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Date: 02/09/2014
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Westminster Bridge (and how I did not become a Factory Inspector)

Its only one stop away. And you can see Westminster Bridge which you can't from Westminster because you are on Westminster bridge there.
I was asked about that poem in my Civil Service entrance interview, after I had passed the entrance exam.
I was told that the first question would be something straightforward to put me at ease.
I was told wrong. The first question was " I see from our records that you have previously applied to the Factory Inspectorate. Tell me why you wanted to be a Factory Inspector?"
Tell him why I wanted a job I didn't get because it didn't actually exist.
These days 'elf 'n' safety is a dirty word. All right its three words which makes it a dirty phrase. But this was just after the first Health and Safety at Work Act had come in in 1975 which replaced or extended the provisions of the many Factory Acts and Offices Shops and Railway Premises Acts enacted since the mid 19th century.
Working conditions interested me and that interest was not academic. I grew up amongst factory workers, some of whom were missing fingers that had caught in machinery, or were coughing to death from a working lifetime spent among dust and asbestos. Having done a law degree I applied thinking the Inspectorate had a legal department to handle any prosecutions that might be necessary.
They didn't. The inspectors mounted their own cases and those inspectors needed engineering and technical degrees to understand what machinery was safe and what wasn't. End of application.
The second question was "You will have walked by Westminster Bridge to get here. What do you think Wordsworth would say were he here today?"
So far as I can recall I said that while many of the buildings had changed, he would not necessarily disapprove of every piece of modern architecture that has replaced what he knew. And the River has not changed, and neither has the effect of sunlight on water, effect on the human spirit . . .
Whatever else I said had the desired effect because I was accepted into HM Civil Service, and offered a post in the very department which was my first choice.
Civil Service recruitment has changed many times since then.
Call me a cynic but I believe the process now goes something like "And how does this candidate define her ethnic origin? ", her being a deliberate effort at the positive discrimination which does not exist. Then when the answer is Angmassalik the application is carried with peals of merry laughter to the top of the pile as "We are under-represented by members of the west Greenlandic ice shelf community".



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