Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The great work wear debate

There's been a lot going on in the past week or so, and I could talk about President Trump's inauguration and what's happened next, the ongoing Brexit Article 50 debacle (why wasn't all this established pre-Referendum?), the shock news that toast, crisps and chips are potential carcinogens, and the 6' 7" bloke who was fined for driving a Ford Ka convertible with his head poking above the windscreen.

But instead, I'm going to discuss the debate about what people should wear for work.  Now this doesn't affect me much - being self-employed and working from home most of the time I could pretty much wear my PJs all day and the only people it would bother would be the delivery drivers bringing me other people's parcels!

However, I always get dressed because it's about personal pride - in much the same way as I would never dream of going to the supermarket in my nightwear, and won't even fetch the bin in wearing my slippers (see previous column), I like to ensure that even though few people see me I still look respectable.

Admittedly, I don't wear a full face of make up or high heels, but that's my choice; and that's precisely my point - people should have a choice, within reason, about what they wear for work.

Women, for example, should not be told they have to wear make-up and high heels - if you wouldn't ask a man to do it, you shouldn't ask a woman either.

Back in the mists of time (early 1990s) I started work for a high street bank.  I was told then that women weren't allowed to wear trousers.  Skirt length wasn't dictated, thankfully.

I was therefore considered something of a trailblazer when I wore culottes to work - seems ridiculous now doesn't it? - and it caused much consternation with the male office manager because they weren't a skirt, but they weren't trousers either.  However, I was allowed to wear them, and eventually trousers were allowed too.  I like to think I started a revolution, albeit a minor one!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

TV adverts - the good, the bad and the most complained about 2016

Television adverts - which ones do you remember best?

For me, it's the good - the Guinness surfer ad, the Scotch videotape skeleton singing a version of The Rolling Stones' Not Fade Away, the Cadbury's drumming gorilla, for example.

Then there's the cheesy selection - step forward Shake 'n' Vac with its irresistibly catch song the words of which I can recall to this day, or Maureen Lipman's Beattie ads for BT ('You got an ology!').

Then the downright annoying - 'washing machines live longer with Calgon' immediately springs to mind.

And of course the scary - I can still remember the falling tombstones from the Government AIDS Don't Die Of Ignorance advert of the 1980s.  It was designed to shock and it certainly did.

Which leads me to the most complained about to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2016 - perhaps surprisingly, topping the list are the Moneysupermarket adverts featuring Gary the dancing bodyguard, Dave the twerking businessman and Colin the dancing builder.

But even though they received the most complaints, the ASA has ruled that none of them crossed the line from bad taste to offence.  What a fine line that is, and a subjective one at that! 

In all honesty, they don't really bother me that much but aren't they just a bit passé now?  Dave was quite amusing when he first appeared, but now with the rival gangs doing a dance off, I can't really see the relevance to the products that they're trying to sell.

But maybe that's not the point - if people are talking about them, and complaining about them, then the company's perhaps happy with the 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' angle.

Don't you just long for the days of the clever advert though, the ones that made you think, or amused you, rather than annoyed you and make you wish you could fast-forward through them.  No wonder many people now watch TV on catch-up or on other services which allow them to skip the advertising.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Thank you

Politeness and good manners are important, don't you think?

Some of you may consider me old-fashioned in saying this, but I still think saying thank you for Christmas and birthday presents is necessary.

However I'm guilty these days of just saying thanks in person, on the phone or by text for my gifts - but I always ensure my daughter puts pen to paper and sends proper thank you notes.

She doesn't always feel as enthused about this task as I am in making her do it, but I tell her what my mother told me, and I'm guessing what her mother told her too - 'If somebody takes the time and effort to buy you a gift, the least you can do is write a thank you note.'

I don't make her write them on Christmas day after the turkey and before the Queen's speech or anything like that - Boxing Day is fine.  I'm joking of course, but I think finding some time before New Year to put pen to paper isn't too much to ask.

I fear I'm in a minority with this though, and I dare say the art of writing anything at all will soon die out completely.

Does anyone else send and receive handwritten letters anymore?  I remember checking the post being one of the highlights of my day, the joy multiplied if you'd received a handwritten letter or a postcard from a friend, rather than a bank statement or a bill of some description.  Not quite the same these days with the computer just going 'ping' when an e-mail is received.

Which leads me on to one of my pet hates - people not replying to e-mails.  In my mind, there's really no excuse for this as it takes all of two minutes to hit reply and type something, even if it's just to acknowledge receipt and say a more fulsome reply will follow in due course if time is an issue.  It's just good manners to respond, isn't it? 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Anyone got a plan?

Do you ever think to yourself 'I wonder if there's a responsible person in charge and if they've got a plan?'

I found myself musing about this at 3am on the Tuesday morning before going back to work, the first day after the Christmas and New Year break.

We'd just been informed about the new garden villages and towns, and the one to be built near here at Deenethorpe, on the disused airfield.

Bearing in mind that just before Christmas we'd been told that all our local A&Es were in crisis, and that Corby's Urgent Care centre is dealing with double the amount of patients for which it was designed, I just wanted to ask, is somebody planning on opening a new hospital for the north of the county?

Or perhaps opening another Urgent Care Centre as the one at Corby is so popular?  Or expanding Kettering General Hospital to cope with the rapidly increasing population?

Is the person with the plan - not sure who that is, I'm just hoping it's not a man behind a curtain in the style of the Wizard of Oz - planning on building some new schools too while they're at it?

Both primary and secondary schools, preferably with before and after-school clubs, and nurseries and pre-schools as well.

And will these things actually get built before new people flock to this area, or will the houses come first, then the inhabitants, and if so, where will these people go to the doctor, dentist, hospital, school etc in the meantime?

Will the person or people with the plan - be that MPs, borough councillors, county councillors etc - please reassure the existing population that these measures are all in place before the new building starts, and that Section 106 monies and obligations will be met by the developers.

I appreciate there's an argument that houses need to be built, and there's a need for affordable homes.  But let's just hope that somebody is planning and ensuring that all the vital ancillary services are in place as well.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Planet Earth II and my adventures with Attenborough

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Planet Earth II - I managed to combine viewing this with still keeping abreast of The X Factor shenanigans courtesy of the BBC's wonderful iPlayer.

Sir David Attenborough is one of my heroes.  His father was the Principal of University College Leicester (later the University of Leicester), admittedly a bit before my time studying there, but there is a building on campus named the Attenborough Building complete with a paternoster.

Now, I'd never encountered one of these before - these are basically lifts, but they keep on moving around the building and you have to step on and off them whilst they're in motion.  Not sure how this still exists in the days of health and safety, but to the best of my knowledge (and courtesy of a quick Google search) it appears to be still going strong.

Unfortunately, due to a timing error on my behalf, I managed to fall out of the paternoster - thankfully nothing was injured except my pride, but I can still blush with embarrassment at the memory of it to this day!

Anyway, I digress, back to Planet Earth II - I just marvelled at the amazing wildlife photography, and laughed and cried and oohed and aahed as I watched the various creatures and their lives.

Highlights of the series for me were the swimming sloth, who was thwarted in his quest for love as the object of his desire already had a baby; the baby iguanas literally running for their lives while being chased by snakes.

Then the poor little turtles, just hatched and confused by the bright city lights, so heading the wrong way up the beach to get squashed on the road or to fall down storm drains.  I was so relieved to subsequently read that this story had a happy ending - the Barbados Sea Turtle Project assisted the film crew and then stepped in to rescue the unsquashed baby turtles and take them to the sea.

Truly wonderful TV which makes the licence fee worthwhile.