Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sadly, it is NOT my 21st Wedding Anniversary

Today was supposed to be my 21st Wedding Anniversary.

A great milestone, I think you would agree. But it is my sad duty to inform you today that, unfortunately, I have not made it to this milestone. I hoped to be celebrating it with you all today but it was not to be. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn and the best laid plans do not lead where one expects. Life crushes your dreams, I am told.

No, it is not my 21st wedding anniversary today. It is only my 20th wedding anniversary!

A full year has been denied me, through no fault of my own. None, I tell you. I am blameless.

To get to the bottom of this cruel theft of a year of marital bliss, we need to go back the beginning. All the way back.

Many years ago, I was a charming and debonair man about town, as it were. I believe I was known for my good looks and witty repartee. At one point in my life I even used to smoke using a long cigarette holder, that's how debonair I was. I was what you might call "a catch". But strangely the foolish women of the world did not seem to notice this, something I have never really understood.

Fortunately a good friend of mine introduced me to a very wise young lady who, I later learnt, took pity on me and also claims to have "seen potential" despite the fact that this odd 24 year old Tom strode around the place wearing his grandfather's ancient Harris tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, carrying a pocket watch like Toad of Toad Hall and wearing a tie on hot summer days.

In those days, I was a focused fellow. If I wanted to get something done, I generally got it done. I was not the laugh-a-minute, happy-go-lucky chap you see before you today. So, when thoughts moved towards marriage, I devised a plan. It was a very good plan. Fool proof. It was a four step plan

1) Girlfriend and I fly to North Africa, under the pretext of a holiday
2) I propose to Girlfriend at romantic African Sahara sunset
3) Girlfriend swoons in a lady-like way and accepts with delight
4) We enjoy the rest of the holiday, riding matching camels at the edge of the Sahara Desert whilst smiling at each other

How could this plan possibly fail? I was very pleased with myself.

So, 22 years ago, we set off on holiday to Tunisia. I smiled to myself. Girlfriend had no idea that this was her LUCKY DAY. She had HIT THE JACKPOT.

Of course, I was a bit nervous. I wanted it to be perfect as I knew that this wonderful moment would be imprinted on our memories for ever. How right I was.

The moment came. I grandly popped the question. I can't remember the exact words I used but I think it may have sounded something like "I bring you good tidings. You are to become my wife!!!"

Imagine my surprise when the answer came back - "NO"

Actually, to be fair, she said "Yes" that evening. But seemed less delighted than I had expected. I took this to mean that she was overwhelmed with the wonderful news. However, the following morning she woke up and said "I've had a think about it overnight and I've decided the answer is NO after all. Anyway, what are we doing today? Swimming pool? Beach? Camels?"

I must admit, the rest of the holiday was not quite as fun-packed as I had in mind. And sadly we went our separate ways when we returned to the UK. But that only lasted a week or so because I discovered something quite interesting, which the scientists amongst you will find fascinating.

You know the phrase "love hurts"? Well it does. What I found was that during that short period of apart-ness I developed a real, physical pain in my side.  I couldn't eat properly and I couldn't focus. I analysed the situation and concluded that it was unwise of me to continue with my childish, righteous huff and despite this foolish woman not knowing a good man when she saw one, the blasted love thing meant that I was going to have to crawl back and try again.

So, I did.

A year later I took her to a grand hotel in Paris. Paris in spring time. Eiffel Tower. The Left Bank. Perfect. But then I paused. What if she says no again? Oh no! I would have wasted my money on another fruitless holiday. It was an odd weekend

Tom "Shall we..."

Girlfriend, expectantly "Yes...?"

Tom "....go and have lunch?"

I waited until we got back to London and eventually asked, with rather more nervousness and a lot less sure of myself, and fortunately Girlfriend said "YES". Phew!

So, a year after that, and 20 years ago today we got married and Girlfriend became Wife. We have been happily married ever since, have a lovely family, travelled the world together and had a wonderful life. And today we celebrate 20 years of married life.

I should be celebrating 21 years of married life but as Wife said when I brought it up for the thousandth time "Oh, for goodness sake, if it had been 21 years it might not have been 21 years. Get over it".

Gosh. Strong women who know their own minds. Don't you just love 'em, huh? I do.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Shut up, just SHUT UP !!!!!

Last week I facilitated a meeting of about 40 executives through the medium of mime.

Apparently this is an unusual way to facilitate large, important company meetings but nobody told me. Ah well, you live and learn.

To be honest, I only ran the first hour of the meeting in mime and it seemed to work okay. At least I enjoyed it ! Goodness knows what the rest of them thought though (actually, I have a pretty good idea judging by the reaction I get in the corridors now).

There are two reasons why I decided to have a go at running a meeting silently.

Firstly, because I hadn't done it before. I have run hundreds of meetings and I want to keep exploring new ways of working. I have run meetings in the traditional manner, in verse and song, wearing a woman's dress, but never in mime. So I got to do something new. And doing new things is a jolly good thing, even if you end up looking like a fool. In fact, trying something new, risking looking like a fool and seeing if it works or not is essential. It's called innovation and we don't do nearly enough of it. Us grown up business types hate looking like fools, in case people point and laugh. But I've grown up being pointed and laughed at my whole life (particularly my teen years, and NO, I DON'T HAVE BOW LEGS AND A LONG NECK), so I really don't care much now.

Secondly, I think you should shut up. You talk too much and too fast. So do I. But when you are running a meeting your job isn't really to talk at all. It is to get other people to talk and interact. It is to make sure everything runs on time. It is to keep the participants interested and engaged and make sure they listen to whoever is speaking (not you).

So, that made me wonder whether it was possible to run a meeting without speaking at all.

And that's exactly what I did.

Guess what. It works! Kind of. Give it a go. But don't blame me when you find yourself looking for another job.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Teenagers in Top Hats

I was standing behind my son the other day looking with slight annoyance at his Calvin Klein boxer shorts sticking out at the top of his trousers. The desire to lean forward, grab his trousers, yank them up and then wrestle him to the ground whilst I tuck his shirt in neatly, comb his hair and wash behind his ears was only tempered by the knowledge that the lad is now physically stronger than me and I would probably end up with my trouser halfway down and my own Marks and Spencer Y-Fronts on display!

It did get me wondering though. How is it that each generation of teenagers seems to find something that annoys their parents, even though their parents were convinced that they had seen it all?

I remember the look of disdain my father would give me as I prepared to go out partying in the Seventies. I had two main outfits. One was a whilte suit, purple silk shirt, white shoes, with a 5-inch afro and dark glasses. The other was a purple suit, white silk shirt, purple shoes, with a 5-inch afro and dark glasses. I looked awesome. The ladies couldn't keep their eyes off me (I believe). I looked cooooooool.

As a car full of boys, similarly dressed, pulled up and I strode out of my room, my father looked on with what I thought was admiration and envy, but with the benefit of hindsight I suspect may have been sadness and pity. I think to him it was rather like me emerging dressed as a clown, with huge comedy shoes and a big red nose. But, hey, what did he know!

Fast forward 30 years and my son emerges in jeans that are way too skinny, his underwear on full display, a Gola bag around his shoulder containing goodness knows what (all I know is that it clinks when he runs), juggling multiple phones. I look on and shake my head. Why can't he wear a decent, white three-piece suit with matching shoes? By the way, did I mention my white waistcoat? That made the outfit. Ladies would literally faint when they saw my waistcoat (I believe).

But this got me wondering what the next generation are going to do. What are my grandsons going to wear that will cause my pant-displaying son to shake his head with annoyance? Perhaps they will go out without trousers at all, simply wearing a t-shirt tucked into their underwear! But isn't that what the youth of today do at their summer festivals? I don't think that will shock them.

I think it will go the other way.

I expect that my grandsons will saunter out of the house to their parties in top hat and tails. Swishing canes and twiddling monocles. Boys from inner city estates will put on fake posh accents. I can see it now.

"Oi, Carl, where are you going at this time of night?" says tracksuit wearing Dad as he lies on the sofa, slurping special brew.

"Forsooth, Pater, I and my merry chums are off to the theatre. And please, would you be so kind as to call me Torquil? Anyway, must fly old chap, Tarquin and Samantha have just arrived in the carriage. Toodle-Pip"

Father shakes his head sadly. What is the world coming to? Can't he just put on a pair of skinny jeans, put his underwear on display and be done with it? Soooo annoying