Friday, 5 February 2016

No One Survives The Bear Apocalypse

I went to the toilet recently.

Not the most inspiring of starts to a post, I know - but this wasn't just any old toilet: it was a toilet on a train.

Trying to negotiate your way down the corridor, then around the array of buttons that open, close and lock the door - let alone the half-hour dilemma previously as to whether you can make it to your stop or failing which whether you can a) trust the other people on the train sufficiently to leave your bag, hat or coat on the overhead rack, b) to leave your seat empty for your return- are bad enough without the toilet suddenly talking to you.

This one was on a train owned and run by a certain British bearded business mogul originally known for his record company, then later for his music shops, condoms, hot-air balloons, trains and space rockets - not directly run, you understand: I'm not suggesting he was sitting on the driver's plate pulling the whistle chord: oh no - just run by him in the sense that somewhere along time ago in an office far, far away he had waved his hand and trains had come into being.

Anyway: back to the toilet that talked.  This one was very friendly, talking in a gentle female voice about how happy the company was that I had chosen to patronize their toilets (in fact I wasn't even so much as slightly sarcastic, but that's another story...) and hoped that I would refrain from flushing paper bags, nappies, sanitary towels, scarves, jumpers and finally hopes, dreams and goldfish down the toilet.

For a moment I assumed I had imagined the entire escapade and could well have come to question my sanity if it wasn't for the handy invention of YouTube that enabled me, upon returning home, to establish that I wasn't the only person to whom this had happened.

But, being me, it got me thinking.  Not so much about talking toilets, but about dreams and their fragility.

Let's face it: we all have dreams - both the kind that happen during the night and the kind that we aspire to happening - and both are as easy to lose hold of.  Most of mine, at least the ones I remember, are anxiety dreams - the kind where you are trying to get back to your car, but it's not where you left it or you are not where you left you.  Once I dreampt that a famous radio star moved my house.  I've often meant to have words with him about that.

I can remember being told at school that if you didn't wake up in time from a dream where you were falling then you would die.  At the time it never occurred to me to question: how could anyone possibly know?  I mean - presumably the people who hadn't woken in time hadn't survived to tell the story right?

Then there's the other kind of dream - the one we hope one day will come true.  Think back to your own childhood.  I doubt that there has ever been a child who, when questioned about their future, replied that when they grew up they wanted to do a hard-to-define white collar job that sort of paid ok but actually, at the end of the day, wasn't particularly hard and a tiny bit dull: oh no - they wanted to be a train driver, a space pirate.  I wanted to be a policeman, or a photographer like my dad, but instead have sort-of bumbled from position to position with no particular plan of where I was going (and been perfectly happy doing so on the whole)

As we get older though, or dreams tend to get smaller: slipping away between our fingers unless we are careful. The day-to-day activities get in the way and suddenly the days have flown past.  That's not to say that some of those dreams can't come true.  I mean: it's unlikely now that I will ever become a famous writer, artist or musician - but that doesn't stop me getting published, maybe selling a few paintings and putting some tracks down.

But what, exactly, is wrong with small dreams?  When you look back at a life it's often the small, almost unnoticed, steps that brought you to where you are and it's the small steps that will take you forward - not the giant leaps (unless you're Neil Armstrong clearly): the important thing is to take those steps and not be afraid of where they might lead - to leave yourself open to the opportunity that if you take those small steps then somewhere down the line some of your dreams may just come true.

On a final note I was dozing lightly at work a few days ago: not at my desk, but in a small break out area where I sometimes go at lunch.  I was in that state between sleep and wakefulness: where you're not quite asleep but fragments of dreams slip into your head like a breath of wind blowing under the door as it moves on by - never equating to much but just offering glimpses of what may lie behind those heavy oaken doors.

And one of those little slices left me with nothing more than a sentence - meaning nothing on it's own and leaving no clue as to it's relevance: no one survives the bear apocalypse.

Which is true enough I guess.  After all, we all know the saying:  Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Except bears: bears will kill you

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Life On Mars?

There's quite a bit on TV for me at the moment.

TV Broadcasting goes in phases: there are certain times of year when everything seems to be on, and then all of a sudden (and in the erudite words of Roger Waters) there's thirteen channels of s*&t to choose from.

At the moment as a sci fi and comics fan I'm very much enjoying Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., produced by the geinus-that-is Joss Whedon that after a dodgy first season has really found its feet.

Also as someone who likes drama I see that Suits is returning for another season in February - admittedly I'm starting to tire of this one as the central premise (he's not really qualified as a lawyer) gets further and further stretched into absurdity.

And as someone who likes to laugh Dave Gorman's powerpoint centric show "Modern Life Is Goodish" is currently on nightly repeats, meaning that I can get a chance to watch the episodes that I previously missed (Dave is a UK comedian who may not be well known in the States, but his main joke is that he spends a lot of time on the internet looking into various things that catch his attention and then creates a powerpoint show around them - a recent show had him sending off a photo to a lookalike agency so that he could become his own lookalike...for reasons that made a lot more sense when watching the show)

Then there is Gotham.  Gotham is currently my favourite thing on telly.  It tells the story of Jim Gordon, a young and idealistic cop who wants to rid the city of Gotham from corruption but finds himself dealing with the rise of villains like The Penguin in the days before Bruce Wayne was old enough to start wearing black body armour.

It's nicely dark and the plots are engaging - and the performances of Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin and Cory Michael Smith as the troubled Edward Nygma/Riddler are spot on

But bloody hell it's violent.

Last episode the inmates of Arkham Asylum broke out and dropped seven people off a roof just to spell out a word using dead bodies - not people you'd want to challenge to a game of Scrabble.

And without wanting to sound prudish: it does worry me.

Thinking back to my childhood there was a programme called The Young Ones.  It was an anarchic sit-com about four students that everyone at school watched, despite the fact that we were all technically too young to be doing so.  Our collective memory of it at the time was that it was full of swearing and violence (in a kind of slapstick/cartoon/hitting people with a frying pan way), leading to a whole generation of school kids doing impressions of Rik, Neil and Vyvian (but oddly not Mike) in the playground.

Looking back at it now it all looks tame, dated and ever-so-slightly embarrassing in it's right-on ways...because of course you can get away with so much more now.

And therein lies the problem: what shocks the audience of today will not shock them tomorrow.  It's a central theme of the movie Jurrassic World (not that this is full of swiftian insight - it isn't: it's the best part of three hours of riding around on motorbikes surrounded by dinosaurs) - that the public visiting the park are starting to dwindle because seeing live dinosaurs is no longer a novelty: and so in order to keep figures up the scientists start experimenting with hybrids to bring bigger and better thrills.

When John Lydon (The Sex Pistols) sat and said swearword after swearword to the BBC reporter (who ended up losing his career) it was considered to be the end of society as we knew it (even though Lydon looked intensely embarrassed doing it - as if aware that he looked like a sulky 10 year old) - nowadays late night comedy shows go out with F words unbleeped and no one raises an eyebrow.

When Alien was first shown in cinemas people were reportedly crawling up the aisles to get out before they could be sick - but when I went to see a rescreening of The Exorcist people were laughing during the famous head-turning sequence that had previously sent them screaming.

Not that Gotham is doing anything new: there's six new episodes of The X Files due to air soon to remind us that TV horror has been around since the 90s (if not before)

And the same is true of the news - we constantly find newsreaders saying, "some viewers may be distressed by these images..." and yet they show them because they know that if they don't then someone else will - and then the other side will get the ratings win.

But I do wonder where it will all end - if we have to keep pushing more buttons with each passing year to get the same reaction: where does that road lead to.

Perhaps it leads back to Gotham and the reason that I titled this post Life On Mars.

The other week I turned over to watch the latest episode of Gotham and accidentally caught the last few seconds of Celebrity Big Brother - a programme that i would rather sell my brain to a passing cannibal than watch.  This was the week that David Bowie died and the news was full of his passing.
As it happened Angie Bowie (David's first wife) was one of the "celebrities" (thus extending the definition of celebrity to include "once married to someone famous") and the moment I happened to capture was when she was given the news over the tannoy.

Now I have to clarify here that since it was broadcast I've heard that she had been previously told off camera and had been given the choice as to whether to go back on camera - but quite frankly I don't think that makes it any more acceptable.  I can completely understand that sometimes on the news it is necessary to show someone's grief or reaction to a tradgedy - but for the purposes of light entertainment?

Really - we should just go back to feeding people to the lions.  It's not as if we've progressed much, is it?

Anyway - on a lighter note: here's a small tribute to David Bowie.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Future Isn't What It Used To Be - And I'm Not That Thrilled With The Present(s)

It's fair to say that, by and large, Science Fiction has totally lied to us about what the future held for us.  We were promised flying cars and hover boards by 2015 (Back To The Future), humanoid robots to do all our dirty work for us by 2019 (Blade Runner among others) and all sorts of gadgets like portable devices we could be handed to sign off work wait, Star Trek actually did predict that one.

But the one thing I think we can all guarantee in the not so distant personal future is that moment on Christmas Day when we receive a well intentioned gift and we smile cheerfully in the hope that INSERT BELOVED RELATIVE HERE won't notice as the words "Charity Shop" flash across our brains.  Typical such presents include:

#1: The Tacky Thing

The tacky thing varies from person to person but must consist of one or all of the following: 1 - ceramic oddly shaped serving bowl that due to it's depiction of cheerful reindeer can only be brought out a) at Christmas and b) when not serving venison.  2 - Festive attire: either a jumper, scarf, hat or tie that has pictures of Christmas and, preferably, plays "jingle bells" at a note on the chromatic scale that had previously been undiscovered.

#2: The Pot Plant

Now this is a tricky one, because unlike The Tacky Thing which has clearly been bought either a) by someone who doesn't really know you or b) is trying to foist their own Christmas fixation onto you - the pot plant person has decided that a plant will Cheer A House Up and add some much needed greenery.  But despite all their well meant intentions what they have given you is not so much a present as a problem.

Plants don't traditionally do well for me - I have been known to kill off supposedly indestructible plants by mere dint of a) placing them in the wrong degree of sunlight or b) just plain forgetting to water them/stop watering them at the right times.  The one exception to this at time of writing is a pot plant I bought home from the office when we moved to another site - it had survived routinely being forgotten about there and so has thrived on the same basis ever since (the plant is called Florence by the way - for reasons that are unclear to me now)

#3: The Lottery Ticket

We've all done it - forgotten about someone and, at the last minute, gone out and bought them a lottery ticket in the hope that they will a) win the lottery and b) not forget their kind relative/friend when they do and quietly slide a Mercedes or two in our direction - but the chances are extremely high that what you have just given to this person, a person you presumably care enough about to buy them something, a worthless piece of paper.  And should it turn out that you have actually bought them some winning numbers you will, of course, kick yourself for all eternity that you didn't keep it for yourself when you get that postcard from Barbados

#4: The Thing With Cats On It

A few years ago you went out and, on a whim, bought an amusing thing with a cat on (or insert whatever thing it actually was).  People came to visit and remarked on it and you said, in a generalistic way, that yes indeed: you had a passing fondness for cats: and now of course everyone buys you cat trinkets and somehow you are a collector of such things who rues the day you ever passed the shop where you bought that first item that led to your house being festooned with cats playing banjos, cats smoking cigars over a game of cards, cat toilet roll holders - because everyone who knows you knows you are a cat person despite the amount of protestations that actually you'd rather have anything else but another porcelain figurine of a cat ballerina

#5: The "Hilarious" Calendar

I never buy a calendar until January.  Not only can you get it for half the price even though you've only lost about five days of useage but you can always guarantee that at least three well meaning relatives and/or friends will buy you one - one that you will not like but will inevitably be stuck with.  Last year's calendar pretty much sets the bar for these - it was a collection of satirical newspaper "cartoons" from a newspaper I never read about articles that had been in the news the previous year!!!!!

I would say that I have never, in my entire life, seen a funny political cartoon in a Newspaper, but that would be a lie as I have seen precisely one: a cartoon of George Bush and Tony Blair as Laurel & Hardy and even that only raised a faint smile.

#6: Socks

There's a curious curve in the diagram of sock appreciation.  If you get given a pair of socks as a kid then you have probably been bad or something and will spend the rest of the day grumping and complaining that at least they could have been fitted with bluetooth - whereas as you get older socks become an increasingly attractive present to replace the other pairs that somehow never seem to be to hand when you need them (or to foot for that matter)

#7: Adopting An Animal For Someone

Actually quite a good idea in some ways, because it's charitable and it helps the animal - but at the end of the day you never actually get to enjoy the animal itself (and even if you did it would probably destroy your house and eat your cat) - but the weird thing is that part of adopting your animal is that you get letters and photos "from" the animal telling you how well it is doing and encouraging you to donate more - it's sort of charity by proxy: the recipient hasn't actually lifted a finger to help Save The Whelk (a struggling creature now that more people are flying than travelling by sea) but gets to feel good about themselves nonetheless

I'm sure there's plenty more of these presents of this ilk, perhaps you would like to add a few yourself?  Well, anyway have a good one and meanwhile here's a little present from me:

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A Few More Films You Might Want To See

Well yet again I seem to have lapsed when meaning to show my face on here more often, so to speak, so here are some films I've seen recently and what I made of them:

#1 The Martian

A while ago my friend and lapsed blogger Argent, lent me the book of The Martian - I found it an interesting book which was clearly well researched but, if I'm honest, I found the level of actual science in the book a bit hard going sometimes.  When I first heard it was going to be a film I really wasn't sure it would translate well for precisely that reason - how much of the book would be sacrificed in the name of cinematic action.

It's often been said that Ridley Scott is more interested in the look and feel of a film than the script and that, as a result, some of his films have struggled -but when, by some chance, he is given a good script he really delivers the goods.  In this case the story finds our hero marooned on Mars after his crew flee in a storm, leaving him for dead.  From thereon in he is left to try and problem-solve long enough to be rescued.

The key element in a film like this has to be the watch-ability of the main actor and Matt Damon was an excellent choice here as he walks around the habitat growing potatoes, creating water and suffering endless disco music whilst chatting to himself the entire time and trying to communicate with Earth.

The film is visually stunning, but I have to admit that it took a second viewing for me to really engage with the story - possibly because having read the book I already knew the outcome or perhaps because I never really felt he was in much danger.  Still, all things considered, this is definately worth a watch - but I don't know if it would stand up to repeated watching on home video.

#2 Mr Holmes

There have been many attempts to bring the character of Sherlock Holmes to the screen, from Basil Rathbone driving around New York in a taxi inbetween fighting Nazi's to Robert Downey Jnr and Bennedict Cumberbatch with their post-modern takes on the story (for my money the only actor who ever truly encapsulated Holmes as written by Conan-Doyle was Jeremy Brett in the ITV dramatizations of the 1980s who drove himself to a nervous breakdown as a result of his commitment to the role)

In this take we find Holmes, portrayed by Ian "Gandalf" McKellan, fully retired and keeping bees, fighting against the onset of alzheimer's and desperately trying to remember his final case which took place some years early.

This isn't a detective case as such but more a character study of Holmes the man as he comes to terms with his mortality and steadily makes friends with his housekeeper and her young son - for once allowing his long-controlled emotions to come to the surface.

It's a gentle story with a wonderfully judged performance by McKellan and Milo Park shines as the young boy, and if perhaps the central mystery is a bit too thin then this hardly seems to matter by the film's conclusion.  Again, I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to watch it again, but it did impress me whilst it was on the screen and left me thinking afterwards

#3 The Lady In The Van

I doubt that the name Alan Bennett will mean much in the USA but for many here in the UK his style of writing encapsulates our understanding of the "talking head" style of drama - having made a name for himself both on stage and screen for writing wry and thoughtful monologues on elements of life (including one I think was called The Biscuit Under The Sofa in which an Beryl Reed played an old woman who had had a fall and was unable to get up)

Moving on from having actors play the parts Bennett later placed himself in the centre of the stories, something he had perhaps always been on the periphery of, with his tales of Northern life and this story is no different, with Bennett recounting the mostly true story of the old lady who parked her van on his drive and lived there for 15 years.

Maggie Smith (perhaps best known as the Dowager Lady of Downtown Abbey to Americans) manages to make the central "lady" both likeable and a figure of some pity despite her rudeness and lack of gratitude) and Alex Jennings is good fun to watch as he plays Alan Bennett the writer talking to Alan Bennett the person (a device of splitting the character that works very well on the screen)

It's fair to say, as some critics have indeed done, that the story never really moves anywhere much or make any major points - but I rather think that misses the point of Bennett's work and his conclusion that sometimes things in life just happen

We took my parents with us to see this one and they both said that it was more serious than they thought it would be; but i would probably clarify that I felt the level of melancholy humour was just about right

Next film I see will be Star Wars: Episode 7 - which i'm hoping will be better than the prequels

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Stand Up, Comedy

What's the secret of comedy timing?

Sorry, let's try that again:
What's the secret of comedy?


Or is it?  And ok - that was a joke that may not have worked so well on paper, but last Sunday myself and my good ole friend Argent (still going despite her lack of activity online) decided to find out.

It all started a few months ago when I had a text from the aforementioned Blog absconder saying there was a Stand Up Comedy workshop at a local University - AKA Mega City because it is now almost bigger than the City to which it gives educational service (there are, in fact, two major universities in our neck of the wood which are both growing so exponentially that thermonuclear war is seemingly inevitable and Historians of the future, should there be a future, will no doubt curse us for not stopping that "Physics Lab" being erected)

Now I should say at this juncture that it is unusual to find any evidence of Culture in these parts - it's like that scene in An American Werewolf In Paris where the tourist walks into the local pub and all eyes turn towards him and Brian Glover says "we don' loike strangurs 'round 'ere".  Culture dare not step over the boundary lines of our noble city incase it gets mugged.

The exception being, of course, at the University Arts Centre where they show French ROad Movies About the Grimness of Existence (or F.R.O.M.A.G.E. for short), have some of the major comedians of the land visit, the occasional small-scale concert and even, it is rumored, teach the occasional student something.

We started the day by playing Rock - Paper - Stone as an ice breaker - each time you won you evolved from Egg to Chicken to Pterydactyl to Super Hero and could only play someone else at the same level (I was pleased when one person asked me if i wanted to play the Lizard - Spock version, but turned them down - and also that I was able to maintain Super Hero level quite a long time by the simple step of always playing paper second if there was a draw first time)

Then we were asked to write down one thing we loved and three things we loved about it and tell this to a small sub-section of the group in the space of one minute.

Having done so we then had to write down one thing we loathed and three things we hated about it and (and here comes the twist) use those points to say why we loved it.  This was a very interesting excercise as it forces your brain to work in a more creative and unusual way: looking at things from a different perspective.  It was also to show how much more people listen when you are clearly arguing something ludicrous for comic intent

Other excercises followed which included (in no particular order): going up to the mike and introducing ourselves and choosing one of three subjects to speak on (I chose "my favourite teacher" but i can't remember the other two options) - immediately after which we had to go back up to the mike and recite (note - NOT sing) a song lyric as if it were the most important thing ever.  This was designed to make us feel more comfortable with the mike and to use expression.

Another really interesting excercise was to take a random piece of news from the internet (just chosen randomly based on the number of hits) and to write down as a group how many funny things we could think of about each paragraph - we had a list of 13 jokes (some funnier than others) from the first paragraph alone.

The chap running the course was himself a stand-up comedian with over 1,000 gigs under his belt who frequently lectures on public speaking and he was very clear on the ups and downs of life as a comedian - saying that for every 100 jokes you wrote maybe only 10 would be worth trying out and 4 would actually make it to the set-list, and that with the loss of comedy clubs its now harder for comedians to get going without giving material away for free (via podcasts/youtube etc) and that jokes have an increasingly short lifespan due to the internet.

Finally we were sent into a corner in groups of 3-4 and told to write a brief routine (I chose playing the saxophone and Argent talked about the lord of the rings) and come and perform it, if we wanted, for the rest of the group.  I was quite pleased with my response as it gained a few laughs (but then i am aware that i tend to use humour as a defense mechanism anyway)

He does another course - a 10 week course that tells you how to develop material and your act.  It's not cheap and it's not nearby, but I am thinking of going: especially as there's a chance to take part in a live comedy showcase at the end.

Not that I particularly want to be a comic.  I'm just creative in lots of random and unfocussed ways: plus it would be good for my public speaking group.

But I feel I should leave you with a joke - not a very good one, but one that I penned myself

There's a new Detective Show being made about a Cop who loves blue French cheese

It's called The Roquefort Files

(badum tish, here all week folks, try the fish)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Spot The Misdemeanor

OK folks it's time to play a new, fun and exciting game that I've created called Spot The Misdemeanor.

I'm going to describe something that I actually saw happening and you have to guess, from the details given, what nefarious deeds were underway.  To preserve some sense of interest the answer will be given in the comments page - but please read the blog before turning over.

So - here is the scene: Myself and Herself were driving home one evening early in the year when we saw Suspect No#1 (and I checked - that actually is his name.  I'm not saying he's a criminal, but I would say that he can often be seen Helping The Police With Their Enquiries...if you catch my meaning), a local lad aged between 12-16, cycling along the road towards us.  On the handlebars of his bike was perched Suspect No#2 - holding a spade in his hands.

So: from the above can you spot the misdemeanor?

This was actually the third event in less than a week that finally persuaded us that it was time to move to a nicer and safer location: possibly the Somme, circa 1914

The first was when I was on my way back from work and waiting at the train station for Herself to pick me up when I got a call to say that her friend was coming instead because the valve from the tyre of our car had been stolen.  It had taken Herself a few metres to realise something was wrong, by which time the flat tyre was torn to shreds.  Apparently there had been a speight of this in the area.

The second was a few days later when I was practicing my saxophone upstairs: I had just finished and switched off the light when there was an almighty WHAM from the front of the house (and no, it was not Andrew Ridgley busking for change...a joke you will only get if you remember your 80s pop history).  I went outside to find that a wheelie bin had been thrown against our door.

To be fair: we had been talking about moving out for 12 months or more - ever since the New Neighbours had their 3-day bank holiday party during which the the whole of England seemed to traipse in and out of next door and there was much imbibing of fermented vegetable products (for starters)

Both of these events went into the Top Ten on our list of Occurrences:

10: The Annual Burning Of The Evidence
I have never understood the attraction of setting a bonfire without having fireworks and BBQs but every now and then there would be a loud crashing from next door as they kicked down doors at 4am whilst screaming at each other - followed a few nights later by them pulling a sofa out to the back garden so that they could grunt "man make fire" at each other in the hope that they might still evolve

9: Wallpaper Warehouse
Neighbours sitting on the other side of the house, at 4am loudly singing the tune of an advert for a  local wallpaper sales place to the tune of Waltzing Matilda

8: Swearing At Chickens
Every so often one neighbour or other would buy a pet whilst drunk at the pub.  On one occasion they came up with the brilliant idea of keeping chickens: this was brilliant until they realised there might actually be some work involved and resulted in one of them going into the back garden and yelling "shut the *&^% up!" at them.  Because, of course, chickens are well known for their understanding of English and its more colourful metaphors

7: Over The Fence
We had to get a security fence installed to stop one set of neighbours urinating against our wall and climbing over at 2am to get to their back door.  On the last occasion this happened one of them yelled "Oi McGuinness, you'd better climb over before he gets that fence installed", it took all my self control to refrain from yelling, "yeah, or before he works out who you are!"

6: Three Day Party
As mentioned above

5: A Pizza The Action
Immediate neighbours with the party wall enjoyed nothing better than screaming at each other all night, kicking down doors to get at one another and then laughing like it had all been so much water under the bridge.  One night the woman became obsessed that he "don't *&^%ing love me, cos you %$£&ing ate my £$%^ing pizza"

4: The Great Bedroom Fire
Does what it says on the tin really: one set of neighbours two doors down got evicted after someone at a party at their house decided it would be fun to set fire to a bedroom.  The smoke damage spread to the house next door and narrowly missed us as well

3: Bin Being Thrown At The Door
As above

2: The Halloween Incident
I've told this story here before, so I don't want to go into it again other than to say that a nice sweet young boy was taken trick or treating the first year we were there by someone who was barely sober enough to stand.  The fact that there was no one in that kid's life who was sane enough to stop this from happening still haunts me

1: Under Age, Over The Limit
But the one that stays with me the most is the 6 year old tottering alone in the middle of the road, holding a can of lager it had clearly been given to keep it quiet.

This August, sitting in the back garden of my new house, it took me nearly half a day to realise that this was a) the first time in 13 years I had felt able to sit outside in my garden without worrying about neighbours shouting abuse and b) the first hot Bank Holiday where I had got any sleep prior to 2am in more years than I could remember.

I now live in a nice, respectful area where it's permanently quiet, with neighbours who smile and say hello instead of sneer and ask what the duck you are looking at, where no boy racers scream around the streets in stolen cars at school letting out time and where the loudest sound is probably me practicing my saxophone, at respectable hours, without fear of Refuge Revenge.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Peter Principle

It is a sad fact of life that I was born without a sense of ambition.

None whatsoever.

Well - there are things I'd like to do, but it really is in a vaguely unfocussed way as and when they come to mind, with my usual inimitable style of bumbling genially through life whilst trying to cause as little damage as possible - with no real end point in mind other than to find something that occupies my mind for a short while and is enjoyable to do - preferably in the company of people who are Fun To Work With (IE equally geeky with warped senses of humour).

Which is why I have little time for people who describe themselves as Life Coaches and talk of time optimisation, career actualisation and end game perspectives (or whatever) - I can't see a situation in which I would ever find a use for such a person: other than perhaps to buy me a cup of coffee at one of their far too frequent team bonding effication moments.

I mean sure - I play saxophone (for instance) and I'd like to be much better at it but 8 hours a day practicing - really? Where's the fun in that?  A hobby is something I do for pleasure and that sound a bit like hard work

And yes, sure I'd like to be doing something a bit more creative and fun at work, but I have no real idea what precisely that is nor how to achieve it - and as for promotion well...

I've actually been a manager a few times.  I had a team of 15 people that I looked after and whom I was supposed to check on a daily basis that they still knew their jobs and hadn't forgotten it all over the weekend (instead of, you know, trusting them to just get on with it)- and I was placed in the very odd position of finding and training my own replacement when my job was offshored, leaving me at risk of redundancy and my question to all those career-oriented people out there is - who needs it?

I'm quite happy to keep my head down, stay out of trouble and do the job in front of me the best way I know how.  A little recognition wouldn't go amiss, but hey...

I'm just not cut out to be a Manager - but to be honest life has left me with the distinctive impression that neither are any of them.

Douglas Adams famously said in Life, The Universe And Everything that anyone who was capable of getting themselves into a position of power and actively wanted to be there was, by very dint of that fact, the absolute last person you should allow to be there and there's a similar thing called The Peter Principle

Based on a theory by Laurence J Peter the idea goes that promotion is often based not so much on the ability to do the next job in line as upon proven track record in a current role - thus every Manager eventually rises to his or her own level of incompentence - where they can no longer cause any active harm, cannot be promoted any further and inevitably become paranoid of the young upstarts who are climbing the ladder behind them.

I've had every type of manager: from the David Brent/Ricky Gervais type who tries too hard to be your mate to the shouty/moody type who makes your life a living hell just because they can - but what I really want from a boss is this:
* Someone who understands the role I do and appreciates the difficulties of the job
* Someone who is open and honest about what they are doing and why and is not just looking after number one
* Someone who recognizes that we are part of a team and can be trusted to have your back
* Someone who I can have a joke with, but can take control when required
* Someone who would rather I asked time after time than didn't know something and would have the patience to reply

Someone a bit like me I guess.

Shame there's no power on earth that would make me want to do it.