Where to start I ask myself, you know when you think "surely things can't get any worse" ?.
But first a little story, a story of profund misery and frustration (sorry) :)
Many years ago I was studying at Nene College as it was then for an HND in Business Data Processing, I had sqandered my formal education and this was my last chance to get a qualification and get a into a career with some sort of future.
Technology wise this was still the dark ages in fact in the days of the floppy disk, remember them ?, and their characteristics, most notably their inherent ability to get corrupted, a bit like a politician.
Although these disks were full of data, not full of bullshit and empty promises.
I was keen to get my HND and I had an assignment to hand in on the Tuesday (this was a Sunday), so I went into the colleges computing suite with my floppy disk, on which I had a nearly completed assignment.
"Today I'll finish off this assignment and I can rest easy" I thought, "piece of mind will be mine, I can listen to music, go for a beer or two as a reward for my endeavors, I might even get some decent marks".
Not many people around so I could crack on without interruption, so I sat down in front of some of the best technology available at the time and inserted the floppy disk, opened the file and began to type away, I was feeeling self satisfied, rightous even, smug, pleased with myself.
You probably have already guessed, when I tried to save the file an error message popped up, something about the disk being corrupt, my sphincter did a little dance, sweat appeared on my furrowed brow, what kind of evil is this ?.
I popped the disk out and tried it in another machine, the same message, more sweat, more sphincter salsa, this was not at all what I had envisaged, my smugness evaporated, I didn't even have a mobile or the internet to share my misery as these didn't yet exist.
I had no backup, I was royally screwed, disconsolate and angry, why had this happened to me ?, life can be so unfair, I could have picked that PC up and hurled it through the nearest glass window, windows meant only one thing in those days.
I can hear you now thinking "but why didn't you have a backup" ?, to be honest it's that long ago I can't remember, all I remember is that sinking feeling, knowing I had a lot of work ahead of me and little time to do it.
I suspect we've all been there, many years ago I worked in IT an an NHS hospital, computers were being stolen from Consultants offices on a regular basis, I taught their secrertaries how to make a backup, some did, some didn't, those that didn't lived to regret it.
The lesson here is obvious, backups are vital, for me as an individual my pain at not having one was confined only to me and taught me a salutory lesson,
In terms of any business or any other entity for that matter that needs to keep records, or indeed ensure their ongoing viablity, backups are the difference between staying in business or going out of business,
There is also a legal requirement to be able to provide an audit trail and the ability to recover data for specfied periods so it's not a case of it being a nice to have, it's essential.
In the light of ransomware attacks and other threats to computer systems not to have a backup or backups is suicide, and just as important to regularly test them, this is not an exaggeration, this is fact.
So that's the story, why am I telling it ?
Well, let me direct you to this,
Read it and take in what we are being told, it truly is a new high in the stupidity stakes, it beggars belief and anyone in a real business who made decisions such as this would be out on their ear pronto.
This section is very telling -
Auditors found that the three councils did not have disaster recovery plans or testing arrangements in place and contractual arrangements between the three councils had not been formalised.
With specific reference to Northamptonshire the report said: “We were informed that critical IT systems do not currently have a disaster recovery solution in the event of a serious incident. There is a risk that the disaster recovery solution may lead to signifiant delays in recovering critical systems from a disruption, thereby resulting in operational disruption and reputational damage.”
Reputaional damage ?, in the light of recent revelations I should think the councils reputation can't sink much lower, not being able to provide services because of financial restraints is one thing, because of crass stupidity quite another.
Has 2018 been a good year for you and those you love?, I hope so, if not I hope 2019 will be a better one in every way.
Personally for me it's been a mixed bag, forgive me but I'm going to use a cricket based analogy here by saying the first innings was a disaster, starting badly with health problems for my Wife, work being scarce, Winter being well just Winter, and England losing the Ashes.
However the second innings changed the game, life had bowled us a few good balls which had discomforted both batsmen, but now having weathered the short balls, the googlies, and the odd one that jagged back, we went on the counter attack.
My Wife's health I am very glad to be able to say has slowly improved, work became less scarce, and although Winter is being Winter again I can get through in the confidence that England will regain the Ashes, and will do so without the aid of any D.I.Y products.
Northampton, or rather the people of the town have seen mixed fortunes too over this past year, and sadly like the rare Summer just gone rarely have we been governed locally with such total and utter ineptitude.
Earlier in the year it was identified that one of the towns most important historical monuments had fallen into disrepair, namely one of the only three Queen Eleanor's crosses surviving in the whole of England, In a sane world you would expect those responsible would jump into action and make sure the necessary investigations and repairs were carried out, thus preserving part of the counties history rich into the future.
After all in a sane world such an historic monument would be seen as an asset and not a cost, but when the lunatics are running the asylum ?.
I wonder if they will show "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" over Christmas, one of my all time favourite films.
What we actually witnessed was the unedifying squabble between the County and Borough Councils over whose responsibility the monument falls under in terms of repairs.
This quote from a Borough Council spokesman gives you a clue as to the ludicrous situation that developed,
“We are aware of the many references to the cross on our own website and sadly, while this seems contradictory, we still believe this is not proof of our ownership of the cross."
I know, you couldn't make it up, but sadly this is not unusual in Northampton, over the years the public have been let down, and have generally been poorly served by both Councils, County and Borough.
The last I heard work will now be delayed until April 2019, although at least somebody has taken ownership of the problem, that being the Borough Council who had carried out preservation work on the cross before but must have forgotten.
The debacle described above was not the end of our travails however, as worse was still to come, the preservation of things which tell us about our past is obviously very important, even more so in my opinion is the preservation of those things required for an informed and prosperous future.
What would you say to the question "what is the one of the hallmarks of a civilised society?", "an informed populace with access to books" would be my personal answer, This quote from Ray Bradbury the author encapsulates it for me.
"Without Libraries what have we ?, we have no past and no future".
The UK it transpires is the 6th largest economy in the world, and yet we are being told by our County Council in Northamptonshire that we cannot afford Libraries, yep, the loony bin just got a bit loonier,
Well lets clarify that, because the Coucil needs to save millions of pounds and their proposed plan is that of the thirty six Libraries under its control, only fourteen will remain so, while they will support five more, whatever support means.
A concerned group of activists took the County Council to court earlier in the year over the councils proposed cuts to Libraries a case which the council lost, and which cost the council two hundred thousand pounds.
Seventeen will be handed over to community groups to manage, again how this will work in reality is a matter of uncertainty, unfortunately there are some where there is no definite plan in place for their future.
And then came the inevitable accusations of financial mismanagement on the part of the County Council, the very same Council who built themselves a brand new fifty three million pound headquarters building in the middle of the town, and shortly afterwards Northamptonshire was bankrupt, in a situation where they were in danger of not being able to set a legal budget for the following financial year.
Whatever the cause be it cuts to grants from central government to our local authority, or just plain bad financial management within our local government, or a combination of the two, whoever thought we would come to the proposed running of Libraries by community groups?.
Now as nurse Pilbow said in the film I mentioned earlier "medication time, medication time".