I have not written too much about my adventures over in England as I had expected to be still over there working for at least two years, however the entire division was sold off and I returned to Canada this past June, unemployed and a little discouraged.
Since things are pretty quiet with me these days, I thought I would share with you one rather embarrassing story from my first week working over in England. Thankfully things did get better, but at the time I was questioning my move over there as well as every person who lived there.
First impressions are not always accurate, which I am thankful for as my first impression of working in London was far from positive.
I met Gavin McCleary during my first week at the office. I was sent along to a mandatory full day orientation meeting where all new employees are given a tour of the building and the usual new employee 'indoctrination seminar' however it ended up being just Gavin and myself in attendance for the entire session.
The HR rep, a strict looking old hag named Miss Ryder, announced that it was the smallest group she had ever held but 'rules are rules and we shall carry on'.
As we were marched through the building, undoubtedly similar to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, I learned that Gavin was employed as the new junior clerk in the companies Record & Archive department. It seemed a rather appropriate position for him as he was obviously a quiet and introverted little man, in his mid-twenties, who appeared to be even more uncomfortable when he found out I was in Senior Management.
During our lunch break I tried to put him at ease by telling him about myself and as we chatted he finally let his nervous guard down. It seemed he was from Scotland originally and had moved here to London with his father and twin sister about 3 years ago, working at odd & unrewarding jobs. I also learned that we both had a lot in common as his father was very opinionated like mine, and also his sister attempted to make his life a 'living hell' at every opportunity.
I explained that this sounded exactly like my sister and told him a few of the stories, which I have written about in this blog, this seemed to amuse him greatly.
Although we had very little else in common and he was definitely a loner in every sense of the word, I convinced him we would go to the pub on Friday after work for a night out. I really wanted to see some of the English pubs and some company was better than no company. (I would have preferred going to a pub with probably anybody else however being as I was new in town, I knew absolutely no one else aside from that biddy Miss Ryder, which was not an option!)
Friday came around and we made arrangements to meet by the front doors of our office building at 5:00, however at ten minutes past there was still no sign of the little mouse McCleary.
Being an impatient and rather thirsty man, I punched the elevator button which led to our companies archive department, appropriately located down in the bowels of the cold and dark basement of our old building.
An elderly gentleman sat at the front desk and immediately snapped to attention like a soldier when the elevator doors opened and I walked out. I was not sure if he was trained to do this or more likely, the bell of the elevator woke him up from his afternoon nap.
He introduced himself as Jack Weldman, Manager of Business Records and Archives. I, in turn, introduced myself and inquired if Gavin was around.
"You must be that new senior manager upstairs from Canada?" He asked, critically looking me up and down. "What has that 'little bugger' McCleary done this time? He's only been here a week and already caused me more stress than I care to tell you. If he has caused you any inconvenience whatsoever, I'll sack him right now....."
Before the old guy could continue his bizarre tirade regarding Gavin, I held up my hand for him to stop his babbling and politely advised him that "I am a friend of Gavin's and we had an appointment to meet at 5:00."
Mr. Weldman looked horrified by my revelation and began apologizing profusely about his earlier outburst "Sorry about that, sir. Young Gavin is a fine lad, just needs a little more supervision is all. Probably my fault. Let me go and round him up for you. Probably still 'at it' working away. Great work ethic, that boy."
I did not respond to the mans unabashed bootlicking as I really felt it did not require a response. After about two minutes wait, Gavin finally appeared and we left the office for the day.
"I don't think I can go out to the pub right now" Gavin advised in his now usual and annoying meek voice. "I have to drop off my fathers medicine that I picked up for him today. He's in a wheelchair and can't really get around much on his own."
"No problem, Gavin" I responded. "Let's go drop off your fathers prescription at your house and then we can go out to the pubs after that."
For some unknown reason, Gavin looked extremely uncomfortable at this suggestion and immediately began making up weak excuses to deter me from accompanying him.
Finally he admitted the real reason for not wanting me to go to his house was he was very embarrassed by everything about it. The poor neighbourhood, the small dark house, his thoughtless & mean sister and even his loud and demanding crippled father.
"I hate all of it and really want to move as far away from it all as soon as I can. But right now I am the only one supporting the family aside from my fathers small pension, so I must stay." He concluded, sounding like he was about to burst into tears right out on the street where we stood talking.
I once again reassured him that he did not need to worry about my opinion as I completely could relate to both his father and sister, as I had to deal with the same thing back in Canada.
This seemed to pacify his objections somewhat and with that, we headed towards the bus and a long & winding bus ride to the McCleary household.
It was a dreary area of town, one of those containing very non-descript 'row-type' houses you see on the television shows. I honestly had no clue what the neighbourhood was called or where it was, however it definitely had the look & feel of being in one of the poorer sections of London. It suddenly began to rain quite heavily (as I learned later on was very common in London) and we quickly ran the rest of the way to their tiny house.
As I was shaking the rain off myself at the front door, I noticed an old man, obviously Gavin's father, sitting in a wheelchair watching the television. Beside him on the couch was what had to be the fattest woman I had seen in England since my arrival. She had the same basic features as Gavin however she must have outweighed him by at least 250 pounds, and appeared to be devouring a rather large family size bag of potato chips.
Gavin nervously introduced me to his father and his sister, Elisabeth. They both eyed me for a moment in silence before shutting off the television and cautiously welcoming me to their home. Gavin then handed his father the bag containing his prescription medication.
The old man snatched the bag from Gavin's hands and greedily ripped it open, studying the label to ensure it was the correct item. He then looked up sharply at Gavin.
"Did ya forget me beers?" The old man harshly asked. "Where are me beers? Do you expect me to wheel oot n' doon the road to get the drink meself, ya lazy swine?"
"Sorry I forgot to stop off and pick them up this evening." Gavin apologized nervously.
He then just stood there, staring at the floor and fidgeting with his jacket as the old man continued to berate him.
"Yer as thick as a brick, just like yer sister here." The old man raged on. "She nearly fergot me tea this afternoon. Had to nearly beg her for it. Two peas in a pod, you two are."
"Ya got yer bloody tea, didn't ya?" Elisabeth piped in suddenly, her huge face snarling at the old man. "And doon't compare me to that one, I'm noothing like him." she said gesturing with complete disgust at the poor defenceless Gavin.
This awkward banter went on back and forth for the next 5 minutes or so and I actually found it all to be rather amusing as his fathers' Scottish accent and mannerisms really reminded me of my own Dad. The only big difference here was that these people really seemed to hate Gavin as well as each other.
Unfortunately Gavin remained completely quiet the entire time, just taking the verbal abuse that was being dished out to him in large healthy dosages by both his father and obese sister. Finally Gavin spoke up.
"Well I'll run out to the shop and get you the beer right now." Gavin apprehensively advised his father.
Being that it was still pouring rain outside and no one appeared to own an umbrella, I told him that I would wait here at the house until he returned.
Just as Gavin was about to leave on his errand, Elisabeth once again started up on him.
"Ya just make sure to bring me some wine back as well." she yelled towards him. "I've noo time to go. I'm stuck in the house alone all day with this daft auld bastard, at his every beck n' call. Janet is coming over here tonight fer a visit and we need some wine. Don't ya ferget my wine."
With all the angry instructions given, Gavin nervously disappeared out into the rain & down the road on behalf of his demanding father and sister.
I could definitely see why he said earlier that he wanted to move far away from here. It wasn't the neighbourhood which was the bad thing but rather how his family seemed to treat him.
Over the next ten minutes we made small talk and everything seemed to be going fine. With Gavin out of the house, both these rude and nasty people became very friendly and entertaining. Elisabeth even commented that she "really loved my Canadian accent" that both her and her father claimed I had.
"Doon't mind us" Elisabeth advised. "We may sound a wee harsh to one another, but we're a close knit family. Gavin's a good brother, just needs direction, needs us to tell him what to do and when to do it."
The old man then interrupted.
"Aye" He began. Gavins' alright of a lad, just a bit of an 'odd duck' is all. We doon't let the lad drink too much, or then were in fer the business. Changes character completely like night & day."
"Whatever do you mean?" I asked, believing I would now hear a nice funny story about the meek and rather dull Gavin.
"It's just once he gets a few drinks in him" His father continued. "Well then discretion is off to the wind, and all he goes on aboot is 'boys & cock'. Can't get enough of either. Disappears fer days on end runnin' with those 'gay bum boys', without even a call to us."
Just then the telephone rang interrupting the story. The old man wheeled himself around in his chair, grabbed the phone and yelled into it.
I sat there somewhat stunned and dumbfounded. I looked around the room, slowly attempting to process all the words, which I may or may not have just heard. The look on my face must have been one of complete & utter confusion. Did I just hear what I thought I had heard about Gavin or was it the old mans' heavy accent? I was sure I had heard him right, but no - no way, it couldn't be.
Then suddenly all doubt was completely removed when I felt a firm & pudgy hand squeezing on my left knee. Looking up, the huge and ugly Elisabeth was smiling at me with her big crooked teeth.
"Dad is right aboot me & Gavin being alike, at least in that way" She said quietly. "Do ya want ta come upstairs to my room fer a quick 'shag'?"
If I didn't know any better, I may have thought that this was all some elaborate reality TV show with me being the poor unsuspecting victim. Unfortunately it was not and everything going on here was all too real for my likings.
I quickly jumped up from the couch. That was it - this horror show has going to end here and now.
"I need to go get something." I announced, rapidly moving towards the front door.
"What do ya need to get?" Elisabeth asked.
"To get the hell outta here." I yelled, quickly opening the front door and running down the sidewalk.
I ran and ran for a couple of blocks. Finally stopping when I was sure I was far enough away from that madhouse. I was not sure exactly why I was running nor where I was actually running to, however it seemed to be a good idea at the time.
These people are all freaks - from the gay, timid Gavin to the fat, randy Elisabeth to the old crippled father. Freaks! I sure want nothing to do with any of these people. What a mistake this all was!
I eventually found a taxi and ordered him to take me to the closest pub by my home, not wanting nor caring to have any further company after the bizarre evening that I had just experienced. I needed drinks to forget things as soon as possible, and lots of them!
I never saw Gavin again after that day. I'm not entirely sure if he avoided me or maybe I avoided him. Either way, that was it.
My first impressions of London.