Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Friday 21 March 2014

Flexibility - always the best option?

"Jack of all trades; Master of none" - a phrase coined at the turn of the 20th century to describe the multi-skilled odd job man. It fitted the bill when UK industry was home to apprenticeships and "master craftsmen" I am a Labour man, til I die, yet am savvy enough to recognise that the ridiculous demands of the unions are, at least, partly responsible for the demise of British manufacturing and have done very little to enhance the lifestyles of the individuals who make up their membership - their leaders are doing rather nicely by the way!

A Dragonfly - Turkey

I believe that this (approx) quote is attributable to Charles Darwin - "It is not the strongest, or the most intelligent species that survive, but the most adaptable". This has been used recently by industry to promote the "lean culture" and maximized efficiency regimes that are capable of sustained growth and profitability. Working for FSIS is certainly a dynamic environment in which these values are promoted and rewarded - and I am very comfortable within the factory environment where, as a process operator, multi-skilling is very much an accepted part of the job description. Yet, I have been thinking about this and realise that even within FSIS, the requirement to be flexible is not spread equally across the workforce. For instance, we don't require our Finance Director to go out and sell a few printers, the HR team to jump on a forklift and load a lorry or two - oh no! They are highly skilled individuals, trained in specific roles, so although they are a vital part of the organisation there is no multi-skilling requirement? However, closer inspection of the skills of our HR department reveal an in-depth knowledge of employment law, Health and Safety legislation, pension funds and umpteen other aspects of work related subjects, thus ensuring our organisation runs as smoothly as possible. Therefore, they are skilled in many aspects of this very specialist area - so experts in their chosen field.

A centipede - in Turkey (I'm assuming the colouration is a warning of an unpleasant taste?)
Us guys (and a very capable girl - Allison) who earn our crust within the factory (manufacturing and packing departments) and warehouse (export and shipping department) are contracted to be a flexible as our skill base allows. We are expected to work wherever the demand is greatest and are trained in as many aspects of the entire operation as it is deemed necessary. As a shift worker, I get to demonstrate this flexibility on a regular basis - be it packing, running our pre-mix and main stirrers, loading and/or unloading lorries or weighing up bulk liquids and powders, or running our filtration units (digital ink is manufactured to an incredibly high level specification). This variety is certainly a good way of avoiding any chance of things becoming mundane/routine which is certainly many outsiders perception of factory life?

Berthelot's Pipit -  Gran Canaria Jan 2004
After a couple of hours perusing the various noises in my "blogland circles" it would appear that my industrial background has a very direct analogy to the various contributors. Pan-listers are the very epitome of that flexible process operator, turn their hand to anything with a certain level of skill, so they are always able to find new interest from their chosen pursuit and boredom/routine is unlikely to be an issue. The twitcher, moth-er, botanist,  match angler, specimen hunter are very much akin to the HR office crew; still flexible but within a far more defined set of parameters. Then there are, however, the top echelon of the specialist tree - within FSIS they are our R&D chemists who are out in a league of their own!. Within a natural history perspective I am in awe of the likes of  Dick Forsman, Hadoram Shirihai, the late Peter Grant, Bernard Skinner, Barry Goater, Dick Walker, Fred Buller; and there are so many others - true "Master Craftsmen" - absolutely the very top of their chosen disciplines. Not for them the dilution of talent by becoming distracted by other interests, just the single minded determination to be the best in their chosen specialized fields? Now while I have complete admiration for anyone with the dedication and passion to remain enthralled by their chosen interests, I don't have the drive, or commitment, to stick with anything should I find it becoming a chore. I am, therefore, extraordinarily fortunate to have a range of interests that compliment each other and a job which has the diversity to remain a challenge - thus enjoyable. So, in spite of my very open dislike of competition and league tables as an indicator of ability - I have to admit that the pan-listing concept is a superb vehicle for avoiding boredom whilst enjoying our outdoor experiences. (And Steve never thought he'd ever hear me say that!)

Male Short-toed Lark


  1. Nice blogging!

    Regards pan-listing, we (I say "we" as though I'm somehow a mover and a shaker in the PSL world - which I'm really not!) hope to spread the word that there's much more out there than immediately meets the eye and that much of it is within the bounds of identification should you choose to delve a little. As you so brilliantly put it - a superb vehicle for avoiding boredom whilst enjoying our outdoor experiences (and it really is too!) So that's one aspect of the whole pan-listing mallarkey. As an aside, if you make a note of what you find then, by definition, you have a species list. If you choose to, you can compare with other lists. But that's not really the aim of the game, appealing though it may be for some of us.

    The second point "we" are trying to make is a simple but important one. If you've found something and subsequently made the effort to identify it to species level, let someone know about it. Not the fella at work or your mate down the pub - but the relevent recorder. Make that record worth so much more than just an extra point on your tally. This, I think, is where pan-listing will gain credibility over the likes of rare bird twitching which is more to do with numbers than skill (for many, but certainly not all). I should point out that I'm a twitcher, though far less rabid than I used to be. It really is about the numbers now, possibly inevitably so.

    One day I'll stop clogging up your Comments Box with pan-species listing waffle! Sorry 'bout that old bean!

    Cheers mate,


    1. Seth; old chap!
      If it weren't for Mr Gale and your good self, I'd seriously wonder if anyone out there read my random musings. Comments on my blogging are rarer than pike anglers on the Royal Military Canal (Apart from my son, and his mates, I've never met another one in two years!).
      So fret not about clogging up my comments box - opinions are always welcome

      All the best - Dyl