Various of my family and friends have often asked ‘what exactly do you do?’ Even allowing for the possibly disparaging nature of this question, I sometimes find it hard to answer. This is what I did today.
Before opening the office at 9, I went to buy one of the tenants (who’s disabled) eight bottles of sugar-free lemonade. The first Tesco Express I went to didn’t have any, but fortunately there are three others within a five-minute walk. I needed to finish preparing the papers (agenda, reports etc.) for next week’s Board meeting of the Tenant Management Organisation I work for, but then a resident came in with a query about the recently replaced roof. I hadn’t been up there since the work was done and was a bit disturbed, if not surprised, to find that some of it hasn’t been done properly. I like being up on the roof. It’s a flagrant disregard for health and safety, but there’s a great view of the City of London. I went back to the office to send a complaining email to the Council, then delivered the lemonade and while doing so, took details of an incident that occurred on Wednesday. The estate where I work is mostly free of so-called ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’, a concept I don’t really recognise, but at the moment we do have an address where the tenant is clearly young, vulnerable and attracting the types of people and activity that could be a danger to her and a nuisance to others. I passed the information on to the Council, but with some worries that they will treat it as an ‘ASB’ issue, rather than a human one. I went back to finish the Board papers, including next year’s budget, but this was interrupted by the recurrence of a leaking overflow pipe that three different plumbers have now looked at without solving. Cue another email to the Council. When I’d finished my reports, I had to deliver them and took the opportunity to introduce myself to a new tenant and welcome her to the estate (with some anxiety about how some other residents may receive a neighbour of Bangladeshi origin). I will save for another day an email to the Council moaning about their failure to inform me when new residents are moving in. The volatile forces swirling around places like the one I work are creating an increasing pattern of transience, to the point where it’s very hard to keep track of who is living on a relatively small housing estate, or for people to know who’s living next door to them. I finished the day by changing two lightbulbs on the communal walkway. How many people with a PhD does it take to do that?
Over the years I’ve had lots of different jobs, some of them a bit obscure. One of the reasons I like my current job is that it’s easier to describe. Even then, I sometimes find myself wondering if I should be doing something more ‘worthwhile’ – whatever that means – but a day like today reminds me that a housing workers lot is a happy one.