Thursday, 24 July 2008

A Day in the Lake District

A few weeks ago various staff in the National Health Service Trust that I work for got letters inviting them to a 20 Plus Presentation. This consisted of a buffet in a hotel in the Lake District which was the Trust's way of saying thank you to staff who have had 20 or more years service in the NHS. A lot of people invited were cynical about it and said they wouldn't go. And it is true that long service or retirement has always been ignored by the Trust before. But really, they have to start somewhere in recognising special events amongst staff and I saw this as a first step and at least they were trying.

My good friend Margo who I work with was also invited, so this Wednesday we headed off to the picturesque town of Keswick in the Lake District, where the event was being held. As I drove there and was entranced by the sheer beauty of the countryside I once again thought that I must visit the Lake District more often. This gorgeous area is on my doorstep and I tend to only visit for special events like this or to take visitors to show them the sights of Cumbria.

The Keswick Country House Hotel was where the event was being held. It was a huge Victorian building, that had very Scottish-like turrets, but built in the local grey stone and slate. Inside it was so beautifully preserved with intricate coving and ceiling roses, oak panelling, big shiny brass hooks for your coat, tiled or wooden flooring. It was a bit like stepping back in time, I always rather like that.

We were greeted by Glenys from our HR department who pointed us towards tea, coffee or fruit punch that we could drink in the bar. I opted for the punch which was gorgeous, full of strawberries, melon and orange with little pieces of mint leaves, very refreshing on the warm day.

We sat with our manager Kath and her husband Steve who we both had worked with in the past. The higher managers mingled and did the rounds. One, who I had heard of put could never put a face to, came to us and chatted. He talked about their reasons for doing this, the Trust felt that they had not recognised long service staff put into what is a very demanding and stressful job. He also said that special events like retirement and maternity leave were not acknowledged and that was wrong. They wanted to change this and also in the process hopefully build up more of a community feeling amongst staff - as it used to be in the past. He asked us about how it had been working at the hospital years ago and seemed genuinely interested in our responses. He came across as easy to talk to and genuine which surprised me!

Everyone was then asked to go outside into the beautiful garden for a group photograph. Margo managed to sneak off to the back of the group - she doesn't like her photo taken. After this it was time to eat, and we went into a large dining room where we each had allocated seating complete with our names! People were seated in groups of those who worked together along with one of the higher managers. There was a fabulous hot and cold buffet, the choice was amazing and everything I put on my plate was delicious, and the pineapple upside down pudding was to die for!!! The diet was forgotten for the day .

After the meal there was a short speech from one of the managers and we were all given long service certificates. We were also told that if we wanted photos taken by the photographer just to ask him and HR would arrange for copies to be sent to our home addresses. I managed to persuade Margo to pose for one with me.

That was it really. Afterwards we mingled a bit and chatted to colleagues we had not seen for years, catching up on each other's news. Then we sat at the tables in the garden and just relaxed. Our manager came up to us and said that we didn't have to go back to work and just to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

All in all it was a lovely event, and I'm glad it happened before I retired. Hopefully I'll get a card to acknowledge my retirement in September!

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