Posts Tagged ‘work’

Busy Doing Nothing – Part 2

Busy Doing Nothing – Part 2

[Part 1 of this essay was published yesterday, here]


Living here as I do in St. Mary in the Wold, we have our fair share of commuters. Many of my neighbours work in education, the emergency services and the various local government agencies and leave the village between 7:00 and 8:00am. I’m an early riser and a few, a very few, and mainly women and older people like me, are also out and about at that time. Usually as I’m on my daily 10,000 steps route, the kids catch the school bus at 8:15, many having been delivered by parents to the pick-up point, and by 9:30 it’s just the odd retiree and the courier vans driving around. The reverse happens between 3:00 and 6:00 and by 7pm St. Mary returns to basking in the sun or maybe just goes to sleep.

So, these ‘busy’ people who work longer hours than any other generation, are in the main back home by seven in the evening. Then what do they do? Not a lot it seems. One thing for sure, the vast majority of these busy people don’t help out in the local organisations, they don’t  turn out to vote in large numbers, don’t stand for the council, don’t turn out for a litter pick or help to clear the snow from paths in the winter. The local church is never that busy these days so these busy people don’t go there, cars are parked outside of the village shops all of half a mile away, where quite a few stop off to buy a coffee on their way to work or on their way out, too busy you see to make breakfast at home.

But, to be fair, the local football teams are busy on Saturdays as the kids are driven in by their parents, and the local prospective Olympic cyclists get their practice laps in on local lanes and roads, many driving to the village car park with their cycles on the cars roof. And we also have our fair share of trainee Badminton horse riders jockeying for position with the 30 plus cyclists on the local lanes and highways along with the ‘bikers’ practicing for the Isle of Man T.T. Races. Then suddenly it’s quiet again, the busy busy people have all gone. But gone where to do what?

I spent some time delivering leaflets here in St. Mary earlier this year. Now, just like on a T.V. soap, the area is full of executive homes and prestige cars and all the rest of the essential paraphernalia that is so necessary these days to impress the other important people who live near as neighbours. What a surprise, many of the ‘homes’ were not of the manicured lawns, herbaceous borders and clipped hedges appearance which you may have thought just by driving by. On the contrary, these busy people obviously had no time at all in their hectic schedules to do basic things, such as cutting the lawn (unless they pay someone to do it!), sweep the drive or clean the windows. Just what do they do? They certainly don’t spend time, effort or money on their homes. Many can’t be bothered even to clean the car; not worth it and too busy it seems and anyway there’s that nice East European hand car wash at the supermarket. It was quite an eye opener just how down at heel and quite frankly dirty many homes were.

So, I started to take notice. Many of these people, as far as anyone can see, do absolutely nothing. Perhaps they think manual work is somehow beneath them (or more likely they don’t know how!); this would seem to be borne out by declining sales of D.I.Y. materials, and garden centres obviously full to the brim with people buying soft furniture and eating in the cafes but not actually buying garden tools, seeds and so on. Talking to the manager of such a centre recently, I remarked on how people buy tens of pounds worth of bedding plants already in flower and at the most inappropriate times. The conversation started when the person in front spent £200 on bedding plants well into their flowering period. Makes good business he said, nobody wants to actually grow things from seed or bulbs or cuttings these days; they want what we call instant gardens. They lead hectic lives you see and are far too busy to do what you might call active gardening.

The same with D.I.Y. material for minor jobs like painting and decorating. It seems the days when Dad did a major kitchen refurb or fitted and tiled the bathroom have long since gone. Work on the car or motorbike best left to the professionals would seem to be the attitude. How many homes have a tool kit in the garage these days?

I wonder then, if this not doing a lot but being very busy, has been a result of the decline or disappearance of the manufacturing industry. Many jobs were skilled or semi-skilled, but they meant that people used their hands, worked out problems and had skills that were transferable out of the workplace, skills that could be used on hobbies, D.I.Y, and so on. Could it be that people who were used to long hours doing manual work were more able physically, or perhaps they were just more motivated and didn’t have the money or credit card to pay someone else to do the work.

It’s odd then, these busy-lifestyle people, perhaps they are spending their time working out at the gym? Not so, say the health club owners, lots join in the new year, come two or three times and we don’t see them again. Too busy? “Nope,” he said, smiling, but it’s good business.

Going back to those people in the easier, apparently slower, less stressful, days of the early to mid-twentieth century, when people worked from 8:00am to 5:30 pm and 12:30pm on Saturdays, and still had time to build things at home, decorate, garden, run the scouts, the guides, play cricket, darts, socialise in the pub. How come they had the time? After all, they still had to travel to work, worry about paying the bills and all the rest of it, and my feeling is if you worked in a factory 5 1/2 days a week you would be fairly tired at the end of it.

There is something going on here that perhaps some of us have missed. Is it that many people have been told they can’t do this or say that, so much so that they have become demotivated and content to sit on their backsides and pay somebody else to do even simple jobs, or make a donation to some voluntary charity instead of actually helping with it? They are quite happy to sit around telling everyone how busy they are while in fact doing absolutely nothing but watch the grass grow and the paint dry.

Are they what a previous generation would call… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

The post Busy Doing Nothing – Part 2 appeared first on Independence Daily.

Busy Doing Nothing – Part 1

Busy Doing Nothing  – Part 1

I was recently given a copy of a West Midlands publication called “The Bugle”. It’s a local newspaper aimed at what was once known as “the Black Country”.  Most of the old metal bashing heavy industry and pottery and glassware companies have long since gone so it’s not a lot different from anywhere else these days, although there is still much pride associated by families living in the area sometimes for generations and the ‘Black Country’ accent can still be heard, mostly from older people although you have to listen carefully to hear it as it’s likely to be drowned out these days by the multitude of  accents and languages from Eastern Europe and Asia.

A friend told me of an interesting conversation with a call centre operative which, upon giving his address, the operator said he had not heard of the town and asked where it was. When told “it’s a town in the black country,” the operator told him he was being offensive and racist and cut him off. As we know, calls at the centre are ‘recorded for your security and training purposes’ and within a few minutes he received a very apologetic call from the call centre manager, who had listened to the call and informed the agent that the ‘Black Country’ was a historical and established name for an area of what is now in West Midlands County and not a racist or any sort of offensive comment. More training required it would seem, but the short of it was that my friend did get a better price on his yearly insurance.

Such ignorance, though, is not only limited to call centres. I had reason to buy a part for a forty-year-old Austin car and rang one of the biggest car part factors in the Midlands. The young man who answered the call only knew how to operate the firm’s parts lists computer programme and asked me for the car’s registration number. Surprise! the system didn’t acknowledge 40-year-old registration numbers; I tried again ‘’it’s for an Austin,‘’ I said.

What’s an Austin? he said.  Well, fair enough, the last Austin was made in the 1980s, and you can’t expect a teenager to know the name of an obsolete car manufacturer. Except that the parts factors are based in one of the south Birmingham satellite towns, all of seven miles from Longbridge – at one time home to Austin and in its time a major employer and one of the largest car companies in the world, never mind Europe.

Anyway, I digress. What I’d noticed in the ‘Bugle’ was an historical article about the number of people who were actively involved in their local community. Although many people do volunteer for all sorts of reasons these days and for all sorts of charities and good causes, it’s often for the short term. Not so years ago judging by the photographs. The pace of life was slower I hear you say, and people had more time to ‘do’ things, like run clubs, scouts, cubs, guides, brownies, support the darts, cricket and football teams, etc… but that’s not the case now, everybody’s working long hours and Mom doesn’t stay at home looking after the kids and getting dad’s dinner on the table for when he gets home, she’s out working long hours just like everyone else; presumably working long hours doing manual work in factories as most of those people did, doesn’t count?. Well fair enough, pound rich, time poor as the saying goes.

However, walk around any town shopping mall or shopping destination of choice any day of the week, and it’s full of people of all ages, school-age kids, (is school optional these days?)  young mothers with children in tow, older people with grandchildren in tow presumably doing caring duties and if they haven’t got grandchildren they are pushing even older people around in wheelchairs, more caring duties it would seem and before you ask, I’ve been there and done that, too. There’s obviously no shortage of money, as the fast food outlets, cafes, bars, and restaurants are always busy, as are areas of local interest sites (let’s not forget the garden centres!) which are often full to bursting from 11 am. County and Regional shows held sometimes over three days, in mid-week too, full to capacity with punters. So much so that an acquaintance said recently, when I was a young ‘bloke’ the towns were busy, but all you saw were women with young children and older people, the young and middle-aged were working in shops and offices. Doesn’t anyone work these days?

Good question. Trains are packed early morning on the commuter lines, as are the roads, and it gets worse as you approach school times as we all know. But then traffic doesn’t thin out that much, it’s busy all day, every day, courier vans, taxis, small trucks, large trucks, coaches. A trip on the motorway and you will always see the same type of cars zooming down the third lane on their way to goodness knows where and for what. So, who on earth are all these people driving around towns, cities, shopping malls all day and every day? The roads are full to bursting with cars often with one occupant, where are they all going and what are they doing when they get there? Surely, they can’t all be dynamic young sales reps tearing around and down the motorway to their next sales meeting or conference. I mean for goodness sake, we have things such as phones, texting, video conference calls now, but then one phone looks just like another device these days, perhaps it’s the kudos of swanning around in the Audi that causes much of the traffic.

Well, many people work shifts, you say, yes but a company with a hundred workers is considered large these days, and many deliveries operate to industry on a just in time basis. That explains why business doesn’t carry any stock these days, but that can only be part of the answer.

Then the blessed weekend arrives. You can’t miss it as radio DJs witter on about the weekend starting from midday on Wednesday. It’s a bit like on TV where according to them there are only two seasons these days. It’s all so hectic, events for November being advertised already. It’s only July for goodness sake. A couple of years ago we visited a large garden centre on a beautiful summer day in the middle of July with a clear blue sky and temperatures in the mid-twenties, only to be met at the entrance with a Christmas Grotto and Carols being played. It’s all so hectic, and we are all so busy!

[to be continued tomorrow]

The post Busy Doing Nothing – Part 1 appeared first on Independence Daily.

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