Friday, December 31, 2010

All water under the bridge?

New Year's Eve.

I had thought about taking a rest from blogging.

But reading the New Year's Honours List I was amazed and disgusted to see that Roger Carr has got a knighthood.

This is the man who (more than anyone, although others are also guilty) let Kraft take over Cadbury.

Just to remind you, Cadbury was an integrated British manufacturing company. Now its production facilities are being moved off-shore and its headquarters are being moved to Switzerland. This is a shameless example of asset-stripping.

Does Roger Carr think this is all water under the bridge? Does he think it can all be brushed to one side? Does he laughingly think there isn't going to be any come-back for what he has done?

Tony Macalister wrote a good article on the Carr knighthood, but is it not possible for him to use the freedon of information act to ask: who proposed Roger Carr for a knighthood; what were the reasons put forward to justify this knighthood; who agreed that he should receive this honour?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Article by Tony Halpin in The Times

Interesting article by Tony Halpin in The Times today about the "gulag" penal colony of Krasnokamensk in Siberia. Only eight paragraphs, but Tony Halpin effectively conjures up the Solzhenitsyn atmosphere of the place. Astonishing that the prison camp was constructed as recently as the 1960s.

It takes nineteen hours to get there from Moscow.

A search for Krasnokamensk on Flickr produces this grim institutional picture ominously called "The Place". No idea if this is the gulag but it looks the part. It was taken by a brilliant photographer with the kafkaesque name of Michael Z.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whistle And I'll Come To You on BBC2

Above: editorial in today's Guardian praising author M.R. James.

On Christmas Eve after attending the carol concert at the local minster, and before attending midnight Holy Communion at the parish church, I watched Whistle And I'll Come To You on BBC2. Although it worked as a drama and was worth watching I could not understand why the BBC chose to remake a James story that had previously been dramatised (the 1968 Hordern version is superb). As M.R. James wrote approximately forty ghost stories, why do they not dramatise something new?

Above: or perhaps consider one of Conan Doyle's excellent stories?

Above: or maybe dramatise the ironic radio play produced a couple of years ago about the BBC's relationship with the works of M.R. James?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life With A Star by Jiri Weil

Looking at the twenty-nine books I have read during 2010, I think the one that has had most impact upon me is Life With A Star by Jiri Weil.

It shows in a step by step progression the way in which governments and authorities can make life unbearable for people who do not conform.

It also demonstrates why politics is too important to leave to politicians.

We (the ordinary people) have the right to say No, and we need to protect that right, especially in the face of "terror" legislation, unaccountable directives from the unelected European Commission, undemocratic decisions taken by civil servants etc.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ellie Goulding - Your Song

Out of all the music videos that I have watched during 2010, the most impressive for me has been Ben Coughlan and Max Knight's video of Ellie Goulding's Your Song.

The song itself deserve's praise. Ellie Goulding came from nowhere in 2010 and covered a legendary song by one of the United Kingdom's most famous artists. With only a piano accompaniment and her unique voice she took the song to No 2 (or No 1 depending on what measure you look at).

The video is deceptively simple. Ostensibly it shows Ellie Goulding returning by train to her home in Herefordshire. We see her wearing warm clothes, playing with kittens, walking in the Hereford countryside.

It is a distillation of innocence, purity and idealism - a representation of the soul of middle-England (as it sees itself).

No wonder John Lewis snapped it up for its Christmas ad campaign.

You can see the video here:

The John Lewis ad:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mystic Nativity

All over the county churches are preparing for the Christmas services. This remote church has a gigantic three-dimensional representation of the Mystic Nativity by Botticelli hanging over the nave. Notice the overhead heater on the right - even with the heaters full on it was freezing cold.

Although a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, the painting has been in London for two hundred years, and has become part of English culture - as an intellectual icon and the subject of BBC2 documentaries; as a devotional icon (still, even after all this time); as an icon of kitsch being reproduced on hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of middle-class middle-income middle-England Christmas cards.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I am giving this book away


Out of the blue the Royal Mint has sent me this book.

I suppose they think I am a "heavy user" of their gold coins and worth marketing to.

Anyway, I have far too many books already and need to stop adding to my reading pile (at the rate of one book per two weeks it will take me twenty-two years to get through the ones I have already waiting to be read).

Therefore I am giving this book away to the first person to e-mail me with their name and address to

The book is in perfect condition, is well-illustrated (although I find the cover off-putting as I really don't like the new coinage designs) and has a cover price of £19.99.

Highbury 3 - popular culture

Above: the film Four Weddings and a Funeral ends with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell embracing on a rainswept Highbury street.

Above: when I was in Highbury recently I walked across to the west side of Highbury fields and immediately recognised the spot where the scene was filmed.

Like most London suburbs and districts, Highbury has significant links with popular culture.

Arsenal Football Club was for many years located in Highbury (it has now moved to Holloway). During the time it was based at Highbury stadium it was the venue for a considerable number of significant football occasions. Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams is widely considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time, and is listed in the Football League 100 Legends.

Highbury is mentioned in Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Betjeman's Summoned by Bells, and TS Eliot's The Waste Land.

Notable residents include television presenter Clive Anderson; historian Neal Ascherson; historian David Starkey; BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson; comedian and writer Simon Amstell; and writer Ian Jack.

Comic character Mr Bean has his fictional home in Highbury; and "celebrity" Dermot O'Leary is also reputed to live in the area.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Highbury 2 - the Quadrant Estate

The sun was setting and the light beginning to fade by the time I reached the Quadrant Estate, but there was just time to look around before it became dark. The time was about four-thirty in the afternoon and the estate was absolutely quiet. I hardly saw anyone the entire time I was there.

Above: opened in 1954, the estate comprises a mixture of about forty low-rise blocks plus some terraced housing. About six hundred households in all. The area pioneered low-rise post-war blocks of flats.

The design was by the architectural department of the old London County Council.

Above: at the centre of the park-like estate is the Birchmore community hall (hardly any thought seems to have gone into the external appearance of this building which is a utilitarian brick shed). The hall was the venue for the first screening of local history film Views From A Pear Tree in which residents talk about the history of the estate and why it is a pleasant place to live. About a hundred of the original 1954 residents still live on the Quadrant Estate.

You can see part of the film:

Above: the film Views From A Pear Tree puts forward several thories as to why the Quadrant Estate has been so successful, including a tendentious claim of "progressiveness". Far more convincing must be the landscaping policies (there are a thousand trees on the estate, giving the area a soft and beautiful aspect even on a cold gloomy December afternoon). Also significant is the statement that a hundred of the original residents still live there fifty years after moving in. Do people stay because it is a pleasant place to live, or is it a pleasant place to live because people stay? If you look at most problem communities, one of the common underlying themes is lack of a stable population. Modern society is obsessed with "mobility" but an endlessly transient population is not the way to build happy satisfied communities.

Above: obviously life on the estate is not perfect. Drug-related anti-social behaviour is a concern, and the police are monitoring several "crack houses" in the flats. The police also use informers, which is not a good sign of a happy community.

Above: 1959 statue entitled Neighbours by the Second World War refugee artist Siegfried Charoux. The work seems to be a socialist-realist monument to the white working class. Recently restored and Grade II listed.

Declaring war

I am working at home because of the bad weather.

On BBC News 24 I am following reports of Business Secretary Vince Cable declaring war on Rupert Murdoch's evil empire.

This is wonderful news. How is it possible for Vince Cable to be embarrassed by this revelation? He should be proud of taking this stand.

There is now an opportunity for the government to demonstrate they are independent of Murdoch by publicly backing the Business Secretary (and privately forcing News Corporation out of London, using all the tricks governments have at their disposal).

News Corporation is an organisation antithetical to democracy.

It was inevitable that this moment would come.

Why hasn't Ed Miliband made a statement supporting the Business Secretary?

But no Newsnight tonight to give more analysis.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Highbury 1 - Aberdeen Park Estate

Aberdeen Park in Highbury is a small estate off Highbury Park Road. There is only one road into the estate, and this restricted access has created a civilised ambiance that is much admired by town planners. Aberdeen Park is important to architectural historians because of the great variety of architecture that can be seen within a small area - here you can see the evolution of the London suburb in a walk of about twenty minutes.

Above: the entrance to Aberdeen Park is marked on Highbury Park Road by these Victorian gates. Although the gates are never now closed, they are important symbols of "defensible space" helping to shape the psychological behaviour of visitors and residents. Aberdeen Park was laid out in the 1850s and named after a long-forgotten Prime Minister.

Above: the approach road is lined by a variety of Victorian and Edwardian houses. Note the sylvan nature of the estate - as well as garden trees there are ninety trees lining the approach road and the circle. The estate has been a Conservation Area since 1990.

Above: the southern outer circle shows the kind of substantial villas that were first put up on the estate in the 1850s. Note the Osbourne-type Italianate tower. Several of these four-story buildings have been converted into flats.

Above: the Highbury Centre is now a Christian hotel. Formerly it was used to accomodate British missionaries returning to London from their overseas posts. This restrained facade shows how beautiful mid-Victorian architecture can be.

Above: Aberdeen Court, also on the outer circle, is a block of flats put up in the 1920s. Note the variegated use of balconies and Dutch gables. This expensive use of building materials has repaid itself many times over in creating desireable residences that are pleasant to live in, and easy to sell when necessary.

Above: the four blocks that comprise the Newcome flats in the inner circle were put up in the 1950s. They were opened by the actresss Joyce Grenfell. Note again the subtle use of defensible space - discreet railings, a central green space overlooked by balconies, clearly delineated approach paths.

Above: along the outer ring are these Victorian semi-detached houses, some of the earliest examples in London. They represent a significant development in suburban residential architecture, taking an average nineteeth-century detached villa model and adapting it to provide maximum privacy and garden amenity at a realistic cost. From innovations of this kind flowed the future development of inter-war London suburbia.

Above: the Edwardian proto-semis were further refined into these 1920s semis on the southern inner circle. I think these represent some of the most perfect family homes you will find anywhere. Everything about this design is on a human scale - these are genuine homes, not machines for living in.

Above: the "semi" design reached its apogee in the 1930s, as can been seen in these examples on the eastern inner circle. Scorned by modern architects, houses of this kind still represent the first choice of most Londoners. Perhaps the Big Society will allow local people to at last control what buildings go up in their area.

Above: St Saviour's church is the greatest building in Aberdeen Park, and is grade 1 listed. The polychrome exterior has been compared to Keble College in Oxford. The interior (which I have not seen) comprises colourful encaustic tiles, patterned brickwork, stained glass, wrought iron, religious mosaics and a High Anglican arrangement influenced by the Oxford Movement.

John Betjeman worshipped here as a child and the building obviously influenced his later aesthetic sense.

No longer used as a church unfortunately.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Military clues are scattered throughout the tableau

Official warnings to keep off the roads because of the severe weather conditions, but so ingrained is my habit of going out on Sunday afternoons that I decided to risk it and drove thirty miles to one of the central villages.

The church was founded in the 7th century by the Mercian king Wulphere. A few Saxon fragments remain, but the building is mostly 13th century. Some idiots have painted the entire interior (walls, box pews, even the pillars) in a modern white emulsion paint that makes the place look hideous - how can this happen in a Grade 1 building?

Above: my main interest was this brass plaque in an ashlar surround. It shows a 16th century family kneeling in a paved chamber before a plinth piled with bones. The skull and crossbones is a symbol of mortality, but also of military death or glory and membership of various secret fraternities prevalent in the county.

Military clues are scattered throughout the tableau, including the detailed armour of the eldest son, the two heraldic devices (they require more interpretation) and the significant mention in the text that the father is "armig" but not actually a knight (although the arms have helmet crests). Both parents and the eldest son are kneeling on cushions, the all the rest are kneeling on the stone floor. Note the chrysom child lying on the ground on the right (a child that died in infancy so that its christening gown was used as its shroud).

In a cultural context the eldest son's armour, and the prominence of the two coats of arms are significant. Armour obviously had a practical protective purpose, but I am intrigued by the theory that it was also used to portray the male body as acquiring a superhuman aspect. Considerable social rules surrounded medieval heraldry - who can have arms, how they assume them, and why.

Above: high up on the wall immediately over the brass plaque was this 16th century helmet. It is tempting to connect the helmet with the family in the brass engraving, but there is no evidence for this. You can see part of the gleaming emusion-covered wall.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's all a game really - the past week at work


Meetings in the morning, including a meeting with Tom D, my immediate boss just back from holiday.

"I've had good reports about you from other managers" he told me.

More meetings in the afternoon, including a collaborative meeting with two government departments over a joint Directory we want to produce - they were not very positive about the idea.

Still working on the marketing plan.


We have decided to go ahead with the Directory unilaterally. It is an example of the "white" publicity we do (we also do "black" publicity, but I cannot write about that). I have given the project to the Research team, and it is good to see them excited and enthusiastic for a change.

Giving them this project has probably saved them from redundancy.

At lunchtime I walked to the lakeside cafe, compacted snow underfoot. The wide shallow lake was frozen. A smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and an almond pastry, with a cup of coffee.

In the afternoon a long meeting with Paul Preston (manages the Innovative Development team) about his section of the Marketing Plan. He agreed with all my proposals, but not without an excessive amount of talking. I am unsure whether Paul Preston is a sincere person or not.

At the end of the working day a talk with Felix S (wooden, haltering, very old for 45) about evaluation measures for the marketing team. He is in charge of evaluation for every section of the NGO. He told me (privately) that evaluation means whatever you want it to mean - I interpreted this as a friendly hint that he would support my work.


Another day spent attending an "informal" meeting of the NGO's "stakeholders". I am the only person from the NGO to attend these meetings, which are not minuted. When I return to the office I have to give a verbal report to Tom D and to the NGO's CEO Alec Pressberg.

Anyway, a long drive into the Midlands to the impersonal luxury of a big hotel. In one of the meeting rooms (silent, plush, beige-coloured) the Steering Committee gave their various reports. Despite the prohibition against taking minutes I had to make notes otherwise I would not have remembered everything.

I caused a stir when I announced that the NGO was going ahead with the Directory project, funding it directly ourselves.

After the meeting lunch was served in the wide corridor outside. Looking to the right I could see the remains of other lunches, presumably left by other meetings taking place in the hotel. Not for the first time I felt how insubstantial everything was, and also how bland (bland people, bland hotel, bland food etc).


Every few weeks Tom D holds a review meeting of all the departments under his control (Marketing, the Research team, and Statistics & Evaluation). I met several of the Research team for the first time, as normally they work from home. Half-way through the meeting Carmel (Special Projects launch) called me out to reveal that the celebrity booked for her launch had just cancelled.

In the afternoon I went to an awards ceremony held at a university college. The Baroness giving the awards launched into an attack on the government. The food was very good.

In the afternoon a meeting with Ryan M who manages the Operational Team (aged about 30, hyper-active, swears a lot). He has been one of the most difficult people for me to liaise with, but I cannot ignore him as his department is so important. I had prepared a draft of his section of the Marketing Plan and attempted to talk it through with him. He was petulant and unco-operative, and dismissed my proposals without suggesting any alternatives. Normally I would walk away from such an unpromising situation, but I do not have any other choice but to try to get Ryan M to contribute to the Marketing Plan. So I sat there for an hour being pleasant and polite and trying to get agreement.

Later, when I was walking behind one of the partitions in the Reception area, I heard Ryan M loudly denouncing the Marketing Plan to Alan Pressberg.

At 5 o'clock, just as I was preparing to go home, Yasmin S (HR manager) flopped into the desk opposite me and told me how she hated making herself unpopular with her subordinates. This confession from such a strong young woman surprised me. I told her it was not possible to be friends with people you have to manage.


The offices were strangely quiet when I arrived this morning, many people taking the day off because of the bad weather warnings (there is also a tradition of civil service laziness, which the NGO has adopted, that means very little gets done on a Friday).

News that the Special Projects launch has been suspended because of funding difficulties (Carmel was cynical about this: "It's all a game really, no-one here takes work seriously").

To my amazement all the sections of the Marketing Plan have been signed off by department managers, including Ryan M. I discussed the Plan with Tom D ("they have either accepted the Plan because they havn't read it, because they havn't understood it, or because they are going to launch a counter-attack at the Board Weekend"). Finally finishing this Plan is a great relief for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A room full of bankers in New Bond Street

Above: as we left we were given goody-bags.

Last Thursday, while students rioted in central London smashing shop windows and attacking cars, I was in a room full of bankers in New Bond Street. I used to get asked to these events all the time as I have a few "financial" clients I do freelance work for. Then the financial crisis began and all the invitations dried up.

So I suppose it is an indication of economic buoyancy that the entertaining has begun again.

This was a reasonably lavish event, held in an upstairs room in offices along New Bond Street. All the time I was there I was ushered, attended and "minded" by what could be described as British salarymen - polite, solicitous, but all the time selling the company to me. I wasn't left alone for a second.

The room was a large double cube, completely filled with about a hundred guests - mostly men but with a few women, almost everyone dressed in dark suits. At one end was a startlingly beautiful string trio of blonde young women playing snippets of classical music. At the other end was a table serving Taittinger champagne (not that you needed to go near the bar, glasses were continually replenished by waiters moving among the guests).

Through the guests moved waitresses with platters of canapés - honey-glazed sausages, vol-au-vents, Thai chicken with a peanut sauce.

I was introduced to various people and listened to their incomprehensible conversation: "the Russian money used to come through Iceland..." "inshore, offshore, that then becomes inshore again..." "he is one of the Collins Stewarts..."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Double-headed eagles are rare

The thaw of recent days has continued, and most of the ice and snow has gone. Going out after lunch the air felt mild although the temperature was only slightly above freezing. Drive of about thirty-five miles to the south west of the county.

The village is in a small valley prone to flooding. A shallow river winds around the parish and provides the boundary for several of the farms. The community has preserved several acres of ancient limestone grassland which in warmer weather is notable for wild flowers (pyramidal orchid, clustered bellflower, autumn gentian) and rare butterflies (chequered skipper, pearl-bordered and silver-washed fritillaries, green hairstreak).

I have tried the church door several times, but previously it had always been locked. I have read about the history of the area, and nothing remarkable has been said about the building. Therefore I was unprepared, when entering it today, for the surprises inside.

Above: below the tower parapet are these strange heads. You may need to click on the image to enlarge it. What do these heads signify, and why are there six of them?

Above: There is an outer door to the south porch and then an immense inner door. The handle of the inner door is medieval and incorporates a design of two lizards (or dragons?) and what seems to be a runic inscription. Is this meant to be a reference to a grendel-type monster?

Above: why two pulpits of such solid and ornate appearance?

Above: life-size recumbent effigies of a thirteenth-century lord and his wife. They look as if they are in bed. The arms on the shield were difficult to decipher.

Above: recumbent effigy of a fourteenth-century knight. Chain-mail armour. Angels by his head.

Above: most fantastic treasure, and completely unexpected, was this medieval altar frontal in crimson silk. It was underneath a roll blind and behind glass. The gold embroidery shows the Assumption of the Virgin surrounded by angels and double-headed eagles.

Above: double-headed eagles are rare in English heraldry so that I wondered whether the material for the frontal could have been given by Anne of Bohemia (wife of Richard II). The dates are roughly right, and Anne of Bohemia's arms include double-headed eagles. Also there was a castle seven miles away that would have been on the royal circuit and where she almost certainly stayed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

They only used one line - the past week at work


Over the weekend I had worked on the Marketing Plan for the NGO. This despite my resolution never to take work home. I have to be careful over the details of the Plan as it will be presented by my boss, Director Tom D, at the Executive Board Weekend.

When I got to the office I was surprised to see my deputy Meryl P at her desk. I had thought she was on holiday this week. She was still not doing any work (and did no real work of any kind all day) but talked at length about the UNISON Women's Conference in February.

Tom D away all week, which was a relief, since I knew nothing would be added to my workload.

I had been booked to go on a two-day training course in London, but unilaterally I decided to cancel it ("this is my first act of defiance" I said to Carmel, Special Projects manager).

In the afternoon I was asked at short notice to give a talk on marketing to a gathering upstairs of twenty consultants.


A lot of the NGO's work involves liaising with public sector organisations - often difficult people to work with.

Meryl P spent the whole day on trade union work - I just let her get on with it.

A meeting with colleague Felix S who is so long-winded that a huge amount of time was spent discussing a very small aspect of his research findings.

A lot of the day spent preparing for the Special Projects launch.


Hectic day. A rep arrived from a specialist telemarketing company we are going to use to ensure a good audience for the Special Projects launch. A lot of the morning spent with the Special Projects team going over the script that will be used by the telemarketers (because of the confidential nature of Special Projects there is a very limited amount of information we can give away).

Then a meeting about a directory the NGO is to produce.

Then a meeting with two idiots from the Health & Safety Executive (nothing to do with marketing but I think I was delegated to meet them because no-one else wanted to).

The HSE meeting was interrupted by an agitated Carmel, her desiccated face contorted with angst. The printed invitations for the Special Projects launch had been delivered with half of the NGO's logo missing. I had to break off the meeting and complain to the printing company, insisting on a reprint free of charge.

At the end of the day I gave a short radio interview. I talked for about fifteen minutes and when I listened to the broadcast later they only used one line of it. Normally Tom D would do these interviews.


The reprinted Special Projects invitations were on my desk when I arrived this morning.

Another meeting about the Special Projects launch. I made sure Meryl P attended the meeting and was given tasks to carry out. If she fails to do this work it will be very serious (not least because Carmel will be involved, and she is someone who shouts her head off to get her own way).

Lunch with Felix in the George III pub (low beams and an open fire). He talked mostly about office politics. He told me he mistrusts the private sector.

I left early to go into London.


Most of the day with Carmel looking at potential venues for the Special Projects launch. Nothing seemed to be suitable. Aged about 55 Carmel is thin, loud and extrovert. Heavily lined face with fake tan and bright red lipstick. Her hair dyed a deep red colour. We visited six venues and she turned them all down (luckily because of the "confidential" nature of the launch we didn't need to print the venue on the invitations).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Above: The Smiths, in the person of Johnny Marr, has told David Cameron he is "forbidden" to like their music.

This was reported on the Guardian website in an article by Jo Adetunji:

You might argue that David Cameron is big enough and powerful enough to be able to defend himself, but hearing this news made me uneasy. If Johnny Marr is going to ban Conservatives from liking his music what other groups might he ban? Scientologists are an unpopular group - is it OK for The Smiths to ban them? An interview by John Harris in the Guardian hinted that The Smiths were not keen on black people or Chinese people so are these groups going to be "banned"? What does Johnny Marr's ban consist of anyway? Banned from attending The Smiths concerts? Banned from buying The Smiths music? Banned from standing outside Salford Lads Club? Banned from walking in the streets after 8pm? Banned from owning property? Banned from working in the professions? Banned from parks, restaurants and swimming pools? Banned from owning electrical/optical equipment, bicycles, typewriters or records? Banned from cinema, theatre, concerts, exhibitions, beaches and holiday resorts? Banned from owning dogs, cats and birds?

Where does this sort of thing end? (this is a rhetorical question, we already know where it ends).

Anyway, the voting patterns among young people during the 1980s were such that a good proportion (30% to 40%) of The Smiths music sales must have been to Conservative voters - is Johnny Marr proposing to give this money back?

Above: the news was also reported on the Daily Mirror website.

One of the most depressing aspects of the post-election period has been the lazy way in which the left has jumped into strident opposition mode. Opposition for opposition's sake and the noisier the better. Ed Miliband is trying to say interesting things and develop new ideas but no-one is listening to him.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Jeremy Hunt on the Today programme

Interesting interview with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Today programme this morning.

Discussing the national provision of minimum bandwidth, it seemed as if the government sees the internet eventually replacing television and radio as the primary way in which people access programmes.

It's obvious once you think about it.

It would also be a very subtle way of dealing with Rupert Murdoch's extortionate Sky subscription packages as presumably you would just pay programme by programme (the BBC programmes remaining free of course).

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lead plaques

Above: although there is still a lot of snow on the ground there was some bright sunshine today - flooding in through the south windows of this church in streams of golden light.

Above: at the back, on the north wall of the tower, were lead plaques with drawings of sailing ships.

Above: No indication of who created these plaques or what thy meant. On the whole I liked the sense of mystery. They were obviously antique, and examples of folk art.

Jung writes about "the power of myth and the collective unconscious, a reservoir of age-old images buried deep in the mind which are tapped in moments of genius". Apparently we all inherit these archetypal memories and they come to the forefront of the mind during the creative process. All great creativity draws upon this reserve, and all great art features some variation of these archetypal narratives.

Anyway, looking at these plaques made me think of Donovan singing Atlantis.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Experiencing delayed shock - the past week at work

Above: I borrowed this book from HR manager Yasmin S, but it doesn't tell you anything you don't already know.


As soon as I arrived I was called into a meeting with Tom D, my immediate boss. After a few perfunctory enquiries about my weekend he started off-loading work onto me. He also introduced me to two 16-year-old schoolgirls who are work-shadowing various people in the NGO.

Having been allocated the two girls for most of the morning, I let them sit in on a meeting with one of the ad agencies we use. Then into a meeting with a telemarketing company that we will use to get attendees for the Special Projects launch (all the targets have to be CEOs). Carmel, who is the Special Projects manager, couldn't attend the meeting so we were joined by her assistant Elaine (faded, fortyish, has the look of a troublemaker).

In the afternoon Tom D was asking where Meryl P was (she reports to me). After searching the building I found her up in the tearoom, talking to Leo (also in my department). Apparently she has been disappearing in this way most afternoons.

Later I rearranged the desks, moving Meryl so that she now sits directly facing me - previously she had been round a corner and out of sight. There was no direct opposition from Meryl, although she was obviously not happy about the move. When I told Tom D what I had done he was astounded that she had been so compliant.


The middle parts of the week are always the worst in terms of tiredness and fatigue.

Horrible weather today, including some freezing fog. About half-way on the journey to work there is a point where the road goes over a ridge and down into a shallow valley. The fog in this valley became very dense, and I could only see a short distance ahead.

I had to break sharply because of a queue of cars in the road, stopped by an accident (I could see the blue police lights flashing in the distance). As I joined the end of the queue and stopped my car I looked into the rearview mirror and saw a red car speeding towards me and making no attempt to slow down. A few seconds later the red car hit with an immense smashing sound, shunting my car forward to hit the vehicle in front.

From the red car an overweight woman in very casual clothes got out, wailing and apologising. It was impossible to talk to her as she picked up a toddler and ran off down the road to get the police. The woman from the car in front got out and we talked by the side of the road - she seemed even calmer than I was about the incident.

None of the three cars seemed damaged, despite the force of the impact. We slowed down the traffic that still came down the ridge, driving far too fast. Eventually the woman from the red car returned, accompanied by the police, and at the same time the woman's husband appeared, running out of the fog like a parody of Wuthering Heights.

I was glad the police were there as the man became very agitated, shouting at each of us (including his wife) about the accident. Eventually the police told him that if he didn't calm down "...only this car will be charged with driving without due care and attention" (they indicated the red vehicle). We all exchanged insurance details.

I arrived in the office very late and described the accident. I said my car didn't seem damaged, but one of the research team was insistent that I should get it checked. So at lunchtime I drove into the town and was told, by a diffident mechanic, that there was £900 worth of damage underneath my car.

I didn't do much the rest of the day. I suppose I was experiencing delayed shock. I drove home very carefully.


I spent the day attending a regional meeting of "stake-holders" associated with the NGO. This meant driving to a Midlands city. Normally I would have gone by train, but the bad weather has made the services unreliable.

The journey went well until I got to the city and took a wrong turning. Eventually I found my way to the big impersonal hotel where the meeting was being held. They had already started when I arrived but instead of hurrying into the meeting room I paused and had some coffee in the broad deserted corridor outside (the side tables strewn with used cups, the urns mostly emptied, giving the place a Marie Celeste feel).

Into the meeting and I didn't understand a word they were talking about.

"This new process should really speed-up efficiency" said one.

"You mean we'll reach the cock-up stage more quickly" said another.

Lunch was sandwiches and more coffee, served in the corridor outside. I did some networking and picked up a few ideas. Everyone told me how "political" life in the NGO was.

I went home after the meeting and worked on developing the NGO's marketing plan.


Meryl was more subdued today, although still not doing any work.

A meeting with Leo and Elaine over the Special Projects launch - we seemed to make good progress.

A graphic designer from an ad agency we use arrived with some visuals - his jeans were so torn they looked shredded, and I could see out CEO Alec Pressberg frowning as I took the designer through to a meeting room.


Most of the morning I spent working on the marketing plan.

At 11.30 Tom D appeared at my desk looking restless and troubled. He was going away that evening, but had left his travel documents on his kitchen table. He couldn't go and get them as he was about to go into an important meeting.

Taking his housekeys I drove to his house (a journey that took me over an hour). Entering the house it seemed absolutely still. Going through to the kitchen I saw the travel documents immediately and picked them up. A tabby cat was curled up next to the stove, loud purr as I stroked it.

Although I am normally curious, for some reason I had no interest in looking around the house, and was actually relieved to get out of the place. Horrible journey back to the office. Small signs that the ice and snow may be receding.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Copella apple juice

Two or three times a week I drink a bottle of Copella apple juice.

The image of the company is perfect

So it was a shame to discover it is owned by evil giant Pepsico.

They are obviously ashamed of this fact as there is no mention of Pepsico on the About Us page and the company history "ends" in 1996.

Much as I like Copella apple juice, I feel that a company which deceives its customers MUST be punished.

Time to look for another fruit juice brand.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Architecture influences behaviour

Above: on the Russell Davis site is this short digital film of Canary Wharf one snowy lunchtime. The film is very atmospheric, and the use of the chiming music adds an Einsenstein touch. Watching this film made me think about the impersonal nature of the Canary Wharf architecture.

Above: Gillian Tett has written about the anthropological significance of the Docklands development. We know that architecture influences behaviour more than is generally realised. Is there something about the quasi-fascist buildings on Canary Wharf that has made the bankers who work there think they are Nietzschean supermen?