In Between One England and Another

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I’M in between mountains at the moment. And I’m in between jobs. I’m in between a lot of stuff. If I wrote a book I’d call it The Inbetweener but I’d probably get sued. Today I’m going for a walk in between hills. I can see the North York Moors to the east and the Pennines to the west. I’m not going far, just out of the village in between dinner and tea – or lunch and dinner, whatever your preference . . .

I visited the job centre this morning. Actually, it’s called Jobcentre Plus these days, or Canolfan byd Gwaith in Welsh. My local Jobcentre Plus is stuck up an alley in Richmond. That’s the Richmond in North Yorkshire, not the other one down south.

It’s very pleasant and all the ladies who work there are very helpful. But I always leave the building feeling as if I live on the edge of a world where people speak a language that isn’t quite English and I’ve managed to detach myself from its gravitational pull with the greatest of efforts. Charlie Drake never had this problem.

That's the North York Moors in the distance. Or the Cleveland Hills, depending on where you come from

That’s the North York Moors in the distance. Or the Cleveland Hills, depending on where you come from

brettanby 3 brettanby 4 brettanby 5Here’s an example of what I mean. This is the first line of a job description:

This is a new post within the Council created to focus on identifying and developing projects to a ‘deliverable’ pipeline to be submitted for LEP, LEADER or other funding streams.

Don’t all rush at once for this job or you might tumble into the funding stream. That’s if you manage to survive the ‘deliverable’ pipeline. Me, I’m going for a walk between the hills, where the England I know is more certain of itself. But before I set off, here’s another example of distorted English taken from another job description:

The Digital team will work in collaboration with other channels allowing customers the channel of choice for managing their investments and planning for the future. I am seeking an innovative, creative individual who thinks outside the box to develop and implement the corporate web strategy and online presence.

I sort of know what this means but I could condense it into half the words. Someone gets paid for writing – sorry, churning out – stuff like this. If you ask me they require a dedicated strategy for delivering an elevating force to their individual or collective and collaborative posteriors.

And another thing: a “creative individual who thinks outside the box”. That’s a bit 1990s isn’t it? A bit David Brent? “Thinking outside the box”. “Ballpark figures”. “Crunching numbers”. Hey, the world has moved on. Wake up and smell whatever you want to smell so long as it isn’t coffee.

The post always gets through

The post always gets through

brettanby 7 brettanby 8 brettanby 9If you’ve reached this point in the post you will have noticed that the photographs are not linked in any way to the text. There is a valid reason for this. When we walk our minds are usually tuned to different wavelengths. We think of a multitude of subjects. This doesn’t count if you’re balancing on the crest of Striding Edge in a gale or caught in a white-out on Ben Macdui because your attention will be focused on your immediate surroundings.

But when you’re between hills in rural North Yorkshire enjoying a jaunt on a fine August day, as I am, your mind penetrates some bizarre corners.

Old Brick 1. Eldon is a pleasant rural village on the edge of Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Old Brick 1. Eldon is a pleasant rural village on the edge of Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Old Brick 2: The Pease family built Darlington, apparently with their own bricks

Old Brick 2: The Pease family built Darlington, apparently with their own bricks

brettanby 13 brettanby 14So, just for the record, I’ve set off from Barton, which lies in a pleasant hollow between Richmond and Darlington, taking the old A1 to Newton Morrell, and I’ve cut across fields on a track to Clowbeck Farm, where the A1M – the Great North Road – passes beneath a motorway bridge.

brettanby 15Anyway, that’s enough of that. How do you fancy holding down a job that advertises this as one of its prime duties:

To develop and establish a dynamic channel which delights customers as demonstrated by strong customer satisfaction scores.

I expect it’s a doddle. My customer satisfaction scores would be clattering up three bells and three cherries before I got warmed up. What about this gem:

Manage input quantity, quality and timeliness in line with website governance.

Really, truly, it’s all bollocks. There is no other word for it. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. These people are having us on. The business world thrives on this sort of stuff. The men and women pulling the strings eat it, drink it and breathe it. Our destiny is in the hands of David Brent. He is real and he is out there. And the scary thing is that I’ve got to send him my CV and ask him for a job.

brettanby 16 brettanby 17 brettanby 18 brettanby 19Back to the walk. I stand for 35 minutes on the motorway bridge, watching traffic rumble along the Great North Road. Even here I’m still in between things. In between the road signs and the white lines; in between London and Edinburgh, England and Scotland, past and future, history and destiny, Yes and No. I’m singing the road sign white line song. Sorry, I’ve strayed into a Melanie Safka lyric there. Remind me to sing it to you some time.

But across the bridge lies a more structured country. It’s productive and its roots are in earth not fluff. Harvesters roar through barley fields in clouds of dust. Tractors chug. Seagulls feed on newly-ploughed earth. Berries ripen.

I consider, as an exercise into broadening my skills base and extending my employment potential, hailing one of the many passing tractors and asking the driver how I could orchestrate economically sound alignments and enthusiastically redefine my monotonectally predominate viral solutions in the immediate rural interface but he’d probably tell me to eff off. So I don’t.

Instead, I walk paths I’ve been walking for the past 18 years but never photographed. And I learn something. I learn that if you carry a camera along familiar routes you see new things because you’re looking for new things. You observe your world through fresh eyes.

brettanby 20 brettanby 21 brettanby 22 brettanby 23 brettanby 24 brettanby 25 brettanby 26And today it is more real than ever before. There are crab-apples and sloes and elderberries and a horse shoe stuck on a post. And a pile of bricks with old names embossed in fired clay. And a dead tractor in a barn and another decomposing in a field. And an old iron bath left out in a farmyard.

And I catch the scent of newly-cut hawthorn. Hedges have been trimmed and the sap is on the breeze. It’s as English a smell as lawn clippings, fish and chips, and varnished school halls on the first day after the summer holidays.

That's a noose on the right. This is rural North Yorkshire after all

That’s a noose on the right. This is rural North Yorkshire after all

brettanby 28 brettanby 29 brettanby 30 brettanby 32 brettanby 33 brettanby 34 brettanby 35 brettanby 36I recross the Great North Road on another bridge to complete my loop through rural North Yorkshire. No mountains today but I’ve enjoyed the experience – and that’s what matters.

brettanby 37Now I must go home to rewrite my CV because, I’ve been told, the business community is horrendously ageist and any dates or references to periods spent in employment that might convey the impression I am over 30 must be deleted. The business community is also incredibly thick, apparently. O-levels should be referred to as GCEs because then there is a chance they can be misread as GCSEs – the modern equivalent.

That’s the Jobcentre Plus telling me this. Suits me. If a government department wants to pander to the deficiencies and prejudices of a stratum of society that can’t read or write the English language then that’s not my problem.

By the way, if you’re new to this blog and you’re a prospective employer in the work-related arena, and you’re in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to engaging suitable staff resources – I’m 29, multi-functionalised, and I absolutely adore actively embracing client-centric methodologies. Let’s open the kimono and peel the onion, buddy.

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist (recently made redundant from The Northern Echo when my job and the jobs of my colleagues were transferred to Wales to be done by people on lower wages), former shipyard electrician, former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in Cleveland Way, Climbing, Footpaths, Great North Road, Hiking, Jargon, Life, Mountains, Ranting, Redundancy, Ruins, Teesdale, Unemployment, Walking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to In Between One England and Another

  1. Ash says:

    Well, you’ve done it again! I laughed almost all the way through that! My wife wondered what was going on; I’m usually so quiet when sitting at my desk! Our evening meal was delayed as she came & read over my shoulder. It’s always a good way to begin a meal, with laughter I mean; it wasn’t a FB pie I’m afraid but there were lashings of onions. Wonderful!

    • McEff says:

      Hi Ash. Thanks for that. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It gives me a great deal of pleasure if I manage to raise a chuckle or two. Shame about the pie, though. It’s a while since I’ve had one and the mere mention has stirred a yearning in me.
      All the best, Alen

  2. That’s an absolutely brilliant post – I laughed most of the way through it – and you’re absolutely right – it is a load of bollocks nowadays the world of employment isn’t it! I’m really not looking forward to looking for my part-time jobs in retirement (so I’ll be able to afford to feed myself) after reading that. It’s many years since I was in a job centre and at least job requirements were short, brief and written in plain English back then! It looks awful now.

    Apart from that, those photos really illustrate how much we DON’T look around us when we’re on familiar ground. A superbly varied set of photos there and all interesting. Still wondering about the horseshoe on the gatepost though?
    Carol.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Carol. Part-time jobs in retirement? You can’t be that hard-up! Blimey, think of all the time you’ll have for wandering the hills.
      Job centres are weird these days. Everyone is nice but you have to prove you are actively looking for work by keeping a log on a government website of every single thing you do. I find this more than a little insulting seeing I was made redundant by forces beyond my control. But at least life’s less stressful these days.
      Yes, I thought I’d take the camera on more of my local walks. I really did look at things differently and saw my small world in a new light. I’m wondering about the horseshoe as well. Perhaps there’s a horse limping round with a shoe missing after catching it’s hoof on the fence while jumping over it!
      Cheers, Alen

      • Retirement will leave time for wandering the hills but I’ll need lots of money to get to them!

        Job-hunting really does seem a nightmare nowadays…

        • McEff says:

          I’m finding job hunting a bewildering experience. The job centre staff are helpful and encouraging, but the system is designed to shove people into holes, irrespective of the shape of the people and the shape of the holes. There is also a kind of inbuilt assumption – and this shows in the literature that’s handed out – that because a person is unemployed the type of work he or she will be looking for is low-skilled or semi-skilled.
          And then you come up against the jargon, which is what this post is about. It is not uncommon to read through an entire job description of several hundred words and not have the faintest idea of what the job entails. It really is a problem. But there you go.

  3. Mjollnir says:

    Another witty post cuz. Just remember your own words – it’s all bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. I used to inhabit that corporate bullshit world for a few years and I sure as hell don’t miss it. My ‘mission statement’ (puke!) is to say to the lot of ‘em the same as the tractor driving farmer would’ve said to you. Good luck with finding a job but hopefully not for the vacuous, jargon driven tarts who inhabit corporation-land :-D

    • McEff says:

      Ah, kinsman, I’d forgotten about mission statements. What’s all that about then? Nothing more than a load of meaningless words written by self-important nonentities and then completely ignored by everyone else in the company. The waste that’s generated by corporate jargon must run into billions every year.
      If I find a good job I’ll let you know. But I’ve a feeling they are few and far betweeen.
      All the best, Alen

  4. Hanna says:

    “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” was it you or Nietzsche :-)
    Many job advertisements and recommended designs of CVs are like bad illusions. Everyone knows it’s a sham, but accept it for lack of better.
    Thank you for the excellent introduction to David Brent.
    We are also thinking out of the box in Denmark, starting in 2001, we are behind in points :grin:
    All the best,
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      I can’t tell a lie, Hanna, it was Nietzsche – although he did leave a comment on one of my posts once. You’re right about the CVs as well. Every time I have an interview with a different advisor at the job centre I’m advised to present my CV in a different format. I’m now on to my fourth version – the “targeted CV”. It is advisable to add a sprinkling of “power words”, and these are supplied. So the job centre is, in its attempts to be helpful, fuelling the corporate jargon by arming the unemployed with superfluous adjectives which, in turn, encourages managerial types to dream up more ways to corrupt the language. Is it the same in Denmark?
      The David Brent character was so successful on British TV because he was so real. He is hideous and scary and embarrassing – and sad. Everyone has worked with a David Brent, and so everyone knows him. Executive circles are full of David Brents. It’s a strange old world.
      Cheers, Alen

      • Hanna says:

        You ask if it’s the same in Denmark, Alen. Maybe it’s worse. When the right-wing government came to power they introduced a significantly privatised employment and activation in 2002 and generated a significant market for private actors.
        Studies have demonstrated that private actors have not been cheaper, but rather two or three times more expensive.
        It has been a big circus where many resources went to the wrong people. Instead of prioritising training for the people who were unemployed on the basis of little or no training.
        As for CV there are lots of stories about people who learnt to put the CV on a right formal. In order to do so they met in on a seven-day course where they had to learn what animal they were. It enabled them to find the right job, and not least put the right words on their CV. The private sector grew rich on their ingenuity, but it did not help the unemployed.
        It has improved with Helle Thorning behind the wheel :-)

  5. Jo Woolf says:

    Oh dear, Alen, I feel your pain but you still made me laugh! :) It was opening the kimono and peeling the onion that really got me. I am going to live with that mental image all day. But I sympathise so much with your predicament because at various stages in my life I’ve been looking at jobs and reading their descriptions or jumping through their online hoops, and wondering if the people who devise this stuff are human. What gets me is the online application form that lists the desired ‘competencies’ and then expects you to describe scenarios where you’ve demonstrated that particular skill. I usually leave it unfinished and decide I’d rather clean toilets (probably a bit rash) then I receive notification emails every day, saying, “Dear Mrs Woolf, we see your application is still pending and you have X days to finish it.” They give up after a bit.
    But don’t let them get to you! Don’t put yourself in any boxes. I would follow your own instincts when it comes to job applications. Love your photos, by the way! I hope the walk was good for the soul.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Jo. You’ve given me my first laugh of the day. The kimono and the onion phrases were two separate biz-speak buzz phrases that when strung together do conjure up a rather unfortunate image. Just don’t form a mental picture of Duncan Bannatyne or Michael O’Leary whispering them optimistically as you enter a hotel room.
      I have a theory that some of this stuff is generated by computer, not people. There are satirical websites that convert English into business speak and I had a happy hour playing with one before I wrote the piece. This is it here: http://www.atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html
      Hunting for jobs is a strange experience having not done it since the late 80s, but the ladies in Richmond are very nice and they do their best. And no, I won’t be shoved into a box. I’d go busking on the streets first. Not that I’m any good at that, mind.
      Cheers, Alen

      • Jo Woolf says:

        It scares me that there are websites out there called ‘bs generators’!! Who sets them up? Probably some bored commuter on his way to work. I know who Duncan Bannatyne is but I had to google Michael O’Leary and then the penny dropped and all was revealed, in all its onion-ness, as it were.

        • McEff says:

          They might be set up by people like me who became totally disillusioned with the world of work at the age of 17 and never recovered. Only I wouldn’t have a clue how to set up a website like that. This one stretches my technical know-how.
          Cheers, Alen

          • Jo Woolf says:

            Haha, quite probably! Don’t under-estimate yourself though. I am currently struggling with the SEO on Colin’s site. I woke up yesterday thinking I was an SEO expert and the illusion hasn’t worn off yet.

    • McEff says:

      You have a knack of straying into strange corners of the internet, Danny. Actually, there are some clever images on that video. The one with the woman covered in red paint and the zebra hand are exceptional.
      I also got sidetracked into the similar videos that come up at the end. I didn’t realise raw onion juice is a hair stimulant. I don’t need this myself but there might be men, and possibly women, out there who might benefit from a look.
      All the best, Alen

  6. Tynemouth Gnice..Gaunice.Bollocks I can’t spell Gneisenau..Ime fed up with this Enigma lark! But never mind..re the Labour Exchange…just tell them you are a trained Zeppelin Sticher,as I did and the money keeps pouring in!(if they get a bit stroppy…say you are left-handed…that means they’re completed buggered) As to meaningless bumf we used to have a library but it is now the People’s First Centre.(The local paper has to put library after it in brackets so we know what it is,and where it is)Our Council now meets in a ‘Cabinet’ is this a big wardrobe? Even the school bus is labelled Scholars (i.e over fives)Then Undergraduates (i.e under elevens) and PHds for 11 plus and Profs. For anybody over11 ! This must stop forthwith.(Our bus just used to say ‘Out of Service’and the driver drove despite a contnious ringing of the stop button) All the best. Peter.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Peter. I see you’re on good form, as usual. I rather fancy adding Zeppelin Stitcher to my CV and I could probably blag my way through an interview because I used to work for Vickers, which built the R100 – the sister airship to the R101, which crashed in France and killed nearly everyone on board. Unfortunately I am right-handed, but I’ve learnt to live with it.
      Thanks for the laugh. I get the impression there’s never a dull moment in Tynemouth. Remind me never to catch a bus when I’m up there.
      All the best, Alen

  7. rthepotter says:

    Bollocks, yes, but coded bollocks – they are looking for people who will at least pretend to believe all the bs and want to be one of the group. In other words, can you say ‘Shibboleth’? – The jargon is recent, but the technique is hoary with age…
    Commiserations, as a sense of humour is probably a disadvantage when looking for any work these days. On the other hand, your blog readers will love you :)

    • McEff says:

      You’ve hit a nail on its head there, Mrs P. In other words, if you don’t speak the language then you’re not one of us – you are an outsider and therefore we don’t want you. Outsiders can be a threat to the system and upset the equilibrium.
      I’ll go along with that. I shall retain my humour and sanity, an remain on the outside.
      Cheers, now, Alen

  8. Liz Adams says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I grew up in north Yorks, up on the moors near Captain Cook’s monument, then on Teesside, and haven’t been in the UK for, ah, 50 years….but these scenes really made me misty. I could name all the wild plants and shrubs in your post! remember elderberry picking as a little kid, and learning which berries were elders and which were poisonous.

    And my brother’s first job in journalism, before he went on to other papers, was the Echo! he was their, I think, Northallerton correspondent for a while! anyway, I’ve signed up to follow you, and totally agree with the notion of taking your camera. Just having it there alerts you to all kinds of interesting items and details.

    And here’s hoping you land on your feet in the job world, gads, it’s tough.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Liz. Thanks for that. I’m glad I stirred some memories. You’ve given me an idea for a post there. I’ve done a few articles on the North York Moors but never one on the hills around Captain Cook’s Monument, so I think I’m due a visit. I walked past it a long time ago while doing the Cleveland Way, but that was long before this blog was created.
      We used to pick elderberries as kids, for jam and such, and I have made wine out of them, but they seem to be neglected these days. I don’t suppose they are to everyone’s taste.
      I hope your brother flourished after leaving the Echo. I was made redundant on May 6 and I am absolutely flourishing, although without a job. But you can’t have everything.
      All the best, Alen

  9. I made a list of the names used on job websites for ‘catalogue distributor.’ You can call yourself a sales executive or remote customer accounts supervisor or retail distribution personnel. Just for posting Betterware catalogues through doors. I think a lot of the gobbledegook is used to disguise or hide the fact that the job is crap and low paid. (Competitive salary: competitive with what, China, Indonesia, Namibia?)

    Fortunately you have all that countryside to stroll into when you need a break.

    Chris
    (normally commenting via my other ‘Walking Diary’ blog)

    • McEff says:

      Hi Chris. Good to hear from you. Thanks for that contribution. Yes, that’s another angle to the jargon plague – grandiose titles for mundane jobs. And “competitive salary”. If it’s competitive, then we need to know with what it’s competing, otherwise the phrase is meaningless. But, really, we know what its competing with most of the time – the minimum wage or the lowest common denominator for that particular type of work. You have to laugh.
      All the best, Alen

  10. Hi Alen, my RSS feed failed, so I have some posts to read. I cannot believe the job descriptions you have had thrust at you. Bollocks is the right word. I have my own business and believe it or not we advertise for jobs using words like experienced, hard working, enthusiastic,- we must be doing it all wrong!! Seriously I do hope you get the right opportunity came along soon.

    All the best

    • McEff says:

      Hi Mark. Good to hear from you. Funnily enough I’ve had another run-in with the world of jobs advertising only today – so I can feel another post coming on. Keep on using proper words. The business world needs real people.
      All the best, Alen

  11. Thanks Alen, I will try to avoid David Brent speak!

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