4. The Interview …
Updated: Nov 25
Job interviews are not the most pleasant of experiences at the best of times. This one though was going to be particularly stressful because I really wanted this position. Add to that the fact that at the time of the interview I really wasn’t very well and was on some hardcore medication.
The interview, at Headquarters, required formal dress – No. Ones for those of you who are familiar with uniforms. This entails a rather smart but scratchy black uniform, white shirt tie, and my bowler hat. Not a problem. There it was, all beautifully pressed and hanging on my wardrobe door. Shoes bulled to a shine you could see your face in. Oh and very boring plain black socks. Plain socks cause me issues …. I love coloured ones, inside work boots that’s ok, with number one shoes however its slightly frowned upon!
I’m not known for being prepared or being much of a planner. I’m more spontaneous and let’s wing-it kinda girl. Due to this acknowledgement of my personality I was obviously feeling rather pleased with myself (and a little bit smug if the truth be told) at the fact that my uniform was ready the night before and I merely had to get up in the morning, shower, dress and go. Brilliant.
I’d decided to grab an early night as I wanted to be fresh as a daisy for the interview. I fell asleep really quickly and all too soon the alarm went off. Uncharacteristically I got out of bed without hitting the snooze button 17 times and slowly made my way to the bathroom. Whilst sat down on the wall seat, enjoying a leisurely shower, I went over my interview preparation, and was once more slightly amazed at how much work I’d actually done. I really wanted the role and was certain I could do the job well. On that thought, I turned off the shower, and went through the laborious task of getting dried off and dressed. So pleased was I at the way my morning was going I even began to sing. Not into a hairbrush, I have curly hair and therefore it is forbidden to brush it. Therefore, I do not own one.
I was practicing my best speaking voice … in a former life I competed in Young Farmers Public Speaking Competitions don’t you know …I mentally reminded myself not to drop my ‘Hs’ and to speak slowly, clearly and concisely. Instead of my usual fast paced, garbled mumbling. Brilliant. Got it. No mumbling. Slow clear and concise. Simples.
I Pulled on my beautifully ironed and starched white shirt, (almost cutting myself on the creases) over the crop top I had taken to wearing as doing up a bra was quite a feat, and one I had still failed to master. I had asked my friend to do the buttons up on the shirt the night before as I had problems with those too. My aim was to slip it over my head and get my Papa Bear to do the top button up for me when he arrived. I decided I’d give it a go myself. When I pulled the two edges together, I thought I was going to choke myself! I’m sure it didn’t used to be that tight? I put it down to the fact it had been a while since I’d worn a button collar shirt.
As I pulled on the delightful woollen trousers, I was instantly reminded how scratchy, itchy and irritating they were to wear. My relief that I’d only be in the things a short time turned to total dismay. To my absolute horror I couldn’t get them anywhere near done up around my waist. I thought I was going to be sick.
Forcing myself to remain calm I sat down on the bed. Something I instantly regretted as the dreadful wool trousers almost cut me in half. I made the executive decision to stand, holding the grab rail by the side of the bed, rather than sit to think about this major crisis.
Now my bestie lives just up the road, not five minutes away, and it just so happens she works for the same establishment as me. Hurrah! I was hoping that her scratchy, itchy trousers were a size bigger than the ones currently gaping open around my middle. I made the phone call in a slight panic … Ok maybe a tad more than a slight panic. Try total incoherence. The relief at her answering the phone after two rings was short lived. Firstly, it took several attempts on my part to get her to understand what I was trying to say. Bless her, she thought something terrible had happened. Well, it had so to speak! Having finally got a grip of myself and calmed down, I was able to tell her what I needed. As I was relaying my request I had all my fingers and toes crossed that her scratchy, itchy, wool trousers were a size bigger than mine, and that she had them at home.
Hurray! They were indeed a size bigger…Boo! They were in work … Oh God. All the planning and preparation I’d done for the interview, I’d neglected to account for massive doses of weight inducing medication, and several months of almost total immobility…. The effect on my waistline was absolutely catastrophic. This also explained the near choking experience when doing up the top button on my shirt. I had a fat neck to boot, I didn’t even know that was a thing! Just great. The sudden urge came over me to try on my shoes in case my feet had increased in size as well. I knew that was just ridiculous. I tried them on anyway. To my relief they fit. At least something did!!
(This is why I love shoes and buy so many. They always fit and with my limitations won’t ever wear them out) However, I couldn’t go to an interview wearing just a shirt that was choking me, a pair of boring black socks and shiny shoes, could I?
It was then I experienced a ‘lightbulb’ moment. Try the old - lie on the bed, breathe in and try and get the trousers done up trick. Now that was easier said than done. I firstly had to get on the bloody bed. I used the hoist and grab rail to do so. Finally on, grabbing the trousers with the little ‘grabby hand’ aid I’d been allocated (yes, I know, another contraption that was proving very useful). I tried for a good 15 minutes, complete with concentration tongue sticking out and a lot of swearing, to get the infernal things on. (In that instant I was really regretting not accepting the offers of help to get ready) It was clear the trousers weren’t going to fasten without some heavy-duty assistance. I wasn’t sure where I was going to find such assistance at this short notice! Even I knew I wasn’t going to be able to lose two stone in a couple of hours.
I like to think of myself as a very resourceful individual, and I had the most amazing idea. Duct Tape! The all singing, all dancing, stick anything to anything, multipurpose, super strong tape. Retrieving an industrial sized roll from my craft room next to the bedroom I set about taping myself thin. Starting just below my hipbone I began to wrap myself tightly in the duct tape. The lumbar support I received from the stuff was just incredible! It was holding my poor battered pelvis together too! Wow, where had it been these last few months?? If I’d known how it was going to benefit me medically, I would have taped myself up months ago! As I wrapped it around my tummy, making sure it overlapped the layer below, to keep everything in, it occurred to me I hadn’t noticed how rounded my usually flat tummy had become. With the trusty duct tape, it was now pancake flat!
As I was pulling the tape tight around me, the extra bits of awesomeness, that was my greatly expanded waist and hips, was obviously creeping upwards. Now, not wanting to look a strange shape, I made the decision to tape up right to just underneath my boobs. Outstanding plan! I’ve never had such chunky ribs, but to be fair I had a reasonably smooth silhouette. As I cut the duct tape off under my right arm, I admired myself in the mirror, not bad, not bad at all. Intending on Pulling my trousers up from around my ankles with my grabby hand aid, the first flaw in my duct tape corset became apparent. I couldn’t bend from the upright position. This presented me with a considerable problem, having now taped myself in a rigid upright position, I was totally unable to pull my trousers up! Argh!!!!!
A quick telephone call to my friend and neighbour, solved that problem. Luckily, she was at home and, within 2 minutes was upstairs in my bedroom. Laughing at me and taking photographs of the duct tape corset with her phone. Whilst I’ll admit that maybe, it was slightly amusing, it certainly wasn’t tears of laughter running down her cheeks, nor gasping for breath funny!! If I could have tapped my foot impatiently on the bedroom floor, believe me I would have, except I couldn’t. I had to content myself with giving her the death-stare. My version of Paddington Bear’s hard stare. This caused her further mirth. Apparently, it’s hard to take a death-stare seriously when the person giving said death-stare is stood, wrapped in duct tape from hip to boob, trousers around ankles, wearing nothing but underwear and black socks!! Pft.
Once she’d finally got a grip of herself, she did the decent thing and helped me into the awful itchy, scratchy, wool trousers. Kind of her really. I did have to give her a not so gentle slap across the head when she burst out laughing again. Focus woman. Focus. This is serious!!
They were up. Now the moment of truth. Could I get them fastened? To my absolute delight the zip did up! It wasn’t a smooth easy task by any stretch of the imagination, it took two of us to do it, but they were done up. Breathing was proving somewhat difficult, but I decided this was a minor detail. Shallow breaths and I’d be fine. Hopefully.
Bugger. I’d neglected to put the choking white shirt back on after the Duct Tape Corset. The shirt had to be tucked into the trousers. It’s the law. Assisted by my friend and neighbour, who was on the verge of becoming an ex-friend if she didn’t stop laughing, we got it on, tucked it in and once again shoehorned me into the trousers. This time, having done it once already, we were a bit quicker and managed it in half the time. It must be said I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and, I felt the success of getting the trousers done up was a good omen for the rest of the day.
Quickly clipping on my tie and buttoning up my jacket, which was a bit snug, I made my way downstairs assisted by my friend. Given that my go-to method of getting down the stairs was on bum I was presented with another problem, the bending at the waist required to sit on the stairs. We got over this by my friend (still laughing) helping me down 4 steps and then me leaning backwards holding onto her hands so I was lying on the stairs and then able to slide down it slowly. Once my feet hit the bottom, she pulled me into the standing position. I confess that now, even I was laughing It was that or bloody cry again. Besides laughing is good for you.
Papa Bear was arriving in five minutes to take me to the interview. The trousers drama had taken up a precious hour, and I now had no time to worry about the upcoming interview.
On his arrival, Papa Bear commented on my upright stature. I was pleased he’d noticed the improvement but was unprepared for his grin which he discreetly tried to hide, when I told him the reason for it. Refusing to be phased by this, I hobbled slowly on my crutches out to the car, which was parked right outside the door, muttering under my breath. (I refused to take Mildred, I wanted to convince them that I was absolutely fine, on the mend and that I had made considerable progress in my recovery by using the crutches.) On reaching the car I faced my next problem. Getting into it. The day was going from bad to worse. If I sat down, I ran the risk of the duct tape rolling up, the zip bursting open and the button popping off and possibly blinding Papa Bear. This in mind, I got Papa Bear to get a plastic bin liner from the kitchen and put it on the edge of the back seat. With his, and my neighbours help I leaned back into the car onto the bin liner on the edge of the back seat and asked them to slide me in across the seat, so I was lying flat. Papa Bear then slowly and gently bent my knees up onto the seat so he could shut the door. Excellent. The trousers were intact.
The 25-minute car journey was spent regaling him with the trouser saga. To his credit he didn’t laugh. Well not much, and definitely not as much as my so-called friend had.
Our arrival at the interview building, Police Headquarters, some 45 minutes early, presented another problem. I now had to get out of the car. Thankfully, having given myself plenty of time as there is absolutely nothing worse than being late, I now had sufficient time to slide out, keeping the trousers done up and hobble into the building. This took me a lot longer than I anticipated. The lack of mobility hampered things somewhat and it took a good ten minutes for the two of us to get me out of the car. It involved Papa Bear pulling me by my ankles until my bum was at the end of the seat, then him pulling me into the standing position. This sounds straight forward right? And, even if I hadn’t had been wrapped in duct tape, it would have still been no mean feat to get me out of there, given the condition of my poor battered body. My Papa Bear is the most patient man I know. He has to be, he has three rebellious children. Of which I’m the senior. I need say no more. Bless him, he was exhausted and sweating by the time I was finally upright. However, we’d succeeded and, with a good luck pat on the back, he sent me on my way to the interview.
As I made my way into Headquarters, it occurred to me, due to the nature of the job and the location, the car park was most likely covered by CCTV… On arriving at reception, and checking in, I took a quick glance around and was delighted at not seeing a monitor on the reception desk. Hopefully the receptionist hadn’t seen me trying to get out of the car. Result! I was invited to take a seat whilst the jolly receptionist informed my interviewers I’d arrived. Ummmmmm… Nope. Shall we not sit!! I’d come too far to risk the trousers bursting open at this late stage. Remaining standing, and very upright, thanks to the duct tape, I decided to do a mental run through of my preparations. To my horror, my two working brain cells, had decided to mislay the valuable information I’d deposited. Now this distressed me to some degree. Stupid brain. Standing there I thought if I shut my eyes, imagined myself going through a filing cabinet containing the information, I might be able to retrieve it. In theory this was a brilliant idea. In practice, not so much. I forgot I get seriously dizzy, disorientated and fall over when I shut my eyes, and flicked them open in time to stop myself collapsing in a big ‘straight’ heap on the floor.
Having just resigned myself to the fact that, as usual I was going to have to wing it, the interviewer walked out to escort me through to the interview. No time to panic or flap. A pointless exercise anyway. I decided my only option was to win them over with my sunny disposition and total awesomeness.
On entering the interview room, I was greeted by two further interviewers and dazzled them with my very best happy smile. They showed me to my seat and offered help with the crutches. Now this was going to be tricky. All I had to do was get my backside on that seat without taking one of them out with a rocketing trouser button. Taking a deep breath, something of a mistake given the restriction of the tape, I gingerly lowered myself into the chair. Thankfully it was a chair of the armed variety, and the arms assisted me in this difficult task. Now, I think my prospective bosses thought I was having difficulties due to my injuries, and I decided I wouldn’t enlighten them. It was going relatively well until my bum touched the seat. I felt and heard the tape tear away from sections of my body, closely followed by the familiar ‘pop’ of my button as it buckled under the strain of the dislodged duct tape and the released excess flesh. This caused a loud ripping noise which was my zipper self-releasing. Where that button went, I have no idea. I was just grateful that it went under the table somewhere and hadn’t hit anyone between the eyes. I’d hoped that I’d managed to get away with the incident without them noticing. Unfortunately, the pain of what felt like, every single body hair on my torso being waxed simultaneously must have shown on my face. Apparently, I went quite white. I also suspect their hearing was rather astute given the funny looks I was now receiving from all three of them.
This was not the start I was hoping for, and certainly not the impression I wished to make. Although I was now sat, the duct tape had rolled up, I was missing a button, had a broken zip and my tummy had popped out of my trousers. Oh, and I was still choking from the shirt. Which I’m sure had further shrunk on the journey from reception to the interview room. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my heavy-duty prescription opiates kicked in. This, causing some serious slurring, mixed up words, and increasing difficulties in stringing a thought together. It hit me then that maybe I wasn’t quite as suitable for this role as I’d managed to convince myself. Possibly dealing with emergencies, partner agencies and members of the public in a calm professional manner wasn’t going to work given the number of legal drugs I was taking.
Dilemma. I was now sat there, so made the decision to do what I do best and wing it. To my total amazement, once the interview commenced, my two remaining brain cells kicked back into life and started coming out with, what I thought were, some pretty good answers to the questions. A good hour later the interview was over. Now all I had to get out of there without exposing myself to three people I barely knew. There was no chance of retrieving my button, the cleaner could have that one. All I had to do was get out of the chair, keeping my jacket closed around my lower half. Simples. Again, easier said than done. The jacket was single breasted, and the manufacturers clearly hadn’t considered the fact that someone’s zip might be broken, or the button might have popped off. Poor design if you ask me. Luckily for me, standing upright was by now something of a problem, as was actual moving. This worked in my favour because, being doubled over meant I was able to avoid exposing myself. There was no fear of the trousers coming down, they were jammed tight around my rather sizeable backside. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been grateful for an elephant sized rear end. This was one of those rare occasions. Strangely comforted by this fact, I concentrated on moving one foot at a time and made a painfully slow exit from the room.
My relief at getting out of the room without exposing myself was extremely short lived. Looking down the corridor, I almost cried. It suddenly seemed like the car was a 100 miles away, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it without some major assistance. Luckily there was a chair about 5 metres away. That was achievable. I could make that surely? I was cursing the stupid itchy, scratchy trousers, and my weight gain, for the fact I couldn’t fit my phone into the pockets … I couldn’t even ring Papa Bear to rescue me!!!! Having reached my goal of the chair I had to have a sit down. If I’m honest I could have done with a Nana nap by this point, but I was still a fair step away from the bloody car!
Taking a deep breath, I struggled back to my feet and continued the slow journey to the car park. A long arduous 15 minutes later I was outside of the building. Papa Bear had obviously been keeping an eye out for me, within seconds he’d screeched to a halt outside and leapt out of the driver’s seat to help me. Once I’d reached it, he opened the door and poured me into the front seat. It was clear to him by this point that I couldn’t care less about the trouser situation, and I just needed to get home and lie down.
The return journey passed in something of a blur. As did him getting me out of the car into the house. I was out on my feet, and within seconds of being deposited on the settee I was out for the count.
Ahh, bless me. Several hours later after a nice little sleep, I was awoken by the sound of my phone ringing. Rather groggily I answered it, disorientated, to be greeted by a cheery hello from a man who announced himself as one of my interviewers. My heart sank. I had a really bad feeling but plastered on my smiley telephone voice. ‘’Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my interview although, it appeared they’d found me rather entertaining’’. There was no mention of the missing button, so I thought I’d pulled that little episode off rather successfully. Right up until the point where my tongue ran away with me and I confessed. Right down to the duct tape. Which was still wrapped around my torso. Which I thought was a genius idea as it served its purpose and I’d got the stupid itchy scratchy trousers done up. Ok, so maybe, just maybe, I should have tried my formal suit on the week before as part of the planning and preparation process, but who knew excess weight would creep up on a person so quickly! I was beautifully presented otherwise. After a few minutes chatting and receiving some constructive feedback we said our goodbyes.
Lying on the settee, with Tikaani standing guard over me, I gave some serious thought as to how I was going to get the duct tape off. Whilst asleep, it had gotten very very sticky and as I started to slowly pick at it, I realised it wasn’t coming off as easily as it went on!!!! Hunting around I located some ‘man up pills’ and decided I was going to find the end of the tape under my right arm and just rip it off. Like a plaster. A really big plaster. Covering me from waist (by this stage) to boob. Sounds good right. Not so good. I yanked it really hard and almost went through the ceiling. Having detached a 5cm length of tape, and every single hair in that 5cm strip, it’s fair to say I was in some serious amount of pain. Pain that tramadol and morphine wasn’t remotely touching. Knowing I was a bit of a baby where pain was concerned, I decided I’d cut through pieces of tape, cutting it into small chunks, therefore enabling me to rip it off a bit at a time. Three hours later I was free of duct tape, and hair, on the tummy and rib area. Hurrah!!! That just left the back. Now, obviously I couldn’t cut that into little chunks because I couldn’t reach, so, I was going to have to rip that stuff off all in one go. Another stroke of genius hit me. A lot of genius, even by my standards, in one day. Hit the wet room and soak it off! Brilliance. Sheer brilliance. A little crawl up the stairs and another hour later it was all off. My poor body was red raw, throbbing and totally hairless where the tape had been. Not that I was particularly hairy anyway, (I’m not Mrs Silverback) just there was even less there now. There was an unpleasant sticky residue, that was now a rather attractive turquoise shade from the fluff off the towel.
Deciding that was enough excitement for me and being a tad exhausted I decided bed was the best and safest option for me to mull over my eventful day. I’ve learnt that duct tape makes an excellent corset when one’s trousers are too small, but it may be best to apply it over a vest, or other such garment. Never, under any circumstances, to apply it to bare skin ever again. Preparation and planning appear to be quite important; you can never do too much!
Don’t attend an interview for a job you really want under the influence of prescription opiates. This is bad, very bad. My final thought of the day was, be grateful for an elephant sized backside. It has it uses, namely stopping your trousers coming down when the zip has broken, and the button has flown off, never to be seen again.
The interview showed me several things. Firstly, I was kidding only myself in my ability to work, I was clearly not fit enough to continue. Secondly, I was unable to be of use to the organisation in any way shape or form. This realisation totally devastated me. I discovered that determination and stubbornness, where they used to be a failing, were now my greatest strengths. I had, and still have, both in abundance.
My failure at not getting the job at headquarters, put me back in my local station, looked after and I guess safe. I realised this was no way to live. I wasn’t actually doing a great deal. I was wasting peoples time just being there and it was serving no purpose. I spoke to my incredible Human Resources manager, who is now one of my very best friends and we discussed applying for ill health retirement.
I have asked Emma to write a piece about the situation I found myself in from her point of view as a Human resources manager. Her recollections are far clearer than mine and obviously she will be speaking from a different perspective.
The process was quite protracted, but I understood the need for it. I was seen by a Doctor from another force, who was perfectly lovely and so very kind. He then wrote a report and sent it to Human Resources with his recommendations. He also sent me a copy. The day I received it my heart broke a little bit more; I was officially incapable of being a Police Constable. Tikaani didn't leave my side at all that day, just sat there, with his head on my legs, snoring. My case was then discussed in a meeting with the Chief Constable and it was decided that I would be offered full ill health retirement.
On 31st December 2013 (my birthday) I left the Force not knowing what lay ahead of me and feeling more useless and broken than ever before. I kept the copy of that report, but now I look at it and it no longer makes me sad and resentful. I realise that it was for the best, and it was a decision I had to make for myself.
There is obviously far more to tell and I’ve skimmed over it to give you a brief background before getting on with the fun stuff.
Make no mistake despite my light-hearted writing, it’s been a very difficult journey, and this has been surprisingly hard to write. I’m having trouble sleeping the last few nights and I’ve been visited by the old recurring nightmares. These little snippets are just a few of the things I feel able to share with you. I know I am very fortunate, my injuries and situation are a lot better than many peoples, but that doesn't change the impact they have on my life on a daily basis.
This is just my tale. Thankyou for stopping by. Much love Flairey. x