Nick Gilmartin's Weblog

And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Archive for October 2012

Life and stuff

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It is very rare that you get a personal post out of me.  The reason I am doing one now is just to take stock of my life, check how far I have come and double-check where the hell I am going.

Our story starts way back at the end of 2008.  Your intrepid hero here, was working as a manager within the hospitality side of a exclusive Golf and country club.  It was a great job and I enjoyed it a lot.

I had heard on the news something about a recession hitting America, which must suck.  A few companies had gone under and Wall street was starting to resemble the panic of 1929.  Now this was a little worrying, but still nothing really to do with me and mine.  The TV was full of pictures of people suddenly devoid of jobs, with huge debts and no savings or insurance to fall back on.
Like the Tsunami of 2005 I figured this was all pretty awful but still very far away and ultimately nothing to do with me.  Then the recession hit Britain with the force of an economic hurricane, destroying all in it’s path.  People in some industries were being made redundant, not in tens or twenties but in their hundreds, and even thousands.  Businesses, often high street names, were folding at a rate of one a day.  It was shocking and bewildering, especially to someone with a sense of history who had seen all this happen before.

Then one day I found a letter from the management in my pigeonhole.  I was one of three people selected to be made redundant at the end of the month, which happened to be December.

This was completely unexpected, and thoroughly frightening.  I had been doing really well at my job and had learned how to run large functions in a relatively short time.  And now my skills were no longer needed, simple as that.  They simply couldn’t afford to keep me on.

I knew the big executive cars in the car park were getting fewer and fewer.  The Golf club had just paid out millions to build a hotel extension on it’s side, and now had been caught short.

With a pay-off of barely two weeks wages I was let go the day before Christmas eve.  You have got to love the Dickensian twist on that one.

By sheer luck my better half knew of a guy at a small hotel chain who needed a night-desk receptionist for his premises. Naturally I took it while I looked out for something else.  But it was quickly clear that there was nothing else.  Nothing at all.

So I set to work every night, on my own in pitch blackness.  Naturally I hated every minute, and simply could not adjust to such an inactive role after management.  I sat and wrote my blog, as you can see through my posts of 2009.  Some of my best writing was done at 04.00, fueled by some very strong coffee.  You can probably tell.

After nine months I was promoted to day-time supervisor, which was much better.  I felt I was finally getting back to somewhere like where I was.  I had a huge restaurant and bar to look after, and a lot of responsibility.

About this time we were intending to relocate from Oxfordshire to Warwickshire, to be closer to my partner’s parents.  They had not been well the past year and it would hopefully be cheaper to live up there, and find work.

Indeed we did find a home to rent just around the corner from her parents, at a surprisingly cheap rate.  We both found jobs at a local pub and hotel.  We settled into the town with little trouble, but not into the jobs.  It is difficult to say why, but we just didn’t fit.  We came from a different culture with a different style of management.  The new place was run with a rod of iron, even though the end product was not great quality.

I began a desperate search for something better somewhere else.  But therein lay the problem.  Our new town was positioned between three cities containing well over fifty decent size hotels and clubs.  Yet jobs were rare any applying for work had somehow become a nightmare.  Literally hundreds of people were applying for every single position, no matter how small, or part time.

My current job was simply unbearable so I decided to take a gamble and do agency work for a while.  Now this would be an experience.  It was wholly manual labour, and very demanding at that.  While I had stamina, I had no remarkable physical strength.  Suddenly I found myself emptying trucks and lifting packages of every size and shape at all hours of night and day.  It was very hard work, but I had nothing else so I could not complain.

As so often happens with agency work (as I found out) I got a phone call to say I was no longer required there.  No reason given, beyond that they were a bit quiet there at the minute.  So I applied to another agency.  From now on I would be packing internet orders for a well known British high street shopping chain.  I packed everything from dresses to toys to christmas gifts.  Then suddenly after christmas it tailed off completely, for over six weeks.  Now this really left me out on a limb.  I had no money, no work and no prospects of getting a job.  I applied and applied, stating my numerous qualifications and years of experience, but somehow nobody seemed interested.  I was so scared and bewildered.  It just didn’t make sense, I had done nothing wrong, but I was an outcast.
As a person, I changed.  I must have been unbearable to live with.  I became prone to outbursts of temper, deep, dark moods, and attacks of panic every time I checked my bank balance.  One day when another agency cancelled my shift again, I sat at home on my own and screamed at the top of my lungs for maybe ten minutes.  I had just had enough.

Even now, writing this, I feel haunted by that day.  I had known people who had committed suicide, and had seen the devastation it caused their families.  It was only that knowledge that kept me from ending it.

The calls from the bank came daily and more persistently.  I just couldn’t get through to them that I could not pay bills with no income.  But, through family help and sheer bloody-minded persistence I managed to scrape work here and there.

I took an assymetrical move back into hospitality by becoming a chef.  Something I never really wanted to be.  At first I wasn’t very good.  I had trouble prioritizing and committing menus to memory.  Luckily my head chef was no overbearing Ramsey type, and very patient with me.  Mostly because I never refused a shift and would change my plans at the drop of a hat.

At the same time I was still doing agency work as a packer for an internet sales company.  But work came in drip form and money was tight

But I just kept chipping away and I found another job as a chef for a small garden centre cafe at weekends.  I held this down while still doing two other jobs, and barely scraping to survive.  Then a chef went out sick and I was required to cover two more days a week, which was just fine.  The new kitchen was much harder, however and required a level of skill that I did not possess at this stage.  Although my new chef and manager were great people and true professionals, I knew I was letting them down.  Also, I needed to find a job with a full time contract, somewhere, somehow.

For a long time, none seemed to be forthcoming.  Your applications just seemed to get lost without a trace.  Other interviewers who saw me would smilingly offer a zero hours contract.  This meant they could drop you like a stone at zero notice.

The summer of 2012 and very miserable and suited my mood entirely.  As desperately as I tried, I just could not make enough money to pay the bills.

Around this time two of my biggest character strengths began to pay off.  Firstly I have huge physical endurance.  This let me just go on working without getting ill or overly tired.  Secondly, I have a sheer bloody minded refusal to quit anything I start.  If you show patience, sooner or later, the other guy will blink, or get bored and make a mistake.

A vacancy came up for a chef at Birmingham airport.  I heard about it through a friend, who put my case forward to the powers that be.  In an echo of an earlier episode of my life a long line of “no’s” ended up with a  guy taking one look at me and saying “yeah, alright.” and put me on a trial.

The job itself was right up my street, cooking food fresh and fast.  But the hours were hideous, and still are.  But I adjusted my life to suit.  The only other problem was my security clearance that took a lot of work.  They needed a full career history of everything I had done for everybody for the last five years.  Now this took some doing, and involved taking two weeks off work while it was all sorted out.  But now it is done and I am a bona fide chef for a very good company with international perks.

So, on that note I am downgrading my state of personal emergency to a code yellow.  I am looking forward to 2013 and maybe getting my life back in some sort of order.  I may even return to writing.
Be good, you lot.


Written by Nick Gilmartin

October 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized