Saturday, 6 August 2011

You really can't make it up.

In the dystopia I'm working on, there is a vignette where the main character's light bulb blows. He can change it because he has a home electrics qualification, which allows him to change bulbs and reset circuit breakers, but he cannot reach the bulb because he does not have a stepladder.

The reason he has no stepladder is that he has no stepladder certificate. It's a three-day course and expensive, he can't afford it, and without the certificate he cannot buy a ladder.

Unrealistic? In Wales, a friend of mine told me of a recent health and safety inspection at his work. There was a ladder. They were told to get rid of it. Why? Nobody at his work had a ladder certificate. The real-life course is two days and costs £90. That is not fiction. It now takes two days to learn how to use a ladder and unless you have a certificate, you cannot use a ladder. It's already happened. The extension of this to home ladder users is only a matter of time.

Back to fiction. The character's neighbour has a stepladder and certificate so he comes round to help. It's only when he's all set up that the neighbour realises he doesn't have a home electrics certificate. So he can climb the ladder but he can't change the bulb. The main character can change the bulb but can't climb the ladder.

Again, unrealistic? Under EU regulations, you already cannot change a light switch or add a socket to your mains supply in your own home unless you are a qualified electrician. All I did was move it one small step further.

We already live in the world I'm trying to write. Nobody believes they can do anything unless someone else has told them they can do it, and signed a bit of paper to say it is so. Nothing exists unless there is a bit of paper to say it exists. Nothing is real unless a committee has declared it real. You can do nothing unless you have been instructed in how to do it by someone who doesn't know how to do it but who has the right to sign the form.

I've experienced this myself. An idiot administrator once tried to stop me recalibrating a balance. She said "You should leave it to someone..."

I finished her sentence. "...who knows what they're doing?"

"Yes." Even as the word left her mouth, I finished recalibration. It took a few moments only, because I was familiar with the machine, having used that particular model for over twenty years at that point. I gave her A Look. I don't know what it looked like but until the day she left the department, she never spoke or even looked me in the eye again. I expect she's in charge of something now.

There is no end to it. You are not disabled unless you have documentation. Really. Removing an artificial leg and falling over proves nothing. If you don't have the right forms, the absence of a body part is not sufficient evidence of the absence of a body part. Unless you have a bit of paper to say it's not there, it is there, you're just very good at hiding it. It's all Paul Daniels' fault.

Tipped by Subrosa in Email - a pub landlady who had ordered 'No Smoking' signs put up temporary signs while waiting for the real ones. The temporary signs said 'no smoking', everyone now knows pubs are not allowed to allow smoking, nobody was smoking on the premises, yet she was fined.

The temporary signs were not of the regulation size and shape. This is what the justice system is concerned with now. This is how deep official smokophobia goes.

This is beyond Orwell. Beyond Kafka. And it's reality.

How are writers supposed to compete with this?


Ralph Musgrave said...


Chuckles said...

In addition to the rampant credentialism, there are the supporting assumptions which have to be made to justify the practice, all just as absurd as the effects you note.

As you noted, experience counts for nothing. It can't be learnt unless it's on an approved course.

Higher qualifications are meaningless. An elec. eng. is not allowed to change a light switch in most jurisdictions, as he's not an electrician.

The 'inverse' assumption that everything can be reduced to a process and thus a 'course' can be constructed to teach it. 'It's all box-ticking, innit?

And of course, the assumption that such credentials add value to society.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Leg-iron

"The temporary signs were not of the regulation size and shape. This is what the justice system is concerned with now. This is how deep official smokophobia goes."

It is not limited to oaffishial smokophobia. They are all at it for everything.

Incidentally you are just catching up with me: I was jotting ideas like yours’ twenty or thirty years ago ...

So many of the things I said or thought or scribbled down have come to pass.

What to do about it?

Starve the beast. Drain it of all resources. If enough of us do that it will die.


PS To those who say: 'I am not interested in politics', I reply: 'but politics is interested in you.'

Apparently Pericles or someone said it about 2,394 years ago.


Stop Common Purpose said...

This crap is called 'communitarianism':

"If life gives you lemons, a communitarian would say: “It’s great that you have lemons. And you should be able to do anything you want to with those lemons. But we’re going to tell you how you can use them and how you can’t use them. We’re also going to regulate the usage of them to make sure that they’re all used for the common good. And if you make too much money on them, we’ll tax you. For the common good.”"

Johnnyrvf said...

Living in France I do what I want, really, I can rewire a vehicle, I am a certified mechanic ( I have to be with some of the rubbish I get to work on ) so I have rewired my workshop, a pal came round just to check I had got it right and now I have lights and plugs and everything how I want it. No one stopped me at the Brico where I bought all the cable, switches, conduit, wall mountings etc, in fact one of the girls at the checkout was quite interested in what I was doing. I have taken to the French attitude and ignore the stupid rules because they are virtually unenforcable. It has to be said that there seems to be too few people in the U.K. who are prepared to tell these self obssesed safety people where to get off, e.g. You cant use that ladder you dont have a certificate. Reply, Oh yes I can I am/was a fireman/ steeplejack/ rig worker. I wonder how many will try to proove that you may not be a fireman/steeplejack, rig worker? very few would even know where to begin........

Ed P said...

How soon before that folding stuff in your pocket requires a certificate before use?
We had to replace the Elf 'n' SafeTee Officer recently due to retirement. Previously (8 years ago) the course was 9 whole days, now it's an unbelievable 14, spread over 4 weeks! That's a big surcharge on a small company. The new victim, sorry H&S Officer, now regrets accepting this poisoned chalice and will be uselessly employed for months on idiotic tasks, to the detriment of the company and his proper job. We're doomed!

Dr. Brian Oblivion said...

Creeping paralysis. I feel as if I'm in a sociopath's experiment looking for the most efficient way to convince the mind to wave a white flag and give up the ghost. The ladder - lightbulb conundrum is fantastic in its simplicity.

Menanwhile over here in the new improved United States of Austerity, from which the world's last hope of true enlightened austerity shines for the world to bask in and covet, I no longer use a motor vehicle opting to smoke and bike more instead, usually at the same time.

However I had neglected to take into account that licenses don't expire, the person identified by an id card does. Well duh! So the Bank of America wisely rejected a recent attempt to cash a cheque. Not only is this good for the bank which knows what to do with excess currency, but it also increases my share of austerity.

I am ever grateful for my benevolent overlords helping me deal with the frightening and threat imposed by freedom. I hope this blog has been approved by the blog authority or I shall be forced to cleanse my mind yet again.

microdave said...

You can't put Vaseline on your chapped lips, without a prescription...

Amusing Bunni said...

Wow, truth stranger than fiction. Just fix the stuff, and don't tell anyone. These bureaucRATS are beyond mental.

Good move on getting that hag off your case. I give stupid ppl one withering look, or a pithy comment when they lst annoy me, and I'm rid of them forever too ;-)

David Davis said...

You could always change the light bulb without telling anyone.

Furthermore, it's still legal to buy a ladder for ready cash.

delcretin said...

LI, I once fell up a ladder. That should confuse 'em!

delcatto said...

To fix some guttering a neighbour enquired of some local firms about costs, etc... H & S figured large in these costs including light weight scaffolding for a minor job which would have dragged out over several hours.
She hired a local man via word of mouth who duly arrived with a ladder and three hours later job done and cash paid in hand.

Are you still reviewing whiskies LI? I bought a bottle of 'Dun Leire' Irish Whiskey from Sainsbury's and found it an excellent drop. Made sweeter because it was sold at 20% off so that's one in the eye for the health nazis and their made up units. I also bought a bottle of Grant's Ale cask whisky which surprised me because it is also quite good for a blended whisky... also cheaper with 20% off.
I'll raise a glas to you and keep up the good work.

delcatto said...

Or even a glass! AS you can tell I have imbibed already.

Anonymous said...

Best to start from the premise that we live in a madhouse- with very occasional moments of normality- then you're not disappointed. In addition Johnyrvf and the French have the only sensible attitude - ignore these lunatics - however there seem to be few people in the UK prepared to do so.

timbone said...

In 1995 I was on my own after 22 years of marriage. I was buying a flat, and wanted a gas check. Due to an accident in 1976, I have no sense of smell. I phoned the Gas Board and asked for a gas check on my new property, and, as I had no sense of smell, could it be free because of my disability. After a long pause, I was told that no sense of smell was not on the list of disabilities for a free gas check.

Paul said...

Leggy? The world that you put into your stories is probably less psychotic than the world we actually live in.

Leg-iron said...

I was once designated as 'fire warden' for the place I worked. I told them it wouldn't work because if there is a fire, I didn't care if any of the rest of them made it out of the building. Fortunately there was never a fire so my declaration was never tested.

If they thought I was really going to check all rooms while the flames built up, they were very mistaken indeed. My plan in case of fire was to get out and sod the rest.

Leg-iron said...

David D - you can't change the light bulb when they're CCTV in your home. It's there for protection from burglars and to ensure nobody is strangling children, beating up a spouse or smoking.

Currently you can buy all the light switches and mains sockets you want, but it's illegal to fit them yourself.

If there's anybody watching.

They aren't. Yet.

Leg-iron said...

Delcatto - I have a bottle of Grants' Sherry Cask this ewvening. It's on offer in the local Morrison's. Like the ale cask, it's a very nice blend. Both are smoother than the standard 'family reserve' version and always worth a punt.

Leg-iron said...

timbone - logic would dictate that 'no sense of smell' should be top of that list and 'smoker' should be second.

We don't have logic any more. We are ion the post-logical age.

Leg-iron said...

Paul - I try, but I cannot think up more psychotic things than the government, no matter how much whisky I drink.

Whatever our leaders are drinking/smoking, I want some.

Anonymous said...

We had to go all electric, despite having a gas cooker for 38 years.

Not the same cooker of course, but a succession of improved models.

The reason?

"Inadequate ventilation, need to fit a cooker hood, size of kitchen per square metre/foot gas ventilation, no safety chain harness to the cooker chassis, etc etc.."

The gas engineer took his £40 and explained, "the regulations have changed recently..."

Well whoopy fucking doo - another £50 to cap the gas supply and then another grand (£1000) on a new electric cooker and and new supply cable.

Scottish Gas wanted £74 for the privilege of disconnecting the supply and capping it, what a fucking rip-off bunch of cunts.

Like anyoen here has died or been injured by a fucking gas cooker falling on them, they sound like those lying bastards from ASH/CRUK/BHF.

Number of people singed or fatally wounded by a gas cooker falling them 1970-2011, = 0, number of people who could be singed or crushed, or fatally wounded by a gas cooker falling on them extrapolated by some H&S/ASN etc study to 2311 = 34.

Or maybe 10,000, or maybe 35 and a half.

I could have done it myself, my old man was a plumber.

Much like replacing sockets in the house or changing a fucking (eco-friendly) light bulb or climbing a stepladder, or re-tarring the shed roof.

Of course we had to do this as if we claimed on the so-called "insurance" we pay, they would invalidate any claim as we had done the fucking jobs without someone with a certification and who would charge you £50 for a bit of paper with his champagne stained scrawl on it.

Very pissed off...

The fuckers have us in a vice without an (un-safety chained nut in it).

Anonymous said...

Again, unrealistic? Under EU regulations, you already cannot change a light switch or add a socket to your mains supply in your own home unless you are a qualified electrician.

Not true.

Part P which is what you are wibbling on about allows you to do your own electrics the only thing (other than notifying your council building control officer under certain circumstances) you have to do if you aren't certified is get someone who is to test the installation for safety.

Frankly after seeing some attempts at home wiring something like Part P was long overdue.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - I was under the impression that any meddling with home electrics had been forbidden.

I'm not an electrician, so I'll take your word for it.

Stealthy said...

Great post Li :) - Part P works out roughly thus.. You can replace things like switches and lamp holders but you cannot run a spur off to a new light or socket without it being certified by a certified certifier (Proper sparky lol) - Any work done before the new regulations came into effect though are fine :P

Anonymous said...

The way around the regulations re addition of new sockets/switches (especially in Kitchens, a special area) is to use old colour wiring.

When the new regs were brought in the government also introduced new colour coding for wiring (instead of black/red pairing they adopted blue/brown pairing).

If you add the new sockets etc. using black/red pairing you can argue that you did it yourself before the regs can into effect. They would find this hard to dispute as from the date of introduce of the new regs it was meant to be impossible to buy the old colouring. I bought loads of the old stuff a week or two before the change :)

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Err, the slight problem with a system which lets any old sillybugger make changes comes when the guy who's doing this sort of thing actually IS a silly bugger and does not, in fact, have a clue what he is doing.

My house was formerly owned by just such a man. Electrics, plumbing, soldering, piping, even painting; there was simply no start to his talents. My ownership of this house has consisted of intermittently working out where the stupid fucker had meddled in the past, and putting it right.

So, the heating. Bog-standard Y-plan heating with a back-boiler unit. Dead easy to fit, dead easy to use; follow the numbered diagram and even a bloody chimp can get it right. Not this chap, apparently. In the past he'd taken a functioning heating system and tried to add in a solar water heating-assist system.

Having the IQ of an aubergine and the technical skills of an autistic goldfish, what he ended up with was an ugly excrescence on the roof which used gas to heat the surrounding atmosphere. He later removed this, and resoldered the pipework back to what it had been, leaving in the airing cupboard a testimony to the mess that one pillock with a blowtorch and solder can make if left unsupervised.

A Y-plan heating system has seven wires (all carrying mains voltage) that collectively link the boiler, pump, two thermostats and main valve. Plonker had managed to only use four of them, resulting in a mess which sometimes worked and puzzled the hell out of the sparky I paid to sort it out. £90 later (cash in hand) got it working.

Soon afterwards, the valve motor and main pump failed on separate occasions due to unaccustomed work; finally the entire system died due to causes unknown. I had it replaced back in January with a modern Combi system; fortunately the original bodging pillock had not had a hand in fitting the radiator pipework.

The back door is UPVC, and was installed by this DIY disaster zone. It sticks and isn't as secure as it might be, because Captain Fuckwit didn't realise the floor slopes, and the door lintels don't (having been installed by Victorian engineers who knew what a plumb-bob is); the back door is next up for renewal.

So, the message is this: complain about rampant certification if you will, but do remember that the alternative can be much, much worse. Playing about with 240v AC if you don't know what you're doing and don't follow the safety procedures can kill you, or can kill someone else who didn't know what a complete plonker you were and erroneously assumed you were sane, competent and safe. So many bodgers out there are none of the above, and too stupid to know that they're an accident waiting to happen; this is why we have safety regs.

Leg-iron said...

Dr. Dan - yes, we have dingbats in the world and always will. I wouldn't make dingbattery illegal though.

I just wish people would stop voting for them.

John Pickworth said...

This is true....

A well known DIY chain -- you know the place, the one with the insanely high shelving in a warehouse environment -- doesn't have a single ladder available for staff use. And if one were to turn up, they'd instantly dismiss anyone using it.

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