Evolution of a story

I wanted to believe the recent story concerning a stationmaster with 27 year’s loyal service who removed a shopping trolley from the path of an approaching train only to be fired for a breach of health and safety regulations, because I think that our lives are over-regulated now, because it was a case of one man taking on faceless big business, and because I am a fan of ‘The World’s Gone Mad’ stories and want them all to be true to validate my opinions.

I was happily up in arms about it until I discovered that what I’d read was basically the wronged man’s version of events and may not have been entirely true. Other reports suggested that his record may not have been as spotless as he had made it out to be and, that there had been complaints made about his previous behaviour on occasions. So maybe what we have is an irritating busybody who attempts to run Network Southwest single-handed endangering himself and flouting his rules of employment after repeated warnings about his conduct. Maybe. The complaints filed against him, if indeed there were any, may have come from disgruntled passengers fed up with the trains always being late just looking for someone to blame.

So here we are, at the mercy of reporters with their own agendas and our own ill-informed, biased opinions.

The story

The discovery of the body of Ayodele Turay in a cupboard in South London was afforded more attention than his life in the cupboard ever had been. He became, however briefly, one of those people who barely cause a blip in the collective consciousness until after their death.

The story first came to light in an evening news report which stated that Ayodele had worked for the local council as a street cleaner, and had been asphyxiated in his sleep by carbon monoxide produced by a faulty boiler pipe which passed through the badly-ventilated cupboard in which he was living. The report went on to condemn the local authorities for allowing such a tragic event to happen, and the flavour of the conversations which took place in the pubs and homes of the capital that night echoed that lead with pleasure, for there is nothing that we like more than attacking our elected representatives who are, after all, supposed to be governing the country and, amongst other things, responsible for ensuring that the citizens of one of the greatest cities in the so-called civilised world have a little more than just a roof over their heads in exchange for an honest day’s labour. What sort of pitiful wage was Ayodele being paid, for God’s sake, to be reduced to living like that? Well, he was presumably legally employed on at least the minimum wage so it can’t have been down to his being exploited by his employer, and it was more likely that he had been the victim of an unscrupulous landlord who took advantage of the fact that he was alone in a strange, foreign city and didn’t know any better. That still didn’t excuse the authorities who ought to be doing more to stamp out practices like that.

Further information came to light the following day when the slant of the story changed from an attack on the government to a hard luck human tragedy that claimed that Ayodele was willingly renting out the cupboard space for next to nothing from a Ghanaian family in order to send as much of his money as he could back to his wife in Nigeria – a small fortune by their standards. In this he had the sympathy of the public who could hardly condemn a man who was clearly willing to work and simply trying to improve the quality of life for his family, no matter that such arrangements are not really in the best interests of the economy of the host country. They would no more take against this than they would against a fellow countryman working tax-free as a surveyor in the desert of North Africa, shaking scorpions out of his boots every morning and drinking ‘Flash’ for his evening’s entertainment. Hard work coupled with some measure of hardship is only to be applauded.

An almost heroic death then, caused by ignorance with nobody really to blame. A wistfully tragic tale of human endurance and fortitude. A pity.

The story might well have ended there but for the arrest a few days later of a drug-dealer Martin Hawkes, an investigation into his various activities, and a round-up of some of his accomplices and acquaintances. The father of the Ghanaian family whose cupboard had been home to Ayodele Turay was implicated in the distribution of heroin and himself a helpless addict, as was his tenant. A sordid tale of drugs and crime which had taken a life that was not destined to be a long one in any case, and only served to remind the public of the rotten underbelly of human existence that shared this same great city with them. The despair of the newspaper reporters and their readers centred on the general breakdown of modern life, and the incompetence of the government, who seemed to be more concerned with lining their own pockets and engaged in a lot of talk but very little action. The prisons were full to bursting, and didn’t rehabilitate, but were merely keeping dangerous criminals temporarily off the streets. Offences were being downgraded and punishments now so negligible as to be no deterrent at all to re-offending. The country was going to the dogs and the death of a drug addict was just another statistic with no longer any newsworthiness.

But it didn’t end there.

Public outrage is now aimed at the personal greed of social worker Deborah Hoskins who was fully aware of the circumstances of the case including the drug aspect, and other facts involving unexplained injuries to the children and their frequent absence from school. An easy and perfectly acceptable target, as the public have no love for the social services who they see as interfering busybodies who break up families, Hoskins was subsequently removed from her position for neglecting her duties. At a tribunal the manner of her dismissal was adjudged to have not followed prescribed guidelines and, although it is clear that the death of this young man might have been avoided, and the abuse to which the children had been subjected might also have been properly addressed if she had been doing the job which she was being paid to do, she has been reinstated in her former position and awarded 480,000 pounds compensation for unfair dismissal and defamation of character. She claimed that the case was being monitored according to procedure which may have been true.

Not much of a footnote for Ayodele Turay, the fact that his life was so soon forgotten, but the death of a drug addict doesn’t fire the indignation of the public like the knowledge that because of the tangled web of rules and regulations which now govern every aspect of daily life, half a million pounds of taxpayer’s money is given to a woman who, at the very least, didn’t do her job properly.

At least that’s what we’re led to believe. Spanish cucumber anyone?

Evolution of a story

ian osborne

Joined January 2010

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Artist's Description

“Let’s be rational about this.”
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“No, let’s not be.”
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This story is not true although it uses some elements that are, or might have been, which were given to me by Tuliptree a fellow writer here on RB.
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I invented the rest to suit myself and all opinions are either mine or borrowed and might only be temporary anyway.
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I want the story about the stationmaster to be true just as I would like to believe that the earth is flat.

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truth opinion

Artwork Comments

  • Tuliptree
  • ian osborne
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  • ian osborne
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