Memories in his own words by Paul Caruana Now in Civvy Life Back Home

Growing up. Lessons in life.

I know that I have made light of the way my RAF career evolved. I made it sound relatively easy and that I had a helping hand along the way. To be fair to myself, I gave 100% in every job I did, often going that extra mile to help others. I was totally committed, making sure the job got the best I had to offer. That was recognised and rewarded. I made the most of the opportunities afforded me when others shunned them. I wasn’t ready at age 15 to tackle what life threw at me and it took me another 20 years to realise and unleash my own potential. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. What has service life taught me ? Here are my 25 tips on how to handle life:

Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
Your first decision might not always be the best. Always be prepared to change.
The shop floor staff often know the best way forward. Include them.
True friends are worth cherishing.
Treat everybody equally until they abuse it.
Hard work pays dividends.
You can get away with most things.The secret is not to be caught!
Aim high, aspire to do your best, not be the best.
Make the most of your opportunities
Don’t use rank/grade to win your argument.
Be prepared to admit you’re wrong.
Lead by example.
Put yourself in others’ shoes when making difficult decisions.
Be yourself or you will soon get found out.
Don’t put self interest first.
You need fun in your working life as well as your personal life.
Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing.
It is better to tackle issues head on rather than suffer personal turmoil.
Be able to agree to disagree and still remain friends
Don’t let the bas**rds grind you down.
Trust and loyalty is a two way street.
Respect must be earned not demanded.
You can’t be all things to all men/women
There is more than one way to skin a cat
Family first, always, or there is a price to pay

Growing up. Lessons in life.

I know that I have made light of the way my RAF career evolved. I made it sound relatively easy and that I had a helping hand along the way. To be fair to myself, I gave 100% in every job I did, often going that extra mile to help others. I was totally committed, making sure the job got the best I had to offer. That was recognised and rewarded. I made the most of the opportunities afforded me when others shunned them. I wasn’t ready at age 15 to tackle what life threw at me and it took me another 20 years to realise and unleash my own potential. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. What has service life taught me ? Here are my 25 tips on how to handle life:

Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
Your first decision might not always be the best. Always be prepared to change.
The shop floor staff often know the best way forward. Include them.
True friends are worth cherishing.
Treat everybody equally until they abuse it.
Hard work pays dividends.
You can get away with most things.The secret is not to be caught!
Aim high, aspire to do your best, not be the best.
Make the most of your opportunities
Don’t use rank/grade to win your argument.
Be prepared to admit you’re wrong.
Lead by example.
Put yourself in others’ shoes when making difficult decisions.
Be yourself or you will soon get found out.
Don’t put self interest first.
You need fun in your working life as well as your personal life.
Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing.
It is better to tackle issues head on rather than suffer personal turmoil.
Be able to agree to disagree and still remain friends
Don’t let the bas**rds grind you down.
Trust and loyalty is a two way street.
Respect must be earned not demanded.
You can’t be all things to all men/women
There is more than one way to skin a cat
Family first, always, or there is a price to pay

Now  Back home in Cornwall

I had actually bought my house in September 1992, before I left the RAF, some 6 months before my demob date. Chirgwin Rd, just under Trelander Estate, was to be our abode for the next 13 years or so. It was a great little house, 3 beds, detached, good neighbours, close to town and the rugby club of course! It was also very close to my mother’s house which could be a godsend, or not….

Looking for a job, I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do. After the security of a well paid job for the past 23 years, civvi street was altogether a different proposition. No Wednesday afternoons off for rugby or fishing. No travel warrants, no cheap Mess life, no being “The Boss” anymore and having to start at the bottom again filled me with apprehension. After some trawling around, I was offered, and accepted, a job with Western Telecom as their operations manager. It sounds rather grand, but in reality, I was one of only half a dozen staff. Supplying and installing business telephone systems across the country was their main trade, until a deal with numerous service stations to supply telephone systems into their Officers’ and SNCO’s Mess Blocks took prime position. My main task was sourcing the equipment. I have to say that was easier said than done! Business can be cut throat and unkind, and I was soon to find out that all wasn’t that rosy out there! I can’t say too much about how things were run, but they were completely alien to me! In the RAF I was used to making a phone call, getting the kit I needed and getting on with the job in hand. Money was never an issue. Being kind, it was totally different in civvi street! Having to tell customers that “we’d be there on Monday to install their equipment”, knowing full well I couldn’t say which Monday it might be, wasn’t what I liked or was used to! Remember – don’t promise anything you can’t deliver?! Well, that came back to kick me in the teeth on far too many occasions, so much so that, after a year in the job, I decided enough was enough and that it wasn’t for me. The one plus the job gave me was befriending Karen and Kev Patterson who have remained as friends ever since.

I left the job with no other in mind or available. I had never been unemployed since I left school and the three months in between jobs was quite testing. I tried to “sign on” only to be told that, despite my work record, I wasn’t entitled to anything. Not a penny! Why? I had funds to fall back on and that is what I had to do. Where would my next venture lead me? Well, one of the telephone installations we installed was at the local Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) office. Whilst there, I had spoken to the local boss about the work they undertook. After chatting, he told me that they were due to recruit 8 more staff in July 2004. Would I be interested? At the time I said no. Little did I know then that it was to be an opening to my second career.

A quick phone call and an interview was arranged. Bingo! I attended the interview, was asked if I could drive a 4×4, read a map, know anything about wildlife and could I start on the 4th July? Yes, yes, yes and yes! I was offered the job, accepted it and my job as Wildlife Officer was about to start with a three-month probationary period before being taken on full time. The job involved the catching and live testing of badgers in the fight against Bovine Tuberculosis, a Zoonotic disease that us humans can catch. Little did I know or understand just what a problem it would be across the whole country. Over 30,000 cows a year were being slaughtered with this disease and it was decimating whole farming communities. Those older ones amongst us might well remember the problem of TB, when millions around the world caught it after drinking infected milk. Pasteurisation cured that problem, but it was still a notifiable disease and had to be controlled.

Training for the job soon got underway. The first thing I learnt was that one flask wasn’t enough for a normal day. Old Gordy said to me – “whatee think that is boy? “My flask I said. “That won’t see e through the morning!” Things were, shall we say, rather relaxed! An additional flask was purchased, and I soon got used to drinking about 8 cups of tea a day! Getting used to doing a day’s work in half a day was something I would have to get used to. Don’t make waves I was told. “This is the way it works, get used to it!” I did, sort of……

Next was the start of our in-field training. It was all about identifying wildlife by their tracks and faeces. Interesting….Mmmmm. Our trainer was a bit of a lad and told some tall stories about life in MAFF. We had him for a whole week, and he tried his best to impart his knowledge. One day, he spends most of the time sticking his walking stick into different faeces, smelling it and saying, fox, badger, rabbit, sheep and so on. A few days later, I call him over and say “what on earth is it, I haven’t seen this before? I picked it up and tried to bite it. He gave me a really weird look! It’s bullshit! I had bought a plastic turd and decided to wind him up! He took the hint well!

Off road driving came next. A trip to Dartmoor and the off-road driving course commenced. I had driven land rovers before (remember Lyneham and the airfield?) but was totally unprepared for what the course would show me. They are amazing vehicles and the things we were taught were to help me immensely when I had a few mishaps! My first mishap was when I parked at the top of a very steep hill, overlooking the Exe Valley. I put the handbrake on and got out of the vehicle. I opened the back door, slammed it shut and off it went down the hillside, at great speed, of its own accord! Shit! How would I explain this one to the bosses?! Even worse, at the bottom of the hill was a recently dug, huge pit and the Land Rover was heading straight for it ! My life passed in front of my eyes! Our brand, spanking new Land Rover was destined to be wrecked ! It seemed to take an age to get to the bottom of the hill. Swerving as it went, I prayed that it missed the pit ! It did, by inches and it came to a halt when it hit the pile of soil next to it. Recovered without a scratch! Was I born lucky or what?!

Trained and ready to face the world as a Wildlife Officer, my first proper field work was down on Zennor Common, surveying the farming land. It was there that I had the really scariest of days. The common is covered in thick gorse and ferns. Getting through it was a job and a half! The biggest problem though was one of snakes, hundreds of them! They are one creature I hate and a I have never been able to get rid of that fear of them. It was mid-afternoon and suddenly the thickest mist I had ever seen descended on the moor. Me and my work colleague got separated and I had to hack, blindly, through the overgrowth in a real pea souper! Scary or what! I was very late getting back and had no way of letting anybody know what had happened. It was the days of no mobile phones, so communication was difficult. If one good thing came out of it, it was that we purchased our own two-way radios and it was to make a huge difference in the way we could operate. Safety was paramount, especially in the areas we worked in. The whole unit was soon to be issued with their individual radios and it certainly helped all of us in our everyday work. My service training did come in handy.

Next day, we were surveying open fields. The easy way was for one of us to sit on the near side wing whilst being driven around the field. It was my turn to sit and survey. Suddenly, my mate shouts “get off, get in, there’s a bull behind us!” I jump off, rush around to the passenger door which was locked – by him ! He is sat there laughing his head off whilst this huge bull is heading my way! There was I crapping myself and all he could do was wet his pants laughing at me! Some mate he was! It was a South Devon bull, which I now know are fairly serene and usually harmless. I didn’t know that at the time and the expletives I used can’t be repeated here !

Live testing was soon to begin, and the vets arrived at the site and set up shop. Catching our first ever badgers was exciting, surprising and educational. I never really knew just how big they were ! An average of around 10kgs each, some were over 25 kgs, as heavy as a sack of spuds! They were anethisised by the vets, their blood samples checked and humanely put down if found to have the disease. Non-infected badgers were returned to the setts they were caught at.

We were able to attend the live tests and my ever-lasting memories are the size of the badgers being tested, their smell and the vast number of ticks and fleas that lived on these often stunningly beautiful animals. The one thing I learned quickly was that you cannot tell the disease status of a wild animal by looks alone. Badgers fight for territory. Their wounds would end up in a mass of blood and puss. Often, the mankiest looking badger would be non- infected and the most pristine infected. Live testing was supposed to be the way forward. Unfortunately, what are called “false negatives”, a test that doesn’t indicate the true state of infection, were to prematurely stop the live testing trials and another strategy was needed. More about that later.

Part of our work was to pick up roadside badger casualties for testing. There are around 50,000 a year killed on our roads. In my early days, the sight of squashed hedgehogs was the “norm”. Now it is flattened badgers. Why? Sheer numbers and the fact that they are creatures of habit and will crossroads, using the same path, night in, night out. The dearth of hedgehogs is down to the fact that badgers eat them for a pastime, not a fact that too many people know.

There are many strains of Bovine TB and that is why understanding the transmission of the disease is so vital. The strains are called spoliogotypes and there are three in Cornwall. One in the far West, one central Cornwall and one in East Cornwall. When infected cattle were being slaughtered with the disease, their spoliogotype was checked. If it was one of the three known to exist in Cornwall, fine. If not, tracing would take place to see where the diseased cow had come from. Quite often, it has been bought in and that information was to prove to be most useful in the fight against bovine TB. Tracking snd tracing the origin of Bovine TB must be akin to that of tracing Covid 19. You’d be amazed at how many times one cow could be sold and moved on !

Until you have seen, firsthand, the devastation that Bovine TB causes in our farming communities, you cannot begin to imagine the sheer devastation it has. Farmers, who nurture their cattle, have to consign their infected cattle to the slaughterhouse. I witnessed one farm that had 159 cows infected. 89 of them were in-calf heifers, all shot on the farm. Heartbreaking doesn’t even touch it. I can’t think of words strong or suitable enough to describe this absolute carnage, because that’s what it is – carnage. The impact on those farmers can see them lose everything. Sad days indeed. Unfortunately for me, darker days were to come. Foot and mouth was to hit the whole Country later in my career.

4th July 1994 is when I started working for MAFF. The first 4 years of working as a Field Officer really was bliss. Over 90% of our time was spent on farms across the whole of the South West surveying them. We were able to access parcels of land that were never, normally, accessible. We met some amazing people, especially on Dartmoor and Exmoor. Our first visit to Dartmoor took us across open fields in the middle of nowhere. Two very old brothers ran the farm in complete isolation and met us on arrival. Two complete, how do I put this kindly, “country bumpkins”. One with no teeth and a smile as broad as you can imagine. The other, the “Boss man”, had his fag hanging out his mouth and a mouth full of black teeth. No mains electric, no mains water, just how did they survive? We were soon to find out ! “Cup of char boys?”. We never turned down the invite for a cuppa, so said yes. In we went, pitch dark and was told to watch our footing. Why? Most of the floorboards were missing! They had burnt them for cooking! Life on the moors! What a couple of characters they turned out to be! The one with no teeth was a “space invader”. When he talked to you, it was literally nose to nose, and that was unsettling, not just because he had the worst breath ever, but it felt uncomfortable being that close to anybody when chatting. I didn’t know at that stage that he was hard of hearing, hence the closeness.

I had a very similar occurrence soon afterwards. I had to go and visit a landowner in order to gain permission to access her land. I am a good map reader. However, I just couldn’t find the farm entrance. I stopped and asked another farmer if he knew where the lady’s farm house was? He quizzed me about who I was and why I needed to go see her. He accepted my explanation and directed me to a standard field gateway. “Over the gate, across the two fields and you’ll see her house”. Mmmmm….strange I thought! I did as he said and eventually arrive at this quaint, but very old, thatched cottage. I knocked on the door and a very old sounding Lady’s voice said, “come in”, which I did. It was pitch black and all I could see was a fire in the far corner of the room. “Take a while and let your eyes adjust”. I did and suddenly this very old lady, looking about 100 years old, appeared. We spoke and soon were chatting about her life, living alone, with no utilities whatsoever to use. Chopped wood and her own well water supply saw her through. Her family had had the farm for hundreds of years and she was the last in the line. I sat there and chatted and chatted about her amazing life. Born in 1898, she was indeed 100 years old. She had lived through and survived two World Wars working on the family farm. What a truly amazing lady! I was privileged and totally intrigued by the person I had met. An absolute pleasure and a fab life experience. I loved my job!

We had to survey another farm not too far away. A beautiful area on the tops of the moors. We were met by a lovely lady owner who said, “when you’re done, pop back for a cuppa”. Of course, we would. Finished, we knocked on her door and she invited us in. “I’ll grab some cups out of the sink” she says. The sink was piled high with dirty, and I mean dirty, dishes. She swilled out two cups and filled them with tea and us with dread! Reluctantly, we drank it. “Another one boys?”. Mmmm…no thanks! During the tea session, a smell like no other permeated the kitchen. “Do you want to see my new puppies’ boys?”. Sure. She took us next door into her living room, and there was a sheep dog and half a dozen pups there, plus what looked like weeks worth of dog droppings on her carpet! The smell was horrendous!  

We always stayed in digs when working more than 50 miles from Truro. To say they varied would be an understatement. Some would treat us like long lost sons, feeding us cream cakes and all of the stuff we really should have avoided! Others would be wary, suspicious and over inquisitive. We soon got to learn which ones to use and enjoy. Indeed, over the years, some became like extended family to us and that made working away from home so much more bearable. MAFF paid us a fixed sum for our overnights, and it was up to us how we spent it. £65 a night, plus another allowance, could see us doubling our monthly pay, tax free ! We would always negotiate a price with our land ladies. That would often include breakfast, a packed lunch and an evening meal thrown in for free and all for less than £20! Bargain! We tended to use working farms that were offering B&B, mainly because they would know about and understand the work we were doing. Indeed, once we finished our MAFF work, we’d often help out on the farm.

Those of you who know me will have seen the two large nodules on the back of my ankle. They are the legacy of the operation I had to repair my achilles. My land lady looked at them and said, out of the blue “my God, when your balls drop in Cornwall, they drop a long way !” She certainly had a sense of humour! Indeed, after a number of years working away, we were treated like proper family. Bliss!

My work mate had bought me the “50 Best Wind Up Letters” book. I couldn’t waste an opportunity to use them, so set off on my mission. How many could I use? That will become more obvious as my story continues! Some of them were absolutely hilarious and so believable too. If you know somebody has a weak spot, an appropriately headed and worded letter is all it takes to get them going and boy, did they work! Lols

Another beautiful B&B on Dartmoor became a regular stay over. They had a land lady who was a real rogue! Married 4 times, to only 2 different men, she was an amazing character. Her partner at the time was a real country boy and an easy target to wind up! They had a swimming pool and I asked him casually how much his water rates cost him? “They don’t even know we got it” was his reply. Mmmm….not one to miss an opportunity, a letter soon arrived from South West Water, advising him that their aerial photography had noted that he had a swimming pool and that he had never paid the appropriate water rates for it. He owed them over £5,000 in back water rates. He took it hook, line and sinker! I put my mobile number on the letter as a contact should he have any queries! We were out in the field having a cuppa some time after when my phone rings. “Is that South West Water?”. No, sorry mate, you have the wrong number. “Is that you Paul?” Drats, he had recognised my voice! I got back into the B&B and he never said a word. At bedtime, I jump into my bed and, ouch! He had put holly between the sheet and the mattress! Revenge was sweet.

I let time pass when another opportunity arose to wind him up. This time it was from the RAF, who were planning to break the world record for supersonic booms over Dartmoor. Again, he took it at face value. One day, I get back to the B&B to find all of the windows taped up and the TV set too. It was, after all, what the RAF recommended you do ! To this day, he has no idea it was me who sent the letter!

The B&B owner had a brother who was a mobile DJ. He had been doing it for 10 years and had never declared any of has earnings to the tax man. A letter was soon to arrive on his desk from the HMRC, advising him that they had been advised of his illicit activity and demanded over £5,000 in back tax! Again, my mobile number was put down as a helpful contact should he have any queries. Again, we were parked up having a cuppa when the phone goes. “Is that HMRC?” Yes, sir I said, knowing who it was. Off he went on a verbal assassination of the HMRC. I couldn’t get a word in edge ways! When he finally stopped, I just said – it’s a wind up. Silence. Then he went off on one again! The air was blue with the language he used. Oops, never mind, it was all done in the name of fun, wasn’t it? “Who set me up?” Should I tell him? Nah, I decided to leave him hanging, ripe for another day maybe?

Despite the wind ups, we did manage to complete lots of work too. Getting paid to work in the countryside was the ultimate for me and I loved it. Four years down the line and I was invited to become a Field Supervisor. Promotion, a decent pay rise and the chance to manage 6 staff too. What could possibly go wrong?

The first thing I had to do was possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life. It was when a colleague died. A sad, sad day indeed. I had a request from his wife, who I had never met, to be a pall bearer. Of course, I would. The day came and went, and because I was off to Exeter for a prior commitment, I didn’t really have a chance to pass on my condolences to his wife at the wake. About a month later I am out at Trelissick Gardens. I see who I think is the wife of another colleague and say “hi, how’s the old man keeping?”. I had the strangest of looks! She responded by saying “you should know, you helped bury him a month ago!”. It was the wrong lady! Foot in mouth or what! It was actually the wife of my recently deceased work colleague! Embarrassing beyond words! She did see the funny side of it, eventually!

Becoming a Field Supervisor came with its own challenges and pleasures.

After my 4 years as a Fieldsman, I was promoted to Field Supervisor in late 1998. The role included managing between 6-8 staff, including looking after their welfare, career management and in-field auditing of their work. What a great time I was to have doing it ! The one good thing about being promoted from the “ranks”, is that you inevitably have been there and done it ! I had seen, witnessed, and probably partook, in any skive that was going on. Pulling the wool over my eyes wasn’t going to be that easy! Firstly, I soon learned that you should never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. I had great fun getting the full stories out of some that thought they knew better! However, one such incident would come and really bite me up the backside at a future date. More of that later.

Planning and overseeing my staff’s work played a big part of my working life. My RAF training kicked in. Seeing the whole picture was something the older MAFF supervisors rarely did. I was able to sit and study how and why we operated like we did, and it was horrific! Field staff were able to pick and choose their work and were experts at doing the least possible. Our Field Supervisors would judge your output by the number of files you had and how many farms you were servicing. The “wiser”, or should I say less productive ones, would pick farms with a single field to check. Half a dozen files and you looked busy. Those who liked to be kept busy would choose farms/files that were upwards of 400 acres each to survey. Mmmm….the most productive ones were??

I was nominated as chief planner for our next big operation. 100 sq kms of land to be surveyed. 25,000 acres all told. I quartered the area into workable chunks and allocated the work as I saw fit. Mayhem! This had never happened before so why the change? Previously, the field staff would choose their own work and do as they please. Not under my watch they wouldn’t. My methodology worked and it was widely recognised and was soon accepted as the “norm”. Staff output increased, travelling time decreased as did the vehicle mileage. Simple planning paid dividends. Even the older staff members enjoyed it, eventually.

My “fun” side of life still carried on unabated and not just in my working life. My family were fair game too and my brother Steve encouraged me to get his wife, Sheila. A letter duly arrived from Penair School re their son, Jamie. He had been barred from school. Why? It went like this:

“Dear Mrs Caruana, we are very concerned about your son Jamie. He was caught masturbating in the toilets and has been suspended from school over his behaviour.” Sheila went ballistic! She threatened to kick him out and go live with his Gran. Jason, his brother, was in on the wind up and started shaking uncontrollably with laughter. Sheila threatened to break his skateboard for laughing at something so serious! Had Sheila read the whole letter, she would have realised it was a wind up. It recommended that she stitch up his pyjama fronts, remove any illicit material from his bedroom and to get him to wear boxing gloves to bed! It cost brother Steve a bunch of flowers as an apology! Sheila had to re-do her mascara as it had run down her cheeks!

My other brother, Ant’s wife, Kym, got her letter from the Noise Abatement Society. Dear Mrs Caruana…we have received complaints about the noise you make every Sunday during your love making sessions….who needs a brother in law like me ?!

I got to know a farrier on Exmoor really well. He was always on about the “bleddy EU and their restrictive practices and regulations”. An opportunity? A letter soon arrived from the EU Inspectorate of Equine Practices. Dear sir, it has been deemed as cruel to use nails in horseshoes, and that under EU Regulation of 9/98(I made that up) they were banned as from xxxxxx. In future, you would have to use “Look, no nails” adhesive. “You’ll never guess what I have received from the bleddy EU Paul!” My face must have given it away because he looked at me and said, “you bas***d, I will get you back!”

A good friend and colleague got the MBE. He had to go to Buckingham Palace to receive it. What an honour for him after 40 years working for MAFF. He had never been to London so asked me to be one of his three guests as I had lived there for 2 years and knew the area. What an honour and experience it would prove to be. Prince Charles presented it to him, and I took the photographs. What a memory! Even more so was our visit to the London Eye. The four of us get there and there are no queues, no ticket booths and no security either. We walk up the slope to the pod and get greeted by a British Airways stewardess. “Good evening gentlemen and welcome to the London Eye”. In we go, along with others. “Red wine or white wine sir?”. Why were we being offered wine and cheese? It soon occurred that we shouldn’t be there, and it was a private, sponsored event by BA! Keep stum. Say nothing and we’ll be fine. “What department do you work for “was the question I didn’t want to hear! Gulp! The Govt I reply and that was it. I then make the mistake of asking the gent beside me if he knew what the building opposite was? Me and my big mouth ! “I’m sorry, but I’m blind” was his response. It turned out that the event was a BA sponsored day out for St Dunstan’s Blind School from Brighton! “Good bye gentlemen, enjoy your day”. Phew ! We still laugh about it today.

Back to work now. I didn’t have to discipline many staff during my 4 years as a Supervisor. However, I had to give written warnings to a male/female team for falsifying paperwork that resulted in me unnecessarily sending six teams, their vehicles and transport vans to undertake the work they had said needed doing. One by one, the field teams phoned in and say that they couldn’t find anything to do. Intrigued, I did an in-field audit and found nothing. I called them in and their explanation was, to be kind, ridiculous. They got their due rewards by getting a formal written warning. Little did I know then how cruel and vicious one of them would turn out to be when seeking revenge.

My whole life changed in August 2002. Things happened that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Firstly, on returning from holiday, I find a brown envelope awaiting me. It was from MAFF stating that I had been accused of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and bullying. Guess who made the accusation. Yep, the female that I had to give the written warning to! In the interim, she had gone “sick” and was to “stay” sick for over a year. Supposedly, I had made an outrageously sexual and rude comment to her in front of a witness – my mate Mike. The words she said I used were, to be frank, utterly ridiculous. To cut a long story short, Mike got interviewed and stated that he had absolutely no idea what they were on about. his interview went something like this:

Mr X. You were stood beside Paul when he said this. “ I don’t have a clue what you are on about”. Do you think he may have said it ? “How would I know, I wasn’t there”. Do you think he could have said it? Of course, he could have said it, but how would I know, I wasn’t there”. The formal report was released, and it stated that Mr X said that Paul could have said it! We both went ape over what was a complete stitch up! We demanded to listen to the tape of the interview. How strange that it wasn’t of “sufficient quality to listen to”. We both formally complained. The outcome? The Trade Union rep pushing the claim had his best mate as the Investigating Officer! They were working in tandem. The Investigating Officer took early retirement.
The damage a malicious complaint can cause you is beyond words. I ended up going to the highest authority in London to discuss my case and the fall out. The end result was “unproven”. What a miscarriage of justice. Unless she agreed to change her story, or I admitted to saying it, there was no other possible outcome. To say it left me considering my own future is an understatement. Eventually, some 4 years after the event, two of her friends confronted me to tell me the truth and that it was all done to get me sacked over disciplining her. Why didn’t they come forward when it happened? Mmmmm.

Worse things were to happen to me and some better things too in 2002. Life, what it can do to you!

The worst two years of my life

The year is 2001. Foot and Mouth (FMD) hit early on and it caused our normal work to stop for some considerable time. We could either volunteer to go on FMD duty or go onto Gardening Leave. I chose to go to Exeter and man the desks up there. Utter carnage and chaos! I couldn’t believe what was happening! We were able to authorise work with no paperwork and no record of what was agreed. Individuals could go to Farming Supply Stores and pick up whatever they wanted. Invoices were arriving for unimaginable amounts and it scared me. This was public money being spent and there were no records, no controls! We had contractors coming in and demanding their “fair share” of the work available. I wondered why? Well, we were paying each individual £500 per day to operate a Defra supplied pressure washer. They were falling over each other to get the work! What we were paying others was a complete mystery! The fire fighting style of coping and the crisis management needed sorting. A task I would soon get heavily involved in.

(MAFF changed its name to DEFRA during the outbreak- June 2001)

After my first week I went to the “Big Boss” to air my concerns. The response was “wind your neck in, farmers are having a hard time, get on with it”. It wasn’t the farmers I was overly worried about. It was the plethora of “vulture” contractors exploiting the chaos! I had warned then that this couldn’t carry on and that there would be consequences if things didn’t change! What did I know?! I was later tasked with looking after and overseeing a number of farms that had gone down with the disease. What an eye opener that was! Farming and farmers were in chaos. The Govt’s answer was to compensate them for their slaughtered stock and to pay them to clean and sterilise their own farms. On lots of farms, every member of the family was, on paper, working on cleansing their farm. Strangely, every time I visited, unannounced, I could never find anybody working! They were claiming upwards of 15 hours per day each. No matter when I visited, the same picture unfolded, and I had 10 farms to oversee! On one farm, they were claiming over £10,000 per week, no questions asked. My job was to sign them off. To say I felt uncomfortable is a major understatement. I decided to confront the problem head on and (stupidly ?) said to the farmer that “as from next week, every farm claiming over £5,000 a week would have a permanent DEFRA member of staff on their farms to oversee the work. His next bill fell to below £5,000 which set off alarm bells. Another visit to the “big boss”, another bollocking for me! Within a week, the “big boss” was replaced and the Army came in to take over control. They stopped operations for a week in order to gain control back. It worked. To this day, they still don’t know exactly what the FMD outbreak cost the taxpayer. Somewhere between £3 and £8 billion pounds. Scary figures!

Some time after the FMD crisis had ended, I was called as a main witness to an enquiry about a contractor who claimed he was owed over £3 million. I had apparently authorised all of his work without any paperwork involved. Wrong! He made the huge mistake of using dates on his claims and, guess what, it was for the period before I had even arrived at Exeter! The outcome was that he still won his claim and became a multi millionaire out of the FMD crisis. Strange! Winners and losers….

The FMD crisis was an horrendous time for all. The strange thing was that, those without FMD, wanted it so they could qualify for the Govt pay outs. They literally had nothing. No trade, no income, poverty and heartache were all they had. It was indeed, a sad, sad time for farmers. Many lost their blood lines that were hundreds of years old. Many others lost their only form of income. Whole communities devastated. Some made a small fortune but had the tax man chasing them after the event. It was a crazy period of time, one that I wouldn’t like to live through again. The one good thing for me, and others working on FMD, was that we could work 7 days a week, work overtime, claim our allowances and make some additional income. It seems almost hypocritical that we could end up benefitting when so many lost out.

The year is 2002. It really was my “Anno Horribilis”. The worst year in my life was ahead of me. Coming off of holiday, I had that malicious complaint to deal with. That was mentally tiring but nothing in comparison to what lay ahead. In early May, my wife Christine had a lump appear on her face. “Nothing to worry about” said the specialist. She had a history of scares and this one we could have well done without. The lump got bigger and bigger. “Still nothing to worry about” said the specialist, “it’s not cancer”. I was really worried and requested a scan. “No need” said the specialist. In early August I was even more worried and insisted on her having a scan. “Sorry to tell you this” said the specialist but “she has multiple cancerous tumours and there is little we can do. It’s terminal”. I stood, shell shocked at the news. Too stunned even to ask a question. I stood there and just balled my eyes out. This can’t be true? From nothing to worry about to terminal cancer in a matter of weeks. Somehow, I asked how long she had? Up to three months maximum. It turned out to be three weeks before she passed away. 3rd Sept 2002. The love of my life, married for over 30 years, the mother of my children, gone at age 48! To say we were devastated is putting it mildly. Even more was to come. A week later my friend and work colleague committed suicide by shooting himself. Even more sad news was soon to follow.

I took my family to Mexico to get away from the sadness at home. A week into my holiday, my brother Ant phoned. “Bruv, mother passed away last night”. Three deaths in two weeks was more than enough for anybody to handle. Life had been a proper bitch to me and that wasn’t the end of my bad year either.

I had to take compassionate leave from DEFRA to get through my losses. In early October, a good friend phoned me and said, “I know you aren’t at work, but have you heard that there are two Higher Scientific posts going at the Unit? Closing date was only days away if I was interested”. Interested? Of course, I was, as it was the next progression for me to take if I was ever afforded the chance. I have to say that I wasn’t in the best place mentally to attend any interview. Even so, I applied and was offered one. It was a challenge in the circumstance, but one I accepted. It went well, really well and it was on my journey home that I received a call. “The job is yours Paul if you’d like t accept it”. I did and was soon back at work. Higher Scientific Officer Caruana, and I never had a scientific bone in my body! What a misnomer.

My health became a worry after the traumas I had gone through. All I had was a tingly finger and it nagged me something rotten. It just didn’t feel right. I paid a visit to my own GP to get checked over. He saved my life. How ? Discovering that I had “a major problem”. He wasn’t sure what it was, but my “ticker” was probably the issue. My Dad had heart problems and I was following his DNA, health wise. Fortunately, through the Civil Service Health scheme, I was able to get an angiogram within 3 weeks. “You need a triple bypass and quickly” was the outcome. The only trouble was that there was an 18-month waiting list. What should I do? My GP told me that I wouldn’t be here in 18 months. Should I have had a stroke or heart attack, my life would change forever. “Have you got any money?” Yes, in fact, two years salary for Christines’s in-work death benefit had just come through and it covered the cost of going private. That I did, and on Friday 13th December 2002, I went under the knife at Derriford. It wasn’t a 3-way bypass I had but a 5 way. I was called “brave” for going through it. Really? I didn’t have a clue what they were doing to me, just going with the flow! Get on with it and wake me up when it’s over!

Three days in hospital and home again. Was I glad that I was fit and strong before the op, because it drained me! I had a slight set back 3 weeks after my Op when I had a blood clot break free and cause a stroke. I was shaving at the time and my right arm just collapsed! That was the most scary thing, ever! A quick phone call and I was into Treliske within an hour and jabbed up with blood anti-clotting agent. A day later, I was back to normal and home again. Six weeks after my op, I was back at work, ready to face the next phase of my life.

The 2002 was my worst ever. It did help me change my life values and what the important things in life really are – family, true friends and kindness.

2003 and I was still fairly new into the post of HSO. One of the first things I had to partake in was the fallout from my malicious complaint. Diversity training was the way forward. Mmmm…really ? It was all about the other person’s perception of what you had said or done that mattered, not your own. That was all well and good for the vast majority of reasonable people. I stress the “reasonable”. However, we had 72 staff to manage and we had every sort of personality there working for us. Alcoholics (a few), weed puffers(a few more), gamblers(a lot), debtors(even more) and lots with problems at home with wives, kids, boyfriends and girlfriends, depression and a whole host of other afflictions. We had to manage them all! Just how? I knew my own staff really well as co-workers and many as friends. The majority were happy to sit and chat about their problems and I would do what was in my power to help them out. My office door got well knocked during my 4 year tenure! So successful were we, that our sister depot in Gloucester introduced our working patterns, the ones I had introduced when I first got my feet under the table. Our staff had never previously had a say about how our work should be delivered. I introduced Monday morning staff meetings. The future workload was discussed, and everybody had the chance to have their say. I was always pleasantly surprised by some of the well thought out suggestions and comments that came out of our meetings, with many of them being taken onboard and included as “best practice”. Nothing more to say or add? Then the plans we had were agreed to and implemented. It was the single best decision I ever made. Include the shop floor in your decision making and they would have to take part-ownership of the decision. Speak up or forever hold your peace! Lols

The consultant employed to deliver the Diversity training was very well informed. I asked her a very specific question – of all the staff I manage, there are 4 or 5 that don’t respond to my style on management, why not? “That’s life in general Paul. They will hate your successes, laugh at your failures, disagree with everything you decide and just hate you for what and who you are. You have to live with it, that goes for life in general”. It was great advice. You can take a horse to water, but….I soon learnt that you can’t please everybody all of the time and that would never be more true than when our final year came. To this very day, those I respect, I listen to and heed their good advice. The others, Mmmmm……

Work induced stress became an issue throughout DEFRA, and they took it very seriously. Too serioulsy as far as our Unit was concerned. It seemed that virtually everybody that went sick, was off with “stress”. Like I said previously, I knew all of my staff well. I also knew what everyday problems really affected them. Work induced stress was the last thing they suffered from. They had jobs they loved, were well paid and had freedom to express themselves. We bent over backwards to accommodate their every need. Just what more could we do to help ? That was the one issue that I couldn’t control as it was outside of my remit and it frustrated the hell out of me.

Work was going really well. My personal life, however, was a very different matter. I was drifting, emotionally empty, not knowing where to turn to for support, guidance and help. My family were amazingly understanding and were there for me when I needed them most. Family….first to look after, every time! I decided that I needed professional help and I sought it. My GP was very supportive. “You are clinically depressed Paul. The traumas you’ve been through would have broken lesser individuals. You can’t just shake yourself out of it”. Gulp! Me, depressed? I took his advice and the treatment he recommended and within 3 months I was back to my old self. The only impact it had on me work wise was that I had my gun licence temporarily removed. My “normal” work wasn’t affected. I was back firing on all cylinders!

The good thing that came out of my cry for help, was that my immediate family grew tighter. The six of us brothers and sisters had very different lives and they were mostly lived in our own environments. We started to meet up for family parties and bar-b-qs and it still remains that way today. I am very proud of my whole family and the secret to our new found harmony? Live and let live. Don’t poke your nose into their business unless they seek help. Accept people for who they are, and it worked. I love my family, each and every one of them.

The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) was, once and for all, to decide just what needed doing to control bovine TB in cattle and badgers. Or was it? Those running it were of various persuasions. The Professor in charge told us the outcome before the trial even started. Mmmm….what was the point of it if he knew the outcome he wanted? My own bosses, for whatever reason, “forgot” to change our operating procedures after the first year of the trial. The impact was huge! Convenient or what? Which side were they batting for? My staff were getting increasingly frustrated at the restrictions placed on them and I decided to look a bit deeper into the initial operating plans. The very restrictive practices should only have been in place for year one. It was now year 4. I questioned it and, embarrassingly, they admitted to their “error” and things changed quickly for the better. The staff reacted superbly and we all (most anyway) pulled in the same direction.

The RBCT should have run for 5 years. In the end it was 7 and that was down to the FMD interruption. The end result was announced and it was an absolute stitch up ! I was so inflamed that I reported it to the Govt’s EFRA Committee. It made National news and my concerns were printed across numerous daily newspapers. Radio 5 alive interviewed me and it went across the globe! Little did I know, or expect, the fall out! Those above wanted me hung out to dry for whistle blowing! My saviour? Ed, my immediate boss gave me a written warning, and, in those days, you couldn’t be punished twice for the same crime! Phew! A crime, really? We had killed over 10,000 badgers over 7 years and spent over £50 million doing it. Before I hear you shout, “what a waste”, during the same period over 350,000 badgers died on the roads, so numbers meant little. After all, this “once in our lifetime trial”, was supposed to produce future policy and it failed miserably. I had to take the Exeter MP, Ben Bradshaw, the Junior Agricultural Minister, out to a field trial one day, and it was him that came to my rescue when they did try to come after me. Every fieldsman, in both Units, agreed with everything I told the Govt Committee. About 40 of us were invited to go to Exeter to meet Ben to discuss the whole, sorry business. He asked the question to the whole room – “Did you agree with Paul’s comments?” To a man they did and that was enough for Ben to stop the witch hunt against me. I hate stitch ups, suffice to say more were to come. The statisticians could make the figures read in all sorts of ways and they did. They were interpreted one way, then another. Experts across all fields argued for and against the reported outcome. The bottom line was that badger culling was not the way forward and it stopped. Vaccination was to be the preferred option instead, or was it?

For some reason, the old complaint about sexual bias raised its ugly head. What this time I wondered? Apparently, because we only had 5 (6?) female staff, we were totally imbalanced in the Male to Female staff ratio. Painstakingly, all of the job applications were pulled out and, low and behold, every female applicant that ever applied had been given a job! What an absolute waste of time and effort – again!! It became blatantly obvious that there was somebody out there set on making mischief. Our Unit was running like clockwork and that was unsettling somebody. Who I wonder? The common denominator was one specific Trade Union rep….. he and I would eventually have a major fall out, but not about DEFRA. More on that later.

My personal life was back on track and I really needed to share my life with somebody. The loneliness was getting to me, so I joined a Dating Site. Not being a pub goer or party animal, how else was I supposed to meet anybody? My family were concerned for me, and all told me that it was too early to get into another relationship and, looking back, it probably was. However, hardheaded Caruana knew better and I met a lovely lady called Jayne. It was a slowly, slowly relationship and it was to be almost three years before we got serious and started living together. We are still together some 17 years later. More of this to come….

The one major problem I had, both work wise and personally, was the fact that “lady” who made the malicious complaint about me was declared fit to return to work, some 15 months after going off sick with ‘stress”. I use the term “lady” very loosely! How could I possibly protect myself against a second complaint ? After all, there’s no smoke without fire, is there? The saving grace was that, in late 2004, we knew the outcome of the RBCT, and we were all destined to be made redundant. My thought about resigning, rather than having to endure the individual that train crashed my life, never needed a decision, thankfully!

Part of the redundancy process was that we could all get a grant to retrain. What would I do for a future career at age 53? You’ll have to wait until the next chapter to find out!

Firstly, apologies if this is way past my “growing up” phase. Do we ever stop growing up ?

During my stint as an HSO, my involvement in senior management meetings certainly opened my eyes as to how the DEFRA could easily, and willingly, waste their money. By early February, our budgets were studied and, if our budget was underspent, it was open license to spend, spend, spend! New vehicles, the best clothing and equipment were all procured. “Use it or lose it” was the message, as our future budgets were based on current spending. Since early childhood, when money was really tight, I have always “looked after my pennies so the pounds can look after themselves”. I hate wasting hard earned money. Thanks for that advice mum x

Two other events, both within a week of each other, cemented my view on the waste culture that existed in DEFRA.

The first was that we were obliged to procure most of our stationery through an approved contractor. Running very low on printer paper, I queried the lack of supplies and asked to go to Staples to buy some. It was at that stage I was afforded a look at the prices contractors were charging us for basic items. To say I was gob smacked is putting it mildly. Many were double what we could pay for them locally. Something had to be done about it, or so I thought. That weekend, I had to go to London on a half day course. I travelled up on a Sunday(overtime), travelled first class as I was entitled to, and claimed all of my daily allowances. I spent the Monday on a course that finished at lunch time. Another night in London and back home on the Tuesday. I costed the whole process and it came in at well over £1,000. On my return, I made touch with Haven House to see if they supplied the same course? They did. The cost? £35 for the half day. With the ammunition I had, I made waves about the absolute waste. It went all the way up to a Permanent Secretary, who responded, and basically told me that it was “the system” and that I would have to comply with it, like it or lump it ! You can’t beat the system! Rank (Grade) certainly has its privileges!

The fun part of my life continued, but the tables were turned on me. Firstly, my daughter Vicky phoned me to tell me she had a new boyfriend. “That’s great babes, who is it?”. You know him Dad, he works for you. “Really?” Yes, he’s called ****. That’s all I needed. It was the old boyfriend of the “lady” who made the malicious complaint against me! I went loopy on the phone and my language was, shall we say, ripe. That’s when I heard somebody laughing in the background. It was my brother Ant who also worked for DEFRA and knew my soft spot! Got ya Dad! She did.

The next bit of pay back, or what I thought was payback, came from my brother Ant. “I’ve got a letter from the courts and we have to go up for an interview”. Pull the other one bruv. “Seriously” he says. “They think we are a couple of con men from London”. Two people with the exact same names as us had been wanted men and they thought we were they! What were the chances of that happening? I since found out that there are lots of Caruanas in London and many of them are pimps! We explained who we were and it went no further.

My mate had a good laugh at my expense when, after a day in the field auditing, we were travelling back home down the A30. I had lots of cups of tea to drink and needed a pee. Desperate, I asked him to pull over. He turned the engine off and there I was peeeing on the side of the A30. He let the handbrake of the landrover off and it rolled forward, leaving me totally exposed to passing traffic! Embarrassing or what!

I had the pleasure of going to Kenya twice on holiday. On the 26th December 2004, the tsunami crossed the Indian Ocean and hit the Kenyan coast. We were advised not to use the beach as “an unusually high tide” was due. That was it, a high tide. The tsunami hit Mombassa and many died. Our hotel was well above the beach and the impact, after crossing the coral reefs, was relatively minor. At that stage we didn’t know what the full story was and weren’t to find out until our families phoned. Phew! On the same trip, we visited the Masa Mari Reserve. Wow! What an experience! Watching the river crossing, with thousands of zebra and wilder beasts dipping their hooves in and out before jumping into the river, is a sight I will never forget. Absolute carnage!

We returned from holiday and I felt unwell. My joints ached like never before, so my GP was called to make a home visit. I ended up in the Tropical Diseases Unit in Bristol. “Sorry Mr Caruana, but you have rickets and Lymes disease too”. They put me on a course of very strong antibiotics for two months to clear my problem and it worked. Lymes disease can be absolutely debilitating. It is caused by bites from infected ticks. At some stage, whilst working on Exmoor, I must have been bitten. I must have been bitten on holiday by something that caused the rickets but was never aware that I had.

We were staying in the Governor’s Camp in the Masai. Our tent was right on the edge of the unfenced camp. It was beautiful but scary! The first night, we heard this horrendous scream. It was a lady who got into her bed and thought she had a snake in her bed! It turned out to be a cold hot water bottle! We couldn’t leave our tent until an armed guard arrived to escort us to the restaurant. Why? Well, as we walked, he shone his torch light on the bushes to our left. Hundreds of eyes were staring back at us! For their own safety, hippos et al came into the grounds overnight. Eating our meal, all we could see was reflected eyes in the distance. Who was supposed to be watching who here? What an adventure!

On the way back we stopped to meet a Masai Prince. He took great delight in telling us about the numerous scars he had on his face. Pointing at his face, he says “this one here is because I am a Prince. This one because I killed a lion with my spear and this one because I have a son”. Well I said, in my country you are important if you have a scar like this – I show him the 12-inch scar on on my right forearm. He gasped. If you are really important, you have two scars – I show him a similar scar on my left forearm. He gasped again. If you are really, really important, you have a scar like this – I pull up my T shirt and show him the scar from my 5 way heart bypass! The look on his face was amazing!

Late 2004. Finally, after some prevarication, a decision was made to dispose of the current method of controlling Bovine TB in cattle by means of controlling wildlife. We had the bonus of over a year’s prior notice that we were all to be made redundant. I had the option of a sideways move if I wanted to; not many did. I wanted to leave. After the staffing issues we had to deal with, the increase in political correctness and the other general problems we had to face, it took me all of a split second to make a decision to go. We were, apparently, the first Unit to all be made redundant. The negotiations were carried out diligently and the package on offer was, to be fair, a good one. I had completed 13.5 years working for DEFRA. Because of my age (53), I was entitled to an increase in the number of years of pensionable service. Basically, a 20-year pension to be paid from day one, a pay off and a one-off payment if we went voluntarily. Oh, yes please, where do I sign? It was, indeed, too good to say no. Thats said, 8 staff thought they would stay on “just in case” they changed their minds! Despite being told that the deal already negotiated couldn’t be guaranteed, they remained and that was to cause me grief after I had left DEFRA.

I have said countless times that I knew my staff. Many came in to speak to me about what they should do. Accept the deal or stay in the hope they might change their minds? The advice I gave each and every one was – you know what state your lives are in, so YOU have to decide what suits you best. I can’t advise you. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to look in the mirror and ask who to blame if it hadn’t worked out. My words never changed.

I had already left DEFRA when a call made my ears prick up. “Paul, the 8 members of staff that chose to remain are blaming you for not taking the original deal”. Having already left, I was an easy scape goat ! Whatever their new deal was, it didn’t match up to the original one. Apparently, I had advised each of them to “sit tight and wait and see”. That was news to me! I was livid! I hadn’t advised anybody to do anything, ever! The hearing came and, when asked for evidence, not one of them had any! Surprise, surprise! Their greed, ignorance or both was to blame and they, apparently, paid the price. Look in that mirror guys!

DEFRA agreed to offer each of us up to £2,000 to re-train. I was enjoying this new digital photography and decided to go to South Wales to train with a well-respected wedding photographer. What a week it was too! I am a “hands on” sort of learner. Show me and I learn. Read it from a book and I’ll do a botch job! This guy taught me so many tricks of the trade, it helped make up my mind to become a Wedding Photographer. I decided to start my new business whilst still working for DEFRA and was well into it before I did it full time. What a time I was to have!

The year was 2006 and it was time to leave DEFRA, my job for the past 14 years or so. I loved the job but was not unhappy about leaving. I had always had fun whilst fulfilling my previous posts; however, that had all but disappeared over the last 4 years. Managing 72 staff invariably attracts its own unique problems. Being mainly office bound, writing reports, attending never ending meetings, and having to tackle a plethora of staff issues, wore me down somewhat. I really missed the social interaction I had with my own close knit team when I was a Field Supervisor. I missed the farmers I had made friends with over the first 10 years of my career with DEFRA too. What I really missed was the freedom to almost do what I wanted when I wanted. Becoming the HSO would pay dividends eventually. However, in the short term, it could be somewhat problematic.

In management, the old adage that a problem shared, is a problem halved, is very apt ! I lost count of the personal problems our staff had that ended up landing on my desk or walking through my office door. The one big problem I had to tackle was that of the long-term sick (I use that term loosely), who were going to call it a day and leave before they were made formally redundant. They stood to lose every benefit they had accrued if they resigned their posts. The problem was that I had to get them back to work in order to qualify for their redundancy benefits and that was easier said than done! Without being too unkind, with my assistance, the “sick” miraculously became well enough to work again with no ill affects. Strange that…….

I had a lot of skilled staff working for me. Builders, painters, tree surgeons and the like. In May 2006, Jayne and I bought our first house together. It needed gutting and modernising. “Boss, I’m free if you need anything doing”. Mmmm, yes please! Jayne still had her house, so we lived there for the 8 weeks it took to modernise the house. What a fab job they all did. I paid them “mate’s rates” and the house was ready just as Jayne had sold her own house. Perfect timing! We still live in the same house and love it.

My career as a self-employed photographer took off. Preparing myself with the appropriate retraining, getting a very useful web site and being able to purchase the best gear I could, made the transition very easy. That was until the Govt decided that they were going to vaccinate badgers against Bovine TB. A huge opportunity was there for the taking, or was it ? My photography took back seat for a while.

I decided to apply for the vaccine contract and spent weeks writing the appropriate manuals, risk assessments and operating procedures before formally applying for the contract that was to be worth £2.5 million a year to the successful applicant. I attended a large group meeting of interested contractors, the majority of whom had no idea what the job entailed. I was to ask most of the pertinent questions and there were lots of holes in the proposed method of operating. My biggest concern was about having to source and purchase the vaccine. “You will have to pay for your own vaccine as part of the contract” said this DEFRA official. At £15 per Unit, it was not cheap. I asked how many badgers we would be expected to vaccinate per year? “There isn’t a set figure” was the response. I then asked that, to save me £15 per badger, the fewer I caught, the more money I would make. Mmmmmm……” we’ll have to reconsider that”. I wonder why? The meeting didn’t fill me with confidence. That wasn’t to prove to be a problem, as the whole programme was ditched in preference for an improved live testing regime. Great! Only infected cattle and infected badgers would be put down, saving the unnecessary death of thousands of badgers. Result! I’ll have some of that please!

Working closely with the NFU, I became part of the negotiating team to get live testing up and running. Without name dropping, I met with the DEFRA Minister, Jim Paice MP, at Porton Down, the home of germ warfare amongst other things! They had a piece of equipment called a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machine. It could take some badger DNA, multiply it millions of times and tell you within 45minutes if the sample contained Bovine TB. Jim Paice was so impressed that he said “that’s the way forward” and we need to invest in the technology. The company could have the system ready to use within a year and the future looked very promising. That was until the NFU decided that they couldn’t wait that long to get TB under control! They wanted to go mass culling instead! No way did I want to be involved in the mass slaughter of badgers. After all, our 7-year long trial had clearly indicated that 86% of all the badgers ever culled were non-infected. I was finally declared surplus to requirements by the NFU when a news reporter from the Guardian interviewed me about the future of TB controls. I told him exactly what I felt. What got printed was the complete opposite of what I had told them! I had to go to the Press Complaints Council to get the story retracted. I won and they did retract the story, but the damage was done. My involvement in Bovine TB controls and working with badgers ceased there and then. Little did I know that the article would throw up another, very interesting opportunity! As an aside, Jim Paice MP lost has job and Owen Petterson MP took his place. I eventually met with Owen too, to talk about the future of TB controls. That proved to be fruitless too and he soon lost his job! Must be the company they were keeping?!

I had never considered myself as a Badger Expert. However, there were lots of Court cases involving the illegal disturbance of “active” badger setts. The word “active” is very pertinent in Law because only “active” badger setts were covered by the Law. I suddenly found myself as an Expert Witness and had lots of work opportunities. I am a sore loser, especially when it comes to lies being told in order to win your argument. Beat me fair and square is fine. Beat me by cheating and I am like a bear with a sore head! My very first Court case was to be the only one I was involved in that we ever lost. In my naivety, I believed that “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” was what all independent witnessed abided by? Wrong! Their witnesses were well rehearsed, and their evidence contradicted everything I had learnt whilst working in the badger world. We had a Barrister (£70,000 for the week) who knew it all and declined to ask the questions that would undermine their case. “I have the trump card and will play it later in the week. I don’t need your questions, thank you”. My, how he must wish that he could turn back the clock and use “my questions”. Why? The Judge told him that he couldn’t play his “trump card” and the case was lost. It was a complete miscarriage of justice. It did teach me one thing – if I was to be employed as an Expert Witness in the future, they would have to listen to my advice. It was to hold me in good stead.

My very next case involved the same witnesses who had conspired to win their last case by not being completely honest when delivering their evidence. This time, I was prepared. The facts backed up the argument we made, ably assisted by videos I has prepared for the Court. It was due to last a week but was prematurely halted by the Judge. “I have heard enough and ask why this case ever came to Court?” He had seen straight through their lies and their chief witness, an eminent Professor was very kindly told that his evidence bore no resemblance to what actually happened! On my way out of the Court, I gave a huge cheer for justice having been done! I am still involved as an Expert Witness and get called for all sorts of Bovine TB related cases. I also work for developers who need accurate wildlife surveys of their building land before they can get planning permission to do so.

One builder in Devon called me in to undertake a survey. He had a huge building programme underway and was stopped due to an active badger sett being present on the land. How it ever started is beyond me! The sett was old, huge and very active. “What will it take to say it’s not in use?”. Sorry bud, but I only report what I find. I don’t lie for anybody as a “favour” or for money. How would I live with myself if i did? My professional reputation would be in tatters if I ever did and got caught. This type of case occurs fairly frequently in the building trade and I get involved in sorting the mess out.

My wedding photography career re-started and I was soon covering some amazing ceremonies and some (very few) not so amazing ones! I had to go visit a couple that were planning their wedding. Dad, or at least I thought it was her Dad, answered the door. “I’ve come to speak with your daughter about her wedding”. Nope, you’ve come to speak to me and my fiancé about our wedding! Ooops! Foot in mouth! He was old enough to be her Dad for sure. This was one of lots of funny and enjoyable moments I was to have. The evening function took place and, to cut a long story short, the Mother of the Bride firmly planted her high heel in the forehead of her husband because he had been a right arse during the whole event! I was to see a splice of life!

My personal life was enhanced by the birth of my first two grandchildren. They were/are playing a big part in my life and things were going really well. That was until they thought I had a mini stroke …….I stress the “thought” bit.

Over my 10-year period as a Wedding Photographer, I covered over 250 weddings. I certainly saw a slice of life! I had some funny occurrences, all with happy endings I should add.

Whilst on holiday, my daughter took a booking for me for the day after I returned. I hadn’t met the bride or groom but had all of their details….I thought ! I am a stickler for arriving in good time. I was due at St Column Minor Church for an 11.30am wedding. I get there an hour early and see that the ceremony is well under way, with the bride and her dad about to enter the church. Oh, no! Embarrassed, I get my kit together and go into the church, only to find another photographer there! It turned out that the wedding wasn’t at St Column Minor, it was at St Column Major, a few miles up the road! Phew!

The most common requests as a wedding photographer are – Can you make me slimmer? Can you remove that spot on my face? Can you remove my tattoos? Can you photoshop somebody into/out of a photograph? Can you use a different background? The wonders of digital photography can make most things happen these days. However, you are who you are, and we are where we are, and your memory won’t lie to you. From experience, changing too much ruins your photos as they look almost surreal. My biggest single problem was invariably with the older members of the wedding party slipping away for a fag, a beer or a nap! Trying to edit them into a photograph can be problematic to say the least!

I was doing a wedding down ‘Druth way. It came to the exchange of rings and the best man reaches into his pocket and only one ring appears! “Stop messing about please” says the Groom. After what seemed an age, the Best Man still can’t find the Bride’s ring. Tensions are starting to rise when, hey, ho, they realise that the Bride’s ring is wedged tightly inside the Groom’s! Relief all round! Phew again!

Another wedding down ‘Druth way and it went really well. A lovely experience. I bumped into the Groom some three months later and asked him how married life was suiting him? “She left me after two months” was his response. Foot in mouth again Caruana !

St Ives was, by far, my most popular wedding venue. On a good day, it is unbeatable for gorgeous backdrops. On a bad day, it ain’t quite so good! I had a couple who had over organised their day. It was timed to the minute and was totally reliant on good weather to make it happen. We are inside the church and I can hear a “gurgle”. Water was flooding down the drainpipes. It was raining cats and dogs! The wind got up and was blowing a gale too ! They insisted on going to Smeaton’s Pier for their photographs. Wow! The Bride is standing there, wedding train blowing in the wind and it made a spectacular wedding photo. They were emigrating two days later to Oz. I had their wedding photos edited and all on a memory stick next day. Great service!

I have been very lucky, in that I have made lifelong friends with some of the couples that I have had the pleasure of photographing. I have watched their young families come along and grow up. Indeed, I have been lucky to have been asked to cover the weddings of several members of the same family. The secret? I always bent over backwards to make their day the best ever. I laugh and joke to help them overcome their nerves too. It is their day, not mine, so accommodate their every need. It works!

My work in the Courts continued. I had a very sad case in Exeter Crown Court. It was an Appeal against a conviction almost three years previous. The young man had lost his job, his tied house and his family over it. He was a broken man. I read the evidence and little, if any, made any sense at all. Natural England had prosecuted him for tampering with a supposedly active badger sett. The written and photographic evidence just didn’t ring true. All that I saw and read clearly indicated that the sett hadn’t been used for some considerable time. A sett is only covered by the Law if it is active. By active, it is generally agreed that it had to have been been used in the past 21 days. If not, it is classed as inactive and thus not covered by the Law. The case was clearly built around the sett “possibly” becoming active and that isn’t how the Law should be interpreted. The main witness made the mistake of laughing whilst giving his evidence. It was condescending, rude and totally unwarranted. The Judge intervened and threatened him with contempt! The five-day hearing finished after three, with the Judge slagging off Natural England and he asked “why this had ever come to Court?”. Where had I heard that before? The young man broke down at the end of the Appeal. It was that emotional. Too late however to save his career and marriage

I am one of only two Badger Expert Witnesses working in the Courts in England. Others have tried and failed miserably when taking on the task. You can read about badgers in a book, but you need to have “been there and done it” to have a proper understanding of how and where they live. I have seen and checked over 15,000 badger setts, in all terrains, weather and at various states of activity. You cannot replicate that sort of knowledge or experience from reading books. All too often, so called “Experts” are University Graduates with Honour Degrees but little hands on experience. They soon get found out. The majority of the work I undertake doesn’t get as far as the Courts. I study the cases, make field visits and then make recommendations. I never defend the guilty. Lying is never an option to win anything, not in my book anyway. Invariably, my evidence is enough to stop some cases in their tracks. Good in many respects but being in Court is where I make decent money. Shame, but did I hear?

Rugby was still playing a big part in my life. I was managing the Truro 1st XV and was also the Deputy Chairman. I had introduced the main club Sponsor to the club after we hit financial difficulties. Mr Geoff Bond, who sadly recently passed away, came onboard after I sent him a really cheeky letter. He had been involved for the past 20 years and the Club will forever be in his debt. Geoff introduced his mum, Billy, to the club too and it was Billy that paid for the conservatory extension. At the same time, I put a case to the Foundation for Sports and the Arts for a grant of £50,000. In no time they agreed to it and the Club moved forward with their refurbishment plans.

The 1st XV was going great guns. Five promotions followed by four relegations! It was the most success the team had ever had. Was it sustainable? Not in the longer term as we had imported players from all over Cornwall and it was money that was keeping them there. When money runs out, players walk. It was no different at Truro.

We also had a Ladies Rugby Team. It was the fastest growing sport in the country at the time(allegedly). Little did I know then that Ladies rugby would force my hand to leave the Club under a cloud. Our Ladies travelled far and wide to play. They had their own funds, none of which came back into the club’s coffers. I had told them that, as a business, we couldn’t afford to run their team with no income, only expenditure. To cut a long story short, I was up for election as the new Chairman. All of the Ladies team turned up at the AGM and I wasn’t voted in. After some shenanigans, I was asked to become Chairman but declined. Why? I couldn’t Chair a Club that was being dominated by non-supportive Lady rugby players. That wasn’t being sexist, it was just a fact that we needed everybody to contribute to our playing costs or we’d go bust. The Club had had 10 years of my life, day in day out. I decided, in a pique of temper, to call it a day. The real shame was that the Ladies team folded within a year. If only….

My wind ups continued. Jayne had bought a brand new MX5 convertible. It was a magnificent red colour and was her pride and joy. Whilst peeling some celery, these white strands appeared. I know what I can do with them! I put them on the front wing of her new car and it looked like somebody had scratched her car! I called her down to see them. Her little face was a picture! Her chin wobbled! I blamed the postman! I said that I thought they looked really deep, go and touch them. They fell off! Gotcha!

Jayne was to get her own back, but for real! She borrowed my new Honda CRV Estate and took it to the church to prepare for her son’s wedding. The phone call went like this – “Paul, I’ve damaged your car”. Yeah, pull the other one. “Really, I have damaged your car. It’s driveable, so, I’ll get it the 22 miles home”. I waited for her to arrive home. Driveable??!! How she got it home I’ll never know! The air was blue. She made the mistake of saying “It’s just a lump of metal”. Wrong, it was my baby!

I finished my photography, as a business, in 2014. Ten years was a good stretch and I had, in the main, some fab weddings to attend and cover. I still get to do families and friends weddings, but nothing business wise. (They are so much easier to do when you know all the guests.) The only problem I have now, is having to use second rate equipment, as I sold all of my good stuff some years ago. Cameras are like mobile phones in that, a new version comes out every year. The end result is that your equipment loses value rather quickly so best sell it when you can.

The scariest moment ever when covering a wedding? It was after the event when I was downloading the photographs. My computer said something like “Error, remove all devices”. With that, my memory card was wiped clean! How do I explain that one? Well, there is a piece of software called “Don’t Panic”. Miraculously, it can recover images up to four deletions ago! The card goes back in and, hey presto, the images re-appear! It cost me less than £20, the best £20 ever spent!

Those who know me well, will know that I walk miles and miles along our coastal footpaths. Up and down cliffs and sand dunes, in and out of country lanes. I love it and still do. Despite my ongoing activity, my health has played games with me over the past few years. I supposedly had two mini strokes. The first whilst down at St Michaels Mount for lunch, on a cloudy day. Jayne had a jug of water on the table and was sat opposite me. The clouds parted and the sunshine hit the jug and a flash of light hit me square in the eyes. It was like a bolt of lightning. I had double vision for about two minutes. Seeing two of Jayne is really scary !! I ended up going to see my GP, just in case. “You’ve had a mini stroke”. Off to get it checked, they found no sign of it. Despite the all clear, I was banned from driving for 30 days and that is a real bugger!

The second happened whilst in India. I jumped off a one metre high plinth, jarred my neck on landing and immediately lost the use of my right arm. A trapped nerve? A mini stroke ? Scary stuff indeed! I worked it off after a couple of days with the help of some fellow travellers. On return home, I went to see my GP again, this time with a crink in my neck. I told him what had happened in India. “You’ve had another mini stroke”. I was off to get checked out next day, the full works. Again, they couldn’t find any signs of me having had a mini stroke. Once again, I was banned from driving for 30 days. Bugger again! The one good(great) thing throughout, is that our NHS has served me amazingly well. Long may that last. It is very reassuring when you walk out of the hospital with the “all clear”. I was later to meet the specialist who explained why and what had actually happened to me. With my family history, it was better safe than sorry, and I can’t argue against that.

My 60th birthday saw me and my two brothers off to Australia for the British Lions rugby tour. What a month that was! We are all rugby crazy and had an amazing time out there. We have family in Australia. Indeed, we could have been living there too if our Dad hadn’t failed his medical back in the late 50s. As three brothers, travelling together for the first time, we got on really well and learned so much about each other. A great time, all round.

On our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney, we stopped at Port Macquarie(?) for breakfast. The young waitress (Sheila ?) got chatting about where we had travelled from. She mentioned the name of her friend (Matt?) who lived and worked in a cafe in Brisbane. One not to miss an opportunity, I said “Matt told us to call in here to see you and that you’d give us a freebie breakfast”. It was jokingly said. Of course she says and we all enjoyed a free breakfast ……result! If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

During our trip, one of my brothers had the most amazing constipation. It lasted 10 days. I mustn’t mention that it was Steve, cuz he’ll crucify me if I do! Sorry bruv. I set him up on a photo shoot in a park where a huge palm tree had fallen. It was long, brown and looked like…. yes, you can imagine! “Sit on the end of the tree bruv whilst I take your photo”. He did. Iriot! The photo I sent back was headlined “after 10 days without one, Steve, at long last, goes for a well-deserved s**t.” Sorry again bruv.

The huge disappointment in Australia was Bondai Beach. We went there expecting to see it full of blonde beauties. After all, this is the image we get shown all too often. Wrong! If I am being kind, there are far too many Aussies living off of fast food and it shows! We have far nicer beaches here in Kernow. (and bootiful ladies too)

Since Jayne and I have been together, we have travelled the world. Some amazing places visited and some mishaps and scares along the way too. In Kenya, we decided to go on a boat adventure which included snorkelling. I was the only one brave (stupid?) enough to go. The guy in charge says “head for that rock over there and then turn right and we’ll see you back at the beach. When you go past the rock, look left”. I did. The head of a giant Moray Eel was inches away from me! Bobbing in and out of a hole in the rock! Thanks mate!

An even scarier time was in Cozumel, Mexico. 8 people were in the boat. 5 divers and 3 snorkelers. The sea was rough with a large swell. We all jump in the sea and begin our adventure. After a few minutes, I look up and see nothing. No boat, no snorkelers and no divers. Panic set in! Looking down, I see sharks beneath me! Gulp! I don’t want to be here ! A few minutes later I see bubbles ahead…I’ve never felt so relieved!

In Bali, I went off in a boat snorkelling. Again, I jump in and snorkel away from the boat. Then, out of the gloom, I see sea snakes, dozens of these red and black ones, swimming towards me. Real panic this time as they are lethal. One bite and you’re a gonner! I’m sure I would have broken a world record on my swim back to the boat!

A month in both Canada and Peru/Ecuador/Galapagos was equally enjoyable and fascinating. Going across the Andes, at 15,000 feet is an amazing experience, as it the trip down to Colca Canyon, overlooking a 10,000 ft deep canyon to watch the Condors. Visiting Machu Pichu would prove to be the highlight of one of our Peru trip. Truly magical!

In one village, we decide to go into the local church to sight see. We are both standing there admiring the history when we hear what sounds like a funeral march. It was, and it was coming into the church! There we were, stood in this quaint church, witnessing a funeral taking place! Surreal.

We have been blessed, in as much that Jayne and I both love travelling. Indeed, this year, just before the crisis started, we were off to Chile, Argentina, Patagonia, Brazil and Uruguay for a 5-week adventure. Two weeks into it and we were advised to get back home, quickly. Life is too precious to be meddled with, so we arranged an early trip home.

My wind ups continued. Some of you may recall the image of a 20-week baby scan announcing that, after years of trying, Jayne and I were expecting our first child! She would have been the oldest lady in history to have had a natural conception! Jayne and I received over 35 “congratulations” on our great news!

Furthermore, on the train trip towards Machu Pichu, we followed a white-water river. It was an amazing site. I leaned out of the train and got a fab photo of the white water. I sent it to all of my friends with the caption “this was the last photo I took before my canoe overturned and I got washed down the river into a jungle. The Peruvian emergency services were called, and I was air lifted out. It cost me 5,000 dollars to get rescued. I got loads of responses with offers of help. I had to tell everybody that I couldn’t remember much, not even the date it happened – April Fools Day!

We both love North Devon. We drove up there for a day out in Combe Martin. I had my spanking new car – My Honda CRV. We parked up mid morning when the car park was empty. We came back mid-afternoon when the car park was full. As we get closer, I see somebody getting in the back of my car! “What the f**k are you doing?” I scream! Ooops! It wasn’t my car! Mine was parked about 5 cars up! Well, it was the same colour!

If there is one quality I admire in others and myself, it is that I can laugh at myself ! I have done some amazingly stupid things in my life and survived! Is anything so serious that it isn’t surmountable? Very few I would suspect.
I love my life, my family, my true friends. I really think that life is for living and make the most of it. I have learned many lessons along my journey. Be true to yourself. Be kind and understanding. Honesty pays. Family come first, always. Tolerance is a virtue, but we all have our limits!

I think you’ve probably read enough of my life and need a break! So, here endeth Caruana’s life story. Amen.