Tag Archives: Quercus project

End of an Era

Today I dropped Julia off for her Sunday shift for the penultimate time. Next week will mark the end of an era. And not before time.

She started at the centre about eight years ago as one of the team that was recruited to open it after a multi-million pound refurbishment. Her hours were Thursday nights, most of Saturday and a long Sunday shift – 6am until 4.30 pm. She was paid extra for Saturday and Sunday and this allowed us to feed and clothe the children whilst running the project on the farm without taking wages. Ten and a half hours of double time on Sunday was very welcome.

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The kids are pretty much self-financing now (cue sound of ironic laughter) and the project ended a couple of years ago. (Incidentally, though they ejected us in favour of tenants who were able to pay more, the tenants left after a few months, having gone bankrupt, and the building has been untenanted and unused for the last few years.)

At the centre, things changed and the receptionists ended up doing the work of the admin workers, who were made redundant. They are paid less than the centre attendents, despite having a wider range of skills and being subject to abuse from the public. (This is the short version of what has gone wrong).

Finally, the council announced that they would no longer pay extra for Saturday and Sunday. They agreed to continue the pay for three years, though even this has been subject to some sharp practice.

At that point we looked at our lives and decided she should give notice. I’ve been keener on that than she has, because she worries about how we will live. I’m not. All I really need for happiness is Julia and a library ticket.  I just re-read that last sentence, perhaps “lottery ticket” would fit better…

And fish and chips.

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Something will turn up. That is known as the Micawber Principle.

Just over a month ago, she gave notice. Two weeks ago she was abused by a member of the public. This happens nearly every week, because the pricing structure is unclear, management refuses to clamp down on customer bahaviour, and because many people have no manners. It is the second time this particular customer has given trouble in two months. Normally she tries to shrug it off but this particular incident was witnessed by a new manager who has more backbone than the others. He wrote a report, made Julia write a report and, when the local Police liaison officer visited, discussed the matter with her. The result is that the man has been warned about his future behaviour and his membership has been temporarily suspended.

About time, I say. The really telling point about his behaviour, I think, is that all the time he was abusing Julia he was also abusing his wife and talking on his mobile phone.

And, having worked in my customary criticism of mobile phones, I will now finish.

If anyone is looking for a job that pays a few pence above minimum wage, allows you to start at 6am on a Sunday, features an ever-changing array of prices, has a faulty till system and offers you the chance of being threatened and abused by the public on a regular basis please get in touch. I know where there is one going…

Julia, Sutton-on-Sea
Enjoying winter sun at the Ecocentre

I seem to have been stuck with two extra pictures – pesky new editor.