Saturday, 24 August 2013

Nil Desperandum

Watching – much against my will – an extract from the last X Factor series with a  family member recently I was reminded of an old piece of journalism which caused uproar at the time, but which I have always admired.
In Another Voice, Auberon Waugh’s Spectator column,  he once complained that Bruce Forsyth’s return to TV screens was indicative of the feeble-minded state of a country he now wanted to flee. And by the time the column was in print he had - albeit only to his summer home in France. By comparison, I was only able to flee upstairs for the evening and read a good book.
On Waugh’s return he found a letter from a woman who wrote to say that his reminder of the Forsyth Factor had been the last straw, and that she now intended to kill herself. Waugh quickly wrote to try and offer some solace, but his letter was returned unopened, and he subsequently learnt she had indeed done as she said.
There was outrage when he revealed all this in a subsequent column, but I cannot help admiring the style and dignity of the woman. I am only sad that she felt things were so bad that she couldn’t go on.
For as Waugh concluded: “There are countless horrible things happening all over the country, and horrible people prospering but we must never allow them to disturb our equanimity or deflect us from our sacred duty to sabotage and annoy them whenever possible.”
Sound advice indeed.
By all means, comfort the disturbed if it gives you pleasure. But if your time is limited, first make it your priority to disturb the comfortable.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Style, not culture

Even since my last post, it appears that efforts by the powerful to impose cultural conformity are being stepped up. In fact, on the Isle of Man in 2014 national culture may well become compulsory (see , for example), which is alarming for the civilised in general and individualists in particular.
We should note at once that all those cited as examples of ‘Manx culture’ are actually individuals who, through hard work and talent, have managed to escape it. This tells us all we need to know about the inanity and inconvenience being imposed. To anyone who has lived here, even in recent decades, it is obvious that the first thing the talented or intelligent do upon reaching adulthood and/or getting even the sketchiest off-island job offer is to leave and never return.
The real question, then, might be how those of us who choose to stay and resist can do so without at least meeting the drab host halfway.
Firstly, beware, dear reader, all calls to nation, company, family values or other abstract entities to which we are aligned without our true consent. Calls which, by use of the culture ‘trigger word’, appeal to our civilised nature are a sneakier variant on this, but the irony is that in answering them we would actually shed the last remnants of civility.
We must be constantly vigilant against ‘the Big C’. Always remember that whenever anyone in authority or representing an institution urges others to engage in culture then what they really ask is conformity to a plan drawn up solely for the benefit of those who need to stay in authority.
The remedy lies not in new age twaddle, petty-bourgeois self-improvement or management-speak but in a rigorous mix of self-discipline and detachment. Odd as it sounds, the idle arts are harder to pursue than life as a corporate collaborator, religious zealot, political extremist or other human vegetables whose intellect is indistinguishable from an actual couch-potato.
Consider, for example, the relative difficulties of staring at a TV, computer screen or mobile phone for half an hour and staring at a wall. The first requires only that you switch off your brain and pretend to be working/networking/learning. The second requires a will of iron and the mind control of a zen or yogic master.
Never try the full half hour all at once. Start with no more than five minutes and work up your applied sloth gradually over the months and years in small increments or you may end up in middle management or the civil service.
Ally this to quiet and disciplined reading – the hard or soft sciences, politics, engineering, architecture…. even the arts. The topic hardly matters, just the intent to build serious knowledge of the way the world works - and never because it will improve your job prospects.
Find (even insist on) a time or place with no  aural or visual distractions, and take notes as you read – both to consolidate the knowledge and to suggest further reading.
With time, you will never turn on the TV or a computer screen unless with a fixed purpose and, having achieved it, will turn it off again out of sheer boredom or irritation. An unfortunate side-effect is that you also find the moron-mediacentric conversation of workmates and other compulsory companions more irritating. A strength is that you find it easier to tune out (which in turn makes you calmer in the workplace) and to only tune in when a problem blows up (which, thanks to your increasing in-depth knowledge of the real world, you are far better able to solve).
This will take years of practice. But the true individualist gradually realises he or she is in the elegant ‘anti-lifestyle’ for life. So the more you practice, the less the problem.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Being casual is the greatest conformism of all

"With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority" Stanley Milgram, 1965

The following ‘corporate communication’ – drearily typical of many such missives – was brought to my attention recently:

‘Dear All,

Following the key communication that was sent out to all key communicators ……. this is a reminder that all Fridays will now be dress down starting tomorrow.

This is to ensure cultural alignment with our other offices across the Group.’

Note in particular that use of the word which drove Herr Goering to violence - in his case for quite the wrong reason, while for us the reason would be right but the response should be less explosive.
This handy example of over-officious inanity does, however, give me an excuse to answer a common query, i.e., how should individualists respond to the ‘Dress Down Friday’ corporate phenomenon?
This may be the most important question of our time. The answer, as ever, is with dignity, good manners and a very straight face.
But in order to reach that conclusion we must first ask who caused the phenomena: the answer to which is that your employer demanded it.
And was this demand because of extensive research and  ‘feedback’  from you and your workmates?
No, it is far more likely that your boss is slipping away for another long weekend’s drinking with fellow misogynists. Being too lazy to change from his business suit, he prefers to come to the office in his golf-clown outfit. He then needs to be seen to have taken a ‘management decision’ rather than being revealed as a rich, inbred slob.
Having established that, many other things become plain. Because there is - in truth - no sadder sight in the modern world than the boss class or their most devoted lickspittles  trying to act cool and casual.
They are the leading contemporary  examples of what the late Derek Jarman used to call “drabs” . This was not just his way of marking out homophobes, but in a wider sense dull, beige people who – unfortunately – control far too much of the world.
And the harder they try to be as one with their employees, customers, electorate and ordinary members of the public in general the more revolting their appearance and behaviour.
Such horrible, petty-minded  people with their fake camaraderie - as if anyone with a gram of taste would wreck their ears and dull their wits being stuck in a pub or on some frightful corporate jolly with them. Boasting how much their cars are worth, pretending knowledge of or interest in sports or family life, playing incessantly with their techno-toys in a desperate attempt to look simultaneously busy and up-to-the-minute……..
We cannot go along with this enforced slobbery. Because there is nothing voluntary, life-affirming or even progressive about it.
In addition, a brief perusal of any company’s ‘policy statement’ on ‘acceptable casual wear’ reveals little but an attempt to stamp out the last efforts of employees to retain some humanity and individuality in the most awful daily situation they could find themselves in – the workplace.
Who amongst us would want to be as badly dressed as his or her employer, especially when that employer is mis-dressed to crawl around some ghastly plastic  pseudo-pub with other pseudo-people?
So the simplest form of resistance is to ignore it: turn up to work dressed, as usual, in clothes in which you could, if necessary, meet someone deserving of respect – or failing that senior government officials, royalty or international leaders of finance. Then, when you unexpectedly encounter a major foreign potential client or business partner in the car park, enjoy being mistaken for a company director, politely introducing an abomination in badly-fitting polyester as your MD and watching the faces of both parties drop in dismay.
The beauty of such a tactic is that the corporate world is programmed only to deal with insurgency rooted in the real culture of the business world – dishonesty, the avoidance of responsibility, fear of progress, imagination or objective knowledge. The primary fear of any business executive is that a younger, more ruthless clone will lie, cheat and steal his or her way to the MD’s chair. Thus the real business culture within any business culture centres on the attempts of those in power to prevent the young pretenders stealing it. Honest, self-respecting people who seek no power can simply stand aside and watch as these sad and desperate bores attempt to wipe each other out.
‘Management’ has no answer to the mannered rebel who turns up on time, treats colleagues and clients with respect, puts in a full day’s work and then simply goes home and forgets about it.
Resistance, then, rather than being futile is actually quite facile - and fun.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Anyone for a quiet riot?

I have no interest in rioting - apart from anything else, these days I would not fancy my chances running from gendarmes who are 30 years younger. But what does interest me is the humorous & non-violent repossession of public space, such as shopping centres. On the other hand, the growing trend for deadly dull, corporatist use of ‘art’ and ‘street theatre’ to somehow ‘humanise’ commercial places (and more particularly to control our use of them and movement around them) is a distraction – or just bad taste – and we could all do without it.
We all need to be more aware of the extent to which urban planners try to make sure we use what was once genuinely public space in an economically ‘efficient’ way. That is, their only aim is to deliver the biggest possible profits to retailers in the shortest possible time.
Once you dismiss tiresome (and hypocritical) middle class nose-pulling at such blatant commercialism, this, in itself, might not be so objectionable. If the real target was a ‘customer-centred-experience’, what could be the objection to professionals, for once, actually giving us what we want, not what some marketing air-head thinks is this year’s fashion?
But of course, the real problem is that what the (paying) customer wants was never the target. And where it gets murkier is when urban planning, in practice, begins to consider how to exclude ‘undesirables’, zoning in instead on the use of the smallest space for shortest time by the most economically active.
For example, some years ago an architectural student on work experience I knew was startled to discover how much thinking goes into making seats in indoor shopping centres too uncomfortable to sit on for more than, say, a 10 minute breather between shops. More recently I was equally surprised when an ‘insider’ revealed to me just how much work the Douglas redevelopers have done – for example around Strand Street – to ensure benches and shop doorways cannot become improvised overnight facilities for the homeless.
Then there is the care taken in developing lines of sight within indoor plazas. In my architectural student friend’s case (and incidentally, this was well before the current terrorist-obsessed CCTV era)  he discovered all about this while sitting quietly one day on a bench in a shopping centre. Rather ironically, he was there to study it for a class project.
He was astonished when a security guard approached and informed him that, as he had been observed sitting on the same bench for 20 minutes, previous to which for some 35 he had been observed moving around the shopping centre but not entering any shop, using any eating facility or purchasing anything in general, the management was evicting him. When he objected that he was sitting in a public place, doing no harm, and had a right to be there, he was informed that actually it was a private place, that he had no right to be there if he wasn’t purchasing goods or services, and that all round it might be better for his health if he left of his own volition, rather than being assisted to fly face first onto the pavement outside. The security goon was not quite that eloquent, but that was his general argument.
For my friend, along with others to whom he related this experience, this was quite enlightening, and the start of our attempts to establish if this was a ‘one off’ or a common feature of late 20th century civil society, and if the latter what might be done about it.
One thing that quickly struck us was that multi-store complexes, shopping centres and so on are typically built on former public gathering places (e.g. town markets and other crossing places between communities), typically at huge public expenditure and by public bodies supposedly subject to the democratic process who hand over public land to private developers, often for free or at a token price, with the excuse that the town must develop economically or die.
It is also the case that in order for this to happen, troublesome small shopkeepers and private householders find themselves evicted by compulsory purchase orders. In past decades the excuse would simply be that they lowered the tone of the area (i.e. appeals to class prejudice), but one new variant on this is to play on cod-environmental concerns. Incidentally, we could also list the increasingly use by employers and government agencies of ’health and safety’ concerns to take away, rather than protect, the rights of workers and state housing tenants.
In effect then, for the good of the community the community is destroyed and its assets passed to fly-by-night developers and multinational shop chains, who move on to the next complex as soon as the rent or tax holiday ends and they are expected to pay their way like ordinary citizens.
But take away our playing fields, market places and parks, and what do we have left? What was the point of several centuries in which our ancestors moved from the country to the towns, the fields to the factories (and we more recently to offices and first-time buyer developments) if all of the rewards and compensations wrung from reluctant governments and employers are just taken away again? The other question is; 'What might we do about it?'
My suggestion is to take them back from time to time – even if only for an hour or two - but to have fun doing it. Just use them, but use them the way we want to use them, and not to the benefit of those who stole them from us.
One of the funniest examples I know of concerned elderly people in an Australian city, whose council shut the community centre where they used to meet and handed the land over to a developer for a shopping centre. These pensioners decided that as it was ‘their’ meeting place anyway, not another hangout for the rich and unspeakable, they would just continue meeting there. Which they did, by the hundred, with wheelchairs, Zimmer frames and all the rest of the paraphernalia of old age, bringing the entire place to a standstill day after day until the council and the developers caved in and offered an alternative meeting place.
In about 1997 this example directly inspired a Manchester anti-consumerist group’s campaign to celebrate Buy Nothing Day (look it up at , then act on it). ‘Workmen’ dragged sofas, comfy chairs and other household items into one of that city’s dullest shopping centres. ‘Coincidentally’ a number of ‘customers’ then started to use them to……well, to do little or nothing. As enraged security guards managed to clear one ‘obstruction’, more furniture was ‘delivered’ to another area, or another level, or another shopping centre, and so it went on all day around the city. Far from being annoyed, many people who came there merely to consume had a great day out too. They saw the joke and joined in, then went home, told others and in turn caused more people to see the joke, and caused more discussions. 
And did retail workers – people having little choice in the late 20th century other than to take whatever ‘Mcjob’ is going – get annoyed? I think not. How else did the group know exactly where to bring in all that furniture, where to put it, and precisely when?
For another elegant variation on the theme, see, for example, or the earlier attempts by ‘The Chaps’ to ‘Civilise the City’ or poke imaginative fun at the decidedly unmaginative modern art that wins major prizes and gets sold to the dull entrepreneurs who run drab corporations.
Think of such disruptions of the modern nightmare as quiet rioting, gentle striking, or any other play on such terms you want to invent. In a world from which an uncivilised minority is intent on disenfranchising us, sometimes just doing nothing – creatively rather than because you are meant to – can be the best response. And anyway, everybody (even consumers) needs the odd day off to do something interesting instead.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Pity ye not

Some ask: “Is it fair to consider pushy charities and their smug or self-righteous volunteers a nuisance?”
The simple answer is “Yes”. Because while nobody wants to snub genuine individual acts of charity any organisation that pays senior executives over £100,000 per year (over £200,000 for some notorious professional scaremongers) is in the compassion business for business reasons, not compassionate ones.
Historically, the concept of charity may have begun as acts of benevolence by the powerful (often, of course, on the understanding that they would pass into heaven with rather more ease than their camels could pass through the eyes of needles), but the modern charity format, as originally introduced by Quaker merchants, is primarily a tax avoidance strategy, though pursued on ethical grounds. Oddly, though major charities and their key sponsors spend far more time taking advice from tax lawyers and HMRC than self-confessed business corporations of equivalent size, none want to admit this.
We also need to recognise that one person’s ‘ethics’ is another’s flat earth bigotry, and just because a particular ethical framework is championed by the powerful does not mean it is correct . Or even reasonable.
What other idea, conceived and sustained by powerful elites, would you accept at face value? Why, then, do we meekly accept that the charity profession is a ‘good thing’?
Try, for example, carefully examining the views and policies of any large charity towards the unfortunate as if you were reading the manifesto of a fascist cult. You may be startled to find how little there is to choose between the misanthropy expounded by either party. Both, for example, maintain that certain groups of people are simply incapable of governing themselves, and resist all attempts for them to do so by either democratic political means or the commonly accepted codes of business practice.
Neither should one feel guilty about crossing the street to avoid a ‘chugger’, or putting the phone down on any fundraiser rude enough to pester you at home because you cannot get proper details about  a charity’s work and policies from their website without giving your phone number. Such nuisances are not volunteers. There is a market for professional fundraising companies who pester the public and take a 50/50 split with major charities.  The charities find it more ‘cost efficient’ to do this than to actually risk answering questions from the public, never mind consorting with the great unwashed in order to attract anyone but bored socialites as a volunteer base.
Some will say that this leads to only the cutest puppies and orphans getting money thrown at them, and there may be some truth in this. But the problem only arose when the charity profession reduced misery to a commodity, and turned the competition for funds into a corporate war in order to maintain their relative market positions. That is a problem they, and nobody else, created. If any of them had even a scrap of conscience then their last professional duty would be to solve it before declaring themselves redundant.
For far too long, charities have had a soft ride because we are not prepared to treat middle class professional spongers as we do common street beggars, and ask them just what they will do all day if we are fool enough to hand over our small change.
But we are also at fault. We must accept that every pound we give to a charity whose staff and policies we have not vetted, accounts we have not checked and past record we have not researched is a pound which could inflict more misery on a vulnerable person, or just subsidise another freeloader on another foreign holiday or ‘gap year’ (so called because the poorly – if expensively - educated folk who take them have empty spaces between the left and right ear and can afford to air them for years at a time).
Always remember that charity is personal, an individual act of kindness, so must always be something done from choice, not compulsion. It is not a duty, and should never be reduced to one.
If the real problem, as some charities intimate, is that too few people have too much power over too many, then charities are not the answer either, because they just transfer the power from one corporation to another with equally dubious ‘vision statements’ for future development. Instead of the dispossessed of the earth being controlled by multinational business corporations (who collaborate with governments and each other in order to maintain their power base) their fate will lie in the hands of multinational charitable foundations, who also collaborate with any government, business corporation and super-wealthy individual providing the bulk of their funding in order to maintain their powerbase.
Beneath the chimera of 'opposition’ it is strictly ‘business as usual’ between governments and the corporations, be they straightforward business or charitable ones. The poor and the dispossessed have no say in the matter. At best, like voters in Western pseudo-democracies, they may sometimes get to choose their parasites and oppressors.
Another approach is, rather than ‘who should I be kind to’, try asking ‘do I harm anyone’ and organise your life, as far as is practical, to avoid that. Consider your purchases, your job, and your relationships with family and community. Just who is affected, and how, by what you buy, how big your car or house is, the products and services you produce at work, the people you do (or do not) socialise with. How you deal with that, what decisions you make about how you interact with the immediate community or the wider world, it is not for anyone else to decide or to judge.
If you still feel guilty enough to give to ‘good causes’, then the only responsible thing to do is fully research one or two charities that interest you, being careful to consider their critics at least as well as their PR. You can then ignore the rest with a clear conscience. Set yourself a strict monthly budget , arrange some direct debits then feel free to treat any approach from a professional fundraiser in the same way you deal with, say, a cold-calling double-glazing salesman or Jehovah’s Witness.
Do any of this and you may never save an entire nation of starving people, but then, neither do charities. On the other hand, you cannot add to the sum of human misery by inflicting self-righteous halfwits with messianic intent on them either.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Art, the last asylum for lunatics

“Art is a fetish. As this is so, so mystification becomes part of the concept of art…art is nothing over and above what the bourgeoisie classifies as art, that is its meaning, but, from inside the category, such a thought is intolerable because it dismantles the beliefs that go with entering into the activities of the category. These beliefs posit the objective superiority of the form of life which is implicated. It is out of this sort of logical mystification that the category art emerged in the first place, that is, as an attempt on the part of the old order in society to make out its life was somehow committed to a superior form of knowledge.”

Roger L. Taylor

One reason this blog proceeds so slowly is that over the last two winters I foolishly got involved in a society which produces major Works of Art, as small town tradition dictates these can never be undertaken between Easter and August Bank Holiday. Thankfully, this winter’s work is now done and I am free until at least September, though in all fairness I can blame no-one but myself for the pain.
Art, as Mr Crisp often demonstrated, is a mistake. His writing is full of mischievous demolitions of art students and their tutors. He dismissed theatre as something for bored upper middle class women over a certain age. When asked what he had against painting, he asked in return what painters have against bare walls.
And he was right. Because nobody should waste a cold winter’s night on Art if they could be snug and warm in front of a TV screen, reading a funny book…. or just staring at a wall.
But colluding with others in a small, conservative community to produce Art is a far graver error. While a sane and reasonable person never commits Art in the first place, any mild mannered person who is only slightly insane can be driven to strong drink and mind-bending pharmaceuticals from over exposure to the upper middle class harridans who dominate such activity.
So what is my excuse?
Well, for one thing - as readers of this and my other blog may have surmised - I have previous form for Artistic Behaviour.
I started very early. Aged 10, my first literary efforts were published in an educational journal by a proud class teacher, and only the relative poverty of my parents prevented me from incarceration at a prestigious cathedral choir school for my entire adolescence. I was a semi-professional musician by 13, and things got worse in my 16th year, when I was sentenced to two years in the musical equivalent of a young offenders centre. I then tried to go straight, and did manage around three years of useful employment as a nurse, with only minor involvement in the local folk and punk scene.
Then things got right out of hand. In fact, between 1979 and 1983 it is a matter of public record that I was involved in creative activities for which the governments of three countries were bamboozled into parting with sufficient monies to, say, build a few decent blocks of flats instead.
On this basis alone I cannot hide the fact that I once had an arts career, rather than just dabbling at weekends and in a manner which damaged only my own sanity and bank balance.
In my defence, I stopped on principle at 25, believing then - as now - that no ‘Artist’ has the right to live off public money for more than five years. Being idle by nature, and having achieved everything I set out to in four, I could just give the public a year off. I then retired to the Isle of Man, having ascertained that the local Art ‘scene’ was so far behind even middle of the road international trends that I could never be interested – or raise interest – in continuing.
That was in 1983, and funnily enough nothing has moved on here, while the surrounding islands have regressed rather than moved forward, so at absolutely no point have I weakened.
Until two winters ago, when a very young relative wanted to try something new, so the family joined up in support. Wisely, she retired herself four months later, and now only goes to watch her elders struggle.
Struggling with the work itself would be fine, as any challenge which draws one out of a small town comfort zone is beneficial. The problem is that the real struggle is a class one. 
Urban folk may smile at the rigid social structure of the small town cultural group. In reality though, the lower orders in large towns and cities suffer exactly the same diminution of their imaginative efforts. Expensive education did not make their critics even moderately clever. They just fail to understand a wider range of creative product.
By comparison, there may be awful social conservatism in small towns, but if you are creative and from a humble background you have the advantage that all you have to overcome are a few rednecks posing as highbrow ‘experts’.
As for the ‘High Art/Low Art’ false divide – how can anyone argue that High Art should be taken seriously when you see the kind of middle class conformists who not only consume it but are able to earn a living from it? How can Low Art be taken any more seriously when it depends on a system of patronage, criticism and consumption determined as absolutely as High Art by the very same bunch of cultural elitists and careerists?
In conclusion then, if you must dabble in ‘The Arts’ there are only two questions to consider.
(1) Is it an interesting challenge?
(2) Will you add to the sum of global joy by taking part?
If you can truthfully answer “Yes” to both you might as well waste your time. If you answer “No” to either, but still continue to make anything which could be construed by even a passing lunatic as ‘Art’, you should be hunted down with dogs.
The rest is nonsense.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Abnormal service is resumed

My sincere apologies for not posting in several weeks. If this was a commercial enterprise, rather than a gentlemanly hobby, my ‘market’ would by now have been snapped up by a rival, and I would be shutting up shop. As it is, I can only hope that my readers are patient enough to wait for my humble offerings to be delivered whenever the real world does not get in the way, rather than with the robotic regularity of a professional service provider.
The truth is simply that, like any other gentleman, doing what I love does not pay the bills, while I have no love for that which gets my bills paid. And, unfortunately, the bill-paying indignities have been tiring me out more than usual of late.
Because, of late, the anger and aggression bordering on outright violence of colleagues in what passes for a workplace, the sullen manner in which they deign to communicate or do any task they cannot simply avoid, and the sheer misery they inflict on those around them (and which is deflected back onto them - because they must operate in the same physical and mental space) has been getting worse.
But it is not just in the workplace. Perhaps recently I am more thin skinned than usual, having been laid low by various physical maladies, but the absence of any social grace and the preponderance of the rude, the brutish and the unpleasant in all things around me has been more painfully obvious too.
The sad thing is that this is not necessary. What such ‘victims’ of supposed social and economic determinism will not admit is that none of this unpleasantness is necessary.
There is at all times and in all places a choice. Between beauty and ugliness, the elegant or the uncouth, between being pleasant or rude, helpful or unhelpful.
The obvious question is why would you choose the worse one? It is not even practical!
For example, the amusing thing is that much of my work would not – and in many cases should not – be necessary were it not for the stroppy, adolescent attitude of others towards public servants simply doing their job efficiently and economically, rather than when the aforementioned stroppy adolescents want it done. Some of this is simple immaturity (though how some can reach late middle age without leaving adolescence, while simultaneously teenagers act like so many acne-ridden Toryshire Colonel Blimps, is a mystery worthy of any enterprising social psychologist), some because they lack the patience to think things through or to understand straightforward and reasonable enough government procedures.
I say this is amusing because as long as it continues people like me can be sure of a job. Because at some point, usually after yet another Alpha Male has snarled one too many times at a hapless civil servant and the civil service department concerned is working to rule (which in practice means the impossible deadline said Alpha Male has promised to his equally ill tempered, equally self-regarding and really rather dim office superiors and clients will not be met) the in-house diplomat will be asked to smooth over the unpleasantness while still, somehow, delivering the impossible deadline.
I used to think it was just me who was asked to take on tasks which would rattle Kofi Annan. Then I met several other ‘chaps’ who, according to the usual rules of business, were over the hill, far too old school and pleasant to one and all, and thus should have been long redundant.
But from talking to one or two it became clear that they had something else in common besides a tendency to hold doors open for ladies. All worked in enterprises led by Alan Sugar clones, where similarly the middle management would tend towards Apprentice candidates and the office grunts were Mail-reading misanthropes with short tempers and a mistrust of anyone or anything that smelt of Radio or BBC 4.
Inevitably this meant that almost daily a vital government functionary or provider of allied professional services would deliver only when convenient or contracted to after being insulted one too many times by one of the above. Inevitably this also meant that the only way in which the unspoken ‘boycott’ could be lifted was if a co-worker whose own manners were above reproach could negotiate a settlement with the injured party.
I readily admit this is not a situation it is in my interest to change. For as long as I am surrounded by the foul-mouthed, the short-tempered and the uncouth I have a job for life just rebuilding the bridges they burn.
I have, by the funniest accident, created a 'niche market' without any professional strategy to do so. This gives me a quiet satisfaction, but there are times such as the last few weeks when I wished for more opportunity to enjoy it instead of having to duck every few seconds to dodge another incoming salvo.