Monthly Archives: July 2008

Work-Related Depression

I love my job. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I’m very good at it. So why have I been told by my doctor that I have work-related depression and that I need to have at least two weeks off? This post is my attempt to explore how this happened to me.

Things boiled over on Wednesday morning last week when I simply couldn’t face going into work. So I stayed in bed and slept for most of the day. I did the same on Thursday and Friday. Although I felt a little better over the weekend and went to a neighbour’s wedding reception on Saturday night, my overwhelming feeling was that I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything very much and that I felt very tired all the time.

On Monday, I went in to see the doctor after a series of questions about how I felt, I was almost relieved when she gave me a certificate for two weeks off work and an appointment to go back in two weeks time.

Looking back over the last few months, I can now see that this wasn’t something that happened suddenly.

I can’t put my finger on when things got really bad, but I’ll start by going back almost a year to a massive scare about funding for the whole organisation. Management started a big consultation about redundancies and they based the consultation on a worst-case scenario of more than 20 redundancies. I was asked to be a staff representative at the start of this process and although I tried to bring some fun into the initial election process, nothing can change the fact that we were all very worried about our jobs.  This consultation and its inevitable aftermath seemed to go on for months and was probably the start of my slide into depression.

In fact, the whole thing got to quite a lot of staff and even though almost all of the redundancies were withdrawn as new funding came in, quite a lot of people were so unsettled by this that they have now left the organisation.

Along the way, I was asked to take a small part in a massive project that was being led by my boss and a colleague. As an all-round good bloke and team player, I agreed.  At that time I would never, in my wildest dreams, have thought that this colleague would be one of the exodus to a new and better job and that my boss would also leave under what I can only describe as some very dubious circumstances. This, of course, left me with 100% of this project with a very immovable deadline looming.

At the same time, and although my own job was secured at the eleventh hour, the other remaining staff in my team were all closing down their own projects; some to leave the organisation and others to stay, but to move into new jobs. To say that I felt unsupported would be the understatement of the year. At least, whatever support I did get was from Sue, my wife, and from staff in the external organisation who were working in partnership with my own organisation to deliver the big project. At the time, I didn’t spot this one, but looking back, the disappearance of my team manager left a big gap in my own support that should have been filled by more senior managers.

During this time, recruitment was under way for new workers to take up the newly created jobs in our team that had arrived with the new funding. I was also involved in some of this recruitment. At the time I was happy to do this, but in hindsight, it only added to my already overflowing workload. This recruitment brought a lot of new people into the place (as well a couple of existing staff with new roles).  It was probably down to me being too helpful, but I then pitched into helping these new staff members to get to grips with the team, the job and the organisation.

Along the way, we had that dreadful month of Sue’s cancer scare. I have already written about the effect that this had on me. I can now see that it was part of the cumulative effect that led to my present state.

Around this time, I also applied for an internal vacancy. This was a job that I could do and was a natural progression from what I do now. I was very upset that the only response I had to this application was a message left for me while we were on holiday in Somerset saying that I hadn’t been shortlisted for the job.

With the major project out of the way, things should have settled down and I should have been getting back into the swing of my normal job. It was also around now that senior management decided to get involved. I was hauled into supervision and told that I was no longer to do part of my job because there was a new staff member who would do it.  I have already said that I am good at my job and this part of it was something that I also enjoyed a lot. It was also something for which I have built up a good reputation locally, regionally and nationally for myself as well as for the organisation.

When I also saw that this work was simply not being done, I protested to the manager concerned and was devastated to be told that she “didn’t care” about this.

So here I am, I now have a mental illness.

I’ll try to write about what I’m doing during this strange, enforced holiday, but although the weather is glorious, I haven’t even pushed the bike out of the garage or been to a railway.  Part of me wants to do both of these, but a far stronger part of me simply can’t be bothered.

OK, I’ll get over it. Maybe writing this will help, but I’m too close to it to know at the moment.

Ride Safe


Catch Up With Some Old News – Somerset

For reasons that I have already gone into here, blogging became rather less of a priority last month (June), so I missed a few ride reports and other bits an pieces, so this is a quick catch up.

I suppose the biggest news was that we had our first trip using only the bike and leaving the car behind, although we still had to take Sue’s hairdryer. Fortunately, the bags on the Heritage Softail are a lot bigger than the ones on the Sportster, so we were able to cope with the two bags and our new tailpack.

A few years ago now, I was featured in the Nottingham Evening Post as “Person Of The Week”, a feature that no longer runs. Along with a brief moment of fame and a second use as chip wrapping, cane a prize of a holiday. This turned out to be a week’s self catering at Pontins and having looked at the brochure, we chose Brean Sands in Somerset, near Weston-Super-Mare.  We decided to accept the place for what it is, a holiday centre aimed squarely at children, and to use it as a base for getting out to see some of the surrounding areas.

Once we were on their marketing list, further offers and deals arrived a couple of times a year so we have been there three times now. Somerset is an undiscovered gem that most holidaymakers rush through to get to Cornwall or Devon. However, Glastonbury (the town, not the music festival, is enchanting, Bath is spectacular and the Bristol Channel coast is quiet and peaceful.

This year’s trip was from Monday 23rd June to Friday 27th June. The weather was OK, we had our share of rain and overcast, but almost all of it was overnight or when we were back at base camp. Although we wore our waterproofs on a couple of days, we never really got properly wet.

The riding there and back was fairly dull, all motorway, although it was great not having to keep the car in view in my mirrors or by training behind it. And when we hit the slow traffic around Birmingham, I was able to do some judicious filtering to make better progress than if we’d been stuck in the queue with the car.

On the way down, we visited Riders of Bristol, the Harley dealer. Although the bike was fully loaded, we still added to our collection of Harley-Davidson branded clothing, and added still more when we visited the other Riders dealership in Bridgewater later in the week. With somecareful packing, we were even able to bring all the shopping home with us.

Once out and about around Somerset, the riding was great.

We had a great day out in Cheddar Gorge; carefully avoiding spending lots of money on the highly developed tourism, but we found a great little cafe for our lunch. They were very busy and it took a long time to be served with or food, but the staff were very apologetic and even gave us our second pot of tea free.

We also went to what is fast becoming my favourite steam railway of all the ones I have visited so far, the West Somerset Railway. On this year’s visit, we were unable to find a free parking place for the bike close to Minehead station, so we set off out into the country and joined the train at one of the stations down the line (I think it was Dunster, but I’m not 100% sure).  The ride down to Bishops Lydeard and back was smooth, comfortable and the railway’s volunteers were friendly and efficient. In particular, Jo, who was one of the volunteers in the buffet on the train was a huge Harley-Davidson fan. When Sue went down to the buffet wearing a Harley T-shirt, Jo chatted enthusiastically about her own Harley experience as a birthday treat. She was just as keen to talk when I went down later on the journey.

Jo was also looking forward to the Harley 105th anniversary celebration which was to be held at Butlins in Minehead a week after our visit.

One of the highlights of our Somerset trip this year was a trip to visit an old friend, Trevor Morgan and  his wife Cilla. We spent a great day with Trevor as our guide exploring a couple of the villages in the Black Down Hills, including Hemyock.  Trevor is very much into the history of the area, especially during the Dark Ages and is also the author of several sagas about those times.

Our other day out was to Clevedon Court, a house steeped in history that is now in the care of the National Trust.

In all this was a good break in an area that we have come to like a lot. I’ve talked to Sue about whether we should try a different Pontins as a base to explore another part of the country next time, but she’s not keen to move away from this area yet. We’ll have to see whether we get another great deal next year.

Ride Safe

Volunteer Coordinators’ Network Update 61

Hi Everyone,

The powers that be at work have indicated that they don’t like the fact that there was work-related information on my personal blog.

I have refused to delete this page, but have agreed to remove the content. In fact, I intended to do this anyway at some point.

Ride Safe

Hoggin The Beaver V – Part 3

Follow these  links if you want to read Part 1 and Part 2 before coming back to the final part of this tale of our last Harley-Davidson Weekend.

After the naked truth about some of the great and good within the Hoggin the Beaver and Sherwood Chapter organisation, Saturday evening back on the campsite could have been a real anticlimax. However, the band that Pete had booked for this evening proved to be more than equal to the task of filling the dance floor and keeping the assembled throng entertained.

The Hound Dogs are a three piece rockabilly band. This statement does nothing to convey the supreme musicianship of these three lads, a guitarist who fingers turn into a blur across his semi-acoustic instrument as he finds time for fills, riffs and solos among the frantic pace set by a drummer who hardly ever sits down and an upright bass player who spins his bass around, lifts it above his head and never misses a beat.

The only down side to Saturday night at Hoggin the Beaver is the interminable raffle and auction that went on for over an hour between the band’s two sets. It’s a real shame that the music has to stop for so long, but let’s also remember that the weekend is fundamentally all about fundraising. I know that I am in a minority here, but my own approach to this long and dull hour is to stay out of the way. 

Maybe last year’s experience of having a pint of beer spilled over one of our speakers also influenced on my lack of interest in this, apart from a healthy determination to keep our equipment right out of the firing line.  Once we had achieved this, we stayed outside the building among the smokers, having some good conversations with a few other people who were .

It is a real credit to the Hound Dogs that they managed to rekindle the vibe once their second set got under way. Sue and I pushed and shoved our way back into the room to enjoy the music and the whole spectacle of the show. This culminated during their encore with the drummer setting fire to one of his cymbals and the guitarist standing on the bass drum.

If you get a chance to see the Hound Dogs, grab it, it will be a night to remember. They really are the ideal band for a small venue like the Rutland Arms at a gig packed with middle-aged bikers. From my point of view, they are also the kind of consummate professionals that any DJ is delighted to support.

After the band had finished, I was able to pick up on the great atmosphere, although I was disappointed that Sue was again unable to be with me on stage and that she went off to the tent and to bed.  Would you credit the fact that I even played some Northern Soul at a biker gig! Dobie Gray’s “Out On The Floor” went into Muriel Day’s “Nine Times Out Of Ten” and segued into the original version of “Tainted Love” by Gloria Jones. With lots of other Motown and sixties music as well, we all had a chance to re-live our youth club days.

Whenever I do a gig for the Sherwood Chapter lot, I always play the favourite record of one of our members, Carol Wright. From the reaction at this gig, it seems that a lot of other people also have a soft spot for “Everlasting Love” by Love Affair.  One of these days I must play Robert Knight’s version for Carol.

At about quarter past one on Sunday morning, I was asked by one of the bar staff what time we intended to finish, so, abandoning the usual end-of-evening love songs, I finished with Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love”.

I was almost glad to stagger off down the camping field and fall into bed.

Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and dry. We were still in the land of nod when we heard the first V-Twin engine rumble into life and away from the rally at about 7:30am. We had already decided that we were in no hurry, so the day eventually started with a cup of tea and spaghetti on raw toast (OK, it was on bread.)  We eventually went up to the pub and borrowed the function room key and got stuck into  a leisurely de-rig of the equipment. After loading up the car, it was time to turn our attention to the tent and camping gear.

By this time, the last of the dew had long dispersed and we stacked the contents of the tent outside on the grass while we took the tent down and worked out how to pack it back into the bag.

I really don’t know why such a simple task always has to result in a few “words” between Sue and I, but it always does. She ought to know by now that I don’t need to be told how to fold a tent. In fact, I’m reckon that tent packing is one skill that all men acquire in their genes.

Once the camping gear had been stuffed into the car on top of the disco gear it was almost lunchtime and Sue had very sensibly booked us into the pub for our Sunday lunch. We had to wait for a few minutes, which I used to help with some of the clearing up before settling down to an excellent Sunday roast and all the trimmings. I was surprised that we were the only campers in the place, although enough people seem to travel to the Rutland Arms that the campers weren’t missed.

After lunch, we said our final goodbyes and set off for home where, after unloading the car, we crashed out to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Although we don’t know the dates for next year’s Hoggin the Beaver, it is possible that we won’t be able to go if it’s the same weekend in 2009. This has already been booked for my eldest son’s wedding.

Ride Safe

Volunteer Coordinators’ Network Update 60

Hi all,

The powers that be at work have indicated that they don’t like the fact that there was work-related information on my personal blog.

I have refused to delete this page, but have agreed to remove the content. In fact, I intended to do this anyway at some point.

Ride Safe

Hoggin The Beaver V – Part 2

You can read part 1 of this post by scrolling down the page or by clicking on

Saturday morning dawned overcast and the overnight rain had left the tent wet and the camping field pretty soggy. After a hearty breakfast, and Sue and I shared a mug of tea with Eric, also known to Sherwood Chapter members as Bananaman, it was time to get ready for the ride-out. 

There was some debate about weariing waterproofs as the dark, rain-laden clouds were scudding overhead. I decided to compromise and wear waterproof trousers, but to put my waterproof jacket in the saddlebag. As it turned out, waterproofs weren’t really needed as we only saw a few drops of rain all day, and nothing to worry a bunch of tough biker types.

The initial route was the one that has been established over the last three years of Hoggin the Beaver. We ride up to Belvoir Castle and assemble on a terrace behind the castle where we park the bikes and present the cheque for the funds raised during the previous year. This year we presented £3000 to the Air Ambulance and it was announced that the next 12 months fundraising wil go to cancer Research.

The ride up to the castle through the parkland was interesting this year as we were sharing part of our route with a triathalon. At the briefing before the ride, Pete warned us to give way to any runners that we encountered and there were plenty of them all the way through the park. I felt quite happy to be using 1440cc of Harley-Davidson power up the hills rather than the muscle power that the runners were having to employ.

After the cheque presentation, it was time to set out on the ride proper. Our route took us through Leicestershire towards Market Harborough and into the village of Tur Langton. We have now been here three times to the very welcoming hostelry, the Crown. Each time we have been there for a rideout, the staff have been great. They have put on a band, a barbecue and generally made us very welcome. Although the range and quality of food on the barbecue wasn’t quite up the high standard of last year, my burger was perfectly OK.

The first time we went to this unsuspecting little village, a couple of people raised quite a lot of money by riding their bikes naked along the main street.  A couple of tasteful pictures of this can be seen on the Hoggin The Beaver website. This naked riding has become something of a tradition and this year the assembled throng were stunned when someone came round with a jug saying that Sam wouls strip off and ride down the high street if we filled the jug with pound coins. It didn’t take long for the jug to filled with coins and notes of all denominations.

There was a lull while preparations were completed, although I suspect that this was well planned before the day. Eventually, no less than three bikes appeared, led by a naked Pete, followed by an equally naked Sam with another young lady on her pillion and a husband and wife couple. they were followed by the van from the Robin Hood Harley-Davidson dealership which had served as changing room and support vehicle.

There were lots of people taking pictures, so I am sure that these will appear sometime soon and maybe I’ll update this post when that happens.

In Part 3 I’ll cover Saturday evening’s entertainment and anything else I can think of about the weekend.

Ride Safe

Hoggin The Beaver V – Part 1

I almost wrote “Blogging The Beaver”, but that’s one step too cheesy, even for me.

If you stumbled across this post and are completely mystified about that title, stick around for a few moments and I’ll reveal all. You know, that might just be the most appropriate phrase that I could have used to describe the most recent weekend of our lives.

Hoggin the Beaver is an annual rally where (mostly) members of the Harley Owners Group get together as the culmination of a year’s considerable amount of fundraising. It’s held in the Vale of Belvoir, close to Belvoir Castle, where Belvoir is pronounced (and I know that you’re ahead of me here) Beaver! Obviously Hoggin The Beaver V is the fifth time that this event has been run.

Although the vast majority of people attending are from various HOG chapters, including Sherwood Chapter, it isn’t a chapter organised event, but is organised as a labour of love by Pete Clifford and his partner Sam York. They sort out the whole weekend between them with what always appears to be the absolute minimum of support from anyone else.

The format is much like any other biker rally (in my limited experience), with arrival and tent pitching on the Friday afternoon and evening, before Saturday’s main events and a Sunday packing up and travelling home.

This year, Friday was decidedly showery, but Sue and I had a dry journey from Nottingham to the venue, the Rutland Arms, aka the dirty Duck,  just outside the village of Woolsthorpe. We had bought a new tent a day or so earlier and we are very grateful to Eric, one of the Sherwood Chapter members, for his help putting it up.

This is an enormous 4 berth dome tent, and even though there are only the two of us who will ever use it, the domestic authority needs the extra space to scatter her belongings. (Don’t ask me, I’m just a man.)

One the tent was up, we could ignore the showers and turned our attention to our major responsibility of the weekend, providing the disco. It seems that it is 100% compulsory to have a live band to provide the evening entertainment at every rally. The band booked for Friday night was El Gecko, an four piece who were the most laid-back and easy-going bunch of musicians you could ever hope to work with. They arrived bang on time and took less than an hour to set up and be ready to go. I even had to invite them to take the time to do a full band soundcheck because they knew that I was waiting to start the disco. It was a refreshing contrast to work with these guys after one or two bands in previous years.

However, the problem with this venue has always been space. The stage is only just big enough for my own disco rig and the band. This means that Sue cannot take her rightful place at my side during the disco sessions and has to hang around at a loose end while I’m performing.  She won’t thank me for telling you that last year she got a bit drunk and got into an argument with a hanger-on from the band. This year, she took a book and sat in tent reading during my early sessions. We linked up while the band were on, and although I don’t normally drink at all when I’m doing disco, but everybody else was certainly getting stuck in, so Sue and I had a night on Magners cider.  It doesn’t take much to be enough for either of us these days, but it’s a fine tipple, if you like that sort of thing. But once the band had finished and I started my main set through until  about 1am, Sue went back to the tent and went to bed.

In Part 2 of this report, look out for my ride-out report and an update about Saturday night’s entertainment.

Ride Safe