Wednesday, 13 May 2009


On the occasion of our finance director's birthday, I thought an ode might be in order. 
She will hate me for it. 


You've always been thrifty,
Straightforward, not shifty.
Is that why you're nifty
At forty two?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Lost Art of Communication

Good grief. The things some people do at the weekends. The bank holiday saw me breaking in a new pair of boots on Arenig Fawr, North Wales.

All was well until the top of this gorgeous mountain, where we found the wilderness besmirched by a twenty-foot portable radio aerial and the summit cairn occupied by a dominatrix of uncertain age barking an incessant babble of code into a handset.

Utterly preoccupied by her own self-importance, this harridan of the airwaves completely ignored every walker who arrived at the peak, leaving at least half a dozen of us irritated and in the dark about why this remote and tranquil spot had been so ruinously commandeered.

No eye contact was made, no smile exchanged. None of the mutual acknowledgement that is traditional among genuine hillwalkers. Now and again, a non-gibberish sentence:  "Any stations out there wishing to make contact?"  Well, ‘hello’ would have been nice!

We moved along to a quieter peak to contemplate the deeper meaning of this encounter, which was so symptomatic of communication today.  

When the medium becomes the message, it is just irritating blather. You can twitter and text (yes, and blog) all you like, but don’t let it take over from actually talking to people around you, noticing their interest and responding in a human, normal, sociable way. Please!

Back at my desk I am writing a sustainability report for one of our clients. Here are engineers engaging with students, listening and learning, being good neighbours. It gives you hope. In our language, communication and community have the same root. These are the contacts that count, in business as well as in life.

Further research reveals alarmingly that there is an international society dedicated to broadcasting from mountains.  SOTA – Summits on the Air – even offers an award for ‘mountain activators’.  It’s called (you have to smile) the Mountain Goat award.

I know who would get my vote.


Thursday, 30 April 2009


No it’s not just a distress call, but hopefully I got your attention! Happy May Day folks. It’s a shout for the workers and a time to get your bells out and dance around the May pole!

The earliest May Day celebrations were actually about the festival of Flora, the roman goddess of flowers which may explain in a rather loose way the jump to fertility, may poles and men in ribbons and bells but possibly not the labour movement or the distress call! Internationally workers are celebrating the social and economic achievements of the labour movement, which may not be that clear in the economic gloom! But in its simplest form, May Day promotes 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep! Now we might not all enjoy that but it’s great to know the thought is there (personally I would love the sleep part!).

I often think how odd how things evolve and change in meaning; the ‘chinese whisper’ effect combined with the power of word of mouth and the subjectivity of opinion. There are lots of examples such as May Day, words with double meanings or that once meant one thing and then moved on to mean something else. A tale someone tells another, develops and grows in to something different – the power of communication in whatever form is one to be admired.

In our line of work it is something we harness to create a story to engage the customer, inspiring them to buy, refer or develop their loyalty – essential in today’s climate. This is something we all need to be clever about. We have to make sure our whisper is louder than someone else’s, that our messages mean the right thing to the right person. Those who succeed at this will be the businesses that emerge from the end of the tunnel.

For now whether you are the kind of person who sashays around a pole, bells jangling and hankies waving or you prefer other more conventional pursuits, enjoy a wonderful May Bank Holiday. Comments and pictures are most welcome, whatever you get up to!

Account Director

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Down under

Sheep are certainly on our plate at the moment. Recently we've been trying to persuade engineering graduates from the southern hemisphere to hike north and put their knowledge to good use on the M25 and in the London area. Fortunately we had a very helpful sheep who spent 2 days tramping around the Norfolk countryside without so much as a bleet word. An interesting one this as I found my model (who incidently can dance to 70's hits) in a rural show in my back garden. Sometimes it's where you find the most unlikely opportunities.

Thanks Dean, Carl, Richard, Helen, Clare and Tim!

LD x

Monday, 20 April 2009

Stop bleating and get on your feet

Morning all. Frost crunches underfoot and a chilly morning mist clings to the ground. It is barely light, as your intrepid correspondent trudges up a steep dark field. Grey sheep in a grey fog against grey rocks. Like TV pre-1960.  

Eventually I spot my target, a canny old ewe with two eggy lambs snuggled close. Aaaaah. But you try getting the soggy wee buggers down to the shed, where they belong. 

Patience is not a virtue with which I am over-endowed, especially before 6 a.m. I stamp my wellies and wave my arms, and eventually the matriarch saunters a few steps in the right direction. One lamb follows, but the other doesn't move. 

She says 'baa'. He says 'maa'. I say 'shift, lamb' and nudge him with my boot. I really don't want to have to carry this cold, slimy, custard-coated little bundle of joy. Luckily, sheep are also short of patience at dawn.  This ewe knows that hay and cake are waiting in the warm shed. She strops forward, horns down, and gives her tender infant a cracking wallop to the midriff. Pathetic lamb is galvanised into action, springs to his feet and capers down the hill like a good 'un.

Over bacon and eggs before the day job, I was musing. Sometimes, a nudge is not enough. When the climate is damp and miserable, you've got to increase the kick in kick-start. Put some welly into your communications. Stop bleating about how tough it all is, and get back on your feet.

And never get between a woman and her breakfast. 


Monday, 6 April 2009

Health & Safety from the bottom up

Deep joy. Who could have imagined that bottom scraping would be so much fun? The summer sailing season is almost upon us, and preparations for the re-launch of the good ship Odyssey have reached fever pitch. It's a case of all hands under the keel. Yours truly was promoted from deck gorilla to second hull polisher. A temporary position, I gather. 

I learned a lot this weekend about what goes on beneath the waterline. Anti-fouling, it turns out, is not a FIFA initiative to clean up the beautiful game, but a specialist coating to prevent the colonisation of one's underparts by barnacles. Or slime. 

Most importantly, I learned that when you're standing on a plank set across two ladders, it is best NOT to step on the end bit that sticks out beyond the top rung. Fortunately, I completed my less-than-elegant descent to ground level unobserved and uninjured, with nothing more than a bruised ego. I also managed to miss the paint can. 

So here I am back at my desk and what I have in front of me is our latest set of Health and Safety posters for Corus: Safe Working at Height. Ah, the irony. And here is the real lesson. Anyone who is smug about the 'stating-the-bleeding-obvious' level of so many Health and Safety communications, take heed. It is the bleeding obvious that causes all the trouble. 

If you work up close with a crane loading and unloading tonnes of steel every day of your life, you just stop noticing the risk. If you are absorbed in a task (even something as mindless as buffing a yacht hull to a blinding finish) it is all too easy to forget where your feet are. 

The safety campaigns we have put together for hospitals, construction sites, steelworks and offices have to jolt, arrest, startle, joke, remind and alert the people they are aimed at. We're not telling anyone what they don't already know (it's bleeding obvious, right?) - we're just bringing it to mind at the critical moment. 

Or do we deck gorillas have to go on learning by our own mistakes?


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

I saw Lance Armstrong on the train last Friday…

Wearing a yellow 2007 Tour de France t-shirt, a Nike cap and cycling trousers, Mr Armstrong was casually leaning up against a window directly opposite me. He was reading a cycling magazine and listening to Sheryl Crow (to whom he was once engaged) loudly on his iPod.

I couldn’t help staring at him and felt a bit like a stalker, I thought if Lance saw me he’d think I was a bit weird. Just like I thought a 7-time Tour de France winner catching the 15.54 to Stansted was a bit weird.

To add to the madness, sat on the floor next to me and Lance was a huge ginger American about my age, stuffing his face with beef jerky. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt (quite normal) and had over his shoulder a tiny black leather bag with randomly placed silver studs on it (not normal). He also had an air rifle bag out of which two swords appeared to be peeping…

I thought that he could have possibly been Lance’s (not so) undercover bodyguard, so I played it cool, stopped staring, waited for my stop and got off.

Anyway, here are some pictures I managed to take whilst pretending to send a text message…