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Worthy Down


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Worthy Down

25 Jul 2020 7:40AM   Views : 387 Unique : 267

This is a follow-on from my blog a couple of days back, which was called learn. Georgeís comment reminded me of how I learnt to be an accountantÖ Strictly, how I acquired an accountancy qualification: Before, during and after, I was an auditor. Before and during, I was an external auditor in the NHS: very shortly after finishing the course, I left the DHSS and started working at a local authority as an internal auditor, immediately losing the boring half of my former job (final accounts) and able to start doing the interesting stuff, looking at systems and individual parts of the organisation all year round.

Let me explain: the Department wanted to have some qualified accountants, and as there was another department that ran courses in-house, it, like various others, sent people to the Royal Army Pay Corps at Worthy Down, just outside Winchester. The fact that the course led to what was then the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants qualification was a side-issue: what mattered was that the pass rate was well over 90%, while the general rate for graduates was 45%.

And the Army achieved this by applying the only training techniques it knew: practice, and making us more afraid of the instructors than we were of the examiners. So while most students fitted their learning round life and a job, we were trained intensively over a total of around 15 months, over a total of two and a half years.

We sat at the same tables that we would sit the exams at. The same people instructed us as would invigilate the exams. They applied an alarming amount of the same discipline as they would to junior squaddies Ė anyone giving up and trying to leave the exam room would be turned round and sent back in. Itís amazing how much you can remember in three hours if you are not allowed to leave.

It was, frankly, brutal. I hated it, but I passed all the exams first time, and have good memories of some of the people. I still donít know how to do some stuff for real, like balance sheets: Harry, the accountancy instructor, a bald-headed warrant officer from Yorkshire, said he liked the way that I never got the right answer, but had several good reasons why not. John Benton, the Warrant Office (First Class) who taught us law managed to drum weird and senseless facts into me. Captain John Duncan, a thoughtful Scot who taught economics laid the groundwork for my lifelong admiration of John Maynard Keynes, whose view was that in a depression, a governmentís duty is to spend heavily on capital projects.

Has any of this got anything to do with photography? Well, yes. My escape from the routine of lessons, practice questions and general armyness was with my camera: and Winchester had both a London Camera Exchange near the Buttercross and a branch of Jessops in Parchment Street. Southampton has several more camera shops, including one where I bought my second Contax RTS body and a Minolta CLE outfit. And the same train that I used for a while to commute to work in London took me to the Beehive at Camden (where they had resident models every day) and Strobe Studio at Clapham Junction, for Thursday night and Saturday afternoon group sessions. Thatís where I learned to focus on the sparkle in the eyes.

And also itís important to embed your technique so that your fingers remember when your mind is on other things. George referred to muscle memory, and that matters. The army wants people to remember how to shoot with one leg shot off: and the same teaching techniques ensure a high success rate in exams (though not all examiners want to kill you. Honest!)

So practice, practice, practice. You wonít wear your camera out: even a consumer DSLR is rated for 100k actuations: and most bodies intended for professional use aim for 500k.

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