Making More Work

As part of my preparation for moving (about which another post sometime soon) this week I ordered some decent moving boxes from SafeStore. Yes, I’m sure there are other sources for them, and so on, but I was happy with the stuff on offer, and they’d deliver it, so *shrug*, it’ll do.

For cost-effectiveness (within the provisos of “I’m sure I could get it better somewhere else, but CBA to hunt”) I got one of their “kits” – 4 each of small, medium and large box sizes for considerably less than individual prices  – and also added in some bubblewrap, tissue paper, and a mattress cover. All well and good.

It got delivered this morning, as expected and on-time. Two boxes – one the ‘kit’ box, and one for the bubblewrap roll etc.  Except… there’s no mattress cover, no tissue paper.  So I called them up to let them know, and the lady went off to check with the despatchers.  And that was where it got weird.

Have you checked in the Kit box?  They say they might’ve put the extra things in there, to keep it all together“.

And it turned out that was exactly what had happened.  But that boggles my mind.

Now, I assume (and I’m aware it’s an assumption and thus could be utterly flawed) that the kit boxes are exactly that – they come as a sealed box with the kit contents in. That makes sense to me.  (Otherwise they’d be assembling the kit from box stocks for every order, which seems… odd)

So, if that’s the case, the despatchers opened a kit box, put the extra bits in, sealed it up, and then put it with the other box that already had bubblewrap etc. in it. Why go to that effort when there’s an unsealed box (with space in it) right there? Why make even more work for oneself?

I despair.

[Note : I actually did better than expected out of this deal – because they didn’t send me the kit box I’d ordered, and instead sent one that’s larger, and should’ve cost about £10 more!]


Getting Stuff (Finally) Done

My local council are, to be polite, utterly fucking useless. Their skills in organisation, communication, professionalism and competence appear to be absolutely zero – in fact, most of the time I doubt they could even spell any of those words, let alone be good at them.

But, after literally years of nagging, they’ve finally done two of the jobs I’ve been nagging them about.

First, we start with The Bridge

Six years ago (I’ve probably written about it before, but can’t be arsed currently to check) we had a mains water line burst near the village – a burst that was so powerful, it destroyed the bridge wall that the pipe was next to. Now, it’s not a main road per se (i.e. it’s not an A-road or motorway) but it is one of the two main roads from my village to Milton Keynes and the motorway. So it’s not short of a fair bit of traffic.

Initially, Anglian Water put up some cones/barriers and traffic lights so that the road was usable (kinda/sorta) but reduced to one lane, on the side that wasn’t missing half a bridge wall. That situation remained for about six months (with regular failures of the traffic lights) until I asked Anglian Water what was actually happening, and had they forgotten about the bloody thing.  Turned out, they had forgotten. And there began the saga of getting it fixed.

Anglian moved things about, put in a temporary fence and barrier, opened the road up, and tried to get a repair done. (Which was fraught with its own issues around who actually owned the fucking thing, who was responsible for what, etc. etc.) The council insisted it should be done by their Highways department, who would do the work properly, and all that happy crap. So after eighteen months, Anglian handed the entire clusterfuck over to Central Bedfordshire Council, as requested, and washed their hands of the problem.

For four years I’ve been asking when it’s going to happen, what’s occurring, and so on. It’s outlasted four admin assistants, and two managers. And every time they’ve said “Oh, it’s all scheduled, we’ll hopefully have it done in about three months time“. I do realise there’ve been a lot of hassles – again, with who owns the bridge and the land underneath it, who’ll be stumping up the money, how it’ll all work and so on.  But it’s been four years where it would’ve been all too possible for someone to come off the road, through the fence, and end up twenty-odd feet down underneath it.  After every decent storm we’ve had, I’ve had to contact the council and suggest that they might want to come and put the fence back up, along with the holders/barrier that’ve fallen over.

But about a month ago, signs went up around the bridge saying that work was going to start, and take about eight weeks. And it actually started, and has been progressing nicely.  (Not that anyone from the council has thought to send a message saying “Hey, just to catch you up, it’s all happening”. That would be expecting far too much from them!

Second – the other bridge.

Back at the start of the pandemic, in the next village to mine, someone went on a graffiti spree, writing/spraying stuff on all the village’s road signs and so on. Nothing monumentally offensive, just stupid shit that no-one needs to see. And in fairness, Central Bedfordshire’s Highways department cleaned most of it off comparatively quickly. (I think it only took them a fortnight to get rid of the stuff that was nasty about Central Beds Council, and then about another two months to get rid of the less offensive but stupid stuff)

And then when Captain Tom hysteria was at its peak (Captain Tom was from the village I live in, so it was all relevant locally) they sprayed a big message about him on one of the other local bridges. You can see some of it below, or go to Google Streetview here for the full experience

Yes, it lasted long enough that it even made it onto Google Streetview.

That’s taken two and a half years to get rid of, but finally got cleaned off last month.  Of course, others who’ve seen how long it takes Central Beds to sort these things, have also taken to graffiti’ing local walls and so on. Fine, it may be an influx of new people, but before the first lot happened (and that person has since moved away) we never saw any happening. Now though, I can easily think of eight or nine sites that have been hit.

Again, allegedly there were problems for the council in gaining permissions/clearances to clean that bridge – it goes over a railway line, and they were saying they couldn’t clean/wash the bridge while things might be running underneath, although that sounds like bullshit. The cleaning job when it finally happened didn’t go over the top of the bridge wall at all, so nothing would’ve been affected.  But there we go.

Purely personally, I suspect that if that graffiti had said “Central Beds council are useless bastards” it would’ve only been there a couple of weeks. But because it was about Captain Tom, I wonder if they thought it would be worse to get rid of it than to leave it.  I don’t know.

Anyway. Both jobs have (finally) been done, and it’s really nice that I won’t have to nag the useless bastards any more.  But things like this shouldn’t take that long to get sorted.  If it had been me in charge of either project I’d have got the work done, and *then* chased whoever needed to pay for it, including court stuff if necessary.  But the general public don’t need to see those delays, regardless of the cause – we just want to see stuff that’s been broken get fixed.

I don’t know what the answers are on all this – but government (both local and national) at the moment just seems like one giant clusterfuck of ineffectiveness and general incompetence. And surely there must be better ways than what we’ve currently got?


Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.


Burning Money

Over the last year, a number of businesses have (unsurprisingly) moved out of the building where I have my office. The move to primarily working from home and so on has made them more aware of the costs of the offices, and in general I can see that it makes sense for them to downsize and so on.

What’s been more of a surprise is that other ones have moved in.  Again, I get it for situations like mine, where it’s better to have the office, and where working from home isn’t practicable.

There are some of those new businesses though, that despite paying the office rental/lease for a year, haven’t actually been using the offices at all, and I really don’t understand that at all.

I suppose it’s a good write-off for tax purposes or whatever, but to me it’s still odd to be basically burning that cash for no benefit at all.

Obviously it’s not my problem, and nothing to do with me. It’s other people’s business decisions and so on. I just find it interesting, and slightly baffling.


Alone vs Lonely

With the current Covid stuff, I’ve found it interesting to see how it has affected a range of people.

One of the big complaints about it is how the lockdowns have made so many people realise how lonely they are, along with the damage it’s done to those social norms and events.

Truly, this isn’t something I can empathise with. I’ve never really lived close to any of my friends – they’re scattered all over the place – so I’m absolutely used to being on my own in any particular area. So I’m alone, but I’m never lonely.

Alongside that, I don’t know, I simply don’t feel those things. I’m happy on my own, and always have been.  Being sociable is my “not normal“, being on my own is the default position.

In all of that, I recognise that I’m “lucky“. I’ve come through this year OK, with far less damage than most people have suffered – whether that’s realising their lives are more lonely than they thought, being ill (or watching others being ill), or just seeing things change so much and feeling insecure because everything “normal” has suddenly tilted beyond recognition.

I sort-of understand that desire for everything to “go back to how it was“, but to me even that still carries a fair degree of self-delusion.  Things have changed, and it’s (to me) far easier and smarter to embrace those changes and make progress with them (I hate the expression “the new normal”, but that’s what this is – even with vaccines and so on, there’ll still be major changes for the forseeable future)

I don’t know what 2021’s going to bring – although I don’t think it’s going to be a positive year – but I’m pretty sure I’ll get through it, same as I have this year. And all I can do is hope that the same is true for those I give a sod about.


Obsessive Dedication to Perfection

Since re-starting the archery, I’ve been going pretty regularly, and it’s reminded me of one of those things I really don’t get, or don’t understand about other people.

I don’t get obsession. I never have – I don’t get it when it comes to collecting things, or dealing with people, or things like competitions.

In the case of the archery, to excel in it you need to be super-precise, to do everything exactly the same each time. And, frankly, I can’t be arsed. When I tried collecting things, it was the same – I did OK, but then when it gets to the obsession with completing things, with finding the rarities and the one-offs, I can’t be arsed.

I know I’m not perfect – but I’m good enough. I’m almost certainly not going to win against people who practice every day, or even multiple times a week.  (Although from what I’ve seen, some of those people still aren’t any bloody good at it. But there we go, that’s a different matter) I don’t insist on everything being identical with each shot, I don’t have any aiming rituals etc. Instead, my mantra tends to be “Yeah, that’ll do”

Honestly, I don’t quite see how being that obsessed with perfection makes the entire thing any fun. To be that focused on something, when it’s the minutiae that matters, it seems to (in my opinion/experience) just suck all the life and enjoyment out of things.

At the end of the day, I’m good enough. It’s rare I miss, but I simply don’t care enough to want every single shot to be in the inner gold. I do what I can, and I don’t get stressed out by something I enjoy.

All things considered, that’ll do me.


Memory Failings

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?
I don’t remember, I don’t remember

(Chumbawumba’s “Amnesia”)

Within my office block, I’m regularly gobsmacked by how people seem incapable of seemingly simple tasks, like remembering to turn things off that they’ve just turned on.  For example, walking in to the toilets, turning on the lights, and failing to turn them off again when leaving. (And sometimes also somehow forgetting to turn off taps that they’ve just used)

I honestly don’t understand this – and I’m potentially being charitable by attributing it to forgetfulness, rather than just being unthinking asshats – but it does seem to be ever more prevalent. Maybe it’s related to the office rentals being all-inclusive, meaning people give less of a sod about utilities and so on.

But even then, I wonder, is that also how they are at home? Do they keep leaving things on there as well? Do their partners/parents just keep on tidying up after them, turning things off again?

(And just because I’m not perfect – I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last two weeks, and I’ve kept on forgetting to do so)