Monday, 14 September 2009

Too Long

When I started this blog I had every intention of carrying on with it. But like a lot of things in life, it got forgotten. But here I am once more. Updating when I can.
Its been a busy few months for me. Getting married, trying desperately to find a new job, trying to get my new house sorted.

But I am determined to publish as much of my writing on here as I can. I also would like to add news about things I am interested in. I will also try and post pictures and all that.

So in the mean time, here is an account of the day I was lucky enough to see my friends baby boy born

7th Jan 2009.

I had been at work for 2 odd hours and had just finished my second cup of coffee and biscuits when the text came. Now I had been on alert for hours, expecting a call in the middle of the night. But all was silent so I assumed the hospital had sent her home again (seems to be their way of working!) So the text was a bit of a shock. It was 10.15 and the text told me she was 9cm and needed me asap. Great I was 20 miles away. Would I get there in time? I prayed I would. I made an excuse I had a family emergency and rushed out. I hot tailed it down the A14 as fast as my clunker car could shake me, praying that Amanda would hold on. I had images of her giving birth without anyone beside her.
But I made good time and got from Felixstowe to Ipswich hospital in about 20 minutes. I rushed through the halls and into the ward. I was directed to the room and walked in. She was laying on the bed, her back to me. She looked pale but that was to be expected with what she was going through. Mark had popped out for a coffee. And I was in need of one! Amanda was battling through on gas and air, having been too late for an epdurial. How typical is that? The poor mother to be was pushed from pillar to post while she was struggling through contractions. Sent home more times then I can count, and now she was too late for one. Trust Amanda to be awkward! But she battled on through the pain. They were coming quick and were lasting longer and longer, getting stronger and stronger. I felt helpless. Wanting to help her get rid of the pain. I didn’t really know what to do, do I help her breath, do I hold her hands. Do I do what they show in the movies and tell her to “pant”? But each time they came I tried to reassure her that they would be over in a while and that everything was okay. Mark arrived back and decided to comment on how his wife sounded like Darth Vader on the gas and air. Was true but Amanda was in to much pain to find it that funny. But that kept her mind off the pain as we chatted between contractions.
Now she had gone through one bottle of gas and air and was now needing another. The lovely midwifes popped another one and Amanda tried to break it before she reaped its benefits. Mark popped out once again to make calls to the grandparents to let them know Mr Stubborn was on his way. A young female doc called Gemma came in wanting to see a normal birth. It was strange to see the doc and the 2 midwives stood around at the bottom of the bed. Chatting about college work and stuff while Amanda was minutes away from having a baby. They actually looked like they were waiting for a bus!!! But they were used to this waiting game. As the contractions got stronger and even longer, the midwives checked and told her it was time and she could start pushing.
I wasn’t too sure how I was going to react to what was going on. The icky stuff, the pushing, the squeezing of the hands. But I was amazed at how I handled it as I watched the baby crowning each time Amanda pushed. Each time I saw a few more inches. I kept stroking Amanda’s head or arms and telling her that she could do it this time. One more and that would be it. You can do this. I assumed she was listening to me. She gritted through the pain and listened to me. Now I felt like I was helping. I held her hands and stroked her hair.
So as Amanda gripped harder on my hands, she mustered all her might and after a while, 12.25pm to be precise, Aiden finally joined us. The look of joy and relief on Amanda’s face as he was placed on her belly was a wonderful thing. Seeing him being born was fantastic and to see Amanda’s face when she realised she finally had her son was magical. The emotions that came over her were mixed. The feeling that she finally done it after half an hour of screaming that she couldn’t. Aiden lay scrunched up on his mothers chest crying his tiny lungs out. His tiny fingers curled up, his tiny eyes tight shut. He wasn’t as “covered in stuff” as I had imagined. He was quite clean. I stroked his tiny head and marvelled at what was going on. After seeing Amanda in so much pain, I wondered if I could ever go through that. But seeing the joy on Amanda’s face and stroking the hair of this 10 minute old baby. I felt the excitement and happiness a new father should be feeling. I desperately wanted to get Mark in so he could see his son. I felt strange having seen his son before he did. But there was still too much going on in the room. The nurses asked who was going to cut the cord and I asked Amanda if Mark would be able to. She said no so the nurses did the honour. They had been great and what better way then to ring in the birth!
As soon as everything was okay, Mark was called in and I stepped aside to let the new parents marvel at their baby. The next half hour was a blur. Aiden was cuddled by mum, dad and auntie Catrina. Checked by the midwives and cuddled more. We had to kick Mark out again as the midwives finished up with Amanda. He returned on cue and escorted his wife to have a much needed and deserved bath leaving Auntie Catrina to baby sit (i am so charging for that!!!!!) Amanda left saying I deserved to spend some time with him, and this will be etched in my mind forever. I stood and looked at him. Took pics and picked him up when he cried. It was still had to believe he was here. An hour ago he wasn’t. Soon enough we were transporting the new mother down to her ward. I left 4 hours after I got there, shocked at what had happened. But happy I had been there.
I had been worried about so many things. How I would cope with it all? If I was going to be supportive or just a pain in the backside? But mostly about if Amanda would be okay with all the pain. She had a bad pelvis that was painful enough. But to have a baby with that pain. I was terrified she would be in too much pain. But I was so proud and amazed at how she handled it. Yeah she was calling out in pain with the usual “I can’t do this” calls. But for someone with a bad pelvis. She done extraordinary. She kept apologising to the midwives for how she was but they kept reassuring her she was doing well. And she was. Not just well but amazing. It was an “easy” birth and Amanda got through it with no strong pain relief. What a star. It was a relaxed and calm birth. Aiden will be proud to know his mother gave birth with dignity and grace.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

New Beginnings

I never thought I would do this and I would probably forget to update on a regular basis but never mind.
I started this blog as a way for sharing some writing I had done, rather then post a very long message on sites like Facebook or Myspace, I decided to share it here. So I will post writings, stories, thoughts, poems, ramblins and all that.

My first post here is the reason I started this. This is my memories of my final days at Woolworths and I wanted to share it with all.

Diary of a Woolies Worker

21st December 2008

The first Sunday shift I have done in a fair while. Normally there are queues a mile long, people buying the last minute things, screaming at us for out of stock games. But it seemed like a normal day, but with a few more customers and a half-empty store. The store is now only half the size it was. The back section blocked off. Behind the barricades are empty echoy shelves. Itching for stock but being disappointed. It is strange to see. The last time I saw an empty store was the day I started in 1996 when Ipswich was closing for a refurb. I remember putting videos into the light blue totes that wouldn’t close. But this was different, strange.
Chloe and me were in at 9 and were busying working on the entertainment counter. We had a nice chat about money and savings and that. We were busy tagging and pricing the thousands of CDs EUK decided to send us. Friday and Saturday we received 24 boxes of EUK. Mostly CDs by artists I had never heard of. Benjamin someone, Flobots??? Like I am going to sell that lot. Music DVDs that were ridiculous priced and singles!! Yes Singles. Someone was having a major clear out. Geez thanks. I could never sell the singles when we had a chart, how to they expect us to sell them now I have no idea. Oh well, put them out live someone will nick them……problem solved!!
Well the day was filled with those damn CDs, tagging and stupid customers. I spent the day finishing the tagging of the stock. No more swops for DVD and CD. What a relief! No more “well you have loads of cases” or “Sorry its out of stock” Found more mismatches then I have stock (okay exaggeration but you get the point) But now the shelves behind the desk are bear and the reality of the situation is hitting me. I am still protective over the department. I just never thought I would be doing this.
Oh and Chloe and Simon playing countdown with the Alpha markers used behind the till. Got a pic of it. Chloe+ Sunday=hyper!!!!
This activity was interrupted by customers who can’t count. How much is 20% off this? Count it yourselves dumbass! And a customer who gave Matt a hard time over a kiddie kitchen, using the age old trick of sending someone else in to try and get a refund even after being told NO!!! Customers have no clue! Do they think we are stupid? Top this off with kids fighting, Lynne yelling at kids on skates, Gloria annoying Thelma and Brenda annoying everyone in Felixstowe it seemed a normal Sunday!
Once I had battled my way through the hundreds of CDs and dodged the kamikaze kids that decided to play tag in my department, it was time to lock up. We decided to make sure we kept the customers by locking one in!!! Then came one thing I hated to do. I stripped the chart CD wall of swops, prices and numbers and Lynne and Chloe filled it with the Chart CDs. It felt weird to be doing things against the grain of knowledge. But what the hey. This is no ordinary Sunday.

Monday 22nd December
Day off…….to quote Homer Simpson……….Woo-hoo!! Time for job hunting……..doh!!!!

Tuesday 23rd December
Now I had a feeling that on my day off my manager would do the one thing I wanted to do. Sort my entertainment office. So I wasn’t surprised when I got in and it had been done. I was annoyed and didn’t want to see the empty room but I bit the bullet and walked in. The room was shell of what it once was. Echo’s sounded around it. It was like being in an episode of Most Haunted. I gave jobs to my staff who chose to mess around with tinsel rather then listen. So I gave up and joined my AM in sorting a few bits. I went to the entertainment room and sorted through my stuff. Over my few years there I have brought an awful amount of stuff to use, so I claimed it all back, the stackable desk files, the pencil case. I claimed ownership of a small black box I used to use for my bits and pieces, a calculator. Seemed strange but it needed to be done.
In the day before xmas eve, rather then getting stock on the shelves and preparing sale dvds and cd’s. Here I was cleaning the tables in the staff room.
My AM and friend decided to have fun with the first aid box and I showed my training by teaching them how to put a sling on. Isn’t there work to be done people? Actually no. No stock, no jobs, no shop!!
The rest of the day was spent sorting through the kitchen cupboards and cleaning the never ending amount of wine (!) glasses that didn’t match. There was fruit bowls, salt and pepper shakers still in boxes, vinegar bottles, vases and hundreds of plates that didn’t match either.
But I had fun. Believe it or not. On a day I should be rushing around and preparing sale, I was cleaning!! Progression or depression!

Wednesday 24th December…………..Xmas Eve
Now I have been with the company for 12 years and Xmas eves were never like this. They were great days. The cafĂ© in my last store would put a few sandwiches and nibbles in the canteen, staff would be decked in tinsel and we still had xmas music playing on the stereo. We would spend the day trying to get a head start on getting the sale stuff out, starting the chart changes and finding what bargain videos and dvds we could buy. But this one was different. The store had been blocked off to over half the size. Our manager and some staff decided to make more racket then an elephant line dancing as they dismantled the gondolas that were once used for the home and clothing sections. Have they never heard of taking the slats off gently and placing them on the floor…!! I was stood over the coffin (white thing we used for the newspapers and sometimes for play after the shop shut!) Here I was bundling up empty dvd cases. Having rescued them from the scrap heap outside. They were selling like hotcakes. My staff busied themselves with moving stock and cleaning old swop cases. I had spent weeks trying to find the correct swops for the correct games. Now the dvds were live, no doubt the cds and games would be next.
At the time of the day when we should be getting the charts prepared, we were moving price crash so more gondolas could be destroyed. And of course the customers refused the acknowledge the cut of areas of the shop and decided to do their best Krypton Factor impression as they attempted to squeeze past the cage being used as a cut off. But the day was done and it was time to celebrate xmas

Saturday 27th December
Well the day I had dreaded was here. My manager decided he wanted to cut off the Ents counter totally. The shop was now only half the size and the ents tills were no longer needed. So I spent my time with my staff clearing the area. Sharon put the games out live. The one thing I still hated. I know we don’t have to worry about shrinkage and bookstock anymore but when you have lived and breathed it for 12 years its engraved in your mind. Plus the people in my town would steal an empty box if they had the chance. So we started putting the stock out live. I then carried on clearing out the mismatches, faulty etc. Then spent hours dismantling the plastic shelves. Our shelves were different. Small capsule type things that slid up and down on poles. So you had to take the first one off, then slide the next up and then the next. Took ages. I finally decided to rip them off with a hammer and screwdriver. I used to have a lady work on my till that was always fascinated by what stock had fallen down behind these shelves. So as I took them away, I found the stock. A copy of Bottom, A megadrive game, 2 Playstation one memory cards still in their boxes. A piece of POS for Garth Brooks from 1994. Loads more. I commandeered the Guide and my office chair and took them home, threw away The Knowledge, Store Look, Plannograms and all the things I had prided myself on maintaining. Found loads of pairs of scissors that had gone missing over the years. Come 5pm we were still a mess and my manager decided to comment on the fact it wasn’t done. I worked my rear end off all day. Had cuts on my hands and an aching back. That was 20 years of stuff to clear through. I can’t just snap my fingers and it disappears. So I left instructions with my staff to finish it and went home a bit peed off with my manager.

Monday 29th December
Bit of a miss meshed day. No entertainment counter. No entertainment stock. So spent the day moving stock around, destroying gondolas and trying to stop the hundreds of customers trying to get through the blocked off sections. And if one more customer said “its sad” I was going to smack them. Bundled up even more empty swop cases. Fun????After a visit from the area manager (hey Karl!) My manager was ripping the shelves off the walls in the ents room and console room. Leaving me to fend off the annoying customers downstairs. Can we just close already!!!

Tuesday 30th

Wednesday 31st New Years Eve.
Even less stock and now only a quarter of the shop. Pic and Mix was gone. More gondolas were being sold. But I was stuck behind the ents desk attempting to get the Drawer units out. We spent over 2 years trying to get them as the old wooden ones would break as soon as you sneezed near them. The new metal ones were wonderful. Now they needed to come out from under the units. The first one was a challenge. Unscrewed the sides and top and undone the feet. But damn thing wouldn’t move. After a lot of persuasion. It slid out. Now the next proved to be a bigger challenge. One of the feet was stuck and each time I moved it, it made a hole in the floor. So after a few sprays of the wd40, a few kicks and an hour later. It came free and left a huge hole in the floor. Whoops!! Didn’t help that I was playing Handy Andy on the pic and mix fixtures. 6 people tried to get one screw undone. I came over, WD40, a screwdriver, hammer and dah ta!!! It came free. Call me Handy Catrina!! Back to the damn drawers and the constant telling off of the customers who STILL squeezed past the fixtures and venturing into the empty area we were using as a football field!!! Third drawer unit came out and I was wiped out. Off to celebrate the new year!

Thursday 1st. New Years Day
The word pointless was the word of the day. Stock levels were down to 5 bays. All the crap no one wanted. Pirates suntan lotion, topic bars and D batteries. There was no one in town and we took £5 in the first hour. The staff had nothing to do so we mopping the floors again. I pulled out my remaining 2 drawer units. Took no time at all. Made the ladies drinks, sold more fixtures and played more football in the empty shop. Thelma and Anna had fun playing shops behind 2 desks, trying to sell 2 tins of paint and 3 dummy cctv cameras. No takers. Chole was so bored on the till, we went and brought her a magazine so she could have something to read. Moved more stock around and destroyed more fixtures. Come 1pm we had done £50 and I was off home.

Friday 2nd.
Stock levels now down to 4 bays and not really selling. We were doing our own reductions on them but they still weren’t moving. I took the backing fixtures off the ents chart wall and unscrewed all the side struts. I also attempted to clear some of the crap in the yard, ready for the skips to arrive. Spent the last hour helping Sharon to search for a hair scrunchy. (long story…….her son threw a staff members hair band behind a wall unit and we spent some time trying to find it!!!) Found £6 in change though!!!

Saturday 3rd.
Half day for me and my AM. No point in hanging around. Nothing good to sell. The staff reduced it all again and I was banished to the yard. I didn’t mind. Some people are happy to laze around on the job. Get paid to scratch and all that. But not me. I was willing to do anything. If they asked me to clean I would, if they asked me to dress up as a clown, I would. So going into the yard was cool with me. It was a mess. Ash all over the place, fixtures, metal, wood, paper. You name it, it was there. I started clearing up what I could. Throwing loads into the biffa bins. Separating the metal from the crap so it was easier to sort. Matt joined me later and between us we managed to clear it.
When we had finished, I popped inside and watched as Thelma and Chloe tried to basket up the remaining stock. £5 a basket. But the silly customers went straight for rummaging through and doing what they do day in and day out. Ignore the signs. So the girls bagged them up but soon after we upbagged them and put them out. All the stock was banished to the tables and Matt destroyed the remaining gondola. Just in time for me to go home.
Apparently. Come 2pm we had closed the doors for good. Some people might have cried, or felt sad. But I didn’t. Guess I was still in denial. I have done my crying. Done, dusted. Time to do what we need to do and move on.

Monday 5th
So we turned up for work at 8am. The skip was already outside and we all got stuck in. Emptying the crap into it. Cardboard, wood, POS, crates, till roles, gift cards. Over 70 years of Felixstowe Woolworths resigned to a metal skip. The things we used day in and day out were now destined for the scrap yard. 3 weeks ago we were using them. Now here they were. Mark seemed determined to get one of us to take something home so we can flog it on ebay!!! No takers.
But after an hour, we had filled the skip and still had stuff to get rid of. Matt took a trip to the dump with a car full of shelves before he was banished! Mark had asked Matt to burn what he could in order to clear what was left over. Cue Catrina running miles away from the flames and smoke. Okay not the thing to do when you are around a pyrophobic! So I got restless and anxious and all I wanted to do was go home and get as far away from the flames as I could.
We were still selling fixtures!!! After we had cleared what we could from where we could, we ended up waiting around for Charlie Mannings to arrive and pick up his safe. He was determined to offer some of us jobs and determined to buy the remaining fixtures, despite not needing them. Maybe he could buy the empty shop and offer us all jobs. Be a nice spot for another amusement arcade!
Come 1pm, I was desperate to go home. Mark wanted Matt to burn more stuff and that was it for me. I wanted out. Soon enough we were heading home.

Tuesday 6th
Now we all arrived at 8am in order to put the metal in a skip. But come 9.30 it hadn’t arrived. We had moved about what metal we could, played around and took photos. Played football and all that. Be there is only so much people can do. So me and Amanda decided to go and get some bacon rolls. We headed out and waited ages for the rolls to be cooked. Another break, cup of coffee and a roll. What else was there to do?
Once we had finished our rolls we headed back to the empty shop floor. Me and Amanda sorted out some hours for people to come in. And we played hunt the keys! Why so many keys!!! It was like playing Crystal Maze. Get the right key and get a bonus. Its amazing how many keys you remember using but not actually recall what door they opened. After a while I gave up. I felt like a jailer.
Still no skip. We moved metal around and got it ready but that was it. Then we milled about downstairs. We soon got word that it wasn’t going to arrive today so we headed home.

Wednesday 7th
Another normal skip had been hired for the day and we started to fill it up. This time with metal. Now this is where it got dangerous and just slightly annoying for some. The metal was being thrown into the skip willy nilly. Not safe and not the best way to do it. This resulted in the skip filling up fast and still more stuff to clear!!! The lockers were gone, chairs were in the dump, cleaning supplies were collected, Henry was gone (poor Chloe) There was nothing in the shop anymore. Except coffee!!
We all gathered for a 10am photo call and enjoyed our last moments as a team as we stood outside the shop, having photos taken and relaxing. But work turned into coffee and then into work again. I was called away with a family issue and left the others to carry on. That turned out to be the last of my working days. We were going back the next day but just to meet up before going on to a pub.

So the days of Woolworths have ended. No more ISO, no more pick and mix, no more damaged EUK boxes, no more swops, no more charts. A legacy of the high street was now resigned to scrap yards across the country. Landfills would be filled with unused giftcards, unused POS, the entire contents of 807 stores. Buildings left empty, shells and the hardworking and dedicated staff, now left broken by the beginning of a life without their work friends and the daily routines they were used to. No more would we have to gently bang the piccolink to get it to work, or check the up to date price changes. No more would we bundle up the newspapers for the next day, or tick off the EUK delivery to find it short yet again. The life we had lived in our stores was now gone.But we will all find strength in ourselves to get on with our lives. Get new jobs, get married. Life throws curveballs your way, you just have to learn to move