Ecclesiastes 1:9

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

Odgers have announced, with a great fanfare, their shiny new idea of hiring out consultants to their clients, reflecting what is apparently known as the  ‘gig economy’. I have only had the pleasure of working through Odgers on one occasion, many years ago now, when they hired me out as a consultant to one of their clients.

I was originally taken on for a week, but only worked three days because the company was unexpectedly taken over. The CEO insisted on paying me in full anyway. So, Odgers, I heartily welcome this revolutionary and completely unprecedented venture of yours, especially if it works out anything like the last time that you did it.

“Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good.” – Plato

 

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In risu veritas

“Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!” – Chaucer

I have cracked the secret of productivity in this blog-writing lark. All one needs to do is continually draw a parallel between something that has happened recently and a previously published post. If there is some sort of connection – however tortuous – with an even more recent post, implying a plan or a theme to one’s writing, then so much the better. And so it is today; indeed I am going to drag in yesterday’s post, one fairly recent post and one from two years ago.

Before Christmas I briefly altered my policy of quoting from the great minds of the past and instead included the words of the fictional lead character in the funny but much over-repeated on British television ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Another tolerable US sitcom ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’ started its new season in the UK last night. As I watched it with a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cherry and chocolate loaf cake (recipe available on request) it occurred to me that the plot was very familiar. It involved a new precinct captain issuing tablet computers to his staff, ostensibly for communication purposes, but really to allow him to exercise close control over them. A highly paid crack team of writers expertly exploited this idea for comedic and satiric effect.

But hadn’t I come across just such an example in real life and written about it as well, probably less funnily and certainly less well remunerated? Yes I had, and the proof is here. Reluctantly I shall not be consulting my lawyers. The real credit must go to the half-witted yet unaccountably prominent Yorkshire businessman who gave the presentation in the first place.

“Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” – George Orwell, 1984

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The Old Etonian Stalinist

And I don’t mean Guy Burgess.

Czeslaw Milosz wrote in ‘The captive Mind’ that Eastern European intellectuals, reading 1984 in clandestine editions, were amazed to find that its author had never visited the Soviet Union. Among the insights that Orwell had was his understanding of how important the falsifying of statistics was to the regime:

‘For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small.’

On Boxing Day, large parts of the centre of Leeds were under water. In 2011 the government of which David Cameron was head cancelled a flood protection scheme designed to stop that happening. Yesterday that same David Cameron, still Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons and flatly denied that any flood schemes had been cancelled since 2010. He will get away with it, because – as in Stalin’s Russia – the mass media have been corrupted and intimidated into quiescence.

Nikita Krushchev – a Russian peasant Stalinist – once said “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge where there is no river”. Cameron – the old Etonian Stalinist – has updated this for the twenty first century: don’t build anything and the river will come to you.

 

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ” George Orwell, 1984

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Man Shall Not Live on Bread Alone

“Though we eat little flesh and drink no wine,
Yet let’s be merry; we’ll have tea and toast;”

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Just a quick pop-up (pun intended) post to once again point out an example of life imitating this blog. Compare this with this. Go on, you know you want to.

For lovers of coincidence, both events took place in listed buildings in Bradford.

“My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.” – Wilkie Collins

 

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Wars are poor chisels

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Robert Kennedy would have been ninety last month. He famously quoted from Aeschylus, his favourite poet – the politicians of today don’t have quite the same heft as those of my youth – when extemporaneously delivering a eulogy to Martin Luther King Jr.; words that would appear on his own tomb a tragically short time afterwards. He also played a key, behind the scenes, role in averting war during the Cuban missile crisis.

It may be that his opinions still have some resonance today.

 

“Are we like the God of the Old Testament, that we in Washington can decide which cities, towns, and hamlets in Vietnam will be destroyed? Do we have to accept that? I don’t think we do. I think we can do something about it. ”

“We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge.”

I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this?”

– Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” – Aeschylus

 

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I have informed you thusly

“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.” – Gore Vidal

You thought that I was gone for ever, but in fact I was just sleeping, like King Arthur, ready to return when needed. I stopped posting in large part because I had run out of ways to tell the rest of the world that it was completely wrong, and also of anecdotes to support that point of view. I return not to draw attention to the mistakes of others, but instead with the far humbler intention of pointing out that I was right all along. I would refer you to my post of April 24th 2014.

Despite what the very wise Mr Vidal said (he also noted that “There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise”) my natural verecundity prohibits me from actually using the phrase in question.

“Under normal circumstances I’d say I told you so. But, as I have told so with such vehemence and frequency already the phrase has lost all meaning. Therefore, I will be replacing it with the phrase, I have informed you thusly.” – Dr Sheldon Cooper

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Interview etiquette

‘A hungry stomach cannot hear.’ – Jean de la Fontaine

I was pitching my services in a meeting a couple of weeks ago when it became obvious that my interlocutor had stopped taking in anything that I was saying. He had simply glazed over and stayed that way until I left. Obviously this was a bit irritating – I had travelled some distance for the meeting – but when discussing it with others afterwards it seemed obvious that he wasn’t being unprofessional, he was just hungry; yet another pat on the back for Abraham Maslow. And I have plenty of experience of poor etiquette in interviews to compare it with. Two examples will suffice for now I think.

At a (then) very large IT supplier I was in perhaps twenty minutes into an interview scheduled to last 45 minutes when someone became visible through the window pane in the door making the universally recognised gesture for going to the pub for a pint. My interviewer abruptly stood up, collected his papers together, gestured me towards the door and said “We’ll let you know”. When the company filed for bankruptcy a few years later I was neither surprised nor disappointed.

On another occasion I was being interviewed by the FD of a (then) well known high street chain with hundreds of stores, for a position as his number two. Everything seemed to be going well, when I became aware of a man stood on the other side of the window into the open plan office gesticulating aggressively towards us. Initially my companion professed to not notice him, but this just served to infuriate the chap outside. His face became very red and he started shaking his fist and then banging on the window with the faint sounds of swearing and cursing filtering through. Eventually he could be ignored no longer and it was explained to me that Mr Angry was actually the Group CFO and therefore, at least nominally, in charge. “But” my prospective employer assured me “you should ignore him; we all do. Now, when can you start?” Funnily enough I decided that perhaps it wasn’t the role for me after all. The group went steadily downhill and eventually the name disappeared from town centres in the late 1990s
‘The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.’ – Epictetus

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