Changes

old-style printing set up

Change versus progress

When I started to write this blog post about changes and progress, I felt a bit like a real life incarnation of Victor Meldrew whilst at the same time trying desperately not to fall into grumpy old man syndrome.

old-style printing set up
Old style printing presses.

There have, undoubtedly, been many changes that are progress. As just one of those positives I could have written, produced, and distributed this article by analogue means at any time since Caxton brought the printing revolution to Britain. My father taught printing and I grew up around printing presses. Those originally used individual type, the industry later introduced hot metal casting systems before later moving forwards again to more modern offset litho’ press; I now work with IT based word-processors and publishing systems and have not touched a typewriter in years.

Old style, when properly done, may have produced a slightly better impress output but it was hard, demanding, physical work; working digitally is so much easier, quicker and cost effective. There are downsides, however, as the following examples from the last couple of months show:  the latest upgrade by Apple has made my iPad, on which I started writing this piece, obsolete for software upgrades and that from Adobe significantly slows up my old tower PC. Do I care?

At present the answer is no, there is currently nothing I want to do with the i-pad I can’t still do without this latest system update but you can bet that behind the scenes Apple will have some tricks up their sleeves to render more of the systems unworkable. Like all technology companies they make their money selling new stuff, trying to persuade us the new is better. The tower will get updated in due course, I’ve had it a fair while, but it is an example of creeping obsolescence, it still works, it is other things that have passed it by.

A sad parallel observation though is the fact that after you’ve bought the latest thing you find that often it is less robustly made in order to keep the prices down and operationally isn’t either better, or a progression on what went before. This fact of life is apparently beside the point, the suppliers want us to believe that it is better. I already have two suites of software applications where, although I have the latest versions, for some tasks I am forced into loading the older version as the new iteration has had useful functionality withdrawn. Yes the new versions do new things, some of which I need (e.g. e-book publishing tools), but the suppliers ignore the fact that some of their old tools are (a) still necessary and (b) made the workflow for doing some tasks quicker and easier to achieve.

Another annoying issue is suppliers making changes for change’s sake. Again from experience working as a user side rep’ in software development teams; a minority of clients yell loudly for changes so the provider makes the changes in order to keep them sweet/sell more copies. The other 75% (the silent majority) i.e. all the clients who were happily using it because it worked for them get brassed off at changes they neither wanted nor needed! Those changes, which were unwanted by the majority, never get reversed.

Obsolescence is planned, even getting a replacement protective cover for my existing i-pad rendered more difficult by subtle changes in the design of the devices by Apple. Covers for the latest issue don’t fit the older kit; it looks the same but isn’t quite the same size! We do notice, but are powerless to stop the changes. The final piece of design stupidity to mention, the recent i-phones that are sized too big to fit into a standard size shirt pocket. What’s that all about? No matter now good the technology, too big to use!

To paraphrase a famous quote from the economist J K Galbraith, under capitalist economic models man exploits man, under other economic systems it is reversed!

New Roads & Street Works Act 1991

black insert in red road
Black reinstatement into red tarmac. One of many in this street despite it being a conservation area.

It was this Act, or rather being caught in the outcome of the ignoring of some its’ key principles, that sparked several Victor Meldrew moments recently. Back in the 1980s I was part of the Association of District Councils national development team working on this. The various strands of industry and government agencies came together and the new Act improved many things. Yes back in the day government was still about trying to improve quality not maximise the profits. Sadly recent observations whilst travelling show that with all the cut-backs in highways inspection teams and a cavalier attitude to strategic planning have led to many key aspects being ignored at both the macro and micro level. For example:-

  • Reinstatements – poorly done and with materials that are not the same as the originals. It is a reinstatement; the key is in the word. All done to cut costs, the public and compliance don’t matter if that corner cutting exercise can be got away with as there are no inspectors to enforce it. Councillors don’t bother, there are no votes on it, only hard work to get the jobs redone.
  • Signing – non-compliance with the set standards and just badly done to cut costs. An example recently was a Road Closed Ahead sign placed at the roadworks, not the 200 yards away at the entrance to the street where it would actually have been of some use to motorists! 
  • Conflicting works – the worst and most annoying aspect from Highways England (or whatever it is badged as this week!) and their motorway/trunk road schemes down to local levels. Coordination processes to avoid this were a key aspect introduced with the Act. Nowadays, it seems, the idea of having HAUJC meetings to do this coordination is totally ignored; again doing it properly in compliance with the Act to benefit the public costs money. All to often you these days long term roadworks and overnight closures are happening  with the obvious diversionary alternatives being worked on at the same time. That is true on both motorways and local roads; no one in authority seems to care any more.

There is more I can add but when you find yourself diverted from one long-running major scheme into the chaos of another the thoughts of “why did we waste our time and effort” come to mind. The biggest indictment is that I’m just glad I’ve retired from that career and am no longer part of it.

Music release formats

I note the latest trend in music is rereleasing tracks on vinyl. After being originally on vinyl, then probably on cassettes, CDs, as mp3 and now once again on vinyl as a supposed vinyl revival. Just my cynical view but is this the latest cunning plan by the technology providers to get us to buy yet another version of a music track we’ve already bought in several previous iterations and formats? If they are really lucky they will also sell some people a new record deck too. 

Change is always change, it is not always progress.

Images and text above remain copyright John New and are not released into the public domain.

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]

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 – ???

Here we go again

Palace of Westminster in 2011 Copyright John New
Palace of Westminster in 2011 Copyright John New
Palace of Westminster in 2011 Copyright John New

Another year another election

So 2017 brings with it the unexpected situation of a general election despite our political leader saying there would be no election until 2020. What got me into blogging back in 2015 was the general election of that year and a Uni project blog on the GE of 2015. Sadly that is no longer publicly accessible.

Politicians lies.

Again de-ja-vu with our leaders contradicting statements strongly made. Can we trust them? Can we heck. I will be voting, however, I wish my vote would count in a proportional representative system, sadly it won’t and yet again I expect I will be backing the runner-up!

Just a short blog post then this time from a cynic. Seen it all before. As Mark Twain famously said – “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Does anything change, no: back in June 2016 what was the title of that month’s blog post, yes you’ve guessed it – Politicians lies.

 

Legacy – battlefield tranquility

The view into 'Bloody Meadow' Towton, Yorks.

Legacy of war

Warfare, and the sites of major battles, appear to leave a legacy behind at their site; perhaps this is merely through coincidence of their preservation as memorials, but I believe there is more to it than that.  The synchronicity with the recent blog post covering the Delville Woods site (Happy New Year Jan 2017) is accidental, my most recent visit to Towton battlefield in early-February was a short-term decision, however, there are too many similarities with other battlefields observed over many years for the visit to pass unremarked upon.

Towton field

The battle of 1461 is fully described by the Towton Battlefield Society on their website with an excellent 3D graphic of the site and the disposition of the armies. One of the bloodiest days of war in British history; 75,000 men at arms fighting hand to hand in appalling winter weather conditions on Yorkshire terrain that contributed to the appalling casualties. Although the numbers are disputed it is likely around 28, 000 died that day either on the field itself or in the rout that followed.

The view into 'Bloody Meadow' Towton, Yorks.
The view into ‘Bloody Meadow’ Towton, Yorks.

In numbers of dead the battle at Towton outstrips the figures for the first day of the battle of the Somme (19,280) by nearly half as many again (circa +45%) but for many reasons it is the Somme that is embedded within the British psyche as the battle which epitomises slaughter in war. In other ways too the Towton field has some similarities with the Somme, the battle was fought on rising ground and one army had begun with their backs to a river. For the fallen on the Somme, however, the river was not the nemesis the River Cock was to  become for the Lancastrian forces at Towton, many fleeing the field either drowned or were slaughtered as they attempted to cross.

Each battle site has its memorial, that at Towton small and low-key, that for the fallen on the Somme at Theipval major and significant. The Lutyens memorial and the modern museum are excellent examples of their type. The museum on the site is a recent construction and an apt legacy for those who fell. It brings knowledge to a modern audience and also separates the inevitable commercialism of souvenir retailing, and the necessary functionality of parking and toilets etc., from the solemnity of the memorial itself.

The horrors and bloodshed of fighting on days like Towton and the first assault in the battle of the Somme can only be imagined by those, like myself, lucky enough to have avoided direct experience of warfare. For the combatants the horrors were too real, is it coincidence that J R R Tolkien, who was at the Somme, wrote so darkly in his descriptions of the battles fought in Middle Earth. At Towton the forces on both sides were representing English combatants, just one battle in the conflict which has subsequently  been labelled as the Wars of the Roses. The saddest aspect of Towton is a more modern one; over the years the site became known for the Towton Roses growing on the battlefield; a rare, and possibly unique variety, with white and red petals  credited by legends to the blood of the battlefield. Almost 500 years after the original conflict, another conflict was to destroy them; after ploughing of the site in the second world war no traces remain.

A first civil war on English soil, the lessons not learned sufficiently to either prevent the second or the bloodshed to follow in Ireland. These words may appear to be random, topics not truly linked, but they are linked by observations on these sites over many years.

Battlefield tranquillity

However, visiting Towton recently reminded me of how often such sites retain an aura of tranquillity after the battle has passed into memory. Animals seem to sense it even more than humans, I first came across this as a teenager, a friend of my father had horses that wouldn’t be ridden, only led, on the bridleway across a local battlefield (Cheriton, Hampshire).

Towton: The day in question, sunny but cold, the skylark singing adding to the sense of calm despite the presence of heavily trafficked main roads visible not far off. Obviously some of that ambience was down to the site’s general location; a rural field is often quiet, therefore, whether or not it is a battle site that ambience will prevail. However, this aura is the “something” over and above that which is difficult to describe but can be felt. My seven year old granddaughter clearly felt it, after talking about the battle and reading the explanatory signage she was sufficiently moved on the way back to the car to want to place a tribute on the simple memorial. In the absence of flowers a bunch of grass had to suffice; the act simple but moving.

Terrorism

Sadly as this post was being finalised mainland terror in the UK was once again running as the major lead in the news alongside other ghastly occurrences elsewhere. The first the death of Martin McGuinness leading the media to rehash the IRA’s activities alongside his later life, the second the appalling atrocities in London, all unfolding as I was loading the vehicle to head to the capital. Having only the previous week been to a public lecture about the life of Eric Lomax, who despite his appalling treatment by the Japanese during WWII, managed to meet and forgive his torturer, it all seems so pointless. Whether major battles, or smaller scale terrorist activity, when will we ever learn that bloodshed just begets more bloodshed and violence? Many, I am sure, will disagree, but surely we have to learn from Eric Lomax, and not the terrorist, to quote the last line of his book – ‘Sometime the hating has to stop.’

Image Copyright John New 2017.

Weymouth

Beach scene

Perspectives on our coastal towns.

Beach scene
A packed Weymouth Beach

The English town of Weymouth is currently courting controversy as a result of a local photographer’s twitter post and his remarks of the shabby state of some areas. As a resident of the area I can concur with some of the views but this is a malaise of the British coastal town in general. Several recent news stories highlighted the problems of widespread seaside poverty, and problems with educational standards in seaside towns are even admitted to by central government so there is an issue at a national level for coastal communities.

Long gone the royal visitations that gave Bognor its’ Regis name tag, and locally to the village of Wkye Regis and the Borough of Melcombe Regis, favourite of George III; both subsumed into greater Weymouth.

The mirror of time – Weymouth’s maritime imagery.

You can’t get away from the sea. Some might say that’s a problem if you live at the seaside, others would say it’s a gift. It dominates, drawing like a magnet, inspiring and angering in equal measures. Constraining yet, at the same time, offering the open vistas of hope and opportunity. The big skies, the far off horizon an apparent chance to escape, to flee, but economically a millstone of low wages and part-time, seasonal employment. The history of the British seaside, our great maritime naval traditions, our culinary delight of fried fish and chips, of ship building, scientific exploration, changing with time and, like the tide, subject to its’ never ending ebb and flow.

A glorious past captured by the camera, the bathing beauties, golden sands, charabancs and Mr Punch, mirrored by war and destruction. The bombs that rained down on those same golden sands taking the lives, snuffing out the dreams. The plumes of smoke and flame as The Rex burnt down, the rebuilding of shattered dreams, hope and expectation. Yet, behind it lies the sea, ever present but changeable, shaping our fortunes, forging our destiny, framing our outlook. So moody, blue or grey, cold yet inviting, calm one day angry the next.

The days of the coaster with its’ salt-caked smokestack, the sleek grey of the warship, have been and gone, and the fishing nets lie abandoned. Even the ferry, the twice daily lifeline, gone. But not the sails, they remain, some large, some small, that link with a pre-mechanised past, the time of the engravings, the leather bound volumes, the smell of the salt sea air. Intermingled the Tupperware cruisers, chrome and shiny, whirling radar, and flapping aerials. But the sea, she lies, waiting to pounce, the orange of the lifeboat ever present, another linking thread back through the cameras lens, back to the black and white, the rowing boats and rescues; the breeches buoy, and the rocket apparatus. The ever present sea, at times angry, surrounding, enveloping, shaping, changing inspiring the artist and giving work for the news reporter.

You can’t get away from the sea.

Photo of big waves, Chiswell, Dorset.
Big waves, Chiswell, Dorset.

All images used are by, and remain the copyright of, John New.

NB: The above piece was inspired by an exhibition of Weymouth and South Dorset history in photographs. Weymouth Library, January 2017.

Happy New Year / Delville Woods

Detail from the commemorative frieze in the museum.

2017 – Happy New Year

This first blog post of 2017 was to have begun, as it does in the heading, by wishing readers a Happy New Year for 2017 and then continuing solely with this content about my writing. However, as you will see later, computing issues continue to aggravate hence the additional material below.

Delville Woods, Longueval, Somme, France.

View of the woods on 8 July 2003.
Delville Woods. The white cairns on the horizon marked the front line positions. The worst fighting here was between 14 & 20 July 1916. John New 2003.

Spring morning – Delville Woods

It’s quiet now in Delville Woods
No smoke, no guns, no flame

It’s quiet now in Delville Woods
No blood, no gore, no pain

It’s quiet now in Delville Woods
Where white stones mark the slain

It’s quiet now in Delville Woods
Just tranquil thoughts remain

It’s quiet now in Delville Woods
No smoke, no guns, no flame.

John New 2003 (as revised 2004)

The above is a poem first drafted in the adjacent coach park immediately after visiting the the Delville Woods battlefield and South African First World War memorial museum (Link 1) (Link 2) at Longueval, Somme, France on a still and quiet day in 2003. At the time one of the many Iraq wars was in progress, the whole idea that as a society we have learnt nothing since the fighting here in 1916 struck a chord, hence the poem’s first draft. It was recently adapted as a song by my eldest daughter, Eleanor. (See Ellie’s Facebook for original of the video).

This, much shortened, final, version of the poem came from what was originally a considerably longer piece, which was I quickly felt was so unsatisfactory that I doubt it will ever surface. It greatly benefited from one of the heaviest edits I have ever done on a piece of my own writing and if there is a tip to pass on from that it is don’t simply throw a work away, the kernel of the idea may have been sound. The red pencil can at times also be your friend and not just your enemy.

The museum
View of the museum.

 

Detail from the commemorative frieze in the museum.
Detail from the commemorative frieze in the museum.
Detail from main entrance arch. (NB Has had digital adjustment)
Detail from main entrance arch. (NB Has had digital adjustment)
Photograph. The cemetery, adjacent Delville Woods.
The cemetery, adjacent Delville Woods. John New 2003.

Computing issues

Microsoft continue to aggravate with their continued way of making unnecessary changes to parts of their software that worked better before the upgrade!  Not that Apple are free from criticism either, looking at the new phones for a potential upgrade and the iPhone7 (the logical choice) I noted as being sized too big to fit in a man’s shirt front pocket. Oh well I can live with the existing one for the time being.  On the positive side, however, my mother is at last trying to use her first computer, a donated laptop.

Microsoft Word – letter templates

Screen grab - Word template editing options
Screen grab – Word template editing options

The first time waster to be reported is the way Word deals with document templates. Nothing actually wrong with the process except that there is no mention that for setting headers there is an Option A and Option B. The fact that if you want a different page one header in multiple page documents the tick box to set that function is not too difficult to find; unfortunately the back-up description of what it does when ticked/unticked is not! (I think in fact it is missing completely) I am sure the help file writers very carefully proofread the help file, but whilst the spelling and grammar may be OK they failed to notice the glaring omission that what Word actually does varies according to when you FIRST save the document in relation to that tick box being ticked or unticked. This tutorial supplies the answers (see 4th entry from shereens dated 29 November 2015 for full text) and I wasted several hours during December before finding this out.

Microsoft – two steps forward – three steps backwards!

Whilst writing about Microsoft regrettably also more time wasting as a result of the Windows 10 upgrade. The move function when reorganising files used to a simple one, highlight the necessary file(s) right click, drag and drop. Although that principle is broadly the same in Explorer (Win 10 version) it seems to result in a lot more clicks, swearing at the machine and accidental programme opening than previously. Definitely a case of two steps forward and three backwards for me.

Copyright

All images and text on this page are by, and remain in copyright to, John New. Video and music remains copyright Eleanor Grady. They are not released under Creative Commons.

RBS and Brexit

RBS and Brexit
Palace of Westminster in 2011 Copyright John New
Palace of Westminster in 2011 Copyright John New

Why the simplicity on this important issue? Watching the recent news story coverage of RBS and Brexit I felt that most journalists got it wrong. In simplistically reporting this as a short-term item, they seriously missed the point. I voted  remain and will do so again if we get a second chance to do so.  However, that said, my decision is not based on unswerving 100% loyalty and support of everything the the EU does and imposes on member countries.  Peaceful debate is always preferable to war, that was my prime reason for being pro-remain, and why I hope the necessary leaving legislation is never activated. It did not, and does not, mean I automatically accept as correct all the outcomes of EU mandates.

Neo-liberalism

I have some support for the Brexiteers position that too much in the EU system is centralised and this area is one of them. I have always hoped that parties of the left would unite politically through the EU and stop the unswerving drift to neo-liberalist policies.  This desire to sell off state assets is one of them. I have not transferred my account to RBS for two reasons, no local branches, and they were always going to be sold back to the private sector.

A state bank would be good

As a socialist I don’t like much that my current bank stands for in regard to underlying ethics. I do want to bank with a state owned, solidly constructed fiscal entity that offers traditional, simple banking. It is too simplistic to blame the change and banking crisis solely on  building design chages, from solid and classical to modernistic light and airy, but this represented the attitudes at the top. Solid and dependable became light and risky, then collapse.

The dilemma the journalists missed – the key story

Are we in or are we out? This whole RBS and Brexit question surely is right at the core of what we voted on. Why, after the Brexit vote, does this sale of RBS assets still have to go through? If the EU demand it, well we’re supposed to be leaving them anyway, so why can’t HM Govt simply ignore and challenge the rule. UKIP’s view would be that. Where is the debate on this?

Where is the opposition?

These are British (Ok Scottish) assets. The SNP appear to this Englishman to be too busy deciding if they want to be pro-EU independent, or socialist Scots, to actually fight the true corner of stopping the sale and keeping this bank as a nationalised asset. As a major employer, based in Scotland, run for the benefit of all, bigger the better surely.

UKIP have spent so much time faffing over a new leader they have missed the boat on using stopping this sale as an example of defying Europe – but then are they just narrow minded, pro-capitalist Tories in disguise?

Labour, as for UKIP, too busy destroying the party with internal politics to actually fight for the retention of what is already partially nationalised, whilst at the same having airy fairy dreams of more nationalisation; which the electorate isn’t yet ready for as it has not seen an example of something profitable being state owned – RBS run as a stable, bank would give that option.

Farcical, pro-right, press coverage

What a farce and perhaps an other example, despite what the establishment (I.e Tory supporting) claim, of the embedding of a right wing, everything capitalism wants is good, editorial ethos within most of our leading media outlets.

Politicians lies

EU FlaG

Politicians lies / finishing UNI

EU map
Map of EU (Pre-UK referendum) – source BBC website

I started this blog as part of a University course (BACOMM Bournemouth). That has now finished, a time to reflect whilst awaiting the results.  Over the three years I interacted with many EU Citizens from outside the UK both as lecturers and fellow students, a positive outcome, for all.

Was the course worth the time and money? That has to be a yes although like many I have been shafted by changes to the financial rules during the period from making the initial UCAS application to actually finishing UNI. That is the main point of this post; we are bombarded by politicians lies but we never seem to recognise that basic premise or learn from it, history merely recycles as the citizenry collectively forget! Politics is a dirty game – this time around I think several figures have been hoist by their own petards.

BREXIT – citizenship or subject?

As a mature student I am being blamed for being one of an aged population who, collectively, are supposed to have shafted the UK by voting for an EU exit. More lies.  Amongst my age group I only know of one definite exit voter but around 30-40 who voted IN.

Could those who voted us out please explain how I can keep my rights as a European citizen? We will shortly once again become subjects of the state, not citizen you note, subjects. The very word designed to put you in place below an incompetent ruling political class.

It is a worrying time  too close a parallel to 1930s Germany and the rise of the far right.

Please let sanity prevail this time around.

America – Trump – really?

Even more worrying than the UK/Europe farce, and the probable break up of the UK as a consequence, is the thought that an apparently civilized country can be so stupid as to vote en-masse in the primaries for Trump. A Presidential candidate running on an apparent policy ticket of (1) upset one of the USA’s nearest land neighbour Mexico, (2) upset the non-Christians, (3) no gun-controls plus (4) racism and misogyny.

As an old-fashioned socialist (taking that in its widest humanist form) I despair of where we appear to be going.