● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
● Most posts are 300 words. I respond to all comments/re-comments.
● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Monday 24 April 2023

On saying Go, part two

For someone to be sacked there has to be sacker, usually some kind of manager. Although I called myself an editor I did “manage” the editorial staff, whatever that meant. Given my ego it’s not surprising I preferred the more journalistic title.

Tradition says the sacking manager will be paid more than the sackee. The justification being that managers carry more responsibility and are required to make harder decisions than those they manage.

In fact the decision to sack someone is usually quite easy to make. Bad behaviour and/or bad performance are readily identifiable. Where things get sticky is in the procedure. When, for instance, the sacker must gather information and write out reasons for the sacking in language intended for wider scrutiny. Stickier still when details – often entirely irrelevant to the main charge - emerge that seem to blur what now seems like a hard-hearted conclusion: in my case the (erroneous) belief that my secretary had not previously been given a good shake; in Avus’s case the sackee had children.

From my own experience and observations elsewhere, “hard decisions” are quite rare. A bit of a straw man. Such that when a perceived “hard decision” (usually not all that hard) crops up it is turned into a pointless meeting or shoved under the carpet. 

How about a cut in salary due to this faulty job description of a manager? Or, very rarely, rewarded by a bonus if the manager were able to prove – rigorously – he’d truly done something “hard”?

Saturday 22 April 2023

On saying Go

From 1975 until retirement in 1995 I edited three magazines – entirely responsible for editorial content. I also had powers of hire and fire. During those twenty years, I fired two journalists, put a third “on warning” which I later withdrew, and I also fired a secretary. Is this a poor, possibly brutal, record? 

The secretary, on probation, hadn’t proved satisfactory with a manager I didn’t hold in high regard. My immediate manager asked if I cared to take her on. I felt sorry for her, reckoned I could “tutor” her out of her shortcomings but I was wrong. She was agreeable, not even lazy, but quite incompetent. It was a losing battle. And we were a very small team. At a formal confrontation she was represented by her trade union; I provided carefully researched evidence after which my immediate manager did the tough stuff. But I was the one who felt she had to go.

By moving to other magazines I inherited the two “fired” journalists . One was a crook (breaking into my locked desk for confidential information), the other young, unqualified, irresponsible and wrongly appointed. In recommending their departure I discovered senior management had hoped I would do exactly this.

The “warned” journalist may have been older than me. Experienced, yes, if not in any demanding position, plausible, but psychologically unreliable. Given to flattering me quite cleverly. He interviewed an executive but couldn’t produce an article. Somehow this was resolved but the stain was there; a comparatively minor opening occurred and he left.

Firing journalists for “contractual” faults is comparatively easy. Firing them for “bad journalism” is more difficult. Reasons tend to be subjective and hard to explain. Later, happily, I chose better staff, worked with them and directed them to good positions. Proud of that.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

History for our ex-colonial cousins

Hastings, where the French scored an "away" victory. The
word Rex (top right) means king; it is not an incomplete
reference to the act of national suicide now known as Brexit.

Colette questions my pronunciation of "schedule", alluded to in a comment to Speeking Sorta Bettuh. Time for a little history lesson. And I mean real history, a long time ago. Pedantic observations about unimportant historical points I've misread (or wilfully rearranged) will be deleted

For a thousand years after the birth of Christ Britain was inhabited by Saxons, a primitive lot, given to painting themselves with blue dye known as woad and fighting among themselves. True there were kings but their kingdoms tended to be limited and their names didn't sound particularly English, or perhaps TOO English. Finally, along came Egbert (his dates being 827 – 839; only THREE figures you'll notice, for goodness sake! So really, really old.)  the first monarch to establish a stable and extensive rule over the whole country. 

Then came came the diphthong kings Aethelwulf, Aethelbert and Aethelred (known as The Unready for reasons you may well guess at). Then someone we all recognise, Alfred the Great, who dropped the diphthong and later burnt the cakes. Then Edward The Elder, then Athelstan, (Coincidentally, one of my daughters, I forget which, was educated at King Athelstan's School but by then the king was long gone.), then Edmund who reigned till 946, bringing us almost up to the Start of Real Civilisation on our primitive island. I should add the Romans came earlier than the diphthongs, did their best to introduce us to central heaing but, pigheadly, we knew better and continued to set fires on the floors of our mud huts

As to the USA during this period, I believe the area was inhabited by buffaloes and they, foreseeing the democracy that would arrive in 2016, didn't go in for kings.

Being an inward-looking, fatheadedly patriotic and badly educated group of hairy men (I'm sorry to say, women didn't really get a look-in) the Saxo-Brits naturally ignored what was going on in the landmass to the south. Which served them bloody well right. In 1066 the Normans (Who were actually the French, the ones we've sneered at for centuries while being secretly terrified enough to organise Brexit to escape them) did what Hitler never managed, sailed across the Channel, landed at Hastings, kicked our collective arses and - among other things - introduced the French language at least into south-east England.

The outfought Saxons retreated to the extremities of our Jewel Set in a Silver Sea (Quote: WS), there to develop a deep-set suspicion of foreigners which lasts until this very day. Meanwhile, the buffaloes, 2000 miles to the west, munched grass unperturbed.

Thus, if the word "schedule" does have French roots these must date back about a thousand years as far as the UK is concerned. Not that it mattered. Had it been otherwise, in 1966 I was a Brit surrounded by millions of Pirates fans. I 'd have found some other way to keep up my end.

Thursday 13 April 2023

Speeking sorta bettuh

Say it, over and over, then try B

Following my first cancer op a twenty-minute chat with easily the most lustrous speech therapist in the West Midlands convinced me I needed to know more about the spoken word.

I’ve written for a living but writing is – or should be – an organised craft. Speaking tends to be impromptu, of course, but a disastrous and unfortunately memorable jumble of phrases I uttered as a bridegroom taught me to depend on the agility of my typing fingers rather than the false glitter of my thoughts when addressing multitudes.

Speech should be distinct. With many people this is not the case. Some mumble, thinking they sound casual; more often they are incoherent. Others tell jokes, unaware that the build-up may be as important as the punchline. Others “er” and “um”, the sound of a mind thrashing in neutral.

As with singing so with speech, consonants are as important as vowels. Words should make use of all their letters, not fade into oblivion. Watching someone read sentences compiled to aid speech therapy it’s amazing the way the lips flutter quickly from one sound shape to another. Lips are powered by muscles, when those muscles weaken the speech is slurred.

Tongue twisters teach us that what our speaking apparatus wants to say may not be what’s written. Even short ones: “She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore.” Note how we are tempted to insert an “h” into “sells”. Sure, you can work out why, but tell that to that free spirit your tongue.

Some therapies require us to junk our instincts. Out in the hurly-burly January becomes “Jan-yew-ry”; under the therapist’s watchful eyes and ears it takes all four syllables “Jan-u-a-ry”. That might seempedantic but certain words profit from this form of aural resurrection: for instance, where does the  “h” go in “vehemently”?

Thursday 6 April 2023

Looking forward not backward

Happier, fitter days. Probably on the "wrong"
(ie, the Italian) side of the Matterhorn while
staying in Cervinia. From the left: Grandson
Ian, RR, granddaughter Bella.

I am 87, very old. My movements round the house reflect my age. But my thoughts and opinions, plus the way I express them, are less affected. I am still capable of discovering things which please me. As I did yesterday.

Read an essay by Christopher Hitchens, left-wing atheist, journalist and thinker, discussing Evelyn Waugh, one of Britain’s greatest novelists, though a pig of a man. Two writers I know well. The essay shone light on both and widened my education. I felt enlivened.

Extreme old age tempts many to look backwards, almost permanently. But the past is fixed and its truths are known. Whereas time that’s just around the corner may contain revelations which add to our experience. Fitting in with things we already know, widening our knowledge, giving us a clearer view. The essay did just that.

I think I’ve lived a varied life; one might say journalism – my former trade – forced variety on me. I asked questions seeking answers then formed these answers into articles that were new to me. Curiosity was my stock in trade and still is, albeit less widely practised.

So what is life if we do not believe in an after-life? Physical activity may be beyond us but to disregard the future’s possibilities seems like a negation of living. A wilful rejection of our capacity to learn.

Having said that I’m about to undermine the basic premise of the above. No worries, there are always exceptions. Before starting this post I checked my inbox and found the above photo, a twenty-five-year-old moment in time. History, you might say, hence looking back. It’s a weak defence but the photo is new to me, never saw it before. But it is resurrective.