Gasman No More!

It’s true, I’ve only gone and changed ma career.  Apart from the odd emergency call outs for friends and relatives, I have hung up ma tools.  After 20 years, your friendly neighbourhood gasman is no more!  I now work as a care assistant, working with the elderly.  And it’s great.

It’s 18 months in now, and I wish I had taken it up sooner.  You might not believe it, but remarkably the two jobs, gasman and carer, are very similar.  As a gasman for all those years I am no stranger to sitting and listening to the preoccupations of my elders over a cup of tea and a biscuit, after I have done some wee turn or other for them.  I’ve gone from maintaining the boilers to maintaining the people.  And there is still tea and cake involved.

Old folk are fascinating, and I have always enjoyed a good rapport with them.  In fact I have oft’ lamented the fact that the grandmothers think I’m lovely, while the granddaughters think I’m some kind of strange, lunatic, pain in the ass.   Of course, the only explanation for this must be because the granddaughters lack the maturity and the wisdom to make a reasoned and sound judgement on the matter…

When I first started this job, I was immediately impressed by my work colleagues.  I have a vivid memory from my first week of watching two of the girls helping an old chap to his bed.  I watched in awe as they gently fluttered around him, helping him undress and into his pyjamas before they carefully assisted him to spend a penny and have a quick wash before gliding him into bed.  It was a quite beautiful example of genuine human care and compassion for others.  I recall telling them afterwards that I had seen their wings, and that I had fallen in love with both of them a little.  I told myself that if I can be half as good at this job as they are, then I would be quite content.  It is quite a pleasure to work with such people.  I think I can be forgiven for not missing the old days of soot, mud, wind and rain, builders sites and bums.

Next week I have been asked to ‘mentor’ a new start.  In no way will I be able to replicate the impression that was was made on me, but I’ll give it ma best shot.  To paraphrase the protagonist from God Bless You Mr Rosewater, “goddam it you’ve gotta be nice”.    I don’t know if I am half as good, or half as nice quite yet, but I’m working on it 😉

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How I Became a Black Sheep.

I watched the film ‘Broken Arrow’ on television last night.  Despite the fact I went to see it at the cinema in 1996, I could remember nothing of it.  After watching it again I realized why – it is absolute garbage.  Still, the film did get me thinking.    It started me off on a nostalgia trip to my salad days, and in particular my life in 1996, and how it evolved over the following few years.

In 1996 I was 24 and earning VERY good money with British Gas as a service engineer.   I had a pension, and was also the regular recipient of dividend cheques from a multitude of shares that British Gas kept throwing my way.  I also had a £21,000 mortgage on a little flat on Castlegreen Street in Dumbarton.  Life seemed a complete doddle.

Broken Arrow was released in the UK during April of 1996, and it would have been there or thereabouts that I first saw it.  I remember going to see it with my then girlfriend Fiona, at the UCI multiplex in Clydebank.    I’ll admit now that it wasn’t one of my better ideas for a date.  Whether she had a thing for John Travolta I can’t recall, though I can’t imagine anyone fancying Travolta in that movie.  His girning alone would be enough to give any woman nightmares.

Life seemed so easy in those days.  The only clouds on my horizon were generally the product of my lovelife.  I had no real awareness of the wider world outside my own social circle, and had no thoughts or opinions on anything ‘political’.  My life revolved around work and beer, with increasing forays into dope, and guitar-generated rock and roll.

It was in about 1996 that I started to become a regular concert go-er.  Looking at my collection of ticket stubs, I can see how my musical tastes gradually changed.  In 1996 I was paying to see Bon Jovi, Oasis, Del Amitri, Reef, and Ocean Colour Scene.  By 1997 I was watching the Verve, Skunk Anansie, Live, Primal Scream, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, and Beck.

The late 90’s went on to become, for me, something akin to a ‘perfect storm’.   I had moved away from Dumbarton to live in Rothesay on the sunny Isle of Bute.   For the first time in my adult life the Labour Party had won election to Government.  My formerly apolitical nature had been eroded by exposure to the music of Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine.  And possibly most significant of all was the new time I found for reading.   I started reading broadsheet newspapers, particularly the Glasgow Herald, and a new work colleague was introducing me to the works of Noam Chomsky, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Waits, and Hunter Thompson.  I developed strong views on nuclear weapons, on the 1998 Gulf War, and the 1999 Kosovo bombing.  Almost despite myself, I was slowly turning into some kind of political black sheep.

And suddenly life seemed not so simple.   I saw in the millenium listening to Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai.

Before long I was resigning from British Gas and getting arrested in front of nuclear submarine bases.

I wish I’d never saw that damn film 😉

Can’t Find a Better Man.

My search for a new job took me to Bristol today for an interview/assessment for a position as a breakdown engineer.   I think this job and I would be perfect together, so fingers crossed.  The last time I lusted over a job like this was when I applied to become a fireman on the Isle of Bute.  It’d be nice to have a happy ending this time.  I am resisting taking an overly optimistic view, but it has to be said, my C.V. will take some beating.  😉

Being a kind of black sheep amongst tradesmen these days – I actually did an apprecticeship, actually genuinely care about doing a good job, and don’t give a flying fig about profit or bonuses – finding a suitable position has been a bit of a problem for me.  Some employers just don’t want honest and conscientious human beings as employees.   Ye widnae believe it, wi’d ye?