Monday, 29 November 2021

DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN WE LAST REPLENISHED?

It goes back a long way, before the industrial revolution which itself led to our 24/7/365 world. To when the harvest was, as the hymn says: “safely gathered in”, the pig was in the last phase of being fattened up before being slaughtered, when the frown of winter deepening and getting under the cosy covers at night was the best time of the day. That was when we learnt to replenish and prepare for the next productive seasons starting in April. Like plant life we hid ourselves in a winter snooze.

Why Snoozing Makes You Lazier — Logan Lenz

The word “snooze” has a bad reputation. Today “having a snooze” is a slightly furtive thing to do. There is no longer room for the unproductive or the lazy. No room for re-fueling or replenishing. No time to snooze. 

Yet slowing down, meditating, rebooting, refreshing, and replenishing over the next two months is exactly what we should be doing. This means preparing for the next assault. It means taking stock and filling in the gaps in our lives. It means loving ourselves more, developing our talents, instincts, and potential. It means getting ready to live anew. And it’s easier to do when it’s cold and gloomy, when the days are short and indoors, in the warm, is your laboratory for crafting ‘The You of 2022.’

So, here’s “Project Replenish” and some ways of doing it: -

  • Sleep in … a lot. We’re told sleep is important. In the long, dark winter, it’s critical. Sleep experts recommend 8 hours a night. In winter go for more. Get up later. Have a nap after lunch. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. 

A group of people walking

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  • Slow down. Many of us rush around. We are busy, busy, busy. Stop - it’s ‘winter speed’ now. Take more time over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Linger in the shower or bath. Have fewer things in your diary. Allow more time to reflect between events and meetings.

  • Taste/relish your food and drink. Part of replenishment lies in eating our meals more slowly and enjoying them. Food isn’t just fuel. It’s a luxury to savour.

             Why can't I feel satisfied after a meal? - Quora

  • Spend an hour a day just musing – musing means “to consider something thoughtfully”. Just musing on anything (or if you’re a “Super Muser” on nothing) will refresh your brain. Musing isn’t just amusing it’s replenishing.

  • Visit the neglected in your life. Say “hallo” to the 20,40 or 100 people you’ve forgotten about or remembered but lost touch with. Write a note, an e-mail or call a few of these every day. 

  • Read more, much more slowly. To replenish you need to relish. Don’t gobble up a 300-page book in 4 ½ hours. Read more slowly and re-read bits you really enjoy. This is not a “Reading Race.”

             Silhouette of woman reading lying down Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

  • Stop being angry about “stuff”. There’s a lot of stress around and a lot of rage about what other people think. If you come across something you think is crass, perverse, or just plain batty, think about it and reflect on why they (whoever they are) say that and think that.

  • Pamper yourself. Cold outside, warm inside equals dry skin. Use moisturiser. Spoil yourself with an occasional “be kind to yourself” present.” As L’Oreal rather coyly put it “Because you’re worth it.”

  • Stop reading the paper and watching the news for a while. Too much politics. Too many broken promises. Take a rest. They’ll survive.

We have this two-month opportunity to revitalise ourselves. The past two years have been unusually exhausting. Try some of these strategies. 

Replenish and prepare for 2022. 

Sleeping happy smiling office worker woman Vector Image


Monday, 22 November 2021

DON'T GO IN TO THE DRESSING ROOM

Between the ages of 16 and 50, I spent a lot of my weekends playing cricket. Over the past week I’ve been thinking about racism in cricket. I experienced hardly any racism although I was once described as a “honky” by a West Indian fielder. 

Back in the 1980s the power of the West Indian teams was such that any racist remark by someone stupid enough to make it would have resulted in some lightning fast short-pitched bowling aimed at their helmetless heads. One player in county cricket stood out. Wayne Daniels. He was called “Sir”.

200 Cricket ideas | cricket, sport of kings, sports

The most enjoyable cricket I played was when white players were in the minority, when talent was what counted, where sheer unbridled joy in the game was what stood out.

But there was a remark in the Azim Rafeeq hearing that stopped me. It came from one of the Yorkshire Cricket Club Board. It said that “Asim lacked White Rose qualities and attitudes”. This made me shiver.

A person with his hand on his face

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I recalled a particular cricket dressing room. The smell of BO and Brut, old unwashed kit spread around and a laddism that would have been at all levels unacceptable today. It was ghastly then, but it represented the cultural language of our team. It was misanthropic, misogynistic, homophobic, satirical, cruel, and crude. Almost certainly it was racist too. Everyone had a nickname – none of them pleasant. There was team-bonding and a slightly hysterically fueled hatred of our opponents. This was the same credo as the Allan Border-led Australian team of the late 1980s. He was known as “Captain Grumpy.”

Happy Birthday Allan Border - Interesting Facts, Trivia, And Records About 'Captain  Grumpy' On Cricketnmore

Dressing Rooms like Board Rooms can be dangerously self-deluding places. Last week has at least corrected that impression.

What bewilders me is anyone thinking racism is acceptable in 2021 yet the people who ran, and presumably some who still run cricket in Yorkshire, think it is acceptable, or maybe worse, they don’t even realise that they are being racist.

In the 1980s advertising had a slight smell of -ism about it. A black art director who liked his photography to be dark and moody who was called the Prince of Darkness. He seemed amused – but was he? A team at Saatchi & Saatchi who dressed as ‘The Blues Brothers’ – trilbies, dark glasses, black suits, white shirts, narrow black ties. They grimly told their clients they were “on a mission from God”. 

This was a world of alcohol, drugs, and beautiful women. It made ‘Mad Men’ look rather underpowered. It was not so much an -ism as a world in which to be politically correct (I’m not even sure we even knew what that meant back then) was to be out of step.

Mad Men: Shop the Mid-Century Look

Now, not to be politically correct is to be unemployable. It isn’t good enough to say the right things, you must not even think the wrong things. The result of last week’s hearing will be an upheaval in sporting governance, not just that of cricket. In Friday’s Times, Sports Columnist Matt Dickinson said:

“There’s no other word for it: the way we run sport is nuts”   

 He’s right. The comments of many of the leaders in cricket fill me with dread. Sport is no longer an amateur business. For better or worse (mostly if run well, for better) the money floods in to allow world class talent to be properly rewarded.

This is what happens if you don’t understand this simple truth. 

Sunder Katwala on Twitter: "My @EasternEye column on cricket & race.  The 'banter' defence is collapsing under political and sponsor pressure -  including from @sajidjavid @julianknight15 @DanJarvisMP et al How can  cricket

Money matters but our self-respect matters more. Our world has changed. We need to change with it or become just a footnote in history.

Cricket RIP.

Hopefully not.


Monday, 15 November 2021

IGNORANCE IS SOMETIMES BLISS

When you don’t understand something it’s better to admit it than to bullshit. After years of fiddling at the fringes of social media in common with several acquaintances I have decided to become antisocial. No more Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter. I didn’t really understand them anyway except as a medium for sounding off.

Wednesday Wellbeing: How to use social media and retain your sanity – IT'S  A LAWYERS LIFE

We shall not miss each other.

But there was one occasion in my life in 1972 when despite a complete failure of comprehension, I changed someone’s life.

I was in advertising and one of my clients, James Arnold-Baker, who was Managing Director of a big record company called Record Merchandisers called to say he needed an urgent piece of advertising to promote the just released record of a Scottish unknown and his appearance in the biggest Woolworth Record Department in Glasgow. I asked him to send me the record. The artist was a scruffy banjo player called Billy Connolly. The record was called Billy Connolly Live!

BILLY CONNOLLY LIVE - Billy Connolly


I played the record, but I could barely understand a word. It sounded something like this punctuated by coughs, grunts, “fek dis” and banjo sounds:

“BANJO MUSIC – Oh fekin twat.....meh ahse twand...pie on cwarp ...fwackin hell...fwackin lad spit! – AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND CHEERS...hot panna ...outavinda what penny throw...aaaggh...pennies...aaagh fekin larf doon ma breeks piss ahsel ... feckin darfme - AUDIENCE ERUPTS”

I wrote a conventional brief for the creative people, hyping the cultural strength of this new star.

“What Bruce Forsyth is to The London Palladium Billy Connolly is to Glasgow”... shameless.

But the creatives refused to create an ad because my client or I was “taking the piss. No one can understand this. Stop wasting our time”

So, I wrote the ad myself – an enthusiastic presenter saying where, when and why Billy would be on a given date followed by excerpts of Connolly and audience laughter. I managed to get as many what I supposed was the “f” word in as I could. And no one complained and Sauchiehall Street was jammed solid with eager crowds to meet Billy and buy the record.

From banjo player with a gift in chat to superstar comic in 30 seconds of nonsense.

Ignorance can be bliss.

Tory sleaze is no surprise when self-interest is the party's driving force'  - Kevin Maguire - Mirror Online

Or, of course, the reverse. Seldom can political missteps (starting with the Patterson fiasco) have been conducted with such cocky assurance that nothing could go wrong. The word “sleaze” has become inextricably linked to Tory. It’s started and will go on...too late to stop ... the sleaze wagon is on the move - the product of Government failure to understand the media would use this hook on to which to attach every Tory story.

Most of us are weary of the Covid story. Many think it’s yesterday’s news, that we know all we need to know, that the beast’s been conquered, that it’s party-time. 

Take it away Shakin’ Stevens: 

“Snow is falling

All around me

Children playing 

having fun

It’s the season

Love and understanding

Merry Christmas everyone”


Merry Christmas everyone! | Caremark


Hmm .... talk to people in Bavaria, in Austria, in Holland, in Norway and Sweden. Covid is back with a vengeance in retaliation for their having taken its disappearance for granted. Bavaria has declared a “state of catastrophe” with intensive care units close to collapse. In Germany nearly half the new cases are amongst the vaccinated due to the waning efficacy of vaccinations over time or to a new variant.

COVID: Fourth wave 'in full force' in Germany as WHO warns Europe is 'back  at epicentre' | World News | Sky News

Politicians there are talking about restrictions including isolation/house arrest for the unvaccinated; there are mutterings of the unspeakable – lockdowns.

All this the product of incaution and ignorance.

So, a not so Merry Christmas may be looming.

Monday, 8 November 2021

WINTER IS COMING

Officially winter starts on December 21st. Yet first thing on Friday it was really chilly with a frost. I recalled a poem First Frost by Edwin Curran an American poet born at the end of the 19th century:

The flowers grow in the garden pied
Velvet, imperial, laughing-eyed,
While on them all hovers a breath,
The whistling frost of silver death.

A Frosty Morning | At the Write Time

I’d been feeling pretty mouldy for several weeks so I empathised with phrases like “silver death” but more to the point the blue sky, the bright sun and that familiar ‘Brrr!’… feeling as I wound my scarf more tightly round my neck, made me feel so much more alive than I’d recently felt. I love seasons. Autumn, like claret, is my thing but I also recall the thrill of bleak midwinters as imagined by Christina Rossetti.

School Gate Etiquette: Five Do's and Don'ts

I was up early as we were taking our 7-year-old granddaughter to school. The children all “laughing eyed” were waiting patiently at the gate looking eager, happy and expectant. The tired dismay I’d been feeling earlier, based on a mess of dismal news about institutional racism, sleaze and sheer stupidity, together with unexpected Republican victories in America, ebbed away. These children were the future, and it was lovely to see. No prejudice, no-isms  just a joy in life and the present. There was also a sense of humour that was rich in wicked fun:- 

“So what did you do in school yesterday?”

“Oh, fighting and cutting up butterflies.”


Fall is yet to happen. The leaves are still withering but green on the trees. Winter is waiting. As are our fuel bills. Ours I’m told will be over £5,000. Eyewatering but it’s my wine cellar that will take the hit to accommodate that.


I’ve decided to stop grumbling about the racism, sleaze and sheer stupidity journalists are slavering over.

 

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant


Instead I’m thinking about reading a good book – currently Sarah Dunant’s “Blood and Beauty” about the Borgias, sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio – tiny ones to savour - and listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.  His music has such a sense of fluent certainty about it.  He makes it sound easy.


The story of our times is not that complex; it’s happened before; it’s a perennial story. Old v New; Past v Present; Continuity v Change. As people get older they’ll often lament “why do they keep changing things?” The answer is because old naturally has to renew; because humanity is creative and keeps on trying to improve things and the sheer economic logic of change which creates work, money and jobs.


The biggest difficulty in life is people. Understanding them, hearing them and speaking to them. Persuading billions of people to be poorer more uncomfortable and colder is difficult. We are wealthier, healthier world than we were a century ago because we’ve worked harder, more creatively but also created more pollution.


But things are changing. In India a 15 year old has invented a solar powered ironing cart to replace thousands of previously coal powered ironing carts. Enterprise and determination win again.


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In the Dominican Republic a start-up business is working successfully on cultivating coral on land, making it more resilient to changes in temperature and acidity and then transplanting it to the ocean. Great story. 


Finally read Jeremy Paxman’s Black Gold.  It tells the story of coal and how it transformed us in the Industrial Revolution and then propelled us globally to where we are today. But we have changed. Coal is of yesterday as the horse is a mode of transport. And we can change further because, remember… winter is coming.

Hard Graft By Jeremy Paxman

 

Monday, 1 November 2021

WELL, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

There are many ways of making decisions. There’s the go-on-the-front-foot, “Action Man” approach. There’s reducing everything into a predictable routine. Then there’s the “busk-it” approach and there’s the “rely on experts” way, delegating responsibility for results on the clever who, blamed when things go wrong (as they often do), are dumfounded.

Action Man:

Last week at 4am our house alarm went off. Still more than half asleep I was up deactivating the alarm and running downstairs to see the front door swinging half open, shadows from the streetlights flickering through the darkened hallway.

At this point, out of character and still half asleep I started growling:

“... alright show yourself you disease weakened weasel...come on you pox raddled moron...I’m ready, I’m armed and can’t wait to mash you to pulp...stop hiding...come out, come to Johnny

The Shining' Movie Facts | Mental Floss

In my dozy half-awakeness I saw myself as Jack Nicholson in The Shining.... I had no fear, just a strong desire to thrash the intruder who’d woken me up. But there was no intruder. Just a strong wind and defective door catch.

The Routinists

The unexpected has become more commonly part of our life than it was. Back in the day, life had an inevitable and unchanging routine. The Scaffold in their 1966 record “2Days Monday” described a ritual week of clocking in and mining monotony.

2Days Monday – 

Monday’s Washing Day Tuesday’s Soup Wednesday’s Roast Beef Thursday’s Shepherds’ Pie Friday’s Fish Saturday’s Pay-Day Sunday’s Church..........

.........And so on forever and ever. 

Through the decades in the North East - 1960-69: From The Beatles to the  Fairs Cup - Chronicle Live

When we hear about levelling-up our country, this sort of routine is what we’re trying to eliminate. The litany ends “Is everybody happy? You bet your life we are” ... but of course the Scaffold weren’t really happy. Life in 1966 was hard for most people. And for many still is.

The Busker

I hope this story is true but even if it isn’t wholly accurate it captures a sense of the man, his methods and our times. Roll back the clock forty years. Boris Johnson was at school. A very clever boy with allegedly a strong sense of entitlement which exceeded even his considerable gifts. One of those gifts was acting, He sought and fought for the best parts. So far so good. The trouble was that he never bothered to learn his part properly. This meant he relied heavily on the prompter. The plays – tragedy, melodrama or farce all became a spirited dialogue between Boris and the prompter like that between a Dummy and his ventriloquist. The result was hilarious and – can this be true? – the prompter took a bow at curtain call

A couple of men playing guitars

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Spare us your vote …..

The Expert

In my experience there are two kinds of expert. Those who describe complex problems as “fantastically straightforward” and speak very fast and incomprehensibly about them. And there are those who listen, ponder and then start dissecting the problem and outline a series of possible solutions.

They can’t make my decisions – only I can do that – they’re experts not decision-makers.

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Increasingly when looking at global problems I find myself thinking “You know I can’t engage with this anymore.” I sympathise with readers of The Guardian, the writing in which is so elegant but often bleakly depressing.

What we should do is focus on those issues over which we can potentially exert control (like my mythical intruder), ensure we don’t get locked in monotony and learn our parts properly (or don’t take part). 

And we all need to think.

When every day’s a thinking day will most of us be happier? You bet your life we will.

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Monday, 25 October 2021

THE SECRETS TO SUCCESS

 Well, I guessed that might capture your attention. The trouble is success is relative. Would you rather be Jacob Rees-Mogg – rich, with a beautiful house and Rolls Royce or a League Two footballer for Exeter City (9th in the table) and dreaming of promotion. I know which I’d prefer.

But success can’t have ever come in such abundance as it has for Richard Osman the gameshow host, TV producer and writer.

The Thursday Murder Club: The Record-Breaking Sunday Times Number One  Bestseller (The Thursday Murder Club, 1): Amazon.co.uk: Osman, Richard:  9780241425442: Books

As a writer he’s breaking all publishing records. So far “The Thursday Murder Club” is only the 2nd work of fiction this century to sell over a million copies. His second book “The Man who Died Twice” sold 114,202 in the first week, one of the fastest opening-week sales of a book ever. The film rights for the first book have been secured by Stephen Spielberg. Richard is the Lionel Messi, or the Beatles, of fiction. If he wrote a book called “The Ditchling Sieved Lettuce Incident” it would sell another million.

Why? 

The Beatles - IMDb

That’s the question the late Richard Rowe who was Head of A&R (Singles) at Decca Records from the 1950s to the 1970s and who rejected the Beatles would be still asking if he were still alive. 

Because the point is this - as Ann Treneman witheringly wrote in the Times last week -  “The Thursday Murder Club” is not a very easy or rewarding read. Not so says great novelist Ian Rankin it’s 'so smart and funny. Deplorably good’. Kate Atkinson is equally vociferous in her praise. But the point is I agree with Ann Treneman. I’ve read the book and found it rather weak and lacking in focus, and characterisation. My 98-year-old mother-in-law, still a keen reader of writers like Sarah Dunant, was more damning – “disappointing” she sniffed.

So why?

Three things:

1. Brilliant marketing

2. Richard is a carefully created modest and clever TV star we all know and love. He’s a good guy. An intellectual George Clooney.

3. He has settled into, and now owns a piece of unoccupied territory in literature. Old people as heroes. Forget that “love island” Sally Rooney and others compete in writing about. The 3 million over-60s are not so much an island as a continent with more millions of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who love them. How many Grandparents will get several copies of both books this Christmas? 

The Golden Oldies' Starting Next Week at the Royal Court - The Guide  Liverpool

So well done Richard Osman. Several million pounds richer says you are right and that I am wrong in finding your first book a bit Enid Blytonish - “The Retirement Home Of Adventure.” It hasn’t certainly been a “pointless exercise”.

But how I want to write the Texas Chainsaw Massacre version of his books with mad Sister Martha, a series of gruesome murderers, poisoned food and the uncovering of a drug smuggling operation…” that may explain the huge number of visitors in fast cars” mused Inspector Dim. “We’re dealing with Geriatric Lines – it’s worse than County Lines.” 

Mamma Mia! The Party | The O2

Richard Osman has done for the world of literature what Richard Curtis has done with Love Actually and what films like Marigold Hotel and then, Mama Mia did for extrovert audiences. I may not like Richard’s books, but I love the effect they’re having. Whatever else they are nice books which seek to spread joy (and yes Enid Blyton in her day did just that too.)

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; The Diver and the Lover by  Jeremy Vine – review | Fiction | The Guardian

Richard has sneaked into the role of National Treasure alongside Jamie Oliver, Stephen Fry, Judie Dench, Adele and others. It was about time we had someone like him spreading good.

I’m just so sorry I didn’t enjoy that first book more. 






Monday, 18 October 2021

WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH


Brighton shock: Rubbish piles up in the streets and rats feast on scraps of  food in echo of dark days of the 1970s as resort's binmen go on strike -  NewsBreak

All over Brighton the bins are full and the streets are overflowing with rotting rubbish. It’s been like this for two weeks. The latest news about the strike is it could last until mid-November given talks between the GMB union and council have broken down. The GMB called action over changes of duties, drivers being removed from long-standing rounds and pay. Pessimists are predicting a six month stand-off.

 

The irony is the Council is led by the Green Party. A similar strike happened before -  nationwide in 1978-79 leading to Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power over the bones of the Labour administration in the “winter of discontent”.

 

Who was 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher? | Live Science

 

I’ve been surprised just how relaxed everyone seems to be about this hygiene catastrophe, exhibiting mild grumbles rather than outrage. A group of valiant lads proposed commandeering a lorry and clearing their area but were told by the council it would be illegal to intervene and dispose of this illegal rubbish in the tip.

 

What a load of rubbish. 

 

We might start burning it – not very green but we wouldn’t have a plague of rats. My frustration is that no one is seeking a solution to this urgent problem. Politicians, Waste Management Experts, Journalists, Union Officials are talking about it but not creating a solution…unlike the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s musical solution.

Pied piper of hamelin Royalty Free Vector Image

 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, who has had something of a rubbish week himself given the findings of the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on the handling of the Covid pandemic, said he believed we needed more engineers and engineering systems. 

 

Engineering, unlike Patrick, had a great week. The front page of the Times carried a story about the need to rename engineers. Professor Elena Rodriguez-Flacon thinks engineers should be called 'ingeniators' – ingenious innovators. 

 

Well, I think that’s rubbish. We need to celebrate engineers not rebrand them. I like the dictionary definition of the verb “to engineer” – “to skilfully arrange for (something) to occur”. Engineers are not just TV repairmen or radiator installers. Think Brunel, think Stephenson, think Archimedes, think Tesla (the engineer not the car!), think Leonardo. All engineers.

 

Drawings of Water Lifting Devices, c.1481 - Leonardo da Vinci - WikiArt.org

 

Given the current global fragility of critical systems a few smart engineers would seem to be exactly what we need. Engineers not MBAs, engineers not politicians. If politicians had engineered the Channel Tunnel it would have ended up in Antwerp and then flooded.

 

Three stories that have cheered me up in the midst of the garbage mountain outside our house.  

 

  1. I had an x-ray recently at the Hove Polyclinic. Spotlessly clean. Plenty of parking. Charming people – It’s a no-appointment place;  I was in and out in 15 minutes. The radiology manager was Sid. Remember the Gas Privatisation advertising in 1986. The NHS can be amazing  when there are “Sids” to make it happen. 
  2. A friend of mine is running an incubator seeking new ways to convert waste (yes, rubbish) into useful and valuable material by employing the inventive skills of Chemical Engineers. It’s flying.
  3. Restaurants are open. Wild Flor in Brighton is back, delivering a splendid experience. They ‘engineer’ a perfect conjunction of relaxation, taste and pleasure.

 

What I’ve realised this past week is that good intentions, optimism and unbridled hope are not enough. We can eliminate grumpiness but never the need to question and work out how to engineer solutions and systems that work, are robust and adaptable. 

 

What’s happening in our rubbish strike is an absence on all sides of common sense, compassion, compromise and community. Brighton’s not a nice place to live in right now.