilkinsons is down the road though and they sell them' ( I must have directed so many to Wilkinsons that I should have had a share in the profits!)

One day Ian and I were standing in reception as a woman walked in and from a few feet away shouted 'Here, an you can ave that!' as a dead rat came flying through the air, it landed on the front desk and skidded to a thud against the computer keyboard. It turned out that she'd got rats which of course was the councils fault! Ian removed the offending animal and I got my disinfectant spray out and cleaned everything down.

The best of it was that we were working in little wooden huts so that we were local to the area, the huts had been put up 20 years earlier and we'd been told then that they were for a couple of years whilst the council found other local offices - it never happened and 20 years on we were still offering a council service from these huts. The huts were dire as a working environment - you froze in the winter and roasted in the summer. We already had rats under the office that the disinfestation team couldn't clear, no matter how much poison they put down. If I was first in on a morning I would turn the alarm off and then jump my way up and down the office like a kangaroo to scare off any rats that may have got in over night. I've always been a 'big' girl so it used to sound like a heard of elephants was passing through. Ian caught me one morning and said 'What the bloody hell are you doing' and I said 'scarring any rats off' Ian replied 'I should think you've done that and deafened them in the process!'

I used to complain that I had an upset stomach each Monday evening and that it must have been something in the office that was upsetting me  - I went on leave one week and when I came back the office was all closed up - I found out that they'd finally listened to my moaning and had the water tested and the water pipes were contaminated and they'd had to shut the office until the works were completed as it was detrimental to health. We all had to go and work from another office.

I used to keep a can of air freshener and a bottle of disinfectant spray in my desk as they both came in handy - some people could whiff a little. My Nan used to say that cleanliness was next to godliness - some people have never heard of that saying and must have problems realising what you actually have soap for.

We had a middle aged gentleman who was disabled and his carers would come in each morning, get him out of bed and into his wheelchair and then come back at 7 o'clock and put him back into bed. He had a young man who was supposed to be his 'carer' but was only around when he picked his benefits up. Now the problem this gentleman had was that if he needed the toilet during the day he had problems with getting his trousers up and down and keeping himself clean after he'd 'been'. He has come in to the office so many times with his hands and trousers covered in his own excrement - that the bottle of disinfectant spray and air freshener would have to come out after most of his visits. We spoke to Social Services but they didn't care less about him as far as they were concerned he was getting his 20 minutes of care in the morning and again the same in the evening and that was all he was entitled too.

One summer this gentleman came to the conclusion that he'd had enough of his smelly trousers and took to going to sit out with just a hand towel covering his 'bits'. We told him that he couldn't sit in the communal garden with just a hand towel on his 'bits' because he was upsetting the old ladies who lived in that block of flats and didn't want to see goodness what if the wind blew his towel up. He just laughed at us.

Didn't laugh when he was arrested for exposing himself in the middle of Asda when the towel slipped  again though! Mind, Social Services had to get involved then and they found him sheltered accommodation where there was someone around to check that he was ok and not going out with just a towel to cover his 'bits'.

The one thing that amazed me on Customer Service was the amount of young women who deliberately set out to be single parents - I was a single parent but not by choice and not until my children was older. But these young girls of 16 or 17 would come in to register for a council property, they'd be pregnant but there never was a young man with them. They'd register as a single applicant. I used to think well there all not the virgin Mary so where are the chaps that have done the deed - honestly they were nowhere to be seen and then 12 months after the first child was born they'd be back pregnant again and when the second was born you could guarantee that that child would have a different surname to the first and they were all on income support. Filling in a housing application form for someone could get difficult because you could never assume that all the children had the same surname!

I know I'm old fashioned but I believe its important that a child has 2 parents to bring them up and care for them (preferably with the same surname) sorry but that was the way I was brought up and the morals that I brought my children up with and which they've consequently followed. Believe me, there is a section of society out there that hasn't got a clue what a Daddy does.

After this period I moved onto dealing with anti-social behaviour - tell you about that another time

Keep safe and warm


Monday, 2 February 2015

Not such good days

Still carrying on about my working life ( I'm sure you must be thinking 'will she ever give up!' - I still have Customer service and anti social behaviour  to tell you about yet)

The following story happened before I left arrears, but has nothing to do with arrears. It's quite sad, so if you've had a bereavement recently then please don't read any further - I wouldn't want to upset anyone.

At the beginning of December, 1999 - I took a phone call from a locksmith who had been changing the communal locks at a block of low rise flats but couldn't get hold of one elderly gentleman to give him his new key and he was a little concerned -  so I went a walk down to the flats and had the key off the locksmith and went and hammered on the gentleman's door. I peered through the letterbox and there was a funny smell coming from the flat but no sign of life in there, so I went and knocked on the neighbours doors to see if they'd seen the gentleman recently. The gentleman who lived directly underneath said that he hadn't seen him but he'd heard him flushing the loo, and walking about the flat each evening, so I thought that the elderly gentleman must be ok and  went and put a note through the door asking him to contact the office to let us know that he was ok and to collect his new key.

The next day I still hadn't heard from him, so I went back down to the flats and still there was no answer and my note hadn't been picked up off the floor where I'd posted it through, the smell was still there so I now started to get a bit uneasy. I went back to the office and took the decision to break in and check that everything was ok. I had to wait for a police officer to come out but they eventually turned up.

Whilst the locksmith was trying to gain entry a blonde lady (I use the term 'lady' loosely here) came out, cigarette in mouth, (Jeremy Kyle watcher - I'm sure you get the picture!) and said 'oh I hope he's ok' and then kept trying to push in front of the police and get right behind the locksmith. Twice one of the coppers moved her out of the way - suddenly the door opened and she made a move again, this time the copper was having none of it and he bodily picked her up and plonked her down away from the door and then grabbed me by the shoulders and I was manhandled into the doorway and sternly told to stand there whilst they went in and to not let any one in.

After a minute or so the coppers came back out and said there was nothing to see and that the blonde lady should go back into her own flat - she did so with a disappointed look on her face. I was taken into the flat and quietly told that the old gentleman had passed away some time ago (I was told afterwards that he'd been dead 2 weeks hence the smell) and was dead in the  bedroom. Did I want to go in and see him - the answer was a resounding No, I waited in the lounge whilst they made the relevant calls and arranged for a doctor to come out and pronounce him dead and for an undertaker to call out.

They asked me to search the lounge for anything that would give them the next of kin, but I couldn't find anything - they searched the bedroom - they didn't find anything for the next of kin, but did find over £3.000 in cash - they brought it through to the lounge and I had to count it and sign the one coppers pocket book to say that was the amount found - they said that it would go into the police safe. I've always wondered if the blonde lady knew that there was money in the flat and had been why she was so  desperate to get in there that day.

They then said that they would stay with the body and that they would shut the door to the flat after the body had been removed. I left with the keys to the flat and I've often wondered whether they found any more money that didn't go in the police safe that day. (I am cynical aren't I)

The day that I went out there I was wearing a new wax jacket - I never wore it again and it went in the bin - I swear that the smell from that flat was on that coat - every time that I went near the coat I could smell death.

A couple of weeks later, just before Christmas, I had a call from the coroners office to say that they couldn't keep the body any longer, no next of kin had been located and that the Council were going to give him a paupers funeral at the local crematorium  the next morning - would I ask if any of the neighbours would like to attend otherwise there would be no one in attendance. I went and asked the neighbours but no one was prepared to go and even the blonde lady didn't want to attend (suppose because she didn't get her hands on his money).

I went back to then office and it was decided that we couldn't let him go with no one there so I would attend along with a Housing Benefit Officer. N. had always worked out the gentleman's housing benefit.

The next day I picked N up and on our way to the crem - I stopped and picked up a bunch of white lilies. We followed the car into the crem and it looked terrible - just the bare coffin. As we got out of the car, the undertaker came running up to me and snatched the lilies out of my hands and then ran back and put them on the coffin, the vicar was just behind him and he said 'Did you know him, what can I say about him?' I said 'No, I never met him, I was just there when we broke in to find his body' N said 'No I just worked his Housing Benefit out for him' The vicar conducted a nice service and me and N. sat there and said a few prayers for someone neither of us had never met, but at least we hadn't let him go without someone there.

After the millennium celebrations, the coroners office contacted me again, would I go into the flat and assist with a search to try and find something that would identify the next of kin. I went but refused to go into the bedroom where he'd died. Strangely the coroners assistant found an old address book in the bedroom that the police officers had searched. Later in the day I heard that contact had been made with a nephew who lived just 2 miles away - when he came into the office he said that he thought it was strange that he hadn't received a Christmas card from the old gent - I thought yes and it didn't cross your mind to take a card to him and check that he was ok did it.

I told the nephew about the money - it took him 2 attempts to get the police to admit that they'd taken money from the property - on the first attempt they absolutely denied taking any money from the flat and on the second attempt after he told them that I'd signed the pocket book - they then 'found' it in the police bank account (stashed away for the next Christmas party?!).

I was lucky - my old gentleman had only been gone 2 weeks in the cold weather - Ian went out to a break-in where the chap had been gone at least 6 weeks in the middle of a hot summer - there was a swarm of flies in the flat and the flies had done what flies and maggots do - Ian said it wasn't pleasant.

I was once called to a murder scene 20 minutes after the body had been found - the police wanted to see our CCTV footage and who'd been in and out of the flats - it turned out that the gentleman was gay and had been out the night before and had picked up a tramp and had took him back to the flat - when he made advances to the tramp - the tramp retaliated by cutting the young man open from his chin to his groin and then from one side of his waist to the other so in a large cross - then to add insult to injury he threw a full tin of gloss paint over the body. I was trying to show the police the CCTV tapes whilst some of the coppers were throwing up outside the block of flats on the cameras - it was that bad. It took them nearly 24 hours to move the body as it was a murder scene.

I think most experienced housing officers  will have a story to tell like mine above - it's a sad fact that people live on their own and die on their own - I suppose with the demise of 'good neighbours' it is something that won't change.

I'll move onto the wonderful world of Customer Service and 'anuks' and dead rats next

Speak again soon


Never again.......

Hello All,

Well, that's the bathroom gutted and put back together again and all I can say is never again! The floor was taken up and re-laid and the dust from it all has been awful. Now we've moved onto the kitchen and the smell of fresh paint is everywhere and nothing is in the right place - Well I suppose we'll get there in the end.

Returning to my last days as an Housing Team Leader on arrears. I once had a young man who never paid a penny in rent he ignored all the warning letters - didn't bother turning up to court and then defaulted on his court order, so I requested an eviction through the courts and the date was set - still he failed to make contact or come in and see us.

On the day of the eviction at about 10 o'clock he finally came into the office - he was being evicted at 12 noon. I took him into a private room - he was het up and aggressive and kept yelling at me that he wasn't going to be evicted, that we couldn't evict him - I tried to explain that it was too late in the day and that the eviction would now go ahead regardless. I had him wagging his finger in my face and yelling into my face that he wasn't going to be evicted. Then he turned around and walked out of the interview room and headed towards the office door - I followed and started to walk down the office towards our desks - When suddenly I heard him yell 'You ain't evicting me' I turned back just as a chair that he had picked up came flying down the office - I was younger, slimmer and quicker in those days and just managed to dodge the chair in time. He then left the office, thank goodness.

I rang the police to see if they would be able to accompany me to the eviction but got the usual 'we haven't got enough resources' (normal response, if there's likely to be someone kicking off - don't want to end up arresting someone and having too much paper work to do!). So I rang the bailiffs office to let them know that we were in for a bumpy ride on this eviction and that the police weren't interested. The bailiff just said 'Ok love, don't worry about it'. I then rang the manager of the safety tec's and locksmiths who accompany us on evictions and warned him. I got another 'no problem'

I went out to the eviction about 11.50am and when I got there couldn't find anywhere to park, and ended up a few hundred yards away from the flat in question because every bailiff in the borough had turned up, plus every gas and electric safety technician along with their manager - there must have been about 8 bailiffs and about the same amount of gas and electric tecs.

The young man was frantically running up and down the stairs throwing his belongings into his car - and the bailiff said to me - 'I think there's a few too many of us for him to start again don't you' . We stood to the side of the young mans car, in a group and he finally got in it, revved it up and then shot off and aimed the damn thing as us! we scattered like skittles, to get out of the way then he headed for the road and was gone.

I did another eviction with the same bailiff at a high rise block of flats, the locksmith finally got the door open and as we walked in - 3 steps in and on each step, we'd stepped onto needles - it had obviously been a drug den and the place was covered in used sharps. we back tracked and I had to get a specialist firm into sweep the place of all the used syringes. Over the years I've had needles cleared away from all sorts of places, from the canopies of high rise blocks, backs of baths, communal entrance doorways, flatted stairwells, sheds, all places - we went through a period where the druggies where pushing the sharps into the sides of the lift buttons in the flats so as you pushed the floor number you wanted then you could end up with a needle prick injury - another favourite place was to tape a used needle to the underside of the banisters in the high rise flats so as you held onto the bannister, you'd get caught on the finger. Some druggies don't give a damn whether a young child picks up a used needle and of course if you do sustain a needle prick injury it would result in a worrying 3 months whilst tests were undertaken for Hepatitis and HIV.

I never evicted any one that was ill or disabled - I had one lady come in one day who hadn't paid a penny against her court order - I explained that as she was so far behind that eviction was inevitable. At this she keeled over! I ran out to Ian and said 'Hit the 9's - she's keeled over in there we need an ambulance' Ian said - You haven't killed her have you?' I replied I don't think I have!.

It turned out that she'd just been diagnosed with Angina, the paramedics came out, gave her a little pill and she was as right as rain after she'd had that. She wasn't bad enough to go to hospital so I bundled her in the car and took her home afterwards. But she came in every week after that and paid something - sometimes it was just a £1 - she always came into see me after she'd paid to show me that she had paid and she'd say I can only afford a pound this week and I'd say no matter it's a pound less that you owe. We got to know each other by first name terms in the end.......not bad considering I thought I'd killed her off at one point!

That's pretty much it for the 9 years on arrears - after all those years I realised that it was all changing and that it was all going to be automated - it was time to move on so I did a short stint on Customer  Services. I'll tell you about the fun and games on that section another time.

It's still bitterly cold isn't it? too cold here for snow - keep safe and warm.