Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A wheel has fallen off our well oiled machine !

I laughed out loud this evening when I read on a Labour parliamentary candidate's blog that he was facing an uphill struggle as the 'Kent Tory machine was well funded and sleek with modern equipment and modern, fully staffed offices'.


Apart from the fact that every penny we spend we raise from the voluntary contributions of our members and supporters, whereas Labour's campaign war chest will be bankrolled by £20,000,000 from the Trades Unions, the concept of our West Kent office being 'modern and sleek' came as a surprise to the two of us who toil away here. 

For example; this morning we were due to continue merging letters to pledges (for the uninitiated, pledges are voters who have pledged their support on polling day).  Our laser printer worked happily all day yesterday without complaint, but this morning, for no apparent reason, whenever it printed a voter's name and address it added a random sentence "return your summer draw counterfoils along with your cheque in the freepost envelope supplied".  Given that even I haven't yet sunk to asking pledges to send a cheque before voting for us, we had to take action.

"I'll take it apart and clean it", I said. Jon looked perplexed. "Do you think that's wise, last time you did that it cost £220 to get it repaired." I wanted to argue, but couldn't, so we called the engineer (or did so once Jon has searched Google as we couldn't find the scrap of paper with the engineer's phone number on it).

Production was then transferred to laser printer #2. Unfortunately, this printer isn't networked, so we had to email across the mail merge template and the database.  Having done so, we then remembered that the data file was a more modern version of Excel than our 8yo computer could open, so it was emailed back to the original computer, converted to .xls and send back again.

As this was happening there was a crash and our desks were showered in dust. The overhead light fitting was hanging precariously from one end, with the other end bobbing up and down above Jon's chair. The fitting had fallen down previously, about 6 years ago, when my predecessor had stuck it back with a lump of Bluetac. Unable to locate the electrician's phone number (probably on the same piece of paper as the laser printer engineer's) we affected a temporary repair. This consisted of Jon standing on his desk to hammer a nail into the ceiling. Unfortunately we didn't have any nails, nor a hammer - so he banged a screw into the ceiling instead, using a spanner as a hammer.  We then attached the swinging end of the light fitting to the screw using two elastic bands and a shoelace. (Stop sneering at the back please - it worked just fine).

We then heard prolonged cussing from the attic, where a volunteer was folding the leaflets we had printed yesterday. It transpired that he was running both folding machines simultaneously, but had accidentally loaded the paper the wrong way into one of them, resulting in 500 letters being folded with the name and address folded inside, all of which had to be manually refolded.

Meanwhile in the print room we finally came to the end of the teal ink, which someone (not me!) had ordered in error and had used to top-up the ink drum, resulting in it being mixed with the residue of navy blue ink already in use. This resulted in a ghastly blend of inks which I called 'oil slick green' which was used on newsletters throughout the campaign (the only alternative being a new ink drum at £800).  Fortunately most candidates didn't notice, and those that did were told it was all part of our modernisation and decontamination strategy. 

Well oiled machine ?  If only they knew.

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