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The end of an era

I missed the morning discussion with my boss (well, underling), because this is one of the days that I do the mandatory exercises in the morning when I begin.

Looking at the board, I saw it said "Richard net annexe - societe net", so I went and asked her what it meant.

Basically, it means that my job looking after the changing rooms, staff toilets, and break room is over. As of now.
An outside company will be coming in to do it.

It's something that I have done since the summer of 2012, so a little over a decade. I've done it on my own, and even when the factory got bigger (and, thus, three times as much to do), I've still been on my own.
But for a past couple of years, certain people with a certain amount of access to management not normally available to the little people have been complaining about the quality of my work.

There are three reasons for this. I'll outline them.

  • Firstly, ever since Covid was a definite thing (or the 17th of March 2020), I have had to perform a disinfection round spraying ethanol on door handles and such. The staff break room takes 10 minutes. The changing rooms/toilets take 15. Add another 5 for preparation and tidying up, it's a half hour. This is done three times a day. So immediately I'm losing an hour and a half every day, or an entire day's worth of working time each week. Imagine what else I could have done with seven hours a week.
  • Secondly, my tools. It was an uphill battle to get a mop attachment (for years I bought my own from the supermarket because repeatedly asking was useless). Over the years, I've been promised all sorts of things...that never turned up. It took the worker's committee embarrassing them before I got a new mop, and the previous Big Boss arranged for a vacuum cleaner when he saw the state of the broom that I'd been using for the past however many years.
    Anyway, my requests for things usually went nowhere. I made do with what I had available, and tried to do as much as I could with no help. And rather than talk to me about what I need (and mean it, not just another empty promise), they are instead having an outside company come in at what cost... huh? That doesn't make sense.
  • And finally, you might remember me talking about a specific unpleasant person who simply was not willing to accept a Y-chromosome carrier working in the female changing room. This is a long standing thing, and I rather suspect that the new Big Boss (who either doesn't know or doesn't care about this history) may well have decided that replacing me was the simplest way of shutting up this repetitive complaint.

I (mostly!) liked my job. I had my day planned down to five minute intervals, and was usually +/- 10 minutes from the plan, it's... quite upsetting to think that I'll go to work without knowing what I'll be doing from one day to the next. Boss's underling said that I can do various little jobs in plonge like cleaning wheels and such, things the regular workers don't have time to do.
Uh-huh, really getting the job security feels there.

I also don't much appreciate that the replacement people's floor scrubber turned up before anybody told me. I know the new Big Boss is looking to make his mark and rearrange everything, but we're not chess pieces.
This thought is backed up by one of the Plonge employees saying that one of the managers was asking if anybody knew how old I am. This might be because once I turn 50 (in 11 months), I can refuse to work in Plonge because it's a lot of manual work, though I prefer Plonge (even with the physicality of it) because you're always moving, it's not like the production line. That's one of the concessions to older workers. The other is, once you pass the age of 55, you can ask to work certain hours instead of 2×8 and no longer do Saturdays.

Anyway... ten years of a job I liked (I got to work by myself) and it's now over.

Just like that.

I'm not going to make any rash decisions like polishing my CV because it's a job, I'm CDI (full time), and as a long term employee (14 years now) I get various perks like a 13th month of pay. Plus it's fairly close to where I live. With my dinky car it's about a 20 minute drive. Plus my age will start counting against me these days.
I guess I'll have to see how the new position goes.
All I will say is that I am not going to accept switching to 2×8 (one week at 5.30am-1pm, the next from 1pm-8.30pm) should anybody suggest it. One of the main reasons I started writing this blog is because I originally began doing those shifts and, honestly, I don't remember a bloody thing. I have enough trouble sleeping when I have regular hours.

As for the annoying woman? I hope she's happy now. You can't tell me her frequent agitation wasn't a factor in this.
(I wonder how long until it goes around that I was replaced because I was bad, while the "official" reason that I was given was that the new Big Boss doesn't think that cleaning toilets is a job for somebody who's attached to Plonge (industrial dishwashing))

Actually, I'd be highly amused if my replacement was a guy. But, alas, like being a Care Assistant, this isn't the sort of job that is usually done by males.


Now to look on the bright side. If the changing rooms look like crap, it's not my problem any more.
The people that leave toilet paper (sometimes used) scattered all over. Not my problem.
Coffee spilt all over the place the day after I've scrubbed the floors? Not my problem.
Muddy footsteps from those people incapable of wiping their feet on the carpet square when they enter on a rainy day? Not my problem.
I won't regale you with other stories, suffice to say that some people have such a complete lack of any concept of personal hygiene that it's a miracle they survived childhood. And the messes they leave behind? Not my problem.

I just hope it's not the same company that cleans the toilets of the front offices. They... are not very good. The previous Big Boss thought marks on the lino was left-over glue until I said "hold my beer" and went and fetched my mop. I know what glue looks like, and I know what crud along the edge of the wall due to half-arsed cleaning looks like.
It wasn't glue.

But, hey, guess what? Not my problem.

What I really hope, to be honest, is that the unpleasant person will consider this a win and then leave me the hell alone. I'm just worried that it will, instead, empower her. We'll see...


School uniforms

There's a debate going on in France started by, I think, Marine Le Pen (National Front, but they don't call themselves that so it doesn't scare off voters) to which the wife of President Macron has waded into.
They both think that compulsory school uniforms would be a good idea.
Predictably, others are horrified, for all the usual excuses and reasons.

Me? I don't get what the big deal is. But then, I come from a country where where children often look like this...

School uniforms
School uniforms.
Picture on the right © M&S

That's me on the left, back in 1988. Blue shirt, black trousers, navy jumper. It's about as generic as it gets.
The girl... was taken from Marks & Spencer's website. Girls typically have three sorts of uniform - there's the brightly coloured gingham dress, but that's usually for the little ones. There's also the pinafore which can be junior or senior depending on the school (think of St. Trinians). And, of course, a fairly standard senior uniform as pictured.
Both may or may not have a blazer. I had a blazer, but it was for wearing to church, not daily use.
Oh, and a tie. Thankfully that was only for Sunday too. I hated ties. I'm still not sure I'm actually tying the stupid thing correctly.
Actually, I lie. I think I'd have to Google, it's been so long since I've needed to deal with ties. I used to have one that mom got me that has smiling computers on it. No idea where it is.

I dunno, wearing a uniform never bothered me much. It was just "how it is". Plus it also dealt with the poseurs who spent a lot of time out of uniform bragging about their Lacoste or whatever. Because in life it's clearly important to have a designer polo shirt, right?

For my part, provided you don't look like crap (like, walking around the supermarket in pyjamas), my feeling is that you are better defined by your actions than your clothing. I don't subscribe to the idea "Clothes maketh the man". In fact, idiotic power suits are likely to get a reaction from me best summed up by the phrase "generally unfavourable". To me, it seems like compensation, like we're supposed to be noting the sharp suit and not the megalomanical tendencies married to a lack of competence.
Yes, I'm thinking of somebody specific there, but pretty much any Tory politician would suffice as an example (the 1880s throwback instantly comes to mind).



Articles in my news app that people are praising Jenna Ortega for correctly pronouncing Rihanna's name at The Golden Globes... as ree-an-nah.

Well, how the hell else have people been saying that? I could maybe see ree-han-ah, but The Independent suggests that some have said it as ri-awhn-ah. Ri-what? How did anybody manage to get "awhn" out of that?


Close but no cigar

The big news this week - no, not a Spare prince, actual news - LauncherOne (inspired name) failing to make it into space. The UK has a small industry in itty bitty satellites, things that theoretically can be lobbed into orbit from a rocket slung onto a 747. This is a big step forward as getting a satellite into space used to mean shipping it to another country and hoisting it on top of a bloody great rocket, either as the main payload or as space filler alongside whatever is intending to be launched.
So what LauncherOne was intending to do is get smaller devices into orbit quickly, and directly from an airfield in the country. The jet, called Cosmic Girl, took off from Cornwall and flew over to a specially cleared patch of ocean between Ireland and Spain (in case things went wrong, wreckage could come down safely).

But as every space agency on the planet can attest, space is hard. So it should not surprise anybody that there was an "anomaly". Most things actually went right. There was no massive explosion that blew up the jumbo. Well, it's a possibility. Look how many times SpaceX blew up the launchpad. Space is hard.

It's a good first attempt. Clearly people will be disappointed that it wasn't a successful mission, but it was so close to being a success. Maybe it's just a little kink that needs seen to? There's always next time.

I would, however, like to correct the person (politician?) who was boasting about being the first European country to manage a launch into space.

Technically, French Guiana is a part of France. It's a DOM, so it has a département number, it's a part of the EU, and it even uses the Euro and follows Eurozone rules as the mainland metropolitan France.
And Guiana, on the northeast side of South America, is where Arianne hangs out.

Okay, if a colonial possession is stretching the definition of "Europe" a little bit, then I'm afraid I have to break it to you that the race for a European country to launch into space from home soil has been very long lost. Nazi Germany flung a V-2 rocket into space passing the Kármán line (the edge of space) in June 1944, making an apogee of 176 kilometres (Kármán is 100km). It did not enter orbit, not because it was unable to (low earth orbit starts from about 150km), but because it was not intended to. It was a vertical test launch, so it went up and came back down again. The point was to observe the behaviour of the rocket in the vaccum of space.
A subsequent launch took a rocket to 189km, but there's no date recorded.

So, sorry, the Nazis beat the entire rest of the world in getting a rocket into space. Never mind from home soil, they were first, period.

Albert II (the monkey in space in 1949) only made 134km. It wasn't until Sputnik 1 in 1957, 13 years later, that the German record was beaten.

But, for LauncherOne, better luck next time. Space is hard.



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J.G.Harston, 14th January 2023, 01:14
You call that a school uniform? Hold my beer.... try :) 
To me, it was just "clothes". Nothing special, just what I happened to wear during the week.
David Pilling, 14th January 2023, 13:17
So the good news is you do still have a job, and you can see how someone else does your old work. Bask in the glory of the "fings aint wot they used tabby" effect. 
Space... for interest UK put a satellite into orbit from Australia, using its own tech. 50 years ago, Blackarrow, which was promptly cancelled by the Heath government. 
Seemingly the current effort, is US tech, and has worked on previous occasions, although not from UK soil.
J.G.Harston, 14th January 2023, 16:25
I thought conventional engineering said you needed your launch point to be as close to the equator as possible. Viz Florida and French Guiana. At 50 degrees from the equator you're having to put significant energy, directional and stability control into the system. 
Rob, 14th January 2023, 16:56
Take a very close look at how well the new company does the job, and how long and how many people it takes.. If it looks like they are making a mess of it, and other people notice and think so too, remind them you are still about, and you might find they start pushing to have you back again!  
I've seen outside-contractors brought in to do things that were in-house to many times, and it NEVER works out cheaper. Usually because management don't actually know what exactly is being done by the staff being replaced, contract for too little of it, and end up either paying through the nose for all the "extras" atop the contract, or getting the remaining staff to do things they never did before to make up. At least you're still there! I just hope things work out. 
Rick, 14th January 2023, 18:38
I think the conventional engineering applies to massive rockets like the Arianne and SpaceX ones. The idea being that tiddly little rockets can get up from a wider range of locations. 
I'm not sure if the equator is because the atmosphere is thinner or anything, or if it's because a lot of geostationary satellites are located at the equator. The Sky TV satellites, for instance, are just slightly to the left of Uganda. 
It's worth noting that it was dropped off between Ireland and Spain and it was heading towards the Canaries, so it was sort of going in the direction of the equator. 
Rick, 14th January 2023, 18:55
Rob - yes, that thought had crossed my mind. Not to nitpick but to see how long it takes them (if I can, I won't be around there much any more). Anything over about 3-4 hours a day and they'll be taking longer than me. 
As for the quality of the work, I'll keep quiet and see if the committee complain if it isn't as good, or if it's better but takes twice as long. 
I doubt they'll want me back. That might be seen as admitting somebody screwed up. However I got the job originally because the outside contractors they had back then were too expensive for what was being done. And I was first put on night cleaning all those years ago because they got rid of the contractors to do the cleaning in-house. 
But now, with new management, it seems like everything is being outsourced. My payslips, for example, come from some place near Bordeaux. 
I'm a full time employee, I have various rights. Unfortunately my contact is (intentionally) vaguely worded to give the company flexibility. It says I'm an "agent d'entretien" (cleaner), rather than specifically ménage. So by switching me from that to plonge, I'm still occupying a different facet of the same job. 
That all being said, I'll keep quiet so long as nobody suggests messing with my hours. 
As for cleaning wheels and crap... brings to mind when I was a Care Assistant. Because I worked for an agency (and got fairly well paid compared to own staff), there was a lot of jealousy in certain places, so I was told things like "we don't want you, but we can't send you home, so go up into the attic and clean the shit of the old wheelchairs". 
Me? "Yeah, okay". 
I mean, if they want to pay me almost a tenner an hour to do a pointless task because their own staff have too much attitude, fine by me. 
That wasn't the rule, some places were enjoyable to work, but others had staff with serious issues. 
Hmm, seems that there's always some unpleasant person polluting the employment pool, isn't there?
Rick, 16th January 2023, 20:01
I don't know how long they were around for, and it seems like they only cleaned the toilets today...but there were *THREE* of them! 
Rob, 17th January 2023, 12:02
Three? That sounds like it's going to be expensive...
Rob, 17th January 2023, 12:11
Obviously not a practical suggestion at this point, as you'd lose your accrued employment rights, but it'd be amusing if you were to approach the contracted company, and say "I've done this for ten years, you can pay me a bit less than you're paying those three" and end up right back where you were, but costing your company significantly more.. 
Or, and as your bosses seem dead set on outsourcing, set up your own company and tender for the job...
Rick, 17th January 2023, 14:16
I just saw two of them. Don't know if it's normally two or normally three (maybe the other one is elsewhere), but they're here from 1pm to 4pm every day (I asked). 
So that's either six or nine hours to do a better job of what I had to fit into less than three hours. 

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