Monday, 28 November 2022


Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism wrote:

“To err is human to forgive divine”

Page:An Essay on Criticism - Pope (1711).pdf/11 - Wikisource, the free  online library

I knew a manager who quoted this to subordinates who’d made a mistake adding:

“You have erred. I forgive you.” 

I enjoyed the silliness of this but there’s an underlying issue about whether we aren’t losing that divine quality.

We live in hostile times – not just in the Ukraine, Burkina Faso , Afghanistan and other places but closer to home too.

We’ve become increasingly intolerant although it was heartening to hear that Keir Starmer had actually kissed a Tory in the past and numbered several conservatives as friends.

MP forced to withdraw attack 'doesn't know what he's talking about' |  Politics | News |

It’s the screeching contempt for anyone who thinks differently from themselves like Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP for Kemp Town that concerns me. When all conservatives are called “Tory Scum” it’s difficult for an appropriate term of criticism to be found for those who are indeed egregious. You can’t get scummier than scum. 

But the point is also this. Lloyd may perfectly well be an agreeable chap whom I’ve taken against because he got very cross about something that happened and I can only see him through the prism of his exaggerated rage.

A good friend of mine in Scotland, successful, thoughtful and kind, and most of all effective, is finding the increasing intolerance of many SNP members so extreme and potentially violent as to make him think of moving somewhere “civilised” like Cambridge , Canterbury or Chichester – cathedral or university towns.

Remember that childhood game we played where we demanded to know whether someone was “friend or foe” before we let them play with us? It’s got like that. But if we cooled down we might at least hear the argument of the other party and whilst disagreeing with much of it acknowledge that there was something in what they felt and forgiving them.

I recently talked to a friend in America whose balanced and thoughtful views I’ve always admired. I remember thinking what a great and sensible Supreme Court Judge he’d have made. I asked him how I should understand Ron DeSantis who’d shot to global prominence following Storm Nigel in Florida, his state.

He reddened and spluttered “he’s a racist monster”.

When contempt and anger divide us like this we are in trouble even if, as I suspect, he might be right. 

Ron certainly has shifty eyes.

Florida Judge Rules That Residents Have a Right to a Smarter Governor | The  New Yorker

But Ronald Reagan, who with the perspective of history seems an increasingly genial figure, might have said on hearing me say this, as he did to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential debates…”there you go again”. This was one of the greatest put-downs of all time. (I guess over 40 years later we’d call it “passive aggressive.”) 

OK. I’m trying to call time on tin-eared intolerance. Those at the extremes of all political parties are beyond the redemption of accepting that they might not be entirely right or even that they might be slightly wrong. But the majority want rapprochement, accord and peace.

Which brings me to achieving peace and the possibility of unity in many fields. 

Matt Hancock defies expectations by surviving another I'm A Celebrity  public vote | Ents & Arts News | Sky News

First, trivially, we’ve just watched the “forgiveness” of Matt Hancock during his good natured ordeals in “I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here”. 

Then as the World Cup develops, the good natured wash of football  is beginning to dilute the grumpiness many feel about Qatar. And when Putin leaves, as he will,  there may be a surprisingly productive peace with Russia.

Forgiveness is the most important way we can become more civilised and make the world a rather better place. So let’s start practising. 

Monday, 21 November 2022


I’ve always been fascinated by presentations. I even wrote a book on the subject. I never believed, as some seem to, that how you delivered the message was all that mattered (content is king) but presenting persuasively is no bad thing.

Brilliant Presentation: What the best presenters know, do and say (Brilliant  Business) eBook : Hall, Richard: Books

So I watched Jeremy Hunt’s “Autumn Statement” keenly. Jeremy’s a spare, bony chap with tiny, shifty eyes who reminds me of Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar of whom Caesar said:

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

In a little over an hour he made the best of a wonky story. And did so sotto voce. Quentin Letts, the Times Political Sketch writer described the scene perfectly:

Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn statement in a soothing murmur. Dentists go pretty quiet too when about to lance like maniacs.”

Official portrait for Jeremy Hunt - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament

Like a dentist he injected anaesthetic to ease the pain so I actually dozed off at one point. This was a masterclass of political hypnosis leading a leader writer to conclude it was a “sober and sensible budget”. I compared this assessment to my own demeanour for my wife to snort “you sober and sensible? That’ll be the day.” She’s right. I’m ebullient and theatrical and no Cassius either. 

Donald Trump - Latest News and Top Stories | NBC News

In contrast to Jeremy, Donald Trump’s announcement he was going to stand as presidential candidate in 2024 was a thing of tense drama…no snoozing here… as a speaker he uses no punctuation…ideas float from his lips as he thinks aloud, musing about his cause with phrases like “in order to make America great and glorious again…. it’s a beautiful thing…there’s love in this room…our campaign not my campaign…our country is being destroyed before our very eyes …. the massive corruption we’re up against.”

He mostly talks in iambic phrases and the whole effect is curiously poetic. He’s a latter day Mark Antony…”Friends, Romans and Countrymen lend me your ears.” In meditative mood, in the company of supporters, he’s hypnotic but rather still odd. 

But, says Rick Wilson, a from the Lincoln Project designed to oust Trump and Trump followers from the Republican Party, himself a life long Republic pre-Trump, the Donald is “feral who’ll eat chubby Ron De Santis and others for breakfast.”  So not just a poet but a master of the put-down.

But here is the presentation “masterpiece” of…well what I’ve ever seen.

Vicky Ford


Just before the Autumn statement on live TV the Tory MP for Chelmsford – Vicky Ford –a one-time Minister of State for Development albeit in the Truss cabinet – claimed the UK’s growth record had been better than any country in the G7. It was a barefaced lie. A whopper. And delivered with a swagger. The TV presenter instantly stopped her and said she was wrong and to prove it showed a chart where the UK was shown not only bottom but the only country showing negative growth in the period since Covid. 

My advice to a presenter in this fix is to fake a heart attack or run down the corridor screaming “they have guns and knives”. The strategy is distract, bemuse and make the viewer forget what you’ve said. But not Vicky. Without a blush or a blink she switched to  saying the IMF showed her figures for growth were spot-on looking forward and it was time to stop being negative.

Vicky Ford




Donald Trump would have been proud of her. In fact he should hire her. Please. Just so long as she leaves Britain soon.


I’ve seldom seen such egregious manipulation, audience hypnosis and sheer indifference to reality.


Unbelievable and almost comic.









Monday, 14 November 2022


This is not going to be about the folly that occurred in the UK with Ms Truss last month or at least not much about that. 

Liz Truss blames 'anti-growth coalition' for UK's problems in conference  speech | NationalWorld

Instead it’s a reflection on the thinking that has driven business and the management of money over my lifetime. Increasingly in a world currently talking now about recession, growth seems rather irrelevant.  Yet I know few people in business, consultancy or finance who don’t still talk passionately about growth plans.

Last Tuesday the founder and owner of FTX, the high-growth crypto currency platform, Sam Bankman-Fried (hang on - read that name again. Who’s teasing whom?) sent out this message:

“I’m sorry. I fucked up”

The $26 billion rise and fall of FTX crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried -  MarketWatch

From a valuation of over $36 billion earlier this year to nothing today. Can I spell out that value in numbers? $36,000,000,000. Wow. That was impressive growth for a business founded in just May 2019.

At least Sam is honest in his admission but he represents in his quest for growth the underlying horrors that can accompany it. Here’s what he said in an interview:  

“Sometimes the only thing standing between what is and what could be is the will to get there, whatever it requires”

I agree with the thought that determination and ambition are necessary qualities for success in business but, hang on, “whatever it requires” absolutely terrifies the hell out of me.

The “growth thing”, as I’m inclined to call it, is strongly present in the USA. Over half a century ago J.F. Kennedy said: 

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

10 Things You May Not Know About John F. Kennedy - HISTORY

But I’m beginning to wonder now whether it isn’t growth that’s the enemy, whether the determination to get bigger, to scale your business isn’t a kind of madness. Whether those seeking double digit growth or, in Sam’s case much more than that, haven’t created a nightmare of personal burn out and concomitant catastrophes socially, environmentally and politically.

Recently I was in a restaurant called Wild Flor with perhaps 36 covers. It started in 2019 and now it’s food gets better every time I’ve been there. It’s gradually moving from tasty to dreamily delicious.  But how should they grow? Wrong question. How could they improve? How do they gain even better reputation and become the best? Sam (poor Sam) said “Better is bigger”. No it’s not – not when I’m eating my lunch. 

Wild Flor Hove | Local reviews, interviews, menus and booking

 Growth is a new form of aggression thus the founder of the martial art Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (1883 -1969) once said:

“If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.”

Like many great quotes it’s flawed and just plain wrong. If we merely seek to grow we’re doomed to disappoint ourselves and others because, sunshine, there’s much more to life than growth.


I may sometimes be rather unkind about Business Schools and MBAs. This has mainly been because of their use of historic and often misleading case studies like one called Royal Bank of Scotland, The: Masters of Integration” by: Nitin Nohria and James Weber of Harvard.

Harvard Business School - YouTube

As tech stocks dive and growth is hard to achieve maybe it’s time now to replan the gardens which represent our lives, dig up the failed plants, replenish nutrients in the earth and adopt a strategy of better not bigger. In 2022 things have moved on and that “growth thing” with it. The adulation  of the unicorn (billion dollar businesses are called this) seems yesterday’s fad. Time now to maximise customer contentment, product quality and producer skills not growth.


Growth will come when it’s good and ready not because we seek it for its own sake. 

Monday, 7 November 2022

We gotta get out of this place...

It was 1965. The Animals.

We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
'Cause girl, there's a better life for me and you

These are the words which became the theme song of the Vietnam War and are burnt into my brain.


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Every time I get away for a break, note - not a positive thing like a “make” but a break, a destruction of something that works I resolve it’ll be the first of many. Never is. 

This one’s hardly a summer holiday. We’ve already had one of those but as I recall – a rather fuzzy memory -  I had Covid and spent most of the time asleep. No, this is a retreat to a quiet apartment overlooking a nature reserve and a stream.

In Canterbury for glorious choral music, Elizabethan architecture, lazy lunches and bison. Virtually extinct in Europe and pretty well unknown in Britain these creatures, the heaviest living wild land animals, are like powerful demolition machines. In a rewilding experiment  at Wilder Blean in Kent they are turning jungles into parks. And a baby bison has just been born so things are looking up.

Wilder Blean | Kent Wildlife Trust

And everyone else seems at it too. Good friends have just returned from a brilliant trip to and around India. It’s strange that when I was there a few years ago it seemed somehow familiar as though I’d lived there in a previous existence. It smelt wonderful and mysterious and was exciting in a way China, although fascinating too, somehow wasn’t. Poetry as opposed to prose.

Pantry Staples for the Exotic Kitchen – A Measured Life

And our daughter, son in law and grandchildren are in New York doing what we all do in the most thrilling city in the world. Walking. Walking. Walking. Walking through diversity. Chinatown. Harlem. The Financial District. Brownstone buildings. Central Park. The High Line. The Staten Ferry. Broadway diners where resting artists are now waitresses who suddenly burst into song. The biggest burgers ever. Whale sized Lobsters. And Walking. Walking. Walking.

A picture containing shore, dock

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What we missed through the drab days of lockdown was travel, experiences and change. In those same as, same as days of imprisonment that sixth sense of discovery and change was turned off which was tragic because ultimately it’s that sense which we need and which turns us on when we get weary.

So we are getting away because there’s a better life than Brighton great as Brighton is. But right now it feels like this dirty old part of the city where the sun refused to shine. Living in Brighton is like a never ending dish of scampi. Delicious but occasionally I need steak or – can this be me – tofu. 

I’m looking forward to rediscovering deep sleep and getting rid of mental cobwebs. I’m also looking forward to learning a few new things – I don’t know what yet but when I find out I’ll be sure to tell you.

Have a great week. Have fun. Plan your next adventure.

Why the first glass of champagne gets you drunker than the rest