"Between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-five, after I came back from a few years spent in Canada, I returned to 'Harrison Gardners Dyeworks' in Hightown as a working foreman in charge of the peroxide white department. At the time I had left to go to Canada two years earlier, I'd been the shop steward at the firm for three years (At 18 years of age, I was the youngest shop steward in Great Britain). Soon after my return, I accepted a position as working foreman in a department that needed turning around more productively. There were three men under my supervision and one of them was an experienced worker called Keith. In truth, Keith's extensive knowledge of the peroxide process should have identified him as being the most suitable person for the post. However, Keith had entirely the wrong temperament to be a 'working foreman'; his communication skills were poor and his ability to relate to other workers left much to be desired.
Keith was reportedly a married man, although I never met anyone who had ever seen his wife in their life; not even a photograph ever emerged. He had either murdered her and buried her in the back garden many years earlier or she'd left him the day after they married after she'd discovered what a miserable sod he was, or he'd invented her! Either way, he never spoke about her to anyone, nor did he ever attend any work functions. In fact, the more I worked with Keith, the more socially isolated a man he seemed to be. The more I inquired about his background, the more mysterious it all became. It became clear that nobody at the dye works knew where he hailed from or knew of any other family member of his. He was, in short, a complete enigma.
All day, every day, Keith would attend his work and keep to himself without talking to anyone else, unless absolutely necessary. He could work a full ten-hour shift without ever uttering a word, and get by with a few shoulder shrugs to signify a response of 'I don't know!' or 'I don't care!' and nods of the head and other facial and body gesticulations. As Keith never spoke to other workers, he did not gossip about other workers. This silence naturally intrigued those who worked alongside him, and who undoubtedly gossipped about him and his eccentricities.
From the start, Keith seemed to resent my presence and authority in the peroxide department. Having this younger and more inexperienced workmate being placed in a position above him obviously rankled with him, although he clearly kept his views to himself. Don't get me wrong, I probably knew as much about all of the working processes of the dye works as much as the next man; except when it happened to be Keith standing next to me. Whatever I knew about the process of peroxiding woollen material, he undoubtedly knew more! When he saw a mistake in the making about to happen, instead of forewarning me and the other two workmates, he would just sit back, let it happen and inwardly gloat.
Upon arrival each morning, all four work comrades would say 'Good morning', but the only response we would receive from Keith was a glare. None of us ever received a 'Good morning' in return. On the few occasions, Keith did reply, his answer would be filled with sarcasm or peppered with 'put down' negativity. All day long he carried around this miserable 'hang-dog' face, and the only time one might catch the grimace of a smile escape him would be when he saw a mishap or witnessed another's misfortune.
With regard to his work, there wasn't a harder grafter at 'Harrison Gardners' and I couldn't fault him for either effort or quality of performance. For most of the first year, I genuinely tried to engage Keith in conversation and a laugh and a joke, but he wasn't having any of it. Even when Christmas time came around and we wished him a 'Merry Christmas', I was gobsmacked to receive the reply, 'Get stuffed!' He refused the small presents that we'd got for each other and went home at the end of the shift instead of joining us across the road at the 'Shoulder of Mutton' for a Christmas drink.
We never did learn the reason for his negative attitude, nor did anyone ever see his phantom wife. A few years ago, while I was writing a romance novel where the heroine worked at 'Harrison Gardners Dyeworks' and was a person who'd grown to hate Christmas, Keith came to mind, along with his negative, seasonal attitudes.
It is sad whenever we come across anyone who refuses to share in the lives of the people around them. Life's journey is always much easier and more pleasurable to travel when we do it in the company of others who surround us daily.
I do not know what it is that makes one person prefer their own company at all times in their lives, but I do know that people of profound solitude exist. I feel that people who cannot express love have probably never experienced love being expressed towards them and consequently, never felt loved themselves.
During the 1980s, I was the Probation Officer in the country who introduced Relaxation Training into H.M. Prisons. I recall working with a group of female prisoners at H.M.Prison Newhall (Near Wakefield), over a two year period. Most of the women prisoners in my hourly Relaxation Training groups that took place every week in the Prison Chapel had harmed, sexually abused or murdered children. They were perceived by prison staff, other inmates with lesser crimes, even some of my colleague probation officers, and the public in general, as representing 'the human dregs of society'.
Without going into specific details that would necessarily involve the breaking of confidences, I can report that over my two-years in the weekly presence of this group of a few dozen women prisoners, never once did I come across one who had ever been told by a parent that they were loved. In fact, the only time they heard the words of 'I love you' come from a parent or another person was when it was being spoken by sexually abusive father who engaged in incest and rape on a regular occurrence, or some adult male who was attempting to persuade her to do something wrong, and which she didn't wish to do. Consequently, many of these women went on to become abusers themselves in adult life. Most had violent relationships with men or women which frequently resulted in the receiving and commission of physical and sexual cruelty towards others; including their own children and significant partners. Of all the exercises that were the hardest to get them to perform in two full years, was the ability and willingness to end our weekly sessions by embracing in a circle and looking towards the person at either side of us and saying smilingly, 'I love you'.
I will never forget one Christmas time during the 8O's when a large envelope arrived at the Huddersfield Probation Office addressed to me. It had been sent by then Welfare Officer at Newhall Prison (who incidentally, later went on to become a Member of Parliament). Inside were over one dozen hand-made posters and Christmas cards from the women prisoners in the Relaxation Training groups I'd run that year at Newhall Prison; to whom I would have sent a Christmas card each as was my custom. To see the cards marked with appropriate expressions of love in the manner of an 'x' brought tears to my eyes as I realised that they came from women who had committed the most heinous of crimes imaginable, and who had spent a lifetime as both victim and perpetrator of vicious crime. These emotionally scarred women were expressing love towards one of the few men in their lives (if not the only man), who had expressed loving feelings towards them that weren't driven by inappropriate desire and sexual motivation.
I do not know what was the nature of Keith's childhood experiences, but I would be very surprised to discover that they were positive and loving ones.
While I never liked the quote of the boxer, Mike Tyson, when he said, 'Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth', it could be that Keith's life-long hang-dog look accounted for having been emotionally punched too many times as he grew from child to adult." William Forde" March 1st, 2018.