Have the English lost it completely?

Oct 31st, 2009 | By | Category: Cross Channel

There are times when living in Ireland has its down moments: like turning on the radio this morning to hear that the financial crisis in the country had been dealt with by the finance minister and a popular economist talking into the early hours, over the economist’s kitchen table, while the minister ate raw garlic to stay awake.  Passing the economist’s house, which is just up the street, a thought occurred that one day there might be a blue plaque on the wall to mark the place where our future was determined.  Whatever the full details of the encounter, it seems a mighty silly way to try to save a country.

Yet even the worst of moments here cannot reach the silliness that has overcome England.

Last week the Financial Times reported on the state of the town of Barrow, in north-west England.  Five thousand people are employed by the submarine industry there; it is the only submarine yard and there is only one customer, the Royal Navy.  What is the company called? BAE Submarine Solutions.  Matthew Engel, the columnist observes, “as if any one of us might look in Yellow Pages and ring up to say our sub has sprung a leak and could they pop round?”

Who thought of calling it ‘submarine solutions’?  Did someone somewhere get paid for coming up with the name? What next, Royal HR Solutions to manage the Queen?

English silliness takes a new twist this week in a story carried by both the Daily Telegraph and the FT

A 13-year-old boy became one of the youngest workers to lose his job during the recession when he was officially made redundant from his paper round.

Kane Middleton received a formal letter from the company employing him, outlining his redundancy package of nought pounds and assuring him that opportunities for redeployment within the company had been fully assessed.

The schoolboy from Clophill, Bedford, was paid between £6 and £7 per week to deliver the local freesheet, the Mid Beds Times & Citizen.

He began the paper round in August after turning 13.

The letter he received from Letterbox Direct last week said: ”It is with considerable regret that we write to inform you that your contract of employment with Letterbox Direct will be terminated for reasons of redundancy with effect from 19th October.

”You will not be required to work your notice period and therefore this date will be your last date of employment within the company.

”We have fully assessed opportunities for redeployment within the company but there appears to be no suitable alternative jobs available at present.”

The letter assured Kane that the decision was nothing to do with the standard of his work but was ”purely based on marketing data.”

He was told he would be paid a redundancy package of nought weeks statutory redundancy equating to nought pounds.

He would, however, receive one week’s pay in lieu of notice, which amounted to £6.93, the letter said.

Kane, who was using the money to buy treats for his pet hamster Splodge, said he would try to look for other work.

He said: ”I was quite upset because I couldn’t buy anything for my hamster any more. I thought the letter was a bit strange.”

His mother Jocelyn Middleton, 57, a clerk in an electronics company, said: ”The language in the letter is not the sort of language a child would understand.

”Kane’s got no other income other than what he gets from his parents and will have to come cap in hand to us now.”

Letterbox Direct said it had followed all the correct procedures.

A spokeswoman said: ”We have to do everything by the book. It does seem quite an extreme measure but that’s what you’ve got to do these days.”

“That’s what you’ve got to do these days”?  You have to send a redundancy letter to a thirteen year old paper boy?  Who made up such rules?  Who said you should send a redundancy notice to a minor who cannot legally enter into a contract anyway?

This is a country that once ruled a quarter of the planet; it’s hard to imagine now that Britain was once a major power.

However bad things might be, even if the taoiseach has to eat garlic, we have yet to be invaded by solutions and spokeswomen.

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  1. Interesting article. I consider myself of sound mind and body but I admitted to my wife last night that I felt like crying while driving home from work yesterday evening – no I am not about to suffer a breakdown, nor am I on the verge of one – but to keep ones head held high, to keep in good form is increasingly difficult in today’s climate. It is impossible to escape the bad news out there. Switch off the radio but you still pass newspaper salespeople holding high the evenings headline. Never good news always bad.

    Today I listened to SIPTU’s Jack O’Connor say that public sector cuts will not solve our economic crisis, comment after comment from listeners flowed in attacking his opinion. We are a nation entering conflict and uncertainty, I’m buying blinkers and earmuffs.

  2. Ruck,

    Trying to support people at the sharp end of things is depressing. I’m worried about how some people will cope. No-one is speaking for some of them.

    But, having said that, I would rather be living here than in England.

  3. Ian ‘solutions’ its the new gobbledegook speak those snappy young ‘brainstorming’ advertising geeks come up with…….about the same amount of sense as the PC drone who sent the redundancy letter to the 13 year old just in case his human rights may have been breached…then his parents would sue…..!!!!!!!…I worked for Ted Gould when I was 13, I wonder if he ever thought of making me redundant when the haymaking was finished??!!!!!!It should be BAE ‘purveyors of the finest submarines’ All those new stupid descriptions make me seethe…It all started when Marathons became Snickers…..

  4. I would wonder if the parents might have grounds for an action against the company for emotional distress caused to a minor. The communication should have been with his parents.

    Had they just said, ‘We made a mistake in the way we have dealt with this, we’re sorry’, it might not have reached the press.

  5. Poor kid, how hard up must the paper have been to need to sacrifice such a tiny income. I hate those standard letter things.

  6. The newspaper market has really hit the bottom, the ressession has hurried the decline – apparently begun by the availability of newspapers/news on line. He can not deliver waht no-one wants. My sister is an accountant for Newsquest who produce the local papers.

  7. It’s the bureaucratic mindset that I couldn’t cope with. As bad as things are, people in Ireland are more human.

  8. Hmm, that’s a rash statement

  9. Formed over twenty-six years of experience!

  10. But not recent experience of living in England, living it is not quite the same as it appears in the media etc.

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