February 26, 2013
I don’t have shares in the Duke of Kent, but perhaps I should as we were there again on Sunday. And once more we were meeting friends for Sunday lunch. Oh how innocent that sounds.
We were an advance party celebrating a birthday and started off with a few drinks in the bar, just to settle the stomach and awaken the tastebuds. My French chardonnays slipped down a treat. Hubby was on Pride and the drinking arm soon relaxed in to action.
We moved through to the dining room to eat, but changed tables as there was a cold draught (not of the Guinness variety) and we wanted to be comfortable. The pub had no problems seating us elsewhere and the willing, friendly service kept those drinks coming. We all had roasts bar one who had Lancashire hot pot and red cabbage, both served in miniature pans and looked like doll’s food.
There seemed no reluctance to eat up and non stop conversation ranging from tattoos – I don’t like them but they don’t put me off David Beckham, but I couldn’t persuade our friends that they might be acceptable in any circumstance. It is great to be able to disagree completely and have a fanstastic time. To Jeremy Clarkson – I couldn’t be persuaded he is ever acceptable under any circumstance – to families and holidays and children and jobs. And anything and everything. And stuff I can’t remember but was fun at the time. But the red wine flowed. And flowed.
And puddings came and went (mistake to have the jam roly poly – I’d forgotten my sister had had it before and thought it leaden. She was right. But the caramel ice cream was yum!)
And lunchtime moved in to evening and it was 9 oclock. What?? Where did that time go? No fear, let’s have a couple of cheeseboards to finish off the red wine. Oh, the red wine’s already finished. Better buy some more then. And so we did.
We rolled out at about 11 ish in to the fresh air.
We were replete. Full of food, wine, love and laughter.
That’s what I call a proper Sunday lunch. All nine hours of it.
February 25, 2013
Holy fuck how far away is the East End of London?? I used to work in Whitechapel and Mile End and never realised quite how far west I have now come. And of course “central London” is really the “West End” so on our side of the tracks. Anyway, I volunteered to drive (shock horror!) becuase actually am not that bothered about drinking lager out of plastic cups at gigs. Husband actually did the driving, but as I’d offered it counts in the ongoing battle. 🙂
We arrived at Tilbury (haha – it just felt that long a drive). No, the Troxy is a great venue way on down the Commercial Road. 1930s Art Deco cinema meets Mecca Bingo. Think a posh Brixton Academy with swirly (but surprisingly unsticky) carpets. We were seeing Richard Hawley. Again. We saw him on this tour in October and I’d not enjoyed it anywhere near as much as when we’d seen him before. So I was not exactly pumped for it.
The crowd were not as communicative as in Brixton, so there was only one episode where he called someone a cunt. And in fact he did much less talking than he had done in Brixton, which was a shame as I found him very funny. But on the plus side there seemed fewer of the long long guitar riffs that make men bob their heads like chickens as they get lost in them. And his voice is absolutely fantastic. Think Johnny Cash meets Andy Williams meets Frank Sinatra. But with a Sheffield accent. So rich. So clear. And the whole sound of the band is wonderful. Really worth seeing live. But if you get the option, go for a really small venue and when he’s playing his older stuff – they’re the ones that really do it for me.
Three and a half stars.
February 24, 2013
I am not normally a fan of audience participation – after all I’ve paid my money to be entertained not do the entertaining – but in this case it was the best part of the play. It attempts to tell the story of the financial crisis using two ex hedge fund managers who now run a gameshow and we, the audience are the two competing teams.
Ten thousand pounds in one pound coins lies in a surprisingly small heap on the stage and we bet bucketloads of it on whether our team player will blow up a balloon bigger than their team player. Kind of stuff. And it is entertaining and the two hosts are good in their over the top roles. But somehow there is little real story to engage with through it. No real feeling of the personal losses rather than the corporate although they were mentioned. We knew one came from poverty and was ruthlessly logical and calculated the odds and the other an upper class gal who liked to play on instinct, we never really cared about them.
But perhaps we weren’t meant to. It wasn’t a play designed to show us the human side of hedge fund management, I think it was showing us that believing in The Markets requires the same leap of faith as believing in God. Three stars.
February 22, 2013
Companies talk of ’empowering’ their employees to make decisions and my definition here was “Empowerment : the futile delegation of meaningless decision making by a boss to try to make you feel more important.” Which is certainly something I see.
But recently I have come to see another side of empowerment. When companies really believe they want to put the power back at the sharp end, closer to the customer. They truly believe their own empowerment mantra and want their underlings to deliver it.
So what do they do?
They roll out a raft of new policies, processes, frameworks, decision trees, codes of conduct, ways of working for everyone to follow when they have to make that all important empowered decision.
What this means in practice is that people are deluged with training requirements and things that once seemed intuitive are taken to new depths of doublechecking and overthinking. People start to doubt their own ability to make any decision at all lest they be caught out contravening some “Guiding principle”. The mountains of meetings, presentations and documentation rolling out this empowerment are littered with “Red Flags” , “Ones to watch out for”, “Mistakes not to make”. Everything is about what you can’t do, not about what you can. This is not empowering for most people. It is paralysing.
Those empowered in this way eventually stop thinking for themselves altogether. They find a path that is acceptable in this brave new world and simply follow that. They know this route will not get them in to trouble, even if it doesn’t get them anywhere exciting, innovative or rewarding. The process of “empowerment by protocol” of individuals leads to a compliance with the line of least resistance by the majority.
It allows those with the inclination to say “You can’t do that” far too easily. They become the confident voices as they have the documentation to prove it – “It says here you can’t”. Whereas the creative lateral thinker doesn’t have access to a document from on high saying his or her approach is acceptable, because no one else has thought of it yet. And unfortunately, in this increasingly risk-averse world, the Safety First approach often wins. Leaving the company stagnating, making no challenging decisions, showing no leadership in creating a new environment or ways of working and bringing no disruptive forces to shake up the status quo.
Real empowerment comes not from being told you are empowered and this is how to do it, it comes from having knowledge and real understanding of what you want to do and the environment you operate in, and being supported to try to get there.
Oh, that sounds a bit like having experience doesn’t it? And that’s something that can’t simply be learnt from a decision-making manual or devolved from on high.
That’s something you actually have to do for yourself.
February 18, 2013
I do not understand people who are not prepared to make a decision. To take responsibility. They often disguise it in terms of “stakeholder management” or “collaborative leadership”. I see it simply as ducking out. They won’t say what they think, they will always be asking for views, deferring the decision-making moment until everyone is ‘on the same page’ and they take it collectively. Or someone else makes it for them.
These people tend to be happier pointing out the faults in various suggestions rather than finding ways to support solutions. Drives me nuts.
It is obviously laudible to canvas opinion to a point. But then there comes a time to make a decision. Any decision. And go with it. Indecision is paralyising. At least a decision means progress. Even if it turns out to be in the wrong direction!