Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips

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Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips

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Buy Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An intriguing memoir of life working in the council in the 60s and 70s, this is an entertaining book crammed with fun anecdotes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 172 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Chaplin Books
ISBN: 978-1909183155

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Local government isn’t what it used to be. People say this with regret, but reading Malcolm Philips’ memoir you will probably be left with the impression that this is a Very Good Thing. Because fun as it may have been to be working in the council in the 60s and 70s, if this entertaining account is anything to go by, it was also an awful shambles.

Malcolm joined his local county council in his mid 20s. He sort of fell into a position there, almost entirely unintentionally, and stayed for many years during which time he saw a lot of things, apparently more bad (or ludicrous) than good. Some of the briefest anecdotes are the best, such as the one about striking social workers being miffed their striking hadn’t caused death or deterioration, or the note to make a document look long and complicated so that it would demand respect, even if a short bullet pointed list would get the same message across. I liked the tales of courses being relished as time out of the office (in much the same way I relish my own out of office courses) and on learning about the higher-ups having traffic lights on their doors to tell you whether or not you could interrupt, I immediately began wondering if this were something I could resurrect and introduce to my work to keep out the staff…

This book sets the scene beautifully, describing well the atmosphere of council offices at that time, but even though it’s relaying the past, some things surprisingly never change. From staffing studies to a whole department dedicated to Organisation and Methods, the areas described often aren’t a million miles away from the public sector I’ve worked in for approaching a decade. I think this was what I liked most. There are some real characters in the book, and there are some real characters still working in local government. It’s relatable because it’s indicative of that area today, still, and while we might not call them ‘sods and buggers’ anymore, the notion still stands.

The book flows reasonably well, though I don’t particularly need to be told the author is going to go off at a tangent before it happens (Mention of the burial ground allows me to take a slight detour through another curiosity etc). But, generally speaking I was impressed with the narrative. It makes sense. It seems in a logical order. It’s personal but still general enough for similar employees from that era to relate to. It’s written by a civil servant, not an author, but the voice is nice, the grammar good, and the structure rational. I’m not sure the photos are needed – being black and white, some of them are quite hard to interpret – but otherwise it’s well presented.

This is a subtly funny book. I didn’t read it and ring my hands at the way tax payers’ money was being thrown around back then because it’s set decades before I was born, and yet more decades before I became a tax payer. Others may have a different reaction, but I looked upon it the way you would an older uncle telling you stories of the ‘olden days’ – a fascinating place that although familiar in some ways, is as foreign as another country in others. Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend, whatever generation you come from.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

No two memoirs can really be the same, by definition, but if this is your preferred genre, do check out our Newest Autobiography Reviews.

Buy Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jobsworth: Confessions of the Man from the Council by Malcolm Philips at Amazon.com.

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