An Office Life 8: Intermission

1) Learning the work.

Work is easy – find the pattern and fit in. Do the job better, faster, more effectively and cover all the bases; create space to do more. Everything that goes without saying. There are barriers to effective performance. Firstly there’s the employee: many aren’t in the right place – work is a lark or it’s an adjunct to a busy social life or a just a stepping stone to better money a career move… or maybe they feel life owes them a living. Then there can be impediments Continue reading

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An Office Life 7: Stock Take

When I started at Bell Woven (often contracted to Belwoven) textiles was still a significant employer in Lancashire. Although the writing was on the wall for functional specialisation and careers in it, there were still opportunities for those who looked around. Bell Woven was one of those. It was in a niche market but played correctly it was a haven from the meltdown in textiles. My boss told me that many companies had been offered an inducement to textile business wishing to get out; subsidies for Continue reading

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My Top Ten SF Spaceships

My Top Ten SF Spaceships

Let’s make this clear, no mention of SF is complete without Frank Herbert’s majestic Dune. Right that’s sorted. Let’s begin.

1) EE ‘Doc’ Smith: Skylark – Continue reading

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Revolution Day

Regime Change!

The cosy, smoke filled rooms of wannabe revolutionaries are fleshed out here to dwell on what happens after.
It’s South America; the revolution was fought and won long ago, consigning the evil dictator, Salgado, and his henchmen to the rubbish bin of history. You’ve won the revolution but what about the hearts and minds of those you purport to serve? No matter, because the country is rich Continue reading

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The Beast from the East

Due to job searching, a whingey, whiny letter to my local MP, a long drawn out struggle to revive my HTC Desire (‘optimising app’ loop anyone?), reviewing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Thuvia, Maid of Mars, reading + giving feedback on a first draft (SF-Magic-mash-up – Words to the Wise) plus the Beast from the East, the planned blog post reminiscing on my working life: Monthly Stock Takes is on hold (primarily for  Linkedin).  Continue reading

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An Office Life 6: Waste


What is waste? To my teenage self it was rusty bicycle chains, damaged wheels from cars, the occasional battered pram, tangled in rotting fabric, all smeared with orange metallic spill from upstream, the River Calder. The river was a tip. A journey up it was an adventure – why would any go there? Continue reading

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An Office Life 5: Temporary Short Time

Temporary Short Time Working Supplement

Who remembers that? In Bell Woven it ran from 1979 to 1982. By that time I’d been in their employment for 3 years. 3 yeas is a lifetime if it’s your first job – apart from paper rounds and spots of holiday work, this it was. Part of my daily rota included updating a splendid A0 size chart in the Managing Director’s office. I took pains to do this (a ten second operation) while he was out. Disturb the powerful at risk. His office was invariably guarded by Claire Mahoney, his Secretary. Offend her at your peril – I always checked it was okay to do my daily update with her first. Continue reading

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An Office Life 4: Form Design

Form Design (by hand)

One of the main issues in running a manual reporting system was form design. While at school, I’d taken price in my mathematical, logical approach to… well things. The thing is, this wasn’t adequate preparation for work, and particularly for the self-reliant aspects of office work. This, as will be seen, quickly circles back to form design. Continue reading

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Why are there no Aliens near Earth?

Why are there no aliens near Earth?

Firstly there’s a line to be drawn between the make believe of popular Science Fiction, and fact. Science Fiction shows Continue reading

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An Office Life 3: Office Routine + Jacquard Looms

Office Routine

It often seems the case that once you master a technique, you want to apply it everywhere. Harry – I started off calling him Mr. Braithwaite; even though he told me Harry was fine, I always felt more comfortable with good, old-fashioned Mr. Braithwaite – advised me to take the opportunity to build my speed on using the desktop calculator on the principle that:
i) as my daily routine involved at least 30 minutes of continuous calculator use very early on, any increase in speed would be more than just a one-off benefit. This embodied the principle of improving the efficiency of repetitious tasks. This of course left more time for other work (there was plenty of this).
ii) the skill of touch typing could be applied to a desk-top calculator – i.e. when pressing the keys, not referring to the calculator display and relying upon muscle memory.
I became a proficient user however that skill had to be relearned once we acquired a second calculator – for my use – its keys were configured differently – which of course jumps ahead.
Being keen of eye, I ended up designing most forms in the Work Study Office. These consisted of two sheets. The top copy was drawn and written upon with biro and ruler; this action – the second was coated with a layer of wax impregnated with the colour blue – would transfer coloured wax to the underside of the top copy which was then reproduced by Banda machine (a UK term for spirit duplication). The resulting forms were stored for daily, weekly or monthly issue. They were completed by hand, checked and photocopied for distribution. Occasionally the Managing Director’s Secretary, Claire Mahoney, would help in the preparation of type-written forms, should these have an external audience. To my young self, the Managing Director was a business god. Chief executives come and go, making no positive impact. John Martin Haggerty may have had his faults but they were more than made up for by charisma, charm, the ability to grasp the essential, and force of character.
My role quickly expanded to take on board calculation of the works bonus. Bonus was paid everyone in the business and, because of its financial significance, the records relating to it were maintained by my boss. The mechanism by which it was calculated was fairly straightforward as I soon discovered – my boss often made use of my mathematical acumen – I was quick, bright and accurate. The weariness brought on by the demands of an active social life, especially girlfriends, was a long way off.
Bonus was awarded at management discretion and, as its progress was declared weekly on the shop floor notice board, care was taken to ensure accuracy. My introduction to its calculation was gradual and audited by my boss. In two years I would be running it – parsimonious but fair to both firm and worker. A lot happened before then including:
• taking over the calculation of waste
• dealing with a legacy of misunderstanding the calculation of loom efficiencies.

Jacquard Looms

What did a loom look like? There are many kinds of loom. In the case of Belwoven the choices were between Needle, Rapier and Multi Shuttle. The latter used to be the standard for a quality label for jackets, shirts, suits, shirt, undergarments and especially haute couture. In constant contact with the skin it didn’t irritate. The days when customers used to cut out garment labels as on purchase aren’t that long ago. Multi shuttle looms are mostly obsolete but the two images below give an indication of their shape and scale, noting that looms used in Belwoven:
a) were around twice the width of these – this was to accommodate the number of shuttles which could range between 72 and 240.
b) didn’t require heated blades to melt and seal the fabric into separate strips
c) had a dual purpose wooden baton: it held not only the individual shuttles of weft but also the reed for each strip.
d) had individual roller bars for each strip
e) used jacquard punch-hole pattern sets to control the weave – which meant that unlike the overhead box was mechanical rather than electronic

Mel International Heat slit label loom

Mel International
Heat slit label loom

Muller Heat slit label loom

Heat slit label loom

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