Return to Clare
‘As one door closes and another door opens’ as the saying goes and to say that I was living that saying would not be too far a stretch of the imagination. To put you in the picture, it was just over six months ago (November 2013 to be more precise) that I was made redundant from my accountancy position which was quite a set back for me on a number of fronts, as it is for most people. Fortunately I had been able to get some contract work with a number of local real estate agencies which, happily, combined my professional background with my passion: photography; I did some of their general office and book work as well some real estate photography. A win/win situation, as it were.
But that was not the only reason that could be attached to my living the saying. The main reason was that it directly reflected all the negative aspects of redundancy against the major positives in my private life and my sex life in particular. As previously outlined in these chapters, a sex life within my marriage was virtually non-existent and, coupled with a myriad of other relationship factors, I suddenly discovered my neighbour, Michelle. By discovered, I mean she and I kind of stumbled across the realisation that we were both in similar situations regarding our respective marriages and found mutual camaraderie in each others arms. A wonderful relationship had blossomed out of a chance encounter earlier in the new year of 2014 and the sex that entailed was ‘fucking’ amazing, for want of a better phrase.
That was the one door opening, but one door soon became four. During that intervening time, leading up to Easter and the end of Term 1, I had also had the wonderful and surprising experience of fucking my hairdresser one glorious Monday morning (as well getting my hair styled), I had discovered a interesting family connection with my neighbour across the road (a neighbour of 30 years) Daph, who I also had the pleasure of stuffing all three of her orifices with the prospect of more to come, and then there was Clare.
The statuesque Clare; approaching six feet tall (when bare footed), 38 inch bust and curves to make your mouth water and jaw drop (and visa-versa). Michelle had introduced me to Clare as part of our plan to go, together, on the music tour Clare was arranging and leading as part of the music departments development program Clare had implemented at Michelle’s son’s High School. Michelle was keen for me to participate, offering up my photographic and video editing skills in return. Clare was keen to have access to my skills as well (in a paid capacity to boot), and as it turned out, she also got access to my crotch, not that I was/am complaining.
All in all, it had been quite a start to the year. The next step on the journey was a return visit to see Clare on what had dawned to be a rather warm to hot Autumn day, which was a complete contrast to the day before, when I had been with Daph; a day marked by wintery blasts and rain squalls from the south. However, before that enjoyable part of my day (seeing Clare) I had to negotiate another, and what I hoped to be a short meeting, with my outplacement mentor, Abby. Her ‘services’ were part of the redundancy arrangements but I inwardly felt as if she was just a well paid set of walking platitudes. I was determined that any thoughts of that meeting were not going to darken my attitude toward what was to come after. I would just deal with Abby in my usual professional manner and get away from there at the earliest possible moment.
The morning traffic had been kind and it was just after 9am as I drove into the car park adjustment to the shopping precinct in Lane Cove. By the time I walked to the cafe where I was to meet Abby I knew I would still be early but that suited me as it would give me time to get my head into the right space. As a consequence of the warmth of the day, I had dressed in summer-like wear; jeans and a fitted shirt would certainly do for both meetings.
I grabbed a table at the rear of the cafe and ordered a large cappuccino. As I waited for Abby to arrive I reviewed my collection of documents I had ready for Clare and literally demolished the coffee…it was one of best coffee’s I had tasted in a long while.
“Hi Ray,” Abby’s arrival surprised me, I was too wrapped up with the music tour information I had with me. “You look engrossed?”
“No, no, I was just making sure I had some bits and pieces with me for my next meeting. How are you?” I was not going to fall for her bait and start divulging all.
“I’m good and thank you for agreeing to meet me.” She sat opposite with her back to the open expanse of the cafe. For some reason she reminded me of a head on a stick which always made me smile inwardly. Not that she unattractive. Obviously someone thought she was a good sort if the wedding ring on her left hand was anything to go by. She had shoulder length auburn hair which ataköy escort she usually worn out. She dressed in a professional but not overly formal manner which I assumed was to give her clients a sense of her casual yet professional business approach to her work and their needs. She had a round face, a long thin neck and slender body, which is probably where I got the head on a stick impression from.
Over the years of my accountancy career, I had usually worked locally, predominantly for manufacturing companies and my last position was no different. It was due to this exposure to manufacturing that I had had the glorious misfortune to have been made redundant six times (including this one). As a consequence, I had been through this out-placement routine a few times, as well having to contend with the circus that I labelled recruitment agencies. To say I viewed people like Abby and recruiters generally as being on the same level as used car sales people (apologies to all the car sellers who might be reading this) gives light to my general attitude to what they have to say. Every now and then they do give some good advice but usually, after the first five to ten minutes, you get the understanding that due to age and the wealth of experience (and the dollars that goes with it) that I ‘will be a hard person to place’… blah, blah, blah.
“Do you want coffee or anything?” Abby asked as she pulled out her file mark ‘Ray’ and placed it on the table in front of her.
“I might go tea this time. I just had a coffee, thanks.”
She ordered for us both and then opened her file and started asking the usual questions to get up to date with what I was doing, interviews I had been to and the like. I answered fully, not wanting to completely waste her expertise, while she nodded and made notes. As this part of the meeting unfolded the cafe quickly began to fill with groups of mothers with prams, out for a morning coffee with the girls after dropping older siblings at school or pre-school, or older couples grabbing an early morning tea before heading to the banks or grocery shopping. The steady rise and fall of numerous conversations together with the chink of cutlery and cups on saucers all served to make a pleasant back drop to what felt like an arduous task for me.
“Are you okay?” She asked, noticing my attention was starting to drift.
“Yep.” I answered, a little more abruptly than I would have liked.
“You seem preoccupied.” She probed. Our order had arrived which acted as a brief circuit breaker.
“I’m good…and thank you for the tea, by the way.” I milked and sugared my tea and drank deeply.
“You don’t seem it?” She insisted. “You don’t seem to be in a co-operative frame of mind?”
I bristled at that despite not wanting to. The whole cycle of professional rejection and words blowing in the wind had taken more of a toll on me than I cared to admit.
“What? I have answered all your questions, given you all the information you require to ‘get up to date’…what more am I supposed to do or tell you? Are you expecting me to give you wild embellishments just so that these chats become more interesting?”
“No, of course not.” she replied evenly. “You’re being rather immature about this though. I asked you here, after reluctantly agreeing to take a break from our original weekly meetings, to help you move on but you seem reluctant to embrace this opportunity in a professional manner…”
“Excuse me!” I accidentally raised my voice, but it was enough for the elderly couple two tables away to turn and look in our direction. I could feel my blood beginning to boil and took deliberate deep breaths in an attempt to quell the fire. “I did not come here to be insulted. I always act in a professional manner in these situations. How dare you cast judgement. You do not even know me.”
“I am sorry if I offended you.” Her voice was slightly hushed. I took it as her attempt to ease the tension and quieten the tone. “Ray, I have to give you my advice as I see it, that is my job. If it means I have to tell you things which you do not want to hear, I can not apologise for that.”
“Abby,” I looked hard into her face, “I came here…reluctantly, I will admit that. However, I always try to keep an open mind at these meetings and at interviews so that I can pick up on the occasional piece of ‘good’ advice. As for resuming our regular meetings and moving forward, so far you have reformatted by resume and facilitated some 200 cold call mail outs for me, all of which I am grateful for. But lets face it, that is all you have done. And, that was all done before Christmas. Since then… nothing. In fact, you didn’t do any of those things yourself, the staff in your office did all the grunt work. Maybe I would be better off talking to them.”
“See, you are being immature again. Can you please act like an adult about this?” bakırköy escort
That was a red rag to this Taurean bull. I gently placed my hands flat on the table in front of me and glared fiercely at her.
“If you have not noticed, I am being extremely ‘adult’ about this. In fact, I am going to even more adult and take my leave before I say something I might regret.”
“Ray,” she looked dismayed that I was threatening to terminate the conversation. “You have not been fully up front with me. You have not even told me about your meeting after this one, so what am I to assume?”
“Assume all you like.” Once again this came out more loudly than I had hoped and this time a few more tables near by looked around. “The meeting I am going to is not up for discussion and has no baring on this one. It does not even involve accountancy. If and when it does bare fruit I will tell you but for now, it is nothing you need to concern yourself with.”
I was annoyed with myself for telling her too much.
“I beg to differ. My job is to help you get another job and part of that brief is be across all that you do, whether it involves accountancy or not, so I can advise or help in what ever capacity…”
“Yep,” I said loudly, moving sideways to stand, “that is your job. To assist me get a job. Have you got me any interviews? No. Have you given me any leads? No. Have you succeeded in any way, shape or form? No! Look, you get paid regardless. I, on the other hand, I do not have a current income and sitting here and having to listen to your unprofessional criticism does not resolve my situation.”
I stood and collected my things. As I stood the whole cafe seemed to go into suspended animation, waiting for my next move.
“See Abby, I am being very mature, as you put it, and leaving. It is high time for me to go before your ‘help’ makes things a whole lot worse.”
I moved past her seat but she grabbed my arm.
“Ray…” she looked about, a sign of panic on her face as everyone looked on.
“Please. You are over reacting. It is no wonder you have not got another position if you have such a negative attitude.”
I pulled my arm free of her grasp and walked a few steps toward the payment counter. Ignoring all the eyes that were upon me, I stopped in the middle of the cafe, I could not hold back. Feelings that I had long suppressed regarding unemployment boiled to the surfaced and Abby was going to be the recipient of my rant, whether she like it or not.
“You call yourself a professional? I scoff at your folly. With all due respect, and please don’t take this personally, but your position and those of your ilk, are parasitic when it comes to the employment industry. You get paid regardless of whether I get a job today, tomorrow, next week…” I took a deep breath as a waiter approached. I assured him I would be on my way in a few minutes and he backed off.
“Abby, do you know what the problem with seeking employment in Sydney is, or the rest of Australia, for that matter?” She looked nervous and on the verge of tears as she shook her head.
“Of course you don’t. You people are the problem. All the recruitment agencies… you all profess to be experts in getting people their dream jobs. Here’s how it goes; I am 55 and I go to an agency and get interviewed by a non-Australian, usually British, who is no more than 30. They sit there and make judgements based on ticking boxes and pigeon holing me, just like you have been doing. They would not have a clue about half of the stuff in my CV and what I am telling them yet they hold me to ransom just so they can get the placement fee. You and the agencies are all care and no responsibility. Now, as a display of my professional attitude, I am going to the cash register, I will pay for our order, and then I am going to walk away with my head held high because I know my worth, I know how to conduct myself. I care about me and I take responsibility for my actions. Sit there and reflect if you wish, just don’t try and tell me you know what is best for me or what I am, or not, doing. Like a lot of things in life, if I need something doing, I am better off doing it myself. Just remember what I have told you…all care no responsibility…and no accountability either. Enjoy your coffee.”
I turned and started to leave. An elderly gent at a table I was about to pass touched my arm and praised me for my rant. I smiled and thanked him kindly and then noticed the whole cafe was looking at me. Not only were they looking, they were agreeing with me and some were even applauding. I started to feel embarrassed, humbled even. Without thinking I raised my arm slightly to thank them for their support. I was in a state of bewilderment as I paid the owner and apologised for making a fuss. He gave me his business card and said if I need a job to come and see him. He even went so far as to offer me free coffee next time I was in, all I had to do was present his card. As I walked out into the mall my eyes brimmed with tears. The heart ache of the unemployment cycle and being constantly rejected had finally broken through my toughened facade. I did not care if what had just transpired equated to burning a bridge, I knew in my heart I was better off dealing with these issues on my own terms. I did not look back at Abby. I did not want to see her face ever again and I cursed her for all she was worth and for making me feel so wretched prior to my meeting with Clare.
The drive was a blur and before I knew it I arrived at the main school entrance. As I gathered my stuff I realised I had arrived way earlier than Clare had asked. However, I was feeling far too agitated to simply sit and wait out time so I decided to go straight in, figuring if Clare was still busy with her parent meeting, I could make alternate arrangements there and then.
“But, if she was free, well…” I thought to myself.
The large grounds were quiet as the students had already finished for the term. I scanned the car park and noted that most of the staff seemed to be missing as well. The main building was a huge red brick and sandstone building in the Italian-Gothic style with a smaller, but equally beautifully styled, chapel behind. I entered the main door, an imposing double door with intricate lead light glass inserts, and walked along the lengthy Persian hallway runner to the modern looking front desk.
The reception area was unattended which made me even more stressed. It was school protocol to sign in and there was no around to help me.
“What to do?” I pondered aloud and looked around the expansive area. Not a sound was being emitted from any of the offices or rooms further down the hall. “I wonder if they still have the visitors book available?”
I spied it lying open a table off to the side of the reception desk and quickly signed myself in. I noted there was only one other entry for that morning and on closer inspection, I was delighted to see that the entry was made with Clare as the visitors contact point and that it was also an hour earlier…surely they would be finished by now?
As this was my second time to see Clare, I had a good idea of how to navigate my way through the numerous hallways, and across the large quadrangle area. At the top of the flight of stairs that led to the music rooms I stopped. The warmth of the sun felt good on my back, therapeutic even. There was virtually no breeze to speak of and no human made noise to disturb the sounds of nature that suddenly engulfed me. There were numerous birds chirping and flitting about in the native trees and bushes that adorned the school grounds and the underlying quiet, together with the fresh air, almost made me giddy. I took another deep breath and descended the stairs, feeling slightly calmer compared to how I had felt when I had arrived.
Given the lack of humanity about the school generally, I was not surprised to find the Music Department reception desk unattended. As I entered the office door from the small courtyard that was the centre piece of the music department complex, I could hear Clare’s voice. She seemed to be in deep conversation, bordering on intense negotiation, with someone. I just hoped it was not the parents she was still dealing with.
I knocked as I reached the open door and relieved to see Clare was the only person in the room. Her office went off to the right of the door. It was narrow and long, with three (3) large windows along the far side wall that overlooked a well tended rose garden. Her desk was at the far end of the room where the windows finished, and like my previous visit, her head was studiously bent over some papers as she talked brusquely into the phone. With a wave of her slender hand, she beckoned for me to enter. Last time the floor along the left hand wall of her office was awash with a variety of instruments, from guitars and violins to woodwinds and brass, together with numerous pieces of sheet music, but this time it was completely devoid of any clutter; I assumed it was due to the pending school holidays.
“Can you hold the line for just a moment, please?” She asked the person on the other end of the line and quickly covered the mouth piece. “Oh Ray,” she sighed, “Am I glad to see you. This might take a while, sorry. I have been trying to speak with this guy for the last week but I keep missing him. I am trying to negotiate the accommodation through him for Salzburg and I am desperate to get it sorted before I leave today, so please accept my apologies in advance.”
“No problem.” I mouthed. Clare smiled appreciatively, her expression one of sheer relief and she extended her hand to me, gesturing that I should take hold of it. I walked to her with a sense of urgency due to her suspended phone conversation and softly took hold of her hand. She gently closed her fingers upon mine and leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss on the mouth.