Monday, 18 November 2013

My Hero : Part 2 - Work

For as long as I can remember my Dad has been at work. He has been by no means an absent father whose work comes first, he doesn't have that kind of job, but if there is one thing that my Dad has done its worked.

My earliest memory I have of my Dad and work is when my parents used to work Alternate shifts, I think I was probably about four or five years old , around starting school age.  My parents used to work for the same factory that used to run 2 shifts during the day and one night shift.  The alternating shifts were my Dad would work 6am-2pm Shift and my Mum would work the 2pm-10pm Shift. The following week they would swap over shifts.  This meant that my parents on the whole saw absolutely nothing of each other 5 days a week but I had a 50/50 split of time in the evening with my Mum and Dad.

The week where I spent the evenings with my Mum were pretty well structured, Picked up from school, fed and watered, then she would clean the pots and pans, and when all the household jobs were done she had her well earned sit down to watch "the soaps" Mum had been on the go since 5am that morning and probably didn't get a rest until 7pm at the earliest. After the an hour or two of TV with my mum it was bedtime for me, and mum used to wait for my dad to come home about 10.15pm spend a little time with him then they would head to bed.

The week where my Dad was on the early shift at work and at home with me in the evening where pretty much the opposite of what happened with my mum, he pick me up from school, we would go home, we would bum about watching TV for a while, eventually we would have our tea, he would leave the dishes for my Mum and spend the evening watching majorly boring stuff like the news or Top Gear (before it was cool) and then bed time would roll around.  The exception to the boring TV was Star Trek. One of my best memories of this time was sitting with my Parents, albeit not together most of the time, watching TV. With my Mum it was the theme tune of Dallas coming on and I was allowed to sing along with the them tune as loud as I liked, with my Dad it was watching Star Trek, cuddling up next to my dad watching slightly too scary for my age interplanetary adventures.  My Dad trying to explain things I didn't understand as best he could to a very young me.

Now the above might seem like my Dad was a bit of a lazy arse, and at the time he kinda was, he very rarely did any of the housework, that was my mums domain.  Stuff like repairing the car, decorating the house, gardening and the like was down to my dad, but that was always more at the weekends.  My mum had the long days during the week, cleaning up after a family and working just as many hours as my Dad.

This wasn’t the case forever though, when I was about 8 or 9 my Mum had a problem with her back, which incapacitated her for about 18 weeks, with about 6 weeks of that in hospital, pretty much the rest she was bed ridden.  This later turned out to be degenerative arthritis in her spine.  This led to my Mum having to give up work, which also led to the work dynamic of my parents shifting completely. My dad became the sole earner with a new mortgage to pay and a family to feed. My dad switched over to the night shift because it paid more and started doing overtime whenever it was available.  The night shifts also allowed my Dad to pick up the slack while my mum was immobile stuck in bed, school runs etc. As soon as my mum was able she took over as much as she could and became the stay at home mum while my dad brought home the bacon.

During my secondary school years, my Dad continued to work nights until the company he worked for began to struggle financially. The first cut back was the most expensive shift, the night shift, this came with some redundancies too, some of my dads colleagues were made redundant while the rest where shipped back to the day shift with a loss of the shift allowance that made the night shift so attractive to work. This was not the last of the cutbacks unfortunately my parents spent a large number of years with the threat of further redundancies being made and worries about my dad being called into the office at work to be told that his name was pulled from the hat and was going to be made redundant. This didn’t actually happen in the end, and my Dad was one of the lucky ones where many were not so lucky.

Just because he avoided mandatory redundancy does not mean that the situation did not deteriorate, the factory was constantly suffering cut backs, the working week for my father spent a long time alternating between limited overtime available when special orders came in to being reduced to a four day working week with a loss of pay. In the work climate at the time, putting up with this uncertainty was better than the prospect of finding a new job in an already flooded labour market.
It was during these spells of four day working weeks that my dad got his second job working for a security company at the weekend, which meant that he would work four day shifts Monday to Thursday and then work two 12 hour night shifts on Friday and Saturday night, spend most of sunday sleeping, then back to start all over again on Monday.

For my Dad the work situation never really settled down until long after I left home.

I don't wish to give the impression that I had poor parents with little money who worried where the next meal was coming from, because that just isn't true. My parents made a damned good team, my Dad worked as much as he could to provide what he could, his wages went straight into the bank and that's where my Mum worked her magic. She scrimped, saved and juggled money, she found money for holidays, Christmas, birthdays and other things. I had new clothes and shoes when I needed them and sometimes there was money for extra treats, but that was down to my dad putting in the hours, and my mum managing the money.

I am looking back now at the way my Dad worked when I was growing up through an adults eyes, looking and seeing the sacrifices in time with his family and his wife, the constant cycle of sleeping, and working, and thinking back at some of the things I had as a child, and now realising the work that went in to getting those things by both of my parents, and I feel proud of them, and also a little ashamed that when I am having a bad day and feeling pissed off because work is getting me down, and then I think of my dad and how he did exactly the same all through my childhood. I cant say he did it all with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step, in fact sometimes he was a downright grumpy bastard with no patience, but now I understand why, because I have seen myself being him in my own life with less reason to do so.

I used to think as a kid I don't want to grow up and be like my Dad, but now I hope that I manage to be half the man he is.

To Be Continued.