In which my flabber gets gasted …

Outside the realm of celebrity few of us choose to advertise to the world what is going on in our lives. Our routine response to the ‘How do you do?’ asked for form’s sake is to offer an equally formulaic (and possibly untrue) ‘Very well, thank you.’

Being an Englishman of a certain age means I feel a compulsion to keep my upper lip stiff and dismiss as mere ‘flesh wounds’ experiences that cut to the bone. Folk like me are quite good at living these inner and outer lives.

On my journey through redundancy – after so long in the same organisation – I’ve continued with this learned behaviour. Of course it was much harder earlier in the process. At that stage I had not had the time to adjust to the idea that my current career was ending. And, of course, I continued to have responsibility for the people I lead with whom I was to be booted out of the door.

In the early days odd silly things would raise my hackles. The thoughtless word or the unfunny joke. The madcap adherence to behavioural norms suddenly unsuited to the firestorm around us. I’m glad to say as I’ve distanced myself psychologically from my current employer I’ve been less prone to ‘moments of madness’ as football pundits might have it.

I have continued to notice though the odd duality of our life outside work. While our family is trying to deal with redundancy and all that brings the world around us continues on its merry way.

We decided early on that we would be open about what was happening. Our friends and neighbours around us have been brilliant. Of course many of them have gone through the same thing, are going through it now or have their own families and friends experiencing it all. There’s a lot of redundancy about.

I’ve even had the odd offer of bits and pieces of casual work that abounds in the countryside. Fencing – no, not that sort, beating – no, not that sort either and general labouring. I started in general farm work when I was 12 so, in some ways, it feels like coming home.

However, outside of our immediate circle of support the wheels of officialdom continue to grind. Impersonal. Dictatorial. And ever so … deranged.

I got a letter from school yesterday. This is not uncommon. We get three or four letters a week from them. This is despite our request for them to use email to communicate with us. Each missive is lovingly placed in an envelope and posted to us via Royal Mail. Yesterday’s letter cost 25p in direct postage. But it was an urgent matter of some importance.

The letter informed me that my daughter had undergone an ‘equipment check’. She was discovered to have not had her protractor or compasses with her. This was devastating news. The school exhorts me to ensure the protractor shortfall is address, ‘with immediate effect.’

Helpfully, the letter tells me such learning requisites are available, ‘at a small cost’ from the school itself. Thank goodness.

But. I am left in no doubt of the serious consequences of a failure to adhere to the equipment standards.

‘Failure to bring correct equipment is recorded centrally and will result in a lunchtime detention if it happens on 3 or more occasions.’

I consider myself, told.

I opened and read the letter to break up a period of plotting and thinking about our family plans after I get the big heave-ho. I was brought down to earth with a mighty bump. But the more I thought about it the more reassured I became.

I might have no job. We might run out of money. We might have to sell our home. I might soon be back on the farm. Never mind though my children’s school will keep on top of the protractor issue. Thank goodness. I can dismiss that worry and take my rest.

As you can no doubt tell my flabber has been well and truly gasted.

My daughter, hereinafter referred to as the malefactor, took it all in better part than me. ‘They’re idiots,’ was her considered opinion. In further probing in transpired that she had never not had a piece of kit for any scheduled activity. Everyone knows the kids who never have their kit. They were few in number and had not changed in the last three years of school life.

Now, I believe in education. It was the magic bullet that took me from the farm to university and beyond. Mrs RPS and I have, we hope, raised thoughtful children committed to their own education. We support the school whenever asked to do so.

So it really says something for the designers of the Protractor Regulations that they managed to achieve the exact opposite of what they intended. I suspect they wanted the terrified recipients of such letters to say something like, ‘My goodness, this is terrible. Let us now commit from this day forth that no child of ours shall enter the hallow halls of learning without a protractor. (Or any other specified implement necessary for acquisition of learning.) To this end we pledge our blood and treasure. And the very breath in our bodies. Or perish. Stopping up the wall of ignorance with our dead.’

Instead, all I could do was echo my daughter’s judgement. Idiots.

Maybe the shock of redundancy has shortened the reins of my patience with daft admin, rules and regulations. In this case the people who need the ‘encouragement’ will take no notice. Those of us who don’t will take offence and have our respect for these authorities eroded just a bit further.

I can’t help wondering if becoming counter-cultural is one of the unlooked-for upsides of being made redundant. With blinding clarity you suddenly see the warp and weft of pointless rules and daft regulations for what they are. Perhaps.

Although there’s something to be said for the security and comfort that silly bureaucracy brings. It’s the yellow blankie we dragged behind us everywhere as children. Maybe I will miss it all.

Excuse me though, I have to go and find a protractor …


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
This entry was posted in bad news, bureaucrats, kindness, Redundancy, rules and regulations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to In which my flabber gets gasted …

  1. David Whewell says:

    Nail and head comes to mind!! Excellent post! You are a sensitive soul, though, not sure the word idiots would have been my early thought! Something a little more expletive, perhaps!

  2. Clare says:

    The purpose of pointless bureaucracy is to stop you thinking about the important issues. I don’t think you’ll miss it.

    • Dear Clare,

      I hope you’re right. You reminded me of the old French Foreign Legion joke.

      A new recruit enters the mess and sees a lone sad-looking legionnaire drinking at a table in the corner. The recruit asks the mess steward about the solitary soldier.

      ‘Ah, that’s Pierre. He joined to forget.’

      ‘Forget? Forget what?’

      ‘He can’t remember.’

      … ok, it wasn’t one of my best.


  3. Dan says:

    This sort of stuff makes me irrationally livid.

    My 7 year old daughter has had to stay in at lunchtime because we have forgotten to write in her homework diary that she has read at home twice in a week. This despite the fact she is one of the best readers in the class and us having told the teacher JUST THE WEEK BEFORE that she reads a full book every two days out of her own choice.

    Way to crush a child’s spirit. Idiots.

    • Dear Dan,

      Sets your teeth on edge doesn’t it? My daughters now navigate me away from a short list of teachers at parents’ evenings who they know are likely to attempt patronising, bullying or even, memorably, ‘dearing’ me.

      Mrs RPS works with younger children on their reading. She reckons it’s about the best job in the world. I think it’s amongst the most important.

      Supportive parents need nurturing and encouragement surely?

      All the very best to you all and particularly to your daughter. Go girl!


  4. OMG! Schools (guilty of being in one for far too long) need a few reality checks. I really do wonder why we insist on doing things to kids!
    was a recent meander about this issue.
    BTW what’s a protractor anyway? Last time I possibly had one was in my first year of secondary school in my nice shiny ‘pencil case’. It quickly became – sorry but have to say it – redundant.

  5. David Whewell says:

    Interesting comment from Fellbound on Twitter! @FellBound @DavidWhe and in fact the school was in breach of the charging provisions of the 1988 Education Reform Act!

  6. Mean Mr Mustard says:

    I’d have thought compasses, being sharp and pointy, would be Streng Verbotenen from skoolz, innit?

    You could write them a pointed letter, but that would only lead to protracted correspondence…

  7. Pingback: In which my flabber gets gasted … | A redundant public servant's blog | FIND BEST EDUCATION INFORMATION

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