Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Accidental Role Model

Now I’ve never been a great one for the idea of role models, possibly because those that others had, ie their parents, I really didn’t. That’s not to say that there aren’t people I admire, there are; it’s just that, like me, they’re largely people who just get on with life. Besides, how could the life I’ve had be a model for anyone? After all, most of my generation went into a job at 15 and left when they retired at 65. Changing careers, as I did, for the sixth time when I was already well past retirement age, didn’t seem like a template that would be of use to anyone. How could it be otherwise?

Also, as someone, who lived, albeit belatedly, through the cultural explosion that was the 1960’s with its colour, optimism and hope, I thought that that was itself a template for the future. I never thought that, to quote someone on the radio recently, “it was a golden age that we are unlikely ever to see again”. Yet, although the economic circumstances are different today, the social climate is the much more liberal one that my generation dreamt of. So what has that combination of a chequered life and career , along with ethos of that incredible time, created?

Well, it’s left me determined to help the next generation to see that there is an alternative to austerity, greed and selfishness. It has left me, for example, in helping people, who were homeless, to build their own sustainable homes, with practical examples of what is possible when you foster the vast amount of untapped talent that exists in this country. So much so that, one government minister on visiting one of these projects, described it as demonstrating as “the extraordinary talents of ordinary people.”

It’s also left one person realising that the life that he’s led may have something to teach the next generation and to help them to pass on their hopes and dreams to their children. Surely a better epitaph than “Blow you, Jack, I’m all right“.

PS, Thanks to Phillip Khan-Panni for suggesting my speaker’s tagline. Most appropriate.

Resilience and Luck, a Recipe for Life

The last of the apples have been picked, the leaves are falling from the trees, the plants in the pond are dying back and autumn is well and truly upon us. The fact that this time of year will soon give way to those damp, dark November evenings that I dislike so much, allied to the fact that I’ve recently spent time with my oldest friends, may be why I’m in a reflective mood. You see, try as I might and despite the fact that I’m well past retirement age, I still feel that there is much I have yet to do. Moreover, my psyche compels me to try to do those things, knowing that they will never be enough. Fortunately, I know sufficient about myself to realise why I’m that way and that squares the circle of my emotional life.

So, I set about this Monday morning with, if not quite renewed vigour, then an acceptance that I just need to keep going with a steady resilience. I am buoyed by the fact that I’m still healthy (he said while clutching a large plank of wood), have all my wits about me and a family that provides the foundation for my life. And, yes, I’ve worked to get to where I am and am, hopefully, at last starting to realise my talents. However, I’m also very aware of the great part that luck plays in life. In my case not too much of it good in the early years to be replaced by an abundance as I get older. Such luck and a certain resilience can be a powerful combination plus, of course the ability to recognise the former so that you can grasp it with both hands when it comes along.

If only I’d realised all this much earlier, maybe I’d have spent much less time worrying and more time achieving. Still, as my lovely wife tells me, look at what you have done and enjoy it. I just know that I’ll enjoy it more when I’ve achieved more. So I keep going, along with that resilience and a degree of luck; a recipe that is serving me well.



Now I will admit to, what a friend of mine calls, naivety in some areas of my life; something that manifests itself in trust in people as a starting point. I take that as a given. After all you can’t live your life day to day on mistrusting everyone. I am, therefore, still an optimist, albeit a slightly more cynical one these days. I do, however, still believe that the overwhelming majority of the people on the planet are decent and honest and, usually, trying to do their best for their families and friends.  Unfortunately what I also see is a government that, despite all its public utterances, seems to regard the general populace as unworthy of all those things, that its own individual members and those of the people that they all meet, regard as necessary to live their wellbeing.

This is reinforced these days by an international business model that is not as considerate of its customers as you would hope that it might be. And, whereas some years ago, the mantra was “the customer is always right”, the reality these days is that there are now millions of them globally and, if they have a problem, it is easier to get new customers than deal with existing ones. This itself is fed by a conveyor belt of consumer goods that seems never to stop. The argument is, of course, that this is what people want. After, of course, you have spent millions of pounds on advertising just to nudge them in the right direction. Which is, you’ve guessed it, the company’s product(s). This is also aided and abetted by newspapers that are anything but. In fact, some of them contain little in the way of facts and a great deal in the form of misinformation, bigotry and prejudice.

I, for example, am always amazed at the fact that nuclear power is promoted as being cheaper that the alternatives when no allowance is made for the cost of disposing of the waste; a problem that we have yet to find a long term solution to. Then they wonder why we are cynical. So, is there an alternative?

Well, yes, there is. It’s to question everything (especially yourself) and keep those working for those ideals that you still hold to be true. It may not be much but, in these, less hopeful times, we have to pass onto the next generation some thoughts about a world that could be. Without that, there will be even less chance of getting it. If you should want to see examples of this world, google “Goodland” and an article by John Studzinkski



Goodness Confirmed by Letting People In

I have spent a lifetime keeping people at a distance. Yes, I do let some in and some even become friends. Generally, though, I don’t let people to get as close as others seem to. I’m also given to tilting at windmills; often ones that I create and this has manifested itself in my being somewhat judgemental of others. That, I recognise, is not a pleasant characteristic; in fact, it says more about my own frame of mind than that of those I’ve judged. However, as I hope you will note, I write in the past tense, albeit while touching a large pile of wood in the process. So what has changed?

Well I have; along with the help from a lovely woman therapist and my family. Also from people I am involved with at the Professional Speaking Association. You see, another manifestation has been that I’m not, by nature, one of nature’s joiners. In fact, I like to do my own thing in my own way. This can mean that, not only are you reluctant to admit that you need help but that you tend not to see what is actually offered or, as I often did, think that it isn’t really relevant to you.

Well, in the past few weeks, I’ve started to see my colleagues in a different light and what is interesting is that this confirms what I believe anyway. This is that the overwhelming majority of people are decent and honest who will help if they can. So leaving the recent meeting to applause, support and smiles was quite something. I really must do more of this.

Well, present tense now, I am and have a meeting arranged next week for coffee. What a change that is.

The Travails of the Modern World or How Many Hours Do You Spend Doing Other Peoples’ Jobs for Them?

I could tell that the post had been privatised when I went out one day to check our mail box. We fixed one to the frame outside the front gate to save the postman/woman’s time. Now I need to add, at this juncture, that I’ve built a unit that houses the recycling bins and that this is situated on the path to our front gate, so you have to walk past this to get to the mail box. Well this arrangement work fine for some years, until privatisation. It hadn’t been long when I went out to check the post to find that there wasn’t any that day. The following day I went out to put stuff into one of the recycling bins, what did I find? Yesterday’s post. Perhaps the postal service needs to run training schemes on how to differentiate between a large, green, plastic recycling bin and a small, black, metal mail box.

A few days ago I went onto Trainline to book tickets for a journey to Liverpool. I thought  that I’d pressed the button to collect the tickets at the station only to find that I was being asked to “download the app”. For some reason, the download didn’t work. Never mind, I thought, I’ll go to the station and get it sorted out on the day of travel. Now you would think that that would be easy, wouldn’t you? Well it proved not to be. To cut a long story short, they told my wife that they couldn’t deal with her as the ticket was in my name; (I’d stayed in the car to keep the parking space). Instead they told Gaynor that I needed to ring Trainline, which I did. It turned out that the particular app doesn’t work on my phone and that I would have to cancel the ticket and buy another one; with a cancellation fee of £10! Given that the train was due to leave an hour later, that’s what I did.

I duly got on the train to find that my seat was still reserved; quiet compartment, facing the direction of travel (or so I thought) and with a window seat. I arrived to find that I had my back to the direction of travel and, yes, a seat on the window side but without a window. Instead, it was one of those seats between windows.

Item number three. A few months ago I bought a new printer; an Epson that came highly recommended at a higher price than the basic model. All seemed fine until I tried to print more than about five copies of any document. When I did this the printer tried to take too many sheets of paper and jammed.  Never mind, it came with a year’s warranty and a special Epson helpline service. When I rang, I was put through to someone who suggested that I reset the printer from scratch and used the original set up disc to do this. Perhaps it should have occurred to me that this wouldn’t be the answer. After all, haven’t I been around the block a little?

Some weeks later, I tried to print multiple copies again to find that it jammed. Being busy, I put off dealing with it as the printer would still print off the short runs that constitute most of my needs. Back from holiday and I decided to try again. So I rang the company I bought it from, who were very helpful, but said that it needed to be dealt with by Epson under the service agreement. After a couple of phone calls which involved much hanging on the line. I decided that I really should be doing some work. That being what pays our bills.


So today I decided that this should be the day that it was finally sorted out so I rang Epson. They passed me back to the company that I bought it from who then passed me back to Epson. When I finally got through to someone for the second or third time, the woman went through  a process to see if she could solve the problem. This involved checking out whether the printer would print multiple copies from e mails and by using the photocopier. This it did. Her response was that it was, therefore, not a hardware problem but a software one and that I needed to deal with Microsoft. By which point I’d had enough. I explained that, if I followed the logic of what she was suggesting, why had I had no such problems with Microsoft and my previous computer? I then asked if I could speak to her supervisor (twice) but was told that she couldn’t do that. She kept repeating the mantra about having gone through the trouble shooting procedure and not being trained in Microsoft, as if that answered the problem. So back to the company I bought it from who are going to speak to a manager in Epson for me. In the meantime, I’m trying to make a living and really not feeling like doing anything right now.

Post Script

My youngest daughter was expecting a parcel today and tried tracking it to find that they had tried to deliver it but that there had been no answer and that they have left a note to that effect. This despite the fact that we were both at home. There was no note so she tried upstairs to see if there was one there; there wasn’t. Half an hour or so later and Ellie went to the front door to find that the parcel had just been delivered.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2014, there were 788,000 days lost though strike action. I wonder how many were lost by people like me having to chase up others and/or do their job for them?