Always Learning

From the moment we are born, we are learning. Every breath we take, every move we make, we are learning. Happily some things we are born with, like the sucking reflex enabling us to feed. Most but not all of us are born with our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch all working, most but not all have fully functioning limbs too. To begin with our senses are far from precise, so over time these develop through repetition and training, just as our brain and muscles do. Even as we sleep, our minds are quietly assembling the events of our wakeful day and storing them. We may not remember all these dreams, but everyone is believed to dream between three and six times per night. It is thought that each dream lasts between five and twenty minutes, but around ninety-five percent of dreams are then forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed. Our dreaming can help us learn, as well as develop our long-term memories. The learning process is also a two-way street, as our parents or guardians, in fact our whole family, even our pets, are learning at the same time about us, noticing our habits. Some of these habits are perhaps better altered, whilst others may be encouraged. I am told that when I was very young, I developed whooping cough which can be serious. So for a while, my dear mum would rush up to my room at the first sound of me crying and I learned that if I cried then someone would come. But then one time the local district nurse was visiting and helped to calm mum down, during which time I apparently stopped crying and was soon fast asleep! I got out of the habit, so it was quite a learning experience for both of us. My two elder brothers were born during World War II, whilst I arrived a good few years later and as a result my upbringing was rather different to that of my brothers, partly because my parents now had much valuable experience with them to call upon. Food was becoming more varied and post-war rationing had now all but ended, as fourteen years of food rationing in Britain ended at midnight on 4 July 1954 when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were lifted. But I am told that my mother had a fright soon after we moved to Whittlesey as she heard what to her was an air-raid siren. It was, but this siren was now being used to call the local volunteer fire brigade to the fire station, which was not far from where we lived at the time. Our home was also near to a lovely church which has a very tall spire and as a result the church bells were quite loud and the noise upset me. But once I was able to understand exactly what the sound was, how it was made and also that my dad was a bellringer, I was happy. It was the same with storms, thunder and lightning. The logical explanations of what they were and what they did made sense to me! Years later I then wondered how many times per day does lightning strike the Earth. I learned that about 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth’s surface every second That’s about 8 million per day and 3 billion each year! Always the enquiring mind. As I was growing up, thankfully my questions were, in the main, either answered or at least explained. I learned not just the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, history and the like, I also began to learn about other living things. I think it was there that I began to realise that some folk are just naturally gifted in certain areas whilst others are not, but that we are all unique in our own way and that what suits one in doing a task might not suit another. One beaver might create a dam and build its lodge differently to another, but the final result will be what is important. At school I wanted to learn, I had been told that was what school was for, to learn, except just filling my head with facts didn’t always work for me, I wanted to know the why as well as what. Sometimes a simple explanation was all I needed, but over the years I have seen that some teachers are better than others and as I said the other week, there are teachers and there are educators. I fully accept that there are times when some immediate action is required and explanations can be given later, as at a young age we know nothing about the potential dangers of standing by an open fire or being too close to the edge of a cliff! It was also when being an individual became apparent to me, as I said the other week I was encouraged by my school colleagues to try smoking a cigarette but I wouldn’t do so simply because everyone else was.


When I started work for Post Office Telephones, I was a civil servant and I had to pass their entrance exam. I began work in what was then known as the Accommodation department. Within the Peterborough Telephone Area there were over a hundred exchanges as well as quite a number of local engineering centres, all providing and maintaining the telephone service for an area of over two thousand square miles, from Skegness to St. Neots! It was here I began to learn multi-tasking, being able to work on filling in forms but at the same time becoming more aware of what was going on around me. Some of my colleagues had been working there for quite a few years and at the time I could not imagine working for the same company for so long, but in fact I don’t really think I did, despite being with the firm for thirty-eight years. That’s because the company evolved, it too learned. Not everyone was happy with all the changes that took place, even simple things like addressing managers by their first names took a bit of getting used to on both sides, but it happened. A few senior managers who have long since passed away would regularly go drinking at lunchtime and it was expected that some of us would accompany them. I preferred a proper bite to eat and a walk around town though, in fact it was during a lunchtime wander that I saw the first Sinclair ZX81 computer on sale! That really was a major step for me, learning much about computers, their programming and uses. By now Post Office Telephones was British Telecommunications Plc, with its structural and various departmental name changes. Also the levels of management were becoming less and less, computers really were becoming more and more commonplace although I do wonder if they generated more paperwork! Over the years we had a series of studies, some by staff in the company and some brought in from outside but they were usually the same or at least very similar. It was all Time Management in various guises, hoping to improve Efficiency. A few weeks ago now I told the story of the Ant whose management thought it might work better if supervised and so generally improve its efficiency. The management had lots of new ideas, they made changes but the joke was that they ended up sacking the Ant because it ended up showing a lack of motivation and a negative attitude as a result of those changes. There were new ideas, but sometimes change seemed to be made simply for the sake of change, to say that things were better. Not so long ago there was a funny television series by the late Victoria Wood called ‘dinnerladies’ and in that there were some great characters whose parts had been cleverly written. Right at the beginning of the first series we were introduced to the main characters, a group of mostly female and middle-aged canteen workers at a factory set in the Manchester area. The central character was the kind and very dependable Brenda ‘Bren’ Furlong, played by Victoria Wood, whose relationship with sarcastic and exhausted canteen manager Tony Martin developed through the series. Then there was the prim and prudish Dolly Bellfield and her friend Jean, along with the younger pair of characters, Twinkle (who was often came to work dressed in her work clothes) and the relatively slow-witted, mild-mannered Anita who was the complete opposite to her posh-voiced mother, an estate agent. There was Stan Meadowcroft, the opinionated, easily provoked but well-meaning maintenance man who was responsible for cleaning the factory and fixing equipment. Then there was the cheery but rather disorganised Philippa Moorcroft, the Personnel manager who was from the south of England and who at first did not fit in well with the rest of the staff. She moved to Manchester because of her relationship with a senior member of staff, Mr Michael. Julie Walters also appeared in several episodes as Bren’s somewhat disadvantaged, rather delusional and manipulative mother who lived in a caravan behind a petrol station. She had abandoned Bren at an orphanage but often turned up to ask for favours. Each episode had a definite story but also a continuing theme and we saw how changes occurred along with numerous misunderstandings. The series developed very well as each character learned about the others. The series ended when the excellent canteen was closed to make room for more offices. A familiar scenario, sadly. I will admit to smiling when Personnel was renamed Human Resources, with no change of work just a fancy name change, also how Philippa attempted to introduce various things like Scottish Country Dancing to a factory environment. It reminded me of a time when one of my senior managers attempted to get us office-based sales staff to persuade callers to have a more modern telephone by simply offering the staff incentives such as a bottle of wine or similar to the person who ’sold’ the most each month. The orders for more modern telephones went up for a short while, but the manager could not seem to understand why the orders dropped when the incentive scheme was stopped. I have spoken to others working in other industries and found that to a large extent they found the same where they worked. There are exceptions of course, for example like the military, but in that environment there is no nine to five working like in an office, if work needs finishing then every person involved keeps working until it is job done and signed off.

I do think that we can sometimes lose sight of how potentially important our interaction with others can be. We learn to communicate and we may only say a few kind or thoughtful words to someone, but at that moment it may be exactly what that person needs. Equally, harsh words may have an adverse effect. Most of us at some time or another have had moments when we question our own decisions, but a few supportive words can make a world of a difference. A couple I know ended up leaving their partners and marrying each other as they learned to trust their feelings for each other. They now have a child of their own, a life that would not have existed otherwise and who can say what a difference that child or perhaps their offspring might make to the world in the future. Even that person’s interaction with others, which I think is called the ‘ripple’ effect. As the years have passed and I have moved around the Midlands I have met many different people of different races, cultures and creeds. On one occasion I was invited to an event where the guest was Srinivas Arka and I was more involved with one of his charities than I perhaps am now. But this was an event attended predominantly by those of an Asian background, in fact I think I was the only non-Asian attendee. Some folk looked at me, wondering who I was, but I was warmly greeted by several people who knew me. It was a learning experience for me, seeing how different races can be treated and a reminder that we are all human. Sadly there are those who even now still try to have us believe that some humans are, how can I put it, ‘lesser beings’ than others. To my mind, whether you believe in God or not, whether your thoughts on how the Universe began differ from others, whether you find eating certain things upsetting, it is surely down to our individual choice. But we should still all be treated the same. I have said that we are always learning, but I guess that ought to be adjusted in that for most of us we have the capacity to learn. However some do not. Where I am living at the moment I see inmates in this Care Home who have dementia and sadly it is difficult for them to learn. Last year when I was in hospital I could not even turn over in bed without assistance, but I have learned to move again. I had to. There are still some things I cannot do unaided, but thankfully I am learning to walk again and if I can I hope to show others here that we can overcome difficulties, we can learn to adapt to changes as time passes. A friend of mine has need of a hearing aid now, we think it may be as a result of having to spend so much time on the telephone at work! I know it can be hard and we all have proverbial dark days, but I try to have faith that with a positive attitude we will survive for a good while longer and that is fine with me. This beautiful world continues to change, not always in an ideal way but it seems to me that Nature has a habit of restoring a balance, despite those who seem to want to upset it for whatever reason. The Earth does not stop turning, the Sun continues to shine down upon us although at times I read ridiculous questions from folk, like asking whether our moon is hollow, how long it would take us to reach the nearest star and I expect as each new generation appears then similar questions will be asked. Last week I said about how technology was continuing to change and over the years some folk have felt it has not always been for the better! Thankfully we do learn, though sometimes the cost can be quite high. One example is asbestos, it was at first thought to be an excellent material, but it turned out to be a killer if not handled safely. We are coping with the effects of a pandemic, but as I have said there are differences of opinion on how it started and its treatment. But we are doing what we do, we are learning, using different technologies to keep in touch with others, which I believe is important. Quite a number of people now use or are at least aware of Zoom, a video conferencing service we can use to meet virtually with others, whether by video, audio only or both, all whilst conducting live chats. The system also allows these sessions to be recorded for viewing later. I have been looking at quite a few things on YouTube, though much of it I ignore, especially the adverts. Their systems seem to think they’re being helpful! Sometimes they are, for example that is how I learned about Radio Garden, which enables folk to listen to radio stations for free from all around the world. Very clever. I have also found quite a number of ‘live’ web cams, again from around the world and the way the Internet is now there must be much more that I haven’t yet discovered. But it keeps me occupied, reading, writing and above all, learning.

This week, the benefits of a good vocabulary.
I recently called an old engineering friend of mine and asked what he was working on these days. He replied that he was presently working on an aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, steel and aluminium in a somewhat constrained environment. I was impressed, until I discovered that he was actually in the kitchen doing the washing up under his wife’s supervision…

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Where On Earth…

In a recent blog post I said how it was that here in the northern hemisphere on Earth we are approaching the longest day of the year and that our days would slowly be getting shorter again. I received a lovely comment on that, but the writer also said how they perhaps didn’t wish to be reminded of this quite yet, as winter seemed to have lasted a little longer this year! I assured them that it just happens and it will be becoming cooler again, just not yet. But as each day follows night and we are refreshed, so also must the Earth itself be refreshed through all the changing seasons. Some lives end, new lives begin and it is a cycle that I hope and pray will continue for a very long time yet. Global time was not managed or organised in the way it is today though, in fact time itself wasn’t known quite as it is now. That is because our measurement of time began with the invention of sundials in ancient Egypt at some point prior to 1500 B.C. However, the time the Egyptians measured was not the same as the time today’s clocks measure. For the Egyptians, and indeed for a great many years after, the basic unit of time was the period of daylight. We all know that time is is of a fixed duration, though as I have said in the past it can seem to drag on sometimes! Now seventy countries change their clocks for Daylight Saving Time, including most of North America, Europe and parts of South America and New Zealand whilst China, Japan, India and most countries near the equator do not. I still like using the terms ’Spring forward’ and ‘Fall back’, so that we remember which way to turn the clocks, although ‘fall’ is of course the American term for Autumn. In the past (and I am going back quite a while now of course) many of the inhabitants here on Earth believed that it was flat and we were the centre of the Universe. Perhaps a little bit like young children think they are, until they start to interact with others. But then so long ago we also began to explore and interact with other races, though not always successfully! In ancient times, people found their way around using various landmarks and rudimentary maps and this worked well locally, but different methods were needed for travelling further afield across featureless terrain such as deserts or seas. Travellers therefore needed a frame of reference to fix their position. Both the Phoenicians (600 B.C.) and the Polynesians (400 A.D.) used the heavens to calculate latitude. It still took a while, but over the centuries increasingly sophisticated devices were designed to measure the height of the sun and stars above the horizon and thereby measure latitude. The first instruments used at sea to measure latitude were the quadrant and the astrolabe, both of which had been used for years by astronomers to measure the inclination of stars. But knowing latitude wasn’t enough, as to determine an exact location you also needed to measure a line of longitude.

Great minds had tried for centuries to develop a method of determining longitude. Hipparchus, a Greek astronomer (190–120 B.C.), was the first to specify location using latitude and longitude as co-ordinates. He proposed a zero meridian passing through Rhodes. He further suggested that absolute time be determined by observing lunar eclipses, measuring the time when a lunar eclipse started and finished, and finding the difference between this absolute time and local time. But his method required an accurate clock, something which had yet to be invented. Then in 1530 Gemma Frisius proposed a new method of calculating longitude using a clock. This clock would be set on departure and kept at absolute time, which could then be compared with the local time on arrival. Unfortunately, sufficiently accurate clocks weren’t going to be available for another two hundred and thirty years or so, but when they were the method Frisius used was shown to work. Calculating exact longitude was not only important for the safety of navigators, but vital for developing sea-borne trade. So in 1567, Philip II of Spain offered a prize to any person who could provide a solution to the problem. This was followed in 1598 by a similar challenge from Philip III, to whom Galileo wrote, telling him that eclipses of Jupiter’s moons would reveal the secret. The King remained unconvinced. In 1667, the Italian astronomer Cassini was persuaded to visit the Academie Royale des Sciences observatory in Paris and as Galileo had suggested, he used Jupiter’s moons to map the world and the eclipses of Jupiter’s moons were timed in Paris using a pendulum clock. In 1681, Cassini travelled to the island of Goree in the West Indies to repeat his measurements. Absolute time was found on the island by observing the eclipses, and this was compared to local time (obtained using the sun), so enabling the island’s longitude to be calculated. So now, the problem of determining longitude on land had been solved, but the method was useless at sea because a ship’s movements made it impossible to time the eclipses of Jupiter’s moons accurately. As a result, in 1714 the English Parliament offered a prize of £20,000 to anyone who could determine longitude at sea to an accuracy of within half a degree, which is two minutes as the Earth rotates three hundred and sixty degrees every twenty-four hours, therefore every one degree of longitude corresponds to four minutes.

Many eminent scientists set to work, but it was an unknown amateur clockmaker from Yorkshire, John Harrison, who rose to the challenge. He saw time as the key and realised that if you could determine local time (from the position of the sun) and the time at some reference point (like Greenwich), you could calculate the time difference between the two. From this, you could work out how far apart the two places were in terms of longitude. The problem was that back then, no timepiece existed which could be set at home and relied on to keep time accurately whilst at sea, because pendulums were notoriously unreliable due to the ship’s movement. It meant that even if local time could be determined from the noonday sun, there was no time to compare it against and this was the problem that Harrison set out to solve. After decades of diligence and many design changes, Harrison eventually produced his marine chronometer, a spring-driven clock that could measure longitude to within the half-degree required for the £20,000 prize. Despite this, he was initially given just half the promised amount. On a voyage from England to Jamaica in 1761–62, his chronometer lost just five seconds in over two months at sea. It was now possible for a navigator to determine local time by measuring high noon, and compare this to the absolute time, which had been set on an accurate chronometer at the start of the voyage. With this information, he could then determine the number of degrees of longitude that he had traversed during his journey. As a result, both latitude and longitude could now be determined accurately in terms of degrees, minutes and seconds and for the first time it was possible to determine exactly where on Earth you were. As time continued to pass, industrial changes were occurring, the railways came and it was realised that a system of regular timekeeping was needed for timetables. By the mid-1850s, almost all public clocks in Britain were set to Greenwich Mean Time and it finally became Britain’s legal standard time in 1880. Then at noon on November 18, 1883, North American railway systems adopted a standardised system of keeping time that used hour-wide time zones. It took many years, but eventually people around the world began using the same timekeeping system.

Math Clock

Technology was and still is continually moving us forward, so many years later the Global Positioning System, or GPS was invented. The first satellite in the system, Navstar 1, was launched on 22 February 1978 and today it is all done electronically through this world-wide radio navigation system made up of a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations. These ‘artificial stars’ are used as reference points to calculate a terrestrial position to within an accuracy of a few metres. Then some years later a man working as a concert organiser was struggling to get equipment and bands to musical event locations on time due to inadequate address information. So it was that in 2013, he and three others founded What3Words and the company was incorporated in March 2013 with a patent application for the core technology filed in April 2013. The What3Words system uses a grid of 3 metre by 3 metre squares covering the whole world, with every square given a unique address composed of three words. As of May 2020, the addresses are available in 43 languages according to the What3Words online map, though the addresses are not translations of the same words. Each language uses a word-list of 25,000 words (40,000 in English, as it covers the sea as well as land). The lists have been manually filtered to take account of word length, distinctiveness, frequency, ease of spelling and pronunciation to reduce the potential for confusion and remove offensive words. The system relies on a fixed algorithm in combination with a limited database and the core technology is contained within a file of about 10MB,rather than a large database of every location on earth. The database also assigns more memorable words to locations in urban areas. According to the company this system also distributes similar-sounding three-word combinations around the world to enable both human and automated error-checking, although these claims have been disputed. The result is that if a three-word combination is entered slightly incorrectly and the result is still a valid What3Words reference, then the location will usually be so far away from the user’s intended area that the error will be immediately obvious to both a user and an intelligent error-checking system. In January 2018, Mercedes-Benz bought approximately ten per cent of the company and announced its support in future versions of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience and navigation system. Their A-Class, launched in May 2018, became the first vehicle in the world with What3Words on board. As a result, through scientific advances over very many years, we now have a way of accurate navigation around the whole world.


Actually What3Words has proved to be useful for emergency services in finding people, especially in remote areas. Some also use it when meeting family and friends. It is even possible to convert National Grid References to What3Words addresses. I have personally found the system to be quite useful and more detail on how to use and download the it can be found on their website at: whilst the main website is:
You might want to click on the following few examples:
Westward Ho!, North Devon, U.K.:
Taj Mahal, India:
Opera House, Sydney, Australia:
Cathedral Square, Peterborough:
McDonalds, Leicester:

To close this week…
Life can be all about consequences. As a youngster I was taught to fish and I would go float fishing in our local river, though I rarely caught anything as I found it difficult to spot when the float moved after a fish had taken the bait. But it passed the time, I was out in the fresh air, it was quiet and relaxing for me. On one occasion though I forgot to empty the plastic box of unused maggots before going home, so a couple of days later I opened the box and a few flies flew! I swiftly dealt with them and after that I always fed the fish with the unused maggots before I headed home. Buying more maggots was far better than upsetting mum…

Passing Through Difficult Times

I have been thinking. Yes, I’m afraid so. But it can happen! Here we all are in this beautiful world and (I hope!) slowly emerging from the pandemic. But it isn’t the first one that has occurred, as there have been quite a few others. There are some who still question whether this one was real, but there are many who do not believe things unless they see it for themselves. I have no doubt that all will be revealed in due time, scholars will look back giving us all logical answers to these ideas. Some focus their minds on such global issues, whilst others prefer to concentrate on other things like a favourite sport. No matter what it is, whether it be nature, world politics, formula one motor racing, golf, soccer or whatever I am sure that changes will occur. It may only be to do with transfers between all the various clubs and teams in various sports, but things do get sorted out with rule changes, with new ideas, new technology and new designs. As I have said quite a few times to folk now, the one constant in this Universe is change. I now spend a bit of time looking at the messages people send in online to various websites and I do wonder if a few have either skipped school or did not think through their questions before posting them. What I do like to see are the replies, as for the most part these are done in quite a positive way and not patronising. Sharing knowledge and truth is important and I am trying to do what I can with that. It isn’t an easy time for anyone, but whatever the circumstances I have tried to maintain a positive outlook on my life by remembering the past, not dwelling on it but trying to learn from it. As I wrote on Facebook the other day, some things in our world remain the same whilst other things are constantly changing. Coping with this adds to the pages in our individual book of life. We should not be repeatedly turning back these pages and re-reading them, but remembering they are there and using them for reference when necessary. That is how we learn and develop. Staying focussed in the present enables us to look forward into the future, but sadly there are some who, for a variety of reasons, are either unwilling or unable to let go of the past or learn from their past experiences. There have even been those who expect the world to change for them, rather than adapting, learning to compromise even just a tiny amount and in recent years I have known a few folk exactly like that. I am saddened by such selfish attitudes, no matter how they have developed. I wrote last year about learning to cope and the same is still all true. We adapt, we change, even if it is for a short while until present circumstances alter. But we do not forget who we are. Where I am now is the perfect place for me right now but things change and we survive by adapting. I am alive, I am being very well looked after and I appreciate that very much. But I am still me, I am not losing my individuality, I still retain whatever it is that makes me who I am. Perhaps one of the hardest things to adapt to though are the changes in routines, the ones we are comfortable with. Some folk like the comfort of their surroundings, they like being with the same people, animals as well as collectibles and they can find it difficult to adapt to the smallest of changes, even for just a short time.

Then there is the actual passage of time. Though of course time itself is an interesting concept. It is a constant, and yet it can seem to be a variable. When we were young, it often flew by. As I have said before, when it seemed to drag we either found or were found things to keep us busy. Except that could allow us to be led astray and into doing things that got us into trouble. Where I grew up it was a small town and my dad was a local schoolteacher, so everyone knew our family. It meant that for myself and my two elder brothers it was in our best interests for us to behave! I have said on a few occasions how I was taught to keep myself occupied and it still works for me. I have said about my enjoyment in putting together a whole range of plastic stick-together kits, usually of aircraft but I did then progress to the large sailing ships. Some manufacturers put two aircraft together, calling them ‘dogfight doubles’ and in this way I learned about the aircraft types in both World Wars. It was a clever way to learn about the past, but remembering also that time is always moving forward. My writings have recalled past memories of things perhaps long forgotten, both for me and others. I realise there are those who prefer to forget times long since past but those memories too are part of what makes us who we are. I was once married but am long since divorced. I can still recall those years, but do not dwell on the memories, merely acknowledge them as being part of me, of my life’s history. Just so long as we are able to keep our minds clearly focussed on reality and not be drawn into fantasy, we can enjoy our lives along with our family and friends around us. To take a quote from the Bible, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (~ 1 Corinthians 13:11) So I can think back to the toys I had as a child, I remember the games I played and the funny cartoons which entertained me. I learned new words through reading, I learned of humour through jokes, along with their spellings and meanings, all these things helped me in the art of conversation and good communication with others. As many of you know I am quite a Star Trek fan and I have been for a great many years, so it is fascinating to see how we as children marvelled at things like their flip-up communicators which became reality in almost no time at all. Did the idea for them come from Star Trek? Perhaps. I also see the old ‘Thunderbirds’ series and then look at the Space Shuttle. There are in this world a great many inventors, but there are also a many developers who see the original idea and adapt it. I have said about retaining our own individuality and character, but in the Star Trek science fiction series we are introduced to the Borg, whose well-known phrase when approaching another starship was “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us.” I have read recently of something called a ’new world order’ but there may be some who always wish to control, to have things done their way and no other. This is not a new idea, as over the years that us humans have been on Earth, many have tried to conquer others, it just seems to be an ongoing thing. Interestingly Gene Rodenberry, the creator of Star Trek, considered that one day there would be a United Federation of Planets, with Earth as a member. He considered that on Earth there would be no wars, we would all live together in peace, helping each other. Perhaps one day we will achieve that and I hope we will, but I’ll not hold my breath on that one right now.

So how do we manage through these times? I know the difference that it has made to me being able to remain in contact with friends over the past eighteen months. Also having people around me has been and still is a blessing. Some might say not an ideal scenario, a Care Home with some inmates who have dementia, but they each have their individuality and character, even if they do present difficulties for the Carers sometimes. Dementia it seems affects folk in different ways, some more than others. I know some inmates crave attention like two-year old children, with them as the centre of the Universe and wanting everything revolving around themselves, but they are treated calmly, politely, gently but firmly and rarely do we hear any temper tantrums! For those of you on the ‘outside’ who have been unable to go to work, ways have been found around that issue and I believe many are enjoying the freedom that provides. But keeping in touch with folk is vital, as I keep saying. There are groups that meet online via ‘Zoom’ or similar, they might be sewing or knitting circles, computer clubs, I know one group who recently held their annual general meeting online as it was the only way. I have been on a few calls with the student groups that I am connected with at Leicester Medical School but we are all done now for their summer break. I am a member of a local u3a group and whilst I haven’t been doing too much with them due to my health, I am doing what I can. A friend of mine is learning a language, just as I am doing, for me it is slow going but still fun. I mentioned this in January and I am still keeping on with it! That actually pleases me as I wondered if I might lose interest, but it really does seem that the more we learn, the more we find there is to learn. It can be seen as a huge jigsaw puzzle, with seemingly unrelated pieces dropping into place and all of a sudden you see part of a picture emerging! That is how it seems to me, anyway.

On a more personal note it has been relatively hot here recently and I have not been at my best, in fact a doctor was called. I have been on a course of antibiotics, I am having soothing creams applied to the parts I cannot easily reach (well, I am in a Care Home!) and a dear friend did ask me one time if it was the soothing cream or the soothing touch as it was being applied that I enjoyed! I have not replied to her on that one!!! So I have been taking things a bit easy. It means that this week’s writing may be slightly shorter than usual, but I already have ideas for next week.

For now…
I don’t dream that often, but just remember – when you dream in colour, it’s a pigment of your imagination.

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Health, Safety And Security

In 1969 I left school and began working for Post Office Telephones. Right from the day that I started I had to learn about such things as health, safety and security. I was taught where to find out the details of these things and this was in addition to being trained how to do my job. We held a copy of the relevant instructions in our office and for a few years one part of my job included keeping our paper copies kept up to date, filing the updates and destroying the old items securely. It meant that I could learn of the changes as they occurred. I knew the details of the various buildings, I learned the basic structure, layout and hierarchy of people and places. In those days we didn’t have computers in the office, no Internet, our work was all on paper. As a result there were many different forms, some of them dating back to World War II, when a department within the UK Government called the Ministry of Works was formed in order to organise the requisitioning of property for wartime use. After the war, the ministry kept responsibility for government building projects. In 1962 it was renamed the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, and acquired the extra responsibility of monitoring the government building industry as well as taking over the works departments from the War Office, Air Ministry and the Admiralty. Then in 1970 the ministry was absorbed into the Department of the Environment (DoE), although from 1972 most former works functions were transferred to the largely autonomous Property Services Agency (PSA). As I write, I can still imagine Sir Humphrey Appleby from the ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ tv series delighting in all these changes! Sadly I can still remember many of the forms I used from those days, so clearly my training was well done. It meant that I was a Civil Servant, for a few months at least and when the Post Office became a Corporation on October 1, 1969 it seemed the majority of the rules and regulations we all had to follow didn’t change. I was bound by the Official Secrets Act and I still am, even though I stopped being in the employ of British Telecom after July 31, 2007. Time passed, technology progressed and a few years later much of my work entailed filling in many pre-printed cards which were then sent to a computer centre for processing. After a couple of years I was moved to a different department, still filling in forms by hand, just different ones. But a while later forms were discarded and computers took their place, which pleased a few folk as me being left-handed, my writing wasn’t the best! With all these computer terminals, for security reasons a ‘grade’ structure was still in place and each person was given their own key which plugged in to the terminal. This was to determine the level of access the user was allowed. Some keys allowed data entry, whilst others enabled backup and some other system features. It was all very well done. In time systems changed and this old key system was discarded. Also in my early days, first-line managers and those above were addressed formally, especially my own manager who was an ex-army major. In his eyes, rules were meant to be followed and orders obeyed without question but then perhaps politely enquired about afterwards, as a training exercise. He was someone who expected you to be alert to his commands at all times and that taught me a great deal. It was also where I learned that if something was wrong, to always speak up. If I saw it and didn’t say anything, let’s just say that it wasn’t in my best interest! For quite a while even office furniture was provided in the old Civil Service manner, so it amused me that where I worked, the basic grade (Clerical Assistant) was allowed a chair without arms, whilst the grade above (Clerical Officer) was allowed a chair with arms. Senior managers had larger desks, too. When I first started work, the site where my office was consisted of the telephone exchange, the adjacent office building and a yard that had a postal sorting office. But then Post Office Telephones became separated from the postal side and the old postal yard had a new building erected on it when the telephone exchange needed to be expanded. Peterborough itself was growing and new settlements meant more telephones as well as equipment to handle the extra call traffic. Within the complex we had a good Safety Officer, though some folk weren’t always too happy to see him as he ensured that rules were strictly followed. It is where I learned about such things as the foolishness of propping open fire doors with fire extinguishers! But we still see that occurring. Whilst I was working for the firm there were fire drills and on occasions the alarms would sound but our exit to one staircase would be deliberately blocked. So our fire warden would lead us to the alternative fire exit. These drills were and still are very important, as one day they could be for real and lives saved.

Most if not all of us have travelled at various times by land, sea or air, when we take driving lessons we are made aware of the many signs and signals. Those of us who have travelled by air are aware of the safety drills that are shown to us as the aircraft is making its way out to the runway, like wearing safety belts, no smoking and emergency exits. On all trains there are many, even numerous safety signs, but I am unsure whether too many people pay them all that much attention. I have noticed the changes in routines on trains, as over a period of time technology has required alterations to train staff procedures when both approaching and leaving stations. Carriage doors are now kept secure and locked until the train is at a standstill and locked a good few seconds before the train can then leave for its next stop. It isn’t so long ago that the doors could still be opened manually even after a train had begun to move, thus enabling passengers to scramble on at the very last minute, but I am not aware of that being allowed nowadays! I have already written in previous blog posts about my lovely cruise, but one of the things which impressed me with that cruise was the care and efficiency that everything was done. It seemed that everyone had a dual role, in some cases a triple role for getting passengers and their luggage along with the various provisions on board, then getting passengers to their cabins and looking after them, as well as what to do when assisting passengers ashore. Staff would also know what to do in emergencies. It seems that cruises may be starting up again, but I think we still need to be careful as travelling to and from some countries is not easy at the moment. During our present difficulties, getting bored can be a bit of a problem and there is an old saying that “The devil makes work for idle hands” so I try to keep occupied. We all know that the more we learn, the more we find there is to learn and I have mentioned before how it was that my parents taught me to keep busy and to learn, thus doing the things that I enjoyed. It is still the same now and I am enjoying all this writing! But I am researching too, still learning, sometimes reminding myself as well as others of times past. We can so easily allow things from our past to be forgotten. We say that when a loved one passes away, they are never truly gone whilst at least one person remembers them and the good they did, whether they were our parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends or neighbours. I saw the other day on Facebook how one person was asking what to me was a simple thing that I thought everyone would know, but they really did not. Then I recalled a time when students I had been talking to about early computers began to question my recollection of the memory capacity on my very first home computer. It genuinely was 1k, or 1,024 bytes! But as with all these things, old knowledge and skills can so easily be lost. In terms of knowledge, much is written down but skills, tips, tricks that we might never think of should surely be shared with others. For example there is a really clever trick to maintaining the accuracy of the striking clock in St. Stephen’s Tower, which is situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. A great many people still refer to it as Big Ben, even though that is actually the nickname for the Great Bell within the tower. The original name of this tower was simply the Clock Tower but it was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The trick relates to placing old coins on the clock mechanism as balance weights to keep the time accurate. These are coins used prior to the decimalisation of UK currency which took place on February 15, 1971 and it seems the weight of these old coins works perfectly! To me, this sort of knowledge and skill needs to be remembered. Memory is important and we do find individual ways of remembering things. I know that I am going a bit ‘off subject’ here, but I feel it is very well worth me mentioning at this point that on Facebook I see what at first seem to be innocuous questions being asked and it is good that we remember these things. But revealing the name of your first pet or similar items of information is not something I approve of as these are often used as ‘security’ questions when changing website passwords! Especially your mother’s maiden name. Something to perhaps be mindful of please.

Security Questions

As part of my research I have found more and more ‘live’ online web cams, cameras showing places all around this beautiful world. Some of these are dedicated to specific interests like train spotting, others are for security but many are just there for folk to simply watch and even chat with each other. One I have found shows the hovercraft service from Ryde on the Isle of Wight to the mainland and even there a very strict, safe and secure process is followed. On arrival from the mainland, the passenger exit gate remains closed until the twin fan blades on the engines of the hovercraft come to a complete stop. When all is secure, the hovercraft’s hatches are opened and the passengers are allowed to disembark. Then about five minutes before the craft is due to depart back to the mainland, the next set of passengers are allowed to leave the departure lounge and get on board. At the correct time, the hatches are closed and inspected. When all is secure, a siren is sounded from the craft. A member of staff walks to a point where they are a safe distance from the rear of the hovercraft and they can see there is nothing behind it. A signal is given, the engines are started, the twin fans rotate, and then the craft raises itself into the hover and slides over the beach and onto the sea, where it departs across the water to the mainland. Sadly it is easy to forget a simple routine and that can be when accidents occur. It is often something just as simple as a cloth to clean up water from a wet floor as soon as it is seen. I am sure we all know 999 as the telephone number of the emergency services here in the UK as well as 111, the NHS Helpline number. We are glad of them when they are needed, which is usually when we least expect it.

Emergency Services UK Distribution

Whichever office I worked in, I tried to make sure I kept up to date with the changes in the processes and procedures, knowing where the emergency exits were and who to contact. In fact there were times when audits were done when I would be called upon to talk one-to-one with an auditor. I would be asked what I would do in this or that circumstance, who I would advise if necessary and where would I go to find out the correct procedure. I was able to do that. There was one occasion when I saw a person walking along an office corridor who I did not know and who was not displaying any identification, not even a ‘visitor’ badge. Although visitors were not supposed to wander unaccompanied around that building anyway! So I politely stopped him and asked who he was. His reply was a rather rude “Don’t you know who I am?”. I assured him that I did not and he said he wanted to talk to my manager about me. I assured him that suited me and off we went. I politely escorted him to my manager’s desk, explained why I had brought this person to my manager’s attention and he thanked me. For all I knew, the person I had stopped might have been doing a security check of the building! Time passes, I still see some silly instances where folk haven’t done what I know they should have, most times without incident but occasionally with tragic consequences. With me now being in a Care Home and recovering from heart problems as well as this Covid-19 business I have kept myself occupied. Sadly it seems that some folk here simply let our beautiful world turn, they let time pass, some not able to distinguish when it is time for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. So it is a stressful time for the Carers, making sure that everyone is attended to in as polite and dignified way as possible. Our needs are different, mine are not perhaps as demanding as some of the other inmates, but I am having to come to terms with the fact that I do need help at times. All of the staff here manage very well, making sure that our individual needs are attended to. Most of all though our health, safety and security are maintained. Though it was frustrating for me when the Internet service here stopped working for a little while! So I went for ‘Plan B’. I read a book and listened to some music! Services were restored after a while.

It is now June, so it will not be too long before the longest day reaches this part of our world and the days begin to grow shorter once more. To me our lives are a continuing journey and as I sit looking out of the window to the gardens below, I am reminded of the following:
“A flower does not know the lives it brightens, but it shares its life with all who wish to enjoy its splendour.” ~ Unknown.

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