My song today is, ‘End of the Line’. This a song by the British-American Supergroup the ‘Travelling Wilburys’. Released in October 1988, it was the final track on their debut album, ‘Travelling Wilburys Vol 1’. It was also issued as the band's second single, in January 1989. The recording features all the Wilburys except Bob Dylan as lead singers. George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison sing the choruses in turn, while Tom Petty sings the verses. The song was mainly written by Harrison and was assigned to his publishing company, ‘Umlaut Corporation’. In keeping with the collaborative concept behind the Wilburys project, however, all five members received a songwriting credit.
In the United States, the single peaked at Number 63 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart, while peaking at Number 2 on the ‘Album Rock Tracks’ chart.
The Music Video for ‘End of the Line’ was directed by Willy Smax. It was filmed in Los Angeles shortly after Orbison's death in December 1988 and features Dylan's participation. To honour Orbison, a shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair next to a photo of him was used when his vocals are heard.
I was 46 years old when this record was released, and in many respects, although I was at the height of my own professional career, in mobility terms, it could have been said that ‘the end of the line’ was coming into sight for me. I was finding it increasingly more difficult to walk with my osteoarthritis in my legs getting worse month by month. I’d always experienced lots of pain in my legs since my accident at the age of 11 years.
I had incurred a life-threatening accident at the age of 11 years when a large wagon knocked me down, ran over me and twisted my body around it main drive shaft beneath its carriage, leaving me with multiple injuries. My spine was damaged, almost all my chest ribs had been broken and my lung had been punctured. Both arms and legs had been broken. My left leg had been broken several times; the worst break being on the kneecap.
Initially, I was told that I’d never walk again due to my spinal injury; and whilst I didn’t walk for three years until my spine started transmitting signals to my brain again, by the time I was able to hobble around, I was very ungainly in my walk. I’d had over four dozen operations on my left leg over the years breaking and re-setting it. My left leg finished up being almost three inches shorter than my right leg which had escaped being wrapped around the lorry axel.
The upshot was that even when I did walk again, the hospital consultant told me that I was to make the best of my mobility while it lasted as there would come a time in later life when I wouldn’t be able to walk again after the osteoarthritis had become too great. One would never have guessed how accurate their medical assessment forty years hence would prove.
From that moment on, having been medically informed that I would suffer the loss of my leg mobility again in later life, I engaged in every sporting activity I could. My greatest love was dancing, and although the unevenness in my leg length never allowed me to glide around the dance floor with the grace of a swan again doing ‘modern’ or ‘old-time’ dancing, I eventually progressed from the waddle of a duck to an excellent bopper on the rock and roll scene.
All my life, my arthritic legs have given me constant pain and had it not been from using relaxation methods and mental distractions to alleviate the pain, I would have become the cripple I was destined to end up as much sooner in my life.
When I started work, my father’s industrious work ethos had clearly rubbed off on me. From 15 years of age to 48 years, I never had one day off work through illness. There were many a day when my leg pained so much that I didn’t feel like going into work and was tempted to throw a sicky, and there were other times when I’d had a late partying night the previous evening and felt like lying in when the alarm went off, but didn’t.
Between the ages of thirty and fifty-three, my osteoarthritis increased year-upon-year and I found it increasingly difficult to walk without pain surges constantly shooting up my legs (with my left leg the worse of all). Given the degree of my osteoarthritis and the high level of pain it was now causing me, combined with my 100 percent work attendance since I first started work at the age of 15 years, I was puffed up with pride (that only a martyr to the cause can have), knowing that my father would wholly approve of my industriousness and work attendance record.
I will never forget one morning that I was visiting an inmate in a prison down in South Yorkshire. On the morning in question, I was full of cold and my ‘bad leg’ was paining me terribly. Still, this stoic warrior insisted on going into work and completing his daily duty. I got to the prison and as I waited to have the gate of entry unlocked by a prison officer who stood alongside me, I was looking like death warmed up and the pain in my leg was really enough to make me wince out loudly in discomfort. The concerned prison officer asked if I was okay and I told him that I felt under the weather and was in some considerable pain with my legs. He simply said that I should have stayed in bed then.
Then, for vainglorious reasons I know not, I began to boast about my perfect work attendance record over the past 33 years since I’d started work. I looked at the officer, half expecting a pat on my back as I told him, “ Do you know, I haven’t had one day off in 33 years, and there’s been many a day like today when I should have stayed at home!” If I waited for a compliment coming back in my direction, I soon discovered that I waited in vain. The prison officer simply looked me straight in the eye, and in a sarcastic voice said, “Silly pIllock! Your employers won’t think any better of you for it! You’re just another number in the workforce, mate. Just another silly pillock!”
All that day, I pondered on the prison officer’s words and when I got home that evening, a large part of me was saying that he was probably right. Like the rest of the caring professions around me, between me joining the Probation Service in 1970 and 1988, these years had witnessed so much change in the working conditions of the employees.
The Probation Service had always been a caring service for both employees as well as clients, but now, more pressure was being placed on overworked and under-resourced staff, and less consideration was being given by our employer towards a loyal workforce. It was also becoming more common for all Probation Officers (even the more experienced Probation Officers) to take more days off with stress, in direct proportion to the workload increase.
Between 1988 and 1995 when I was obliged to retire early on health grounds, the workload of all Probation Officers exponentially increased. We were being asked to increase our workload with fewer resources. Our caseloads increased by up to 50 percent, and despite it being humanely impossible to carry out one’s work to the expected service standard, our management expected us to do so. All new cases still needed to be allocated to available staff (whether they were able to deal with them or not) and so a practice of ‘dumping the stress’ on their subordinates by the senior Probation hierarchy came into existence.
All other government service employees were also experiencing similar changes in their work demands, with the Social Service Worker perhaps coming off worst of all. It was with little surprise that society got a number of high profile deaths of children in the media, where it was found that the Social Worker had not provided adequate supervision of the ‘at risk’ family. No Social Worker in the land had enough time and resources to effectively manage the high number of cases they were allocated to supervise and work with!
These two decades witnessed my osteoarthritis worsening considerably. On days when the pain became too much, I went home earlier (which meant that I worked an eight-hour day instead of a ten-hour day), and if ever it was extremely difficult to endure at the start of the day when I woke up, I would have a day off ill. I was never given the option of taking the prison officer’s advice, as my increasing disability forced my hand and effectively made the decision on me.
I would, however, have no compunction in saying to any conscientious employee today who works in any government organization or ‘caring profession’, “Don’t do as I did! Don’t be a martyr to the cause, because when the chips are down and your Line Manager is obliged to choose between your wellbeing and the wellbeing of the service/organisation's work targets, you will find yourself at the bottom of the consideration heap. It is in the nature of all management structures today that ‘targets are met’, whatever the human fallout cost to the expendable workforce happens to be! There is no more ‘caring for employees’ in our ‘caring’ professions today, I’m sorry to say.
In 1995, I realised that I’d come to the ‘end of the line’ as an effective Probation Officer, as I sadly witnessed my mobility worsen and my osteoarthritis increased month by month. Without the necessary replacements to both knees and hip, all leg mobility would soon cease. In the years that followed, I was obliged to increase my sedentary activities such as writing more books and decrease all walking. I even did a bit of singing practice daily and would sit in the sun at our allotments as I watched Sheila sew lots and lots of spuds for me to eat throughout the summer months.
Since early 2013 when I was told I had developed a terminal blood cancer, I have had eight operations for four different cancers in total and a shoulder replacement, and am awaiting another operation to remove cancer from my neck on March 10th, 2020. I have also had two nine-month periods of chemotherapy plus twenty sessions of radiotherapy, along with three years of monthly blood transfusions during my first four years of illness (each demanding 6 hours-8 hours as a hospital day patient).
I still feel that despite my overall medical condition, and knowing that this old jalopy has already passed its 150.000-mile road service, that this old engine still has a fair bit of mileage in it, and that there is still more road to travel before I reach ‘the end of the line.’
Love and peace Bill xxx