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No skirting around the issue – planners are woven from many strands


Noted stamp collector, croupier, opera singer, murderer – planners are a varied bunch when not engaged in planning, says Chirs Shepley

My attention was drawn to a recent piece in our local paper. Headed “Don’t skirt the rules, school warns pupils”, it dealt with the thorny issue of the lengths of the skirts of pupils, usually girls, I think, though these days it is right not to make that assumption too readily. Clarity is supplied by the convenient provision of a snap of a schoolgirl wearing a skirt, so that the reader could readily grasp the burden of the argument.

This is a topic that regularly exercises the minds of reporters on local papers. But this piece interested me because of the following instruction from the school:

“The hem of the skirt should be no more than a planner’s width from the knee when the student is kneeling down”. (1)

I have hesitated to make further inquiries on this point. I am not sure whether the school employs a planner for the purposes of measurement, nor whether having such a placement on one’s CV would be a career advantage. Since planners in my experience vary considerably in size, I guess that filling the post must have involved some delicate judgements. I am not myself looking for posts of this kind, no longer needing to inflate my considerable portfolio. 

"I have heard it rumoured that one of our larger members was employed as a bouncy castle"

But being at the slimmer end of the spectrum, I might have found favour with parents understandably opposed to the extreme truncation of their daughters’ apparel. A more substantial planner might be best advised to eschew this opportunity.

The best use for most planners is, of course, actual planning, which they accomplish with some distinction, but many other purposes can be found. I knew one who broke the British 3,000 metres indoor record. And another who became one of the world’s leading opera singers. My Grotton friend Steve Ankers wrote a book about being married to a vet. He found this rather easier than most of us would, being married to a vet himself.

My other Grotton friend, David Kaiserman, collects stamps. I’m not sure of the details but his collection, well known in national philatelic circles, seems to comprise British stamps from some very precise period in the thirties. He let me see these once, and I was mightily impressed. Admittedly they all looked the same to me, but he assured me that to an expert the minute but critical differences between them, when viewed through the Jodrell Bank telescope (which is not far from where he lives), were of vital importance. They are, I gather, very valuable indeed to those few other people with access to Jodrell Bank. 

Other pursuits of which I am aware include the really rather useful one of being an MP (Helen Hayes), the slightly more prosaic writing of books about disused railways, playing the guitar in a band, being Malvolio, a croupier, a bartender, a pilot, a health food vendor, a tour bus guide, and (as a result of bumping off a man to whom he owed money) a guest of Her Majesty. I have heard it rumoured that one of our larger members was employed as a bouncy castle, though there is no photographic evidence.

Most of these activities are probably more useful and dignified than acting as a measuring device for the skirts of schoolgirls; but if one of our readers has adopted this as a sideline I wish him or her good fortune, and continued anonymity.

(1) Bath Chronicle 15 June 2017

Chris Shepley is the principal of Chris Shepley Planning and former Chief Planning Inspector


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