Skip to main content

Workin' awa

Out and about I saw a youngster sitting with dad in the cab of one of these big modern tractors. Rather like me as a doctor's son. Mother could get some relief from the, presumed, incessant demands of her firstborn by dumping me into father's care. I sat with him as he made his rural calls on patients.

Apparently, I had the habit of dropping a shoe out of the car window. So I imagine it may not have the cheapest option to get a bit of peace. For my part, I have no recollection of the shoe disposal.

I resumed travelling around with my father when I reached seventeen. While I had been driving cars for some years, mostly but not exclusively on private land, it was time to become familiar with the highway and all its signs.

Father sat beside me, not to teach me to drive, but to meet the legal requirement for supervision of an "L-plated" driver. I had read all the books, especially the Highway Code, and needed no input from himself. Or so I thought.

My first test demonstrated that my confidence exceeded my ability. Ability to pass the test that is. I was, of course, an excellent driver with full mastery of the car. But limited mastery of what I needed to do to pass the test. Having previous sailed through my motorcycle test, I "knew it all".

It may have been a mistake to be driving mother's car. It was brand new, new that very day indeed. I had never driven it before. And it had these funny sliding windows that a Mini had in the early 1960s.

The test was going well. I was invited to demonstrate my mastery of hand signals. The test had not yet caught up with the fact that most cars had electric indicators. My opening the window indicated some unfamiliarity on my part with the car's sliding glass. And changing gear with my left hand while my right was dangling out the window to make a signal coupled with a knee keeping the steering wheel pointing in the correct direction caused an audible gasp from the examiner sitting beside me. Prior to my test, I had never used hand signals.

A few weeks later, further study and some practice, brought me a successful outcome to the re-sit.

While I had not gained any useful driving skills by being out on his rounds with my father, I did have useful insights into what his job entailed. Coupled with a procession of patients attending surgery in our front room ten times a week, it meant one knew enough of the hard work and responsibility that came with being a country GP.

A young lad on a farm is probably similarly exposed to the practical side of the world of work. When I visit one of our many rural primary schools, my standard "ice-breaker" question is to ask all those who have driven a tractor to put their hands up. It will be a majority. And generally a larger share of the girls than of the boys. It is suggested to me that a nine-year-old girl will generally be bigger and stronger than a male contemporary and that accounts for the difference. Perhaps.

The question that seeing the young chap sitting beside his father in the tractor put in my mind was not about rural youngsters.

The pandemic has brought work into many homes. And what have the younger members of the household seen? Certainly not any hard manual labour that might still be part of modern farming. Not that carrying of the medical bag, and its well-known contents, into a house of the sick or dying. Nor anything more than mum or dad sitting at the kitchen table "playing with their computer" and gossiping via video with their office pals.

I have had secondary school students come on placement with me for a week. And they get real tasks to undertake. So if you are a 14 or 15-year-old with me in Parliament, you can expect to have to write a speech for me to use in a Member's debate. And use it I actually will. So being close to an office worker like me can provide meaningful insight into the world of work.

For a primary school pupil, I guess the exposure to a parent working at home will have been much less useful. The school student has been "liberated" from the trained oversight, and a keen eye for inattention, of the teacher. And seen instead, a parent who can give them much less time while they engage in, what the youngster may view as, apparently meaningless activity.

We are likely to be seeing much more home-working in future. For my part, it's something I have been doing for many years. I try to meet my constituents where it suits them rather than have them travel to my office.

A round trip from one corner of my constituency to the other could be three hours in a car. Using public transport to get from Buckie to Peterhead would, according to Traveline Scotland, be a minimum of three and a half hours and more generally an hour longer. So we have been using software that helps us work away from my constituency office in Peterhead for a number of years.

Cutting travel from our working day has created more time for actual work. But neither I nor my staff have had school-age children in our houses. So I am watching how others are affected.

One news story today may tell us something about our being away from the office. In various countries around the world, there has been a dramatic fall in very premature births. Some reports give a 90% drop.

There will be so many things, not just direct health issues, to look at once we have this virus under control. And indeed early reports of this kind will need to be checked very carefully for validity.

But for sure, workin' awa is here to stay.

For many of us.

Maybe not all.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Russia et al

After yesterday's publication of a Westminster report into foreign state meddling in UK democratic decisions, my mind turns to the issue of leadership. Perhaps the fundamental failing identified, and I am assuming that the Parliamentary Committee had access to information that underpinned their conclusions but which is not necessarily shared with us, lay with the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

The first thing on MI6's web pages is the statement that "We work overseas to help make the UK a safer and more prosperous place". There is much worth a read (https://sis.gov.uk/) but what stands out is their statement that "Everything we do is tasked and authorised by senior government ministers".

Buried at little deeper on MI5's web site (https://www.mi5.gov.uk/) it says, "we formulate our own set of plans and priorities, which the Home Secretary approves."

But there is also GCHQ who on its web site (https://www.gchq.…

Signing

While I am pretty confident that we are far from being on a majority in our household, I am also sure that we are not unduly exceptional. We sit down to lunch each day at 1230 so that we can simultaneously masticate and educate. The first refuelling the body. The latter refuelling the intellect.

And the source of brain food? The daily press conference on the pandemic from the Government. The traditional being from fridge and food cupboard.

It's a bit like the family sitting around the radio 75 plus years ago to hear news of the battles against the nazis. Today is remarkably similar. Not a single front of battle but many. Not just fought by those on the front line, but supported by the actions of those on the home front.

Even more than then, the home front is a critical part of the front line. Each citizen's actions, or inaction, directly contributing to or hindering our ability to eliminate COVID-19 from our country.

For me, with an interest in DNA as a tool in my family histo…

Tome for a new keybiard

Today is the one hundred and eighth daily episode of my reports from an 8th decader's lockdown.

For a mathematician, 108 is a "good" number. Having three digits just locks into parts of the brain that tune into threes. And at a glance, it is a number that is divisible by three. Why, at a glance? Because if you add up the digits one, zero and eight, the answer is nine. Any number whose digits add up to a number that divides by three is itself divisible by three.

If after the first add, you have answer bigger than nine, add the digits together and keep doing that until you have a single digit. This is a digit sum.

If the final digit is a nine, then the original number will be divisible by three and by nine. If it's a six, then it's divisible by two and by three. And finally, if it's a three, then it is an odd number which is divisible by three.

I am far from sure, but my memory is trying to persuade me that I was taught this at school. I am certain about the ru…