Unexpected meeting. 

I haven’t really been writing anything down anywhere near as much lately, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I have tried to not think about what went on, but, it has been in the news a lot recently, especially as it is 100 days since the attack…. 100 days…. it is hard to believe. One of my colleagues was put forwards tonne interviewed by ITV, by a family he has had a lot of contact with since the arena attack, he was dubious but ended up chatting to the person that would be doing the interview over the phone and it ended up that we went to Cloud 23 in the Hilton, manchester for an interview. That in itself was a little daunting to say the least, we had got ourselves worked up, in every sense, to what we thought we were going to expect, it ended up being very… thought provoking, shall we say and on the day it ended up being a bit upsetting, talk g about it and answering a few questions, but nothing that we couldn’t overcome. Firstly, when I had been made aware of the fact it was almost 100 days, I thought about the people that I know are still in hospital, that I know are still waiting for operations, the people that I cannot even imagine how they are coping without their loved ones, but then I thought to myself, how have I spent the last 100 days, what has changed, has anything changed..? I got a promotion type affair at work, something that I was a little dubious of even considering if I’m honest, but I am glad, in a way that I did, I have been able to throw myself at it and keep myself occupied a little more, in the time where I should perhaps be just sat at home relaxing, but I am enjoying it. I have a couple of books on the go and I am starting to get back into a few hobbies that I was into a few years ago, I’m not sure if this is all directly related, but it is all positive. As it has been the summer holidays, I have managed to spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter, I truly have cherished that time and I know that I have helped to make lasting memories for us all, a little beach time in Whitby, walking in the lakes, picnics by the canal, ice creams…. everywhere, along with a plethora of little things that all add up. I have felt a little bit… alone in a way, a handful of friends that I am in touch with daily, probably haven’t read any of these, but they have helped keeping my mind off a lot of things, chatting nonsense. I have… ‘written off’ a few people as well, but then, I have lots of messages and people passing on thoughts through people that may not directly know me, that is still very humbling, even though I am still in the mindset that I am a nobody in the whole grand scheme of the events that unfolded that night, but the fact I was there, does mean something… if you understand what I mean..?

 I have been in and around Manchester Victoria a lot over the past few weeks, a particularly… interesting moment was when I was stood in pretty much the exact same place as I was in the evening when the bomb went off, just when the thunder and lightening cracked through the skies over Manchester… I have to be honest, it made me jump a little… it was totally out of the blue but the second, third and fourth crack of thunder, I was fine. There was another incident where the announcement for ‘Mr. Sands’ came over the PA system in the station and that took me back to being in the foyer, on my hands and knees… all because a cleaner left a piece of bread in the toaster in the mess room for a little too long. I thought I had pretty much encountered every sort of emotion and ‘trigger’ if you like, that I possibly could… well, you know what thought did. 

Thursday the 7th of September, started off as a normal sort of shift, I ended up at Manchester Victoria for something and noticed there was a heavy police presence. Now, they’ve been setting up the security systems for a little over a week, there’s been numerous officers coming through but this was a bit more than that. There were British Transport police officers and Greater Manchester Police officer within the station, which was odd in itself. Anyway, it transpired that there was an event in at the arena, they way that it was explained to me was that it was for people that were on the night of the 22nd to come and have a look round the arena. I decided that I would change the tasking slightly and we would stay at the station for a while to show a bit of a presence and to provide customer service where needed, from an operational point of view, this was perfect. As the time passed, various groups of people came through the station to go up to the arena, they were escorted by Police officers up through the station, and over to, I assume, the carpark entrance to the arena. There were groups of teenage girls, couples with a child or children, then there was a chap, wearing a suit carrying a bunch of flowers, who, when he came back down was visibly upset and was without the flowers, that struck a bit of a cord with me, not half as much as what was yet to come. 

I was stood at a little gate next to the barriers where I had been letting people in and out that had been to the arena, I had been doing it as I think the level of my customer service was a little higher than a couple of other people that were around, it was obvious who the people were and where they had been, they weren’t fare dodgers and just required a smile and letting out, not the Spanish Inquisition. Anyway, I glanced across the concourse and I immediately recognised a face… and then another, I sort of looked the other way, not fully, just a slight turn of the head to look at my colleague, I couldn’t not look again though, I turned round and one of the ladies had slowed right down and her facial expression had totally changed, she asked, ‘what’s your name?’ I replied, ‘Philip’ and she said ‘yes, it is, do you remember me?’…. of course I do, these two ladies have been in my mind lot for a long time now. I was shocked, a little bit lost for words, We had a quick chat, it was a bit… I don’t want to say awkward, that’s give you an idea that it was a bad experience, it wasn’t, I just… I don’t know, maybe let myself down a bit as I didn’t say the things I have been thinking that I would want to say as I am more than sure I would have got upset. The lady who I spoke to on the phone to pass on that they were ok but had been involved in the bomb, made herself known to me and thanked me. I half explained that I hadn’t chased them down and my reasoning about it, but, seeing them there, in front of me, on their feet made me think that I should have probably contacted them earlier. It was always my intention to get in touch with them, but again, now I think about it, when would have been the ‘appropriate’ time to do so..? They mentioned that it was fate that we bumped into each other in the station, it could well have been, just the same as that night, the small things that we talked about and the things that had some form of ‘connection’ with was something that you’d only read in one of them cheap, brightly coloured, weekly magazines and make yourself think, why have I just wasted my time reading this made up story 😂. 

I have decided that I am going to write them a letter, perhaps explaining things a little more and offering my help and support, if it is needed. 

As they walked away, my colleague could see that I had zoned out quite a lot… in all honesty, I had that tingly sensation that you get in your cheeks just below your eyes when you’re about to cry, I won’t deny it, I was fighting back the tears… I managed to keep a straight face and not leak. We went and got a coffee and sat in the van for a little bit, we chatted about everything else but what had just happened really, it was of course, going round in my mind though. 

I guess you could say that I was a little bit upset, it brought it all back, the time I spent with them specific people mainly but then that spiralled into the whole night. When I had got home and replied to a few work emails and sorted out the taskings for the following day, I decided to pour myself a bit of bourbon, I felt like I needed it, diet or no diet. 

Insubordination…

The past few days have been steady, I’ve had a bit of a laugh with some old friends at work and it has been great, I’ve not laughed as much for weeks… there was a couple of times where I have stopped in my tracks and stopped laughing, moments of… well… guilt I suppose you’d say. Then I’d stare into space and forget what I am doing. Pootling around on the Harley was a positive thing for me. I love that thing, I really do, the noise, the smell, the freedom, the fun, the alone time…. that’s what I have always liked about bikes, getting new keys sorted couldn’t have come at a better time really, even though I have only been on it for a few hours and commuting, it has taken my mind of everything, you..well, I know I do… only think about the bike, you’re more alert, taking in car drivers and your surroundings, you sometimes don’t get to think about anything else at all. Friday comes round and it’s an early start… in to Manchester for a meeting with Andy Burnham, the recently elected mayor of Manchester. We got asked earlier on in the week if we were interested in going, I didn’t really have to think much, it was a yes, my thinking was that it would be a good chat, possible answers and questions raised could be good. Then we got a confirmation email a few days later and they mentioned that we’d be having bacon butties… so… I definitely made the right choice there 😂

I’d got up extra early, ironed a shirt and was out of the house at 0615, not a bad thing really, but I hadn’t got in until 1215 the night before. Anyway, got on the train and the guard was someone that I have spoken to a lot. He’s a good guy. He was training a couple of guys, with various job roles. I showed my staff pass and carried on. I had walked to the train station with a massive 100 litre army bergan on my back, I must have looked a little odd. When I got to Victoria, I was early, I went to dump my bag in the staff mess room and then I wandered over to Starbucks and grabbed a coffee, sat outside, watching the world go by. I noticed that the station was not as busy as I thought it may have been. All around the ledges and window fills there were loads of little hearts, so I stood up and had a look at them, they were crocheted, sewn, knitted, felt, cotton, wool… all kinds of different shape and sized hearts. There were tags that said ‘heart for Manchester’ on and they had been made by Women’s Institutes allover the country. They had names of the people that had made them attached, I thought they were nice. I have to admit that I did feel very strange, sat there on my own, for a long time. I wandered over to the hotel where we were to meet. 

There were 11 of us in the room, waiting for Mr. Burnham to arrive, the same faces from the initial counselling session we did as a group with a couple missing and a couple in their place that were also there on the night. When Mr. Burnham arrived, he was straight in on it all, introduced himself, asked our names and shook our hands then sat down at the table with us. The conversation was great, it really was. We got an insight into his work as well as what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ with the emergency services. He was keen to hear our little snippets of stories. He particularly liked when I mentioned about my body worn cctv and that I know it was used by the police extensively for footage within the foyer, he then mentioned that we should be involved with the independent review process and also have a proper debrief, just like the emergency services do and will be doing. That is a massive thing! Some of the information that we mentioned to him, he wasn’t aware of and said that it was obviously important and needs documenting. He was totally unaware of the role we all played that night, he was apologetic for that as well, again, not that we wanted the thanks but it was…humbling, I suppose you could say. We left the room and went into the corridor, they had put breakfast rolls on for us, so I had a nice bacon roll with a cup of lemon and ginger tea 😉. We stood round as a group, discussing what we’d just heard, a couple of extra stories from the night and all was good. There was only one of my colleagues there, we sort of gravitated together, we both mentioned that we felt a bit shit… all the things we had heard had brought it all back to us… we weren’t looking forwards to work, that’s for sure. 

We left the hotel and walked back to the station with a couple of the top brass from the company we subcontract to, we were chatting, it was good. When we got back to the station, we got a copy of the Manchester Evening News and went to up the the mess room, for a couple of hours, crossword completed and I got dressed ready for work. 

The reason we were hanging round was that we had booked a counselling session with one of the councillors that did the initial session as a group. We met her on the station concourse and went up into the main offices above the station. It was great to go up there, the first time I’ve been up there. There were Ornate balustrades on the stone staircase, glass tiled walls and it looked like the stairs spiralled round the old lift shaft, there were doors in between in all the floors. We walked up a couple of flights and onto the floor where we going to, the corridor was walled down both sides but at the top, there were stained glass windows, probably the original glass. The session that we had was actually good, reassured me that what I have been like over the past few weeks has been normal, we did decide upon booking another session for the next week as well, it can only be a good thing I suppose. She also made a poineant statement, ‘you’ll never be the same again, you are a changed person’ but, for the better in a way, I will see things in a different light, which has definitely been true. The one thing that the councillor was a little concerned about was that we both mentioned how the meeting in the morning had make us feel, as I said before, we felt a bit shit. She tried to get the phone number for our boss off us but we were reluctant, we both felt guilty, she was trying to get us to go home, basically as we weren’t in the right frame of mind. We didn’t want to let the team down, we had gone back to work and then we were going to be going home.. it didn’t feel right. Eventually, we confirmed the number that she already had. She was only going to call to let them know how we were feeling. We left, the same way that we came in, again, admiring the building. Before we had got back to the mess room, the councillor had called us back and said that she had spoken to the gaffer and said that we could go home. Sent home from work, before I’d started… although I’d been at the station from 0705. I missed the bloody train… so I had to sit in the station for an hour, again, outside Starbucks, watching the world go by and listening to some very odd conversations. I saw the hearts on the windowcill of Starbucks again, I decided that I would take one home with me, so when I got up to go, I picked one up, put my bergan on and walked over to my platform. When I got there, I looked at the screen to check the time, I saw, in my prerifory, an older lady looking at me, as I turned my head away, I saw that she moved away from me and was stood behind one of the large concrete pillars. I obviously looked odd, wearing all black, beard, massive bergan, train station… I get it. I have no idea why I walked to the station in the morning, it was all down hill, but the journey home… up hill, and it isn’t a small hill, it is relentless! I suppose the excercise ring on my iwatch would thank me for it. A bit of a strange day all in all. I am glad I went home really. 

In at the deep end…

This morning, I wake up with a list of jobs…not a massive list but a list all the same! School run, battery on bike, hopefully an MOT and then back home and off to work. The logistics of which aren’t fully mapped out as yet. If I get the bike mot’d I’d love to go to work on it. The station I’m starting from is right in the centre of Manchester and there’s not much parking but for bikes… I’ll be ok. Otherwise it will be a rush… luckily, it’s a little cooler than it was yesterday. School run was a breeze, as usual, then quick stop at home to get the battery and some tools and what not. 

I put the battery on and pulled that choke out… making sure it stayed out this time… started first time! What a dick! Anyway, that was it, called the MOT place and they said if I could get there in 30 minutes… they would do it whilst I waited. Perfect. 

So I set off, it was great getting out on the Harley again, taking it easy. Then, I sat at the traffic lights and a car pulled up next to me over shooting the line, and really close to me, I looked to my left and saw the guy was talking on his phone, so I knocked on his window and did the international sign la gauge for phone, this ruled him somewhat and he began shouting, he tried to open his door, but couldn’t because it was hitting my foot peg, he couldn’t even get a foot out.. that’s how close he was to me… so I was in the right.. well, I think anyway! His passenger got out and was trying his best to be intimidating, but failed, the lights changed and I set off, leaving them. I knew they’d follow… Of course, they did, I got through one set of lights and then they threw a bottle of water out of the drivers side window at me and shot ahead so they could stop at the next, I let them do that I could weigh up my options… they stopped at the lights and got out… I sailed on past them… oh dear. I got on to the dual carriageway, as did they, but I just did what I would normally do and split through the lanes. 

I got to the MOT place 35 minutes later… they had already logged on to the computer system and started to MOT a car, which of course isn’t a problem, just a pain for me and my timings. After all, I was a late booking. They said they’d be 45 minutes and I could go back and get it done then, so I went to the Shell petrol station just up the road and filled up with some of that lovely V Power stuff that they do, sat on the grass that was adjacent to the forecourt, admiring the bike and… well… nothing, it was great. 

When I got back to the garage, still a little early, I got thinking about my timings. I was going to be 45 minutes at the garage which will take me past 1100, I need to get the bike back to my storage location, another 20-30 minutes, then get home in the car, get changed for work and leave, with a 40-45 minute journey ahead of me, so that I get there early enough to find a parking space and start at 1300. Yeah… I don’t think it’s going to happen. If the bike passes its mot, I can go back to my car and get my stab vest out of it and ride home, leaving my car there, get ready for work and ride to work on the bike. Quickest option, the most logical option.. providing it passed, other than, I will need the car in the morning to do the school run with… I could get a taxi to school and walk home, it’ll be a nice day for it… I could see if management could get a lift to pick it up…? I suppose I’ll just have to wait for 45 minutes to see if it has passed or not…

The guy came out, looked it up and down, he appreciated it, asking questions about it all, I always like it when someone takes the time to talk to me about it, it isn’t what it seems…

He rolled it into the workshop and looked it up and down, doing his thing, rolling it onto the rollers to check the brakes, rolling a contraption out to check the headlight. At this point, the engine was running and booming away in the reasonably sized workshop. A couple of the lads that were we’re also working there came over for a nosey, again, asking about it, having a good look. Then, he checked the lights… one indicator wasn’t working.. everything else was so positive… nooooo! The guy said, don’t worry, we will sort it matey. I checked them all last night, even though it wouldn’t start, I still did a good check over of everything… it was fine… anyway, he did the last bit and said, do you want to wheel it back out side for me. I had the same sort of feeling as when you do your driving test. As I was outside, I inspected the rear indicator, I found that a bullet connector had come loose… plugged it back in and it was flashing away. Great stuff! The guy was nearby so I called him over and told him that I knew it was working.. he laughed and said, don’t worry, it has passed! Phew! That’s a relief. 

So…. it begins, mad dash back to the storage place, bike in the garage and tucked away, then back home to get changed for work. I had pretty much sorted most things out but hadn’t made any lunch or dinner to take with me. I walked through my front door at 1152… got changed, whilst throwing a pit of cottage cheese down my throat and left. I noticed a missed parcel delivery card stuck in the letter box, that is Sod’s law right there! The first day I’m not in the house, I miss a parcel…! Oh well. I left the house at 1207. Relatively ok journey other than someone in another Astra, what is it with astra’s today..? Anyway, they were constantly cutting me and others around us up whilst following satnav and not knowing where they’re going. I got to work in good time, well, with about -0 minutes to spare, luckily, there was a staff parking space left as well. 

I have been paired with a good friend for a couple of weeks, we’ve worked together for years and he started with this company 4 weeks or so ago and this would be our first shift together, which was a good thing to look forwards to in it’s self. 

I shit you not… five minutes into my first shift back at work, a young boy came over to me, well spoken, extremely polite, asking for my help with his mother. She had a pre existing heart condition and wasn’t feeling well. You can’t make it up. Anyway, I of course went over to see if I could help. We managed to get a wheel chair sorted and took her into the only air conditioned room in the the train station… well, it’s the only room actually, it was around 26°c outside! When on the room, she passed out, we had already called for an ambulance as the woman knew exactly what the outcome would be, even the passing out bit as it has happened quite a few times. This was all whilst her young boy stood and watched, mustn’t be a nice feeling to have it happening to you but must be just as bad watching your mum going through that! She did regain consciousness again, and she did pass out again, but she was fully aware and was having conversations with us and her boy. Surreal! They went to hospital in an ambulance, the best place for her. I hope that she is ok. 

After this, back in at the deep end, so to speak, the shift went well. Had a good laugh with my mate, had a subway sandwich as a treat for our dinner. The whole thing wasn’t quite as bad as I had expected… but I will say, wearing a stab vest, in this heat… is just naaaaaaasty!

Waking up to bad news… again!

Waking up to hear that some atrocity has taken place on our soil, is getting all to common…I didn’t sleep well at all last night, I had a lot of things going round in my head, along with the heat, it wasn’t the ideal mix. I got up a little earlier as there was not much point lying in bed listening to the neighbours getting up and going out to work. I switched the news on, as I do every morning and was confronted with yet another attack. This time, it looks like it is an Islamaphobic attack. A white fan, ran drove down the pavement and killed at least one person and injured at least eight more. These people were just coming out of a mosque, after breaking their fast and were congregating in the street, as they do every night, apparently…before going back in for a second prayer. The driver was apprehended at the scene by passers by, he was a 48 year old white male from Wales. Did they beat him senseless, no, just waited until the police arrived to take care of him. 

This, a year after Jo Cox being murdered on our streets, by someone that probably has listened to all the same narrow minded people spouting the same hate against other race and religions. 

What has this guy achieved..? Nothing… other than pleasing Isis, daesh, al Shabab and whoever else that is trying to create this anarchy. The leaders of all these fundamentalist groups must have woke up to this news this morning rubbing their hands together and most probably treated themselves to some crumpets. They have succeeded. They have created a divide. 

Today’s plan is it do the school run and get to Manchester for a return to work interview. I was early for the train again and ended up in Manchester Victoria a couple of hours before I needed to be over at Piccadilly. I had a wander through the centre and ended up doing a spot of people watching at Piccadilly before I walked over to the office at the agreed time, where I met up with my two colleagues. The meeting went well, decided my shift time for Tuesday and who I’d be paired with etc. The questions on the interview were… well rubbish, not what I was expecting at all, I was expecting them to amber a bit more thorough, I guess. After the interview, we went over the road to the Bulls Head for a cool drink and a bit if a chat. It was good, talking about random stuff… as well as the ‘usual’. 

As I was now going back to work properly, I decided that it was time to polish my work boots, I had already cleaned them and got rid of the blood and dirt. As I started polishing the boots… again… I could see blood in the welts of the boots… this made me have a bit of a… moment, is guess you’d say. 

I had been thinking of ringing Harley today, to check up on my keys and where they were…I’d probably have ended up being a bit snotty about it all I guess. Anyway, they saved me the job, they rang me, the keys were in, management could get them on her way home for work. 

I was a little unsure if the key would actually fit… but they did, it was like Cinderella and the glass slipper. The Harley didn’t start and I ended up killing the battery, I know why, I pulled the choke out and hit it back in with my knee…. school boy error to say the least! I managed to get the battery off and on charge, ready for tomorrow morning. 

Inside the cordon, part deux… sort of…

Literally minutes after I posted the blog entry on Wednesday evening, I received a text message, whilst I was drinking a nice IPA. It was from one of my colleagues, he had just received a phone call. The call was from a girls father. A girl that he had sat with all night. I won’t go into the details, but it shook my colleague up a little, as did it me. There are still lots of people that are recovering, it is going to take time for a lot of them, not just the physical hurdles but the mental ones as well. And there’s me wondering about going to the arena foyer on Friday morning. All that being said, I still woke up in a funny mood on Thursday morning. Didn’t help much when management asked about booking my car in to the garage on Friday and I mentioned the arena trip in the morning meaning that I couldn’t drop the car off…seems to have pissed her off somewhat… for whatever reason… oh well… I went up to a place that I like l, the view is good, I sat there for just over an hour, thinking about cock all. It was good… then it started raining… so I decided to set off back home. Did a few little chores and sat quiet again… then to cheer me up that little bit more, the boiler broke… so we have no hot water… I need to have a bath, shave my head… fantastic. 

So Friday came… I was a little apprehensive, I had agreed to go to the arena with a colleague. Even though I need to shave my head drastically, I would do the school run, drive to the train station and go from there. 

I dropped mini me off at school and drove straight to the station, I was going to take a gamble and drive to a further station and get an earlier train.. but decided against it, instead, I was about 40 minutes early… then the train was 5 minutes late… which wasn’t good for the already tight schedule… I should have known, this train is always late. This was a big test in itself, getting the train into Victoria, walking over the bridge, in the opposite direction I ran over a few weeks ago, down through the station and then, at some point, into the arena. I think I need to do it as a whole, get it over and done with, out of the way and behind me. 

As I was on the train, I could feel my heart beating.. as we pulled into the station, I knew what platform we were coming in on… not because I’m a train spotter or anything, I’ve just done the journey a lot 😂. Anyway, it would mean that I wouldn’t have to go over the bridge, yet!

As I walked through the station, I came to the ticket barriers, with my staff pass in my hand and the guy on the gate, recognised me, asked how I was and what not, gave me a pat on the back…’big respect’ he said…from a guy that I don’t know, just someone I’ve seen a few times. I could see one of my colleagues and the councillor along with my area manager sat over the way at Starbucks. We sat there for about 25 minutes, waiting for a few people to arrive. In all honesty, I expected more people to come… but when I sat and thought about it after, there may have only been 5 of us, with 5 more as support and representatives from the companies etc, some people may not be ready for it or… as they don’t directly work there.. want nothing to do with the place as they will never step foot in there again, which is totally understandable. 

Anyway, we walked round to the back of the arena, past the hunts bank entrance, which I now know the significance and location of, it’s where I had to run for the defibrillator from. Anyway, we were headed towards the great Ducie street entrance, where the big gates are for where the tour buses pull into and what not. As we got into the loading area, I spied a huge pile of beer kegs… mmmmm beer! There was a security control room where we had booked in and we stood waiting for our chaperone to come and meet us. As we walked through the bowels of the arena, I was admiring the pipework, harking back to my days of being a Heating and Ventilation engineer, when life was so much easier… We climbed a staircase and through loads of doors and ended up just coming out on the main concourse of the arena. We walked down towards the foyer, past hunts bank, the little desks that the defib was sat behind were still there. There were workmen dotted about, not many but a few. We stood outside the foyer doors as the security manager unlocked them, we were ‘briefed’ and made sure that we were all ready to go in. May as well get it over and done with….

So, in we went, the room still had a smell about it, not necessarily the same, but similar… hard to place, even when I’ve been on many building sites, it wasn’t the same kind of building smell, not even the smell from the trains… just… well, hard to place. The first thing I noticed was the massive puddles of water in the middle of the floor, right in front of the box office doors… which was right next to the final flight of stairs we ran up before we were confronted with what was in the foyer. It sort of hit me then… I had a bit of a wobble, as I panned over to the stairs, my first port of call on the night. Many things came flooding back, not necessarily things that I wanted to come back… but I am glad they did… in a strange way. After a good 15 minutes or so, I began taking in the building, the damage. There was a visible mark where Abedi must have been stood, with the damage to the floor it was clear, it is where I remember seeing the scorch marks. I still wondered about the ‘hate’ for him… if he felt what he did… if it hurt him with as much as the pain as it has caused those the injured and killed… As I looked round, I could see marks all over, the walls, the ceiling. The main glass roof was boarded over, apparently, it was shattered and glass was loose, falling from it occasionally, we weren’t allowed to go near it. I thought back and I remember seeing glass in a few places, not a lot, just bits. I noticed that signage had been taken down exposing the lighting inside, the doors looked new. Then I noticed the bright silver… holes… marks in the wall. I knew exactly what they were straight away. I’m no Crime Scene Investigator, but, if you looked at the mark on the floor and to the left and right where these markings on the walls were, you could probably guess which way Abedi was facing and why people in certain places got the injuries they did, and why I saw his body where I did. Another group of people came in, probably for a similar…. ‘experience’ as to what we had, I’ve no idea who they were and I didn’t recognise any of them, we had all pretty much done what we needed to do so we left, via the maze in which we entered. 

I walked back round the building with the councillor and my colleague and manager, having a nonsensical chat, definitely a lot calmer than what I was like on the train on the way in. 

Now, at this point, my colleague was going to meet a young girl, the young girl he sat next to all night, holding her hand and trying his best to comfort her, I can’t tell you more than that, not just because it’s not my place to as it’s his story but a lot of the details wouldn’t be fair on anyone involved. He received a call from the girls father and was quite keen for him to come and meet her. I know that would be hard for him, but.. I also know that it will be hard… and good for the family and more importantly, the young girl. I wish them all luck and I hoped it was beneficial for everyone. I spoke to him in the early evening, after meeting them and he was pleased, it went well, he was shaking a bit, but none the less, happy he went. He sat and spoke to the parents for sometime before speaking to the girl, all of whom were happy to see him. 

I will say it again, I cannot think of many people that I would have wanted by my side that night if I had to do it again… I’m glad it was the two that it was!

I, myself had a meeting to go to, again, all the details shall not be divulged but it was with an old colleague of mine who had been directly affected by the incident as well. I didn’t know what to expect, I’m sure that they didn’t know what to expect either. I was nervous, first date kind of nervous, I really just didn’t know what to expect, I know that they felt the same as well. We had a chat over a coffee, I think it was good for me, I did get a little upset at one point, but I think I hid it well, I knew that they had got a bit upset as well, but they fought it back. If they hadn’t have been able to hold it back, I don’t know what I would have done in all honesty, but part of me thinks that they probably should have just let it out as well… if that sounds stupid.. it probably is… I don’t know what I’m saying most of the time recently 😂. It was good, I’m glad it happened, even though I couldn’t help much, but it was good to talk. 

We left the coffee shop and parted company, straight away, I got on the phone to another good friend to see if she could help me with something that I had just discussed… that phone call was pretty much the longest ‘normal’ conversation I have had in weeks, the previous winner was the one I’d just had in the coffee shop…! So I walked all the way up deansgate on the phone and in to Victoria station, over the bridge and down on to platform 4…. wait a minute, I went over the bridge and didn’t even notice….! I then got on my train, the train I needed to get home… only it wasn’t, it terminated the stop before mine… I got the wrong train! Great… the saving grace was that the stop I was at was Stalybridge, they have a great pub… the Buffet Bar, so… stuff it, I’ll have a pint. As it happened, I knew that they had a beer on from a brewery that has recently peaked my interest, Magic rock brewery in Huddersfield, I had a can of their ‘Human Cannonball’ double IPA at a whopping 9.2%… yes, nine point two percent. I wouldn’t have chosen that one if I’d’ve known, it was only 1300. I won’t lie, the 9.2% double IPA lifted my mood somewhat especially when I’m running on a bowl of cocopops! So I missed the connecting train home, had a chat with my old man on the phone and got myself a second beer, also from the Magic rock brewery, this one was called ‘ringmaster’ and was on tap. I had a cheeky millionaires shortbread with it as well 😂

My train pulled into the station and I could see the conductors head sticking out of he far window, I recognised him, I was wandering that way, so I got in at the door he was at, he recognised me and we had a good chat about shit, normal shit, it was good, really good, probably what I needed really, no mention of anything at all with regards to recent events. This was the conductor that posted a video on Facebook of a full brass band on the train whilst on the ale trail, after the Marsden festival a few weeks back, it went viral, if you didn’t see it. 

When I eventually arrived home, it was almost time for dinner, quick turn around and out to a wedding reception. Deciding what to wear was quite hard for me as well, but, I got to round the evening of with a few beers and my wife… all is good. 

One won’t hurt.

It’s Wednesday, a couple of days have passed, I’m not going to lie, if not been in the best of moods. Monday, I was in a stinking mood, maybe from the lack of sleep from the previous night, I chanced it and stayed up to watch a film, but then had the usual going on in my head. I got up, did the school run, came home, lay on the front room floor and caught up on recorded TV programmes, not moving, not even to go and get some food sorted, until I had to go and do the school run in reverse. Don’t ask me what I watched as I can’t really remember, I wasn’t paying that much attention 😂We have been invited to go to the arena on Friday, for a private visit… whilst it was positive, it just compounded my thoughts about that night, and kept it at the front of my mind for a lot longer. I’m not sure If I want to do the visit. I do want to go to the arena at some point but, this week… when it’s empty… I’m not 100% sold on it. It will be a proper affair, for all the first responders, councillors will be there and everything…

Two of us were looking to go back to work this week… ideally Tuesday as that was the start of the rota’d week for us, but we haven’t had the all clear as from them yet so I guess we will be taking it day by day until we get a start time and place etc. However, We have discussed that we don’t want to start close to the weekend as we know what the taskings will be and we won’t be comfortable doing that in a first day back type off affair, so it could be looking at Monday, the start of the next block of rotas. 

It’s funny in a way, how many friends came out and messaged me the other week, people I’ve not spoken to for a very long time. I’ve been grateful for them all, one actually just popped up as I was writing this out… spooky. I’m a quiet person, always have been really. When I’m in a bad mood, I’m even quieter, but I’ve got people panicking because they want to talk about crap and I’m just nodding… not really listening and then I’m getting even more annoyed because they make a point of it all and it’s like they’ve been hard done to. Best option has been to remove myself from conversations. 

After not eating through the day on Monday, I treated myself to some real culinary delights on tuesday… cocopops with raw milk, and I fancied a pot noodle, so I called at the shop and got a ‘Bombay bad boy’…. I had it with a muffin/teacake/barm… let’s not get into that name debate now though. I know how to live! Today… tinned chilli wins 😂

I woke up today (Wednesday) with all the best intentions to do stuff… and again… well, I vegetated whilst watching the news. Some terrible things happening again, this time it’s a vicious, relentless fire that has ripped through a block of flats in London, so many questions to be asked about this, it definitely doesn’t look like the best situation, it’s 1100, roughly 10 hours after it started and there’s still flames licking up the side of the building and smoke billowing out. So many rumours flying about it at the moment, as with many recent events, only time and thorough examination will get the answers. 

About 18 months to 2 years ago, I had just finished a night shift l, midweek and was walking up my street when I noticed smoke billowing out of a window of a house. I sped my pace up and quickly went to a run. The front door was unlocked so I crept through, cautiously, shouting ‘hello’ there was a bloke in an armchair asleep in the front room, I managed to wake him and he was shocked to say the least, the smoke was coming from the kitchen, we peeped in and saw that it was the oven, flames licking up the back of it, he had a small fire extinguisher there and I managed to stop the flames. It transpired that he had fancied a pizza after getting home from the pub, drunk… and put it in the oven, from frozen, in the box! Anyway, the smoke, from such a small fire in a house was unbelievable l cannot imagine what it was like in this block of flats, the smoke, the heat, it must have been awful! 

Whilst I sat vegetating, watching the 24hour news, I rang Harley to chase the bike keys… the order is yet to be fulfilled, so that’s just great, no idea when they’re going to turn up… they have to be shipped from the states and then I have to fit in collecting them from the dealership in Leeds, get the bike MOT’d and tax it, I may be able to ride it before Christmas..? The lady I spoke to said she would call me back before the end of the day… she didn’t. I then had a phone call from one of the counsellors from the session last week call, which was nice. Just a quick follow up chat, seeing how I am. 

I know that I have no beer left… and I am trying consciously not to have any as I’ve drank far too much over the past few weeks… but, as the sun is out… I do fancy a nice fruity IPA…one won’t hurt!

Raw, I say RAW milk!

Saturday was a bit of a write off in all honesty. Mini me wasn’t well, management had a hangover and I was just in a bad mood compounded by he fact I was tired. It was good to see that management had a good time with her buddies at the band contest, I cannot remember the last time that I saw her even tiddly, it was funny and I am glad that she let off a little steam, something she never gets to do… I didn’t ridicule her… much 😂. We sat together, watched a couple of films and not much else really. I wasn’t in the best of moods, I should have gone to meet a comedian friend in Manchester, I didn’t, I was supposed to meet my dad and brother for a beer.. I didn’t. I just went into a staring at nothingness phase… until I went to bed… and then I had the same images as usual flashing through my mind which wasn’t a good start to the sleep…or lying in bed awake routine, whatever you want to call it. 

We woke up on Sunday, all a bit refreshed and ready to go… after a coffee of course, quick look at the news and then onto listening to a bit of music whilst getting ready to go out. It is ‘open farm sunday’ we’ve been a few years on the run since my little girl has arrived on the scene. It’s where farms all round the country, open their doors to the public so you can go in, see how they work, what they do, meet the animals, tractor rides, sample produce etc. It’s always been a good day. I decided to invite my brother for the day, to half make amends for yesterday, plus, I don’t get to see him that often anyway. The place we chose was only 15 or so miles from home… it had an ice cream parlour attached, need I say more! I think you’ve gathered by now that I like a good ice cream. 

My brother drove over to mine and we went from there, it wasn’t too far, a nice drive over, sun was out wished I was on my bike, but that’s another story altogether. We got there, it was really windy on top of the hill, loads of vendors inside a barn selling their wares, had a couple of onion Bhajis that were nice, tried raw milk, which is one of the things we’ve been wanting to get for a long while. Raw milk was so creamy, tasty, it was amazing, we got 2 litres of it out of their vending machine to take away with us. We all had in ice cream, I opted for the ‘dime bar’ flavour, which was a good choice by all accounts, thick, rich, creamy, tasty…!

We were there for a couple of hours, fed a calf or two, went on a tractor ride and then decided we were going to go to a pub on the way back that had a kids play area and have a pint. Within 5 minutes of setting off, the heavens opened! We still drove to the specific pub, even though it was a slight detour as well, pulled up and had a quick chat and decided that it was off to my brothers house, via the shop for a few beers. We later found out that my parents had also arranged to visit his house and had already arranged to have some food there, most probably a takeaway! As the three beers I bought from the coop went down, I was ready for a curry, it didn’t help that it was windy and I could smell the curry house every so often. Anyway, we had to go, school tomorrow and what not, it was too late to eat. We got home, I looked in my depleted stock of beer and pulled out a bottle of brewdog, dead pony club. Management said ‘oooh, you having another beer?’ I replied with a comment, ‘yeah, well, there’s fuck all else to do’ meaning that the bath was on, tv would be crap, so I’ll sit, have a read and a beer… well… that was it… I may as well have ripped her shirt open, hooked her feet from under her, squatted and shat on her face! ‘What’s up with you now, why are you in a bad mood’. I could feel myself going into a bit of a mood for the past 2 hours or so, but now, we’ve just lit a glass milk bottle and smashed it at my feet, well and truly stoked that fire! 

So, off I toddler to the conservatory with my dead pony club and a national geographic…. and the menu for the takeaway!

Whits about you on Witt Friday!

The last couple of days have been up and down really, I’ve felt good and bad. We managed to watch a film last night. Lucy, not a bad film really by all accounts. I went to bed when It finished…. and sat there for hours with thoughts going through my mind… not good ones… when I eventually went to sleep, the thoughts were still there and I woke up a few times, probably the worst sleep I have had in a couple of weeks! I don’t know why it has regressed so much..?In the past couple of days, I have been contacted by my company and also the people who we subcontract for, regarding a few of the recent events that I’ve mentioned, the media block etc. Apparently the guy that was interviewed, shouldn’t have been and the reporter was told by police not to interview anyone, just take photos..? Our media block was because there have been some unscrupulous news sources trying to glean information out of people, gory information.. which is just sick! And also, we, the three of us have been invited to a get together, I can’t say too much, but I am not sure that I will be going as I wouldn’t feel comfortable..🤔

We wake up this morning to the ‘results’ of the election, and at the time of me writing this, it is a ‘hung parliament’. If you voted for one specific person and they didn’t get in, this may be better than the opposition getting in..? Either way.. it would have been so much better to be a clear win by one party or another. Share prices have already dropped. We’re probably the laughing stock of the world right now..? Or, we are going to be more respected as our democratic right has been exercised to the fullest..?

Today is ‘Whit Friday’ and it’s a big thing in these parts. Ordinarily we would book the day off work, they close the roads at certain times and we wouldn’t get home, we’d have to leave our car and walk a distance to get to the front door, queue in traffic….. or we could join in with the festivities… which involves beer… it’s a no brainer. Whit Friday has been described as ‘the greatest free show on Earth’, the Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band Contests take place every year on the afternoon and carries on into the evening. 

The earliest recorded band contest was in 1884! Last year there were over a hundred brass bands that participated in some twenty different contests at venues scattered around the local villages and towns, all of which are on the western edge of the Pennines. The area has a very strong tradition of brass band music. Some bands travel from overseas to compete, Australia, Italy, Sweden to name a few, then there are local school bands as well, they all travel to as many places as possible, the best bands really are world class. From the age of 14/15, it was something that I could ride up to, on my bike from my house, sneak a few beers to and enjoy time with friends… well, I’m sure they used me as I could buy alcohol. It is much the same now, other than I don’t have to sneak the beer. My daughter is walking with her school so it’s an ‘early’ start at school at around 0930… but we will be out all day, we will have a picnic with us and all my beer of course. 

We met in the village and walked up to on of the churches, it was a big thing, even the Arch Bishop of York was here. The band was playing, then the clergy started doing there bit. I’ve never really believed in God.. well I haven’t, the earth is round and was created by a Big Bang, anyway, as they were talking, I couldn’t help think how much it was all bullshit, religion in general, believe what you want, I will never hold it against you, hold it against you, judge you or think any less of you for it, but, who, if there was which a think, would let twenty two innocent people die, then eight more.. and that’s just here, all over the world in the past few weeks, there have been multiple terror acts, some of which there has been no word in the media, these were apparently in the name of a religion…one today in Turkey… so I just found myself starring in to space, not paying attention, there’s nothing that could be said to change my view. But… but… I have fond memories of this time of year from my childhood, spending whit with my grandparents at the church they went to, the one I was christened, married in and will probably have my funeral in. Doing the whit walks with the Cubs, Scouts, Cadets, getting dressed up. 

It was good to see that so many people had turned out and ‘made an effort’. 

Once we’d done the walk and we’re back at school, there was an arranged school picnic/lunch type affair, once the Arch Bishop of York had said grace, they could dig in. 

After the kids had their lunch, everyone walked over to the sports field where there was going to be a little bit of a sports day, kids and adults races took place… the adults had their picnic, I had my Pork and Chorizo pie from the butchers, along with a can of beer that I had been saving and was really looking forwards to trying. It was one from the ‘Northern Monk’ brewery, in Leeds, I was supposed to go for a day out a couple of weeks back, but didn’t make it, so this was the bitter sweet. I’m glad I saved it, it was a nice beer to sit in the sun drinking. 

There were a few races, some kids were interested, some weren’t, they were more happy running round with their mates, it was a good time. The sports events went on for about 2 hours or so, we went back to the car, got a few provisions and went up to the village square so we could set up camp to see the bands play for the band contest and start enjoining the beer… as it happens, I ended up not drinking a lot of beer, my little girl wasn’t feeling too good, but, a good time was had by all. 

A little detective work

Today hasn’t been that bad of a day, I got my daughter dressed, well she does that part herself but I had to spend extra time on her hair, ready for her school photo… which happens to be tomorrow and not today. I’ve been thinking about a lot today, proper time to process things I guess, being alone. And then when everyone is home, one little thing, me putting the blinds how I like them and not how somebody else likes them infuriates me, I took myself off upstairs to be on my own… again… out of the way! I was that angry I was contemplating just walking out of the door and going to the pub for a pint… but decided against it when I realised I had no cash in my pocket! 😂
I had tried to find a few people that I can remember from the night at the arena. The ones that I helped, could help, but to no avail. 

After my friend heather shared a little post on Facebook last week and it went ‘viral’ I’ve had a lot of messages and comments on it, so has Heather. She managed to track a lad that was photographed helping a lady. That guy is going to see the lady in hospital this evening, I think they’re both really brave for doing so, and Heather is a star for working on it for a few days to find it all out and get them connected. Anyway, I thought I’d have a look again, I know 4 names of people from that night that haven’t been named in the news, so I did a little bit of detective work of my own. Two names came up after not that long of searching this afternoon, they are relatives of each other, I sat with them, holding a hand for the longest part, chatting, attempting a bit of first aid, then I sat with them and helped the paramedics with them as well, holding a drip, cutting a trainer off, the usual, I was with them right until they left the building to go to hospital, and then, I didn’t say goodbye to either of them, if that is appropriate, or is that just a British thing to do..? Even though both of their conditions had worsened some what, as I was helping a group of paramedics with something else… enough on that. 

They came up in an internet search, their family have set up a gofundme page to raise money for their donkey sanctuary whilst they’re still in hospital. And that’s what I found. It has upset me a little but it also pleased me to know that their family have been there for them and they’re on the mend…even though they are still in hospital today!!!!

I was posed a question, ‘do you want me to get the ward info for them both as we know the hospital, so you can go and visit them?’ Now, no beating about the bush here, I said No. My thoughts behind that answer were, it upset me a little when I ‘found’ them, but it could upset the both of them a lot more than me, that is of course if they remembered me, they may just remember a bearded fluorescent gorilla leaning over them talking crap and asking random questions to keep them talking, it could bring back memories from that night that they may have started to forget… well, process and try to forget. My being there could be really shit for them. I am happy to know that they’re both… well… I hope they are. I know that they’ve both had multiple surgeries since then and at least one of them will be in hospital for a few more weeks, having another procedure tomorrow I believe, taking it up to four!!!

If you want to have a read of their story, and maybe donate whatever you can, that would mean a great deal to me, I’ll include the link below. 
https://www.gofundme.com/wonkeydonkey?lang=en-GB
I think I’ll go back down stairs now… I may still have that beer…

Routine

For whatever reason, last nights sleep was crap. It took me ages to go to sleep, I was thinking about the train station, the arena, my mind wandered, not to the best place and definitely not the best to be falling asleep with in all honesty. I was awake at 0500, just sat in bed, until 0700. I was looking forwards to today in a way, today is the first day since the attack where I would actually be alone for the day, which was good and also maybe bad. I was looking forwards to being alone, no one asking how I am, constantly talking at me whilst I just give a vacant stare, getting angry over silly little things, I wasn’t looking forwards to the exact same things though, I didn’t want to vegetate and dwell in it all, I panicked a little and thought to myself, have I kept my mind too active and not been able to process it all properly..? It is the first day where I’ll be thrown into a bit more of a normal routine, doing the school run, which I would be doing normally, even if I was at work. This is a good thing as well, a step in the right direction anyway. I sat watching the breakfast news, hearing horrible stories and some truly heroic stories from the attack in London on Saturday. So many people running towards the danger to help others even though the attackers were still active in their rampage, trying to stop them attacking certain people. 

Then it was mentioned first funeral will take place from the Manchester attack, Elidih, she is back home on the island of Barra, it is very upsetting to see this. Her friend, who she went to hospital with is still in a serious condition, I know that one of my colleagues sat with her for a long time, up until and even after the time that the paramedics were allowed in. I’m sure that these memories will be with him today, even more so than before. 

The ‘One Love’ concert went well last night, from what I can gather. I couldn’t watch it, I didn’t want to watch it, I didn’t want to jinx anything happening… I know that sounds stupid though. I know that I’d’ve got upset watching it and I would be thinking about that Monday… which I was anyway, which is why I had a crap sleep again. As I was brushing my little girls hair, I had tears streaming down my face, a proper cry again. There had been an interview of a mother and daughter that were at the concert on that Monday and they also went yesterday. They had struggled over the past couple of weeks, they were visibly upset. I got to thinking about all the innocent people that witnessed… whatever, that night, even the ones who didn’t necessarily physically see anything, they will still be affected by it all. I still cannot believe how many people know someone that was at the concert. I’ve had messages from people saying that they knew some one, and they’ve been from allover, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Edinburgh, at the end of my street… everywhere, just goes to show how many people it will have affected, individuals, families. 

The school run went ok, a quick in and out, managed to avoid other parents and any potential awkward conversations as the weather was bad. I got home, brewed some coffee and put on some music and had a bit of a read…. all day. 

My supervisor from work called me later on in the evening, I had a good chat with him, I appreciated the call in all honesty. Reassured me on a few things and shot the breeze, as they say. I’ve not had that today being in my own.