Monday, 21 June 2010


I don't like parties. I hate the small talk. I hate the falseness. And I hate myself at parties for tolerating what I should not tolerate in "meeting new people" - something which fills me with dread when the people are abject bores. I rarely go to parties. But just occasionally there has to be an exception. My daughter's birthday party, for example. And saturday night was one too, a very generous party thrown by a grateful friend and client of her indoors, at which her indoors was a guest of honour. I couldn't not go. And it was a very classy event, and an extremely generous act by the hosts. In no way do I want to be curmudgeonly about their generosity or grace.
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


ME: How are you doing?

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?

ME: Yes.

COACHEE: About four months ago.

ME: .... and what was happening in your life at that time?

COACHEE: Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway.

ME: Nothing?

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.