Touchpoint Observatory: UK Lift Engineer Bodge Job


This lovely piece of work is in a multistory car park in Ipswich in the UK. There are two lifts next to each other and something must have broken or been changed in one of them meaning the usual function of one button calling whichever lift is next free no longer works. The engineers have obviously had to remove the old panel and install a new one. They should have fixed the source problem, of course, but they have made the whole thing even more hilariously worse by installing a second “button” that is this huge module. It doesn’t fit and they can’t re-cable it, so the bodge solution is to install as picture above.

To top it off, they’ve had to put on stickers to explain which button does what. Extra labels always being the sign of badly thought through interfaces (that link is NSFW, by the way).

Why does this matter? Well, as an Englishman who has lived in Germany for many years, this level of workmanship is just shocking and something you would never see in Germany. More important is what it signals about the care the owners of the car park are going to take of your car and personal safety in the place. The whole thing screams, “we don’t care.”

Crowd-sourced insights into the Victorian workhouse

The UK National Archives have just released the 19th Century Poor Law Union and Workhouse Records. The history of workhouses in the UK is a typically Victorian approach to social problems. From the archive introduction:

The Poor Law Amendment Act was introduced in 1834, centralising the poor relief administrative system. Previously, poor relief had been largely the responsibility of the parish. Expenditure had risen during the Napoleonic Wars and local rate payers and authorities decided that looking after paupers was too costly. […] The new system was expected to reduce expenditure, using a harsh workhouse test. Claimants would be ‘offered the house’, but if they turned it down then the legal obligation to offer relief was considered to have been met.

The workhouse was partly social ‘support’, but also a deterrent. People would refuse the workhouse because they were so afraid of it and instead starved to death outside. It’s an unusual archive because normally history only records the activities of the wealthy and privileged, but this gives and insight into the lives of those who were at the bottom of the pile:

Apart from the fascinating stories (see video below), the whole project relied heavily on crowd-sourcing it to volunteers, without which the National Archive wouldn’t have had the resources to complete the project, according to Paul Carter the Archives’ principal modern domestic record’s specialist. Volunteers – local history and family groups, academics and historians – were given access to the archive in order catalogue the material and send this back to the archive.

Here is Paul Carter with an introduction to some of the stories from the archive:

Sweet English Suburbia in Hamburg

'English' Shop in Hamburg

I quite often teach COFA Online’s course, Graphics and Contemporary Society, which I find more interesting now that I’m here in Germany. A lot of the discussion amongst the students, who are in Australia, is about the differences between Asian and Western cultures (though those are sweeping terms in themselves), because there’s a large Asian population in Australia and Australia is really in the Asia-Pacific region.

So it’s always weird to have your own culture reflected back to you, like this shop I discovered in Hamburg called Sweet Suburbia replete with Marmite, Digestive biscuits, Suffolk Herbs, Walkers crisps, Jelly Tots (I grabbed a packet each of those last two), and everything else you’d find in a village corner shop in England mixed with some clothing and souvenirs.

Obviously everything cost more that it would in England (although, I’m not so sure about some corner shop prices these days), but it was just odd to see other customers looking so curious about our everyday things. It was a bit odd for me too because I’m pretty much used to living in Germany now.

It was nice to see, though, and a reminder that in a globalised age where any high street in any major city in the world looks pretty much like another, the small details still set cultures apart.

If you’re an Englander and living in Germany, you can stock up using Sweet Suburbia’s online shop. No Nestle condensed milk on there though, so my bannoffee pie will have to wait.

[tags]UK, British, shop, suburbia, hamburg[/tags]