Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A summary of events

'Tis the season and all that malarky. Yah boo, bah humbug.
To those of you who know me well enough by now, my aversion to the Christmas cheer is nothing new.
To those who don't - and I'm looking at YOU Mrs and Mr PR Person - well, time for my own version of festive fun.

I like to think of it as an alternative to the dreaded year-end circular letter (which I have covered before), a succinct summary of anecdotes collated throughout the year, a LCM tongue-in-cheek top three (by sector) of what has amused me during 2012.

Work related:
  1. "What part of your sales job is unclear?" (in answer to a salesperson who stated they 'could not go after new business' because it was outside their job description)
  2. "I think the clue to your role is in your job title - 'Field' Sales?" (rebuttal to an individual who insisted they needed a permanent office-based desk)
  3. "Hitting your target is part of your sales remit, that means 100%, not 85%" (when queried why I was restructuring commission payments)
Family related:
  1. "No." ("Do I get a gold star for making my bed?")
  2. "No." ("Can I change the gears in the car? I know how to drive!" Blossom, then aged 7)
  3. "Uhmm..." ("Where do you go to make a baby?" "Hospital?" "No mummy, where do they go to do it?")
Kevin related:
  1. "Did you read the correct book?" (as we ponder whether senility is taking over)
  2. "What's for dinner?" (very important issue for our book club)
  3. "Can anyone remember the titles?" (see point 1 above)

Training related:
  1. "Damn shame that!" (upon being told the swim part of the Windsor triathlon had been cancelled due to persistent adverse weather conditions) 
  2. "Elliot says no more bananas, and I need to eat more nuts." (BB's new personal trainer, aged 24 or less)
  3. "Run like you are jumping over little puddles!" (realising that I have to 'unlearn' some forty years of bad habits)

Anyone else have some other gems they would like to add?

Creative interpretation via Scott Adams (c)

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Conversations with my training partners - the latest episode

Just because I have not posted for some time about those ever-so-slightly mental training partners of mine, does not mean they have fallen off the radar.

Oh no. Not bloody likely.

They are still around, still wreaking havoc, still trying to enrol me in triathlons I would rather avoid (because I want to try something different, not because I am slacking *cough*), still giving me grief about anything and everything, including training sessions (lamentable - mine, not theirs), levels of fitness (ditto), new kit (I have some, it is making not one jot of difference, see previous points) and running in the pre-dawn dark using a torch (so I can see where I am going, not so I can act as a guiding light for the airplanes flying overhead... although I do wonder sometimes).

Cue recent email exchanges.

Wine Writer - Hello there training partners. Just wondering if either of you would like my place in the Henley swim on 30th June 2013? This is the one that was deferred this year due to rough conditions, remember? I may be in Alaska at that time next year... It's very quiet from both of you. Hope you are okay, not training too hard and that I am not in the dog house for some reason?

LCM - Hmmm. Will pass on the swim. Just watching weather forecast now is putting me off open water swimming for good! All well, training gone totally up the Swanee (Aussie term, aka haywire), but Brazilian Babe has a new best friend, goes by the name of Elliot. Tsk. Will let her tell you all about it. Apparently my invitations to come for 6am runs are no longer good enough for her and she needs a twenty-something Personal Trainer who chastises her about eating bananas and disapproves of running because "what has it done for you?" (aside from getting fresh air and keeping me company, I suppose).
See you at the rowing club dinner? I will stab myself with a blunt pencil if I am seated next to Boring Coach and dreadful wife again. Or I will just hog the bar and refuse to be seated!

WW - Don't blame you for passing on the swim - you should see the river [in Henley] right now! Not sure what madness possessed me to think of getting in it, ever. I think partaking of Elliot the Personal Trainer is definitely not playing ball. For those of us who do eat bananas I think it is even cheating. Or am I jealous - my self-motivation is definitely on the dwindling side...
Yep, we're up for the Christmas rowing club bash and really looking forward to it! Will join you in the bar.

BB - LCM, you are really terrible. WW, do not listen to anything she says. It is all utter rubbish.
No, you are not in the dog house, but might be sent there if you keep rubbing in the Alaska thing. It would be nice to catch up for something that does not involve any more effort than raising a glass, though if you insist enough I might be game for a ride in the park, or two, or three... I am afraid I can't get excited about this swim on my own next year... (the truth is that I don't think Elliot would approve it. And now that I think of it, neither the rides in the park).
I'll see you at the rowing club then. I actually think you are being super unfair with Boring Coach, LCM. And his wife is really lovely.

LCM - Excellent, I will ensure you meet them both and spend an entire evening in their company. WW and I will just hog the bar and toast your - and Elliot's - good health.

BB - Elliot and I, and I am sure Boring Coach and other half, are totally against toasts anyway. Pure carb.

WW - Toasts, specifically the alcoholic ones, are the stuff of life and not to be rejected under any circumstances, especially in our disgusting British climate right now. I hereby disapprove of Elliot completely and utterly, but am overjoyed that you'll be coming to the rowing club ball, BB, and intend to persuade you to eat lots of bad stuff and drink beer. Because that's what rowers do.

LCM - Hmmm crossed wires here. She is not coming to the rowing club ball. Unless, of course, Boring Coach invited her.

And later by text exchange.

LCM - Dare I even ask if you want to come running tomorrow morning, sprints included, or do you need to check with Elliot first? No bananas, promise.

BB vetoes. Something about running (a business workshop) and early starts. Pah.

LCM - Trying again. Run tomorrow morning? Elliot says it is okay. I checked.

And there you have it. We bumble along. At least WW will keep me company at the bar of the rowing club ball whilst I drown my sorrows about being upstaged by a very fit and motivated twenty-something upstart who has robbed me of one of my training partners for the winter months.

This too shall pass. I will just keep on telling BB how she is old enough to be his mother. And me even more so. That should do the trick, eventually.


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Friday, 23 November 2012

Kevin makes plans

The problem with Kevin is that we have such a good time. Not that enjoyment amidst good friends is deplorable when discussing books or other matters (mostly other matters), but it does mean we sometimes get distracted.

Take the last meeting earlier this week, for example. Our host was the Lovely Radiographer.
The Botanical Artist had bailed on us (other commitments, tsk), and the Wine Writer was busy with children's swimming lessons (presumably watching, not taking part, you never know as she is pretty competitive that one).

So the remaining five of us met, scoffed food and wine (delicious and far too much, as ever) and discussed the two books we selected last time.
I was expecting congratulations all round for having managed to read both of them - an outstanding achievement (I thought) given I am currently driving forty minutes either way to and from a client's office almost every working day and then spend weekends up to my knees in children and mini rugby.

It was not forthcoming. I should know better by now. The Kevinettes are a tough bunch.

Never mind. We chatted, in between mouthfuls of goulash, and discussed what we liked, what we didn't, what irritated the hell out of us, and why. Once that was out of the way - and we were on to pudding - we moved on to far more important matters.

Such as who was going to host the next meeting?

And things moved on from there pretty swiftly until before you knew it, Kevin was looking at a weekend away at a literary festival! Something totally different to plan for, especially given the random questions that circled around, such as:

- Shall we go to Hay-on-Wye? (Belfast Blonde)
- If we go to Bath we can visit the spas (Doctor of Philosophy)
- We could rent a cottage (Lovely Radiographer)
- I'm not cooking for all you lot (LCM)
- We want a bit of luxury (Aussie Solicitor)
- There's a festival in north London... okay maybe not far enough (Lovely Radiographer)
- Hooray, kid-free weekend! (LCM)
- It needs to be easy enough to get to (Aussie Solicitor)
- Do you know that with predictive texting 'on' if I type 'spray tan' it corrects to 'dirty team'?
- We could go to the local markets and buy food (Belfast Blonde)
- I will pay for a private chef for the lot of us (LCM)
- And if I write 'karaoke circus' it comes out 'karaoke coitus'? (Lovely Radiographer)

Anyway. Nothing decided, but the seed has been firmly planted.

Next meeting in January. At the very exotic Doctor's house unless otherwise advised.

(c) Randy Glasbergen

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Friday, 9 November 2012

Letting the side down

This is the first time in a while that I feel that I have been short changed.
And yet it all started so well.


The prospect of hearing ten successful women at the top of their game speak to an audience of professionals was something I was genuinely looking forward to. A break in the everyday routine, a breath of fresh air, some inspiration from the upper echelons waving the banner for working women.

In retrospect, I also realise I did not quite know what I was expecting.
Insight? Possibly.
Tips for success? I hoped so.
Something different from the usual? Definitely.

Instead I found myself in a large auditorium with other business women listening to a roll call of successful females tell me about... well, about nothing much except their life stories.

I could have sourced the bulk of the same on-line, and probably found a YouTube video or several to go with it. One of the presenters did almost just that.

That's possibly a bit harsh. So let me be fair and give you an assessment of the speakers, as per my notes (which were, for once, non-existent and scribbled on the program next to each presenter's photo en route home on the tube) and musings over the past twenty-four hours.

Sophie Turner Laing - Managing Director, Entertainment and News, BSkyB
Pertinent, funny, down-to-earth, proof that you can scale vertiginous heights without a university degree, and in fact that hands-on experience is something that even a good education cannot buy. Extremely likeable lady. Good start to proceedings. I thought it could only get better if this was the standard the IoD were aiming for.

Knowledge: 9/10 
Presentation: 9/10 (no notes, walked the stage, delivery smooth and poignant and peppered with amusing anecdotes)

Liz Edlich - co-founder Radical Skincare
Hmmm. Where to start? Or indeed, where to finish? Stunning woman, amazingly successful, unbridled drive and determination. 
But. Could. Not. Present. To. Save. Her. Life. I swear I wanted to get up and do it for her. Yes, truly.
Resorted to 'death by PowerPoint' and video clips (hence my Google-it-yourself note above).
And another thing. No sense of humour. Not even a smidgen that I could relate to, or the rest of the audience for that matter. 
When I commented to another (American) lady at my table about how the presentation was actually a full-on US-style sales pitch (I know, I have worked enough in my own career with such organisations), she retorted, "Typical Californian. I'm East Coast."
Because, of course, that explained it all apparently.

Knowledge: 8/10
Presentation: 4/10 (looking good is not good enough, love, sorry)

Carole Stone - former BBC producer and now Chairman of YouGovStone
Entertaining to say the least. The fact that she speaks at close to a million miles an hour is not for the faint-hearted. Held the audience in the palm of her hand and gave me the best networking tip I have had in ages (and no, I'm not sharing it). Funny, but relevant? Not so sure. 

Knowledge: 7/10
Presentation: 9/10 (anyone who starts off by pointing out that they have size ten feet, no boobs and a big nose without rancour is worth listening to)

Barbara-Ann King - Head of Female Client at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management

A no show! I can only hope she was out there kicking some ass about remuneration packages for women still being below those of men.

Neeeext.

Sarah Doukas - founder Storm model agency

Gah! Another no show. Although there was a very sweet video interview with her conducted by the IoD's Chairman's teenage daughter. 
Throughout which all I wanted to do was put a clip in Sarah's hair so a) I could see her face, and b) she would stop playing with it.
Harsh? Yes. But then again I have paid £250 for this privilege, so suck it up.

Neeeext.

Oh. Lunch. 
Cue stampede to the room next door and some networking. Small mercies.
Then back to the ballroom and the speakers.

Ann Jordan - Director of Benetimo, TiE UK and Non-Executive Director of the IoD
Hands up here. Anyone know who Ann is? Yep, me neither. Nice lady, done very well, but then again I really would have enjoyed a more vibrant presentation from someone who has been so successful in their career. 
Too much to ask?

Knowledge: 6/10
Presentation: 3/10 (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

Julia Hobsbawm - Chief Executive, Editorial Intelligence
Curious creature this one. Keen to make an impression (black trouser suit with bright pink suede stack heeled ankle boots for starters) and controversial. Does not endorse the term 'leadership' and was scathing  about the benefits of networking.
Not quite sure how she has managed her own career, given that her background is thigh-deep in PR, but each to their own. Successful, no doubt about it, but put my hackles up and certainly did not endear herself to me or tell me anything I was receptive to. Plus her presentation skills also could do with polishing, pink shoes or no pink shoes.

Knowledge: 5/10
Presentation: 4/10 (condescending)

Freya Murray - Long-distance runner. Team GB
Bless. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Her first time ever presenting to an audience, let alone one full of (mostly) hard-nosed business women instead of primary school children.
Death by PowerPoint (again). Lots of shrugging of shoulders. Too many 'uhmmmms' to mention. And girlie giggles of nervousness. Absolutely, and very obviously, no coaching on how to give a talk whatsoever.
But she did it, and on that alone I give her an all-round 7.

And now, briefly, the rest:

Joanna Elliott - Managing Director of Philips Consumer Lifestyle UK
Meteoric rise to senior management. Despite coming from a marketing background, really lacklustre presentation, more death by PowerPoint (can you tell I have an aversion here?), and only came to life at the very end when the fantastic Juliet Morris (who was chairing the conference) asked her some questions and we got past the droll exterior and saw some of the spark that has got Joanna where she is today. Hooray.

Knowledge: 5/10
Presentation: 5/10 (thanks to Juliet)

Kay Allen - Director of Trading for Good
Akin to Carole Stone, not quite as mocking, but at least she knows how to present. Interesting, some good stories, quite a few laughs. And delivery - thankfully - was less speedy. My headache was abating.

Knowledge: 7/10
Presentation: 8/10

Helen Wells - Director of Opportunity Now
I knew the quirky dress sense (from the series: why blend when you can clash?) and the bright orange hair would make for 'interesting' at the very least, and it did. Although a bit hit and miss - probably due to another million-miles-an-hour-speedy-delivery which left my poor head pounding once more - it had its moments and another great takeaway about how to beat the nay-sayer gremlin of self-doubt that occasionally sits on your shoulder (and no, I'm not sharing, again).

And that's your lot. Didn't realise I had so much to say about it when I started this piece.
My point however is this: whenever I attend an event of this nature, I look for two things to take away.
First, can they tell me something I don't already know? Not in this case.
Secondly, can they change something about the way I do business? Neither.

But at least I did get a couple of amusing tips. And I will share them. Free of charge.
You will just have to email me in person to ask.

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

The doctor will see you again

(c) Charles Schultz
Since the inaugural edition of Doctor LCM's BADASS consulting sessions, my inbox has been inundated with all kinds of requests for advice, solicited or otherwise.

Mind you, an inordinate amount of the emails received have to do with random strangers asking whether they can provide me with 'guest posts', or pay me to 'link to a site', or even send me some [insert random name of toy/food/clothing here] for me to test and review and blog about.

FFS. Do these people not realise how precious my time is? Tsk. Really. Impertinent little buggers.
More importantly, do they really really REALLY read my blog? I doubt it. As demonstrated in this little exchange that took place earlier in the year.

Anyway, I digress.

Doctor LCM is BACK.

The letter being addressed today hails from Nigel (not his real name, although I somehow think it might be his real name as it sounds like a real 'Nigel' type problem).

"Dear Doctor LCM

Please can you help me. I work in sales for a very important company. I spend lots of time pulling together spreadsheets and lists and writing very long explanatory emails that demonstrate how effective I am in my job, how well I am doing against my targets, and how good my prospects are. Yet whenever I am invited to attend a sales forecast meeting I am confronted with phrases such as "upside", "stripped out", "ripped revenue", and when I ask questions I am told to "take it offline". 
It is very confusing and I cannot understand what they are talking about. Why can they not speak plain English?

Yours sincerely,
Muddled Nigel"

Doctor LCM replies:

Dear Nigel,

Really? Life is too short. Claim the time back, quit, book a one-way flight to Havana and enjoy your days in the sun.

Trust me. Noone else will ever be bold enough to tell you that you are in the wrong job.

You're welcome.

Dr LCM

If you too have a pressing business-related matter that you would like answered or on which to receive valuable advice, please submit to the Doctor and wait patiently in line.


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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mother's pride


After a couple of weeks where I have been so busy I have barely had time to scratch my nose, I came home to face the reality that not only was the Laundry Fairy missing (again), but my trusted cleaner was also on holiday. For three weeks.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all in favour of pulling my own weight and doing a fair share of the housework, however sometimes other things take priority. Managing the minis rugby team, taking up a new post as parent governor at the children’s school, pushing through changes and communications as a member of the local residents’ committee, drawing up and scoping out the go-to-market strategic plan for my main client, working on proposals for new opportunities with my business associates, getting through (or even starting) the latest selection of books for my reading club, trying to fit in some semblance of training when I don’t fall asleep on the couch instead…

Anyway. You get the gist. The last thing I fancied was hoovering, mopping, dusting or cleaning on a weekend. Or any weekend for that matter.

Cue the rescue party, aka the children. A reward system for all chores performed to an acceptable standard, a tangible prize for any of them who showed proactive initiative, and – hey presto – Alan Sugar eat your heart out! A right little armada of helpers intent on manoeuvring the vacuum cleaner around the house, pushing the mop over floors, polishing surfaces and cleaning bathrooms.

They were all winners in their own right, however a special mention would have to go to my daughter who not only took her duties to heart, but also provided suitable abidance by health and safety regulations.


Who needs a governmental department when you have this kind of talent?


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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Kevin's 1001 nights

Once more in to the fray with the Kevinettes. Another night of laughter, tall tales, good food and wine. And some banter about the books.

Hmmm, yes, the books.

Remember my last post about our very simple guidelines for the bookclub? The black book in to which we write our comments and thoughts about what we have just read?

Mine went as follows (for the first book): "Shag, kill, shag, kill, shag, kill, kill, kill, repeat..."
And for the second: "Like reading the rantings of someone with ADHD on speed who is about to suffer from an overdose of verbal diarrhoea."

Enough said.

Except that as we caught up over a glass - or three - of wine on a weekday night, I rumbled in my bag to find my notebook and pen and scribbled down some of the amusing anecdotes.

"Are you taking notes?" asked Belfast Blonde.
"Uhmm, yes," I answered, a tad sheepishly.

"For your blog?" queried the Botanical Artist.
"Yup!" I laughed, scribbling something unintelligible and putting the notebook away.

And so the evening progressed, we ate delicious food prepared by the Aussie Solicitor (who was hosting), were entertained by the Lovely Radiographer and her recounts of the Paralympics (she was a volunteer at the opening and closing ceremony), and had our Doctor of Psychology propose a potential new member*.

A lovely evening as always.

What about my notes? I hear you ask.
Yes, indeed. Here they are:


No, I have no idea either.
I blame the wine.

* We are still waiting to hear whether this prospective Kevinette will a) be game to join us, and b) be daft enough to last the distance after attending one meeting. Watch this space!

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Business Tweet Management - the third instalment

It's been a while and I have been intending to post the latest instalment of this theme for some time. Unfortunately, other matters have got in the way, namely work. And a few races. Which however is a good thing as - guess what - it provides additional fodder. Oh, and an income (the former, not the latter alas), but that's by the by.

So without further ado, let's crack on, shall we?

Typical Verbal Mouthful (TVM) - "We are asking a number of you to participate in a round-table event to assess the viability of our strategic plans vis-á-vis the current marketplace, how our products address the issues our clients are likely to face in the foreseeable future and if our roadmap dovetails with the perceived notion that we are the provider of choice in our market."
Business Tweet Management (BTM) - "We have just spent a fortune on developing something that is a pile of shite, but want you to tell us it is genius. Or you will be fired."

TVM - "All of you who are standing around with your arms crossed are indicating a degree of nervousness, from which I can deduct that this is your first time taking part in an open water swim. Turn to your right and pat the nearest person on the back and wish them good luck. Now turn to your left, give this person a hug and tell them it will be fine and to enjoy the race. Now make sure you can actually rotate your arms comfortably in your wetsuit and that you have a pair of goggles on your head before you enter the water."
BTM - "We have you by the short and curlies and it is too late to start worrying about lack of training at this late stage, suckers!"

TVM - "Considering the potential upside in the forecast and the opportunities in the pipeline that may - or may not - come good this month, we should be in a position to deflect any queries about our revenue stream for this financial year and ensure that the baseline for planning for the next one is aligned with expectations and not overinflated to a level which would have us targeting significant shortfall as a starting point before the first quarter is even under way."
BTM - "Okay guys, game's up. Our finances are going down the toilet. Who do I blame?"

TVM - "Competitors should ensure they remain hydrated at all times. Drinking before you commence your race is advisable, although you should not exceed recommended allowances. Keep a bottle with you throughout the bike section as drink stations are not present. Topping up before and during your run will also help, and there will be drink stations over the course. Practising taking on liquid whilst in motion can be a time saver and keeping hydrated will aide your recovery as well."
BTM - "This is NOT about beer."

TVM - "Look, what I wanted first of all was to reiterate the apology I made last week after the incident on Wednesday night in Downing Street, it had been a long and extremely frustrating day - not that that is any excuse at all for what happened - and I did not show the police the amount of respect I should have done, we should all respect the police, they do an incredibly difficult job, I have apologised to the police, I have apologised to the police officer involved on the gate and he has accepted my apology, and I hope very much we can draw a line under it there. I am very clear about what I said and what I didn't say, and I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not use the words that have been attributed to me. I am now going to go in and get on with my work."
BTM - "Out of my way, you fucking pleb."

(You will probably only understand this if you are British)



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Monday, 10 September 2012

The rise of the female MAMIL

Monday morning. You know how it is. The bleary-eyed wake-up call. The stumbling through the motions to get ready for another week of work. The cajoling of young children to brush their teeth/get their shoes on/find their book bags/eat their breakfast/stop fighting/whining/playing up/etc, etc, etc.

Actually, what the hell am I saying?

It's MONDAY! Yee hah! The Olympics and Paralympics are over (*sob*) and I can now concentrate on working with my clients properly and delivering results for their businesses. Excellent stuff.

Plus I get to catch up and read amusing articles such as this one. Of course I did the obvious and tweeted it.


Until it dawned on me that the term - MAMIL - should possibly be 're-invented', given other recent tweets.


Yes. I fear the acronym will have to be adapted, given Brazilian Babe's and my penchant for a) road bikes, and b) expensive cycling kit.

We shall henceforth be known as the BOOBIL.

Babes On Our Bikes In Lycra.

Yup.




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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Kevin's contagious case of senility - part three

Behold the Kevinettes! Not only have they been going for some twelve years now, their eyesight is getting worse, their hospitality more competitive, their choice of reading matter forever varied, and their memories fading randomly.

But how? I hear you say.

Fair point. Let's put matters in to context and elaborate a little.

There are few rules with Kevin. We like to be a pragmatic and easy-going bunch. But, nonetheless, we do have some token guidelines to avoid certain individuals going astray.

  1. Always try to read at least one of the chosen books - if this fails, then come prepared with amusing anecdotes about your other time-consuming activities and justify your presence by a) drinking, b) eating, and c) laughing with everyone else;
  2. The hostess for the night gets to propose books for the next session, but the Kevinettes reserve the right to a) diss any or all of them, b) propose totally unrelated alternative reading or viewing material, c) continue to eat and drink and not pay any attention and then suffer the consequences (see below);
  3. All comments about the tomes that have been read should be religiously committed by each member to the 'Black Book', preferably in a succinct and elegant manner, and in a legible script - comments such as 'total bollocks', 'pile of crap', or 'lost the will to live' are perfectly acceptable
That's it.

Except that someone was not paying attention at the last meeting and proceeded to read one of the books that went by the exact same title but was by a different author altogether.

LCM - "I enjoyed the book, but felt let down by the ending. Too predictable."

Doctor of Psychology - "Agree, but well written given that the author was a man and the narrator a woman. A very credible voice."

Belfast Blonde - "Why did she fall from the sky?"

Aussie Solicitor - "She was parachuted in to occupied France."

Belfast Blonde (confused) - "But it was set in New York?"

Lovely Radiographer (rolling eyes) - "No, the other book was set in New York."

Belfast Blonde - "It was?"

Botanical Artist - "Uhmm, which book did you actually read?"

Belfast Blonde proceeds to extract the book from her bag. Indeed it is the same title but by a totally different author. Most bizarre.

Kevinettes (in chorus) - "Oh!"

LCM - "Hmmm. We might have to revoke your membership due to inattentiveness!"

Belfast Blonde - "But I did read another book as well!"

Kevinettes (in chorus) - "Oh? Which one?"

Belfast Blonde - "Fifty Shades of Grey..."

There is a collective groan around the table.

LCM - "Definitely revoking your membership."

Belfast Blonde - "... and it was the worst book I have ever read! Just dreadful."

LCM - "Membership redeemed. Lucky escape."

And with that, I sent the Kevinettes the following link to Cate's superb review, just in case any of them were toying with the idea of also reading fifty shades of unmitigated crap.

We do have our standards, after all. Even if not particularly high.

(c) J di Chiarro

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Sunday, 5 August 2012

A (resolved) case of identity crisis

At last it was my turn to enjoy some of the Olympic spirit first hand with the family. The *only* tickets I managed to get, might I add (thanks LOCOG).


It was a familiar venue for me (from past events, both on and in the water), but it looked fantastic.

Aaah, Dorney, you look splendid

In true British style we braved the weather.

Pah. 'Tis only a shower.
(Albeit very heavy and some forty minutes in duration)

With suitable sarcastic tweet.



We cheered the magnificent - and very exciting - Men's Fours' race.

GB beat Australia - neck and neck,
right up to the line

Patriotism abounded.



Especially when there were unexpected turns of events.

The Lightweight Women's double sculls (LW W2x)
coming up to the finish line - to win gold

And there were medal ceremonies.

GB gold, Australia silver, USA bronze

And audience participation.


But it was when I saw this:

Yes, that is one of the cherubs waving a Union Jack




And that, dear readers, it how London 2012 has inspired me.



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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Making impressions

Yesterday I was asked to give a presentation at an internal conference for one of my client's business divisions. Roughly twenty minutes, some Q&A, and then small break-out groups to discuss what the audience had learnt from my session.

My aim was to 'demystify sales' for a largely technical, operative and services audience.

I took my cue from their overall divisional head (my peer) who mentioned, as part of his introductory speech, that "sales is easy!"

"Sales is easy!" I agreed. "You only have two things to deal with: the customer and the product."

"And guess what?" I continued, "There are only two things that can go horribly wrong: the customer and the product!"

From there it was a fairly ad-lib presentation covering changes, plans, vision, engagement, communication and collaboration. What works, what doesn't; how to change it, how to challenge the status quo; developing the business, investing where it will pay dividends; motivating and empowering people and aiming higher.

It was great, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the feedback was both constructive, informative, insightful and poignant.

However, the best comment by far came from one of the attendees during the break-out session.

"We have called you 'The Wolf', after that character in Pulp Fiction!" she told me. "It's like you have come in, seen the mess, come up with a plan, and got on with sorting it out!"

Excellent. A new nickname.



Friday, 6 July 2012

Kevin's Olympics

Kevin is very excited. One of us is actually going to be taking part in the Olympics this year!


And no, it's not me in my wetsuit, but thank you for asking.


The Lovely Radiographer is going to be a crowd leader, yes, a CROWD LEADER during the opening ceremony.

(pause for thought)


*cough*

The Kevinettes, too, were curious about what such a role entailed.

So the conversation went something like this.

Belfast Blonde - "Are you one of the sheep?"

Lovely Radiographer - "No"

Botanical Artist - "Do you sing?"

LR - "No."

Doctor of Psychology - "Will you be dancing?"

LR - "No."

Wine Writer - "Do you have to wear a costume?"

LR (rolls eyes) - "Uhmm, yes."

LCM - "Ooooh! What's it like?"

LR - "We will look like retards."

Doctor of Psychology - "How does that fit with being a crowd leader?"

LR - "I will be responsible for a section of the audience. I will be in charge of ensuring their participation."

LCM (still thinking about the costume bit) - "Do you have to dress up like those idiotic mascots Wendilocks and Murderville?"

LR - "That would actually be better."

Botanical Artist - "Can you wave at us?"

LR - "No. And with some eighty-thousand people in the stadium, fifteen thousand volunteers and hundreds of TV cameras, I don't think I would know where to look, or when. Plus I will BE BUSY leading my section of the audience."

Belfast Blonde - "You could hold up a sign!"

LR - "Saying what?"

LCM - "Kevin? And a big arrow?"

We moved on to discuss the book after that, eat a lovely meal and drink more wine than was wise - as ever - on a week day night. We even managed to select two books for our next meeting.

Nonetheless, we are all hopeful that the Lovely Radiographer will somehow, somehow, manage to stand out from the crowd at the Opening Ceremony.

Just keep an eye out for an individual leading a section of the audience in a ridiculous costume with 'Kevin' in day-glo ink scrawled on her back.

That'll be her.

That's more like it

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Sunday, 1 July 2012

To Lie-bor or not to Lie-bor

Right, time to get a few things cleared up.

Since the advent of the latest banking 'scandal' (and I use the term very loosely), I have had a number of conversations/arguments/explanations going on with various people.
Friends, colleagues, family, employees, members of the household cavalry...

Okay, maybe not the last one.

Anyway. What has struck me most is the horror some people (ie Cameron, Miliband, Lord King, the FSA, the tabloid press et al) have expressed that such a practice could even exist, let alone been a modus operandi for some time (read: since forever).

Let's set the record straight then.

As a former investment banker, and one who worked on the corporate sales desk of some major banks in the City for over a decade, this is not news.

It is not even old news.

It is not even newsworthy news.

It is - and let's call a spade a spade here - how the money markets work.
Always have done, always will do.

The whole LIBOR (that's London Inter-Bank Offer Rate for the unfamiliar, or the rate at which banks will lend to each other) rate-setting system is far from complicated. In a nutshell, LIBOR is an average of the middle values submitted by the contributing banks every working day and then published to the market after 11.00am London time.
The rates serve as a benchmark only. The actual rates at which lending takes place between banks continues to vary throughout the day.

Still with me? Good.

So, get this then.

Every morning in the dealing room, around 10.30am, we would check with the money market traders what their underlying positions looked like. In fact, we didn't really have to ask. The rates on offer for our corporate clients were totally dependent on whether the traders were 'long' (ie 'in the money', with funds aplenty) or 'short' (ie 'out of the money', or about to break the piggy bank for some loose change). Subject to these factors, the quotes we would be given for our customers would be totally skewed towards ensuring the bank was (preferably) in a position to profit from its transactions, because - amazing but true - that's what the whole game is about. Making money.

Based on a number of additional factors - economic statistics being released, liquidity, hedging strategies, risk assessment, gut instinct, colour of the tea-lady's hair - the chief money markets dealer (in one bank she was a frightening individual known as The Beast of Bishopsgate: scary but very, very successful and highly respected for running a profitable trading desk) would submit their contribution to the pool of rates used to calculate LIBOR.

The rate was, and is, totally subjective.

There is no hard and fast supervision. There is no 'law' enforcing rules and regulations. There is no clear-cut way of ensuring that the perceived liquidity of the bank submitting its contributory rate reflects reality. Furthermore the notion that LIBOR could be unduly influenced by 'rogue traders' (here we go again) is far-fetched. The whole point of taking the medium average of the submitted rates - some sixteen for sterling - means that the extremes (highest and lowest four) are discarded. So any attempt to massage the rates would already be a fairly moot point.

Want an analogy? Speed dating. The person you are sitting opposite for all of three minutes might have a dazzling smile, bright eyes, nice manners and effusive charm, but how are you to know if he has holes in his socks or has a tendency to fart in bed? Does it matter? Do you really care? Surely at this stage what counts is that they can hold a conversation, look you in the eye and conjugate their verbs properly? If matters progressed further, I could understand.

Although by then you might start to reassess your own unsavoury habits and realise that you too are not beyond reproach.

So, in conclusion, to quote the FT:

"The reality check is that Barclays only admitted it had tried to game Libor rates, not that it had succeeded. So far, no other bank has confessed to anything as damaging. No one has yet reliably estimated the detriment of rate massage, some of which will have been borne by banks implicated in the scandal themselves. These are questions regulators and law enforcement agencies must collaborate to answer as they hunt further scalps."

Oh, and those 'names' in the supposedly incriminating emails? Big boy? Common vocabulary. Along with Flash (as in Gordon), Diamond Geezer, Goldenballs, Hosepipe, Sprinkler, Teflon and Spewy.

All the females were just referred to as 'Doris'.

(c) Scott Adams

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Monday, 25 June 2012

The doctor will see you now

(c) Charles Schultz
After much cajoling, I have agreed to provide professional business advice and guidance to a select audience who have been persistently knocking at my office door over the past month. *

These shall henceforth be known as the all-new incisive Doctor LCM's 'Business Advisory and Select Services' (BADASS) consulting sessions, free to any individual or company wishing to partake in my pearls of wisdom and many years of experience in the tough and unforgiving world of corporate enterprise.

*cough*

The terms and conditions are very straightforward:
  1. willing 'patients' submit me with a (preferably specific) business-related question
  2. I provide them with a concise and insightful answer
  3. said answer may be informative, or helpful, or useless
  4. or all of the above
  5. or none of them
  6. it will, undoubtedly, contain healthy doses of sarcasm cynicism realism
  7. there is no recourse for dissatisfied patients (although alternative, more serious and professional help may be recommended)
  8. Doctor LCM's word is final (if in doubt, see point 7 above)

Let's get started, shall we?

Today's chosen submission comes from Mike (not his real name). He has written in the following:

"Dear Doctor LCM,

My boss does not understand me. He fails to appreciate the time and effort I put in to my work and achieving the goals that have been set for me. He seems to think I am an idiot and treats me as such. No respect, no acknowledgement, no recognition. It is desperately upsetting and I am losing sleep at night over it.
What should I do to get his attention and, more importantly, some words of encouragement? My bonus depends on it. I feel like throwing the towel in, to be honest.

Yours sincerely,
Very Depressed Mike"

Doctor LCM replies:

"Dear Mike

Let me ask you a simple question: do you expect a reward for achieving your targets? Yes? Sorry, I can't hear you.

(note: LCM has occasional 'senior' moments and tends to forget this is a written response and not a live conversation)

Anyway, let's be clear here. Achieving your 'goals' is part of your job remit. Trust me on this. Your complaint is akin to being rewarded with a gold star for walking in to the office every morning at 9am. Bravo! Well done! Are you seeking brownie points too?

As for words of encouragement, I can only imagine you are still in the same vein of thinking: being patted on the back for keeping your chair warm during the day and not exceeding four cups of coffee? 

Wrong.

Let's get serious here Mike. Work is hard. The golden rule is 'shape up or ship out'. If your boss is not heaping praise on you I can only surmise it is for one of two reasons:
1. you are and idiot, or;
2. you are about to be sacked.

My advice? Get a grip. Wake up and smell the roses mate. A career elsewhere beckons. Have you thought about being a space waitress? That way at least if the passengers (or the captain and co-pilots) are rude and disrespectful, you can spit in their tea without their knowledge and not have to feign smiling at them when they disembark.

You're welcome,

Dr LCM


If you too have a pressing business-related matter that you would like answered or on which to receive valuable advice, please submit to the Doctor and wait patiently in line.


* that might be a slight exaggeration, although my current office does seem to operate a revolving door policy at present with a regular stream of visitors seeking my time, so much so that my PA has to block time off in my diary so I can get to the loo


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Friday, 22 June 2012

Back by popular demand: what the eye sees

Hello. I am back. Well, sort of. Divorcing myself from the 'mummy blogger' tag takes more than a mere makeover. The PR companies and various inappropriate twitter followers who seem to think that I a) am still breastfeeding, b) need fancy dress attire for toddlers, or c) might be interested in organic puréed food, have a way to go yet to cotton on to reality.

Never mind. I digress. I have been busy with work, various silly competitions, doing laundry, and keeping the troops in line. The usual, really.

I have, nonetheless, been asked by quite a number of faithful followers pestiferous friends lovely readers whether I had still been snapping pictures in my absence.

Hah! What do you think?

On the tube. Dazzled by the light, I had to do a double take here.

Sorry love, forget your skirt?

 At the bus stop. Speechless.

Seriously. I mean WTF?
And the red bra on display?

This was Cool Dad in the Alps. I beg to differ. The photo does not do justice to the fluorescent glow.

Whoa man, far out!

So Bright I had to get another shot. Dearie me. At least he was a good skier (I know, I stalked him down the slope).



 This shop caught my attention too. Something to do with punctuation.

Look closely

Male's problems? Really? Intriguing

Very fuzzy, but take my word that this person was wearing an yellow colander on their head.
I even have a witness who was with me (and prompted me to snap the photo).

Yes, I have no idea either

And this lady was looking a bit lost. 

Hmmm, where am I?

Except she wasn't. 
A lady, that is.
Whatever rocks your world, eh?



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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Continuing guide to the imploding European situation

Every once in a while I take issue with serious matters. Albeit with a typical sarcastic point of view. Anything less would just not be normal. Or someone else's writing.
So, given the on-going and (seemingly) never-ending European crisis, I thought an update to my previous extremely insightful and thoroughly well-researched and totally unbiased post was well overdue.

Let's see. Where to start?

Okay, so, there was once a little man who wore platform shoes to augment his status. He made a great effort to befriend a powerful lady - not so he could marry her, as another slapper had already bagged her place at his side, and that's a whole other story in itself - in order to establish order in the chaotic melée that was is the Grande Soup de l'Onion d'Europe.

There were a few hiccups in the master plan.

1. A pesky chef had overcooked the moussaka and none of his friends would chip in and bring more food to the party. What's more, they all decided they actually did not want moussaka in the first place, and a big juicy t-bone steak, with all the trimmings, was far more palatable. And they would possibly pay for it (quarterly, in arrears, and with no hidden charges) once they had tasted it, but then only if everyone agreed it was worth the expense and that they would not be punished for leaving food on their plates. Even the threats of the aforementioned powerful lady were not sufficient to sway their minds. These politicians children were very, very disobedient. A big, huge, naughty corner was pointed out to them by the little man with stack heels: it was called 'Out of Euro'.

2. In the meantime, the big paella that everyone was also looking forward to (along with sun, sand, sangria, and stashes of spare cash) got overcooked due to all the distractions with the moussaka debacle. The rice was mushy, the prawns were off colour, and the chicken had decidedly seen better days. Not even the chilli was sufficiently spicy to mask the dish's failure. Furthermore, the beach house turned out to be a mud hut, the wine was coloured water, and the banks had their knickers pulled down and more runs on their money than Usain Bolt. It was messy.

3. Back in the land of clogs and tulips, a hissy fit by a man with very bad hair - and attitude - meant that the country that was off most people's radar (insofar as instability goes, that is), momentarily looked like it might be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, given that the good citizens of this nation are, true to form, reliable, resilient, and, above all, conservative in approach, this blip barely registered before being conveniently forgotten once more. Until...

Sacre bleu! The midget with a height complex was voted out of office!

No more cosy chit-chats with his best female friend pseudo wife fellow European peer (apparently in English when they were all loved up, then back to their respective native languages when arguing, with interpreters called in to translate - a true marriage made in heaven, in other words).

No more finger-wagging at the fallen descendants of the cradle of democracy.

No more sneering at the former Napoleanic ally.

Indeed, no more nothing as his replacement - conveniently named Hollande (and thus ensuring his namesake would not be entirely forgotten, hence note no.3 above) - not only stood a good five centimeters taller, he also immediately did away with the glitz and schmaltz and celebrity-supermodel-wannabe popstar wife add-ons that preceded him.

As a reward he was summarily drenched by a downpour during his inaugural parade, received news that his own country's debt and unemployment were at record levels, caught a plane mere hours in to the new job to meet the German Chancellor to discuss the European crisis, only for it to be struck by lightning.

A sign from the Greek gods, undoubtedly.

Or maybe just a parting shot over his bows from the little man he ousted.

To be continued.

Watch those heels, baby


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