Monday, 31 December 2012

Surprise and Delight in 2013

One evening in 2013, you may hear a knock at your door. You may open your door and I will be standing there with a box of chocolates, a rose in my teeth and a fireman's helmet on. You may be surprised and delighted.

Or possibly not.

But the principle is sound. Because my New Year's Resolutions, or rather my New Year's Theme is "Surprise and Delight".

I have been thinking about New Year's Resolutions and the usual approach is not working for me. Often people "give up" something they like. I know someone who is giving up chocolate. Someone else is giving up drinking. Giving up smoking. Or you pledge to lose something. Lose weight. Lose friends that you don't want to hang around. Lose habits.

But I don't find these negative statements very motivational. It's like Usain Bolt's coach issuing that well know rallying cry "Go out there, Usain, and don't run the slowest."

No. After the pain of 2012, I need a positive statement to help me find my way in 2013.

I don't need a stick to beat myself with either. I don't need a threat hanging over me, making me feel guilty. So, I am not going for a specific statement that I will achieve X by date Y that makes me feel worried if I haven't achieved X by Y. If threats and punishment are motivators for you, this should be more to your taste.

I've gone for a theme instead. My theme for 2013 is "Surprise and Delight". 2013 will be a year of surprising and delighting people. My New Year's Resolution is this...

In 2013, I will SURPRISE and DELIGHT [insert name(s) here] by doing [enter act here]

The great thing about this resolution is that I can play with it all year in all sorts of ways. I can insert my name, your name, a stranger's name or a hundred names. I can do big acts or small acts. I can surprise and delight someone by just turning up and saying hello, unexpectedly. Or perhaps by staying away! I can surprise and delight myself by treating myself to something I've always wanted (if I can give myself permission to treat myself, that is.).

Suddenly I'm feel excited about going in to 2013. Surprise and Delight. I've got an idea for every month in 2013, starting with an exciting outing for a group of people I love, in January. It's going to be a lot of fun...and listen out for that knock on the door :)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

What tribe am I?

My daughter asked me an interesting question the other day and I was surprised when I realised that I didn't know the precise answer, so I was forced to respond with vague waffle. She asked what African tribe I belong to. Actually she asked a much broader set of questions about tribes, clans and the relationship dynamics associated with these for a social anthropological essay she is writing, but I still didn't know the answer to the fundamental question.

So I consulted the oracle. In other words, I phoned my dad.

Mr Ilube (Snr) does not do vague waffle. I now know the answer to my question. In fact I know the answer to more than I bargained for. I was given a short, sharp lesson on history, culture and traditions.

In Nigeria, there are about 200 tribes. The big ones that you may have heard of are Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa/Fulani. But there are many, many others. One of these is the Bini or Edo tribe and that is the one that we hail from. However, it is not as simple as that.

Years ago, the Binis established a huge kingdom in West Africa. I mean really big. It stretches back nearly a thousand years into ancient history and at its height the Oba (King) could marshall an army of 180,000 men. It was noted for its art and today you can still see the beautiful 16th century Benin Bronzes, although you may have to go to the British Museum to see them as they seem to have found there way there somehow, along with the Elgin Marbles and one or two other items from around the world!

Anyway, the Benin Kingdom had its capital  in the appropriately named Benin City and that's where the Oba and his family lived. From time to time princes would get fed up of hanging around court and head off to establish themselves in nearby lands. One such prince, Ozolua had been exiled to the north of Benin to an area known as Afenmai. He and his followers established several clans there in various parts of the Afenmai area. One of the areas within Afenmai is OWAN and within the Owan area a clan called EMAI was established. The main town in Owan is AFUZE. We hail from Emai clan based in Afuze.

So, it turns out that my tribe is BINI (or EDO), and I am from the EMAI clan, from the town of AFUZE in the OWAN area of AFENMAI land (Emai is pronounced EM-EYE just in case you find yourself in a competition situation where someone says "for £10,000 pronounce the word EMAI").

So, there you go. You've been told.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Colin, Nigel, Sam, Pete and Norman

I attend a lot of meetings. Meetings about meetings. Meetings preparing for the meeting about meetings. I attend business meetings, charity metings, government meetings, school meetings, public meetings, hush hush meetings (which I'd like to tell you about but...). All sorts of meetings.

In these meetings, I see the same Meeting Types over and over again. Here are five of my favourites (names changed to protect the innocent - but you know who you are :). You probably know a few more.

Cynical Colin: cynical Colin hangs back at the start of meetings. He doesn't make eye contact. Chair slightly pushed back, he makes the occasional note on his pad but otherwise projects indifference. In fact he project silence powerfully into the meeting. He doesn't say anything but you know he's there, waiting to pounce. You know he's listening, cynically, sighing inside at the banality of it all, the triviality that he has to put up with around here. Then at some point he makes his move. Leans forwards, seizes the space and delivers a deliberately contrary diatribe before sinking back into his reverie.

Naughty Nigel: naughty Nigel sat in the back of the class at school, sniggered with his mates and flicked paper at girls. 30 years later he's still doing much the same thing. On the surface he participates in the meting, making a few positive, non-controversial, vacuous comments but most of the time he tries to enrol other people in his "back of class" antics. He writes notes on his papers and surreptitiously shows them to the person sitting next to him ("old so and so off on one, eh?"). He makes eye contact across the room, arches his eyebrow and smirks knowingly at you as someone else is speaking. Everyone knows he's doing it but he is a master of the art. He restrains himself just enough to avoid The Boss saying "oh for goodness sake, will you grow up, Nigel, otherwise I'll send you to the Head".

Strident Sam: strident Sam must be heard. Sam is prepped and ready for a fight. Sam has data. Hard facts. Not namby pamby nonsense like the rest of you. Sam doesn't have time for this nonsense. It's all nonsense. Sam goes in angry. Starts angry, continues angry, finishes angry. Collars you on the way out, complaining about the meeting. Bloody waste of time if you ask Sam. Sam is the only person who "cuts through the crap". The only one who really knows what's going on around here. Everyone else is an idiot. Sam knows best and doesn't care who knows it.

Political Pete: Pete is a smooth operator. He navigates his way through meetings with consumate skill and panache. You can't lay a glove on Pete. He makes confident, calm, measured points that sound plausible until you think about them later and realise that they meant nothing at all. On the one hand this, on the other hand that. He is careful not to draw any conclusions before The Boss has indicated which way he is leaning, then Political Pete comes down gently but firmly, on balance, on the side of The Boss.

Name-drop Norman: I love name-drop Norman. He's late for the meeting because he's just been finishing a call with The Minister. He needs to leave early because he has to rush to a meeting with The Director. He would love to come out for a drink this evening but "unfortunately" he has to go to dinner with the Ambassador. He partially agrees with your view, but as The Guru he met at a conference said only last week, you're talking rubbish.

And which type am I? All five of course and probably a few more I haven't thought of yet!