Tuesday, 14 February 2017

No pressure...

This is a post about the business of driving instruction.

There's been a bit of coverage lately about what's been termed "the gig economy"

If you delivered mail, like I used to do 25 years ago, you were an employee. You got paid, minus tax, and were entitled to certain rights, along with your obligations. We've moved increasingly towards a way of doing things where people are self employed. They contract to work, generally get paid a higher rate, but are responsible for their own tax, and don't get such things as sick pay or holiday pay.

It's nothing new. It's just been vastly extended over the last decade or so. If you were a small businessman, such as a roofer or a taxi driver, it's generally been that way for a long time.

And so it is with driving instructors. There are companies out there that will employ qualified instructors, and give them a wage, buut for the vast majority, they're working for themselves, and are expected to sort out their own tax and all the other gubbins you have to deal with as a self employed practitioner of your skills.

Getting work can be difficult, particularly at first. You advertise, or you pay the owner of a school to provide you with clients.

We're all prostitutes really, except we don't have to suck cock every day. We're friendly, often with people that we would not, in the ordinary course of events, choose to be friendly with, for money.

Helen, who's been paying me a nominal franchise fee for a good few months now, has got a full diary. She's now got people paying up front for blocks of lessons. Yet she's got a ticking time bomb in her life.

When working on a trainee license, you are confronted with 2 seperate limits. One is a limit on the number of times you can attempt to do your teaching test. (3 times). The other is a time limit. You must complete your training within two years of passing the first of the three tests you are required to sit. There is some leeway. If you've booked a teaching test before they time limit, but the test date lies beyond the time limit, it will be honoured. The entitlement to teach, on a trainee license lapses upon the expiry of the time limit though, regardless of anything else.

Helen's time limit expires in April. She has her first attempt at her final exam in early March. She's taken close to £1000 in up front payment for lessons over the last week or two.

She's stressing about this, although she's also done the sensible thing and banked the money, so that if she doesn't get through the test, she can pay back anything she's unable to honour.

I also think that the fact that people have chosen to give her hundreds of pounds up front says something about where she's got to as an instructor.

One thing I've wanted to do for a while has been to get her sitting in on a lesson with an absolute beginner. I'd managed to organise something a couple of weeks back, but unfortunately, she was ill, and couldn't make the session. Today though, I managed to get this to happen. I think she'll get a lot from it. Not just in terms of how to do a beginner lesson, but in terms of how to structure and pace things.

Being able to do the job, and getting through the teaching test are not one and the same, There are some potentially excellent instructors that, because of nerves or whatever, never manage to clear the hurdle. There are a whole lot of shit instructors out there that ticked the boxes and got through.

Still, having a good solid grounding in the real life nitty gritty job is going to give you a better chance of getting through.

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Driving School Vlog...?

One of my pupils waxed enthusiastic about doing videos.

Done properly, he said, it could bring a lot of business my way, and also make me money via youtube advertising revenue.

This particular blog, my own personal public outlook carries no advertising. If you're geting advertising when you come here, you should check your phone/tablet/computer for malware.

Stuff related to my work though is a different matter. It's my livelihood after all, and since the purpose of life, in this world we live in, is to make money, I don't have a problem with making money from any blogs or websites that are about my professional role.

You'll notice on my blogroll, the blog, howtofailyourdrivingtest. I've actually got a couple of pupils from this site over the years, and it does carry advertising. I could go and find precise figures about when I started it, and how much it's earned me, but precision is not important here. Suffice to say, the blog has been open for a few years, and has not yet generated enough revenue to trigger a payment from google.

That said though, I've done little to either keep the blog updated, or to promote it in any way. It has some potential I guess, but what I have in mind for it doesn't really sit well with the blogger format. I'd like it to be a page showing a DL25 driving test report sheet, and when people click on the various marking boxes, they would then go to an entry with a case study examining how the fault was generated, but as with so many things right now, finding the time/energy/motivation is difficult. The whole exercise is rather dry. Still, it does appear to be about the only thing relating to driving tests coming from that particular direction. I'm vaguely reminded of Monty Python's "How Not to be Seen" sketch, or Channel 4's "Pot Night" section on how not to grow cannabis.

 The internet of course is awash with videos of driving lessons, but I'd like to do things slightly differently. Getting things wrong on purpose. Trying stuff out in a way that those other vids don't. Knowing how to stall, for example, can lead to working out how to make it not stall.

I have cameras. I have my phone, my ipad, an old digital compact that can shoot video, a dashcam that has cameras for both front and rear. I don't have a clear idea about such things as what software to use to splice/embed/add soundtracks etc. I'd need a way of being able to drive and talk, while having cameras pointing in a useful direction and doing things like zoom and pan andwhat have you. Perhaps an assistant could help? Glamorous or otherwise. I also have a youtube account as part of the google account that is also this blogger account. If it were for my driving school, then it would make sense to set up a new account devoted to it. One that would link to my website, and to my facebook business page.

Truth is, I'm tired. I'm never home. Doing something fun and different like this might be a useful diversion as much as a potential source of income/new pupils. Even more new pupils would mean I could go on to fill the diary of another instructor.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A type...

A couple of months ago, I came across a type.

The type was a literary construct called a Mary Sue.


A mary Sue is an unfeasibly perfect fictional character, usually the protagonist, that is so impossibly perfect that the author's task of providing them of finding a way out of whatever hole they found themselves in is made utterly straightforward. I found the idea after trying to re-read (via audiobook) something that I enjoyed as a teenager. In this case, a character called Stile, from a series of novels by Piers Anthony.

But I've found another type, and I don't have a Name for it.

This type is a scary bastard, that despite their scariness is utterly ineffectual.

My first identification of the type was Iain M Banks's character, "The Serotine" It appears in his novel, Feersum Endjinn, and despite ratchetting dramatic tension, it is repeatedly hapless. A punchbag whos repeated defeats allow the hero of the tale to prevail. In Banks' case it's a disembodied flayed head that shrieks unnervingly but is avoided and eventually rendered imobile and helpless, to the amusement of those it had formerly terrorised.

Star Wars' Stormtroopers also fit this mould. Scary, authoritarian figures that couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo.


See also, JRR Tolkien's Nazgul. Undoubtedly scary. Manage to wound Frodo, but kill nobody, and their biggest and scariest is offed (by a girl) just as they're at their most scariest before they all get shunted off into oblivion by the dissolution of their boss.

Deaths by Dwarf - At least 31
Deaths by Elf - one less
Deaths by men, lots
Deaths by Nazgul - 0.5.

Well one of them might have killed a horse that them rolled over and killed a man. So let's give him some credit.
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Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Political Compass says...

I've been meaning to write something about recent political upheavals, but this sort of sums it up.


Reflections on the US Presidential Election Result

The US election result was less a victory for sexism and racism than the defeat of Wall Street’s globalisation project — the one percent who benefit from arms contracts and free trade deals. Clearly large numbers of Americans, uncomfortable with the personality of Trump, nevertheless quietly voted for him and confounded the pollsters. It was a remarkable backlash against the political establishment, weary of vacuous promises of hope, and impatient for actual change.

Trump, more than any other incoming President in living memory, owes little to anyone. He was the outsider who won not because of the Republican Party, but in spite of it. He will not come to grips with the urgent issue of climate change. Neither will he do anything to reverse the country’s moral and intellectual decline.

The Democratic Party has only itself to blame. Middle and lower class anger towards the Washington establishment was all too evident. Poll after poll during the primaries indicated that Sanders — their own anti-establishment figure — had a far better chance of beating Trump. Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know of the party’s manipulation of its primaries. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Hillary would receive the nomination. The candidate of the military industrial complex and international finance capital was entitled to it.

In Political Compass terms, the US has finished up with a socially reactionary anti-establishment president. It might well have had a socially progressive anti-establishment one. The inescapable conclusion is that the Democratic Party hierarchy preferred Clinton to lose than Sanders to win.

In the wound-licking to come, might the party move closer to its pre-Clinton, pre-globalisation Keynsian past? Might it perhaps campaign for electoral reform and address undemocratic absurdities like the electoral college? Might it even recognise that, in the interest of a fully functioning democracy, the smaller parties must also be heard? It’s doubtful that one in ten-thousand Americans has heard of Jill Stein, not to mention her substantially fresh take on so many issues.

Trump is an old-fashioned isolationist and protectionist. As alarming as the thought of his impulsive finger on the nuclear button may be, he will diffuse the escalating tensions with Russia, and the attempts to portray Putin as the new Saddam. he will also hopefully fulfil his promise to tear up the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which many nations are being dragged into. Far from being merely about free trade, the TPPA gives corporations unprecedented and dangerous engagement in many aspects of governance.

Most importantly, Trump’s every move will be analysed and criticised not only by the Democrats, but also by large chunks of his own party. This is a healthier situation than during the previous eight years, when a Democratic president delivered a largely Republican programme while his party remained shamefully silent. A socially reactionary and highly unpredictable new president gratefully inherits the Obama administration’s provisions for illegal detentions without charges, domestic spying of citizens and extrajudicial assassinations — precedents that would be damned as quasi-fascist if Trump had initiated them.
We’re all in for an interesting — and bumpy — ride.
As to the UK? I was an activist back in the 80's and early 90's, when the Labour Party, ditched it's principles, and expelled its radicals to gain the power that came with appealing to the middle classes. I left in apathy and disgust. The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn re-energised me to some extent.

Well, Momentum seems to have lost a lot of its momentum. The grassroots movement that brought Corbyn to the fore is being thwarted at every turn by the mainstream Labour Party. My own local party remains suspended, and can only meet informally, under the banner of "Trades Union Public Meeting" or similar. There's a lot of anger towards Angela Eagle, and I think it's clear that given the opportunity, most constituency members would choose to replace her.

Google "Lol Duffy" if you'd like a bit of historical context.

So just as Sanders was baulked, and a potential progressive outlet was denied to people's anger and disillusiuonment, leading to them seeking other avenues, so it's likely that if a move to the left is blocked in the UK, working class voters will turn to UKIP.
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