Thursday, 25 June 2015


"When life gives you lemons, it may be time to make lemonade".

Friday, 19 June 2015


I get compliments for my scrambled eggs.

Here is how I do them.

Put a big knob of butter in a saucepan. Enough. Then put another in. Too much. That's more like it.

Only ever use proper salted farmhouse butter. Unsalted butter is for pale people, and Christians. Trust me. Use that stuff and the lions will win in the arena.

Break three eggs per person into this when melted.

Scramble 'em about a bit with a wooden spoon.

Put two bits of toast on per lucky recipient. Butter them when ready. Yeah. More butter.

Just when you think, those eggs aren't quite ready, whip 'em off the heat. They will continue to cook a bit in the pan and even on the toast, so carpe diem. This is the moment to serve them.

Sometimes, if I am poncing about, I put a sprig of fresh basil - tiny green leaves - on each piece of toast.

If I am making this for myself, I will layer anchovies on the toast before putting the eggs on, or spread the toast with Marmite, or even, rich luxury, put some smoked salmon on. But few of my guests go for this.

They like the eggs though.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Truth = happiness?


  1. Children who had difficulties learning, when I was at school, were called slow kids. "A bit slow".
  2. This morning I read that "one of the most important qualities of a leader is speed". I disagree. Fast leaders get supplanted by slow ones an all group dynamics I see.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


No surprise that I am a fan of slowness.

Better to cycle than drive. Better to run than to cycle. Better to walk than to run. Better to stroll than to walk. Better yet to stand still.

As people rush through their lives, there is an increasing awakening to the value of slowing down. I read in a magazine the other day "stillness has become the ultimate luxury".

On local roads I see warning notices stating Speed Kills. I used to joke that it wasn't the speed that would kill you, but the rather sudden stop afterwards.

I think there are other ills and kills than road deaths which can be attributed to speed. Take crime, for example. I think you can attribute a lot of crime - maybe even all of it - to haste. Theft - the urge to enrich more speedily than labouring for it. Fraud - ditto. Violence - product in the main of hot, speedy reactions. Rape - a clear violation of someone else's pace. There is an argument to be made that even the most planned crime is the product of a failure to take the time needed to see its very long range consequences. And there is a very strong sense in my mind that a lot of people become criminals, not because they are inherently evil, or even especially immoral, but because they didn't go slow enough to really think about what they were doing. Many, many crimes are the product of poor processing in this way.Slowness would be preventative, and can be curative too. When vipassana - a ten day silent sitting meditation retreat - has been introduced to serving prisoners in prison, it virtually eradicates their recidivism.

Likewise, blame, which often has a strong relationship to criminal, or immoral action. It is understandable that in many situations, the first recourse is to blame others. But it is slow thought of the action which reveals to us our own part in matters, our own responsibility levels, and the moral, self responsible answer, taking an appropriate amount of responsibility - no less, no more.

Speed is characteristic of conflict. The higher the conflict levels in groups, the faster the talk. A lesson I learned, as a facilitator, is the productivity of slowing down communication, to ensure that its critical element of listening is present.

But I am up for learning too. I'm as ready as anyone to get stuck in, when the conflict is personal.  A few weeks ago I met an innovator. A rare bird. Someone not given to talking about the problems, but of actually proposing solutions. I was impressed. He proposed a devastatingly simple protocol. When someone has finished speaking, there shall be a silence of thirty seconds before the next speaker. Its effect was electric, respectful, loving. I have no hesitation in stealing it for my own use. No. Hang on. I'll sleep on that.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Thursday, 11 June 2015

GO / DON'T GO................

"There are bold skippers.
And there are old skippers."

One of the hardest decisions a skipper can take is not to go to sea.

All sailing skippers, in my opinion, should be acquainted with the work of Solomon Asch. Asch, a psychologist, set up an experiment where subjects went in a group into a room and were asked how many sounds they heard in a series. Unbeknown to the subject, all but one of the people in the room were stooges, briefed to reduce the number of sounds heard by one. The true subjects mainly last only a couple of repetitions of the sound series, before they, too, give an answer which fits in with the group. This was the invention of the term peer pressure.

A sailing skipper may be under all sorts of pressure to put to sea when he has doubts about the wisdom of doing so. There is that event we have all looked forward to. There is the bus I have to catch home. There is the possibility that things will not be as adverse as the skipper's feverish imagination. There is the uncertainty of when we shall sail together again, if not now. There is the resounding laughter about the bloke who owns a boat but never sails it. There is the cajoling of the crew, who want to go. There is "the waste of a day". There is time pressure.

Years ago, I sailed as part of a quest to extinguish, through adventure, doubts about myself and my character. To prove myself. This thirst took some quenching, and in the course of drinking in its adventures, has taught me that, with age, the purpose of my sailing has changed. It is now simply to revel in the company of friends, in benign enjoyment of the sea, the coast, and a boat, in conditions propitious to that harmless delight. Drama has no real place in it, and is a symbol only of my failure of preparation, or of poor decision making.

I've had drama. The injured crew during a crash gybe in a big sea, at night. The broken bones. The prolonged seasickness, from an enforced departure into a storm. Racing the onset of nausea to get dressed below, in a boat pitching madly. Forcing myself on deck for my watch, when every cell of me wants to go to bed, ill. Punching myself in the face to stay awake during night watches, when my fatigue level has brought me close to hallucination. Nearly going overboard, when the deck was raked by a pitiless sea. Many times, wishing I was anywhere but on this boat, here, on these angry waves.

Perhaps one has to have these sorts of experience before one gains the timidity that may truly mark the experienced skipper. But I do not see my role as a skipper of my boat as the facilitator of such experiences, unless they are unavoidable. If caught out on a long passage, for example, then perhaps they are inevitable. But for the leisure sailor, avoiding them is the product of a simple decision, even if not always easy to take.

When you read the stories written in the sailing magazines, of how people ran into dramatic difficulties, they almost always start with an apparently innocent description of weather conditions which the cautious would immediately spot as malevolent. The protagonists clearly missed this, or, more likely, let their definitions of themselves as heroes prevail over a more appropriate awe for the sea and its destructive power. Once, a friend of mine recounted with vigour, how he was skippering a yacht out into a force 6 on the nose, and after some hours of bashing against tide and wind, going nowhere, taking the decision to return to the starting point. When I suggested it might have been better if he hadn't set out in the first place, I met the astonished responses of the entire group I was in. Solomon Asch, eat your heart out.

This coming weekend, I face such a skipper's dilemma. I've asked my crew what they think. Perhaps they will think as a skipper should. But, if they don't, that's what I'm there for.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015


Try to be content?

Monday, 8 June 2015


"Oh, you'd be good on a quiz team..."

With this came the pang of pain. Had I gone too far? Bragged? Shown off knowledge in an unwelcome way?

I go quiet, embarrassed, and fearful that I have made a gaffe.

I am chatting to someone about their holiday on Mull. I know the place and can bring it very readily to mind.

"We went on a boat rip round Ard.... Ard...."

"Ardnamurchan?" I suggest.

"Yes. That's it."

"A lovely place."


"When you sail beyond Ardnamurchan, tradition has it you put a sprig of heather in the boat's rigging."

"Ooh. You'd be good on a quiz team."

Awkward silence. I've gone too far. Or have I? The other week, I got feedback that I come over as manipulative by asking questions and not divulging information along with it. A worry. This week, I'm just a smart arse by doing the exact opposite.

I used to think I was skilled with people. Maybe the time has shifted somehow and its demands are no more what I thought. I'm getting it wrong.

I'll have to put some heather in my pocket, as I sail these unknown, and sometimes treacherous waters.


It is quiet and raining today after a sun drenched and rowdy weekend, during which the Mini Madam had her annual birthday party.

This year the format was slightly altered, with the addition of a water fight. This was very eagerly anticipated, it appeared, by all who attended, but most especially, the boys - classmates of the Mini Madam, who turned up - some of them - in shortie wetsuits and other sartorial indications of their preparedness for a state of war,

Big Madam asked George and I to supervise it. Though I'd had the idea in the first place, and thus was open to accusations of turncoating, nonetheless, I pointed out to Big Madam what a misplaced decision it would be to put us in charge. If you do, I said, you'll have a queue of wailing kids, complaining to their parents of how things have gotten out of hand.

In fact, George and I made ourselves scarce during the water fight, driving off to the bank, to get cash for the bouncy castle men, who insisted on it.

It all went well in our absence, the kids happily stalking each other through the mown paths of the orchard, reminding us once again of the wisdom of playing people to their strengths, rather than their weaknesses. A lesson which many leaders in many departments in many Companies could do to heed.

My role was to congratulate everyone who helped on a job well done, and buy them the now traditional dinner afterwards to say thank you. I can do that.

Next year, my role will include coming up with the ideas for the party format. That also plays me to strength. It's clear that the activities which have lasted us well for five or six years now, will no longer serve. Mini Madam is transiting from being a big little girl, to being a little big girl. Two very different things.

Sunday, 7 June 2015


You could not expect a richer monologue from a Shakespearian actor, than that delivered by the solitary swallow sitting centre stage on the electricity line from the pole in the orchard, into the house.

People crowd around their screens to watch Britain's Got Talent, to find in many cases it hasn't, and, in a few, it has.

But this performer would astound any audience, if only, as I did, in the still evening air, we'd stop and listen.

The swallow is amazing. It holds you, astounded at the sheer imagination put into a single call. A song is trilled and embellished and polished up with repetition. And it's almost unbelievable in its variety of sounds. Chirps, arias, themes, clicks, tutting, swells of song and single notes. All find their way in. It is as though, by nesting under eaves and in attics, the swallow has got the idea of sonic hoarding places, and has opened them all - old chests, dressing up boxes, lever arch files of old administrative records, the odd old photo album.

If you stand below a swallow singing, debating, chuckling - whatever it is that wonderful bird is doing, it is impossible not to be filled with a sense of kinship. Not that your heart is struck, but your humour. You may not be invited into its soul. But you're invited to a rummage through every drawer of its vocal possessions.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


I sometimes wonder if my whole life hasn't been dedicated to laziness.

It's certainly the only thing I've ever worked at.