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Winter’s Shadowy Fingers (vi) – and Football Programmes!

I’ve been a bit knackered this week. I started back at work, which is always a shock to the system. That tree I mentioned three years ago – I’ve been blogging for three years? – is looking a bit peaky; but perhaps it always does. Time for reading has fallen drastically.

But I’ve been busy on another count. The man in charge of the East Fife programme has asked me to write an article to appear in the issue for our game there next Saturday (27th Aug) which got me irrationally excited.

I’ve splurged out 1203 words and I’ll need to cut it for publication. So that’s my weekend gone.

(Well I may go to Brechin today but the prospects aren’t good.)

Pensioned Off

As part of the Government’€™s response to the financial crisis they have introduced an acceleration of the already planned increase in the age of retirement (or, rather, of the age when entitlement to a state pension begins.) Okay, people are living longer and thus pensions will eventually cost more overall – but in the short term, when unemployment is swinging upwards, and doesn’t look set to fall any time soon, it seems counter-productive to me to reduce the opportunities for youngsters to get a job by making potential retirees stay on in their posts. Of course the posts may just be left unfilled anyway, making things worse still.

Among all this there has been a lot of talk in government and newspaper circles about “€œfeather-bedded”€ public service pensions.

Let’s be clear about this. The vast majority of public service employees are by no means well paid. [There may be exceptions in the police, the very highest echelons of the Civil Service, judges and Army, Navy and Air Force officers (as opposed to squaddies, ratings and aircraftmen/women.) Even these remain dwarfed by the salaries and bonuses of company executives and the bankers who got us into the present financial straits yet somehow still continue to benefit while the rest of us pay the price.]

In effect public provision has for years been got on the cheap. Any pension entitlement accrued during public employment was some sort of a recompense for this low pay. Yet it seems this explicit contract is to be cast aside.

Here I quote the view of a former public servant (taken from his blog which is private, for legal reasons.)

I think I was fortunate to retire from the Civil Service when I did, in respect that the pension arrangements are more or less what was promised throughout the 30 years that I worked in the Civil Service.

However for some of those still employed, the retirement age is about to be increased, the employee contributions are about to be increased, and the rate of the annual pension is about to be decreased.

So it looks like lose/lose all round.

And of course something had to be done, because the arithmetic currently doesn’t add up. People are living longer and the Exchequer apparently cannot afford to pay the levels of pensions previously guaranteed. Well, so they say.

I do not know all the ins and outs – but just let me say this – every single year while I was employed in the Civil Service the Trade Unions submitted a pay claim -€“ and every single year it was rejected by the Government, whether Labour or Tory – and every time they rejected the claim for a pay increase equal to or above the rate of inflation they justified the rejection by pointing out that the employees had generous pension arrangements. In other words, you cannot expect to get a pay increase anywhere near the private sector because you’€™ve got a comfortable pension, which in general people employed in the private sector don’€™t. And in general most civil servants accepted that reasoning as being broadly fair.

But it seems that all these years of civil servants being comparatively underpaid are now conveniently forgotten. Now there’s a pay freeze and the comfortable pension is being removed.

Let me give you a practical illustration of what I mean -€“ when I was a prosecutor in Glasgow, for example, it was a daily occurence for me to appear in a Trial court where there may have been as many as ten trials set down. Each accused person would have a different solicitor. Thus I was potentially responsible for conducting ten separate trials, while each solicitor was responsible for one trial each. I was a civil servant paid directly from the public purse via a civil service salary. Each of the solicitors were private sector workers paid from the public purse via the legal aid system. Every single one of the solicitors was paid far more in legal aid fees than I was in salary, even though much of their time was spent sitting doing nothing while waiting their turn for trial. I as the prosecutor, on the other hand, was involved in every single trial. So, at least in the court context, I was doing far more work for far less pay.

But I had a pension.

One more thing.

For teachers it used to be the case, and may still be, that, actuarially, they would die within three years of retirement if they stayed teaching till aged 65. (In effect they never got back the money they had paid in to the pension scheme.) If retiring earlier – with the concomitant reduction in pension since their total contributions and thus entitlement will be smaller – they could expect to live for a few years more. It follows that, if the age of retirement for teachers is raised, more will die before really benefiting from even the reduced pension it is proposed to allow them than if things are left as they are now.

Neat trick that.

Working In A Winter Wonderland

My workplace was badly disrupted by the recent snow but the surroundings were lovely when we resumed on Tuesday.

I was a day too late taking these photos. The trees still had snow on them on Wednesday but I’d forgotten the camera. By Thursday it had fallen off.

I took all these from inside so you can see reflections of lights in the window glass.

This is a view to the main road (all but blocked by abandoned cars for most of the week.) The jannies* had done a great job clearing the car park.

Snow had fallen from the higher roof here onto the lower one causing a lot of damage.

There were some nice icicles hanging around.

The Christmas tree looks a little forlorn here. There is actually a pond in this picture.

A couple of courtyards now. The first has some snow covered pergolas. By Friday all the snow had gone.

*Scottish diminutive for janitor. For those from the south who don’t know what one is a janitor is a caretaker.

Season Of Mists

The past couple of weeks car windows in my street have had condensation on them when I left the house. This doesn’t usually happen in August.

This morning (1st Sep) bang on cue the first mist of the autumn was hanging around. I’d have called it a haar but it persisted all the way to Dunfermline; haar usually only lies close to the coast and Dunfermline tends to avoid it.

Whether this presages another bad winter like last year I don’t know. I do know it’s not usually so cold so early.

The tree at work I have mentioned before is showing its autumn colours again. Mind you, it wasn’t looking too green even in June.

Winter woollies, then.

Short Commons

What with family birthdays, work retiral dos and a football extravaganza all ongoing at the moment I may not be posting overmuch in the next week or so.

Friday On My Mind 1. Friday On My Mind

The Branch Manager at my workplace had the thought that we workers weren’t having enough fun (thank you David Brent) and came up with the glorious idea of having a competition. We were to name our favourite 1960s hit – that is no purely album tracks were allowed – and pay £1 for the privilege of entering it.* A committee was formed to adjudicate the results. The winner was announced and played over the tannoy – wait for it – after work on the day we broke up for Easter. Some fun!

Runner-up was the now ubiquitous but at the time relatively ignored Hi-Ho Silver Lining as by The Jeff Beck Group. It came second to Daydream Believer by the Monkees. You’ll have guessed I wasn’t on the committee. I will admit to a softish spot for the Monkees but Daydream Believer is a bit twee.

Anyway this all got me to thinking which song I would have considered. I soon realised that choosing just one is impossible but if I had to it would probably be Rupert’s People’s Reflections of Charles Brown but really it depends on the mood I’m in.

I’ve already featured a lot of 1960s songs here and any of them could have been contenders. So pick one from Rainbow Chaser, Tiny Goddess or Pentecost Hotel by the true Nirvana, the real Nirvana (see my category and scroll down.)
Or there’s America by The Nice, with which I started off my prog rock musings, plus their The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon – even if it was a B-side – and The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack,
The Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and Get Me To The World On Time (both here,)
The Small Faces’ Tin Soldier,
The Who’s I’m A Boy,
Python Lee Jackson’s In A Broken Dream,
Procol Harum’s Homburg,
R Dean Taylor’s Gotta See Jane and Indiana Wants Me.
I would also have included Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues if it hadn’t been turned into a cliché by excessive re-releasing and overplay.

That’s most, but not all, of the 1960s songs I’ve mentioned before.

But there is a host more, of which I have fond memories and which I might have chosen.

So to start what may be a regular series this is The Easybeats and Friday On My Mind.

*Edited to add:- The money collected was to be split two to one between the respective submitters of the winner and the runner-up.

Back To Work

I don’t know why it is but I always seem to have less time for doing stuff when I am on holiday.
Partly this is because I set the alarm for later and tend to have a lie-in (note: this is never called a lay-in, even the tin-eared do not say that) beyond the time it goes off.
I also relax and mooch around a bit.

It’s worse at Christmas and New Year, though, because the time always gets taken up, by last minute shopping, making sure we have enough milk and bread etc for the two days the supermarkets are closed for – only one day over New Year this year, surprisingly – and visiting family and the like.

So today it was back to work and it didn’t feel like I’d had a holiday at all. (I’m not asking for sympathy; I know shop workers had even less time off than me.)

On a cheerier note, the sky was brightening when I left the house, not something I could say was true of any time in December, so the mornings are certainly progressing in the right direction.
It was icy underfoot, though, not a typical occurrence outside Son Of The Rock towers. it had warmed up by the time I got home but tonight looks icy again.

It also snowed during the day in Dunfermline, but only a little. This made the surroundings brighter and cheerier. All that white on the rooftops seemed clean, somehow, and the air was clear. I could almost feel summer a-coming in.

(I suspect a lot more postponements between now and then though. They will cost us.)

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