29 Mar

I have never been very good at ‘goodbyes’, so it is not surprising that I sneaked away from the leaving do I had organised for myself, four other Ranger colleagues and three apprentices last night, whilst the party was in full swing.

For the first time in many years I witnessed almost the entire Sheffield Ranger Service, present and past, relaxing and having fun after a splendid meal at Shapla curry house, in the Devonshire Cat pub. They deserved it.

Sheffield City Council has experienced some of the worst funding cuts recently and for our modest service this has meant several years of restructuring, early retirements and more recently, voluntary redundancies – all under the guise of ‘Achieving Change’. A hideous metaphor for ‘watch your back’, ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘competition for jobs’ and other such works of the Devil.

My friends had gone to a great deal of trouble to construct some thoughtful leaving gifts – a Bonsai Tree for me – which sits proudly in my kitchen window (thank you Tom) as a reminder of the number of massive trees I have felled. As James put it “You’d probably get that one hung up too if you felled it Henk!”. Great words written in leaving cards like Nick’s comment about my ‘obstreperous sagacity’ – a polite way of saying I can be bolshy. Claire had brewed some wine made from the dandelions around the Ranger Base – I shall look forward to sampling this in my workshop – apparently it is rather ‘dry’ so it will cut French Polish rather nicely.

Handshakes from Matt, a volunteer I have gardened with “You really helped me with my confidence by introducing me to the Saw Mill project Henk”. From Bob, the allotments Ranger “Fair play Henk, I don’t know many people who could be as open as you’ve been about having experienced depression and Bipolar Disorder, and used it to their advantage. Whatever you do in the future I reckon you’ll succeed”.

Helen would say “Only Budgies Suck Seeds” and she had persuaded her ex to drive her in from Rotherham to attend the do (she’d broken her toe and her foot was in a cast)  way beyond the call of duty, but a gesture I greatly appreciate from a highly esteemed colleague.

Or Simon, my boss, saying “you know where to come for a cup of tea” in a big gruff bear-with-a-sore-head kind of way, hiding the big heart of a truly affectionate man. The same man, who ten years ago took about a week to suss me out after a meeting in which I had been a bit ‘hyper’ as we Bipolar types would say in the trade. “You were a bit giddy there” he said. Most people do not have his perspicacity.


And this person, my confidant, business partner, lover and heroin – my wife, Clare who accompanied me to the leaving do, making it feel less like losing something and more like eloping for a grand new adventure. This person made it possible for me to make the right choice, to become a countryside Ranger and work outside for 10 years with these wonderful people. She saved my bacon. For make no mistake, without her and without the Rangers of Sheffield I would not be the person I am now.

Bringing the Rangers together over a curry was my small gift to them. It is in the fervent hope that the damage done to this merry band, by the managerial policy of ‘achieving change’ will be put to one side and that they can under Ted Talbot, the Director of Woodlands’ leadership, once again become the highly respected guardians of green spaces they were when I joined. The woodlands, meadows, ponds, heathlands and parks are well served by this team.

So it is to The Rangers I say “Adieu” and not goodbye. My dear old Oma (dutch for Nan) always said “Adieu” because she could never really know when, or if, we would meet again.

2 Responses to “Adieu”

  1. garryattheacademy March 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Brave New World now matey 😉

  2. Pete C April 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Lovely little read that Henk, look forward to seeing you both in the Cold North East soon.

    My round guys !

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