To say that Jerry has a wide range of job experience is something of an understatement. In recent times he has fitted security and mobility aids, delivered packages by cycle, worked as a carpenter and co-run a Portobello-based floristry and gardening company that had clients including Madonna, Brian Eno and Harry Enfield and his wife. He also provided floral displays to some of London’s leading restaurants and bars, such as Momo, in both the West End and North Kensington.
Indeed, gardening is still something Jerry enjoys and it was the chance to do more of this work that was one of the factors that attracted him to his current job as a grounds maintenance person, working for Ardmore on the construction site. “It’s my job to ensure the perimeter of the site remains clean, tidy and presentable, and that includes maintaining the gardens, flower beds and courtyards. It’s a part of the role that I really enjoy.”
Jerry has been working for Ardmore on the site since last summer. “The cycle courier firm I worked for went out of business, and I suddenly found myself in need of a job,” he says. “I was speaking with someone from The ClementJames Centre who knew that there was an opening for a grounds maintenance person and suggested I put myself forward for it. It’s a great job, and I’m working with really friendly people, which obviously helps.”
As well as his garden responsibilities, Jerry has to maintain and clean the hoardings around the edge, and there are always little tasks to keep him busy. He also often finds himself doing little jobs that are strictly-speaking not his problem but he feels a responsibility to carry out. “Things like clearing rubbish and leaves off the road – this is really the council’s job, but they don’t do it regularly enough so I often tidy it up. It’s about taking pride in my work. I want the area around the perimeter of the site to be in good shape, and if that means doing a bit of extra work then that’s fine by me.”
It’s this attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile that makes Jerry so popular among the residents at the scheme. Through his work he has got to know some of the people that live in both the old and new parts of the scheme and their reaction makes the extra work feel worthwhile. “Everyone here is really open and friendly, and very appreciative of the work that I put in,” he says. “They realise that by keeping the perimeter clean and tidy I’m contributing to the look and feel of the neighbourhood, and they thank me for it. Feeling appreciated in this way definitely makes the job more enjoyable.”
The look and feel of the area is important to Jerry, as he has lived in the area all his life – “I’m a born and bred Portobello person,” he says – and has no intention of moving elsewhere. “It’s become expensive to live in the area and a lot of people have had to move away, my mum included, who now lives in Wembley, but I’ve managed to stay round here and have got no desire to leave.”
It’s not just where he lives and works, but where he spends his free time too. “At weekends I cycle down to the Music and Video Exchange on Notting Hill Gate to indulge my passion for nu-jazz and future-jazz. If either I moved out of the area, or the exchange ever closed, I would miss it terribly.” And when someone has a connection to an area like Jerry has, it’s easy to see how a job making it that bit nicer has such an appeal.