On the way back from the Jacuzzi BFF and I stopped to have a quick fag before getting ready (in an allowed area, before you start). I phone Steve to tell him how good it was and that we were going to get ready now. That as normal there will be little contact from me as the evening normally flies by and before you know it it’s midnight.
Phone call over BFF pushes me back to my room so that we can all get ready. The plan for tonight is that Rita takes over looking after me so that Leanne can enjoy herself. Rita is moving into my room and I have worried about this for ages. If I can’t sleep which is normal I don’t want to keep her up either, she has a long drive tomorrow too but there is no telling her, she won’t listen and I am touched that she like so many put me before their own needs.
BFF leaves me in my room to get ready. Alone, quiet no one there. This doesn’t happen very often to me, being alone and sometimes when it does I get scared. I worry about the next 12 months and I love my life, I don’t want it to end, I’m not through with living yet, I want more, more time but I have no control over my illness and I just have to accept that whilst I don’t know how long I have left I’m going to enjoy it the best that I can and share precious moments with the people I love.
In the disabled shower there is a seat, so I’m seat washing off the chlorine and still wondering what I can do to support the business. Mr Bottoms words still ringing in my head. I have to think of something. Then it came to me! The ‘Golden Quarter’ as we like to call it in retail is the most important time in retail for us all. Mr Bottom challenged everyone to come up with an idea. Now all those ideas Mr Bottom asked for need to be looked at and analysed. We can’t afford to have Store Managers off the shop floor looking into ideas. They need to be with their teams driving service and sales. So is that something I could do? To support the whole business? Collate and look into everyone’s ideas?
Prior to going swimming I had a chat with my new boss Jonathan Hancock and we discussed how I could support my region with project work from their ideas but actually just one region may not have all the answers. If I collated all the regions ideas, as lots would be duplicated could I liaise with Head Office departments to follow through on the best ones. I’m excited now as it least I have something to put forward to the business that I can do for them.
Dressed, make up and wig on we head off to the evening do. The corridors are busy with everyone in their best dresses and tuxedo’s. Perfume and aftershave fills the air. Everyone looks lovely, smart and there is a buzz of excitement for the awards ceremony prior to dinner. The awards are for Store Manager of the year and STAR, which is why Karen is at conference as she has been nominated from our region.
It’s weird being in a wheelchair as you are at the wrong height to be all to talk to people. Throughout the day everyone was sat down in the auditorium and I wasn’t aware of how separated I felt until the evening do. We were all called through to see the awards presentation. The noise of everyone talking was too much. I’m not used to it. Lots of people came to say hello and to admire my wig but having a conversion was painful so I tried standing for a while. But Rita was soon on to me and returned me to my chair. She pushed me through the crowds to find Karen but she was nowhere to be seen, not at my level anyway. I wanted to be with her to celebrate if she won and to be there if she didn’t. We couldn’t find her anywhere and the Awards started. Karen didn’t win and I never found her until later. I was sad for her but she was our regional winner and I hoped that she took comfort in that.
A quick fag and then into the dining hall for the meal. As I have mentioned on a previous post I have been able to chose who I had at my table and although I hadn’t included Karen in that list but we moved her onto the end of our table so that she was with us all. The tables were decorated beautifully, all festive and all seated we chat away, as does every other table. 500 people talking and the noise for me is just too much but I know when the meal is over everyone will be off dancing and peace will resume. The menu this year was interesting, so interesting were the starters that I was looking forward to my bread roll. We all have to pre order our food choices and whilst they all sounded very posh on the form they aren’t what I would normally order if out for a meal. However it’s all free and I appreciate that conference costs the business a lot of money.
So we are all sat talking away and I then go round the table taking photo’s of me with everyone there and here are those photo’s precious moments captured for us all to remember.
I return to my seat and continue talking when from behind me there appears Sam McGeorgor and with her an endless stream of daisy bags. I couldn’t grasp what was going on. She briefly said that Region 9 had had a collection for me and the gifts were for my daisy den. I was so shocked and managing to hold the tears back due to the shock I think and then I saw the rug. Now what’s so special about a rug I hear you say. Well whilst out shopping with my mom for soft furnishings for daisy den I had a budget of £250 – £300. I actually spent £402. I desperately wanted a rug and I saw one that a liked but didn’t buy it as I had spent too much already. I decided that any other soft furnishings would have to be brought over the next few months, little bits at a time. So when I saw the rug it just finished me off and the tears rolled again. I’m crying, Rita’s crying, Mother Hen is crying as I keep going on about the rug story. I opened the gifts and they are just so beautiful. The people in Region 9 are a mix of people who know me and who don’t know me. They thoughfulness and generousity is overwhelming, I just can’t believe that they had done this for me. Massive thanks to:
Regional Manager – Sam McGregor
Rita – Chichester
Yasmin – Bromley
Caroline & Marie in Woking
Jo – Worthing
Paul – Brighton
Jo – Crawley
Danny – Basingstoke
Sue – Isle of Wight
Simon – Camberly
Ross – Ashford
Jan – Gravesend
Fiona – Hempstead Valley
Simon / Sheldon – Tunbridge Wells
Emma – Eastbourne
Ian – Maidstone
Justine – Fareham
Chris Derry – Loss Prevention
So it’s all to much for me and I leave my bread roll to go outside for a fag to pull myself together. On the way back to my table we pass Caroline (Princess) and other managers from Region 9 so we stop to thank them. Hugs and thank you’s done to those on the table I know and don’t know as I hold onto my wig and tears flow again. Princess is quiet and just looks at me. We have worked together before and known each other for 8 years but I haven’t seen her for ages. I forget how hard it is sometimes for people who know the old me and then see the new me. She just cries and cries, I can’t cheer her up or get her to stop at all. She isn’t even speaking to me, she just sits there tears rolling uncontrollably. I have an idea, I reach into my bag on my chair and give her a daisy. This doesn’t help either, sadly. There is nothing I can do now, out of ideas so I just have to leave her. Maybe if I’m not there it will be better and she can stop crying. We return to our table and they have cleared away my bloody bread roll! Damn I was looking forward to that.
The meal continued, main course was beef and it was beautifully cooked and fell apart as you cut into it. Mr Grey was next to me and he didn’t eat his starter nor did he look like he was going to eat his main meal. I nag him continually as he needs to eat to soak up the alcohol. I love Mr Grey to bits, he always makes me laugh. He phones me regularly and no matter what news I have for him, which, if medical is normally bad news, he just always says something funny and I’m soon laughing. He is just such a special person to me. He won’t eat apart from two mouthfuls of mashed potato and I worry about him getting through the evening on alcohol alone.
Then Rita gets a message from her sister to say that the winner of tonight’s celebrity Mr & Mrs, Sean Fletcher, a presenter on Good Morning Britain has donated £30,000 to Beating Bowel Cancer, wow £30,000, that’s an amazing amount and I’m excited as I know how much this gift will mean to them all. I then get a message from ‘Countess Judd’ to say that Sean Fletcher has just re-tweeted my blog to support me, excellent news and I’m so pleased to have his support.
Pudding next and although I had chosen the cheesecake it wasn’t as nice as the description so I stole Elaine’s pudding. Thanks Elaine the chocolate pudding was lovely. Meal over we head outside for a fag.
So a gang of about 8 of us are outside and Simon Lamb joins us, now he like Princess hasn’t seen me for about a year and it must be hard from him like others to see me wheelchair bound. I didn’t know that his mom had died of cancer and as he talks to us all he starts to get upset and walks away. I ask Mr Grey to go after him to see if he is okay as men are not good at public displays of emotion. Simon is okay and we all return inside. As we get to our table the sight of my gifts starts me off crying again, now Mr Grey is in bits too with me along with Rita. Will we all ever stop crying. It’s getting beyond silly now but I can’t help how I feel and I can’t stop the emotion. I’m so grateful for the gifts and the bloody rug will always make me cry.
The evenings disco is announced and people start to leave the dining area. I’m so pleased as the noise level will come down and we will be able to chat. As people pass by lots stop to hug and say hello and I hang onto my wig. Amanda stops by to see how I’m doing and I tell her about the gifts. Then Janine HRH comes to sit with me and again I try to tell her about Region 9 and the beautiful gifts they have brought me, again through tears as I talk about the bloody rug.
Sam the Home Director comes over to me too, she says ‘Wendy what can I do to help you through your illness to help just you?’ Bless her she just wants to help me. So my reply is simple. I explain that I am blessed by friends and family, that I am surrounded by love and if I were to die tomorrow I am at peace with myself. I explain that I see BHS like me on a journey over the next 12 months which isn’t going to be easy but in a years time I want to still be here as I want BHS to be. So how she can help me? She can take the messages from Mr Bottom today and ensure a strong recovery for BHS. That’s what I want, for me and BHS to be in recovery this time next year. We spent the next 1/2 an hour discussing this with HRH and I tell HRH of my idea on how I can support the business. I also discuss the importance of people like Karen and Yvonne at BHS Kingston who give so much but due to Government changes around the minimum wage are sadly on the same pay level as others that contribute less. I have always been passionate about staff that give so much. A Store Manager is important in terms of leading and inspiring a team but it’s the staff on the shop floor that are key to our success. We discuss the post I did about M&S and the shocking service I received. We had a great conversation putting the worlds to rights. Coffee next which was lovely as I don’t drink anymore and then outside for yet another fag break.
It’s about 11.30 and at the entrance of the hotel the visual team have put up a collection of Christmas theme displays featuring home and other products of the season to come. I have an idea for the calendar, as we don’t have a Christmas shot yet why not use the display and BHS product. For the next 1/2 hour Rita and I have a right giggle as I pose in the themed areas with my arse showing. But we got some great shots and I hope Steve will be happy. The one in this post will not be used but I thought it would make you all laugh. I am trying to dust whilst flashing my bum.
At around midnight Rita decides that it’s my bedtime so we head off back to our room. Coffees made we discuss things that I would like to do, treating people, sharing precious moments together. I have always wanted to visit Ireland and I ask Rita if we can go together and have tea in Freckles kitchen (Rita’s sister). Rita loves this idea and so when my treatment is over or when I get a treatment break that’s the plan. A trip to Ireland to see a bit of Rita’s world. Karen joins us for coffee and it’s now just after 1 am and after talking for a while Rita can see my eyes are getting heavy so she asks Karen to leave so that I can go to bed. I’m dressed in the PJ’s which were also part of my presents. Teeth brushed I get into bed. I’m so so tired and I can’t even remember Rita getting into bed. I must of fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was worried about keeping Rita awake but I shouldn’t have worried at all as I sleep for 5 hours! wow I can’t remember the last time I slept for that long. It was beautiful, restful sleep, a deep slumber, content and happy sleep. I woke at 6.10 feeling refreshed and so happy that I had slept for so long. Rita said that she kept waking up throughout the night to check up on me, bless her but whenever she did I was just gently purring (snoring) and she was so happy too that I had slept for so long.
So that was the evening of conference and I will post up the next day soon xxx