JOURNAL OF A LIFE – Rent – Anybody At Home? Rent…
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JOURNAL OF A LIFE
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As a great mentor of mine – Joe Schroeder – never tired of saying “A Life Worth Living is a Life Worth Recording” so today I am here to share another episode in the life’s journey of one of the great people whose life I am privileged to have shared a part of – my mother AnneKaete Pocklington.
Rent – Anybody At Home? Rent…
There is one part of this journey of a life that is so beneath anything I could have imagined.
And I would never want to ask anyone else to imagine it.
A part where the reality is so incredible that it defies imagination.
But it needs telling, so
Rent – Anybody At Home? Rent…
This was an experience which only the privileged can have. Of really well and truly knowing how the other side lived. That is so easily said and is unbelievably moving, in all its aspects. I had been at the housing office for about a year and getting to know then quite a new side of people, both in front and behind the counter. Listening to complaints which seemed unbelievable etc. Now I went to the front and got to know the real truth. Many, many sides of life and its people. Many. Many stories. I will have to tell some of my Colleagues experiences as well, as they make the experience more rounded. But mostly they will be my own. Needless to say, I would love to write a book about it all. It could be a “Funny, Ha! Ha!” book or a tragic one. But a large book it could be. But it might never get written, and so I will tell the tales a little more fully here.
A part-time job as a Rent Collector was advertised, and as the three days a week appealed to me I applied for the job. Was duly interviewed and accepted for it. And three days were possible because those were the days when the Rent Collectors were actually out in the Estates, collecting the rent . Every week was rent day then, you collected once a week from every house. Some people opted out and found it more convenient to pay the rent themselves in town at the Rent Office, so out of an Estate of roughly 650 dwellings a Collector would collect from about half the houses, or just over half.
One set out in the morning to start about half past eight or nine o’clock at the first house. One was back in the office about 3 or half past and had then to balance the books, pay the money in, do some bookkeeping and prepare for the next day. The Thursday and Friday was Office work only, when one made out the new Rent Cards, wrote letters of outstanding rents to the people who had not paid, and balanced the books for the week, making out new sheets for the coming week etc. But at the beginning, I only worked 3 days and was just an outside Collector. After a year they did away with Part-timers and I became a full-time Collector like everybody. Iris was then one of my Colleagues and we got on fine. She became a Housing Visitor and Rate Cashier in another Office later. But at first we worked in the same office. We all got on very well indeed, a nice bunch of fellows, and a few girls, seeing each other for a couple of hours in the Office, telling of experiences and generally helping one another when necessary. We all got on well, but the Job!!!
I learned first with Ken; an experienced Rent Collector and very, very nice Colleague. I could not have had a better teacher anywhere. My estate was very confusedly built. It had been built rather higgeldy-piggeldy and everybody got lost in it. Bill went with me the first few weeks after I was on my own, just to teach me the route. It was unbelievable difficult. He directed me by various maps until I knew my way. Some people never learned the route.
Anyway, there I was, and a new world opened its door to me. In short, the very old and infirm people, who lived on their own and just saw 2 people each week, the Rent Collector and the Insurance man. One to keep the roof over their heads and one to put them in the box when the day was done, and they went to their rest. They managed to shuffle to the one little shop on the Estate or bought off the mobile shop which came once a week.
The very ill people, who liked you to come and take their hands and stay and talk, just a little, about the outside world, until you came one week and the bed was empty. And you had to help dry the tears of the lonely one left.
And the ones who always had a little job for you. Who had been waiting for you and …. would you
please put a bulb into that lamp etc.
And the nearly blind ones who asked you to read the letter they had received that morning and they didn’t like to wait until night-time when the daughter or son would look in on them. And the ones who wanted you to know where they had hidden their savings in case anything happened to them. That was always a specially horrible thing to happen because the responsibility was far too great. It often meant advising them that they must take some of it to the bank, it was too much. Again, helping younger ones, with a lot of little children, to get slowly rid of the arrears, by paying it off in 50p or even less. Advising others how they might be able to buy their own home by telling them how we had done it.
Or stopping a Baby crying whose mother was nearly frantic because it had cried for hours and hours.
Or just lending an ear, listening, to a story of happiness or sorrow which had to be told to someone.
Or being shouted and sworn at for wanting rent.
And “who do you think you are you ba……!”
And seeing a curtain move and then not getting an answer to my knock.
Of being a welcome visitor, almost a friend, who must have a cuppa coffee before you go on.
Unforgettable People, all of them!
Of shyly getting a little Christmas present, a few chocolates or nuts, or a brooch bought at a “bring and buy” sale or bazaar.
Of almost crying with that young mother, who had gone the day before to spend the Rent money because ‘our Jimmy needs shoes’.
Of laughing and crying with real people, being loved and hated by them.
Most of the people were very clean, and proud housewives. Some of the gardens were a picture to behold. Some homes so very, very beautiful and a pleasure to see.
But – alas – some so dreadful that it is not easy to describe, but I must. The estate was about 5 years old. One, two and 3 bedroom accommodation with bathroom, kitchen, toilet (some even two), living-room, hall and front and back gardens. Some with a garage just round the corner. Communal hanging places for the washing, and communal Dustbins in special high surrounds somewhere. Large open-plan lawns were all kept by the corporation. Every now and then a play area for young children with swings and roundabouts etc. Rent about £6 to £7 per week plus Rates of about £1.50 or so a week. Some Maisonettes above old persons’ one bedroom flats. A very bad way to build as the landings leading to the maisonette were right above the bedrooms of the elderly. The whole estate was very badly planned in some way.
However, they could have been, and in places still were, very good homes and accommodation, modern and new. But what some people had done to these premises in so few years was absolutely unbelievable.
The wooden polished doors from room to room were nice doors. But some people who had cats or dogs had roughly sewn a square out of it at the bottom to let the animal in and out of the room. Not finished off to look right, but just roughly hacked out. Too lazy to get up and let the animal out of the room.
Some kept their dogs and puppies in one of the bedrooms and did not bother to clean out this ‘kennel’ or take the animals out for the necessities.
Bathrooms where the baths were piled up high with everything imaginable, from coal to motorbikes to half cars. Never to be used as a bath. The supposed joke about coal in the bath is not, I repeat, not a joke at all.
Doors and the built-in Cupboards taken off and burnt for firewood in the open fireplace of the sitting room. Washbasins in Toilets taken or ripped off and sold.
I have been in some houses where I breathed a deep breath before going in, holding my breath until I came out, because of the stench.
I have seen carpeted rooms where you could not see the colour of the carpet because it was so thick with dirt.
I have stepped high steps to avoid dog excrement all over the floor, even where children were crawling on the floor.
I have seen washbasins which had held a centimeter dirt around them.
I have seen beds covered with old coats etc. and no sheets. Some smelled so high of ammonia that my eyes smarted when going in.
I have seen smartly dressed females come out of houses where one slid over human, dog or cat excrement. Women who lived in those houses. Houses without lampshades anywhere, just the bare minimum of furniture and the largest television available standing in the corner. And everybody in the houses earning full wages and smoking all day.
Women galore with black and bruised faces when their loved ones had hit and kicked them.
Children who had never been washed for weeks or were almost naked. But usually loved I like to add.
Windows broken because he or she threw something, And then boarded up for weeks.
Experiences of some of my colleagues might just be mentioned here. Iris, when she was a housing visitor, wanted to encourage a housewife to clean a washbasin which was thick with grime . But the woman objected: “I am not cleaning somebody else’s dirt, that was like that when I moved in” (some 4 weeks earlier).
Another Colleague cane into a sitting room which was full of smoke. When entering he fell or stumbled over something. It was the end of a tree trunk. The other end was in the fireplace, and was pushed up further as it burnt up. One way of avoiding shopping for firewood or logs.
Another Colleague came to collect rent and the floorboards had been taken up about half a yard into the room. A very large TV in the corner. These taken up floorboards enabled people to sit in comfort watching the set, by leaning their backs against the wall and having their legs dangling below the floor.
Another had a little boy opening the door to him and saying his mother was out. To which the Collector said “ask your Mam when she will be in” to which the child promptly shouted back “when are you in Mam”.
I have been in beautifully kept houses where both people earned fantastic salaries in respectable positions but they owed over £300 rent and had no intention whatsoever to pay it off. They just cleared it every time the day before they were due in Court for nonpayment. Costing the town a lot of money that way. But by law they could not be thrown out because they did pay, eventually. They always owed £300 to £400.
One could go on for more and more, but just an illustration is enough. What it did to my great respect and belief in the British people is nobody’s business. But then again one should not put anything on a Pedestal, so it was my own fault.
But with all the needless prejudice about, against people of different colour in particular, these people were white, Halifax, and Yorkshire, and English, born and bred. So, whenever I hear a prejudiced statement, and to my great sorrow one hears many, the world is so full of ignorant people, I shudder inside and my heart bleeds, and I like to say ‘God forgive them’ for they don’t know what they are doing….’
But my own Humiliation was not complete until I became a ‘Repair Clerk’ after five very, very happy years as Rent Collector. Because, with all the bad things one experienced and saw, the lovely lovely people from those rounds, rich and poor, will forever stay in one’s mind.
But then there was a change round in local Government and we were all tumbled over and some had to retire, some got different jobs, and so I went on. And I became a Repair Clerk. And the insults, swearing, threatening of my life and limb, and harassment by the Customers went on and on, even in my sleep I heard it, felt it, dreamed about it. I could not stop it. All this for repairs not done, not done right etc. And they really were not done as they should have been done. There I could accuse forever more. But the blunt end of rightful and not rightful anger was me, and one of my dear Colleagues, a lovely girl from Australia who had married an Englishman. We took it, but at the end it took us, almost. And people before us had to retire sick, and with heart attacks etc. after doing the job for a while, so it really was most dreadful. And it was the lowest paid of all the jobs.
But I managed to escape before giving up the Job altogether. I applied, and got, the job of Wages Clerk in the Parks Department. Later I changed over to bonus Clerk where I worked again with my beloved figures, and where I found the atmosphere in the Office like a holiday home after the dreadful atmosphere in the Housing Office.
It was a very busy job. But we had nice Offices in a very very old Army Barracks, a historical group of buildings where the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment, Halifax’s pride and joy, used to have its Barracks. It was a lovely friendly, peaceful Office with nice Colleagues and to be dealing with flowers and nature after the dreadful expedience with human’ for nearly a year, it was all that a very sick heart like mine needed.
I stayed there until I retired some 4 years later. Whenever the telephone rang nobody swore and shouted foul language down the line at me, and threatened to come and kill me. It was, maybe, a gardener inquiring or making a statement, civilized people being human and decent.
It took months for me to get right and sleep happy again, and to forget these insults. But it did come right in the end. I dropped about £7 per week in Salary to take this job, but that was well and truly worth it for me and felt more like a hundred pound raise. I had come back from another planet and that felt lovely.
If life is the best teacher, doesn’t it make sense to learn from the lives of others?
So what did I learn from today’s episode?
I learned that it takes a really special type of human being to describe the circumstances above has having been a privilege to experience, and
I learned,that since appearances can be so deceiving, it is not my place to pre-judge any other human being, either for looking ‘like me’, or for being of some other ethnic origin …
So Now it’s YOUR turn, dear Reader. What did YOU learn?
Please ADD and SHARE your insights in the COMMENT BOX Below
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Published: October 8, 2014, 17:01 | No Comments on JOURNAL OF A LIFE – Rent – Anybody At Home? Rent…
Category: Real People Helping Real People, The Story Of A Life