From then to now … “The Only Way Is Up !”


The daily, weekly and monthly back-ups were a bit of a bind for most people, so as I had taken over the job, my popularity had begun to grow a little. However, this wasn’t to last. The scaling system for what was essentially junior office staff started with S1, then S1/2 then S3 followed by S4, S5 and S6. The S1 level was reserved for staff under the age of 18. These were very few and far between at this time, so most people in the Council were S1/2 or above. I had been there just over a year when the chap on the S3 level decided to leave. He wasn’t getting the promotion he expected and he had decided to go back to the private sector. This left an opening for 7 of us on the S1/2 scale.

I wasn’t going to apply, as I felt that 3 of the others had more experience than me and were probably better suited to the joOffice Deskb. It was one of the two Supervisors that told me to apply for a number of reasons, and it gave me food for thought. Then when the other Supervisor repeated the same reasons why I should apply, I decided to bite the proverbial and I completed the required application form (no CV’s in those days for the lower grades) and handed it in. I wasn’t expecting much, but knew that all internal applications were interviewed, so really I had nothing to lose. The interview went as well as could be expected and afterwards I felt that the manager may have gone a little easy on me. This was due to the comments the other 3 main rivals had made when they thought I was out of earshot. To cut a short story even shorter, I got the job and was due to start the following Monday. This, of course did not go down well with the other internal applicants, and it soon became clear that I was back to square one with, what were now the lower grades.

The main premise of the job was to be the first line answer to written correspondence about a parking ticket. An appeal letter would come in, it would be logged by one of the S1/2’s. They would also create a file for that correspondence, and it would be passed Excess Chargeto me. My job was then to read the letter, make a decision to progress it for payment, progress it higher or cancel the ticket. I would say about 95% of the appeals that came in failed with only 1 or 2 % going to a higher level. All the rest (3%) were cancelled.


TypistThe letter writing was something I had not seen before, although I understand that it was a standard practice. All replies were constructed using pre-written standard paragraphs with some even being standard letters. All I had to do was attach a piece of ‘scrap’ paper, with a series of letters and numbers ie P1, P4, P6 etc. This would then go with the file, to the typing pool who would type up the letter and return it for posting. There were no word-processing in those days. Most of the typists used huge Canon typewriters that had a little memory but nothing like what is in use today.

But I now had a little bit of faith that I could make it in an office situation.

From then to now … getting the hang of it


For the first few weeks, I felt a little out of place. All the team I was with, bar one had been office workers since leaving school and most of them had been with a Local Authority, so I was a bit of an oddity. Most of them couldn’t seem to get their heads around why, with the qualifications I had, would I want to work in an office. This was something that had been explained to us on the course and so I was expecting it. They soon got over it within a couple of weeks, and I settled down to become an “Officer of The Council” as we were called.

The briefcase was the first thing to be ditched, quickly followed by the fountain pen and dictionary. I had also bought a Rucksacksuit and I soldiered on with that for a couple of months. We shared our office floor with a couple of other sections of the Council and I soon discovered that literally nobody carried a briefcase. Most of the women had some form of shopping/tote bag to supplement their handbag , but the men didn’t seem to have bags at all. I still had my lunch and calculator to carry, so I needed something. I eventually dug out my old school bag, which was one of those thick canvas army types that we used to be able to get from the Army and Navy stores. Now what ever happened to them?

It had been noted at my interview, that I had an interest in computers and technology. This of course led to me being given a ‘very important job’. Everyday, at 4pm I was to  perform the database back-up. Because IBM Computerthere was two types of parking ticket (on-street and car parks) we had two computer systems. The reason for this was that back in 1986 the on-street parking service (parking meters) merged with the off-street car parks service. Each brought their own systems which were not compatible. So the off-street system (car parks) used Microsoft Windows 2.1 and a software package called DataEase, dBase 2 screenwhereas the on-street part of the team had an old IBM machine that ran a program called dBase. It also ran Wordstar and Supercalc, but we never used them. It was dBase 2 that we had, but it was not like the other system which had it’s own built in back-up routine. No with this one, you first had to ‘drop out’ of the database and jump to a ‘DOS prompt’ Then you had to ‘Setpath’ which basically told the computer where to look and then type the back-up command. This had to be exact and had the location of the file to be backed-up, and the location where it was to be backed-up to. You then had to verify the back-up by following a similar routine.

It took me a couple of months before I realised that I could write a batch file to do all the leg work. When it worked first IT Experttime, I was a hero. I had shaved a good 10 minutes of the time and it was far more accurate.. The only downside to this was that I was now the Parking Departments IT expert! Everything from changing the computer plug filing the back-up discs to replacing the printer toner was now my job. I even got asked to ‘have a quick look’ at the photocopier. Other staff started to come to me with their IT related problems and I came to the attention of the IT Department. I was now the unofficial IT support (more on that later) for Parking. If IT wanted any small work doing, then I got the call and was talked through the problem and solutions. I was loving it.

Small steps …


This is going to be a little bit techy/geeky, so feel free to move on.

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to learn a computer programming language. I have had a free programming environment (Visual Studio Community 2017) on all my computers for many years but simply have not had the inspiration to get on and learn something. The bad weather on Thursday suddenly gave me that inspiration. I found an online tutorial called Home and Learn, that went through the basics in Visual Basic.net, but at a pace that wasn’t either too slow or too fast. Many of these tutorials show you how to create the ubiquitous “Hello World” programme. As much of a novice that I am, I think I was past that phase.

So by the end of the day, I had completed a few exercises and had started on a project to build a basic calculator. AndVB Calculator I mean a basic calculator. A calculator that only had a single function … addition. Nothing else … just adding up numbers. By Friday evening, after a few false starts I had successfully built this very simple calculator application. I was feeling very pleased with myself. This self-smugness left me feeling that I could do more. Knowing what I had learnt I felt that it would be not such a difficult task to add another function, such as subtraction. The main issue I had was how to use the coding that I had spent so much time on without losing the initial work. What I needed was a ‘Save as …’ option. But could I find one? It seems that there is no ‘Save as …’ in this version of Visual Studio. I searched the internet but was coming up with various ways that didn’t seem to work for me. I then realised what I needed to do. All that was required was to copy the original project to it’s own backup folder, in another area and then I was free to use the original.

VB Calculator Ver 2Well I won’t bore you with any more details, but after even more false starts than before and a lot of brain-racking I managed to get the subtraction function to work and the calculator now has both an addition and a subtraction button. Can you imagine how much the smugness factor has risen by! I even managed to find out how to make the buttons look like raised buttons instead of the default flat style that seems to be the fashion these days. The next challenge is to add a multiplication and a division button. I’m even thinking ahead for things like a percentage button, but I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.

At the end of the day though, this not going to get me anywhere. It’s just another hobby that I can enjoy and get satisfaction from.

Sorted .. I think


   I updated my phone yesterday !!!!! Well at least that is what I intended to do !! It did not go quite to plan. I misread what I was updating. I suppose, misread is not quite correct. To be more precise, I did not read what I was updating. As a consequence, I did not create a back-up. So after the update, I was left with a phone that was more or less in factory state. All the personalisation’s gone !!! What a tw*t !!!! Image018I have now got it back to a reasonable state, but am still having problems with the email client.

   I’m starting the big decorating job tomorrow.   Living room and dining room. I think it is going to take a week or two to complete. I’m hoping, that the borders in this room will not be as hard to get off as the ones in the kitchen.