Monday, 30 January 2023


But bigger is still better to many, it seems. Bigger cars, bigger planes, bigger skyscrapers, bigger salaries – and so it goes on. Some of the cars cruising round Brighton with huge wheels and cowcatcher bumpers resemble tanks. The world is the same size as it ever was but we are defying gravity, as it were, in our architecture and ambitions. 

The Biggest Car In The UK! £100k Super-Luxury Cadillac Escalade ESV!

People are also obsessed by personal height with the Danes being the global leader in the race of giants.  But there was a useful corrective in a song in the film “The 7th Dwarf”, a German cartoon film from 2014:

“Size doesn't matter whatever you do 

and even if  the world causes too much stress 

please don't forget you're doing more with less 

your life will be better when size doesn't matter”

The Seventh Dwarf (2014) - IMDb

But try saying that to my charismatic and compact 14 year old grandson dwarfed by his 6 foot elder brother and try consoling him when a beautiful girl claimed she adored him but couldn’t go out with him because he was too short. (Breaking news: he’s recently put on several inches, is now about the same height as me and recently he’s stopped talking about height.)


Nonetheless have you noticed increasing interest in height amongst world leaders and the remarkable similarity in how tall a leader is ? Rishi Sunak nearly 5 feet 6 inches, Emmanuel Macron just over 5 feet 6 inches, Vladimir Putin 5 feet 6 inches, Olav Scholz, 5 feet 6 inches, Volodymyr Zelensky 5 feet 6 inches.

(Oh and George Santos 5 feet 8 inches or whatever he says it is.)

Rishi Sunak is the shortest male Prime Minister since Churchill. By Harry  Mount - The Oldie

I recall a photograph of me when as an 17 year old Captain of Cricket at school I was leading the team out flanked by two amazing quick bowlers each nearly a foot taller than me. I was a curious sight with two killers at my side – rather like a mafia don.

Right now in the absence of anything other than the usual accusations of Tory kleptocracy, Rishi’s diminutive stature is dominating the cartoonists and some in the labour party who are playing the dwarf card. I’ve yet to hear cries of conviction in anyone shouting “stand up!” at PMQs when he stands up to speak. But already “is he up to the job?” barbs have started.

The reality is, of course, what matters is not how tall you are but how big you seem to be. Tom Cruise seems big, athletic and domineering and ready to take on Arnold Schwarzenegger, yet he’s 7 inches shorter than Arnie, in fact he’s even shorter than Julia Roberts.

Tom Cruise's high-octane action sequence from the sets of 'Mission:  Impossible 7' goes viral on the internet; watch video | English Movie News  - Times of India

Of course size doesn’t really matter except perhaps when you come to killing machines but even then as the Vietnamese and Taliban showed, cunning, courage and determination matter much more. 

Let’s stop being macho males and empty headed thugs. Talent was and is the only thing that really matters. Assemble  the most talented people in the world and they’ll tend to be average or slightly below average in height. But as we notice it’s amongst men that obsession with height predominates although to be fair my mother who was on the diminutive side rather aggressively insisted her height was “5 feet and HALF AN INCH!!”

 Maybe something is changing. It isn’t always the biggest football clubs  that are doing the best. It isn’t the tallest skyscrapers that are the most desirable. The biggest investments are often the ones most regretted. Those dire words “economies of scale” are often accompanied ironically by the word “downsizing”.

Back to those German Dwarves:

“your life will be better when size doesn't matter.”

The Seventh Dwarf Movie Review | Common Sense Media


Monday, 23 January 2023


I believe it’s too easy to take a malignant view of the world. Surprisingly UK has not been the worst off in terms of strikes over the past three years with industrial unrest right across Europe and the rest of the world. 

Thousands strike in France for higher wages

Thus a good friend of mine, whose wisdom I rate, recently said lugubriously 

“There something terribly wrong underlying all this which we haven’t identified yet.”

But hasn’t it always been like this? Isn’t it the fate of humanity to lurch from crisis to crisis and hasn’t it just got too complex for a quick fix? But there’s more to it than that for sure.

I responded to my friend’s comment with this:

“(Maybe) we can no longer afford the world (we thought) we lived in”

Over my lifetime we have graduated from widespread, relative poverty to the opposite. Many of us feel we are owed expensive meals out, astonishingly dear trainers and exotic foreign holidays. 

There’s a sense that the good life is more widely available than ever and we’re entitled to enjoy it. But the development of work ethic has not grown at the same rate as this sense of entitlement.

What is commonplace too is the kind of poverty that was uncomplainingly normal back in the 1950s. There’s a starker division now between the “have nots” and the “haves.” The concept of “levelling up” won’t solve the scale of this problem.

My friend is right. “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark” as Marcellus says in Hamlet. Liz Truss was also curiously right. Without growth the show collapses. But growth alone perpetuates the whole ghastly charade. It’s human nature to want more but it also makes us sick if we consume what we don’t really need.

We can’t and shouldn’t sustain our current level of prosperity because we are living beyond our means and have been for some time now. But telling people to prepare for the poverty they deserve and the country needs by vastly increased taxes is not a vote winner.

The O2 Arena London: Hand Signed Art Print/Poster travel image 1

Last week I had a moment of revelation. I went to the O2 for the first time. Originally known as the Millennium Dome it was built to house the Millennium Experience, a government-backed exhibition celebrating the start of the 21st century.

Governments don’t understand how to mount shows and it was an embarrassing disaster for the Blair government. Today it has been repurposed and transformed to be one of the world’s leading entertainment venues and the ninth-largest building in the world by volume.

I was there for a performance of Young Voices, an annual jamboree of primary school children – some 8,000 of them singing to us and making an extraordinary amount of happy noise.

Young Voices - Whitehouse Primary School

The sheer scale of the place and the lucrative confidence it exhibited was staggering. The repurposed and relaunched Dome is a triumph. Meanwhile the infrastructure of the UK like the Millennium Dome belongs to a previous century. The O2 is of today.

If we could have a strategy to repurpose old UK systems like the NHS or our railways – like they’ve done with London Bridge station and not like HS2 which feels like a vanity project, a kind of transport version of the original Dome, then we might start creating a better world and feel less rotten.

London Bridge station scoops top architecture award

We need to be ambitious for change; to do a national makeover, pay the ill-paid people properly, get busy and plan to use some of the unentitled wealth that exists to make Britain a place of which to be proud. More O2 and less “Oh No.” 

Monday, 16 January 2023


Being promoted to a bigger job is not always the right move to make. In modern politics people ill equipped for a given role nonetheless greedily grab it. Because, they say, that’s what you do.

When Graham Potter left Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club where he earned a “meagre” £2 million a year for a £10 million job steering Chelsea to glory, many of us were sceptical. He was in a great position at Brighton inspiring a club he’d nurtured. He joined the lofty unknown of Chelsea. It was also unknown if he could do it, if his limitations might be exposed, if the players would recognise his authority. It was like going from provincial theatre to the West End before you’re quite ready.

Graham Potter says Chelsea manager is the 'hardest job in football' | The  Independent

Knowledgeable pundits said he couldn’t say “no” to this golden opportunity. Events are proving them wrong so far. He’s been “luckless” as the Times has said but also he seems out of his depth and lost. Chelsea isn’t just big it’s monstrous. It’s valued at just under $1 billion. It’s had 10 different managers in the last 10 years including Potter and it has 23 players “earning” over £2 million a year (3 of them over £15M.) It’s potty, Potter, as you’re discovering.

In my own career I was occasionally approached by people from much bigger companies trying to lure me to lead their broken, unwieldy businesses. In saying no I never regretted it because I knew the language they spoke was not my language. 

Jaguar Chauffeur Service London | Wilson Chauffeur

A colleague once took the CEO job at a huge multinational. The perks were great. Vast salary. Chauffeured Jaguar. City-centre skyscraper office. But it was a complete nerve-wracking disaster for him.

Boris Johnson was always self-evidently the wrong man for No.10. Wanting to be the top-dog is not a qualification for getting that job and doing it well. Read “Chums” by Simon Kuper to understand the psyche of this flippant, narcissistic scoundrel. 

Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson are linked by superpower fantasies

It's not easy building a leadership team and true leaders are hard to find. They need time, they need mentoring, they need modesty, the desire to learn, yes -  they also need luck but above all they need to believe they’re really up to the job and are focused on it.

I read about a job description recently for a job in the NHS, a well-paid “Director of Lived Experience” (what on earth is that?) who is “interpersonally talented and a strategic bridge-builder.” It occurred to me that opaque language like this goes a long way to disqualifying people from applying for jobs. But they’d be mighty miserable if they actually got the job and found themselves drowning in a morass of jargon.

Dr Philip Kiszely on Twitter: "Director for Lived Experience. £110K  starting salary. Rising to 115K with…well…lived experience, I suppose.  You're not allowed to question such drivel, BTW - it's 'our' sacred NHS!

I was once interviewed for a job I didn’t really want by people who, soon into the interview, I found I didn’t like. They asked me that dread question – “what do you think you’d bring to this job?” I thought and replied “a touch of levity perhaps”.

The Head of HR (sorry, the People Propagator) looked very shocked and the interview ended.

The mission of any business is to do what it does very well, profitably and to be adept at changing and improving. The leader’s role like the conductor of an orchestra is to recruit the best team, get the best out of them and constantly explore initiatives and new music to excite them, grow them and keep them on their toes.

Orchestra Conductor: What Does An Orchestra Conductor Actually Do?

The one thing a leader, conductor or surgeon shouldn’t be is light on experience. Real leadership is about people’s lives and their dreams. It’s not a game. 


Wednesday, 11 January 2023


I keep hearing people say how wonderful Netflix is. Certainly there’s never been so much to choose from. According to research, the number of adult scripted original series in 2021 was 559 across cable, broadcast TV, and streaming services and it grew again last year. Yet I struggle to get excited.

Emily in Paris cast: Meet the stunning new men of Emily in Paris season 2

But I liked Emily in Paris, more because I loved the Parisian scenes and attitudes. If they produce a series of sequels – Emily in Venice, Emily in Oxford, Emily in Symi, I’ll be there looking for my favourite restaurants.

My year started with two decisions. First,  not to have a “Drijan” (which sounds like an unpleasant ailment in the lower body). Dry Januaries account for a great deal of ill humour, in my experience, not least by those who waver; secondly, to become an avid reader again. 

In the past few years my enjoyment of and ability to really read and lose myself in a book has dried up. And I’m not alone. Others have told me they dip into books but can no longer lose themselves in reading. Others say they can’t read fiction any more. I sympathised although I did manage to read the latest Donna Leon just before Christmas. She describes the Venice I know and love with brilliant authenticity. The only other person to capture the feel and smell of the place with such certainty glories in the name Cees Nooteboon (The Lion, the City and the Water.)

Cees Nooteboom Takes a Wintry Ride Through Venice ‹ Literary Hub

This month I devoured a Christmas present in just a few days. It’s Ian McEwan’s latest and possibly his last novel. His last? Here’s what he says himself:

'My last novel? I feel as if I've said as much as I know'.

The book’s called Lessons. It was well reviewed by amongst others the Guardian:

McEwan takes aim at the post-war generation in this old-fashioned but generous and humane portrait of individual indecision against the backdrop of history.

Lessons: the new novel from the author of Atonement: McEwan,  Ian: 9781787333970: Books

At last a lengthy book into which I disappeared. It tracks through the life of Roland Baines, who’s almost but never quite a loser, from the 1950s through to today. OK, McEwan writes so well he could make a train timetable absorbing but the Guardian is right. The book is generous in spirit and lively in its view of history. It’s length is expressive of Roland’s own indecisions in life. It’s not just good. It’s a magnificent anthem to our world and observant of the political nostrums that never quite work. Nostrum? Good word. Seldom used. 

Chums by Simon Kuper review — the Oxford Tories who rule us | Culture | The  Sunday Times

Was the book really life changing? Possibly not but it’s rebooted my desire and ability to read which at my age is surprising. I thought I was doomed just to write blogs and drink many glasses of wine. Oh, and that’s another thing. As I read it I didn’t drink a drop. I didn’t want anything to impede the extraordinary effect the book was having.

Now I’m crashing through a lightweight book about the grip Oxford graduates have on British politics – Chums by Simon Kuper. By definition it’ll be fun. So far we learn Simon Stevens who used to run the NHS (I use the word “run” in its loosest sense) was adept at busking tutorials and getting by on minimal work. I’ll finish it by the end the day. I’ll then move on to Robert Harris’ latest, Act of Oblivion.

So, reading for me has once more become a passport to living in new worlds. I’ve even started eyeing up Daniel Deronda, regarded by many as George Eliot’s greatest work.

Reading again. What a great start to 2023.

Pile of Library Books – OPEN SHELF

Monday, 2 January 2023


 Is it Mayday, Lackaday or Happy Days?

Things aren’t going so well in the UK.

We’re getting close to panic which would mean crying “mayday.” We’d prefer to be regretting where we are but putting up with it which would be “lackaday.” But “happy days” are some time in the future I’m afraid.

It’s become something that’s up to us to deal with – you and me - in the absence of the prospect of any kind of strategic leadership from the embattled government and hesitant opposition. We’re in, as I’d call it, a “leadershit crisis”. 

Your deeply held beliefs may just be wrong – 5 essential reads

So what can we do? Get angry, get involved, make a noise, talk to other people about it, meet and quiz our MPs, but, most of all, conduct our businesses and affairs in a much more resolute and positive way. Finally try to ignore all the media because with their short termism and over reaction they get in the way of progress.

Here are my ten personal strategies to consider in making us feel a little better:

  1. Resilience. We need to build our resilience to setbacks. In retrospect the reactions to Covid were excusable as nobody quite knew what we were dealing with. But the lockdowns have had an irreparably negative impact on our behaviour and our response to risk. We seem to try to avoid it totally instead of trying to understand it and manage it. We cannot thrive in a “cottonwool” world. But that’s what we created between 2000 and 2022. We simply  mustn’t do that again.

humans - A society wrapped in cotton wool - Worldbuilding Stack Exchange


  1. Optimism and positive thinking. By all means let’s be optimistic. Being upbeat is good, but we shouldn’t get drunk on optimism. Boris Johnson had only one gear which was “boosterism” and self-promotion.  As PM it didn’t work, couldn’t work and he became a shameful figure. He’s given optimism a bad name.  Tough but positive thinking is a more acceptable  way of describing optimism right now.

Boris Johnson is Labour's greatest asset – why not sit back and enjoy the  show? | The Independent


  1. Realism. The journalist Matthew Parris is often wise and his plea that we squarely face up to painful truths about taboo subjects like the NHS, are words of wisdom. We  can still be positive in the face of danger (apart from many politicians who seem terrified of the whips, number 10 and losing votes). Getting to the truth, painful or otherwise, is always our strongest way of solving problems. 

Louis Partridge on becoming Sid Vicious in 'Pistol'


  1. “The people” can be wrong. They were wrong in 1933 in Germany and in the UK in 2016.  The lesson of Brexit was assuming a democratic vote was stronger than truth. Too many of us accepted the will of the people ahead of the lies they were fed. Worse - the issue was too serious for a weak Prime minister to rebut so he didn’t fight the nonsense. We’ve suffered deservedly. But being intelligent and pragmatic we can resolve the issue. Being smarter economic partners of Europe would be a sensible start to recovery despite the crossness that would get from ardent Brexiteers.

350m Brexit claim was 'too low', says Boris Johnson - BBC News


  1.  It isn’t easy. Spurn people who offer what I call “superglue solutions,” solutions that work instantly and apparently permanently. When anyone says “it’s very simple, quick and easy to fix” disregard them. My wife says I used to say this a lot. No more. Life is just a little bit too complex now as Ms. Truss discovered to her (and our) cost.

Loctite Original Universal Super Glue – 3g Tube. | Superglue | YPO


  1. Momentum is vital. If you’re in business try to create momentum and a sense of movement, news and action for your brand and your company. If you aren’t in business just refuse to get stuck in a rut. In business, momentum is something the big “supertanker” businesses find hard to create. So beware if you’re a big “supertanker” brand or market leader. Watch out for competitive, nimble destroyers, small and agile craft who have less to lose and lots to gain. 

sonic faster faster by XAMOEL on DeviantArt


  1. Get to work. I’m currently reading more about our mental health than productivity. Yes, of course mental health matters but so too does productivity. Since lockdowns my sense is we’ve become just a bit lazy. After Covid the people  who were economically inactive grew significantly, many of whom were unlikely to work again. Many of these had long term heath issues but many didn’t. Surely we must all improve our work ethic to make ourselves more successful.  

The 'Work Hard & You'll Succeed' Mantra is NOT a Myth - The STRIVE


  1. Your customers – love them. The customers you have or have recently gained are more precious than those you hope to get. Customer loyalty is a prize too many businesses disregard (to their cost). Loyal customers need special attention especially when, as it is now, the going is tough for them - as well as you. Don’t relax your love, care and attention for them. They need you, not just your products. The harder you try to build your relationship with them the more of them you’ll keep. On a more personal level don’t take anyone for granted – your spouse, your relatives or your friends. It’s time to refresh friendships.

Love your customers, more than your products." | ADITYA BHAVSAR


  1. Be better not wacky. We hear a lot about the need for innovation nowadays, probably too much talk and not enough action given our collective, dismal track record in investment. But continuous improvement (this is the Japanese concept of Kaizen which stands for continuous improvement through evolution not just innovation) is what we really need. Breakthrough innovation is unusual and often resembles a solution seeking a problem rather than vice versa. Let’s focus on getting better not just getting interestingly different. After all “New Improved” has always been a compelling sales claim.

New Improved Rubber Stamp Royalty Free SVG, Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock  Illustration. Image 68343977.
  1. Make a resolution. 2023 should be our year for breaking the insidious grip of “doom-loop thinkers” with our own tough, positive thinking – “pragmatic optimism” if you like to call it that. It’s not the year to retrench, slow down or seem weak. One of the long term effects of Covid has been to undermine our ambition, make us lose our nerve and leave it to opportunists to make money. Happy Days will come, possibly by 2024 if we manage to be resolute, invest in the future and have self-belief in what we do. And remember pragmatic optimism. Pessimists just hate it. But so do competitors. On the other hand those close to you at work or at home should love it. 

Becoming A Pragmatic Optimist


         Happy New Year and remember hard work works.