Lately I've been getting a lot of messages. Mostly through social media, but sometimes through the post. Sometimes in the form of notes wrapped in dirty knickers, or spelled out in the entrails of small woodland creatures, or scribbled on the side of a used syringe. And the message is always the same- "Come to Telford."
I'm kidding, obviously. I know a lot of lovely people in Telford, and I've had a number of adventures around there. On this particular occasion I was in Telford for an adventure which turned out to be a bit of a non-adventure. That is, I followed a lead only to find that it was nothing that spectacular. But it's worth blogging about because on that same day I turned my non-adventure back into a bloggable adventure when I snuck into the old RBS building!
Officially named "Kendal Court" and apparently renamed "Endal Court" by local vandals, the RBS building as stood empty since 2012. Prior to this, it was the Royal Bank of Scotland debt collection and credit management service. I've put a few photos of its interior on Instagram already, and consequentially I had some feedback from former employees, which has given me some insight into the place, which is great, because I'm not sure what I could say about this place if I knew nothing about it.
Getting in was pretty easy, and the ground floor is actually pretty welcoming.
There's a big "No Smoking" sign on the central pillar, underneath a smaller sign that requests that visitors report to the reception desk. I presume the reception desk is around here somewhere, but I didn't loiter around the ground floor for too long, due to the presence of an angry security guard who I had to evade. Instead I headed for the door at the back. The one with "No unauthorised access" written on it.
In the security guys defence, he probably isn't angry all the time, so it's an unfair description. He was just angry when I finally met him, which is understandable, given that it was after I'd had a good roam around the upper floors.
This building has a really basic layout, with a central staircase. The hall has toilets on each side, plus a lift, and it's pretty much identical on every floor.
I'm not sure if I have the capability to show four identical floors and somehow keep the narative interesting, but I'll sure try and at the end of the blog post I'll include details of the days non-adventure too.
So the hall brought me into this vast office space, and the blue wheelie staircase adds some context for just how spacious it is. Obviously back in the day this area would have been fully furnished like your typical sterile office environment.
According to the former employees, this floor was mainly for admin and the IT department.
The floor actually has an odd V-shape to it, which makes it unique compared to the other floors. The inner wall actually has a view out over the ground floor, where one can see the entrance.
Naturally I was cautious. This particular area was where the not-angry-yet security guy was hanging around, and if he was to look up, he would have seen me taking photos.
And I took many photos. I somehow managed to capture every conceivable angle of this floor, each shot was unique but somehow they were all the same. They're not all here, don't worry. But check out the big samey office.
Of course, it's not as bland as it looks. There are some things left behind...
By far the most curious thing to leave behind is the key tin. If security are focusing more at the ground floor, it seems odd that they'd keep keys up here if they were using them. So it's fair to assume that these keys were left behind by the former employees in 2012. But why? Everything else is gone. All the desks and office equipment. All of the doors are open too, so it's not as if these keys are getting any use. They're just hanging here, gathering dust.
There's a poster for some customer handling technique called "Lean" which I assume is an acronym. It's just a single poster but it has an ominous "page 1" written in the corner, which means multitudes of similar posters were printed. These kind of workplaces often have some kind of cute name for some internal mechanics of the business. In this case, I have no idea why they'd call it Lean. Lean is what you do when you want to patronise a short person by resting your arm on their head.
According to this little poster, the RBS admin folk had another cute little policy for office cleanliness called the five S's. They each stood for Standardise, Sort, Sustain, Shine and Straighten. The last one is ironic given the crooked positioning of the poster itself. But my favourite is the little exposition underneath "Sustain" which reads "Once the first four S's have been established, they become the new way to operate. Maintain this and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways."
It's the Old Ways that intrigue me. It brings to mind an era of chaos and disorder, a dark age for the RBS office, which was stamped out by the introduction of this Five S system. Did the staff all wear loincloths and beat each other with sticks, and grunt at each other? Was the Five S system introduced to civilise the era of barbarians?
I wonder if it worked...
Here's some kind of signing-in form, laminated on the wall. Presumably it was written on in marker pen and wiped down at the end of the day. It also looks like someone ruined everything by using a permanent marker... I'm pretty sure this violates at least two of the five S's.
Lastly for this floor, there's a sign which instructs people which way up their cups of tea go.
Onto the second floor...
I should probably add some explanation for any American readers, or people from other countries that do the floor numbering in a sane, sensible way. Here in Britain, we have the ground floor, and then the first floor is the one above that. I understand in America they do it differently, and in a way that makes much more sense, where the ground floor is considered the first floor. So while I am technically on the third floor, it's officially called the second floor. It makes no sense to me why we do it like this.
The toilets on this floor are exactly the same, but while the floor below had a bin on the counter, this one has a bottle of water. Am I going to find a different object next to the sink on every floor??? How exciting!
There's a handwashing poster on the floor.
So apparently this was the complaints department, and looking at the floor, it's still possible to see where all the desks were.
The brown middle door next to the fire extinguisher is a consistent feature across floors, and it provides an alternative set of stairs down to the ground floor.
As with before, it's all pretty samey. Moving on to the third floor.
As you can see, the higher we go up these stairs, the better the view. We'll get to that!
The third floor is where the elevator seems to have made its final stop. I think I heard somewhere that when elevators are out of service they tend to go to the middle of the building to minimise the time it will take to reach every floor when it is needed again, but I might be wrong.
The bathrooms still have the lights on, which is intriguing. The building has been unused since 2012 and will probably just end up demolished. The only occupant is a security guard stationed on the ground floor. Someone is still paying to keep the electricity running, and has been doing so for over five years. I seriously doubt the security guard comes all the way up here when he needs to pee. It's very puzzling.
Aha! Still in better condition than the toilets in some active pubs and clubs.
I'm a little surprised at how little vandalism this place has, given that when I visited, it was wide open, and I know for a fact that I am not the only trespasser. There was an urban explorer on Youtube who went here, but since took his video down. I don't follow many urban explorers, but this one caught my attention when he described the old phone exchange system in Tilstock as the remains of a torture device... something I mocked him for when I blogged about that mental health clinic.
Regarding Urban Explorers, I have been known to mock them collectively quite a bit, at times rather harshly, in unfair generalized statements. This was due to negative encounters I've had with a few, which I allowed to bias my view. However, I want to retract any generalized statement. Often, someone will come along, and they'll be a complete arse, or a bully, and they'll attach themselves to something which should be positive, and because idiots often have the loudest voice, and their lack of introspective capacity keeps them confident in their blathering, it can be easy to assume that they represent all of the people associated with that which they have attached themselves to. This happens to everything although most notorious are religions, vegans, and feminism, and in this case, urban explorers. There are loads of lovely people who do urban exploring, and it was wrong of me to negatively generalise when I have done so.
The RBS building is clean, and graffiti free, much like the last place I blogged about. It would be so much more amazing if it was similarly still furnished.
This floor was the call centre, and once it would have had endless rows of desks, occupied by loads of people on the telephones. I actually worked in a call centre once, and it's not the most conductive environment for a creative mind to express itself. However, the fact that former staff here have expressed interest in my blogging about it tells me that maybe working here wasn't that bad.
Presumably these smaller offices were for managers.
I'm not sure about this area, but it does look like it would suit the addition of a few comfy chairs, to make a break area. Of course, I'm probably wrong.
Also up here is an old hand washing sign.
Onto the fourth floor!
I'm actually not sure why all the toilets in this building have bags next to them. I didn't look in the bags interior but it looks ominous.
Very samey toilets, this time with a sign requesting that the toilets are kept clean.
Out of the entire building, this floor is the most interesting, with this random area just before the stairway which seems to serve no purpose other than to make one walk a little bit further to get to the main offices.
Up here are the training rooms and the Human Resources department.
It's somewhat less samey, mostly due to the fact that it is the top floor, and it has a pretty cool view.
This floor also had the most clutter, not that there was much at all really. But I suppose when one is in charge of emptying out a building of this size, by the time they got to the fourth floor, they'd probably be more eager to just get on home.
Being at the very top of the building meant that the main room had a glass ceiling, which I thought was pretty cool. It certainly makes this place more visually interesting and scenic than most offices.
Edit 15/03/2017- Someone has since informed me that this was the break room, and had comfy lounge chairs, a big TV and a pool table. Pretty much everyone who worked here says it was a great place to work, and it certainly sounds like it!
There's a pen up here that somehow got left behind.
These teeny offices probably belonged to managers too, although I'm not sure of the office heirarchy, so I dont know how many authority figures they had here.
There's a broom propped up against the wall, next to a kitchen!
The kitchen is bare, but huge. I assume it once would have had loads of tables which the staff could sit at on their breaks. However, I'm pretty curious that this is the only one I found in the entire building. Was this one kitchen used by all staff? I mean sure, there's only four floors, but in a building like this there must have been at least a hundred or so employees.
As you can see, while the lower floors were pretty much just large spaces, this floor actually has a layout.
Here's the conference room!
Then there's the interview room, which is actually pretty big. I mean most of my job interviews have been in regular sized offices, but the RBS obviously has the space to fill.
What, did every member of staff need to come in to interview the prospective new employees?
Then I found the training room. Now this is actually interesting. It's somehow managed to retain more than the rest of the entire building.
These panels hang down, and can be moved across the room via a metal railing in the ceiling, which is nice. All the information relevant to the training would be displayed on these boards.
In a lot of jobs nowadays they have something called E-learning, which basically involves sitting someone at a computer where they can open their brains to a big boring info dump. I've always found that to be a cheap, lazy alternative that won't give anyone productive employees. People learn through discussion, debate and by challenging what's being told to them, not by staring at a screen for several hours. RBS seems to be doing it right.
There's still bits of paper work left over here, including the customer charter.
This seems to be more about how to deliver excellent customer service.
Lastly for this floor is the fire exit, which is this spiral staircase going all the way down.
I didn't take it though, and I wonder if I would have been caught by security if I had exited down these and not down the main stairs. Is there a cellar? I'll never know but I bet these stairs would have taken me there if there was.
But we're not done with this building yet, because there's an attic!
There's an epic view from up here, but it gets better.
The attics full of machinery and whatnot, and it's quite a hazard to roam around, what with the pipes and cables. I should probably point out that I'm a bad role model for doing this, and advise against emulating my poor life decisions.
There's a door! The attic actually had more than one leading onto the roof but only one was unlocked. But check out the view!
Isn't Telford gorgeous?
Okay, it's not. But the view is still great!
This red and black building was next on the agenda, but I hear it's currently being demolished, and was similar in its emptiness to Kendal Court. Perhaps in the future the RBS building will be torn down too, or perhaps another business will have use for it.
As far as the RBS building goes, that's it. It's stood empty since 2012, occupied by a security guy who wasn't too happy to discover that I'd been running around the upper floors for ages.
But what of the non-adventure that had brought me to Telford in the first place? It's probably quite hilarious by Telford standards, because all of the locals are aware of it, but over in Shrewsbury the truth of this location was lost on me.
But anyway, one of the local urban explorers in Telford eagerly told me "Oh My God, there are underground tunnels here!"
Now naturally this got me interested. I love underground tunnels. The informant went on to tell me about a "massive tunnel network" near a fishing lake, which opened up in a colossal bowl-like structure. I learned by going there that it's hardly a tunnel network, but a simple overflow drain for the nearby lake. The drain goes under the road, and sure enough does lead to a giant bowl, but it was hardly worth dedicating an entire blog post to.
Nevertheless, it was photogenic, so I decided to add it to the end of this one.
There's the alleged "tunnel network" leading under the road, to the lake. The overflow presumably flows down here in times of heavy rainfall, but at the moment the water actually flows underneath where I'm currently standing.
So the tube leads to the bowl. In the other direction, the path comes to here...
This actually looks familiar. The guy who told me about the tunnel network did send me close up shots of these three pipes, but what he neglected to mention was scale. This is an explorable tunnel network, if you're a rodent.
As you can see, all the local kids know about this place and have decorated it accordingly.
"Nazi punx fuck off." It's a nice, popular message. Why is this written on the wall of a drainage system? Are there Nazis here?
So into the tunnel we go...
There's some interesting graffiti down here. Look at this. "Rude Boys are ere to stay."
You know what? With a gang name that dumb, the Rude Boys can stay in this drain. Good idea, guys.
But here it says "Jen loves Paul, 1989."
It's very romantic. I always get turned on when my partners declare their love via the interior wall of a drain tunnel. Very sweet. I hope these two are still together. That's if they even got together. If Paul never found out about Jens love then that's Jens fault for writing her declaration under a fucking road. She should have just sent him a card or something.
The bowl itself is photogenic, but dull.
And that's it for the bowl. It's a non-adventure, sure. But does that make it bad? Not really. If I wrote a blog for every non-adventure I'd be putting blogs out twice as often. False leads do happen, and people do exagerate certain places to make the adventures seem more epic.
This blogs a little more honest. I'll happily admit that the bowl was a flop, but it got me out, and it kept me active, and non-adventures are fun even if they don't always make it onto the blog. It's important to just get out, and do what I enjoy doing, which involves, as the blog title inaccurately suggests, seeing the world from where most people won't go. Last time it was an immaculate Indian restaurant. Today it's a giant bowl.
This is probably the only blog that can find more to say about a drain than about a huge office block. This has got to be, hilariously, the worst blog post I've ever done.
But next time we'll be back in Shrewsbury for something great. In the meantime, follow my Instagram, my Twitter and like my Facebook. And remember to share the blog wherever you want.
And as always, be good to each other, and try to make a positive impact on the world. Frown at the world, and it'll frown back. Smile at the world, and if it doesn't smile back, smile harder.
Thanks for reading!