I can see clearly now the lockdown has eased…

Those of you who follow cricket will know that the weather over the weekend of the third test between England and the West Indies, held at Old Trafford, was affected by periods of rain. This is a familiar occurrence for people who live in the North West and is accepted with a degree of resignation. Having been raised in this type of climate, I have learned to enjoy the rain, so I was quite happy to step out for my constitutional, suitably attired of course, on the weekend of the above test match. The rain changes the light and allows the landscape to be observed with a different perspective. I sense that the trees and bushes ‘perk up’ and, if the rain stops and the sun comes out, it is possible to detect a change in temperature when passing certain vegetation. It is as though I can feel their 

The changing weather and the changing seasons provide plenty of opportunity for seeing things anew, despite repeatedly treading the same path. This is in addition to other stimuli that draw attention to details, which may have been ignored many times before, but suddenly provide a fresh view of a familiar backdrop. We are creatures of habit and we tend to lapse into familiar routines and, as illustrated above, it is often external circumstances that jolt us into seeing the importance of things differently or from an alternative point of view. The biggest and most widespread external impetus to do this has been the COVID-19 pandemic and the 

Initially unable to travel for their one period of exercise a day, people were forced to explore routes and trails in their local area, often for the first time. In the process, they discovered previously unknown beauty on their doorstep – not something you notice if you are in the habit of driving further afield to the gym or well-known outdoor spots. The limitation on external exercise opportunities stimulated new ways of keeping fit at home, which in turn stimulated new attitudes to health. The impact of obesity has been a regular message in recent years and has been supported by public figures relating how they have been motivated to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. Despite this, most people have carried on doing what they have always done. Now, the link between the severity of the impact of COVID-19 and being overweight has been promulgated and it looks like actions will back up the message.

A similar shake-up to the status quo has been observed in business. The technology for remote working has been around for a number of years but adoption has been slow and piecemeal. It appeared that rush hour was something we were reluctant to forgo. The enforced lockdown changed that, forcing us to be proactive in adopting new ideas and processes. This, in turn, has made individuals think about their work-life balance. Many a celebrity has stated that being forced to stay home with the family has shown them what they had been missing out on. A key ingredient has been the ability to continue successfully communicating and collaborating when not in the same physical space.

On the non-destructive testing front, remote collaboration will be tested not long after this copy of NDT News lands on your doormat. From 14-18 September 2020, BINDT is hosting the inaugural NDT 2020 Webinar Week – Your virtual conference experience. This is a series of themed webinars covering the latest advances in non-destructive testing and related technologies, along with plenary presentations, Q&A sessions and a commercial stream. This different format may alter your perspective and allow you to come away with thoughts, ideas and knowledge that you may not have otherwise 

The downside of the remote technologies is that the strongest form of communication, body language, is filtered by the use of video or lost altogether. Ways of compensating for this in voice, instant messaging or email communication are still nascent. There are also activities that inhibit remote working. Practical NDT is not a discipline that lends itself to remote working: operators are required to be on site to set up and perform inspections of components. However, technology has the ability to assist the operator in the application and allow remote analysis and support. This could allow for a better exchange and adoption of new ideas.

In the meantime, we should all take cognisance of the lessons of the lockdown. What has worked and should be continued? What was lost and needs to be reinstated? What do we habitually do, despite being aware that it could be changed for the better? What else could benefit from a fresh perspective? We can then all sing along, with modified words, to the well-known song about seeing clearly now the rain lockdown is gone has eased!

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Jacobs or 

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX, UK.
Fax: +44 (0)1604 438301; Email: ndtnews@bindt.org or email Bernard McGrath direct at bernard.mcgrath1@jacobs.com

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