Hi, I’m Chris McGloin, a participant at the Employment Academy, which helps people affected by homelessness back into work. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interview The House of St Barnabas’ caretaker David Jacobs, as I have gained an insight into HoSB through the eyes of a wonderful character who emulates the essential ingredients of what makes an excellent employee – one which I can learn from, so that one day, I too can be presented with the metaphorical ‘big red book’.
A caretaker has the same meaning as a custodian; someone who is responsible for taking care of, or protecting, something. In financial terms, there is nothing more important than holding a customer’s securities for safekeeping to minimise the risk of theft or loss. HoSB attaches the same importance to its very own caretaker.
David started working for The House of St Barnabas in 2009. Prior to HoSB, David was a participant on a similar course to the Employment Academy, called the “travel course”, in Stockwell. Through their contacts, he acquired a voluntary placement at HoSB for seven months, after the contract expired he was offered a permanent role as caretaker.
Tell us five words to describe yourself?
What are your interests and hobbies?
Darts is David’s main hobby, he even played semi-professionally at Championship level, representing England in their youth and adult teams. He played and beat many of the great darts players of our time, including Eric Bristow, Bobby George and John Lowe. At the peak of his success, he reached the semi-final at the News of the World tournament – England’s first national darts competition. Unfortunately, David sustained an injury to his arm, which meant he had to give up playing darts and withdraw from representing England.
David was also a DJ, he and his friend had a mobile disco in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. He played at christenings, and funerals, one fun time he told me about was playing at an Irish funeral being Irish, I totally relate to such celebratory times, it is more of a celebration of one’s life, rather than commiseration.
What is your typical day?
Groundhog day, which David loves, having what I call rhythm and routine. General duties include clearing the leaves in the garden (he loves leaves), shopping for the participants and staff, cleaning and general maintenance.
What do you enjoy the most and worst about working at HoSB?
David remarked how much he loves working at HoSB, it is the people who walk through the front door, which makes it such a happy, enjoyable place to work, sense of humour brings the fun factor. David said there were no worse moments, it is all about enjoying everything about HoSB.
How does working at HoSB differ from past employers?
In his entire life, David has had only 3 previous employers; working on the shop floor at Woolworths, a postman in Wandsworth and a Security Porter within a private estate, where Norman Wisdom and the West Indies cricket team lived. He was given a West Indies signed cricket bat, which was a great memento from working at that employer. He remarks that in their own distinct ways all of his employers have been equally memorable and enjoyable to work with.
What does HoSB mean to you?
After his last employment, he was street homeless for 2 and a half years. His nickname was Mango Man, because he lived on the doorway of the Mango shop. He mentions that HoSB helped rescue him from street homelessness, providing much-needed employment and support, so for those reasons he labels HoSB as his saviour.
What is your favourite artwork currently displayed at HoSB?
Load Of Fuss About Fuck All, 2018, by The Connor Brothers. It made him laugh. David likes to keep things simple in life and finds no need to overcomplicate things, hence why he likes this piece so much.
What is the highlight of your day?
“Early morning, the start of a new day. What better highlight to the day than the start of it.” David routinely wakes up at 4am!
What has been your greatest achievement?
Fulham being in the premiership and of course the darts championship in which he represented England! He also states that “just being here” at HoSB is a great achievement.
What do you expect to be doing in 5 years’ time?
To be still living, still being here at HoSB, to get to 66 when he plans to retire and stay working at HoSB voluntarily. David has some pearls of wisdom, which I very much relate too, he says, “live for each day, every day being a bonus”. You can’t get much better than that!
David believes in God, saying that everything happens for a reason, “if it’s meant to happen, it will happen”.
If you had a dinner party, name 5 guests living or dead you would invite and why?
- Brian Wilson
- Morgan Freeman
- Robin Williams
- Steve Martin
- John Candy
Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys is a huge inspiration to David (he’s seen him play live over 249 times). The other guests were chosen because of their acting abilities and sheer comedy factor, to make David smile and laugh, which for David is one of the best things in life.
If you were to choose a superhero power from invisibility, superhuman strength, healing, invulnerability, time travel, which would it be and why?
David chose healing, the reason being that you can heal with laughter. If David makes one person laugh a day, then that makes David happy.
Thank you, David, for your extraordinary work of taking care of our most treasured valuable asset, The House of St Barnabas.