Friday, 30 July 2010

No.358 Of The Bolshoi Ballet Then and Now

I'm off to see the ballet Spartacus tomorrow night at the beautiful Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Can't wait. Better still it's the Bolshoi dance company led by Ivan Vasiliev who has set the ballet world buzzing. He is being likened to a modern day Nureyev with jumps so high that you can a better view of him in the balconies than you do the stalls. Better still the ballet is set to the music of Khachaturian. It was he who composed the music used in the Onedin Line all those years ago.

I first saw the Bolshoi ballet in Lenningrad when Breshnev was still trotting out onto the Moscow balcony to prove it wasn't true that he was dead and to wave at the passing tanks and missiles. I arrived at the theatre only to find someone in my seat. I explained best I could in English to the guy that he needed to move. He replied in English "Sorry I move" and true to his word he ended up two rows back.

When the ballet was over I met him outside the theatre. As we crossed the road to the taxi rank I asked him if he enjoyed the ballet and he replied "Yes but it's not safe for me to talk to you" and walked away never to be seen again.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

No.357 Of James Caan The Man

I've just finished James Caan's book "The Real Deal." I like this book and I like this man too. Everyone should read it : recruitment experts, managers, workplace psychologists, entrepreneurs and anyone wanting a really good yarn.

The book's full of really insightful learning and he shares generously his thoughts on himself, his career and his purpose in the world.

The book is full of great stories. He tells us about James Buckley who at just nine years of appeared in The Den as part of a Children in Need Special programme. He said he wanted £5,000 to print posters and badges for schools to distribute that encouraged kids to include less popular kids in their games. Two Dragons offered him the money : Duncan Banatyne and James Caan. The boy chose James. When Duncan asked him after the show why he choose James he replied "James is new and I didn't want him to be lonely".

A good part of the latter half of the book is devoted to Caan's charity work either building a school in Pakistan or responding to the disastrous earthquake in Kashmir. Caan concludes that in a situation like the earthquake in Kashmir entrepeneurs are probably the best type of people to get involved and help. He argues that by their nature they're great decision takers, they're resourceful and great at overcoming obstacles. When you learn how quickly he managed to get relief shelter into Kashmir and save many lives it's very diifcult to disagree with him.

His last chapter talks about how fame affected his life and he tells the story of how a lunch time meeting with him was auctioned for £5,800. He was staggered at the amount.

£5,800 is that all?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

No.356 Of a Question of Pitch and Timing

I went to Castlewellen Park yesterday for an open air jazz festival which was, as it turned out, held in a tent on account of the weather.

I went with The Lady Captain who prepared a picnic that any Teddy Bear would have been mightily proud of. I hadn't seen her in a long time so it was great to catch up on all the news. She's one of these people everyone needs around. A very positive person with only good things to say about everyone and great wit too.

We struggled however between us to see the postive in the jazz ensemble for their singer missed a good few of the top notes and a few other ones on the way too. They desperately needed a couple up near the front to start off some dancing. The Lady Captain was up for it but I remembered I had left the car door unlocked and thought it time we left....

No.355 Of Handling Complaints

I know it sounds crazy but I was kept asleep by a belching plug hole last night in my hotel. I was just about to nod off after a great night out in London when the sink rumbled and water appeared from out the plug hole before disappearing again. Thinking I was up to the challenge of how to resolve this I placed the plug in the hole and returned to bed. 30 minutes later and I heard the sound of a plug popping into the air and the same rumble, gurgle and whirl of water that I had heard before.

I lay there contemplating what to do. I had five hours before getting up for my taxi to the airport so I needed rest and I figured by the time I had complained and asked for another room it might hardly be worth going to sleep. Besides how do you call reception and complain that a plug hole is keeping you awake?

I lay three towels across the sink thinking it would be enough to contain the pop of a plug and any rude noises the sink wanted to make to stop me chucking out the zzzzzzzzzzzz. I was wrong. I must have managed a whole hour's slumber before reception called to let me know the taxi had arrived.

By the time I had boarded the plane I was very tired and very crotchety. As we came into land a gentlemen on my right across the isle from me had failed to turn off his mobile. I know this because it rang and he answered it. No-one said anything so I did and reminded him that mobile signals could interfere with the electronics of the plane. Immediately I felt like the plane square and passenger grass and regretted my impromptu protestations.

Once the plane was on the ground I made for my own mobile to check for texts. The guy on my left said "You're not supposed to be doing that mate until the aircraft door opens".

Friday, 23 July 2010

No.354 Of Mad Blogs & Englismen

London - A place where you can order a cup of peppermint tea without the waiter looking at you like you're a complete moron. Bliss!

Strolling through Woburn Square Park I must have spotted at least 20 different nationalities all in their groups doing their own thing. The Spanish students were having their team photos taken by an Arab lady who was probably glad she wasn't having to do it peering through a burka peering through a lens. The Germans were playing football (hey rub it in lads) whilst the Italian females were doing what they do best : chilling outside sipping Lattes by the cafe and drawing on their cigarettes with all the glamour that Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn first brought to the pastime.

I had ventured in search of a Mr Whippy and finally found one right outside the British Museum (which hadn't lost it's charm). The American in front of me was eager to start her huge 99 but was unable to find anywhere to dispose of her gum. I peered at her daring her to drop it on the ground right outside our great british Institution. She calmly stuck it on the end of her cone and walked off. That stare of mine - never lets me down.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

No.353 Of Meeting Opportunities

I had a business meeting the other day in Mal Maison Belfast. It's a nice hotel but I'm beginning to wonder if it's the right place for a profesionals-in-suits type of meeting. It's very dark and does have the appearance somewhat of an Edwardian Brothel.

I was in Manchester yesterday for a finance course. It was a great course but an awful lot of pain for just one day's learning. It involved a 5a.m. start, rip off parking at the airport, a couple of uncomfortable flights in a Flybe tube of toothpaste and a stroll in the Manchester rain to and from the gig.

As I learnt during the day it's not the cost of a course or the inconvenience of getting there but the opportunity cost of being out the office and out of production for 1 day. We all have hourly rates it seems.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

No.352 Of Dragon's Den & Other Tales

I'm reading James Caan's "The Real Deal" at the moment. He's the Pakistani born, Indian looking, Eton sounding multimillionaire in Dragon's Den.

He tells a great story of how he left home at 16 and then made his way in recruitment learning and earning and partying as he went.

What's interesting about his meteoric rise to riches is that he never felt any loyalty to his employer at least not enough to keep him there if he felt he could progress more quickly elsewhere. If it was time to go he was off never to look back.
What's clear is that he learnt most of the skills that made him successful by watching others closely and where necessary copying them to the smallest detail.
Most autobiographies are nothing more than PR exercises or blatant attempts to cash in on temporary fame and it's often not what's in these sorts of publications but what has been left out that's really important. But I like this book. Caan comes across to me just as he does in the Den : honest, firm, straight but never gratuitously rude.

Monday, 19 July 2010

No.351 Of Damned if you do and Damned if you don't

I watched "The Damned United" last night starring Michael Sheen. By golly he's a great actor. He'd got Brian Clough off perfectly. Clough lived his life giving masterclasses in how not to manage a team so how he dd it so successfully remains a mystery to most of us. What was clear from the film was that his partner Peter Taylor was useless without Clough and likewise Clough wasn't much good on his own either.
Perhaps a bit like George Best the lovable rogue will always be remembered for his one liners. "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the country but I must be amongst the top one" and "Rome wasn't built in a day but I hey wasn't involved".
The two of them fell out towards the end of their career which seemed to finish them both. At the end they couldn't work together or live without each other. Tough in football and in life.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

No.350 Of Inception & Adversity

I went to see Inception last night with the girls. It was hard. It was long too. I came away much relieved the ordeal was over but also thinking I might have missed a really good film. Guess I just wasn't prepared to put the work in required on a Friday night.

Da Caprio is a great actor but why it has to be him every time I don't know. I'm sure there are many other great actors bursting for the chance of a lead role.

On the subject of Italians (or at least those with Italian sounding names) I'm reading Primo Levi's book at the moment "If This Is a Man". This is his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. It has been described as one of the most important works of the twentieth century and I can see why. It reminds me a little of books like Birdsong or even Grapes of Wrath - altogether very depressing and uplifting at the same time. Yes it's reflects just how terribly humans can treat one another but also what great survivors we are and how individuals can triumph over adversity.

Friday, 16 July 2010

No.349 Of The Wonder of Wasps

Yesterday I discovered a wasps' nest at the foot of my garden right by the river. Ordinarily I would have taken a stick to it and bashed it to f.. France. But yesterday I just sat and admired what nature had created with such precision.
It reminded a little of the Chinese lanterns you can buy in the likes of TK Max. It consisted of a perfectly formed skin in a shape that was neither round nor oval and quite symmetrical.
I've no idea what was going on inside. It could have been full like a hoover bag of all sorts of noxious fillings and goings on but yesterday as I relaxed reading a book by the river that seemed to pass me by.
I must go take a look to see if it's still there later today and hope that one of the neighbour's kids hasn't taken a stick to it either.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

No.348 Of the Two Bruces

I watched the documentary on Bruce Forsythe last night. He's not bad for 82 still flying about the place and working 16 hour days in show business. He attributes at least part of his good health and longevity to a breakfast he has almost identical to mine which is very encouraging : porridge with blueberries each of which he carefully places around his dish before eating. He's clearly become a creature of habit in his 80 odd years.

I was tallking to another Bruce, Brucie baby, one of the Antrim early bird swimmers this morning. He confessed to having gone out on the rip over the 12th weekend. He explained he ended up in the Steelpe Bar for the first time in five years. "Nothing's changed" he said "Everyone was sitting in exact same place as when I last went in!".

I guess we're all creatrues of habit in the end.

Monday, 12 July 2010

No.347 Of All the Cares in the World

It's the day after the day before. I woke to a report on the BBC World Service telling the world all about the trouble in Belfast yesterday. 27 members of the PSNI injured, 3 shot an awful lot of damage done by rioters not to mention the tourist industry.

Also on the same news broadcast was a feature on Fidel Castro. Apparently at 84 he's back. He spent an hour and a half on Cuban t.v giving his views on just about every international incident over the past 12 months. It was the Americans apparently who sank the Korean warship with a mine.

One cant but help but think his views are treated a little bit like the news on Paul the Octopus. Curious to know but not taken seriously.

I wonder what Fidel makes of the Troubles in Northern Ireland? I know the world doesn't really care but I'm curious to know...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

No.346 Of Chinese Proverbs

Finally! It's happened. A comment has been left on my blog which is actually both intelligible to me and quite wise "Riches serve a rich man but command a fool". Usually for some reason I get comments in Chinese. This time the quote has been left in English by someone with a Chinese handle. So to you who ever you are thank you or Mgoi (or Toa chie if you take it in Mandarin).

I used to have a chinese quote on my bedroom wall. It went something like "The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step". I never fully understood it's significance but neither did visiting friends who foolishly thought I did so I suppose it served a purpose.

My favourite Chinese proverb is "Tie to birds together and tho they have four wings they cannot fly". I was once so desperate for content I bunged this in an essay at university. I got a B- for it. I think the tutor must have missed it or may be she thought too like my friends I was cleverer than I was and gave me the benefit of the doubt. Wish there was more people like her in the world....

Saturday, 10 July 2010

No.345 Of Top of the Pops

It's Saturday today but really like a Sunday. It's the weekend of the 12th when everyone not involved in the celebrations clears off. Ideal for anyone like me who chooses to do neither and instead come into work to get a whole load of work done.

This morning I went to Tesco and brought survival provisions for the three days which included a whole load of oatcakes, fruit and vege milk and nuts for my porridge. I also bought about 10 CDs to help me get through the longs hours to come when I'm drafting four new brochures and putting the final touches to the company strategy.

Each of the CDs were from the "bargain bucket" in Tesco and cost little more than a few quid. They reminded me of the albums you could buy as a kid from Woolworth called "Top of the Pops". These featured covers of all the latest releases. The recording quality was poor and the bands not much better but at 50p a go it was that or nothing. Each album always contained one song you'd never heard of by a band that had probably paid a lot of money to be on the album. Funny how you work these things out much later innit?

Friday, 9 July 2010

No.344 Of Nerves in all the Right Places

Great two days of rain forecast. Time to double my efforts to get through a whole lot of work.

It's a big day today on the Island. We have 6 lawyers all sitting their assessment to become mediators. Assuming they pass that's them loose on the General Public and it's for Legal-Island to direct them towards effective dispute resolution. I met them a couple of days' ago and they looked suitably anguished. It was really quite reassuring to see even the most accomplished lawyers suffering from exam nerves.

Still, as someone once said to me when I did exams at school if you're not nervous before an exam you're not showing it the right amount of respect.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

No.343 Of Different Ways of Seeing Things

I was talking to some hard nosed employment lawyers today about the value of Mediation as an alternative to litigating in the employment tribunals and courts. They clearly didn't see a value. Not much anyway. They said "Yes we agree to mediation whenever we want to delay a case and get it put back in the list. We turn up to feel their pain then tell them to bog off".

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

No.342 Of Lessons Learnt When I could have been Watching the Football

I went to see the Royal Opera House production of Salome last night. The main character, Salome, is glamorous indeed but golly does she have issues? She compliments John the Baptist on his body, his hair and his lips. When rebuffed she then tells him she didn't like any of these really and then demands that his head is chopped off! When her wish is granted she then seeks to kiss his lips and wonders where the passion has gone!

A friend of mine was in the production. It's a strange feeling watching an opera recognising someone. Makes you want to prod the person next to you and say something like "Err I know her". I didn't though behaving impeccably throughout.

It was a complicated opera and I didn't understand it fully. What I did take from it though is if a woman asks me for a kiss and her name just happens to be Salome I should just get on with the job...The lessons you learn when you could have been watching the football instead...

Monday, 5 July 2010

No.341 Of Well Made Plans

I lunched at TGI Friday's yesterday at Victoria Square. It was pretty uninspiring. The menu contained just two vegetarian dishes : Brusheta and Veggie Fahitas. Whilst waiting for my dinner companions a table of 6 arrived - a Mum and Dad and four kids in tow. After studying the menu and talking to the waiter they all got up and walked out not looking at all happy. When I asked the waiter what was wrong she said they had gone out in a huff when she told them them they were out of Coke.

Much more inspiring was the company yesterday. At lunchtime I met Gareth Dunlop and Niall McKeown of Ion Online Marketing. I like these guys. The way they play off one another is very Morecombe and Wise at times and its amusing to listen to them talk about the benefits of the Internet and disagree with one another.

Also on form yesterday was Gerry Rooney from Polaris HR. He's currently training Legal-Island's first set of mediators. I met him last night at the Hilton for a sharpner. The plan was for us to meet and chat for 10 minutes and then get an early night. Like all good plans in good company it didn't quite work out like that and I wasn't hitting the sack much before 1a.m.. Seemed like a good idea at the time...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

No.340 Of Performance in and Out the Pool

I've begun this week by clocking 30 lengths in the local pool. I planned to do 65 (a mile) but boredom struck before fatigue and I found myself getting out half way through my early morning objective. When I jumped in the showers a man there said "I seen you in the Belfast Telegraph last week". I left there pretty quick too.

It's catch up week after our week in the training centre. And it promises to be a busy week inside of a huge month too. I've 4 Ops meetings today a deal to tie up in London tomorrow with more meetings on Wednesday and Thursday back in NI. We've also got our performance reviews to get through this month - like the lengths of the pool they're a chore but worth the effort.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

No.339 Of God & Football

They were all talking about it this morning on the BBC World Service. Should the Uruguayan football team be proud of itself or thoroughly ashamed after one of its strikers handled the ball on the line preventing Ghana (and it would seem Africa too) from scoring and winning the match?

May be the Ghanaians might have realised how the English felt when Maradonna performed his hand of God goal or the Irish when the French kept them out by playing with their legs and their hands in the qualifiers.

Ok so the culprit was sent off yesterday but it was the end of the match so it didn't matter anyway. What else can you do to deter such behaviour at critical points in the match bar threaten amputations? Guess the culprit Suaraez wont be staying on for a holiday in Africa or returning for a while..

Friday, 2 July 2010

No.338 Of The Love of A Good List

We've just had a meeting to decide what as a company we plan to do to encourage personal development. It's not a bad list :

* Voluntary Work - each staff member has agreed to do voluntary work outside of Legal-Island but within working hours;
* Business Mentoring - we've agreed to try and share our expertise with business Start-Ups in the community around us starting with the lady in the local flower shop
* Triathlon - we're looking to take on a local company at a triathlon. Watch out world
* Indian Restaurant - we're going to commandeer the local India restaurant and cook for a local company or even just ourselves;
* River Clean Up - we've agreed to have a day in August cleaning out Six Mile Water river followed by a barbecue.

Well done the team. Not a bad line up though I say so myself.