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Unpublished Symphonies – Part 2.

This is the second and last of my resuscitated informative pieces intended for a Company Intranet and found alone and unloved in a folder on the USB stick that holds all my scribblings. It does, before you ask, get backed up to various places from time to time – I’ve lost things before!

I hope it is of some use to those of you still working and possibly experiencing the issues covered without necessarily understanding why they are happening.

***

The view from the Service Desk #2 – Let me in!

Yes, another song title! This time you have to be old enough to remember 1974 and The Osmonds.

It should also be apparent that this is about User Accounts and Passwords and it is very important that the “Do’s” and Don’ts” that I am about to tell you are followed.

I am assuming for this purpose that you are having trouble with a networked computer at your place of work – if the problem is with the security of a personal PC that is a whole different thing and there may not be a simple solution!

By “having trouble” I mean that you have come to your desk in the morning, switched on the computer, entered your username and password as normal and either nothing happens or error messages appear! Either way, you cannot get to your nice desktop picture and start your work.

Here are some possible causes and their solutions that you can try for yourself before calling your hard-pressed helpdesk.

  1. Have you entered your username correctly? I know it sounds like a silly question but different companies have different formats for usernames and it is easy (especially if you have recently changed jobs) to unthinkingly type in a previous name.As an example I have been around quite a few different companies doing IT contract work and have had “AlfieLittle”, “AlfieL”, LittleA, LittleA2 (there had been another Little Alfie in the company a few years earlier) and sometimes a separate variation of some of those with “Admin” after the name. I often had to stop and think which one of those applied!
  1. Have you put in the correct password? Each of the user accounts I mentioned in the previous paragraph had a different password associated with it and I’m sure you can see that the scope for getting it wrong is huge! The trouble is that fingers, NOT brains, normally type passwords and you may need to concentrate for a while after you get a new one to enable your typing fingers to learn a new “reflex”. Even if you eventually realise and get the right password the damage may have been done in that most companies computer login accounts “lock out” after three incorrect attempts. Where they vary is in what happens next. Some require you to wait a set length of time (from 5 to 30 minutes is normal) while others are completely unforgiving and have to be unlocked manually by either I.T. or some trusted person in your locality who has been given instruction on how to do this. You won’t be the first to do this so there will be someone around who can tell you if such a “local champion” exists.
  1. If you are sure that you have the correct password for the associated username, are you typing what you think you are? Most of the time your username may be typed in UPPER or lower case letters without it making a scrap of difference but the password is another thing entirely. They are always case sensitive and if you have typed your name with the “caps lock” key switched on but have not turned it off again you may unknowingly be getting the password wrong. As you normally cannot see what you are typing in the password box the best way to check this is to type the password in the username box to see if what is appearing is what you are expecting. I once dealt with a situation where my caller had accidentally (?) changed his settings to the French keyboard and pressing the key with a particular letter printed on it was actually producing a totally different letter.
  1. Is it possible that your password has expired? Different companies have different password policies and one of the most variable is how long they last. I have experienced password durations of anywhere between 30 and 180 days but theoretically they could be either shorter or longer than that. However, more than 6 months becomes a security risk and less than 1 month means the IT Department needs to make lots of password resets when it should be doing something more useful! Usually (although this is often denied by people calling the Helpdesk) a little pop-up window appears on screen anything up to 2 weeks before the password is due to expire and if clicked on will immediately prompt you on how to change it. Many people leave this until the message says “…will expire in 1 day” which is, in fact too late! That message actually means that you are already in that last day and if you last changed your password at, say 10.00 on a particular day it will expire at 9.59 and 59 seconds at the end of the required number of days. It should still be possible to reset it yourself but regrettably many people don’t read what is actually showing on the screen and yell for Support on the assumption that it is the computer that is not behaving correctly.
  1. Are you a “temp” or a new employee? The username and password are how you access your computer account – the account itself can have various things set before you ever try to log in to it and one of those is an expiry date independent of any password rule. What sometimes happens with Contractors, Temporary staff or even full-timers with an initial probationary period is that the account is set up with a perfectly reasonable “end date”. Unfortunately then the Human Resources Department or some level of the person’s Line Management forgets to tell I.T. when that date ceases to apply for any reason and the account turns itself off as it was set to. If there is a possibility that this is what has happened it may be worth getting the person who should have done so earlier to contact IT before you do – I.T. almost certainly won’t be allowed to reactivate your account just on your say-so but if the proper authority precedes your call there should be no problem and your old name and password should still apply.

Once you have ruled out all of the above possibilities, taken the suggested steps and still cannot log in there is one more thing to do before you throw this in the lap of the I.T Department – check your network cable!

I worked in a place once where laptop wielding members of staff from other offices would frequently visit and, rather than muck about trying to obtain authority to be given the local Wi-Fi password, they would unplug the network cable from the PC on the desk they had temporarily taken over and make use of that. After checking emails or some such routine task they would then unplug the cable and whizz off to their meeting, leaving the loose cable to drop, unnoticed, down the back of the desk.

Next day, enter you, the regular user of the PC and off you go, logging in as usual. Nothing happens because unlike that of a laptop the login process on a desktop PC needs a connection to the Domain Controller server on the network to validate the details and, unknown to you, it doesn’t now have it! Plug the cable back in, restart the PC then seek out the offender and beat them about the head with an old keyboard!

[Alfie’s real name]

Service Desk Analyst

***

Alfie

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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

And then one day you find “x” years have got behind you!

Every time I try to write something that ISN’T looking back in time, someone or something comes along and reminds me of a significant anniversary that definitely requires some comment from me.

Previous such pieces have included my 30th Wedding Anniversary (in 2010); the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 (also 2010); the 40 year mark since the first moon landing (in 2009) and the 497th (?) anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (in 2012).

As a child who grew up in the 1960s – known as a decade of momentous changes and events – I am fully expecting that a LOT of 50 year old happenings are going to require my personal “I was there” recollections in the coming months and years. Indeed there are already 2 more “historicals” in progress.

I have, in fact, already failed to comment on (to name but a few) the half century celebrations of:

  • Yuri Gagarin’s “first man in space” trip in the Soviet spacecraft Vostock 1 (1961).
  • John Glenn’s “first American orbital spaceflight” in the Project Mercury capsule “Friendship 7” (1962 – on my 9th birthday, actually).
  • My favourite TV Sci-fi series “Doctor Who” (1963 – although as it concerns time travel it could be older).
  • The England football team actually winning a World Cup competition (1966 – so we are now up to “51 years of hurt”!)

And now another significant one has just gone by – this time from the area that has had the most influence on me during those years – music!

But if you’ve read the “CD of My Life” series here, you already know that. If you haven’t, you should be able to pull the whole series up in one go by clicking on the appropriate “Category” in the side menu.

Yes, we have indeed passed the 50th birthday of THE iconic album of the 1960s (some would insist on saying ONE of the iconic albums of that decade but let’s not be pedantic)!

I speak, of course, of the short-lived (only 8 years) phenomenon that was The Beatles and their ground-breaking 1967 album “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”!

From its distinctive cover, via the innovative cut-outs on the inset card to the array of musical styles from “pop” to “eastern hippy” to “downright quirky” – there had been nothing remotely like it before and I remember the unfolding sense of wonder I experienced when one of the Pirate Radio stations played it in its entirety.

Mind you, that sense of wonder at new sounds came to me quite a lot in those days – I recall it happening the very first time I heard “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys.

And mentioning them reminds me of the transatlantic creative feedback that was, at least partially, responsible for “Sgt. Pepper…” – Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was apparently so impressed with the earlier Beatles effort “Rubber Soul” that it inspired him to produce “Pet Sounds” which, in turn so impressed Lennon, McCartney and Co. that they wrote “Sgt. Pepper… ” to try to surpass it!

Who knows, if Brian hadn’t then lost the plot a bit they might still be at it, trying eternally to outdo each other!

At around the same time (actually July 1967) and premiered on the first global TV communications satellite link-up, The Beatles also ushered in what became known as “the summer of love” with another mind-blower – “All You Need is Love”. So that’s another anniversary covered!

Incidentally, before we leave Beatlemania behind us, can I just point out that if you happen to think that “Sgt. Pepper…” was NOT the best thing that band ever did – you will get no argument from me! In my humble opinion many tracks on the previous “Revolver” album were much better but for a total musical experience they actually hit the jackpot on 26th September 1969 (commemorating the end of my first week at work) with the release of “Abbey Road”. I return to that one far more often than any other of their works.

I’m not at all sure that I’m totally happy with this “time passing” stuff!  It was first really bought home to me by a trip that Faith and I made last summer to The Shuttleworth Collection (a museum for still functional old aeroplanes) near Bedford. I had first visited it on a school trip and was, frankly, appalled to realise that a Sopwith Pup biplane of 1916 vintage was now TWICE as old as when I first saw it in 1966.

This means that 1966 is now further away from me than some bits of the First World War were in 1966 – and WWI was incredibly ancient history then while 1966 is just YESTERDAY now!

The problem, of course, is that external time moves on while my internal time stopped advancing when I was about 26 – and I suppose there’s nothing I can do about either of them!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The view from the tarmac!

Today Faith and I visited my old mum in Ipswich (the adjective “old” is just a factual description of her and is not meant to imply that I have another, newer, mother stashed away somewhere) and spotted a couple of things on the 100 mile trip there from Peterborough. I thought that I should share these with you along with my usual smart-arse comments!

In driving along the A14 one meets (often too closely for comfort) every possible variety of Heavy Goods Vehicle hauling all sizes of trailers or containers conveying the goods of just about every major retail company!

I noted with some concern that supermarket chain ASDA still has the “Saving you money every day!” slogan on the back of its trucks – you may recall that I gave you my reasons for objecting to this here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2014/09/

Obviously their legal department is not amongst my readership!

It was, however, another slogan on the back of a lorry that caught my eye to the extent that I had to whip out my ever-present notebook and write it down. I was doing this while Faith was moving out into the “Executive Lane” to go past it so I didn’t actually get to see what company it belonged to.

What’s that?  “What do I mean by the Executive Lane?”

I don’t understand – you didn’t seriously think that the overtaking lane of dual carriageway roads or motorways was for use by the likes of you or me, did you? Oh no! You just ask any driver of a company owned BMW, Audi, Lexus or other top of the range make and you’ll find that this lane is indeed for the use of Company Executives and top Managers.

This explains their reluctance to let you out into that lane and the aggressive way they will hammer up behind you if you aren’t going as fast as they think you should!

Given my oft-stated antipathy to people in authority who aren’t as bright as I am, it also explains why I don’t take any notice of this aggression and why, when I do have no reason to hold them up any further my move back to my “proper place” is done as slowly and in as insolent a fashion as I can possibly manage! I just hope that the poor benighted workers that these people are on their way to repress appreciate my efforts in keeping them out of the office for a few more seconds!

ANYWAY….. back at the truck on the A14 – the words that I wrote down (which had no punctuation that I could see and which were capitalised as shown here) were:

Eat Healthy British Chicken

From this I drew the conclusion that the vehicle belonged to some sort of Poultry farmer or supplier but that had nothing to do with the remark that I made to my long-suffering wife when I looked up from my notebook.

Displaying my usual talent for looking at things in entirely the wrong way I indignantly commented:

“Why do they need to specify ‘Healthy’? Surely no-one is out there foisting UNHEALTHY British Chicken on us! If they are, I want to know about it now!”

The second note that I made was somewhere around Bury St. Edmunds when we came upon an unannounced speed limit with no apparent purpose. We were suddenly reduced from the normal 70mph limit to one of 50mph and there was no sign of any work going on – not even the sometimes seen team of minor criminals doing Community Service litter picks! A little way in there was a small and easily missed explanatory notice at the side of the road – a sign simple in its message but asking more questions than it answered:

“SPEED LIMIT IN PLACE FOR SAFETY REASONS”!

Do you see what I mean? The list begins:

Whose safety?

What reasons?

Why 50mph – why not 40?

What is the normal purpose of speed limits then? There I was thinking that they were ALL there for “safety reasons” – if I’m wrong it must mean they’re only actually present because of some official’s personal whim and the revolutionary in me is starting to fire up!

I’ll let you debate that one amongst yourselves – for now I’ll just say that it is just as daft as the signs that were present along that same road a little nearer Ipswich a few years ago.

They had installed a whole series of those matrix message boards (I believe it was so that they could inform HGV drivers if bad weather at the East Coast ports necessitated parking up under an “Operation Stack” arrangement) but every single one of them had a yellow board at its base proclaiming “This notice board is not working”!

I always said that they could have saved an awful lot of yellow printed plastic if they’d have just lit up the boards and put the “…..not working” message on them!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

“Alfie-leaks” – stranger than truth!

The item that follows may, or may not, have come to my attention via an alleged Home Office official who may, or may not, have been telling the truth but as a good journalist I will tell you anyway! We never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

This is the report that I may, or may not, have received.

***

The Civil Service fully expects that the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union (so-called “Brexit”) will not be accomplished without some concessions on our part over European citizens currently working here.

However, HM Home Office is making plans on the assumption that future migration from the EU will be rigorously controlled by a points-based quota system. Such points will be awarded on criteria such as:

  • Having a job offer already made by a UK employer.
  • Not having such a job offer but prepared to sign an agreement to do any low-paid, menial, dirty or physically demanding work that the UK Jobcentre organisation cannot find a UK resident willing to do.
  • Not having such a job offer but having a private income in excess of the average UK earnings (and being prepared to pay UK tax on it).
  • Being able to speak English as well or better than the average UK 15 year-old youth.
  • Having a personal friend in the Home Office.

An amendment has been proposed suggesting that bonus points could be awarded if, as further proof of the applicant’s pro-UK sentiments, he/she produces evidence in the form of itemised telephone bills in their native country showing that, from May 2017 onwards, they have called the requisite number (on more than one occasion) to vote for the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

It is not clear at present whether sufficient EU residents will, in fact, wish to come here strongly enough to make this amendment workable.

***

It has been suggested to me that the “proposed amendment” was put forward by the BBC in a blatant attempt to curtail the future expenses claims of Graham Norton and Ken Bruce but be that as it may, I firmly believe that it is very definitely in the public interest for this document to be shared (as it stands) across Europe as quickly as possible and certainly before the evening of Saturday 13th May 2017. We wouldn’t want any potentially useful newcomers to the UK workforce to miss out on those valuable extra quota points, now would we?

Please do your best and do not be afraid to contact me with any other “official” items of this sort that may, or may not, come your way.

Alfie (who may, or may not, be in hiding in some South American embassy at this time)

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Nanny State etc.….. Part 2

This is a follow-up to my previous post! You remember – the one about some anonymous jerk who decided I couldn’t buy a specific packet of screws for sporting equipment, just because I happened to be in a public library!

I feel it necessary to tell you the rest of the story – I know very well that some people will say “Why bother, it won’t change anything” and I am perfectly aware of that! However, writing down the things that annoy me here gets them off my chest and stops me from going on about them at home all the time! Well, maybe it doesn’t stop all of the moaning but it certainly reduces it anyway!

To add further to my bad feelings about the SERCO Internet Access Policy I went back into the Library on Wednesday afternoon (that is, the day after the previously documented events) and worked in the back office on one of their own PCs (for which I have a Staff user account). In my break I tried accessing the Merlin Archery website from that computer and there was no problem at all! It seems that all leisure services staff in Peterborough including Library staff must have been surreptitiously vetted by SERCO and there are no Vigilante Archers, Psychopaths or Slaughterers of our Furry Friends amongst us. That’s good to know! It’s plainly only the general public that are a risk……….to the general public!

To take the story further, when I was able to order the screws (and a nice shiny bow-stand to rest my weapon on when not shooting) I had missed the deadline for Tuesday and the Royal Mail 48 hour parcel delivery did not start counting until the next morning. This meant it was due on Friday and while I waited in as long as I could, eventually I had to admit defeat and went off to push my mother-in-law around the supermarket in her wheelchair. Naturally about 5 minutes after we left the parcel arrived and I returned home to find the ubiquitous “we called – you were out card” waiting for me.

I had to wait for the next working day (Saturday) before the parcel could be picked up from the local sorting office and we were due to go away for the weekend on Saturday morning, coming back sometime on Monday – on the evening of which day the next practice was scheduled!

So, in order to have any chance of getting the sight mounting fixed properly, I had to get up at a ludicrously early hour on Saturday morning to get to the Sorting Office pickup point as soon as possible after its 7 a.m. opening time and then rush home again to utilise the parcel contents.

Fortunately some swift work with a screwdriver saw the appropriate small piece of metal attached FIRMLY to the handle of the bow and it performed admirably on Monday evening to the extent that I came remarkably close to “Doing a Robin Hood” – which is Archers’ slang for hitting one arrow up the end of the previous one! I’m actually rather glad I was a little bit off target there as the arrows I use cost about £8 a go!

Still, I do wonder if anyone at SERCO knows what inconvenience and rushing about resulted from their arbitrary decision to block me from a site where all I wanted to do was buy a packet of screws of a specific length, diameter and thread type for a specific LEGAL purpose!

On reflection, I feel that even if they did know, they wouldn’t actually change anything – the kind of people who feel they know much better than you what you want to look at on-line would probably be so convinced of their own rightness that the possibility of the existence of a valid but contrary argument would be an alien concept!

O.K. I feel better now – and I promise that‘s the last word on that particular annoyance.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Nanny State – Darwin’s Enemy!

I do not often write pieces like this exactly as they happen but having just experienced an example of someone with power but no legitimate authority making decisions for me, I felt it was necessary.

Let me explain.

Last night I went to practice night at my Archery Club with the new equipment that I purchased at great expense in Loughborough last week (the club lets you borrow their gear free of charge for 6 weeks but after that you need to have your own).

One of the bits I didn’t have to buy was an adjustable bowsight because my younger daughter purchased a complete set of Archery gear for me from a colleague at her workplace who has given up the sport. Much of this turns out to be too small for me and will be sold on but the sight is good quality and is reusable. It was duly connected to my new handle.

Anyway I turned up at practice and was soon shooting off my fancy new Aluminium/Carbon Fibre arrows – with some success.

Until, that is, about 30 minutes in – when the sight fell off!

Following a bit of swift detective work I found that the screws holding it to the handle, which I had pinched off the old bow were fractionally too small for the standard-sized holes in the new kit – apparently standards change over the years!

So new screws need to be obtained and the obvious place to get the right ones seemed (to me anyway) to be the place I bought the Bow. Now I have no intention of driving a 120 mile round trip to Loughborough and back again, including the rather confusing Leicester Ring Road, just to buy a packet of screws so an online purchase was obviously needed.

Tuesday morning at the library saw my two current students in the beginners’ course working merrily through the on-line training without too many questions so I decided to whip out my trusty laptop PC and do a spot of on-line purchasing using the Library’s Public Wi-Fi. I opened a browser window and headed for Merlin Archery’s site.

Enter Nanny!

A huge red banner appeared on my screen bearing the words “THIS CONTENT HAS BEEN BLOCKED BECAUSE IT DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE ACCEPTABLE USAGE POLICY”! It then went on to tell me that my request to access it “has been logged” and I imagine that if the sound hadn’t been muted klaxons would have been going off to lead the Improper Usage Squad directly to me!

To be fair, the message does go on to tell me exactly how I have transgressed the unwritten code:

Category – Personal Weapons, Safe Content Filetypes, Hunting and Sporting, Web Content

Reason – Content of type Personal Weapons (Content filtering) blocked.

So basically, the Library, or more accurately SERCO who provide IT Services for it, have made an arbitrary decision on my behalf that I should not want to go to a particular web site because the things it sells are dangerous!

Who decided that THAT was unacceptable and why then can I browse d-i-y shops (I know I can – I tried) using the same connection and stare without restriction or alarm bells at large, cuddly, sharp axes and big, soft, heavy sledgehammers? With them I could commit much more mayhem on my fellow humans than I could manage with a bow and eight arrows (especially since I can’t aim them properly at present)! So why aren’t B&Q, Wickes etc. blocked then?

Possibly some bleeding heart at SERCO has no objection to sporting goods capable of being used as weapons per se and it may be that the operative word in the “category” mentioned above is “Hunting” – a site selling equipment that some vicious bastard could use to kill little furry creatures obviously needs its access blocking! Plainly, they haven’t seen me out in Lynch Wood chucking Homebase axes at squirrels.

It is all part of the culture that sees takeaway coffee cups contain warnings about the possibility of them containing hot liquids (personally I’d want my money back if they didn’t) or, in a similar vein, the sign that used to be affixed to the radiators in the coffee shop at a nearby country park. “This radiator may become HOT”! Really? Is that a design fault or something?

The Nanny State is everywhere – you cannot now do anything without someone inflicting either their own opinion of what you should look at or making it actually illegal to do almost anything that might be the tiniest bit dangerous. Who gives these people these powers over us? I’ve certainly never read anything about such laws in any political manifesto which means we’ve never actually voted on that issue and “someone” has simply imposed their own will on us.

But don’t get me started on Health & Safety – I’ve already done a bit about that which you can find in the Archives back at 6th April 2010. It may just be time for me to brush off the scrolling screensaver that I mentioned there: “Health & Safety – keeping idiots in the human gene pool”!

Oh, and I’d just like to say to SERCO that I went home, accessed the Merlin Archery website from my woefully unrestricted home PC, ordered the bloody screws and all without harming a single living creature! So the only effect your stupid ban had was to make me extremely annoyed (which no-one should EVER want to do) and to wish for something really unpleasant (such as tripping over a huge pile of Risk Assessment forms) to happen to your I.T. Policy Manager!

Alfie

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Green is for “GO”?

 

Reading the last dozen or so posts of mine you might get the idea that I am always lightly amusing, sometimes wittily philosophical and with a memory bank full of happy memories that I enjoy writing down for the pleasure of others. I have to tell you that this is not always the case and sometimes I have to go “darker” in an effort to expunge bad memories and feelings so that I may become what I consider to be a nicer person! That is what this is about.

As many of you reading this will have remembered from earlier posts, I write these articles in pen or pencil, often on the ludicrously long bus ride into Peterborough for my volunteer “work” at the library.

And I discovered on travelling in a few weeks ago that I was without either notebook or pen – a situation that obviously needed redressing as a matter of urgency! I mean, what if I thought of something utterly brilliant on the bus but couldn’t write it down?

So a quick detour to Wilkinson’s (for non-UK residents that’s an all-purpose cheap store partly filling the gap left by the demise of Woolworths in the UK) on the walk from the bus station to the Library was called for and I quickly found a couple of suitable A5 size notebooks before moving on to the pen shelf. Usually in this situation I just pick up a pack of cheap blue or black biros but this time I looked at the other options available and thought “Why not?”

Which explains why (although there is no way you can tell once they’re published) the draft of everything I’ve written so far in 2017 was done in…….. GREEN INK!

And what, I hear some of my readers asking, is special about THAT?

Well those of you who worked for Barclays in the past and particularly those of you whose time with Barclays Bank Trust Company preceded the dreadful Peterborough Tax Centre will undoubtedly remember that no workers on those files were allowed EVER to use green ink because that was the prerogative of the dreaded Inspection Teams.

For the uninitiated I shall explain!

Every 3 years or so each of the 33 local offices received a supposedly unexpected and definitely unwelcome visit from the Spanish Inquisition a.k.a. the Trust Company’s Inspection Team.

This comprised “The Inspector”, usually a “rising star” Manager high in the favour of the Board of Directors, and a number of career minded junior managers from each of the three disciplines – Tax, Investment and Executorship & Trustee. They would be accompanied, usually, by some young “fast-track” smart-arse with no knowledge of any of the relevant subjects and who was there to keep their paperwork in order and aid the preparation of the final report.

I said earlier that the visits were “supposedly” unexpected but everyone had a bit of an idea! While there was, at that time, no such thing as email or social media we all knew people in other offices from sporting events or training courses and the word would quickly go round that “the Narks have gone into…..” some office or other and all of the staff in places that hadn’t been visited in over 2 years would breathe easily for another 4 weeks or so!

I feel your confusion!

Surely, you are thinking, such an examination of work would comprise, in equal measure, praise for things done well and carefully worded constructive criticism for everything else. Because, after all, the Inspectors didn’t bring in any fees themselves and you don’t go upsetting the people who are effectively paying your salary.

Not so!

It was entirely destructive (of morale, at least) with efforts being made to find the tiniest fault if no large errors were apparent.

They went through 10% of each person’s case load and would produce one or more sheets of A4 paper with hand written comments on for every file looked at. This sheet would be divided down the middle with the comments, questions etc. written in green ink down the left hand side and the poor, overworked clerk’s responses (in blue or black ink) on the right.

If they couldn’t find anything amiss with a file there was no praise – you simply weren’t aware that they had looked at it except for green initials on the record sheet!

As the weeks of an inspection went on you would find a growing pile of files on your desk with the sheets of “greenery” tucked in the flap, requiring your urgent attention in addition to your normal workload – which was not allowed to slacken off. This was always a right pain for me as most of my Inspections took place in offices that I had just been transferred into which meant I was always having to respond to stuff my predecessor had done! I suppose, though, that those situations were made up for by a couple of instances where the “Narks” turned up at the old office just after I left!

As the years went by I started to fight back! From responding to everything on a “the Inspector is always right” basis I began to look closely and carefully at the comments and if they were inaccurate or incorrect I would say so in my response with detailed reasons. As the paperwork could not be destroyed by them any more than it could be by “us” anything that showed a particular Inspector to be a technically inept arse (and I did meet a few of those) still had to be kept! 

I loved that; they didn’t!

I also utilised what I called the “inverse response technique” where a rambling, whole page green diatribe about things wrong (in their opinion) with a particular case would be met with a concise response of “Noted”.

Conversely, a short question along the lines of “Do you think that……?” which obviously needed nothing more than a “Yes” or “No” answer would be treated like one of those exam questions that end with the word “Discuss”.

 Sometimes I needed more paper!

The whole process was done in an adversarial and heavy-handed fashion and for very little real result. I am sure we all had cases that we would, for any number of reasons not involving technical errors, have preferred the nit-pickers not to look at but it was best simply to hope that those ones would not get selected in the one in ten chosen (supposedly randomly) for examination.

Anything that drew attention to things you didn’t want them to see was unwise as was discovered by one office in the late 1970s. Just before their Inspection was due they closed all of the awkward, dubious or neglected cases that they did not want to have examined with a view to re-opening them afterwards. This must have had some managerial connivance as all closures had to be authorised and when the deception was somehow spotted all hell broke loose!

I don’t remember if there were dismissals but I cannot recall ever meeting anyone from that particular office so I imagine that something of a purge took place as well as an extended inspection of 100% of their cases including the closed ones! A special team was formed from senior clerical staff and managers from offices all around the country to go into the problem site, review all their work and bring the cases and records completely up to date.

This had repercussions for the rest of us around the UK – not only did we have to keep the work of our “loaned out” colleagues up to date but ordinary Inspections were now extended to include closed cases and the vindictive bastards took to querying minor typos in letters and other really petty ways of getting their revenge for that one office that had fouled up!

I don’t know exactly how they chose members of the Inspection Team but you had to have completed your Institute of Bankers exams (which did not automatically give you any technical know-how in the subject you were pulling people apart over) and not mind that the rest of your Tax Department colleagues would hate your guts for the rest of your career!

It is probably true to say that in my 24 years with Barclays I never met a member of the Inspection Team that I would have wanted to socialise with after work but met plenty that I would have cheerfully put in a weighted sack and dropped in the river!

There were ways of doing that job that would have achieved the desired end in a friendly and constructive fashion but somehow they always picked vicious little power-seekers who wanted it done the nasty way!

It is my earnest hope that writing down these memories will help me to purge myself of the lingering venom and let me move on to happier subjects written about in whatever colour ink I bloody well choose!

You will pleased to know that having lanced that particular psychic abscess I will now be my usual jolly, sunny self again – until something else that seriously rattles my bars comes to the front of my mind anyway.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2017 in Uncategorized