Welcome to the Resident’s Spotlight! Here, we share our residents' thoughts, experiences and stories, aiming to create a space for them to engage with our readers. From childhood memories to life experiences, what they have learned and what they have taught, we hope to inspire and inform you of their journey.
Hello, my name is Jose.
My parents originally came from Portugal, but I was born and raised in South Africa. At a very young age, I started drawing a lot. I remember sitting and sketching my parents while they played card games. When I wasn’t drawing my parents, I would draw from old newspapers. But as I got older, I moved towards engineering. I should have tried to get into an art career.
I mainly use pencils and never got into painting, though my brother is good at it. Whenever I gave him one of my drawings, he was able to convert it into a painting. He's also taught himself to air-spray pictures of dragons onto motor vehicles. He's very creative! I left most of my drawings with my kids back home.
Eventually, I got into motor mechanics, but I was intrigued with aircraft. I struggled to enter the aircraft trade, so I started as a motor mechanic. I was a mechanic for four years. I also worked with my dad as a carpenter in the beginning.
I did that for two or three years by finishing carpentry, doors, cupboards and anything to do with wood. It taught me quite well. That's why I modified all my furniture, and I keep changing it without destroying the wood.
After applying many times, it took me 10 years to get into the aircraft trade and I eventually qualified as an aircraft engineer. I got to build engines and work on military aircraft. Then, I went to South African Airways, where I got into turbine engines. I was in the aircraft business for 30-odd years. I also got certified in many other aircraft and engine modules.
I went to Portugal for a while, then came to England to be with my kids and became a motor mechanic again. Being an aircraft engineer would have been too far for me. After a month or so of being here, I was diagnosed with cancer. Life just went downhill, so to keep myself motivated, I started making things to distract myself from what was happening, from building models to modifying things.
Jose on creativity.
I was born with art. My kids have had that right since birth too. It’s in our blood. My daughter is also busy studying art and is quite good at drawing.
From a very young age, I was also fascinated with classical music. Drawing and classical music go hand in hand. Eventually, I started to teach myself how to play the guitar. I then learnt to sing, but I mainly sang to myself.
Being in the aircraft trade made me feel creative. In South Africa, you're constantly multitasking. Unlike in the UK, where they teach you one thing, in South Africa, you learn and do everything at once, so it teaches you to develop your skills, expand your mind and learn. That’s how I also got into tattoos!
First, I got a few tattoos from my friend and then I thought, “I think I'm going to learn and teach myself”. So, I bought myself a machine and started tattooing all my kids. When I pass away, they've all got something on them to remind them of me.
I am also very good with computers; anything electrical, really. And if there’s anything I don't know, I teach myself on YouTube.
Being able to do something creative is soothing. It distracts you from whatever you are going through. It enables you to keep you and your mind busy and when you finish your work, you feel proud of what you have done and achieved.
Jose on tattoos.
I started tattooing only about 10 to 12 years ago. My nephew could only get one once I convinced my brother to let him. But my brother wanted me to tattoo myself before I tattooed my nephew. So, I tattooed myself so that he could get one too.
Tattooing is an addictive art. Once you do one, you carry on doing more. It’s an art form on your body. I've even got a tattoo of my parents on my arm.
There are a lot of memories to remember. I also had my ex-wife on my arm, which was eventually modified. My advice is to never tattoo names except those of your kids and parents because they don't change. Wives and husbands can change!
Jose on playing the guitar.
I started playing the guitar about 10 to 12 years ago. I like a lot of classical music. My brother's brother-in-law was playing guitar and I thought, “Now, this looks very simple”. You only need to learn a few chords and then you can play numerous basic songs. I just practised and then got a little bit better and better. I am still in the learning stage, though.
Do you know ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, written by Kris Kristofferson? That was the first song I learnt on the guitar!
Jose on volunteering.
I only learnt about my cancer a year ago. During the process, you meet many people, and I have met many who have gone through it and are still going through it. It can destroy you, but what the NHS has done for me is a lot. I can't work anymore, but at least I can volunteer and give back a little or most of my time. It’s just my way of saying “thank you” for what they have done for me. I want to give something back at no charge.
It’s still in the process but I think I will eventually head to a ward to meet a lady there to go through the basics of art. Once I start, I’ll help teach and do artwork with them.
Live for today. Tomorrow, people might forget all about you.
I plan to do the best I can, despite the decrease in my quality of life. I can no longer go swimming and feel more self-conscious. Because of this, I tend to hide and avoid situations where I feel exposed. I don't socialise as much anymore, but instead dedicate all my time to my kids and grandkids, and I try to enjoy life to the fullest until the end. I also give back as much as I can by volunteering.
We thank Jose for participating and taking the time to tell us his life story.
This is the first time we are presenting The Resident's Spotlight as part of Connections, and we hope to expand and feature more true-life stories from our residents and communities.
Like Jose, if you feel you have a story to share and would like to feature in our bi-annual newsletters, get in touch with Sam and say "hello" by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 054 6710 and ask for him.