Thursday, 23 December 2010
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
- Hargreaves Lansdown, both as a service and a shareholding
- Investment debating with Mr S
- Sparring with Mr C
- The Davis Mark III sextant
- Debating the pros and cons of ocean going simplicity with Mr B
- The rise of the FTSE
- And Palladium
- Learning to unclench
- cold snap rime on trees
- The passage from Tenerife to La Gomera
- Any Human Heart
- Making Chateau Musar a more regular treat
- Coaching Big C
- The prospect of new ventures
- A new devil may care attitude
- Saturday morning biking
- The fixie
- The Princess' delight in learning
- John Ryan
- Roving Commissions
- The Edinburgh run
- Wild Man Hotels
- Another year of blogging
- Ping and Pong
- The Difference You Make
- George reaching eighteen
- The big Ideation gig
Friday, 17 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
I responded by saying, "as I have no intention of taking your money there is no requirement on me to be professional."
My aversion to professionalism runs deeper though. Professionalism is a form of self censorship which legitimizes failing to connect on any emotional level with others (and therefore be equipped to see and get the best of them). It acts as an inhibitor to creativity. And it creates a linguistic gap between an organization and its consumer and user base who are very definitely not professional in their views of what you, the organization are doing for and with them.
I used to work with a marvellous creative guy who wanted on his gravestone "unprofessional to the last."
That'll do for me too.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
But when I thought about this the other day I thought that it is surely impossible to be at any one time a fucking wanker.
Friday, 10 December 2010
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
Now that is responsible for a lot of nonsense.
If it were true then my adolescent adventures with a tape measure would have yielded rather more impressive results!
And in management circles, it diverts a lot of attention away from managing.
I know of managers who do nothing much else than measure. And it is a very sterile thing - the last resort of those who can't think of what to do.
Management is about doing stuff and encouraging others to do stuff.
Sure, measure results at the end. But if all you do is measure, then you are playing tennis looking at the scoreboard.
Whoops. There's another backhand slicing past you.
Not so much "you get what you measure".
More measure what you got.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
- Neckerchief against the cold
- Noticing trees
- Is being busy a way of avoiding intimacy?
- £150 for a cream? What's it got in it? Gold?
- FTSE down nearly 200 points in 2 days
- A new Korean war?
- a new creative project with my favourite creative partner
- I say what I want, and the Universe sends it to me instantly. Wow!
- I'm of the age of anger now. Watch out. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
- You can't always have what you want. Not if it's predicated on someone else wanting it too.
- I am in tears over a sad email
- The Universe hears my heart felt cries and gives me an answer
- I find myself reading the King James Bible
- ....and talking about the wages of sin
- and building your House on sand
- and wondering about my sanity
Monday, 22 November 2010
What's the point?
Some cooks rave about fish. Not me.
To cook fish well, the ideal scenario is: take fish out of habitat, bang on head, cook on fire. Then it's the excitement of being Man the Hunter that adds to the taste experience. That, and a bit of wood smoke.
Everything else you do with fish, bar a squeeze of lemon, fucks it up, or fucks you up. All that filleting, gutting, skinning. You stand an above evens chance of slitting your own wrist unintentionally with a razor sharp knife, or impaling yourself on the creature's evil bones. Then the cooking has got to be ever so exactly just so. Overdo it, you get cardboard. Underdo it and you kill yourself, and all your guests. Leave a bone in; prepare yourself for a fun evening tracheotomy.
And for what? A slimy, white, unimpressive, largely tasteless, second-rate protein.
For years chefs have tried to disguise fish with sauces made of cream, cheese, white wine, Pernod, you name it. Suggestion: drink the sauce. Throw the fish away. Fish in sauce makes me gip anyhow. Slime in slime. Yuck. It just makes something bad worse.
There are, I know, people who eat fish out of a kind of guilt, persuading themselves somehow that the central nervous system of fish means they don't die in agony. Never have these people to dinner or deign to dine with them. Firstly, they are clearly stupid. Secondly, with hangups like that, you'll have a terrible evening. Thirdly, they'll play the liberal, though in fact these food fascists will bully you into eating - guess what - fish, probably with some awful guilt free salad.
Against the assuaging of guilt, a very short story. I once caught a tuna of 110 lbs. Yes, big. As big as quite a big small human. I am fourteen stone and relatively strong, but it took me 55 minutes of sweating and heaving to get this bastard alongside the boat. It took two fully grown men a good ten minutes with evil life threatening gaffs to get it inside the boat. The creature then thrashed about trying to bite anything in sight. One man then attacked the fish with an iron bar with shocking violence. It must have been another three or four minutes of savagery before the creature died. That day I witnessed a murder. And believe me, the victim did not go quietly. I saw absolutely no evidence to persuade me that that fish did not die in absolute agony. Have that with your fucking salad, fish eater! If fish is brain food, how come you haven't got any? If you did, you'd be eating meat.
I'd happily kill a fish if I wanted to eat one. But generally I don't. The honourable exceptions being Fish n Chips from a proper Fish n Chips establishment, and smoked salmon. When I die, skip the velvet on the coffin. Line it with smoked salmon. In case I get peckish. But there again, you could use a good pate, and I'd be equally happy.
Here, then, dear reader, is my simple but heartfelt culinary advice. Don't serve fish. Ever. Unless you run a chippy. Serve meat. Live life. Enjoy it. With blood from a decent steak running down your chin.
Good stuff, PJ.
And you heard it here first.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Nothing wrong with that, you may say, and on the whole I might readily have agreed with you.
Recent Government proposals, though, have kindled huge debate at Berry Towers over the above, in ways which have surprised me, and shaken my prejudices. The government has suggested (and it is a suggestion only at this point) that there should be quotas placed upon appointing women directors. Whereas, therefore, my prejudice would have been that women in the Boardroom are "a good thing", this positive discrimination has placed a magnifying glass against my former prejudices, and enlarged views I didn't think I held, but find I do.
My first response was "should there be a quota on male midwives?"
The response I got was "I'm not sure I want a man doing that job."
Fair enough, you might say.
But do markets want more women as Directors doing that job?
A while ago, our next door neighbour was one of the few female PLC Directors in the country. And very effective she is. As well as being a very charming person. I feel not the slightest anxiety about her stewardship of a public Company. But she has got there without positive discrimination. She has been determined. She has set her ambitions and realised them. She has made, I know, considerable sacrifices to do so. I don't doubt she has had to compete with the most testosterone- fuelled competition. And she has got there. Against all of that competition.
And at the end of the day that is what markets want. You can make all the arguments you like about female values being of use in creating more supportive, more creative and more people-valuing organizations (and therefore justifying the greater presence of female directors). But markets don't care. When, as I very frequently do, I buy and sell shares, I honestly don't give a toss about the politically correct makeup of the Board. I look at one thing and one thing only - metrics. Markets exist on naked and unstoppable greed. They don't give a damn about anything wetter.
There are a myriad of reasons why more women don't make it to the very top of corporate life. Only someone extremely sexist, or with a deeply ingrained victim mentality would believe that women are less capable. I for one don't. But do most women want that power as much as men? Are they willing to give up the other rewarding aspects of life to get it? Are they as manically driven by the need to gain power over their fellows and rise to the very top of the pile? Are they as fuelled by the extreme levels of ambition, drive and - lets face it - greed, that are needed to get you there in most organizations?
Some are. Good luck to them. Many aren't. Good luck to them.
As an economy, we need in Boardrooms those who are in the positions they can take for themselves. We need to be very wary indeed about offering an artificial leg up to those who naturally couldn't or wouldn't claim their place in the Boardroom anyway. Quotas on this will breed tokenism, and will ultimately undermine individual female confidence in the validity of the posts. And it will thrust into those posts individuals who, regardless of their gender, are ill suited to the markets' raw ambition.
Markets themselves aren't sexist. Markets simply want winners. Male, female, in between. They just don't care.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
2. Likewise, recall the worst boss you ever had. Make a list of what they did which gave you that impression. Do none of these things. Encourage the leaders in your team to think about these and how to avoid them.
3. Ban criticism. The best teams are overwhelmingly positive places. You can experiment with this for a day, a week etc. And see how it feels.
4. Set up a formal space for praise in regular meetings, at which you ask: “what needs praising this month?”
5. Encourage people to name their feelings in meetings. “I feel sad....” “I feel excited.....” “I feel angry..........” Tap the vast potential database of the team’s emotions.
6. Establish a regular space for ideas. Take a subject on which the team works and allocate a fixed meeting space for ideas. Make it informal and only about ideas. Suspend judgement of all ideas till the end of the session so you get the maximum number of ideas on the table.
7. At the end of an ideas session have a race to find the winning ideas. Lay out all the written up ideas and promote each one place by voting. The winners will go the furthest.
8. Ban tables. Sit openly facing each other. Tables make enmities.
9. Sit in a circle. Also promotes good ideas and harmony.
10. Ban update reporting in a team setting, other than as lessons we can all learn from. If people are honest, most update reporting bores the others to death.
11. Take seriously the notion of job titles in the team, and allocate tasks around these. I’m talking about the informal job titles that reflect individual strengths in the team.
12. Try an experimental period where you talk ONLY about strengths and what is being done well. Build ideas from this to extend best practice.
13. Have a moment or two of calm / silence before team meetings to get yourselves into a mental space that is all about good listening and a nice slow thinking pace to get the most from ideas and decisions. One minute of silence is nothing, yet it can change everything.
14. Be very formal about a decision log. Write all decisions in the log and check for agreement before they are agreed.
15. Promote wishfulness. Rather than talking about “the problem is.............” talk about “I wish it were like this........” or “How could we make it................”
16. Ask “how is everyone...?” and expect really honest full answers
17. Be careful about measurement. When you are measuring you are not actually managing. Be careful about the difference between the two. Try to do much more managing than measuring.
18. Managing is all about asking HOW can we do better at.............. rather than WHY is the result like.................
19. Reduce the number of performance indicators you look at. Decide the two or three that are really key and focus your energies on those.
20. Try to spend a bit of time each time you meet thinking like a consumer. If needs be, appoint someone “consumer of the month” to act as the consumer consciousness, even if it is unpalatable or difficult to hear. Alternatively, invent Arnold. Arnold is the customer. Then you can ask, what does Arnold say about this? He might well speak some sense.
21. Think carefully about your common goal. If it is a number, it is probably wrong. No one really wants to spend their life pursuing a number. We’re just not built to live that way. Connect your goal to what is really important in peoples’ lives – your customers and yours.
22. A good way to do no. 21 above is to think about time. What do we really want our next couple of years at work in this team to be like? What do we want the minutes a customer spends experiencing our brand to be like? How do we engineer both?
23. Promote team members in reading, viewing and experiencing the world widely. Leave management models behind and encourage people in talking about the inspiration they are finding (perhaps from practice, perhaps anew) from other, unrelated areas – arts, philosophy, science, sport, you name it. By asking yourselves “is there anything we can learn from this field?” You will be surprised at how much you can import. Excluding management thinking is important here. Generally that gene pool is depleted. You refresh it best from unlikely sources.
24. Nick ideas. Look at the competition – indirect and direct. What are they doing that is a good idea you can pinch or adapt?
25. Be rigorous about your own experiences of your own brand. Try as far as you can to watch how consumers do experience it. Try and be as much like a consumer as you can in experiencing it yourselves.
26. If you can, bring in unusual people into your meetings, or hold special guest sessions. Get in anyone you think is genuinely interesting. Here I refer not to so called interesting consultants or business people (who often aren’t) but that bloke who has pioneered wheelchairs for Africa, the lady who has got prisoners sewing for a living, the first female Everest conqueror, the chap who lived for months with the tribe in Borneo, the pianist with the unusual background. You get the picture. These are the people who will fire your team’s curiosity. And that is gold. Curiosity is the mother of ideas.
27. Ask yourself where you expect ideas to come from within the organization. If your first answer isn’t YOU, then you may be taking delegation a bit far.
28. Vary where you meet. Most meeting rooms are insufferably dull places. There is no god reason why you can’t meet by going for a walk on a beach, by strolling in a forest, or sitting with your feet hanging in a river. Indeed, it’ll be better if you do.
29. Whenever you feel yourselves behaving professionally, be extremely cautious. These are the moments you are most likely to desert the consumer’s logic, and probably that of your staff also.
30. Include in your meetings a space for people to say “....... what I’ve really appreciated about you Doreen is..........; what I appreciate about you, Derek is..................” (calling each other Derek and Doreen is optional).
31. Allocate some time to meeting without agenda. Just a time to catch up on how you all are. You’ll be amazed at what stuff this can throw up.
32. Allow boasting. “Do you know what, we’ve got really good at............”
33. Party. Good teams do.
34. When you talk about a model, a process, a strategy, a theory, be aware you are not talking the same language as consumers.
35. Likewise, jargon and three letter acronyms.
36. Be careful with mickey taking. Humour is one thing. Allowing internal competition and rivalry is another. The enemy is out there. Not in here.
37. Why are we better than them? Why are we better than them? Why are we better than them? When it comes to your real competition you can safely become quite obsessive about this question. The harder you can answer it, the more the consumer will listen.
38. Simplify goals and tasks. Multiplication of goals eats time – time that can be spent figuring out how to be better than the competition, and acting on it.
39. Laugh. It’s not that serious is it?
40. Oh, and where there is laughter, ideas will quickly follow.
41. If your brand collapses tomorrow, it will make very little real difference to consumers. That’s partly why taking yourselves too seriously is a bad idea.
42. State your intentions and outcomes for each meeting you have. “I intend this meeting to be wow.” “I intend this meeting to be a place full of ideas”. I intend that we decide xyz....”
43. Have shorter meetings standing up. They’ll be shorter.
44. A posture guide: for ideas, sprawl. For discussion and opinion, sit. For decisions, stand.
45. Share on an ongoing basis what people in the team are really interested in, and see how any of that passion can be brought to work.
46. Eat together. If possible, cook together.
47. Don’t just have coffee and biscuits. Try some different forms of refreshment.
48. Start a team blog. Sound off online.
49. When someone has a good idea, tell ‘em. “Nice one Cyril.”
50. Have dedicated sessions asking for, and offering help to each other. No stigma about asking or offering.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
I am therefore pleased to publish the following announcement from Wild Man Hotel Group, to whom I am a trusted advisor. It may be of interest to anyone reading this blog and seeking unusual, uniquely characterful places to stay:
"WILD MAN HOTELS are pleased to announce the details of our latest acquisitions:
THE AIRY RAMPART, CADOVER BRIDGE, DEVON
THE AIRY RAMPART offers the discerning guest the chance to stay at a unique historic spa retreat situated with one of the finest views of Dartmoor. Its elevated position on an outcrop of the oldest rocks in Britain offers amazing views, peace and solitude, and unrivalled opportunities for watching birds and other wildlife. The Black Slug bar is a cozy place to relax, slug back your favourite tipple and catch up with friends, old and new. The Trangia Bistro is a simply great informal eating place. And the Airy Rampart's coffee and breakfast room has a view which must be experienced to be believed. We serve Rombouts super slow brewed coffee. The area around The Airy Rampart is packed with unusual things to do - all night horse riding, motorcycle scrambling, bird watching (you may even be lucky enough to spot a hen harrier or a raven or two), foraging and woodsmanship courses, hiking, watercress farm visits and many others. Whilst staying at the Airy Rampart, you simply cannot miss the exciting Rainwater Spa, a tonic for mind and body with its famous aromatherapy candle treatments.
THE SEA VIEW GUEST HOUSE, MAN O WAR COVE, DORSET.
Quintin and Adrian welcome you to The Sea View, a comfortable and discreet home from home with simply marvellous views of Durdle Door - believed to be one of the oldest rock formations in Britain. At The Sea View, we bend over backwards to make your stay a memorable one. With Quentin at the front of house, and Adrian working away behind the scenes your stay will be pampered, and you'll leave positively purring. In our Pebbleblast restaurant, Adrian works wonders. Why not try his famous Bhopal Spicy Sausage and Beans? They're guaranteed to fill you full of wonder. And it's not just Adrian's cooking that has earned us the maximum number of English Tourist stars. It's the small details that make a difference. Our beachside position and firm but comfortable beds and aromatherapy candles will leave you reeling! From our Fruity porridge breakfast to our star gazing conservatory, from our early morning coffee in bed service to our unique hand crafted cutlery and our night night tuckdown service, every minute at The Sea View is pure delight.
WILD MAN HOTELS is also pleased to announce that it is currently in negotiations for a further acquisition of a unique floating venue. More details to follow.
If anyone is inclined to stay at either of these fine facilities, please do let me know, as Friends and Family rates are available through me.
Monday, 13 September 2010
I don't need my seaweed curtains, fir cones, my RYA Weather at Sea training or a skyful of Cirrus to tell that.
It's everywhere visible.
The forthcoming government public spending cuts are producing a chorus of squeaks - the kind of squeaks that indicate people in government departments are being squeezed tight. You can't cut this. You can't cut that. Most of all, you can't cut MY bit.
But with squeaks elsewhere, there are howls from the TUC. The howls are of varying degrees of quality. Some are plain stupid. The leading Union official who says on air that there should not be a single job lost, and that even a single penny of savings is unjustifiable has clearly earned his Brownie Guide I am Lost badge.
It is very understandable, following such a protracted and abject enlargement of the State, that many public servants should be worried. Especially those whose jobs have no real output.
It is also very understandable that the Trade Unions should voice reasoned opposition to the form of cuts proposed (which, incidentally, their official TUC statement does).
But what really is pretty disgusting is the spectacle of the Labour Party, in the shape of Harriet Harman, egging on the Union heavies toward unreasoned rejection of cuts, when they themselves had very substantial cuts proposed within their own policies. You'll note that I have avoided blaming them for financial mismanagement in the first place (or have I?). Go on, they are saying, you go and have a scrap. I'll be here holding your coat. Pathetic.
The rabble rousing towards civil disobedience will, I am guessing, stay largely as rhetoric. Industrial action on a political basis will be illegal. Union membership is in any case in tatters.
But there is a storm coming..................
Monday, 16 August 2010
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Sunday, 1 August 2010
- Fresh new plaster
- Bianchi and Bassi - two Italians on British roads
- Gout cures
- Tony Takitami
- Celtic Forest 2
- Broad bean, chorizo, chicken and crouton salad
- The meaning of mourning
- Silent as I choke back my own generosity
- A debate about the definition of sanity
- My tractor - peace at 100 decibels
- Contessa Maria?
- Noticing the plum trees, full
- The rellies in Sudan
- I negotiate the ultimate childcare deal
- "Ok then, how's this: you buy me a boat and I'll have a baby."
- Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang - a delight in every scene
- Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways
Saturday, 31 July 2010
That moment will be bliss - free of all anxiety.
There may come a day when that state, alive, is reached.
Then all there will be is to live, immersed in bliss.
Friday, 30 July 2010
And a common feature of the happier people I know is that they most believe it to be their own decision, skill or responsibility.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Friday, 16 July 2010
Have a referendum on the voting system - tick.
Review detention without trial - tick.
Tackle the abject budget deficit left by the last lot - tick.
Vote yourself a pay decrease - tick.
Decrease the number of MP's - tick.
Review needless legislation to get rid of it - tick.
Get active public engagement in the above - tick.
Make efforts to regain participation in democracy - big tick.
Cut red tape to business - tick.
Fixed term parliaments - tick.
Reduce scale, cost and reach of government - tick.
Cap non EU immigration - tick.
A full and radical review of policing for the twenty first century - tick.
And others - tick, tick.
There's a lot to like about our new government. So much, in fact, that my default position of deep grousing and cynicism has shifted to feeling we're going to be quite well governed thank you.
The journalistic bent at the moment is to play what if games with each new policy announcement. What if this fractures the coalition?
But the really big game is the opposite. What if the coalition works? Because then I don't want the old parties back. I want the coalition and the combination of humanity and toughness it brings. And I don't just want it to remedy the profligacy of the last lot. I want its common sense ongoing.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
At the end, the pathetic spectacle revealed itself as what it truly was - the pained cry of a wounded animal. Eyewitnesses recount that, at the end, Raoul Moat cried out "nobody cares for me".
And very sad that the last, infamous acts of his life were based on this dreadful, perhaps well founded, perhaps misplaced conviction.
Desired response: "No, no. You're welcome."
Actual response: "That's a good skill to have in life."
Monday, 21 June 2010
But as usual it left me wondering - is it the people there, the inescapable nature of the event or is it me that's the problem?
A good friend of mine who is notably and admirably intolerant of bores has a rule. Ask someone six questions. If in that time they have not asked you a single question in return, you are dealing with an arsehole. Walk away.
Good advice indeed.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
COACHEE: Not brilliant.
ME: How so?
COACHEE: It's that I wanted to see you about. My confidence seems to have taken a big knock, and it's showing at work. I'm worried that my boss is losing confidence in me, and my recent results haven't been great. I wouldn't say he's warning me, but the atmosphere is frosty between us, and he's getting impatient.
ME: I see. When did all this start?
COACHEE: a few weeks ago now.
ME: and have you any sense what is interrupting your flow of confidence?
COACHEE: well, the medical thing hasn't helped.
ME: medical thing?
COACHEE: yes, but I don't suppose it's relevant here.
ME: No? What is it?
COACHEE: Well I've been told I may well have cancer of the spine.
ME: Wow. That sounds pretty serious. Tell me about it.
COACHEE: I've had terrible back ache for some time now and it got so bad that I went to see the doctor. I was popping painkillers like they were going out of fashion, so in the end I went to the GP. He examined me and said he thinks it might be cancer of the spine. Since then, I've been going for all sorts of tests - quite uncomfortable and obviously worrying - but they can't seem to find what's wrong.
ME:I see. When did all this start?
COACHEE: the back pain?
COACHEE: About four months ago.
ME: .... and what was happening in your life at that time?
COACHEE: Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway.
COACHEE: Well, we were moving house of course. And I'd just learned the wife is expecting again. And my Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer, so she's been pretty needy. And my Dad wasn't well either, thinking about it. And my son was ill too for a while; we were quite worried about him. Actually it must just have been about the time when my wife lost her job too, though she's got another one now, thank goodness. And my other lad had just got into a bit of bother with the police. he was lucky to escape prosecution. Oh, and of course I'd changed my job role too - taken on these other areas of responsibility as you know.
ME: So nothing, eh?
COACHEE: Ha! I see what you mean. Quite a bit really.
ME: Anything else?
COACHEE: No I don't think so, apart from I got the new car then.
ME: That's your new sports car is it?
COACHEE: Yeah. Great car.
ME: Have you noticed that almost all the factors that you've described require you to be the support, rather than be supported?
COACHEE: I guess you're right.
ME: And even the most basic of holistic diagnoses would tend to associate lack of support as problems in the back.
ME: How many miles do you drive?
COACHEE: About 40,000 a year.
ME: I used to have the same sort of sports car as yours.
COACHEE: Great aren't they?
ME: Yes. But they're ruddy hard - on the back.
ME: Show me exactly where your back pain is. (He does) You'll forgive me I hope for saying this, but the site of your pain is about eight inches to one side of your spine. I'm no doctor, but it's a bit difficult to see how that could be spinal cancer?
COACHEE: now I think about it, that's right!
ME: Look, again, I'm no expert in back problems, but I used to get them regularly when I drove a sports car big mileages. I'd be prepared to bet you a tenner that if you use a different car - your wife's for example, for a fortnight, you'll have no more back problem.
COACHEE: You're on.
By telephone a couple of weeks later:
ME: How are you?
COACHEE: Owing you a tenner it seems.
ME: Back sorted?
COACHEE: Yes, and the relief of that seems to have sorted the work issues too. My boss is saying now how well I'm doing. Oh, and I've changed my GP.
Saturday, 22 May 2010
The object I bought yesterday is probably a bit heavy for a grenade - 2 or 3 lbs, but it should do the job. I bought it to split wood. It is a pyramid shaped device made of very hard alloy. You put the spike end in logs, hit it hard with a lump hammer and Bob's your Uncle and Fanny's your fire fuel.
It was not always so. Grenades and I have history, which came to mind at this purchase.
Years ago, in my murky past, I learned to throw them. You would stand in the grenade bay facing the sergeant instructor. You would pull the pin with your left hand, and show him it, so you didn't throw a dud. A surprising number of people panicked and did just this. No boom. Once the pin was out, you would extend your left arm in the direction of the target (an old tractor tyre) and throw the grenade overarm with your right. The arm of the grenade would fly off, thus initiating the three or four second fuse. One or two cackhanded people actually dropped the grenade in the bay. That was what the sergeant was there for. In that event, he would grab you by the shoulders and push you back, into the side bay, specially designed for the purpose. The grenade would then explode in the main bay, harmlessly. I say harmlessly, but not quite. If any duffer were to drop the grenade, their humiliation would be complete as the entire squad would come and have a look at the damage. It was instructive. Shrapnel embedded itself in the brickwork of the bay walls. It took little imagination to see what it would do to a human body.
About the same time, a friend of mine, who was also an artillery officer, had a small collection of grenades in his rooms at University. They were second world war Mills bombs, made safe of course. He and I both held "positions of responsibility" in our hall of residence, and had rooms opposite each other. So other students used to come to our rooms for various halls of residence reasons. A favourite game we had at the time was to gaily toss these grenades to each other, much to the alarm of anyone who came in. I remember once one of the foreign students - a chap called Mr. Yipp, if I remember correctly - came in. He looked astonished to see the two of us playing catch with a grenade. "Don't worry," said my friend, "It's not dangerous till you pull the pin." He pulled the pin. Mr. Yipp's eyes widened. "No, no, no," my friend soothed, "it still isn't armed, till you release the arm." Mr. Yipp sighed in relief. Then my friend made a show of fumbling the thing and dropping it on the floor. A quick look at each other and then he and I were running out the door, and down the stairs. Before we had got to the next floor, Mr. Yipp, absolutely terrified, had past us!
Friday, 21 May 2010
Swallows are back from their African holiday. Or is it the other way round?
"Let's go to Laytham, you know how the chicks love it."
"What again? We go there every year. What about a change?"
A starling family has got in and nested under the eves just above the family bathroom. My ex father in law called them rats with beaks. Not far wrong. They're buggers for puncturing the sarking felt and finding a way in. And their brood keeps up a constant boring cheep, whilst I am on the khazi. Quite upsets my prime reading opportunity.
Her indoors did an unusual mowing marathon. But the dandelion clocks are indefatigable. The goldfinches are gorging.
But yesterday, there was a real surprise. A bird sat on the family room window sill. I entered the room, and he looked at me almost guiltily. He was a sparrowhawk, and he must have heard my sharp intake of breath. One glance. One guilty "I have just been a-killing" glance, and he was gone. A beauty. A thrilling, killing beauty.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Thursday, 13 May 2010
On Having No Head - DE Harding
Instant Zen 10,000 Ways
The Heart of Understanding - Thich Nhat Than
The Art of Happiness - Dalai Lama
The Inner Game of Tennis Timothy Gallwey
No death, No Fear - Thich Nhat Than
The Art of Peace - Morihei Ueshiba
Stillness Speaks - Eckhart Tolle
The Outsider - Albert Camus
An Introduction to Zen Buddhism - DT Suzuki
Everything Being Nothing - Tony Parsons
Saturday, 8 May 2010
The prospect of a Conservative / Lib Dem coalition is an interesting one. Nick Clegg has come of age in the campaigning, even if his party was once again defeated by the first past the post system. Under PR, they'd have 150 seats. One could see him as a senior Minister. Likewise, the humane presence of Vince Cable in Cabinet has to be preferred to the odious George Osborne. Whilst full PR might not be the answer - and indeed in my view is not radical enough - electoral reform is most definitely wanted. No one outside the arms industry really wants Trident like for like replacement. Its huge cost burden could and should be ploughed back into redressing the apalling public sector debt that is the legacy of Labour's project. But a seat at the top international defence table shouldn't be given up lightly either. Europe might be a sticking point. One could see differences on taxation being bridged. The Liberals would push the Tories to be more humane. The Tories would push the Liberals to have sharper teeth. Cameron could prove by a formal coalition that he really does stand for change. Clegg likewise. So, a muddle. But potentially not a bad one.
But, to quote the old song, why are we waiting?
For several weeks if not months a hung parliament has been a real prospect. You'd think that with that truck coming down the road at you, you might just decide to get out of the way rather than wait around to get run over. You'd think that contingency planning would be such that one quick phone call would do it.
"Nick, we're on plan B then."
"See you later."
But it isn't. We're dawdling in the middle of the road till the tyre marks are on our neck, at a cost of about 10% of the FTSE value, so - far from academic.
And that pivots me back towards my usual despondency.
Mainly, these people just aren't up to the strategic, forward looking and imaginative act of truly governing in the national interest rather than the smaller, "business as usual" game of point scoring party politics.
Saturday, 24 April 2010
There's an election coming. Had you noticed? I had, and there is much to feel depressed about.
For a start, the prime ministerial candidates' TV debates are turning what could be a serious opportunity for the nation to engage in debate on political policy and system into a leadership cult of personality X factor.
Secondly, the policy differences are so minor, and so missing the point of people's political disengagement that, even on a more serious look at form than a paddock parade of the leaders' tie colours, the runners and riders look tired and self serving.
Trust is the issue, and none look trustworthy.
The intensification of the spinning and symbiotic relationship between government and the media since 1997 is at the core of this. Two dubious invasions and their casualties, the reasons for which are shrouded in lies, have knocked more nails in the coffin of trust. Finally, and in very recent memory, the revelations about MP's expenses have put the final stitch through the nose.
Politicians realise well that there is widespread disengagement with the political system in this country. Their so called radical ideas to fix it though just aren't. Rather, in the wake of the expenses scandal, they are sad attempts at self preservation. They miss the rather obvious point that fixing disengagement with the system means fixing the system. And since they are the system, the elected turkeys ain't voting for Christmas. Never mind fixing the House of Lords. What about fixing the House of Commons in a systemic sense? What about fixing an utter lack of participation in day to day government?
I doubt that I will be voting. People have said to me "if you don't vote, you have no right of complaint." Rubbish. If you go into a pie shop and there are beef pies, pork pies and chicken pies, you are perfectly entitled not to buy one. Especially if what you want is a vegetarian pie. Or a cake. Indeed, the chances of ever getting the pie you want are decreased not increased by buying what is already on offer. If no one voted, there'd be no legitimacy to the current system. On May 6th, make a democratic decision for change. Stay away from the polls. Dig your garden. Watch a film. Snuggle with your partner. Open a bottle of wine. Gaze with wonder at the moon. Don't vote.
Friday, 9 April 2010
You get on a plane. You hire a car. You drive to the region of Xativa, an area of Spain fragrant with orange groves. Not far from that historic town you turn off a main road down an unlikely looking rutted track close between orange and almond plantations. After three or four kilometres, you go up a gravelled drive framed by olive trees and with lawns of wild rosemary. You come to my friends' house, where we have been staying with them, chilling out in spectacular style, lounging in pool and tub and drinking the Valencian sun.
Well away from the awful developments at the beachside of the Costa Brava, Xativa is an ancient town clawed from a huge rock, a citadel above it and clamorous, stylish streets beneath.
You go to Pepe's. This place is a simple street corner delicatessen cafe. You are welcomed as Pepe, rotund and tattooed with as impressive a display as a man's torso should take, bustles around you. All linguistic effort is spared as you simply ask him to feed you. That is his trade, and he performs it with joy. First come perfect little paves of bread, just cooled enough to pick up and break. With them, an oil from heaven and an old balsamic, infused with vanilla. Next, he brings the wine, a roll of local red velvet for the tongue. Glasses are big, as they should be, allowing for much swirling, sniffing and appreciating. Then he goes to work in front of you on the nearly black iberico ham, carving it from a leg there and then, trimming and fussing until you have before you a layered plateful. It is sweet, with melting fat, and tickles the palate. Almost immediately then comes a platter of cheeses, Manchego of course but others too, coated in rosemary and other herbs, and presented with nuts and dried fruits. Next is a warm, salty, ever so slightly fishy duck salad with - wait for it - rosemary ice cream and lemony pickled peppers. Another bottle of wine. Then comes beef, a proper Chuleton - a very slight salt crunch to its surface and positively sexual red innards spilling juice onto the serving board. With this are softly cooked tranches of aubergine and potato, and griddled asparagus. For the ankle biters, Pepe conjours up sausages and potato chips. No, not chips - potato chips. There's a difference. Then it is a digestif. A toast from Pepe and down in one. Next, as if a next were needed, a massive desert tray with fruits - pineapple, kiwi, orange and others, hazlenuts, a meltingly soft chocolate brownie, and the best chocolate ice cream I have tasted outside Italy. Cafes cortados. And a feeling of utter fullness and pleasure. The bill comes to little more than you would pay per head in a sit down fish and chip place back home.
Why can't we do it here?
Why can't we find on any provincial street corner, a Pepe, in love with food, wine, conversation and the good things of life, busy building a profitable and delicious community of satisfied eaters?
Why instead do we subsist in Britain on sub standard, processed, mass produced, chain logoed crap?
Why do we tolerate it?
Do we not see that we are breeding a Britain illiterate in the joys of proper eating, drinking and the celebration of life?
And yet we worry instead endlessly about "diet" and "healthy eating". What idiots we are. What smug, small minded, nannying, pathetic idiots we are.
I am filled with gratitude to my friends in Spain for their great hospitality and for showing me in Xativa one more example of how we Brits get food so, so wrong and our continental neighbours get it so, so right.
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Happily she almost always responds "fertilised."
What a babe!
Then we get down to the business at hand. And afterwards maybe have a poached egg or three. During thE process of poaching eggs it is well known that you have to add vinegar to boiling water to make the eggs gel together.
I've discovered that this is in fact a conspiracy worked on us by vinegar manufacturers. You don't need it all. What you do need is eggs that are fresh. They stay together.
And not, obviously, those that are fertilised.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Examples are things like:
I have no.........
I failed at.......
I am (universal judgement of myself)....
I just can't.......
Tour de France winner
Good at something other than essays
Able to screw any girl I want
Car owner (we didn't have one)
Not my Dad (now I find myself becoming him)
Muscleman (no one kicks sand in MY face)
Lord of the Manor (I'm so rich no one kicks sand in my face)
Cooler than a violinist
With cool, not embaraassing parents
Invulnerable tank commander
Bus driver (already knew all the routes offf by heart and had practised the steering wheel with an old Quality Street lid)
A driver of any vehicle (we didn't have a car)
Secret agent with codes and stuff
Someone living in a semi detached house (definition of posh)
Someone with worktops (ditto)
Someone with leather soles (see above, though I now wonder about the lifetime cost model of shoes)
Someone posh enough to tell anyone else where to get off
A knickers designer
Hat shop owner
Man who measures the distance of the moon from earth (he does exist)
Women tester (general)
Librarian (with turrets)
PE teacher (all girls school)
Cosmetic surgeon (Breasts)
vet and driving instructor.
Monday, 22 March 2010
His post set me in mind of a killer question I once asked. At the time I was a Brand manager and the brand under my care was looking for a new advertising agency. We did the rounds of a shortlist of London ad agencies and were treated to a few good lunches - tuna and onion pizza, maybe. The agencies were a mix of the established large shops, and some new, rather more creative boutique outfits.One of the latter were presenting to us, and in my book were well ahead on points. They described their approach as absolutely focused in searching for a brand's benefit and unique proposition. So focused, in fact, that they made it a discipline always to hone their brand benefits down to a single word. "And what," I asked, "is the single word for your agency?".
Sadly, they blew it, looking at me silently with a mix of loathing and disbelief.
Another friend of mine, also an HR Director, claims to use two killer questions in recruitment interviews:
- which battles do you fight?
- what's your favourite porn category?
They should sort the men from the boys.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
The proposal by Trinity House to scrap Britain's lighthouses is deeply shocking. Not because it is wrong: it isn't. It is the shock of an era ending, and the icons of that era becoming suddenly redundant. With dgps, radar, chartplotting and so on, the truth is that lighthouses are very secondary navigation aids. The argument that electronic means can fail is a bit limp. Even boats under 30 feet often carry more than one digital navigation device. It is unusual, and probably an indication of recalcitrence, to find a boat without any. And it is strange that until very recently you could become a yachtmaster without any instruction in the use of these aids.
Nonetheless there is a beauty and intricacy to the system of navigation lights, each flashing their unique code, and I imagine we are a long way off getting rid of all of them. The smaller and closer in, the higher their survival chances I would thiink. The iconic headland lights also have a beauty, even if their primary purpose is no longer in demand. I imagine that a movement will occur to save them as heritage items, publicly funded either by charitable status or by government intervention.
But gps is not all good. Where the horizon is blue all round, I wouldn't want to be without one. But I know of more than one person who goes around Britain utterly lost at all times, thanks to the sat nav. There is something about studying a map (and we have some of the finest maps in the world in this country) that adds to knowledge, imagination and passion for the country in which we live and which reconnects us with the animals we really are, primally dependant on navigation for our very survival. We forget that at our peril.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Here, though, are my protocols:
* talking about the past is not what you are here to do.
* talking about the present and the future is what you are here to do.
* framing simple statements of what you want is encouraged.
* touching is encouraged.
* stating what you appreciate in the other is encouraged, nay demanded.
Not a bad formula.
Friday, 12 March 2010
Being a consultant and coach, a temptation I find myself avoiding is the sort of gambit that begins with "I can help you." What that often means in practice is "I can help myself (to your money)."
Help is vexed. Who is getting it is often unclear to me.
I remember a friend once told me that I gave him one of his most valuable pieces of advice - helped him. His mother was dying, but refusing all help from him, her son. Understandably distressing. I listened and suggested he might just enjoy her, and their remaining time together, giving up the urge to help which was stressing the relationship. My friend must have decided to act on this. Her last days were blessed with the joy of their relationship. My friend remembers them as some of the happiest times he ever had with his mother.
Did I help?
I hope not!
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
I tried my new bins out. They weren't up to the job, unsurprisingly. It is asking a lot. I tried them on Orion's sighting stars: Rigal, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. I couldn't hold them still enough for good imagery. The moon had not risen. When it does - the full, blue moon at the end of the month, I will have a look using them then.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Thursday, 4 March 2010
Friday, 26 February 2010
The government encourages us to save for our retirements. A sensible thing to do, no doubt. But what occurred to me was that retirement itself is an odd concept. It's predicataed on the idea that what you do in your work is something you'd want to move away from, leave.
If you were doing your Life's work, this would make no sense.
What is your life's work?
A question worth asking.
A question I am asking myself.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Sunday, 14 February 2010
Friday, 29 January 2010
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
That's why I laughed aloud reading Nigel Slater's book Tender. It reminded me of one of those moments when the best people of all at dropping inhibition - because they have so little - kids - come up with something of pure genius. It was George, aged about 9. In Nigel Slater's book I was reading about how to lessen the tears from chopping an onion. I remembered that George, who liked to help with the cooking, had come up with his own. He took a pair of swimming goggles, drew an onion on them with a felt tip pen, and christened them his Oni-gogs.They worked a treat.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
I did recently.
My friend was staying with me. Now, he is notably independent of mind. The subject of the Gurkhas and their UK settlement claim came up. I said that I hoped he'd joined their successful campaign.
"Why should I?" he asked. "What's so special about the Gurkhas? Should we be opening the door to settlement claims from any commonwealth or other foreign soldier who has fought for a British army?"
I saw in an instant how I'd been seduced - by Joanna Lumley, by my sentimental view of Gurkhas, by my prejudices against the mealy mouthed and ungenerous character of bureaucrats and politicos.
Heart, meet Head.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Language lets us down, lets us off the hook.
"I made friends with him." Glory be to me.
"We fell out."
"We don't see eye to eye."
"She's not my cup of tea."
See how the language subtly shifts the blame?
"I made them my enemy."
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.
AFTER ALL, YOU MADE THEM.
That made me think.