30 Years a Virgin | The Ugly Truth – Part 4

Table of Contents

The Ugly Truth Part 3

Page 1 – The Ugly Face of Revenge 
Page 2 – The Day That Changed my Life
Page 2 – When It All Becomes Too Much
Page 3 – Shalom Tel Aviv
Page 4 – Great Customer Feedback
Page 5 – Cue Second Disciplinary
Page 6 – Outcome of the Investigation
Page 7 – The Last Page

The Ugly Truth Part 5 (TBA)

The Day That Changed My Life

In 2010 I suddenly lost my mum. She woke up one morning and didn’t feel well. After seeing her doctor she was told she had a urine infection. He gave her antibiotics and she returned home.

Later that day she was really poorly. I called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital. My mum had a terrible phobia of hospitals. My dad went with her in the ambulance, I followed a short while later.

When I arrived she was stressed and wanted to go home. She was on oxygen but only to relax her. Having spoken to the nurse she told me my mum had a urinary tract infection and due to her age, they were going to keep her in overnight for observation. They were just waiting to see which ward she would be going to. It was a huge relief to hear it was nothing more serious.

My dad and I were with her in a curtained off cubicle in Accident and Emergency. I kept telling her to lay down and relax. I thought she had eventually fallen asleep but her breathing didn’t sound normal. When I tried to speak to her she didn’t respond. I called the nurse who was alarmed and asked me how long she’d been breathing like that.

My mum was unresponsive and was swiftly taken for a scan. Not long afterwards we were told she’d had a massive stroke and it wasn’t looking good. She passed away later that evening.

smiling mother and son
28th September 1922 – 19th August 2010

My dad was 88 at the time but fit and well for his age. We were both traumatised at the sudden loss of my mum.

Later that evening my dad said he couldn’t go back to where they had both lived. He never went there again.

My dad was nowhere near ready to go into residential care because he was far too active both mentally and physically. At the same time he wouldn’t have managed living alone. With us not having any other family, we decided he would come and live with me.

It was never going to be easy because our relationship was complicated. Whilst we never said a bad word to each other we didn’t really talk that much at all. I have always been very private and no aspect of my life as a gay man was ever discussed with my parents.

Those first few months were incredibly difficult for us both.

I want to go back just for a moment to 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Just weeks earlier I started seeing someone who two years later became gravely ill.

Having spoken to my manager to tell him I was considering leaving, he fought hard on my behalf and managed to get me part time.

The years that followed were filled with unimaginable stress and sadness. In 2008 when my situation changed I returned to work full time. Just two years later finding myself once again as a carer, my manager allowed me to go back to being part time.

Looking after an elderly parent comes with its challenges. My entire family was my dad and I so there was no outside help. Flying kept me sane because it gave me time and space to recharge my batteries.

In 2016 my dad was 94 but still sharp mentally and physically fit. He walked extensively and went out almost every day for a few hours. Whilst out walking one morning he had a fall and from then on, everything changed. He had stitches in his head and bruising took weeks to go down.

Not long afterwards he caught pneumonia and was hospitalised. As part of the infection he lost his hearing completely. I spent almost every waking hour for the next three weeks by his side.

elderly man with cuts and bruises to his head and around his eye

Having made a full recovery he was discharged. He regained enough hearing to be able to wear hearing aids but hated them. Whilst in hospital he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

By the time he came home he had really aged. He’d lost his confidence and still enjoyed walking but wouldn’t go out alone. He also needed much more help with basic tasks which was all down to me.

Having CLL and glaucoma meant there were plenty of hospital appointments.

elderly gentleman smiling

Life was tough but in the previous months I had met someone and was in a new relationship. He was also cabin crew for the same airline. Some months later he moved in. Having some emotional support helped enormously but I was beginning to struggle with my mental health.

Although we spoke about residential care my dad hated the idea. Living in the house meant he still had his independence to a degree. Our relationship had improved and my partner and I often took my dad for days out. His two loves were football and horse racing.

a young and elderly man standing together on the grass with other people behind them
A day out at Kempton Park racecourse

My entire life revolved completely around my dad. My only respite was going to work but being away for any longer than one night was difficult. I very occasionally did a two night trip.

By 2014 I was fighting agonising depression and anxiety. I tried hard to hide it from my dad which wasn’t easy.

I was at my happiest when in the air and away on trips. From the second I stepped onto the aircraft I felt a sense freedom.

My manager was aware of my situation and whenever I needed time off for hospital appointments did what he could to help.

male virgin atlantic crew member
About to leave Miami

With me being part-time and my partner being full time we were constantly swapping trips to ensure one of us was always at home. Since being hospitalised my dad didn’t like being left alone overnight.

Part-time at the airline was like gold dust. Until about 2013 cabin crew returning from maternity were automatically allowed to return on a part-time contract but for everyone else it was incredibly difficult.

It was 2017 before the airline finally announced they were opening up the option of part-time to whoever wanted to apply. Two new contracts were created and applications could be submitted once a year.

The following comes from a letter sent to all cabin crew in August 2000. Part time was opened up seventeen years later.

copy of written correspondence

The Freedom service was a new style of service introduced in Upper Class. It allowed customers to eat whenever they wanted as opposed to everyone having lunch/dinner at the same time. Furthermore, everything they wanted to eat from the menu for their main course had to be chosen individually.

With the introduction of this new service the cabin went from a sea of calm to pure chaos. The Upper Class crew worked tirelessly with no time at all for breaks.

“Extra staff” were never added to the “busiest routes”. If anything the number of cabin crew on each flight was continuously reduced. Operating flights crew down was not unusual especially over bank holidays.

In 2014 my partner applied for part time. Having discussed the matter we decided it would make the situation at home much easier. We hoped the application would be successful on compassionate grounds but it was quickly rejected. Although anyone could apply, there was no guarantee of success.

I decided to write to Head of Cabin Crew who was senior manager xx. I wanted to explain what was going on in my life and why the part time application had been submitted.

The email which was marked “private and confidential” included some very private and personal information. I wanted to be honest about my situation in the hope it would lead to the application being reconsidered. The fact I didn’t know and had never met her made it easier to talk more openly.

I would have liked to include the email or part of it in my blog but don’t have a copy. It was sent from my work email which I no longer have access to. I have recently submitted a Subject Access Request which requires them to share anything I ask for from my personnel file. I applied in October 2021, it’s now late February 2022 and I’m still waiting.

My email to senior manager xx was passed to six different cabin crew managers. Each one told me they were unable to deal with it so passed it onto someone else. All of the managers who saw the correspondence knew me and I knew them. I was extremely uncomfortable with the information being shared especially with people I had known for many years. It’s the very reason the email was marked Private and Confidential.

At one point it was passed back to senior manager xx who then passed it to yet another cabin crew manager. Having complained about it being passed to someone who was below her, she told me this person was a “senior” cabin crew manager.

By then I’d had enough and wrote to her manager to complain about what I felt was a breach of confidentiality. I received a response within a couple of days and a meeting between my partner and the company was subsequently arranged. During that meeting he was offered part time but told it could only be for six months and would then be reviewed.

It had taken many months to get to this point. With each passing day looking after my dad became more challenging. He was no trouble but there were many factors that made the situation at home extremely difficult.

Having reached the point where I really couldn’t cope anymore I went on antidepressants. It was a desperate and last resort.

About three weeks after my partner Laurence (we have the same name) went part time, he received a call from his manager. She said “I have some great news, we can offer you part time on a permanent basis”.

We were dumbfounded by what she said. We’d spent almost a year fighting this application and were repeatedly told the company couldn’t support any additional part time contracts. Just a month after being told he could have it for six months he was told he could have it permanently.

He left less than a year later.

I believe it’s likely senior manager xx was spoken to about the way my correspondence was handled. There may also have been other repercussions. I have no evidence to back that up and really don’t know what happened as a result of my complaint.

Thinking back to what took place it seems to be the only feasible reason why she was so determined for the grievances to be upheld and for me to lose my job.

In September 2018 just a couple of months before the flight to Atlanta with Bart, someone I was extremely fond of who was a Cabin Service Supervisor (CSS) with the airline passed away.

Laurence and I attended the funeral. Prior to the service we stood outside the church with several other cabin crew. Some I knew, others I didn’t. Whenever someone new arrived and joined the group we all smiled and said hello.

Suddenly someone arrived who most people seemed to know. I had no idea who she was. When our eyes met I smiled and nodded. She looked right through me with stone-cold eyes. It seemed an odd reaction but I didn’t think too much of it.

After the church service I mentioned the incident to Laurence and asked who she was. He told me it was senior manager xx. I never gave the incident another thought other than thinking she wasn’t very friendly considering she was the Head of Cabin Crew.

Whilst dealing with the grievance raised by Bart and the second matter of the forum comment, I couldn’t help but wonder whether what happened that day was intentional. Laurence said I was looking into it too deeply which may or may not be the case.

Here’s a tweet from Holly Branson that I replied to. Needless to say I received no response. I also emailed carers UK but received no response from them either.

My dad lived with me for almost eight years. Even after he went into residential care I went to see him every day without fail, unless away on a trip. Most Saturday’s I picked him up and either brought him to the house for the day or we went out.

Being a carer for the best part of nine years took its toll on my mental health. That was reason I was on long term sick in 2016 and the sole reason for my partner applying for part time.

Tweet by Holly Branson with a photo of her and someone from Carers UK taken during a video call

Here’s another tweet from Holly Branson that I also replied to. Here’s the article she refers to by senior manager Steve Sneddon.

tweet by Holly Branson

When It All Becomes Too Much

By 2017 looking after my dad at home had become incredibly difficult. We both agreed the time had finally come for him to go into residential care. It was a very difficult decision.

For reasons it’s not necessary to go into, securing him a place at the home we wanted was not easy. After eight long and difficult months he finally got a place.

A few months after moving in he celebrated his 95th birthday. It was an emotional day to finally see him in his new home. He was relaxed, relatively happy and was being well looked after. The previous eight years had not been easy for either of us.

He passed away very peacefully in January the following year. It was a couple of weeks after I returned from my Christmas trip to Atlanta with Bart.

father and son and a big birthday cake
7/9/1922 – 10/01/2019

%d bloggers like this: