Monday, 29 October 2012


That jovial Martin Sorrel – sorry Sir Martin Sorrell – certainly has a way with words.

First he gave us the bath shaped recession, then “the US presidential election has resulted, yet again, in kicking the can down the road”. Now he’s warning us about grey swans (they’re one down from Mr Taleb’s famous black swans). Apparently there are four of them about to zap us. He explains that these are the birds that we know we know but we don’t know how beastly they’ll be. Hmmm…. In plain English Marty is warning us (in contradiction of Dave) that things out there look bleak. Given he has intimate first name relationships with the bosses of a lot of the world’s top companies he should know.

But I don’t much like swans. They weigh about 28lb, have wing spans of up to 8 feet and are remarkably bad tempered. And I see hope not gloom when I look around the real world rather than try diagnosing macro-economics. I see technicolour swans swanning about and proclaiming pockets of good news.

Giles Coren reviewed the Carshalton Boys’ Sports’ College canteen on Saturday. A brave headmaster arrives at a run-down school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood and re-launches it. He hires a well-paid professional chef, gets 80% of pupils to eat school meals (up from 20%), prices meals way below local fast food shops, offers breakfast too and free curry for those staying after 430 to do their homework. Exam results have been transformed.

“I’d pay £10.95 in a restaurant for this which, here, costs £1.65”

Carmel McConnell (social entrepreneur of the year 2008) founded and runs “The Magic Breakfast” supplying free breakfast to 6000 primary school children because BC (before Carmel) 25% of those kids arrived at school not having breakfasted too hungry to learn.

So Carshalton and Carmel are jointly doing something which buries grey swans, providing healthy fuel for learning. Jamie Oliver sits alongside these guys as ambassadors for good.

Colour and laughter shape this school

Schools can teach us other things too. I was at the open morning for grandparents at our grandson’s school, Aldrington Primary, Hove. As I walked around hearing happiness, seeing colour and love, watched 8 year olds creating Tudor seats and children reading in the library, older ones helping younger ones, I reflected that the best, most colourful, buzzy schools like these should be a template to creative businesses and new start-ups. Businesses like swans can be too grey.

Sunday – I’m upbeat and there’s roast swan for lunch. Yum!

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