Surrounded by the bustle of his own life – why did he feel so alone? When a referral like this came in at work, there’d always be someone to run things by. They’d set up a Facebook page, where he and his colleagues could banter and swap contacts, swap advice. But it wasn’t the same. You had to pose and frame a specific question, you had to publicly display your weaknesses and doubts, commit them to posterity on the world wide spiderweb where they might come back to bite you. He yearned for the casual chats across the desk, the silent solidarity that came from just knowing your mates were at your back. Here, at home, Peter had atrophied; lost the ability to make his own judgements. He’d find himself spending hours, analysing simple emails before he sent them. But youngsters…youngsters were the ones that scared him the most. Holding their futures like fragile glass, knowing one clumsy move might break them.
From Stars in their Eyes
Can’t get more frontline than a binman. We have a statutory duty to collect the region’s waste, see. Can you imagine if we didn’t? Mice, lice, rats – it would be the bloody bubonic plague, on top of the Covid. So we – this motely crew of Auld Stu, and Billy Liar (don’t ask – it’s all to do with his poker face playing cards), and Frank the … aye it does rhyme, but we don’t say it to his face, and Jimmy Whizz (fastest binman in the west) and young Brian and me; well, we have been elevated to keyworkers.
Us. The men who pick up your rubbish. Who scoop your spilling, malodorous bin bags off the kerb. Who wrestle with the seagulls as they peck your discarded chip pokes. Who cut our fingers on your jaggy cans and broken bottles. Who reverse down hidden, dead-end lanes, who collect your coughed-in hankies, heave up your old, stained mattresses, who manage all the debris of your lives.
We, it seems, are keyworkers.
From Winter is Coming
Those communities. Those, magnificent, thrawn, generous communities. You did not realise it would be so humbling, that these, long, weary, difficult days would also be a privilege. The surge in donations and volunteers: both a blessing and curse, for what to do, where to send them? More morphing, into clumsy, guddled, glorious gloops of giving, until you create a clever map, an interactive, online map where folk can go and click and organise themselves – another structure built – and you are realising all the time that this will happen, with or without you, that communities will grow and protect and shelter and provide. Hunched in the alienation of your spare room and your virtual screens, it dawns on you that it is their turn to matter, and it is your job to hold hands and steer and shepherd, to gather and steward and open up the box, to burst the bubbles and unlock doors and let folk soar, if they want to.
Suddenly, you understand. Why we call them Services, and what it is to serve.
From Back to the Future
A key decision maker. That’s what I thought I was. The meat in the sandwich (cut on the diagonal, crusts off. And served on a paper doily now. It’s very important, how you present your food. When you spend all the long day thinking about it, and shopping for it, and queueing for it and cleaning up after it, and making it.) I had staff below me, managers above me. I had responsibilites; folk who listened to my instructions, folk who asked for my thoughts. I thought what I said counted.
I thought I counted.
I know, I know. Does that sound awful? Do I sound like a whiny wee girl? I don’t, I don’t mean that, it’s just…
Nobody asked me. You know, at the start, when they told us to fill in that form? Tick those boxes, state our availbility. Well of course I ticked that I had kids– never thought; why would you? I mean, they’re here and I love them, they’re the best part of me, of course they are, absolutely.
But I’m a working woman, you know? I have been, always. Part time for a few years, did a wee stint of job share, but I’ve always earned my crust. And I love it. I love my job. Love working for the Council too. You’re part of something bigger, aren’t you? Especially now…
Some of my friends have been drafted in to the Shielding line. It’s been pretty traumatic, the stuff they’ve been dealing with. Folk working ten hour days. Me? I’ve delivered three hot meals in Moniave. That’s it. Oh – and tidied up my admin.
I’m on the amber list apparently. Amber for…champing at the bit…on permanent standby…waiting by the phone, day after day after day… hinging about …stasis…