Monday, 6 April 2020


Have you noticed how the words “not essential” have become popular with the police? The days of the Lord Chamberlain have crept back insidiously. Our lives are being censored by the boys in blue suggesting Easter eggs, your poor old mum and going for a long walk somewhere scenic are all inessential and self-indulgent.

Do you remember when East Germany was in its pomp and Erich Honeker its leader? The Stasi were its secret police. They kept files on about 5 ½ million people and had 90,000 full-time employees. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall these employees had to find work. Many became taxi drivers.

There was a joke that went as follows:
To a  Taxi Driver: “Can you take me to…?
Taxi Driver says “That’s OK Mr Hall I know exactly where you live.

A Police State is fabulous if you’re a policeman but for most of us it’s an anathema. Lord Jonathan Sumption, the former Supreme Court Justice described the Derbyshire police behaviour – using drones to identify and warn off walkers in the Peak District and staining a lake black to deter people – as “disgraceful.” He noted that public demands that “something must done” often leads to nonsense like this.

The language being used with relish by journalists and politicians – ‘serious, life-threatening, devastating, strict observance’ and so on have led to a frenzy of warnings and threats of banging up people.

So let’s talk (more positively) about what’s “essential” in life:

For me:
Hugs. Social distancing is like prohibition for me. (But I’m not going to hug – don’t worry.)

Family. My love for family always grows when it’s tough. I’m lucky to be surrounded at a distance by such lovely, smart people.

Wine. Yes! Have I got enough? Hmm

Community. Spend more time thinking ‘we’ not ’I’. And saying “hallo” and “how can I help you?” in other words “Love thy neighbour”.

Beautiful writing. It inspires, illuminates, simplifies.

Choral music. Holst Singers, the Cardinall’s Musick. Thomas Tallis makes anyone feel great. Precise. Uplifting. Clever.

Proper food. No modern sharing plates. Homemade soups. Cauliflower Cheese. Pie. Stews. Roasts and lots of fresh vegetables. Like Mum cooked. Like my wife cooks. Incomparable. Real food. Love food.

A garden. Spring flowers, neat beds, order and a constant  battleground with cats and slugs. All life and beauty is here.

Take any of those away from me and I’m as like as not going to grow a moustache, put on my Che Guevara outfit and start being very stroppy.

As regards work (remember that?) the list is shorter but essential:

Your people. Inspire them, look after them, treat them like your family. At times of stress be kind to them. Keep them on side.

Doubters.  People who are all doom and gloom. I can’t stand them. I suggest you shoot them. They spread the poison of timorousness and destroy self-belief.

No (that’s a bad word). No more ‘can’t’ or ‘don’t’. A lot more ‘please’, ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’.

Customers. Love them. They are hurting too so help them. Become customer therapists. Like elephants they’ll never forget being loved by you.

Pivot. Work out how to pivot and win. You may have to start a new business, break up your organisation into smaller units, merge with someone or discover the one thing you are uniquely qualified to do. Be creative and, by the way, creative is fun.

Targets don’t matter. The desire to win and the feeling of being in a winning team is all that matters. Targets are for bean counters. Winning is a buzz. And targets follow.

And essentially that’s what’s essential as I see it. Keep safe but keep sane too. 

1 comment:

John Eustace said...

Well Richard, as one expects, lucid thoughts as ever. My take on your excellent commentary is you identifying the need to expect to PIVOT, and to do that I suspect we'll have to ask some difficult questions, some that might seem heresy to the questioned, but the ability to dig deep and make decisions about businesses that will and won't flourish is the same as accepting death of individuals, pivot we must

Meanwhile as you nice

John Eustace