Posts Tagged ‘Accountant’
We awoke to blue skies this morning and when I reached the allotment shed the whole place was aglow with an all-is-well-with-the-world ambience. So powerful was the sun that its rays penetrated the shed windows, long a stranger to Windolene. In the corner Eric was already chiselling away at his latest creation. An accountant for all his working life, Eric is now a self-taught joiner of no mean ability and loves to tell all who will listen that he derives more pleasure from a completed chair than he gained from a hundred completed audits.
Our time on the allotment is spent on important work or, if you prefer the verdict of she-who-must-be-obeyed, messing about. Either way it has had a remarkable effect of considerable impact on a bunch of men most of whom spent their earning-days sitting behind a desk. Speaking for myself, I cannot claim to have discoverd skills to match those of Eric, but I remember vividly the first attempt I made to construct a gate for the chicken run. I visited B & Q, borrowed some tools and proceeded to make something that fitted and opened to the touch. I was amazed. Right up to that day such a task would have meant reaching for the yellow pages. Suddenly I felt fulfilled. Suddenly, at the age when I should be sitting on a banch watching equally ancient codgers playing bowls, I was embarking on a new life. It has proved to be one in which neighbours with a DIY probelm send for me. The effect on my self-esteem has been uplifting. Now I won’t die, just wear out amongst fellow craftsmen!
It was that eureka moment that had me looking for books on the subject of manual versus brain work. An early read was ‘The Case for Working with Your Hands’ by Matthew Crawford. ‘Real men’, he wrote, should stop being slaves to their screens and Wi-Fis. They should drive nails into planks and wield spades. Crawford had noticed that graduate entry into professions like his was plummeting, with those supposedly educated for them drifting into listless semi-employment, ” a state of uncommitted future potential”. But he also noticed something aboiut himself. He worked as an academic but worked on motor-bike restoration in his spare time. He noticed that he was always exhausted after a day at the former yet felt strangely exhilerated by the manual labour on the bike.
In his book ‘Craftsmanship’ sociologist Richard Sennett describes a similar reaction. He concludes that the handling of tools is far more than just a passing phase in human evolution. There are “skills in manual labour that link hand and brain and which are still not recognised” he argues. To Sennett it is downright cruel to “assume downward mobility in those who love working with their hands”. It is a natural human activity. Sennett even cites the satisfaction a parent gains from caring for a child. Childcare, he points out, is skilled manual labour that delivers more than just family bonding.
In a way the case for manual labour relates to what is happening to the economy. Ever since tha Thatcher era when technical colleges were replaced by academia there has been an increasing shortage in specialist skills such as plumbing. Apprenticeships have almost vanished except for those in Sugarland. And now graduates are pouring off the academic production lines with skills unsuited to the vacancies of tomorrow. We face a permanent reduction in professional, managerial and financial areas. Consumer spending will shift towards leisure, towards live activity. This covers ranges from hobbies, exploring, riding, festuvals, concerts, restaurants and tourism. Yes they will demand skills such as salesmanship, but most will provide jobs that are literally hands-on as in building, equipment maintenance, cooking etc.
In other words the jobs market of tomorrow will require craftsmanship that we as a society have almost lost. We will not be able to outsouce the mending of a broken pipe to India. If we cannot adjust back to the days when working meant using ones hands we will need to rely on migrants from places such as Germany and East Europe where the tradition of high-status technical education and apprenticeship has not been eroded by the ‘humanities’.
So, like it or not, the majority of careers of tomorrow will require the very manual skills which for generations we have downgraded. But if the experience of we old yet born-again allotment men means anything it is that therein lies self-esteem and job satisfaction long lost in our society. And the powerful message from people such as Crawford and Sennett is that the carpenter, engineer, plumber, needleworker or any other craftsman or woman is pursuing a route back to the inner self that may indeed be more direct than working solely with the head – or the screen.
As we young-old man of the allotment like to cry come back Bob the Builder, all is forgiven!
ANY QUESTIONS CAN BE A TURN-OFF!
Did you watch last night’s ‘Any Questions?’ on the Beeb? I did for a while before turning it off in sheer exasperation.
The first question concerned the proposed changes to child benefits and the audience was largely hostile. Each of the non-politicians gave an honest and sensible answer which is that, whatever ones beliefs on the welfare state, the mathematics used whereby one household will lose benefits whilst another, with no one higher taxpayer but a higher total income, will retain it is nonsense.
But the politicians waffled about the mess left by Labour, the dire straits of the country and anything else that came into their heads rather than contemplate that an error had been made. One of them was called, I think, Lady Warsi. She simply refused to stop babbling on and even David Dimbleby was hard put to get a word in edgeways. At one point when for the umpteenth time she said that the coalition had not realised that the country was in a mess, hence their not including benefits in the manifesto, Dimbleby exclaimed that the Conservatives had fought the election on the basis that it was in a mess. She babbled on.
The concept of the Thursday night show is good but it would be even better if the Beeb excluded political parrots whose self understanding is lower that that of my hens!
STRANGE DECISION BY ED MILIBAND!
I have just heard an unofficial story that Alan Johnson has been appointed Shadow Chancellor. If correct this is surely an odd decision by the new Labour leader.
Former postman Alan has distinguished himself in various offices and was an excellent Health Secretary. But is he a qualified accountant and has he the relevant experience at a time when finance looms large?
In terms of relevant ability we already have a poor Chancellor, having an equally inadequate shadow does not sound reassuring!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. U Thant 2. Manchester United
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which newspaper stopped its Saturday edition in 1974? 2. Which group sang ‘Seas of Rhye’?
For many a year Judith of the BBC eggheads has been an idol of many in the allotment shed. Part of the reason is that she once triumphed in the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ show, something several members aspire to. Sadly they lack Judith’s general knowledge, not to mention her looks, and they have begun to cast their beady eyes around in search of other ways of making a fortune. It was during yesterday’s discussion that Eric, our retired accountant, suggested that they become management consultants. It seems that unlike medical consultants, the required qualifications are not hard to come by and one gets to meet a lot of bigwigs since this government, like the last, employs them by the lorry-load.
Eric did warn that due to the economic collapse the pay has dropped a little, but when he produced the actual amounts a stunned silence engulfed the shed. If it were needed here is proof positive that the cuts are being applied in a very unfair way. The poor are about to become destitute but the rich will hardly notice!
Eric had obtained the details relating to PricewaterhouseCoopers ( PWC), one of the ‘Big Four’ consultancies. Yesterday’s published results show that it paid its 820 UK partners, a posh word for advisers, £759,000 each last year. Yes, it represented a cut from the previous year’s £777,000 but the men in suits are hardly near the bread line are they? Meantime chairman Ian Powell gets by on £3.6 million per annum. In the report he says that the coalition should continue investments that ‘would accelerate growth in the interests of the UK’s long-term health’. And that of management consultants presumably!
Most of us hear a good deal from politicians about consultants but few of us understand what they do other than absorb a great deal of money. During my days in industry the in-joke was that they arrive, borrow your watch, tell you the time and depart with bags of cash. In reality a lot of their work relates to audit and it is in this respect that the greatest questions arise. PWC’s audit boss, Richard Sexton, recently appeared before the Treasury select committee. The deputy chairman, Michael Fallon, told him that ” you have audited and provided comfort to the biggest banking crisis for 150 years’. Between 2000 and 2007 PWC earned £255 million from auditing Barclays. Their rivals, Deloitte, earned £31.4 million from auditing Royal Bank of Scotland during the year that it crashed. But the bigger issue concerns conflicts of interest.
PWC gains a quarter of its £2 billion income from consultancy work and the practice of providing both audit and advice services has dogged the audit industry ever since the Enron affair exposed poor practices and conflicts of interests. Indeed, it led to the demise of one of PWC’s major rivals , Arthur Anderson. Corporate governance group Pirc says that it is concerned that selling consultancy to audit clients is a problem regulators have failed to resolve. It argues that auditors might not criticise a client if a negative comment could mean losing millions of pounds of consultancy work. Pirc also worries about the potential conflict of interest resulting in accounting errors and fraud going undetected.
You don’t need to understand all the workings of the world of consultancy so beloved by government to realise that therein lies riches beyond even the fantasies of ordinary working people. And to realise that the idea promoted by Cameron, and his stooge Clegg, that transferring tasks to the private sector will in some magical way guarantee that we are truly all in this crisis together.
The mass of the people will only get to share in what is left in the trough when the millionaires have slaked their hunger. Services for the elderly and the vulnerable will be cut to the bone and below it. It will be small comfort to know that there are far easier ways of achieving financial clout than swatting up on general knowledge!
WE INVADED THE WRONG COUNTRY !
In his TV interview of last week Tony Blair suggested that it may be necessary to take military action against Iran. It was as near as he got to admitting that he and his buddy, George Bush, made the wrong decision about the real danger to world security. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and no prospect of building any. News just in suggests that Iran is on the brink of doing just that.
Yesterday the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iranian scientists had surpassed expectations to make at least 22kg of enriched uranium, in spite of a fresh round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. Experts estimate that 20kg of uranium enriched to a level of 20 per cent purity is the minimum required to produce a warhead without additional production. The unranium will still need converting to 90 per cent purity , but this is a relatively simple process. Iran has barred weapons inspectors after they reported undeclared nuclear activity by local scientists.
Small wonder that Blair has had to cancel his book-signing in London. The subterfuge of him and his American pal has not only led to the loss of thousands of lives but has so drained our resources that we can only now watch developments in the country of real threat with trepidation! Does our former leader have any self understanding or is he geuinely in a stae of delusion?
NETWORK RAIL HAS SOME EXPAINING TO DO!
Network Rail has been accused of boosting Director’s bonuses by under-reporting minor accidents suffered by track workers. Senior directors pocketed £2.36 million in bonuses from the state-backed rail company last year with the outgoing chief executive, Iain Coucher, pocketing £641,000 on top of his £613,000 salary.
According to Bob Rixham, Unite’s national officer for rail, local managers were given an incentive not to report minor incidents. The Unite findings have been backed by the Office of Rail Regulation which described Network rail’s interpretations of the rules as ‘obscure and wrong’.
It all provides another eye-opener into the parts of our society that are not even aware that there is a financial crisis. This is far worse than being ‘just not cricket’, it is gross misuse of taxpayer’s money!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Let It Be (1970) 2. Edwin Starr
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year did Arsenal win both League and F A Cup ? 2. What did Chay Blyth do in 293 days?