From 1983 to 1998, I had a very successful professional career in the world of Education. Finalising my career as a Senior Manager in a Residential Special School working for a local authority.
During the early 90's I was attacked with a bug from food poisoning which compromised my immunity. My condition was labeled as 'Reactive Arthritis'. Like all others who work in Special Education, I had the affliction of working beyond capacity, great stoicism, ignored illness and I just plodded along. Some days were good and some were frankly evil, leaving me visually looking like 'death warmed up!'. The condition affected my hands and lower arms with rigorous pain, my eyes were mucous with infection, my 'wee' was acidic with Urinary Tract Infection and my bowels would 'let rip' without warning. I wasn't in a good state and it was a case of managing the symptoms one by one.
I had a wonderful P.A., who covered my tracks if life and my work became too much. But this was not enough and finally, the local authority who employed me concluded that I was to be retired at a young age in 1998. I was 39. Although I was very reluctant and understood the implication in my life, I had no choice but to accept the inevitability of their decision.
My father's critique on my retirement and my industrious nature, when I said to him: "They are going to retire me" was, "Good god! Do they earnestly believe that you'll ever retire?"
Somewhat abandoned with a small pension, I returned to my home 170 miles from my Residential post and left much to my own devices. I had bought (with the support of the bank) a house in a small rural town in the South of England in 1992. So, I was not turfed out onto the streets! For the first year, I cobbled together my finances. I had a PPI that covered the mortgage. I was entitled to incapacity benefit. I had accrued some investments and had a non-assigned endowment policy which I sold in 2002. By the end of 2003, I was getting into debt.
Over the next 6 years, I was to see my health condition start to stabilise, or maybe I just became better at managing it. I 'rattled' from the heaps of drugs to get the immune system to be pro-active. My finances were at rock bottom for most of the time but my father bailed me out if I got into the doo-doo. I sold part of a significant collection of original paintings, I had purchased in the '80s. I played with credit cards and a large overdraft. The wolf was kept from the door having a lodger in late 2007, much the case of having this invasion of my privacy with the final one being 'kicked' out because of his illegal actions.
In 2008 I was determined to get PAYE employment, even if it were part-time. My local authority had some 'zero hours' casual work, which would not compromise my pension payments (superannuation rules, until 2013, claused me not to take on a full-time role in a local authority). I secured a low paid job, but at least it was stable employment. It was enough over the following 2 years to keep the basic bills paid. The final 6 months became tentitive and extremely casual, with sgnificant gaps in my 'rota'. The recession kicked in and there was one month when I only had 14 hours on the working rota. My fuel costs to get to work were £19 and I was taxed on the income. My income from this job in October 2010, was just over £110, minus expenses and tax left me with £86 for a whole month.
At that junction in my life it was to be big decision time - stick it out or field myself to an agency with the only realistic employment option was back working in the residential sector (as they always needed staff) . I was very confident I would get work, after all, said I did have the qualifications, the experience, and a proven record. Within a month of being on an agency's books, they had found me work in Yorkshire at a private college as a 'Deputy' Housemaster working in the Sixth Form paying £15,000 a year (food and lodging provided). Within six months I had proved my worth and was appointed as a Senior Manager of the most troubled residential block in the college and my pay was reasonable. During the term-time, I was working at least 15 hours a day and on downtimes, like my colleagues, I just crashed.
A tiring, but stable and happy year ensued. Focused on the job in-hand, always tired from often doing very long hours, but the reward was a 'good' regular income and some education holidays if I were not on staff training. I started to build my savings and I was in the position to negotiate some debt payments, the surplus of income also afforded me a replacement 'second hand' car and the luxury of several weeks UK holiday and even allowed me the chance to visit Jersey.
I returned to work, after the 2012 Summer holidays in great spirits. My residential block had been re-vamped, decorated, and seemed to be far more serviceable. The September weather was 'warm sunny days and coolish un-clouded nights'.
My spirits, comfort, and happiness were not to last long.