Monday, 27 July 2015


We’ve moved house and so had to register with a new GP. As I used to have high cholesterol I take statins and had to renew my prescription. The conversation with the new Doctor went well enough until referring to my medical notes he started talking about “my heart disease.”  “What heart disease? They once thought I had it but after an angiogram they found I didn’t” “Oh yes; you do have it …it says so here”…and he read something extremely fast that was both news to me and incomprehensible.

I went home and sat down. Evidently I wasn’t very well. In just a few minutes I’d aged 20 years. I wondered if my funeral would be before or after the Ashes series was over.

I went to bed.

I want to talk about “iatrogenics”. The term was unfamiliar to me before reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Antifragile’).  From the Greek "brought forth by the healer" it refers to any effect on a person resulting from a Doctor’s treatment which rather than being helpful has the opposite effect.
Effects include anxiety about or annoyance with the Doctor. So bingo…. I was a victim of “iatrogenics.”
I’d felt less well immediately…as though I’d been poisoned. Later on I recalled completing a form on my alcohol consumption from the NHS. I’d said it was on average 24 units a week. I then got a text asking if I needed to discuss reducing my consumption levels. It made me feel like an inebriate. (Stop looking at me like that! Anyway I’m off to New Zealand.)

Melissa Kite the journalist wrote recently about being denied HRT patches because of NHS guidelines about its dangers (allegedly small). Eventually in despair and not sleeping,  she snarled at her Doctor: “Give them to me I’m a danger to the public otherwise”.

Is the NHS is ignoring the simple strategy of encouraging people to feel well? Better surely to have a slightly shorter, happier life than live to be an old valetudinarian.

Stanley Holloway was renowned for his monologues like “My word you do look queer” about a guy who recovering from being ill is told by everyone how dreadful he looks. It has immortal lines like

“Oh, dear! You look dreadful: you've had a near shave, 
You look like a man with one foot in the grave…….    
I heard you were bad, well I heard you were gone. 
You look like a corpse with an overcoat on.” 

Eventually someone says ….
“You're looking fine and in the pink!'
I shouted, 'Am I? ... Come and have a drink!” 

So is the NHS spending too much time worrying about tactics and changing the rules (what for instance, is the “5 a day” Campaign but an invention by the Californian Fruit Marketing Company?) rather than improving morale?

Let’s relax a bit more… overall we’ve never been healthier…

“Are we really?”


“Come and have a drink.”

And let’s beware of iatrogenics.

Monday, 20 July 2015


David Cameron is being criticised for having too long a holiday. He’s planning to take most of August off first in Cornwall and then Portugal; swanning off when there’s Greece, an ISIS crisis and increasing problems with the SNP. Clearly he should be at number 10 worrying and having Civil Servants bouncing around like Duracell bunnies giving him advice.  Surely he’s meant to be Prime Minister not Sometime Prime Minister.

Some think - wrongly - holidays are for wimps.

Years ago I knew a football manager called Brian Clough. He ran Nottingham Forest between 1977 and 1993. He was Manager of the Year in 1977-78 won the league title twice , the FA Cup four  times and the European Cup twice. He was a legend.

He once said to me “I’m in trouble with my Board, young man - I just took off for Spain for a week - because I felt tired and needed to think and sleep - they want me there every day - well they can get stuffed”. And they did because in 1978 no-one argued with King Brian. Watch him filleting the hapless football commentator John Motsom in that year- wonderful stuff. The stuff of a relaxed man.

Brian understood the need to rest, to, as he put it, “be a bit daft” and using a change of scene and regimen can do that.

To be as good as you can be you need to stay in shape.

You need to invest in your support system, your wife, husband, children, grandchildren and your friends. Research proves (well we know it proves very little but I just love starting sentences like that occasionally). Research proves human beings make better decisions than computers and when they don’t it’s because they decide to behave like computers, whirring away 24/7.

Do we really get the need for sabbaticals, being like Yvon Chouinard CEO of Patagonia the apparel manufacturer?  Here he is in the office:

We live in an austere world and it’s one the brilliant educationalist Sir Ken Robinson analyses devastatingly when he laments the absence of creativity in modern education.

So my grandsons’ recent school reports interested me. They were very good although the forensic detail over many pages of closely typed pages worried me. The boys were 8 and just 6 in the school term in question. The detail was about the same as you’d apply to a senior marketer’s appraisal in a big corporation or an ‘A’ level student.

They should all lighten up. I think they need to be inspired not ground down by Gradgrinds.  I think they should do what a very successful friend of mine did. For family reasons he and his brothers took six months out of school when he was 8 and built the biggest, best, tree house ever. He said:  “It was then I learned more than I’ve ever done since.

Six months’ up a tree is better than a term of modern maths. Trust me.

Monday, 13 July 2015


I was at a big celebratory dinner last week when the band started up. They were rather old; think of  the Kinks plus a few years in age minus a chunk of musicality and plus a load more noise. Is it just me that finds conversation virtually impossible in completion with “you really got me”?

Andy was quite a senior banker from Singapore, ex-Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers (when they were still cock of the walk) … he was interesting about ethics

You got me so I don’t know what I’m doin’ now

About the thrill of a deal when you outwitted the competition

You got me so I can’t sleep at night

About why he loved his current job for its collegiate spirit and  strong values (CEO’s a woman - excellent)

Oh yeah you really got me now

Finally about how the really classy performers improved themselves and their minds when they had those moments of downtime which nowadays occur more rarely but nonetheless do occur. (There was a lot of lip reading happening on my part but I think this was his point and it’s a good one.)

In Hiroshima at the Mazda plant where just in time is rigorously applied there are occasional hiccoughs in production (earthquakes, hurricanes etc.) What happens then?  “We take the opportunity to repaint the factory and tidy the place up.

Yet driven by the HR mentality of focusing on skillsets and competences we find ourselves as I once did at an appointments panel scouring CVs. The rest of the panel noticed I always went straight to the interests and pastimes section. They were mystified by what they regarded as eccentricity.

We want a worker not a player” one said.

In fact a player, a team player - someone who has interests beyond Six Sigma and spread sheets, is exactly what I want.

All the best people I know holiday with hunger and have a life full of curiosity about art, opera, books and, most of all, other people. They avoid being too busy to cope by being busy at not being busy. Sometimes it’s when you relax, wander through a garden or along a beach that insights imprisoned in the mausoleum of work are released.

Way back in time the corporate equivalent of Morecambe and Wise were possibly Robinson and Allen of Granada. The latter was an obsessed workaholic and the former a somewhat louche, allegedly lazy Irishman who charmed on his stroll through life. But what a duo and what a great example of Mr Nose-to-the-Grindstone and Mr Smell-them-lovely-Roses these two were.

Just relax more and build up a series of other interests. Work is just not enough but it also gets done better by people with refreshed minds.

I discovered something a few years ago. Quite simply I do my best work when asleep. So I plan on snoozing my way to wealth if that’s OK with you.

Right now.

Monday, 6 July 2015


I was walking back from Waitrose festooned with bags of balsamic vinegar, olives, pretzels, hummus and wine - all those essentials in my life when a guy said “can you spare me some money?” I gestured at my hands trapped by the bags and he smiled and said “sure”. He was certainly civilised and on his uppers. At least I gave him eye contact, at least I tried but my failure to slip him a few quid has been  making me feel lousy ever since. Why are so many people down on those who are already down about as far as they can get?

I’ve heard people saying about the Syrian and Libyan refugees  that in their midst are terrorists using the cover of human misery to sneak to our shores and blow us up.  Most of the people fleeing are women and children with no credible other option than to make a risky and expensive sea crossing. Maybe surprisingly it was Jeremy Clarkson who compared the refugees with a neighbour whose house was on fire. Do you shrug and say “not my problem mate” or help put it out and put them up until things are sorted.

Which brings me to Greece.

The last time I took a view on Greece I was heavily criticised for being soft on debt and soft on the causes of debt. They must be punished. It’s the only thing they understand.

If the ”they” are the ordinary population of Greece and not the oligarchy I couldn’t disagree more. The sheer unkindness of the EU, IMF and ECB has made me uneasy about the whole ethos of the EU. Do we really want to remain part of such a beastly cadre? All my strict attitudes about good governance and prudence are blown out of the water by a swift study of the Greek situation. It’s the sort of thing that Dickens would have written brilliantly about. We need that sort of passion now.

The reality is the debt mountain was not built by the average Greek. It was created by the “generosity” of the EU and the banks and the smiling corrupt barons at the top of Greece.

The trouble now is, as some are saying, “we might just as well vote “no” and preserve a bit of dignity; we have nothing left to lose except that now.

I feel as though I need to fly to a Greek island and throw a party for them. I love the Greeks and I have done since 1964 when I first went there. They are generous, good humoured and mischievous. I love the scenery, climate and the food. I love their swagger and sense of pride. I love their appetite for life.

I loathe what the Troika has done and we as passive spectators are doing in letting this being quenched.
Whatever they vote on Sunday we have a collective responsibility to be a lot kinder to them than we have been so far.

UPDATE:  60% + saying ”no”….amazing. Wish Greece well