Monday, June 25, 2007

At last, someone worth voting for


I am coming to the end of my six week work stint and just about over the culture shock. The picture above is of my colleague Michelle Epstein who is a finalist in the ‘Council Worker of the Year Award’. I have to say the quality of the colleagues is a good deal higher than my usual. I wanted to tell you a bit about Michelle and how you can join in the fun of voting for her. You see, you don’t have to live in Redbridge or even Britain to vote. She would be delighted to get support from Abu Dhabi, Wollongong and Wheeling, West Virginia. You don’t have to know her either – you can just take my word for her general wonderfulness. My tastes in humankind, as you know, are impeccable.

Vote here, now.

Michelle is one of those refreshingly no nonsense action-type people that you sometimes think have been purged from local authorities along with the people who know how to buy the right kind of computers and speak in whole sentences. The faith agenda, I have mentioned before, leaves me cold. It often seems like a mechanism for re-empowering the oppressive religious interests that we spent the better part of the last century carefully unpicking from public functions, for very good reasons. But when Michelle facilitated the setting up of the Redbridge Faith Forum, it was with the intention it would contribute to debate about practical problems that affect people’s everyday lives. In 2005 the Faith Forum debated ‘God and Global Warming’. Now that is what I call pulling your weight.

That year, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer. She did the unthinkable and dared to defy doctors – choosing to refuse to continue with treatment she didn’t feel was making her better. Doctors don’t like to be disagreed with and were not best pleased, telling her ‘you will die’. She didn’t and she has been in remission for nearly two years now. One of the great and admirable things about Michelle is that she has faith in herself. She’s also incredibly superstitious – like me. Michelle even knows superstitions that not even I have heard of, like the one that says if you make a pronouncement and someone sneezes straight afterwards, it must be true. And here was me thinking I just know a lot of people with hay fever.

So, after six weeks of sitting in a lovely quiet office in a three star council, working with people who appear to be in possession of a full set of marbles and flitting off across the road to the Oxfam bookshop, (I know I said I don’t do shopping but books aren’t really shopping – they’re more like a permanent loan from the library), I’m ready to park some money in my dwindling account and get back to the serious business of getting this novel finished. For the first couple of weeks, I managed to rewrite a couple of pages a night but then I was writing reports during the day and I was more or less written out when I got home. All I could do was shuffle around the marshes and throw on a DVD in the last couple of weeks.

If this was my last working experience in England, and I’m fairly sure it will be, it has been positive. One council, I call it the London Borough of Towering Incompetence, I’ve worked at four times and each time they’ve managed to embroil me in a major corruption scandal. The first three times the main player was the same guy. This is over a ten year period. He’s in jail now. The last time they had me front a ‘community engagement’ project where I went out to some of the poorest people living in the most disgusting housing and promised them a token amount of money to spend on environmental improvements. After a couple of months, I worked out they hadn’t secured the money. Nasty. But then, I picked up a couple of good friends on that job – I always do. Even in the most desperately awful workplaces, you find nice people trying to do good things.

I’m glad I met Michelle and Roisin, Aslam, Numan, Tony, Mike, Tracey, Lin, Jackie, Carla, Sylvia, Colwyn, Kamlesh, Peter and Claire and, of course John, the lovely man whose seat I’ve been keeping warm for the last six weeks. Oh, and my friend John at the train station and Linda who brings around the tea trolley – yes they even have a tea trolley, and the lady at the Oxfam bookshop. It’s not so bad going to work. Of course, it’s much better not to and I’m quite looking forward to getting back to my life…

Photo from Redbridge Life


Quink said...

An amazing person.

And so must you be to have worked for that council.

That's so pants said...

Hiya Quinkie.

Yes, the LB of Towering Incompetence - believe it or not, there are actually some lovely people there too.

Bwca said...

Wishing Michelle Every Good Thing !

That's so pants said...

Thanks bwca - I'll pass that on.



Kris said...

I'm pleased to report I've jsut voted. I've done my time at a similar institution and know that people like Michelle are as rare as gold dust.

All the best!

That's so pants said...

Cheers Kris

Bwca said...

Michelle has been voted for by:

bless her and all who sail in her.

Liz said...

I work in the education sector where there are some brilliant tutors and lecturers and some of the local managers are good people too. Unfortunately, we are all working for some truly moronic senior managers and drowning in admin (as one tutor from my area is very fond of saying "can't we leave the paperwork and just do some teaching?!"

One day, the good people will triumph. Won't they?

I'm off to check out that link - Michelle sounds like quite a woman.

That's so pants said...

bwca - you are wonderful - but you know that.

Liz - thank you. Michelle is lying in second place at the moment. We must help her win!!

Liz said...

I can't get that link to work - I just get the 'Page not available' message. Booo.

That's so pants said...

I know Liz - I know. I am trying to fix now. I have had lots of emails on this. Please keep trying.



J said...

Hi there,

Just to let you all know that Michelle eventually came second... she had over 8000 votes though, so thank you to everyone here who voted for her.


That's so pants said...

Thanks J

I looked on the website yesterday and the results hadn't been announced. Well done to Michelle for a fine effort and congrats on being runner-up.