Monday, 17 October 2016


We live in grumpy times. The referendum didn’t help much. I’m still coming across people who haven’t been on speaking terms with their Brexit-voting parents since June.

It’s reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s descriptions in “Gulliver’s Travels” of seemingly trivial but vitriolic disagreements between the Lilliputians and Blenfuscuans as to which end of an egg to break open, the small or big end. This ding-dong led to thousands of deaths. There’s yet another dispute in the Lilliputian court between the Tramsecksan and Slamekstan factions, the one favouring low heels and the other high heels. Neither party will acknowledge or speak to the other. Splendidly the Emperor seeking a rapprochement wears one low heel and one high heel “which gives him a hobble in his gait.”

Ah, the hobbling gait of modern life foreseen back in 1726. Plus ça change….

What I love about Swift is his ability to put the spotlight on the triviality of human obsessions and that urge to take extreme positions even when Lustrog (Swift’s fictional god in this instance) has proclaimed:
“All true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end”

Depends on what you mean by “convenient” they all cry and the Smallenders and Bigenders in rage and hatred set about each other…kersplat!

Surely we are better? Well not if you read about the alleged tantrums displayed by the third and not-so-lucky appointment to head the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse by Theresa May, when Home Secretary, a few months ago. Dame Lowell Goddard, according to the Times, “treated staff with contempt and flew into rages”.

She refutes this but even if a tiny bit true it might explain why so many people at work there and generally today are so unhappy. Workplaces are increasingly driven by targets, by egos and by fear.  And this made me sad when the so-called NHS Whistleblowing Tsar Dr Henrietta Hughes said the NHS needed more of the “trust and joy and love as in Love Actually” hormone oxytocin and was derided by Santham Sanghera in the Times. More mirth and better manners and, yes, a bit more love wouldn’t be so bad but Santham hates the film for its sugariness, inappropriate sexual liaisons - just about everything.

Come on. Richard Curtis must have done something right because Love Actually grossed $259 million worldwide and nearly $30 million in the UK and was the apotheosis of “feel-good”. And feel-good is what we’re missing. Santham reduces life to mere functionality when he suggests all an employee needs to be happy is to be reasonably paid and do interesting work for a successful company. Most people achieve none of those.

What the workplace currently misses (blame computer screens and savings on coffee and biscuits) is the sound of buzz, gossip and laughter. Make it a place people want to go to for work and a pay packet, sure, but much more a place where interesting stuff happens and where grey people and misanthropes get mercilessly teased.

Bah humbug!

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