Thursday, 28 April 2011
Mike Freer sorts the treasury tags
When I left university the first time, I spent 18 halcyon months as a civil servant. I was an Administrative Officer in Royal Parks and Palaces, funnily enough, part of the Department of the Environment. Generally I was fully occupied, administering rents for the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London and arranging access for utility companies to the Royal parks.
Sometimes, things would go a bit slack though. On those occasions, my Grade 7 (boss), instead of doing the sensible thing and saying "Vicki, why don't you go and enjoy an hour in the sunshine", would do what all good managers do and find me something to do.
One day he struck on the brilliantly pointless idea of making me sort the treasury tags (illustrated). Now that we no longer use such things - and barely used them then - I should explain that these were used to hold sheaves of papers together in the days before widespread use of the ring binder and long before the notion of the paperless office was invented.
Treasury tags came in different lengths, so that you could hold more or fewer pieces of paper together. They were colour coded to some extent, I think green ones were quite long and purple or yellow ones very short, you get the idea. Of course, there was absolutely no point sorting them into separate piles; no one would bothered to remember which colour was long or short. No one ever said to themselves "How thick is my pile of papers? Just a few sheets. Then I'll need a red tag for that." before they hit the stationery cupboard.
Moreover, any intelligent human being needing a treasury tag would sensibly rummage in the pile, and hold a few up until they saw one the right length.
Never mind; my boss, not on the whole a bad man, thought he was saving the taxpayer money or something and saving me from dangerous idleness by making me do this.
I recently saw a news story which reminded me of treasury tags: apparently Mike Freer has been counting the mobile phones in government departments. Now, Mike Freer used to be a big fish in the substantial, but compared to government, relatively small pond of Barnet council. He used to be a sort of grade 7 - a boss. He had his own office and desk and most people knew who he was.
Now he finds himself at Westminster, for weeks he was without an office, presumably ignored at every turn. Whether he has been given the job of sorting the treasury tags, sorry, counting the mobile phones, by someone else who wants to make him feel valued, I don't know. I somehow doubt it. I rather suspect he has hit upon this way to show his usefulness by himself. Well, I've noticed Mike, someone's noticed.