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.