Monday, 28 March 2022


Imagine a world without Coca Cola, McDonalds, PepsiCo, Nike or Adidas. Imagine a world without your “favourite” social media. Imagine a world without Adele. Imagine a world hurtling backwards to the 1970s.

Sounds like where you’d prefer to be? Not if you’re under 50 and have learnt to enjoy the new and the good things in life. There are 60 million Russians aged 15-50 and right now the lifestyle they’ve got used to and expect is being destroyed by a war they didn’t sign up to.

A friend of mine, a fluent Russian speaker and Russophile went over there recently to deliver a lecture (in Russian) about Chekhov. He hadn’t been there for many years but was struck strongly by the sense of plenitude and almost western relaxation, by the streetlife and cafes in St. Petersburg full of bright young people. It felt like Britain in the 1980s.

For my part about eight years ago a Russian Director of Innovation for a major American company was sent to me to see if I could help her present better and more clearly in meetings. She was certainly very bright, late 20s and refreshingly light on theory but strong on pragmatism and team management. The assignment was a success. We enjoyed talking – I did anyway. She was reticent about politics except to note she was well paid but her highly qualified parents – her mother was a doctor – earned between them less than £15,000 a year. She was going to be promoted and moved to the UK but she got pregnant instead.

Surely old-Russia Putin has miscalculated his young people. Does he think they buy into his story about Ukraine? They are as sceptical, I’d guess, as our young people are about politics. In fact, shoot all the oldies on both sides and they’d be no war. It would all be like Woodstock all over again. Remember these lines:

And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

Already stories from the Ukrainian front suggest youthful unrest. Allegedly a Russian Commander was not only disobeyed by his troops but was then run over by his own tank. The young Russian army is being routed by the homeless young Ukrainians – this feels like a civil war with increasingly the combatants on the same side, culturally.

I look at Old Putin as a hangover from the Berlin Wall past.

I look at old Biden who became a Senator when Richard Nixon was President and Vietnam was going wrong for the USA. And then I look at Vlydimir Zelynsky .44 years old – a rock star – who gets youth, is youth but most of all, youth get him. There is only one real world – it’s the future – not the world of old has-beens like Erdogan, Lukashenko, Biden and Putin – and Kim Yong-Un (born an old man). It’s a world of music, technology and companionship. It’s also a highly fluid word of hand- luggage travel across the world, sharing ideas. Get in a plane go to Berlin meet some guys. Talk, discover, eat and fly back.

As an old-has-been I have resolved to die young looking forwards as opposed to reminiscing. I want to encourage the abundant young talent throughout the world and learn from them.

I’ve heard this is the end of globalization. No. It’s the end of old thinking. The world is still mostly open and welcoming.

Think young. Embrace change. Think peace.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Monday, 21 March 2022


I heard the story of David Cameron talking to Vladimir Putin at one of those G7 parties when parties were normal things, pre-pandemic. Allegedly Putin sidled up to Cameron and smilingly said:

“David, I know that you think I consider you’re degenerate, decadent, and weak and that I loathe democracy. You know something. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong in thinking that.”

I’m not sure I believe that story because the idea of Putin smiling isn’t credible.

But it got me thinking.

Are we decadent, degenerate, and weak? And is democracy all it’s cracked up to be? The past two years have changed a lot of things not least the spontaneity that made a last-minute invitation to go out and be a bit naughty, irresistible (“go on… it’s Friday…we’ll go to Burnt Orange and take it from there… ooh la la…this is Brighton after all.”)  It was what all those Russian oligarchs thought and until a few weeks ago we trailed weakly in their wake wishing our rowing boat could be a Super Yacht.

Our decadence was pretty limited. We ate out more often. We went on interesting holidays to the Maldives or Caribbean. We bought nice handbags. (No, not me.) We bought stuff that sometimes we didn’t need. We supported start-up businesses. We were the pioneers of online shopping and weekends in Airbnb country cottages. Not decadent, no. Just having a good time. A better time than we’d had before. Self-indulgent? Maybe. But hardly decadent.

Degenerate? Now that’s a more serious accusation. It’s about showing signs of decline. If you get old, you degenerate a bit, but you don’t become a degenerate. Is Britain degenerating? Well, yes. Exiting from the company of the EU was a conscious decision of the electorate to be smaller and rather less important. A bit like resigning from the Board of a big company to start your own small exciting business. Good to do but your voice is a smaller one than it was.  Anyway, it's time for all the western world to acknowledge we are in decline. Europe and the USA are not quite what they were, but we are still mighty just not “mightier yet.”

Weak? Yes maybe. Certainly, a bit lazy and happy to settle for a quiet life.  Unobservant. Crossing our fingers. Who needs a defense budget? Armed conflict is so yesterday. Who could imagine a war we thought? Putin was tough and strong we said but he’s not aggressive and he’s fair minded.  We need to be with him we protested, let’s not be antagonistic or awkward or old-fashioned. We need his oil and gas. Let’s be friends – we said. Let’s be friends.

We weren’t weak so much as  too trusting. After Salisbury, Aleppo, Crimea and a litany of violence perhaps naïve is a better word.

The wake-up has been abrupt. Nearly all commentators seem to feel this has been much needed. Our upper lips have been well and truly stiffened.

Since 1980 our world’s improved. We have more choice and in every way life is better. We’re, nearly all of us, wealthier, healthier and happier. Democracy had won or so we thought. Russia’s people were poorer apart from a few oligarchs and Putin whom some believe is the world’s richest man. The Ukraine War is ideological. Is Ukraine part of our world, as they’d come to believe, or another darker, poorer world? Starkly … do we want South or North Korea?

Putin may loathe democracy but it works better than communism or autocracy.

You get to vote and that’s how Zelensky is President of Ukraine.

Monday, 7 March 2022


Last week I became rather melancholic. I don’t like it. I can normally find a bright side to almost anything. Some say it’s infuriating and inappropriate to keep on smiling. But my Mr Loud and Mr Laughter became Mr Lugubrious (and what a glorious word that is – a cross between lubricating and moody.) That was me last week, full of moody glue. I felt stuck.

Super Glue | 3g Bottle | The Original Super Glue

There were a series of reasons. The Ukraine horror show overwhelmingly so. But blanket Russophobia whereby if it’s Russian it’s bad upsets me. 

Vodka, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Potatoes (Russians like potatoes a lot), Beetroot (Ditto), Ballet, Tolstoy, Pasternak, Chekov, Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, Beef Stroganov, Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, Yul Brynner (he’s dead – yes but he was Russian), Fabergé, White Russian Cocktail and Tea (tea? Yes they love it hence their samovars.)

All the above are Russian so we must hate them and avoid them – including tea? Yes, especially tea.

Bolshoi Ballet

Already Russian Oligarchs are rightly being sanctioned with their bank accounts frozen and their yachts impounded. We’re hitting Putin and his friends in their wallets. But I’m not sure where it stops. Valery Gergiev, rated the world’s greatest conductor has been removed from the Presidency of the Edinburgh Festival and any further involvement musically in Britain. Russian driver Nikita Mazepin's F1 contract has been terminated by the Haas team and the Bolshoi Ballet have been cancelled by the Royal Opera House.

Being Russian now is evidently  a very bad thing to be. Being “Poo Tin” as Matt Chorley  in the Times now calls him is obviously much worse but if you have any Russian blood in you, you’re (by definition) a wrong ‘un.

Jewel of Russia Ultra Vodka Limited Edition

All this has made me increasingly maudlin. It’s racist and silly. So I’ll scoop up my caviar, have a shot of Jewel of Russia Ultra Black Label and reflect on the distinction between leaders and people. Between, for instance,  Putin and those nice Russians I’ve met. Between Johnson and the rest of us whose image he has imbedded in all our reputations. Is that fair?   

But hang on. It appears Alexander Boris may have Russian blood himself. An ancient ethnic group (the Circassian community) from the region around Sochi has claimed Boris Johnson as one of their own. People there are famous for their blond hair and blue eyes. So that explains everything. Boris the Impaler. Boris the Bad. At this moment of discovery my mood slightly lightened.

Urban Sewage Treatment - International Water Association

We live in strange times when the big things are too big; it’s little things that cheer us up. How about this?  Scientists are concerned about the lack of testing for Covid and therefore it being impossible to actually know what infection levels really are now. So they came up with a way of getting a 100% sample to test with this novel idea. Everyone goes to the lavatory so measure the Covid levels detected in sewage at various sewage plants. The results are interesting with much higher levels of infection than previously expected. 

We are living in the midst of tragedy and probably prolonged horror. But we owe it to ourselves and especially those around us to stay level headed and kind. We need more cartoons and jokes. We need to read more books and less papers and social media. Scratching the scab only makes things worse. I doubt if Vladimir Putin laughs much - just look at the misery.

How the Soviet Union's Fall Pushed Putin to Try and Recapture Russia's  Global Importance - HISTORY

There are lots of nice people around and some of them will be Russian. Humanity prevails when we embrace rather than fight or hate each other  

So, no more Hangdog Hall.