Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stand at deliver(y)

An old workmate of mine used to complain that 'accountants make bad printers'. He was a very good printer, but became disillusioned when middle managers and beancounters began to infect the trade back in the 1980s. After all, that was a time when the trade was highly unionised, well-paid and very labour-intensive. Looking back, it probably reached its peak in the mid-80s, for after that time, the managers took over in earnest - and cutting costs was the mantra they followed with increasing ideological zeal. I remembered the phrase recently when I had to reject a print run. A series of monochrome graphics had not reproduced well; there were streaks running down the full page illustrations in every one of the books. The job had been printed digitally, not litho - the process I'd worked in. In litho, such marking would have been put down to gear wear on the press, but digital is the new kid on the block to me, so I just complained and asked for a reprint. But, while the process may well be totally different to working with viscous ink and printing plates - and the need to manage the ink/water balance during the run, the practice of taking a sheet at random from the delivery stack to check colour strength, image position and overall quality during the run would have meant that this problem never left the pressroom, much less made it through the bindery and out to the end customer. Then again, with staff numbers paired right back, the beancounters in charge now probably feel that the risk of such things happening, once the job is 'passed' by the customer, is something that can be written off. After all, if the statistical probability is small, why not run the risk of not checking? An occasional reprint is still cheaper than paying the wages of printers to stand around on the off chance that one of the sheets they pluck from the delivery might show something's amiss. Cost effective? Probably. Even if it runs counter to another old saw - when the fault is so obvious that it would've been 'spotted by a blind man on a galloping horse'. Are those hooves I hear?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Smile for the phlebotomist

Intrigued by a sign in the cubicle where I was having my blood test this morning which stated anyone photographing or recording their blood test would be asked to leave. I asked the phlebotomist (an inelegant job title if ever there was one) if this ever occurred when she was working only to be told that it did: in fact, young couples were the worst offenders - particularly if a female was upset by the needle and the male had his phone at the ready. I left supposing that this was a case of there being two pricks in the room...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

An invitation, and a pending birthday.

During the late 70s and into the 80s, I was a member of the Navy reserve. It was a good time, I met some great people and travelled, though only on the UK, unfortunately.
This morning, I noticed a reserve recruiting stall in Halifax- and also saw one of the matelotes on duty was someone I remembered from those far off days. We talked of mutual friends, and he introduced me to his companions, before asking if I'd consider rejoining. I was rather taken aback - and said that as I will be 55 next Wednesday, surely I was well and truly over the hill.
Apparently not, my former shipmate averred - before going on to reveal that he's 62 soon and into his 40th year in a blue suit.
Good on him. But I swallowed my particular anchor a long time ago, and, sad to relate some of our shipmates we reminisced about have sadly sailed for that other shore.
I salute their memory, and his long and enviable service.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

As British as a horse and cart?

An interesting piece of commentary wafted o'er the air while I was watching a heavy horse display at the Great Yorkshire Show yesterday. While we watched the two horse dray teams being put through their paces in the main show arena, the commentator waxing lyrical about tact and drivers' tactics, he suddenly changed tack and proclaimed - not just once - that the scene was just so 'British'. Indeed the repetition became something of an embarrassing verbal tic that he couldn't seem to let go. Now, I don't think there really is any historical evidence to suggest that it was an ancient Briton who first had the idea of getting a horse to pull a cart, so quite where the British pride came into it in the first place is perhaps something only the commentator could explain. But was really surprised me was the cognitive dissonance involved. This was because only a few minutes earlier, the self-same commentator was telling us how the introduction of the French Percheron and Belgian heavy horse, the Brabant, after World War I had brought competition to the two main British breeds, the Shire and the Clydesdale, before going on to rave about a new team of Canadian Belgians that were an exciting addition to the year's display. Exciting (and certainly very large) the Canadian Belgians might have been, but they ended up coming last in the show, which just goes to show that however loud someone shouts, if it's bollocks, time will usually tell. The whole British pride in heavy horse theme put me in mind of certain blow-hard Tory politicians who fall over themselves to announce their love of country and other patriotic credentials, but whose policies then lead to a reduction in standards and a general diminution in the eyes of the rest of the world. Bellowing 'British' through a loud-hailer doesn't make something true or better - that is down to proof and the test of time. There is also a parallel with Boris Johnson's empty wiff waff invention boast - nonsense dressed up with a union flag wrapping, rather like bellowing 'British' at irregular intervals, doesn't make for either a sound argument or an edifying spectacle - even if the declaimer has a post accent.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hoping for another great, Great Yorkshire Show

Great Yorkshire Showtime comes round again: three days of horse, sheep, cattle showing; men in appallingly coloured trousers and dodgy merchandise. Three days in which farmers and townies are coralled together in a showground on the edge of the Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate, with the prospect of quagmire or just muddy clothing adding to the mix. I attended my first GYS on a school trip in 1976. Aged 14, and sporting my best grey-flared trousers, complete with non-school approved turn-ups, along with my blazer and tie (and all this in the middle of the hottest Summer I'd then known), I saw animals judged by arcane and indecipherable standards - at least they looked that way to my town-grown self - and wandered round stalls selling everything a Tyke would need, from sheep dip to improbable-looking vegetable chopping implements. The highlight of the day then was the discovery of black cherry yogurt; the result of a free pot, handed out by someone on one of the dairy stalls - still my favourite, and the taste even now can transport me back to that warm, sunny afternoon where the air carried the unmistakable tang of the farmyard. And we're off again tomorrow to look askance at the clothing styles of the landed and not-so landed, the agricultural and the businesses and banks that service them. Sure there'll be improbable kitchen implements on show, but will there be free yogurt?

Saturday, July 09, 2016

When the Florist's out to lunch...

It was all rather reminiscent of Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch. An anniversary looming, I needed a bouquet so went into the local florists, only to be met by an assistant who told me no such thing could be procured until 'after one' because the florist was having lunch! A shop stacked with flowers and bouquets awaiting collection (a fair few ordered, no doubt, by spouses better organised than I), but nothing resembling a wodge of oasis could be fitted with blooms until the florist returned. I used to work in the printing industry, where demarcation disputes were an entertaining way to pass many a happy hour, but I never thought that demarcation of labour would still persist in floristry. Perhaps the sisterhood have managed to keep this quiet - but it seems that a florists shop is a closed shop. Unfortunately, I was pushed for time, so I headed to Tesco - doubtless their Finest won't come up to the quality of the lunching florist's finest, but needs must when you need flowers to go.