29 MAY 1964, Page 15

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to

distinguish at first sight between serious social investigations (which may well be in the public interest) and commercial market research (which can be a considerable public nuisance). Professor Donald McRae of the London School of economics (where social investigation could be said to have been invented) has a simple formula for sorting the serious questionnaires from the spurious. 'If it is ill-designed or impertinent,' he told The Times, 'I always refuse to answer.' After all, 'Nothing is easier than not filling in forms.'

I would be interested to hear from any reader who has been pestered by one of the busybody outfits, or wha has found a fool-proof way of getting rid of them without losing time or temper.

Do you know that the cost of getting a child's shoes heeled and soled in Hemel Hempstead varies from 6s. to 13s. 6d. . . . that there is no cure for male baldness, which is almost invari- ably hereditary . . . that you can hire a carpet shampooer for 10s. a day or jig-saw puzzles (changed as often as you like) for £3 10s. a year .„. . that the GPO charges a special very cheap rate for postage on parcels sent to the blind ... that because so many boarding kennels are badly run an approved list is provided by the National Canine Defence League?

These and a mass of other useful facts are contained in Elizabeth Gundrey's new Penguin Handbook, At Your Service, as good a 3s. 6d. worth as has come my way for some time. 'During the war,' says Miss Gundrey, 'everyone had his own bomb story to tell. Since the war, it's been stories of bad service, no service or overcharging.' She gives sound advice on services ranging from laundries to hairdressers, from plumbers to estate agents. Her handbook should be on every family's kitchen bookshelf.

Expert—or Die


WHEN the going gets too rough,' I have been wont to comfort myself, `I can always go off and become a cinema usherette.' In fact I deceive myself, because there is sure to be some real technical know-how involved in cinerha ushering which would stop me from holding down the post and gorging myself on a sweet, unending diet of second-circuit pictures.

It is a sad reflection on my working life that of the jobs I've done it has been those com- monly described as unskilled which have left me with the greatest awe for the techniques in- volved in them. The ones surrounded by a mystery of expertise supposedly penetrable only after long apprenticeship and application have always turned out to be a hoax. This applies to journalism but from what I've seen of the practitioners I'm pretty sure that it applies to any job—from teaching to banking to politics—which is concerned with assimilating,

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judging and acting on commonly known facts. Perhaps if you want to work at a science you do need to know the hidden formula: and how to manipulate them, but deep down I suspect that my being prepared to concede this only proves that the scientists have the whole business of professional mystique even more effectively sewn up than the rest of us.