Into the Frying Pan
Whilst I now had direction I returned to the UK homeless, jobless and penniless; so things were far from ideal. By mid December things were getting desperate and, with the approaching festive period, unlikely to improve before the New Year.
It was then that I received a forwarded email from a postgraduate friend regarding a research post with the North Yorkshire company, Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC). A former ADAS research station STC were looking for a “soil scientist/compost specialist with a special interest in soil science and in particular the use of recycled materials in plant growing media”. I wrote a covering email requesting more information, attached a CV and my dissertation abstract and clicked send.
It was Monday 16th December so I didn’t expect to hear anything till after the Christmas period so was surprised on checking my email later that evening to have received a reply inviting me to interview for the coming Friday. I replied accepting the invite and again requested more information about the post.
The Friday came and being the last Friday before Christmas it was far from an ideal day to travel. Getting to my final destination proved tortuous and turned impossible on arrival at Selby when I learned that there was a four hour wait for a taxi from the train station. With STC situated some 5 miles away in the middle of nowhere I wasn’t walking and so had to resort to telephoning the company to fetch me; something they were not overly keen on doing!
On arrival I was greeted by the sight of STC’s buildings. Which amounted to a collection of ground level interconnected boxes. An old 1970’s ADAS research station, it was clinical, absent of any design consideration and had long past its usefulness. Set in an equally empty and cold landscape it’s dilapidated exterior was ‘complimented’ by the stark and impersonal interior. Dark blue office carpets, flat white walls plastic furniture, and empty silence made it sterile and cold, lacking any semblance of comfort.
As if to add realism the interview was conducted in a similarly cold room and whilst polite it did not, from my perspective at least, go particularly well but at least I learned a little more about what the project was about.
To support the development of standards for compost by
investigating the benefits and efficacy of compost use in different applications
STA0015 was government sponsored but administered via the Quango WRAP (Waste Recycling and Action Plan) who had contracted the London based consultancy Enviros who in turn had contracted STC and who were now interviewing me to actually research and write the report.
Although I was not being interviewed to write the whole of the document as two sections, one on agricultural and one on landscaping, were to be authored by Enviros consultants Phil Wallace and Sam Brown respectively. I. or at least it was explained to me as such, was being interview to write the Horticultural section.
Once the interview was over I left STC to head the 250 miles south back to Cardiff . When the phone subsequently rang on the Train back down I told the friend who had rung how it went and that I would be both surprised and disappointed to be offered the Job.
That disappointment was compounded when following the Christmas period I received an offer of employment. Not only though was the remuneration well below what I had stated at interview, but the package included no extras, no relocation assistance, no car, no security. I decided, despite my dire circumstances, to turn the offer down in the New Year.
Desperate to fill the post STC made attempts to improve the package by offering the use of a company car and relocation assistance in the form of assistance with accommodation and whilst I still wasn’t happy with the package I was similarly not in a position to bargain. Reluctantly, and somewhat forced by circumstances, I accepted the post.
As with all relocations moving was not something that was easy to execute or reverse. I was in this first instance moving my possessions to STC, returning the hire vehicle to a local depot and then checking into a nearby B&B with the intention of commencing work in the morning.
The following morning, in the absence of my own vehicle, I arrived in a booked taxi. My first task, after the usual pleasantries, was to organise the goods I had dropped off the night before. STC had at least given me my own office and it was big enough and empty enough to easily accommodate all my possessions. I had a large amount of material, books, papers etc that were relevant for the project and once I’d filled the shelves with this my worldly possession condensed down to just 2 large boxes and a PC. I was now ready to get on with some of the formalities (national insurance, tax, contract, etc) and find out about the car and the accommodation that the company had searched out for me. However it soon transpired that my expectations and what was actually on offer were wildly different.
First came the company car; as I was handed the keys I was informed that the vehicle was purely for transporting me to and from work and the B&B. I was not to use the vehicle to visit or view properties or cars. Given that both STC and the B&B were the closest thing to each other but 5 miles from anywhere else such a condition made the vehicle little more than a white elephant. Similarly to ensure that this rule was maintained the company was going to keep a mileage record.
Then on inquiring about the assistance for finding accommodation I was not, as I had expected, handed a list of estate agents and properties that the company had already approached and collected on my behalf , but instead a copy of the previous nights local paper; the small ads. Things had not begun well and sadly were about to get worse..
As well as clearly failing to deliver on their promises STC then went on to take things beyond the pale. My office, whilst fortuitously empty was actually devoid of everything except for a desk a chair and a filing cabinet. It lack one essential ingredient, a PC and it seemed that the company didn’t actually have one for me as yet but for now I could use someone else’s! Great I thought, and what will they use?
Having my own PC in the office served as a temporary solution but this was my own PC and once I had arranged accommodation it would be moving. Then came the next problem; I was running the latest version of XP and the companies server wasn’t; so it wouldn’t let me connect. So the first day begun as the week was to progress… very very badly.
next: about phasm 04
references links and downloads
Free Cultural Works (CC-BY-NC-SA) Malcolm McEwen 2011