Geoff Munro

Geoff Munro

Geoff Munro expired on the Number 60 bus
sometime between 1997 and 2005,
nobody noticed he’d died.

Serving a sentence, so terminally dulled,
inoculated against colour, against fun, against life
time dimmed the light in his eyes.

Allocated standard issue fatigue
for a job that he came to despise;
no innovation, no compromise.

Permanently gasping for untainted air,
relentlessly throttled by process,
watching the clock until home-time arrives.

Geoff Munro still rides that same bus,
same time, same seat, same people,
unaware he’s no longer alive.

Brighten up your day at work

5 Ways to Brighten a Dull Day at Work

Life in the public service, or any other job for that matter, can have its boring moments when nothing appears to be happening. In times like these you will need to have some ways to brighten up your day, or at least give your work life some meaning.

Cultivate a Grudge

All good bureaucrats need to have cultivated at least one grudge during their time in the civil service. A grudge will give you a hobby that you can enjoy whenever you like. It will usually make someone’s life difficult, though preferably without them being aware that it is you that is causing them problems. If you find yourself the subject of what seems to be a lot of bad luck, few opportunities, or even just more boring and soulless work than usual, you are probably the subject of a grudge.

A good grudge can be cultivated where you feel someone of less merit was awarded a promotion, or perhaps where someone has made a decision that has given you more work to do, or even where someone just seems ripe to be the subject of a grudge.

It really does not matter who you choose, so long as you work to make their life difficult and have fun in the process.

The more senior you are in government, the more grudges you will be able to accumulate, and the more entertainment you can devise to make your days go by more rapidly. In fact, by the time you are a Director, you should have at least five well-cultivated grudges that colour your every decision.

Invent Some Jargon

The nature of jargon means that at any one time there is new jargon being invented by some boffin or career bureaucrat somewhere in the world. It would be a shame if you missed out on this. So, a way to pass some time is to invent your own phrases. The minimum you should aim for is a three-phase high-impact neologism. Once you have become comfortable with this you can progress on to four and five-phase jargon. Anything more than a five-phase fustian phraseology will lose its impact on the reader. The ultimate accolade for inventors of jargon is to see their own phrase included in a government document. This shows that your invention is gaining ground and that some poor soul has convinced themselves that they know what it means. This is extraordinary, as you know it was just meaningless crap. Some examples of meaningless drivel are included below.

• Collaborative database nodes
• Enhanced empirical capability
• Interactive operational paradigm
• Relevant talent dimension
• Functional competency matrix
• Replicable human capital synergies
• High-resolution talent protocols
• Emergent executive mission statement
• Corporate risk management feedback-loops
• Multi-phase expanded organisational continuum

Invent Jargon with Acronyms

To take your jargon to the next level, you need to disguise it in an acronym. This adds an extra layer of confusion to the term and sends people scurrying for a dictionary or searching the Internet for an explanation of the term. The more amusing your acronym, the better. Five examples are included below.
• Joint Australian Regional Government Organisational Network (JARGON)

• Notional Organisational Benchmark (NOB)
• Transitory Work Allocation Timetable (TWAT)
• Comprehensive Risk Assessment Protocol (CRAP)
• Global Undirected Feedback Framework (GUFF)

Write a letter to the Minister that you know will come to you to answer

Here’s one for those in government. No matter what area you work in, there will be times when you will have your own views on a particular matter that you are dealing with on behalf of the government. At these times, you can write a letter to the Minister (under a pseudonym of course) and wait for it to work its way through the system and onto your desk (members of the public are often unaware that letters to the Minister go to a civil servant to draft the response that the Minister then signs). You can then spend your time composing a well thought out institutional response to your question. If you write enough of these letters you will also be able to keep track of how well the bureaucracy is working by comparing the time it takes to get a response back to you through the system.

Start a Rumour

Many an enjoyable day has been spent watching the result of a well-prepared rumour. The government rumour mill will spread the word as quick as greased lightning. For example, a well-placed whisper that a major restructure is in the wind after a visit by an unknown ‘suit’ will take off like wildfire. To start the rumour you should make the suggestion to a colleague that you have heard the man is a Human Resources consultant with a reputation for ‘streamlining’ departments. Never directly suggest that you think a review is in the wind; just give enough information to set off the minds of the impressionable into a stream of consciousness that will head in the direction of a dark and scary tunnel. The impressionable person, probably a drama queen or a very bitter and cynical employee, will hit the ground running. Before you know it someone will be saying to you – ‘Did you know that a departmental review is happening?’ and you can truthfully say – ‘Really? I hadn’t heard that before. Who told you?’

A Place of My Own

A bit of Poetry

A Place of my Own

There must be somewhere I can sit
and ponder how the clouds drift by,
where only wild creature’s cries
break the whisper of the breeze.

A leafy glade, a mountain top,
a rustling stream, a sandy beach,
somewhere that I am out of reach,
a place to sit at ease.

I ask you, where can I just sit
without some worries finding me,
just sit with my own company,
accept my every flaw;

a personal place that’s mine alone,
an hour of time that never ends,
allowing me to finally mend,
and find myself once more.

Charlotte Dunne-Knightley (1817 – 1864)

As the proprietor of Charlotte’s Harlots (No Tonker Too Large), a well-known house of ill repute in Manchester, Charlotte Dunne-Knightley was well on her way to becoming the most notorious madam in the northwest of England. However, after becoming bored with her chosen employment she decided to try her hand at a different profession.

She chose to become a writer specialising in bedtime stories for children. She had a good idea of what children might like to hear at night, although she often did not know when to stop. She knew that children liked to hear vaguely scary stories so she wrote a volume of short tales aimed at giving readers goose bumps. This book appealed to adults and quickly became a much sought after tome. Once they read it to their children it became notorious.

Many parents found that their children simply could not sleep after hearing these stories. Some were found screaming uncontrollably and staring at shadows in their bedrooms. Some could not stop mumbling about monsters and refused to come out from under the sheets. Some would not even enter their bedrooms or go anywhere near the servants. Others would not open their eyes in the morning for fear of what they might see. Charlotte Dunne-Knightley was single-handedly responsible for the birth of the science of child psychology.

Due to the reaction to her stories her publisher withdrew her book. Madam Dunne-Knightley went back to running her brothel. She took some time to write her autobiography, Charlotte’s Second Coming, before finally losing a long-running battle with syphilis.

Her volume of bedtime stories included the following tales:

• Severely Psychopathic Susan the Nanny – a story about an unbalanced young lady who takes employment looking after the children of Lord and Lady Terwatt, cooks them, and serves them up with applesauce to the unsuspecting parents.

• Toughen Up, Princess! – tells the story of Princess Stephanie, who follows her father, the King, on Christmas Day to give food and drinks to the poor people of the realm. She struggles to keep up and dies of exposure in the snow. The little princess was just too soft and girly.

• Eliza and Ezekiel Get the Plague – a delightful story of how two children die a horrible, lingering death when they stow away on a ship bound for the Caribbean. They get infested with fleas off the rats. Serves the little bastards right for not behaving.

• The Monsters in the Cupboard – a story about how little George Worley finds out that his cupboard is a doorway to another world full of wonder and good things to eat. He also finds out that there is a bloody great lion in there, and that he cannot outrun it after stuffing his face with lollies. He almost gets back and leaves scratch marks on the door as he is dragged back to his death. His ghost makes scratching sounds on the doors of cupboards of children’s bedrooms as he searches for a way back.

• And finally there was the self-explanatory The Little Girl Who Was Eaten by the Shadows in the Bedroom, from which the follow classic excerpt is taken:

‘Ullo Jasmine, it’s your time to die!’ said the shadow.

‘Piss off,’ said Jemima, ‘Mother and father told me that you really don’t exist.’

The shadow then bit off Jemima’s leg below the knee. In her final moments of terror Jemima thought, ‘Jeez, mum and dad are lying bastards. And they are going to kill me when they see the bloodstains on these clean white sheets!’

That Place You Used To Go

I am consolidating my writing on this blog, so this is the first in the ‘Little Things that make life good’ series

 

That Place You Used To Go

  As a teenager living in Stafford, in England, I would sometimes go on an evening run after eight o’clock to try to escape the slightly claustrophobic feeling that comes with close living in the suburbs. My route would take me along Sidmouth Avenue, across the Yelverton playing fields, through to Torrington or Falmouth Avenues, and then onto Porlock Avenue. On warm summer evenings (to all those Australians reading I promise they do exist in England) there were times when I went up the old bridle path that snuck between two houses and led through to the fields beyond. This marked the edge of the town.

Where the path came to the farmland there was a fence and stile that provided a secluded and quiet seat. From here I could gaze out to the east over rolling hills covered with golden fields of cereal, or the green forests of Cannock Chase. On a still day, I might see the columns of steam from Rugeley Power Station soaring up like solid pillars supporting the sky. I would shut out the houses behind me, the road, and Walton High School to my right, and just concentrate on the rolling hills that glowed in the soft evening light.

The gentle evening breeze would agitate the crops, each stalk waving at me from across the hill that curved away to the east. The gentle puffs of this wind extracted tension with the ease of the hands of a well-practiced masseuse. Sitting with my back to the houses, fully hidden from my vantage point behind high fences, this was a little sanctuary of peace only five or ten minutes from home. I might continue the run from here, five-miles in total, or if I was feeling suitably relaxed I might just amble slowly home.

This was in the late 1980s, and that view unfortunately no longer exists as I remember it; the powers that be have plonked houses by the road below. Such is life. However, that was my little piece of open space, and ever since then I have been able to find such places wherever I have lived. Just a little bit of patience is all it takes to find yourself a personal space where you can escape. I can still go there every day if I want to, despite it being 12000 miles away. These places are one of the little things that bring a moment of happiness to any day.

 

Strategic Planning (the cynic in me returns)

Every government department needs a five-year plan, whether they realise this or not. Many departments even get their act together to actually produce such a plan. You should be familiar with the standard process so that when the time comes you can participate with an appropriate level of skill. The process usually follows a path similar to this:

Step 1

The executive management team gets together when the realisation dawns that the department or branch has been doing the same thing for many years, and they are now so far behind everyone else in their area that they are almost completely irrelevant and in danger of becoming a joke. Worse than this, the department may be disbanded. If this happens it is the managers that would be most at risk of losing their jobs. Something must be done to regain the illusion of usefulness and relevance.

Step 2

The staff have to be kept in the dark about the need for a new plan. This ignores the fact that the staff have been muttering and grumbling about the lack of direction for years and pleading for a new strategy.

However, involving the staff is to be avoided at all costs as it will only complicate the process through the involvement of too many people, or worse still, it will attract numerous sensible and practical ideas that necessitate decisions to be made and actions to be undertaken.

Step 3 (Meeting 1)

The management team must meet behind closed doors to discuss the future direction. These discussions must follow the pattern of such documents, so the first step is to define the Vision and Mission Statement. A great deal of time is spent on this task as these set the scene for the final strategic plan. The Vision is usually a one or two line statement that encompasses the dreams of the organisation. It should be noted that these dreams cannot relate to wishes of permanent anonymity and increased funding, as this is a public statement. In normal circumstances the first two hours of a three-hour meeting are taken up creating and refining the Vision. In fact this usually involves lots of arguing over the precise wording, as personal preferences in language and grammar take over and the meeting degenerates into an argument about whether the word ‘provides’ or the word ‘presents’ is a better option.

An experienced procrastinator can ensure that the whole meeting can be taken up by this debate without a definite resolution. However, a great deal of skill is required for this and it should not be attempted by beginners. A tip for first-timers is to initially stir the waters by bringing up a deeply philosophical question such as, ‘At its core, what exactly is the purpose behind coming up with a vision? And what is the difference between the Vision and Mission Statement anyway?’ It is guaranteed that most people in the room, if not all, will not really know the answer and are just following the standard headings without question. Some will attempt to answer and in the process derail the meeting and demonstrate their own lack of knowledge, tailing off into silence as they realise the hole they are digging. Hopefully by then it will be too late and numerous arguments will have broken out about what the differences actually are.

Step 4 (Meeting 2)

A repeat the previous meeting, but this time relating to the Mission Statement. It casts doubt on the progress made so far and re-opens the battles that were apparently left unresolved concerning the Vision. These battles are never completely resolved because an experienced civil servant knows the value of holding a grudge for long periods of time.

Step 5 (Meeting 3)

This meeting will move on from the debacle of trying to define the Vision and Mission Statement, leaving them poorly worded and open to ridicule, and preferably meaningless. Now it will be time to agree on the Objectives and Desired Outcomes. It goes without saying that the same confusion about the meanings of these two terms will cause this meeting to degenerate in the same way as the previous meetings. What is a Desired Outcome? What is an Objective? Surely the Outcomes you are working towards are the same as the Objectives…aren’t they? Say no more.

Step 6 (Meeting 4)

If there is any will left to continue this process, and in reality it has often disappeared by this stage, it is now time to look at Actions and Responsibilities. In all likelihood what happens is that the procrastinators have successfully ground their colleagues into the dust and they are only able to come up with vague general statements about intent, with no substance. Where responsibilities are assigned, the vague nature of the actions is such that nobody knows what they mean and nothing will happen. And there you have the generic government strategic plan.

(This is an extract from You Can’t Polish a Turd – the Civil Servants Manual)

‘Numbing’ Jane Thackeray (one of the dregs of history)

Jane Thackeray was a victim of modern technology. She trained as a librarian and became expert in records management. She relished the idea of improving how records were kept and how to make finding them much easier. Her lecturers were impressed with the dedication that she showed, spending many hours each day voluntarily carrying out research so boring and mundane that nobody else could be bothered, and marked her out early for a successful career. More grounded people marked her out for serious injury if she wasn’t careful; she had a habit of wanting to talk about her boring research to anybody, whether or not they had an alcoholic shield in place.

As a graduate, she was employed by government and went to work in the Environmental Department. A very capable employee, she soon worked her way into more senior positions, and was eventually given the task of implementing an improved records management system. There were some warning signs of the disaster about to unfold. She was heard to comment on how much fun the staff would have playing with the new system, and despite the fact that she giggled hysterically at the time, she really thought people would have fun.

When she was also given the job of carrying out the departmental training, she really came into her own. Without any respect for anybody’s sanity, or the accepted wisdom that attention spans only last for about forty minutes, Jane organised three-hour training sessions. This was when she was christened Numbing Jane. She punctuated her sessions with jokes that only records professionals would understand. Historians have seriously considered whether she would rival Aethelbald of Wessex as the most boring person that has ever lived. Probably not, but they are open to debate.

The system she devised was so thorough that you could look for files using over three hundred different search categories. The problem was that the information needed to properly run the system meant that the time spent on any job was likely to at least double, once all the required fields had been filled in. This did not go down well with staff, many of whom came out of the training sessions with headaches, strange tics and twitches, and only a slim grip on their sanity. Some were holding their heads pleading, ‘Make her stop. Please, make her stop!’ On hearing of these training sessions, The International Red Cross wrote her a letter reminding her of the requirements of the Geneva convention.

She passed away when she took on a challenge from a rather disgruntled environmental officer who was drowning under the additional work from the ‘new and improved’ electronic data record management system. Dave Constable bet her that he could carry out a whole assessment in the time it would take her to enter into the new system his correspondence from all fifteen files of public submissions for a proposed gravel mine.

Caught up in an ecstatic rapture while playing with her new system, Jane Thackeray forgot to eat and subsequently starved to death on the tenth day into her task. By then she was a gibbering, drooling wreck, a pale shadow of the fine woman she could have been. Other records management and information technology professionals, saddened though they were, commented that it was not the system that was the problem, it was the user. Many of them were later admitted to hospital after a long line of staff lined up to punch some sense into them, one by one, over a period of several hours.

 

This is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History Available here

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