Thursday, 30 April 2009


Are you into management models?
No. Me neither.
I prefer the kind that walk on catwalks. And I quite like it when they fall off their heels or have other unfortunate accidents.
But sometimes models have a purpose. I was writing a proposal the other day, and found myself, unusually, referring to the their use by including the following:

I used shop's dummies in a visioning event a couple of years ago and these models proved very useful. I got the participants to develop names, characters, lifestyles and needs for these “consumers” in order to develop a customer vision. It was very effective. But the second part of the event was a bit less inspired. So I suggested we had the mannequin Olympics. The High jump was phenomenal. The Long Jump was good too. After the event each participant was given their “consumer” as a keepsake, and as a reminder of the consumer needs they were trying to meet in their business, they could, if they wish, keep their “consumer” in their office. This was also meant to be a clever way of getting them as talking points to help spread the customer vision around the organization. Now, unfortunately, a number of the “consumers” got “broken” during the Olympics. But quite a few participants decided they were going to take them back to their offices. One participant was so struck by the idea he went straight back to the office that night after the event and installed his mannequin. Unfortunately, the security men on duty later that night didn’t know that. Hence their carefully organised emergency detention of the “interloper”. Also, one of the spare dummies we used had a leg sticking out of the van we’d hired, on the M4. And my mate Chopper, driving the van, got stopped by the Police. They thought he might have been disposing of a body. Disaster. Good job they didn't know his nickname.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Every year the Times publishes its Rich List.

Alas, what with the recession and everything, I've fallen off the bottom of it this year.

But when are they going to publish the Happy List? That's what I want to know.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Once there was a boy. He didn't like football. He liked dolls. What? Was he ill? Some thought so. Others, at school, didn't think at all, except in their invention of the next sordid torture. They'd just punch him, or plant a head butt on him or spit or shout "f*ck off, poof" or ridicule him or push him around, steal his drawings or trash some other valued item.
Now, many of us at school have faced the daily horror of being bullied, and we find our ways to survive it. George was a bit small and geeky, but transformed himself into a thai boxing champion. He's still short. But you wouldn't mess with him. I learned how to be humorous and could ridicule people. I discovered a talent for horribly cruel nicknames that stuck. And although I had little skill at fighting, I had a violent temper, and the terrorist's instinct to know that you don't have to wait to be attacked to attack yourself. When Jed faced a bit of bullying, my advice was to take a bit of four by two in his pack, and not wait to be attacked but just find a time when the bully wasn't expecting a bit of Jewson's finest around the ear, and give him the glad news. Thankfully he didn't take my advice, which ran me into criticism from a number of people for being politically incorrect.
But back to the boy with the dolls. He did none of this. Especially he did nothing that changed who he was. He kept on playing with dolls, and drawing girl's dresses. He had his dream. Despite all blows against it, he carried it.
And yesterday that young man, now grown, went to London, to Central St. Martin's College, and another step towards a future as one of Britain's most talented and original fashion designers.
I take this chance to salute him, his dream, and his tenacity and to express my loathing for the ignoramuses who were stupid enough to try and stop him.

Friday, 17 April 2009


There has been a pair of mistle thrushes in the paddock for the past three weeks or so. They've been a pleasure to watch. They have a great flight, like a breast stroke swimmer, coming up for air after every couple of strokes. This morning I saw one feasting on worms exposed by the newly cut grass. This afternoon I saw one dead on the gravel by the barns. No indication of how it died. Oma suggested it might have flown into a window and bounced back dead. I picked it up. It was crisp to the touch and surprisingly light for a bird of that size. Now I can't see its partner. I guess I won't.
I first got close to the natural world by stealing birds' eggs as a boy. I had a good collection, all nicely blown (which is an art) and kept in shoe boxes lined with cotton wool. I had a mistle thrush's I expect. I shinned up trees and steeled myself against hedgerow lacerations to get them. For a rarer species I'd go farther afield, and I had a map in my head, where places were named after what we kids discovered there, or the adventures we would create. I've a mind now to do the same, but make the map. Perhaps I will make a tracing of an OS map. I like the idea of it being in the micro scale of a child's eye.
Dead Thrush Patch. That could be on it.


Ah, yes!

Some of that.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I've taken quite a few risks in my time. Not all of them have paid off.
When I was a kid I was very interested in parachutes and parachuting. So I jumped out of my bedroom window. Luckily my Dad had recently dug the garden immediately beneath it. But I still made quite an impact. As I had not, at that stage, mastered the Parachute Landing Fall (the Para's roll) I fell forward and got a lot of dirt up my nose, bloodied my face on stones and skinned my hands and knees. Not to mention the pasting I got for being so bloody stupid in the first place.
I started parachuting in my twenties in order to beat what I thought would be the ultimate test of fear. Turned out it wasn't. I nearly got banned from that game by jumping a parachute rig that hadn't been properly tested. It was an honest mistake. Guv.
As I approach fifty, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson. But you'd be wrong. I'm still very much up for a game of Russian roulette. Here's how it goes.
You go in a wood. Preferably one filled with silver birch trees. You enter on the pretext of "a nice family walk". You then ferret about and find an old, dead tree that is nevertheless still standing. In a silver birch glade you can normally find plenty. Then you shake said tree to and fro, setting up a good rhythm and then, bang, you suddenly shake it on an off beat. Result? Tree comes crashing down. You run like f*ck. Hopefully you survive to play again.
A simple game of simple pleasures. For nutters.
I've played it many times with my two sons who collapse in laughter as their Dad comes crashing through the undergrowth to escape certain death or injury. I haven't yet tried it with my two year old daughter.


Round our way it is deer central. I can't decide if it's them or me. Green shoots, if not of the recovery type, then certainly of the herbal variety tempt them beyond the coverts. And I see loads of them. Perhaps I am sharper eyed to avoid another range rover on deer incident. Maybe they are staging a mass demonstration. Kill one of our number and we will only return in ever greater throngs! Just after dawn, on the little double bend in Long Lane, a hind stood elegantly framed by mist. And then her bodyguard leaped up startlingly from the ditch into the road. A stag. A three pointer. He skidded slightly on the damp tarmac. Then he regained his composure and looked at me hard and long. Come and get some then, he seemed to urge. I was impressed. Then he shook his head. "Thought not," he affirmed to himself, and disappeared with his lady into the woodland. I felt like I'd been called out in a disco and not had the balls to go.
More gentle was my meeting with the muntjac.
It went like this.
When I rang my old shipmate and said, "I'm down your way," I needed to add, "but I've got to get up for work the next morning so it'll need to be a light night."
"OK. We'll have a little aperitif in the pool and then I'll cook for you."
Knowing that he is a very fine chef who has trained with some famous names, I knew it would be churlish to visit without providing a bit of wine to drink with what would be excellent food.
You guessed the rest.
The aperitif turned out to be three or four naked bottles of Chablis. And that was before the meal.
The next day was near-death by hangover.
But then, there, in the Warwickshire forest, crossing the road, was the ultimate hangover cure. One of Britain's shyest, cutest mammals. A lone muntjac seen at close hand though briefly, before it went snuffling off in its gentle way. Quite unlike my tangle with the bruiser of a stag.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Letitia Sweitzer is an American author and expert on boredom. My recent blog entry "Dr. Berry's Quack remedies for Boredom" prompted her to contact me. We have had a lively exchange. These "Letitia Dialogues" promise to continue in a question and answer form. Here is our latest exchange:
HB: Yes.I said that the only real remedy for boredom is full acceptance of what is and full rejection of what is not.Since boredom does not exist, you may reject it.Since the thought "I am bored" exists you may accept it.The thought is a thought. Nothing more.The thought is real enough but the meaning it conveys is untrue, and therefore only the unwise will use it to guide their behaviour.After all if you are bored, which part of you is capable of noticing that you are?And if part of you is noticing, then is not part of you beyond the bored thought?Acceptance is acheived by paying attention to what is true. It is true to say I have the thought "I am bored". But it is not true to say that "I am bored!"The thought process of acceptance is easy.Stand aside from your thoughts, as you would stand aside from a train entering a station. Let it arrive. Let it stay. Let it depart. It's only a (train of) thought.There it is. There. Over there, if you prefer.Where are you?Watching, of course.No point trying to jump in front of a moving train to try and prevent it coming into the station.Thoughts are, after all, rarely still, and nearly always moving, endlessly going somewhere or perhaps nowhere.Or do you prefer to be on the train, led into whatever destination your thoughts carry you?Which is the more truthful? Which is the happier guide? To be inside your thoughts, or to know that they come and go and therefore to have access to observation of them?In my own personal experience, mental harmony is always acheived from perspective on one's own thoughts. And when it is lost, it is always because I have got on the train.I could make a good case that a great deal of mental illness could be overcome by teaching the skill of train spotting.You can try this for yourself.The circumstances are largely irrelevant. But if you take those commonly associated with boredom - waiting (as you Americans say) in line, sitiing in heavy traffic going nowhere, that airport departure lounge when the flight is delayed, you can practise this skill.Simply watch the trains of thought come and go.I recommend it.As I said in my blog, there are plenty of people who have a vested interest in persuading you that boredom is real. But I think you will find, if you examine it, that you can't send me a kilo of it.
Letitia's blog, by the way is where you may be able to see her side of this dialogue -my questions and her answers.

Sunday, 12 April 2009


Jim, my much loved, much respected sailing skipper contacts me to invite me to help deliver a yacht with him. With the owners he embarked from Holland and made a North Sea crossing, bound for Inverness. North westerlies prevented that. They diverted to Lowestoft, and are shortly to embark again on the long trek northwards to Peterhead. Now the mention of Lowestoft sets my nostalgic juices flowing (see blog 28 Feb 2009 "A spring in the step") as it was a holiday spot when I was a boy. I have an inescapable memory of eating corned beef sandwiches on the esplanade there. They were half filled with corned beef, half filled with sand from the beach. Therefore, despite family commitments over Easter, the idea of revisiting Lowestoft for a few days at sea with Jim in a well found boat, is a call that is difficult to refuse. In the schooners and clippers of old, the Skipper was known as The Old Man. This was true, even if the Skipper was aged twenty five. I think of Jim as The Old Man, regardless of his age. I've never seen him flap, despite scenes of chaos that would try a saint. I've never known him stuck for a solution to a problem. I've never heard him lose his temper, despite warning me the first time I met him ten years ago, to get used to being shouted at. And his cunning, character and knowledge has brought many many advantages in yacht races, and much hilarity ashore. In celebration of ten years sailing with Jim, I've agreed to do my fourth Fastnet campaign this year. After the 2001 Fastnet, I swore that I would not do it again. It was too gruelling. I hurt too much. I'm just getting too old, I told myself. But when Jim rang in 2005 saying "H, we need a crewman, can you do it?" I found myself agreeing to go. And this year, the tenth anniversary, I just have to. But I can't go to Lowestoft. I look on the net, just to see if Lowestoft has moved on in the forty years since I've been on holiday there. It's still recognisable. The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk yacht Club is still there with its funny little copper roofed dome. And they have a web cam. I look and a boat is leaving. I ring Jim.
"Have you left?"
"We're leaving now."
"Are you in the Outer Harbour?"
"How do you know?"
"I can see you on the web cam."
"I'm waving!"
"Fair winds, Jim," I say, and a bit of my heart goes with them on that long North Sea trek. Across the next forty eight hours I find myself doing calculations.
"20 hours. They'll be off Skegness or somewhere."
"43 hours. Hartlepool? Blyth? Amble?"
And my mind is filled with memories of collisions, groundings, near misses, crash gybes, wild broaches, middle of the night stumblings, making animal shadows on the mainsail by torchlight to Jim's despair, kedging in shipping lanes in deep fog, race winning scams that never quite come off, and a hundred lager and wine fuelled shenanigans in ports both sides of the Channel.

Monday, 6 April 2009


Here's an interesting blog:


I like circularity. Life itself is circular. That is a freeing thought. For Green types keen on recycling, it is good to know that they, as I, will be recycled.
Matt comes. There is circularity in our relationship. He is my Godson. And Zara, my daughter, is in turn his Goddaughter. The very first time I met him he was a tiny baby. I held him in my arms on his first day home from the hospital where he was born. Earlier the phone had rung. "I'm very sorry," the voice told me. "Your mother died late last night". Matt was then the instant reminder of life's circularity - the great universal circularity of life and death. If there are such things, he was an angel then. He is most certainly an angel in my life now.
Matt rings me and says "I'm coming over for lunch". "Good, "I say. He stays for two days. Great! We shop for and build a structure in my vegetable garden to keep birds from feasting on my peas and beans and raspberries. During this construction project we act like builders, calling each other by expletives and berating the other's abject lack of skill or effort.
We go to the spring sale at Tennants, where they are auctioning unspeakably awful oil paintings for ten and twelve thousand pounds a pop, and where, for lower priced lots the auctioneer says things like "Come along now. The frame's worth more than that!" Matt reins me in from my normal practice of over excitement. A good thing, as normally all financial constraints disappear in my mind if I am in an antiques bidding war. My dad was an an antique dealer at one stage. I used to go with him to the auctions where he would challenge me to say how much each lot would go for. I was invariably wildly wrong. He was invariably close to the mark. Age has not improved my skills in this deparment. He also instructed me to set a budget (for an antique dealer normally answered by "can I get double that for it?"). I've failed him there too.
We leave to go to the chocolate factory, where Matt has a professional appointment to buy bulk quantities of moulded full size chocolate stiletto shoes. These unlikely delicacies sell readily in the deli, and at great margins too. Then we run them down to the deli and have a convoluted argument about political engagement. The gist of this is to observe that politicians want engagement rather than apathy. But they want engagement in a system that is itself disengaging. If the limit of participation is a cross in a box every five years, how can it be otherwise? We debate government by constant referendum. And we wonder if apologising is ever really needed.
Finally, Matt leaves to fulfil his obligation as early morning baker at the deli.
Two glorious days of spring weather, marvellous company, many laughs, quite a bit of chocolate, and no oil paintings.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Sometimes in the course of my coaching work, common thematics seem to arise through a number of sessions with widely different people. One at the moment is about wasting energy.
It was one of my brightest, most insightful, most surprising and certainly highest potential clients who indicated and clarified this thematic to me, and it has since applied to many of my interventions. He realised, he said, as a result of coaching, how much energy he was wasting in either trying to be, or telling himself he should be, someone he was not. By contracting with himself to fully be himself, glorious and uncensored, he was able to release that energy into his own confidence and performance. The results for him have been transformational.
I'd never really thought about this matter in terms of the effective use of energy. For me it had always been an article of faith, or perhaps simply a compulsion for myself. But I've found that this thematic emerges a great deal at present. And what is stark is how much energy it takes to angst the natural self and confuse it with what one "should" be. Some people live in a forest of shoulds. It's quite a dark place, and difficult there to see the wood for the trees.
I owe my now super-energetic client a vote of thanks.


I was reminded the other day that I once had a complaint letter about me. I was working with a very large Company designing a behaviour change programme for their customer service staff. During a design session we were talking about the impact of inhibition, and how to make people aware of its limiting effect. I proposed a session where people licked each other. "Urghh!!" said the assembled Company. "Exactly," I said. As the discussion wore on, I challenged my main client to lick me. Great woman that she is, she came across the room and did so. That was what triggered the complaint letter. Her staff filed an official complaint. In their letter were the immortal lines: "It is highly inappropriate for a Senior Manager to lick a consultant".