Writing event – 9 Oct Littlemoor Library, Weymouth

event poster image

Writing event

Why not come along to Littlemoor Library, near Weymouth, a week today (9th October) where Kathy, Judi and I will be taking part in this event next week. Come and join us for some insights into the factual, fanciful and fictional world of writing.

An opportunity to see, and buy, from a cross-cutting range of books highlighting the range of output from our local authors. A cornucopia with something for everyone as we span the range from Tudor to modern, from mystical islands to the heart of academia and from coast and country to the heart of industry. Come and discover the world of writing, editing self-publishing and output via traditional outlets.

If you haven’t been to the venue before the Library is adjacent to the local shopping centre with free parking available; alternatively use the local No.2 bus service which stops close by.

writing event poster image
Poster for the 9th October event

Stoptober

Only a brief update in today’s post but if anyone has a bit of cash to spare then Stella and I are taking part again this year in stoptober/Go Sober to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.  Any sponsorship welcome towards this extremely worthwhile cause.

 

April and June (Missed blog posts)

Steam loco

Missed blog posts (April & June)

This is a shortened rewording of what formed the Editorial to the most recent SLS Journal and Newsletter (J912 July/August), a bi-monthly magazine which I now edit and giving the reasons for my missing the task of making blog posts here during both April and June.

SLS stand

SLS Stand ready for show opening Easter 2018

Firstly my apologies for the fact there was no blog post made during either April or June. This was disheartening as I had been consistently managing one a month before then. However, during the run up to the expected dates I was ill and with my commitment to getting a Journal out, and attending the York Model Railway Show over the Easter weekend both as a Show Director and with the SLS display stand, all my spare time just vaporised.

Steam loco
MN Class 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co. at the Cotswolds Festival of Steam

The illness continued through May, and as I had the next Journal to get out, together with taking the SLSL Stand to the Cotswold Festival of Steam and writing/presenting a paper to the Second Early Mainline Railway Conference in York during late June, of necessity, those were also prioritised. 

What I had thought it was initially, hay fever, it almost certainly was not and I therefore looked around for possible alternatives.It was probably not legionnaires disease as such but the symptoms were similar hence mentioning it in this post. Hopefully the illness’ cause has now been traced to either bugs coming through from the car air conditioning unit or bugs in the car screen washer system (both, obviously, now sanitised). I would certainly encourage anyone suffering any odd flu like symptoms to consider getting their car air conditioning unit and the screen washer system checked out. This illness has hit me three years running and I had not previously correlated it to warm weather and the first early season use of the car AC. Whilst the flu like illness may be unrelated to that it has not returned since the work was carried out on the car.

Both images by and copyright the author. NOT FOR REPUBLICATION.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health Feedback

This is not a full feature blog post but back in October I wrote a piece on Mental Health Awareness and have subsequently received additional feed back on it. This is therefore just a short snippet updating that item and adding extra links.

The problem with stress and other visibly hidden mental issues such as autism and many others is that they are hidden from plain sight and symptoms can be suppressed. The outcome of course is that the pressures then build even more. People see, and sympathise, with the obvious physical issues of crutches, wheelchairs and the like; the internal mental scars go unnoticed.

How to Deal With Stress at Work

A further article on Work Place Stress worth reading is this one by Helen Sanders ‘Beyond Blue – How to Deal with Stress at Work‘ and it can be found on the Health Ambitions website.

Alcoholism

A related problem and one for which support is also required. I am therefore more than happy to add these links as requested by the groups concerned.

  1. Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug and alcohol issues.  Rehab 4 Alcoholism aims to save lives by stopping addiction before it becomes too late. Tel: 0800 111 4108 Web: https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com
  2. https://www.alcoholtreatment.net/  AlcoholTreatment.net is an organisation dedicated to helping individuals seek recovery from alcohol addiction. You can contact them to speak to one of their treatment specialists to learn more about alcohol rehab centres, treatment options, insurance, and more.

 

 

April – the missing month

Why no April post?

Due to the increasing pressures of my SLS workload since taking on the role of Journal Editor, plus other work related to the new GDPR system there was no time to write and publish an April blog post for which I apologise.

I had content to write, just not the time to write it, therefore it became the first missing month in over two years.

 

Non-stop editing!

Photo - dippy

A month of solid editing

I ended last month’s blog expressing hopefully “What would have been the January content will therefore appear during February when I get back home and resume normality.” Well that hoped for return to normality during February went well, or not! What it ended up as was a month of solid editing to get my second SLS Journal and Newsletter out on time. My problem; not the page layout et al, but all the catch up reading of back submissions to find the content ready to drop in. It is easing, the third edition will be a bit easier again from the experience gained from editing the first two. I am already planning content for the issues through to December.

Is there a lesson to be learnt by other Societies – yes – succession planning. That said, we did try, but no other suitably experienced member volunteered. My lesson learnt, if you know at the back of your mind that reality is you are going to get roped in regardless, give in early and take the longest lead in period you can get.

image of Journal cover
The March/April cover (C) SLS/AISLT with thanks to the A1SLT for permission to use the image.

The earlier editing job

Image Front cover NG & Miniature
Front cover NG & Miniature
Image Eclectic Electrics the front cover design
Eclectic Electrics the front cover design

 

As mentioned in the November blog post I was also Production Editor for the SLS in producing the first two volumes of material from The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives.(Cover images above)

  • Narrow Gauge & Miniature (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 1)
  • Eclectic Electrics (From The Stephenson Locomotive Society Archives Vol 2)

Sales went live on the Society stand at the NEC and copies will also be available from us at the London Festival of Railway Modelling at Alexandra Palace and over the following Easter weekend at York Model Railway. They can also be ordered from me direct by post. The SLS Board has approved electronic selling but I have yet to get the system into place on the Society website.

PayPal and other computer gremlins

The most recent editing nightmare, a fault with the way the Google app on i-phones and i-pads interacts with the code we got from PayPal to sell tickets on the York Model Railway Show website. (I am Website Manager) The culprit is not Google Chrome, that is fine, but their search app. The app ignores the shopping cart it is supposed to open and tries to log directly into the customer’s PayPal account. This system has worked properly for eighteen months, why does the mighty Google feel the need to make changes that then b*****s up other systems that were working properly. Not good customer care by them, although I like to think our own response was better than the other customer care issue discovered recently – Apple repair fault logging and repair protocols (See next item).

Apple’s appalling customer care protocol

This final item is a bit of a rant and gives me another Victor Meldrew feeling about the sanity of some modern ways of doing things. Have organisations learnt nothing about customer care?

Scenario – I drop my Apple laptop it needs a fix as the display becomes intermittent. Oh yes I think to myself there is an Apple dealer in Bournemouth, I’m in Bournemouth tomorrow, I will drop it off for repair. Off I duly tootle to the said Apple shop (Solutions inc) who I have used before. To paraphrase –

“I’d like to drop this off for repair please.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No I just want to drop it off for repair.”

You can’t without an appointment.” (Duh thinks I – a shop that doesn’t want you to buy the service!!!)

“So I have to waste time and money driving home today, ring you, and then come back again? That’s madness and unacceptable!”

“But it is Apple’s policy Sir, no appointment, no drop off, no fix! (Shades of Jobsworth, or worse, me thinks)

At this point I got very firm and eventually a techie deigned to appear from the bowels of the shop, discuss my issue and take the lap-top in.

Dear Apple – Either the staff at your dealership are a complete bunch of numpties or your accredited repair logging system, they claim they have to use it, is the most ridiculous state of BAD customer care I have ever come across. How about this – It’s a shop and authorised repair dealer, you walk in with a repair job, they take the order and any due examination/inspection fee money and then a techie looks at the job later in the queue (customers are not stupid – we understand queues and waiting lists), it then gets fixed/can’t be fixed and the customer is rung and advised either it is ready or is bust beyond economic repair. How difficult is that?

Finally – Dippy the dinosaur in Dorchester

Despite the horrendous monsoon like half-term weather on the day over half term we had booked, and the car failing to start, we visited Dippy with the family. The outcome was two awed grand-children and four very impressed adults.

Photo - dippy
Dippy the dinosaur ‘on tour’ at Dorchester Photo: C) John New (Has had some minor digital adjustment/de-skewing)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS A final note

It’s not that February was a hectic month or anything but this update for the month got posted almost at the deadline of midnight on the 28th. Final editing took place today, Thursday 1st March!

January update

Image of Yorkshire Rose

January update

This Blog post with the January update is very brief owing to circumstances outside my control. A strange month; the first edition of the SLS Journal with me as Editor went out roughly as planned despite the Royal Mail managing to chew up the printer’s proof and then deliver it about three weeks late. 17 days for a packet to travel from Walsall to Dorset (and then arrive damaged) is hardly First Class service!  A family crisis then arose requiring me to be away from home for a few days

Family emergency

Yorkshire rose image
Yorkshire rose. Source information lost.

Left: The image was downloaded from the internet several years ago and the attribution details have been lost. If the image is yours I will happily credit it if you supply the details.

 

 

My grandson developed appendicitis so a decant to Yorkshire to be on hand to provide lifts, do the school run with his brother etc., etc.

Update: A thank you to the NHS in York and at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) for the work they are doing to make him better.

Delayed January content

What would have been the January content will therefore appear during February when I get back home and resume normality.

Mental health awareness

Weather vane image

World Mental Health Day (10th October)

Across the world this week mental health will be featured on radio and television programmes and in our daily newspapers. The reason the World Health Organisation (WHO) have designated 10th October as World Mental Health Day. It is the hidden illness, the one nobody ever talks about, the one with all the stigmas attached. “Men don’t cry”; “Buck up, you’re not ill”, “What have you got to be worried about?” you hear it all the time; but not from sufferers. There are too few safety valves, all too often the sufferer bottles up the feelings, then breaks catastrophically.

Work place stress

As the UK’s Mental Health Foundation outline this year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is mental health in the workplace. This is no minimal issue, the HSE’s official figures for 2015/16 identified nearly half a million sufferers or 1.5% of the UK workforce! That the NHS services to aid suffers are being cut is a scandal and a national disgrace.

I link my quad heart-bypass op 10 years ago to accumulated issues; a primary cause being workplace stress. I hope my two written pieces included below can put over the alternative; it is out there and needs to be shared.

Weather vane image
Wind rider; Colwall, Herefordshire. (C) John New

Panic attack

When you’re standing on top of the world and you start looking down it begins; a mix of fear and exhilaration, waltzing in on the wind in the air, a maelstrom possessing your thoughts. They react, taking over your brain, turning, spinning, one moment laughter, the next like someone has grabbed your neck, garrotting, you feel for a moment that you can’t breathe. Then the panic attack disperses, you look, take in the view, the far distant horizon, blue and hazy. Not touchable but definitely visible.

You know how sometimes you smell something and it’s the same effect. Grabbing you, taking you out from where you are, to the place you remember; often fondly, but sometimes with fear, leading down into a dark abyss. On a good day you’re abseiling, the tethering rope holding fast, the drop manageable, the climb back a quick hop onto the escalator.

When you ride the wind, taking the chances, the horizon is in reach, an achievable goal growing ever closer. When the wind takes you, it gusts and buffets, twists, turns, the horizon spinning and turning. Only you will notice, inside all is in turmoil, but outside all is looking normal with the world turning as it always does, always will.

Release day

An October morning like any other
but that’s not actually true
alarm gone off as usual
tea and coffee made
dressing for work
today though the bus
probably off to the pub later.
What will it be like?
Will it be stressful?
Is this how a prisoner feels?

Normality for a while longer
who am I kidding.
Get through it, keep going
No tears, relief,
yes feeling that
Don’t plant the boss whatever you feel
Management may be callous
Thumping them though
not really the answer
The sort of B’ word you want to say
welling in you, but stifled.

It’s over, twenty six years gone
You can walk away
The big door opens
You are free!
Free to begin again
Do what you’ve always wanted to do
Stress free at last,
a last look at the door over your shoulder
Then back to your mates
Off to the pub, a celebration
No regrets, just relief
So glad, unlike them I can get a bus
No walk back to the shackles
of a hell hole office
Yes, I do feel like a released prisoner
The scars may be easier to work off
but they’re there going deep
Management bullying no more
Release, freedom, retirement,
Thank god I’ve survived
and, unlike my father
I’m still healthy enough to enjoy it.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Hoping that in some small way this post today can at least help someone realise they are not alone.

Updates – Support networks

Since writing the above I have added the sections below.

How to Deal With Stress at Work

A further article on Work Place Stress worth reading is this one by Helen Sanders ‘Beyond Blue – How to Deal with Stress at Work‘ and it can be found on the Health Ambitions website.

Alcoholism

A related problem and one for which support is also required. I am therefore more than happy to add this link as requested by the group.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug and alcohol issues.  Rehab 4 Alcoholism aims to save lives by stopping addiction before it becomes too late. Tel: 0800 111 4108 Web:https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com

Copyright

The above is not released into the public domain and remains the copyright of the author; John New. (C) 2017. [Last updated/revised 15 May 2018]

Summer Review Part2

Blakeney Seals

A summer catch up (part 2)

Traveling

For my wife and I the spring and summer has been an eclectic mix that seems to have involved much traveling for us to and from Yorkshire, our knowledge of motorway snarl-ups increased several times. The trips have been for both business and pleasure/family reasons, and to this we also fitted in a brief visit to London and a holiday in Norfolk! Stella even managed a trip with the Quangle Wangle choir to Brittany. Although railways, large and small, have been the subject of several visits our summer has included many other activities; a veritable smorgasbord of activities.

Blakeney Seals
Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk (Taken from afloat). 6 Sep 2017 (C) John New.

 

A season of contrasting weather

33207 photo
On a day of torrential rain – 33 207 at Weymouth. 2 Aug 2017 (C) John New.

One of the drawbacks to event photography, in my case photographing rail tours, is that the event happens when it does; you get no choice in what the weather on the day brings. Rain or shine the event happens and you take what you get. This outdoor season has brought with it both extreme rains and days of sunshine so hot the tarmac was melting.

On the day the tar was melting unit 158 883 crosses the Harbour at Lymington, Hants. 5 July 2017 (C) John New

Add into that mix a day when the wind gusts at the Downs School Railway 90th anniversary gala were so strong and sudden we had to decamp the stand for safety reasons as the marquee in which our Stephenson Locomotive Society promotions stand was located took off and it has clearly been a memorable season weather wise . At least that was on the last day of the event creating the bonus of getting home about an hour and a half earlier than expected as we had to decamp the marquee for safety reasons!

Downs railway in rain
A day of rain and gales. Downs School Rly Gala 1 May 2017. (C) John New

The 50th Anniversary celebration of Southern steam

Image = The Belle
35028 Clan Line at Bournemouth with the return 50th Anniversary Bournemouth Belle excursion. 5 July 2017 (C) John New

Back in July 1967 the Southern Region of British Railways, as it then was, finally called the day on steam traction in its’ operational area. The newly completed electrification of the Waterloo to Bournemouth route took over with diesel traction elsewhere. Although steam traction lasted elsewhere in pockets until 1968; the last fully steam worked mainline in Britain went cold. Back then I lived near Shawford and watching the Bournemouth Belle had been part of my childhood. The growth of the modern steam hauled rail tour industry was unforeseeable back then, watching the reincarnation of the Bournemouth Belle run to mark that 50th anniversary run had to be done by traveling back to Shawford. That was the day the tar melted, very glad I wasn’t the fireman on Clan Line!

More to come next month

This month’s post is a shorter than usual for several workload reasons. Hopefully I will soon have time to make further posts.

Images – Copyright

These images remain copyright the author and ARE NOT released into the public domain.

Does an exhibition have to inspire directly?

Art exhibition observations

At last week’s Writers Group Meeting the day’s writing challenge was to look at the adjacent art exhibition and write about one of the pictures. However, faced with a selection of paintings that didn’t particularly inspire me to write based on their subject content, I pondered on the work by the first artist who’s name was displayed, thinking; who is she, who is it behind the name? The work displayed, two views of what looked like images of the Lake District and one of a walled garden in sunlight, form a character shape in the mind: a liker of the pastoral, a creative person, a holiday traveler, or is it deeper?

For obvious reasons I have left out the name here. It doesn’t really matter of course, her work as presented is what should count, but on some days the creative in me wanders. the abstract and obtuse taking off in a direction of its own and often on a tangential flight of fancy. Is the name a cover, a pseudonym? At a local charity art exhibition probably not, but then, is the artist actually proud of her work or somehow feeling the displayed pieces could be better, that hiding behind the anonymity of a name change, protects her, or even his, true identity.

Is there a deeper meaning?

Martyrs memorial, Tolpuddle, Dorset. Image: John New

What do the chosen works say about their inner character? Was the juxtaposition for this exhibition of the three images deliberately chosen to create the contrast? The first a bright summer day in the cosseted world of the grand household, the land of the gardener and servants placed as a contrast alongside a gently pastoral version of the rugged upland world of the isolated hill shepherd and harsh mountain winters, is the choice making a statement about society or was it merely accidental? Her soft portrayal of bleak northern fells, the home of massive estates and the life of the privileged built on the backs of working men and women toiling in poverty in mill and mine, was it picked to contrast or compliment the garden scene? The garden may be Athelhampton House and if it is Athelhampton was it chosen because of its’ siting adjacent to Tolpuddle, another representation of grandeur built on the exploitation of humble farm labourers thus another subliminal dimension based on the Georgian struggle for workers rights?

Coincidence?

Alternatively, is the selection mere coincidence, the observation of a casual tourist artist, the pick of the perceived best from the artists portfolio and,  if it wasn’t the day after the feverishly politically charged atmosphere of a general election, would I have even taken this line of thought?  Regarding the choice I suspect the latter, the portrayal of societal angst through art, too much part of the semi-closed London set; the Hampstead inner circle, the chattering classes beloved of Radio Four. This is local, unpretentious, random sampling. The evening class and art group not the coffee house bespoke studio, nor even the local Art Week offerings so often given titling and write ups pretentiously adding little to the selected works.

Who ever you are you’ve put your work out there for all to see, and hopefully, purchase for a good cause and for that we can only offer thanks.

The transient internet revisited

Ambulance picture

Internet attacks crash computers

Internet and computer failures spread chaos across the world beginning last Friday (12th May) as a criminal, or criminal gang, released a malware virus to hijack and hold computer systems to ransom. A much bigger problem than the one I covered last year with my article for the BACOMM course blog on the Transient Internet (8 Jan 2016) A different cause admittedly this time, but an even more catastrophic outcome as the all-digital systems and internet and network linked systems have again shown that when they fail to be sufficiently robust everything grinds to a halt.

“This seems foolhardy – [ …….. ] but ending the tried and tested back-up system for electronic trading does seem to be short-sighted in the light of these recent issues, all of which can be expected to recur.” from my earlier article – Jan 2016.

What is of concern is that, 17 months on from the problems of January 2016, society does not seem to have done anything about this predictable issue of occasional, serious and widespread, system failures. Vital systems like prescription issuing and other medical records are now 100% digital, in many highly important, and system critical internet and network linked processes there is apparently not an analogue based system or record keeping method that can kick-in and replace the digital when it fails. There may well be a generator on stand-by for when the power fails, but no back up for the internet based system, which, given that the internet was developed to provide just that resilience to communications, is a farcical scenario.

Ambulance picture
Ambulance (privatised patient transport) image from 2015. (Author’s own)

Emergency planning thoughts

I retired as an Emergency Planning Officer in 2008. The above is a worrying trend that had begun before I retired. Then it was the Blackberry phone that was the latest in hi-tech all singing, all dancing kit, the latest “sexy” must have gadget and older, more robust systems, like RAYNET were under threat of displacement. There was a perception among many of my younger colleagues that the idea of a radio operated from the back of a car or Land-Rover was unfit for purpose in the 21st Century; despite low battery life on the phones compared to running a radio rig off a full-tank of fuel.  True there are many things computerised systems and modern cell-phones can do that older provision either can’t do or does much slower but there needs to be resilience and back up. The internet is brilliant, but it is a flawed brilliance, as the last few days have shown.

Picture of an early internat capable computer
An Amstrad PC1512. This image is reproduced under Creative Commons rights. Amstrad_1512_DD.jpg: KoS derivative work: Ubcule (talk) – Amstrad_1512_DD.jpg

I am not anti-computer by any means, I use PC, lap-tops, tablets, smart phones and the internet all the time, and was heavily involved with introducing IT and the internet into office systems from the pioneering days of the desk-top PC revolution of the 1980s, with early machines like the Amstrad above,  through to retirement. I still use them nowadays in my secondary career as historian/writer. We have left the analogue world behind, probably for ever in the mainstream, but also appear to have lost some of the caution and planning that went into system design in days that aren’t that long ago in real-time but are an eternity in computer progression time. Don’t overlook the need for an analogue back-up with a simple pen and paper based option for when the fancy IT system fails.

Do they save businesses money today?

The savings from IT were huge when the simple PC systems first arrived; repetitive re-keying and redrafting of work meant the shedding of labour among an army of clerical workers, typists, drawing office staff and the like, and the PC systems themselves were not that expensive. All that has changed, we can do more, we expect more, and the systems require ever more costly experts to get the best out of them. The systems themselves  have also now become expensive too, arguably not in hardware but software. The labour costs shed by the loss from payrolls of relatively low-paid operatives has been replaced by much more expense on hiring IT specialists. Pause for thought and the catch-22 scenario; without this highly expensive kit the NHS can’t perform many of today’s medical procedures but the sheer cost of it means there is no money left over to hire, and adequately pay, the ordinary ancillary staff and the nursing and other care professionals needed on the wards.  We can diagnose the problems with this expensive kit, but can’t afford to keep the wards open to undertake the cures.

IT is not going to go away, but there is a need to think through the result of our headlong rush to adopt digital systems without a thought for how to process their tasks when they inevitably fail, sometimes catastrophically. 2016 (January), 2017 (May), 2018 – ???