The surface is one thing. But down under is another.

 

Last week I saw a BBC documentary called The Australian Dream.

“A thoughtful, but ultimately depressing documentary about the indigenous Australian AFL star Adam Goodes called out for basic human decency.” (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

And they’re right, depressing and awakening.

The programme follows the life of a successful sports person who has been vilified for being an Aborigine and moreover, FOR ARGUING BACK about the lack of rights of Australia’s indigenous people.

It references other peoples such as the First Nations of Canada and by extension and back into ancient history; the Etruscans, Incas and Aztecs who were wiped out by invaders.

Equally shocking was learning about the concept of Terra Nullius: ‘Land that is unoccupied or uninhabited for legal purposes. The application of English law to overseas possessions…’ (Oxford Reference)

Most of us who have driven across Europe or watched war films will know of ’No Man’s Land.’ This term has always had a bipolarity to it, on one hand it can be a harmless tract of earth that lies between two borders ( I once got stuck in no man’s land between France and Italy when I came off a ski slope in the wrong place, but that’s another story). It is also redolent of films and TV shows like 1917 and Black Adder. No Man’s Land is the muddy void where lost vulnerable soldiers run between the lines not knowing if they are nearer to safety or death; hell on earth.

No Man's Land': The Name for the Danger Zone in '1917' Is Almost ...

Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. The sucker punch in the definition of Terra Nullius is ‘the application of English Law’. The British colonialists deemed Australasia to be unoccupied because the people they found there were, in their eyes, sub-human and inconvenient, incidental; mere extensions of the flora and fauna. This same vile attitude was demonstrated by settlers while physically staking land claims across North America and erasing any moral issues by painting the native tribes as itinerant wanderers without desire or need to settle.

Casting people as chattel is a brutal and long standing narrative, yet it has been so expertly PR’d over so many generations in so many locations that even the compassionate and god fearing folk ‘back home’ remained clueless.  Oh Lord, what a fool I’ve been.

By contrast…

Last week I was fortunate to have taken a lockdown holiday in France.

I, the Tourister, was able to be a tourist! For the first time since I can remember, my wife and I went on a holiday that I didn’t organise. What a treat!

We stayed just outside Paris, one of the great cities on Earth and didn’t even feel compelled to visit it. This was a shame but we were determined to socially distance from everyone else. I confess to having had a momentary lapse when I mooted the idea of visiting the Brie cheese town of Meaux. Sue, the responsible half of our hosting friends reminded me within a millisecond that such an excursion was not appropriate. I reeled in my cheese hunting ambitions for another day 😦

Here we are, five months into C19 and I still slip up.

The area we stayed in was quite new which meant I was still able to learn about something I hadn’t even thought about; building and construction.

The other 50% of our hosting was provided by Barry. He knows about buildings and here’s a poem about just that:

Barry and the Buildings

Barry knows a lot about buildings

He didn’t know how much he knew about buildings or the building of them

Until he told me about those buildings and the building of the buildings

And now he knows that he knows a lot about building buildings

More than he knew he knew

Barry now knows that he knows a lot

About Buildings

He’s built a knowledge about his knowledge of buildings and it’s big.

Free Images : walking, person, road, street, photo, male, peaceful ...

We strolled around the town like a pair of sexagenarian school boys. He pointed out things like the quality and quantities of cement used in making pillars and what was cladding and what was real brick. Really amazing was that experts can tell what type of problem a construction might have depending the type of cracks in the walls and ceilings.

 

You’d expect a crack expert to live in downtown LA or Bangkok, but no, this one lives in Middlesex, England.

As somebody that has surveyed hundreds of edifices over many years all the expertise and examination of detail that he learnt has melded into pure instinct. Knowledge builds up and then like a star that implodes into a black hole, concentrates right down to a super heavy yet dimensionally tiny point of deep knowledge.

Sometimes however, it is useful to unravel this knowledge. Whether it’s breaking down a surveyor’s experience to educate a friend or busting open the expertly crafted legal shroud of colonialists’ lies. It serves us well to look at the detail.

For that is where gods and devils dwell.

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Credits:

1917 photo; https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-mans-land-the-name-for-the-danger-zone-in-1917-is-almost-1-000-years-old-11579275773

 

We are stardust, we are golden

The C19 pandemic is affecting many areas of our lives and yet we will probably not know the full extent of its long tumbling domino reach for many years.

One clear effect however, is that nature, and this was noticed during the very early weeks of C19, was the first ‘system’ to react positively to a reduction in human activity. Animals ventured into now quiet town centres, the canals of Venice (plus most natural waterways) became limpid and urban skies without airplanes’ vapour trails turned a bluer blue.

As if we needed reminding, planet Earth seems to be seriously better off without human intervention. And yet, this new found appreciation of what benefits the natural world leads to a paradox:

As the planet reclaims its’ inherent qualities of freshness and rawness, this very beauty attracts and pulls human beings towards it. We edge or way out of lockdown, begin our hitherto normal activities and our de facto abuse of the planet starts again. The return to normality is epitomised by ugly sounds and visions of freight clattering its hot smoky routes across the world and people yearning to press carbonic footprints in pursuit of leisure. The re-found polluting circle closes with a vengeance and the gears of self-destruct shift up towards maximum. 

This is obviously disappointing and causes me to wonder ‘Why on earth does humanity fit in so badly with everything else on earth?

Vintage Railway Travel Poster - Gloucestershire - UK - by Claude Muncaster (1903–1974).

After all, our planet is a hermetically sealed unit. Bar the odd asteroid, meteor and sundry items of returning space junk, the only thing that enters our atmosphere is sunlight. The human species has evolved alongside other primates via stages of being fish, flying things and more recently small furry mammals. The point being, that all organic creatures with the help of the sun and that ol’ H2O shapeshifter (water/ice) have thrived in tandem with planet Earth. Human arrival it seems, has bucked the trend and appears, from an objective outer space viewing bridge, to be troublesome.

The notion that we are incompatible with the planet has triggered much debate. In the 1970’s, the Super Swiss Erich Von Daeniken wrote about Ancient Astronauts and professed, along with some nice pictures (but not evidence) that we were put here by extra-terrestrials. Despite him having done no viable academic research or due diligence regarding his sources, he tapped into a concept that sold many books and got the mass market wondering about us not being fully ‘of’ the earth.

Ancient Alien Artifact? - Bath Spa, UK | Okay "Ancient Astro… | Flickr

Elon Musk has recently rekindled another old idea; that we are actually part of a fictional game developed by other life forms. Some of us will recognise this as a version of The Sims, others will look back to the late ’70’s and remember us as an experiment devised by mice.

Religious people will likely baulk at these claims and retort with a selection of theologies in important books about humans inheriting the earth, being masters/mistresses of all creatures and that the invisible force, no matter how many natural disasters occur, still loves us and will see us through, come what may (insert rolling eyes emoji, Ed).  

As a sceptic however, I suspect that the main underlying energy is that of chaos. I’m not venturing into Chaos Theory because the idea of applying a scientific structure to concepts beyond structure feels like a road to nowhere (but a nice PhD if you can get the grant).

Instead, let’s buy into Chaos in the manner of the Stoics and hope for the good bits of the mess to rise to the surface and if they don’t, well, we tried our best anyway.

Remember the cream rises to the top unless you turn the plate downside up.

Renato Fantoni 2020

Failing Freedom of Outer Space= Losing the Plot on Planet Earth.

I think this ‘thing‘ is a bit like being in outer space.

Despite the fact that I can escape my house quite often, I always make the same return journey and come back home as if on a powerful elastic umbilical cord.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey to Screen in IMAX
https://cdn1-www.comingsoon.net/assets/uploads/2018/08/2001two.jpg

Although I’m fortunate to have people around me, the reduction in social interaction is reducing me. Conversations are snippets rather than true exchanges and when I find myself talking with somebody or rather, at them, it all gushes out in a stream of mad subconscious breadcrumbs. Having honed my listening skills over many years I was really good at paying attention and excelled in giving the opposite of a poker face. I now fear it’s slipping away. When Mandy and I go for a walk, I try to give good ear but am dreadful at it. If there’s a gap of silence I feel a need to fill it up as if it were a pothole that needs padding out with whatever comes to hand; mud, horse manure and dead hair for making up underwear; all this to avoid my mental wheel (which already has a rocky axle) from falling in to it.

Talking of vehicles, let’s launch…

I think that being in space is like this: 

You’re belted into a very small capsule and you can’t move. Even if you need to empty your bladder, you cannot ‘go’, you simply release.

There’s a round double-double glazed window and everything you can see looks like the 1960’s because that’s when space was invented. The sky, which is really just a lot of tiny zeros, is thoroughly black. Not even navy blue. Not even MIDNIGHT Black/Blue, it’s dead-panned black. And it’s not even the sky because it’s not above you like the real sky is. This thing is underneath you too and it’s around the invisible corners. If you’re lucky enough to be in a space station you have more windows but to be frank, the non-sky, which is the floor, the walls and by now, the inside of your mouth too, is still matt black. A forever deep blackness that knows no time lines or boundaries and ceratinly has no truck with doughnuts or tulips. Loads of sticky stars have been thrown at it and they conspire to give a false sense of comfort to suggest that we aren’t alone. But we are. Alone.

So, I’m strapped in this very confined metaphor, struggling to make it work and outside it is just this corner-less plate of zeros. Except, as I said, the stick-on stars but, and I don’t say this lightly, they’re nobody’s friend. Certainly neither yours nor mine. And let me tell you something else, all this stuff about them twinkling is a lie. The stars are actually a combination of shoddy time lapsed recordings of rude, hot and very loud implosions and explosions. Their only mission is to fry you if you come within a light year. Sparkling, cocky bastards; nothing more. Not your friends.

So, communication from/to this tin can is via a radio or perhaps nowadays, a video link like in The Big Bang Theory when Howard ‘Fruit Loops’, has his moment up yonder but like my walk in the park, it’s no walk in the park. Just crackles, beeps and sounds that remind us of dial-up internet or even…the Fax machine. Communication has been redacted and if only we could read under the blacked out lines, maybe we’d connect properly, like they did in the old days. Freedom to communicate has become a frozen FaceTime image. Over.

TV Classic The Big Bang Theory Howard Wolowitz Fruit Loops custom tee Big Bang Theory Shirts, Big Bang Theory Funny, The Big Bang Therory, The Big Theory, Simon Helberg, Howard Wolowitz, Froot Loops, Favorite Tv Shows, My Favorite Things

I read that Einstein said gravity bends space and because very large objects such as solar systems contain a lot of gravity (suns, planets, aliens etc) they wrap large hunks of it around themselves. I think this includes time too.

This makes me picture a journey that ends at the beginning, just like 2001 Space Odyssey.

So, when flying in my Covid capsule I can see space bending and mashing the freedom of being up and out there – with no obvious obstacles (other than Elon Musk’s growing pile of space debris) with the warm urine dampened space suit of my rocket confined prison. To hammer home the point, if I can leave the capsule to pursue the infinite freedom the lack of long term air suggests that freedom is neither attainable nor desirable.

So, back to earth and shut my mouth. 

I thought I’d do what my then children did some years ago and make a word cloud. The idea was to mix up 4 rock tracks about space to see what the consensus was. The result is quite interesting but not as I grand as I had hoped. When I listen to these tracks, which are all the same theme of being lost in space, I get a large hit of nostalgia. Consider these words by Matt Bellamy (MUSE)

Let’s conspire to ignite / All the souls that would die just to feel alive / Now I’ll never let you go If you promised not to fade away

How, I wonder can nostalgia be triggered for something one never experienced? How do words and music do this?

I can only guess that CoronavirusC19 has triggered a sense of yearning and the mind turns it into a deep space exile. There is something about this present crisis that feels like being jettisoned into the nothing. We shall return, but it will be different but quite how different…

For what it’s worth:

My word cloud throws out: away, never, feels , arms, spaced, time, life, unreal which kind of creates the feeling but as random experiment is nothing insightful.

It includes lyrics from Muse: Starlight, Aerosmith: Spaced (2nd album dummy; Get Your Wings), Radiohead: Subterranean homesick alien and Mott The Hoople: Sea Diver. Obviously I could have used tons of Bowie lyrics (which I did twice in the body) and those who know me will appreciate I left out The Beatles’ Across the Universe and Elton John because I don’t like moist music. Purely my prejudices, nothing more.

Thomas has Cooked his goose

The collapse of Thomas Cook is the culmination of a long running series of events. Many hard working and well-meaning individuals have lost their jobs and their clients have lost money and well deserved holidays. It was predicted many years ago by travel industry luminaries, yet nobody had the will or expertise to deal with it.

Over the years, people have invested in the heritage of Thomas Cook without efficiently examining its present and/or future performances. Thomas Cook’s investors bought into it not because of its attributes but because of its reputation and vast (deluded?) client database. ‘The collapse of Thomas Cook’ will become the topic for many business studies’ dissertations. The kaleidoscope of errors covers all areas of management and for students looking for examples of ‘bad this and disastrous that’, it is truly fertile ground. I have been in the travel industry for over 40 years and have had occasional dealings with the company. The random observations that follow are simply personal, truthful reflections. I’m neither mourning nor gloating, just sharing what I saw.

Wax your feathers keep away from the Sun, he might give energy but he’s the one who’ll melt your dreams should you fly too close and bread in your hand will end up as toast

In 2011, a senior TUI manager told me that they could ‘finish Cooks off’ whenever they wanted. Some three years later and after another massive bail out, the same person told me they no longer needed to wield the sword of Damocles because Cooks were still on the same suicidal path and the new money was not going towards changing their business, just juggling debts and lining pockets. They took the money and stood still. Of course, cash was spent on a new logo and no doubt some wonderful think tank weekends for their executives in glamorous places but it would have been the same under performers that had always sought comfort by thinking well and truly inside the box.

Throughout 2015 and 2016 I was on a travel industry education committee tasked with developing vocational training. Cooks was represented by three managers. During a coffee break, I was talking to a director of a major Cooks’ rival whom I also knew through my work in education. They told me that Cooks’ presence was somewhat arbitrary because their influence on the group was now so weak and their attitude so inward looking that the other delegates conversed with them only out of politeness.

This drastically contrasts with my interactions with Cooks in the 1980s and 90s. During this period they were a wonderful client of mine. My business is a specialist hotel finder, particularly of Italian hotels. Italy was such a key destination that the Cooks’ Piccadilly office had a dedicated Italy desk and happily they gave us a lot of business. This meant that at least once a week I would stroll from our HQ in Regents Street to Piccadilly to deliver the clients’ travel documents. I remember there was always a feeling of arriving somewhere special and it was a privilege to go through their doors. The interior was modern (for the time) with banks of booking agents behind their airport style desks. Yet the Italy area was away from this functional zone and comprised two large dark mahogany desks. The visitor could sit in a green leather Chesterfield and with a true travel expert, go through their travel arrangements as if they were planning a 19th Centuryesque Grand Tour. Style and substance coexisted and it was still impressive.

This genteel corner of tradition however was on the wane. Even by the mid 80s IT had taken a firm, claws-first grip into the under SPF protected skin of the travel industry. Mr Cook had brought discovery to the kind of people who wanted adventure with comfort. The attraction in early tourism was cerebral and cultural with a safe pioneering feel. Cooks the company had every opportunity to maintain this niche but the myopic management opted to go big and inevitably bad. I am sure that many of their latter day clients that went on cultural tours still enjoyed them but the reality is that there are so many excellent specialists in this field, Cooks won’t be missed. Equally the bucket and spade end of things won’t really miss them either. Cooks was among those that helped regular people discover the thrill of leisure travel and to create a kind of travellers’ democracy. However, the IT mobsters have made it oh so easy for people to fly to the sun that they no longer need Cooks to be their Icarus.

An originator has melted its wings and finally crashed. The short term outcome is repatriation and chaos, the long term outcome will be less choice for consumers and a hike in prices. Book direct by all means, but remember you’re one step nearer the flame and there’s nobody there to shield you.

Photo; Jacob Peter Gowy (c 1615-1661), The Fall of Icarus (1635-7), oil on canvas, 195 x 180 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Wikimedia Commons

Rivoli Part 1: Cobbles, balconies and Aperol Spritz.

Rivoli has intrigued me for over 25 years. Having frequently travelled the westbound road from Torino in North Western Italy to the French border at Montgenèvre, I had always noted the castle on the hill to the left and wondered why nobody had ever suggested a detour there.

I was watching a TV programme about contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson (Miracles of Rare Device https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00077pm) and my ears pricked up when they showed a brief interview with Marcella Beccaria, the Chief Curator and Curator of Collections at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea. At once I knew that the castle was not another rural location trying to trap a few tourists, but in fact an internationally known and credible centre of present day art. The lot was cast; I was going there no matter what.

My plane landed in the early August heat. As the passengers walked across the baked 16.30 tarmac, the involuntary inhalation of fuel and tar assaulted my nostrils. I half expected to see some form of vapour but the fumes remained invisible and I stepped with relief through the automatic doors towards the air conditioned indoors and passport control.

Reunited with my luggage, I drove the hire car towards the tangenziale (ring road) and the zone where the sun would eventually be setting.

The first opportunity to tick a longstanding box presented itself in the form of a road sign; ‘Juventus Stadium’. Although I had long since lost interest in the antics of a football club that cheated by doping its players and dodgy financial dealings, I was so enjoying my free time that I knew a detour could be worthwhile. It was entirely on route and as I was only driving 26 Km that evening, I had no obligations to fear being late for. Time, precious time was my own and I was free.

After veering off the main road I followed a winding supermarket style car park track to the stadium and parked in a side road by J Medical, the club’s health centre. The area was easily accessed and the largeness of the low white and wide structure was counterbalanced by the lack of people and traffic around it. Perfection; no cars and no people. I locked the car, ensuring nothing of value was on view, and walked to the stadium entrance. At this point about 20 people reappeared from the main door. Dressed in a variety of soccer jerseys (mainly the 2 big Spanish teams) they spilled onto the concourse having completed the last stadium tour of the day. As the tours were over, I opted to look around the club store instead. I’m not averse to collecting football shirts but €100+ for the 2019-2020 home team shirt with ‘Ronaldo’ across the shoulders caused me to sound my derision aloud with an uncontrolled snort. Rolling my eyes and tutting, I returned to my car.

I arrived at the Hotel Rivoli soon after. The property was easy to find as it is between the motorway and the historic town. It’s a large red brick structure set within an impressive car and coach park. I’ve worked in tourism all my career and do not have a problem with big utilitarian places so long as they function properly. This property was fine. The receptionist knew my name before I told him who I was. This impressed me because it showed he had invested time in looking at the arrivals list. He even spoke to me in English which was not something I particularly wanted (I like to assume a full Italian identity when I’m there) but again this showed he was interested in the guests and keen to communicate. My room was simple but fine. The window offered a long view of the Alps and the Piemontese countryside. Nearer the hotel I could see the gardens were tidy and surprisingly green. To the side, a small water park with its bold red, blue and yellow slides demonstrated that greater Rivoli offers more than just a convenient stop-off place but family activities too.

Armed with a map (Millennials NB, it’s a paper version of Google Maps and paper is what people used to write on before we had screens). I walked out of the hotel’s rear gate and ambled for 2 km to Rivoli’s centre. The route was quiet and safe. I passed playgrounds, a closed-for-summer school and an imposing Jehova’s witness centre. As I approached the central zone I found myself walking past very normal Italian post-war apartment blocks. The street level was occupied by all the usual suspects; bakers, butchers, green grocers and more than enough hairdressers and a barber’s shop. The buildings may have been standard fair, but their balconies intrigued me. Some of the wrought metal looked like 1960’s pin people doing a square dance while others curled where they could in an effort to add baroque to the utilitarian structure.

Much of the town was closed or closing for the mid-summer week and as I arrived in Piazza Martiri Della Libertà, I could see that it was a lively community focal point at any other time during the year but this. Having worked up a thirst, I knew beyond doubt that I had earned a drink. The Caffè Consueto (https://www.facebook.com/pg/Caff%C3%A8-Consueto-1397695793595899/about/?ref=page_internal)

occupies the corner of the square. Its glass front and side allowed internal movements to be seen from the exterior. From across the square I could see pastries, triple layered tramezzini (sandwiches) and an array of coloured bottles upright on the tiered glass shelving. I sat at a small table on the outside without a firm idea of what I wanted until the server suggested an Aperol Spritz. I accepted immediately. Now I know it has become a bit too popular in recent years and does not make the imbiber look particularly sophisticated, but the A.S. is a marvellous aperitivo designed to be taken BEFORE dining. Its flavours blend to stimulate appetite. It is culturally and morally wrong to consume it after dinner. The kind of thing a tourist would do. This rather large drink was certainly ‘pre’, my as yet unplanned dinner and therefore acceptable and besides, the three middle aged women on the next table were sipping Aperol too so I drank mine knowing I didn’t appear to be a foreigner. What did make me look like an out-of-towner however, was the surprise on my face when the waitress brought me a platter of food. I had expected some crisps or bread sticks, but the selection of meats, cheese and pizza brought about a childlike delight. When the €8 bill came, I was just sober enough (I’m not a big drinker) to calculate that I could comfortably and economically live in this bar. I left a €10 note on the table and swanned off feeling magnanimous albeit slightly wobbly.

I was sated and relaxed and ready for my Castle adventure the next day.

“Take my good side”

 

‘Social Media,’ (now there’s oxymoron) is becoming an increasing concern, especially but not exclusively for parents and could be more anti-social than social.

The BBC reported on 4th January http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42563173 Schools should play a bigger role in preparing children for social media’s emotional demands as they move from primary to secondary school, England’s children’s commissioner says. Anne Longfield said she was worried many pupils at that stage became anxious about their identity and craved likes and comments for validation. Her study said children aged eight to 12 found it hard to manage the impact. SWEET JANE BLOG-SELFIDGES ADVERT

Although my instinct is to slaughter everything ‘internet’ I suppose I shall have to be a bit more objective because however much one might wish to pull the plug I, like so many other people am pretty much connected all the time. Damn it, I even have some SMART home devices plus the ability to see what an elderly live-alone relative is up to. Not only can I be spied upon but I can spy on and stalk.

Investigations have begun into the impact of social media on the nation’s youth but what about the adults and are there differences in our respective uses and effects of social media?

 

Adults tend to worry about their children. This is matched by children not being concerned about their adults. (This is probably morally correct, young children should not have to worry about their parents, there’s plenty of scope for that in the future!)

Children appear fearless when it comes to hitting the keyboard and tapping their screens whereas most adults over 40 are still suspicious about the SEND button (aka Carriage Return) because they know there can be negative impacts from it. Whereas the young will spray out words and images with barely any self-control, most adults will try to self edit. Until, at least, they become addicted to the speed of unconsidered self-expression.

It’s happened to me. Just over a year ago a famous musician died. It wasn’t anyone I valued or admired (his music was to my ears, damp and derivative) but a friend of mine used to perform a tribute act of this singer and I told him on Facebook that now was the time to re-ignite his career. ‘After all’ I LOLLED, ‘you’re better than him anyway’. I was promptly scalded by another person for being insensitive and I immediately scrambled around to delete my comment.

I felt foolish and gauche because in attempting a ‘funny’ I inadvertently showed the world a side of me I didn’t want to display. Like so many others who use FB and its business oriented cousin; Linked In, I try to sculpt a portrait of what I want people to see but it’s so easy to undermine one’s own hard posturing when a moment of spontaneity arrives and obliterates it all. I know some folk really buy into online arguments and trading insults but like in my real life, I really hate confrontation.

I think that people fall into three broad groups.

Group One contains those who rather like President Trump have no compunction in letting their inner rebel teen ejaculate half thought thoughts and angry tantrums. Opinions will land where they will and everyone shall choose how to feel and react. ‘Your problem mate, not mine’.

Group Two includes those like my friend whose online liberal leanings are probably at odds with the lifestyle he has finally achieved in middle age. He really wants to be loved for the good things about him (I’m the same) and knows there are warts and blotches to be masked.

The third group would include people like my father who have a vague idea of what it’s all about but forget there is no privacy and that what you might say from the heart and feels like a private comment to a presence you recognise, can come back and bite you.

Many of us have written diaries. It’s not a new thing and if the plethora of available January-December diary/notebooks is anything to go by, is something that still has a market. Entries in your daily diary are very different from what you might put on a Facebook timeline because they are not private. There’s a freedom of thought that a writer can afford to add to an A5 diary because you do not expect it to be seen by anyone else. When however your writing hits social media, it has the potential to seen and judged far, deep and wide. Forever. diarycover

Once the writer is aware of this, his output becomes very different from that of a private diarist. To start, abbreviations and codes have to go because nobody will understand them. Then, if the writer wants to avoid embarrassment, they are unlikely to reveal deep dark secrets and — much like me — keep away from politics and sex. Instead, what we add to the web it is hoped will reveal ideas that are amusing and thought provoking. What these ideas are does not perhaps matter, so long as they present one’s good side and don’t ruin your public image, that’ll just about do.

 

 

 

Travel Nerves

 

I’m a nervous traveller.

At first glance this is odd because I’ve been travelling alone since I was 8 years old and despite having made tens if not hundreds of work and leisure trips over the years I still get the jitters.

Even odder is that travel is pretty much my destiny. I don’t take astrology at all seriously, yet I am aware that as a Sagittarian, being a traveller is supposedly a trait.

It’s hard to be sure why travel stresses me so much. I like the freedom and experience of going and being elsewhere but certainly as I get older I feel an anxiety about the transit side of things.

Sagittarius
I don’t believe in Star Signs, but here is mine anyway

My suspicion is that having arranged so many trips for clients over the years added to all my own experiences, I am super-aware of the laws of s-d that means something can always go wrong. I recall that in 1992 as I was queueing in Rome airport to go to Sicily when I thought I’d lost my passport. I was by the gate and completely flipped. I had a tantrum/meltdown that rendered me out of control until an army-clad official came up to me and told me to calm down. He asked for permission to frisk me for the missing document and within a few seconds, he found it.

A similar thing once happened at Porto whnervous-234x300en I missed a flight and more recently as I was sauntering through Heathrow T2 I heard my name aloud on the PA system. The shock and horror hit like a bolt. I had thought I was just a few feet from the gate when it dawned that I was walking in 100% the wrong direction. I span on heel and sprinted from the Iberia to the Alitalia zone and made the flight. I could go on as I’ve had more near misses but even now these recollections are making me even more nervous.

All in then, it’s the not being in control that does it for me. I’ll  stop now because the hyperventilating is starting.

Out and In…

Breathe out and in…

 

 

Pic credits:

Sagitarrius: https://www.the-astrology-of-love.com/how-to-attract/a-sagittarius-man/

http://www.arenapersonnel.com/arena-nervous-attending-interviews/

 

We are Tangent

My team leader returned a particular student’s exam paper to me and told me that despite the answer being relatively eloquent and logical that I had over marked it and I was required to reduce. Although my instinct was to argue the case, I ceded to my superior and dutifully did as I was told. What a pity.

The pity is not that as a mature person I kept qTangentLine_1000uiet and obeyed, it’s that students, especially in the humanities arena often score lower than they should because they ‘fail to answer the question’. Ever since I was that type of student myself the rebel devil in my head has thought: Actually mate, I have answered your damned question but I’ve taken it upon myself to add something else of interest. What you asked is limited and predictable and as an arty person I’m giving you more. More in fact than you deserve.

Nothing has changed, least of all the continuing conspiracy that places a science template over the bones of creative thought with the sole aim to ‘straighten it all out’ because as we know, ‘they’ have never liked deviation and tangential ideas.

When I was young…I declared myself a romantic thinker in the vein of Goethe and Shelley, I subsequently signed up to Surrealism and Existentialism. I bought into everything I could to demarcate myself from my friends who were homing in on business and science. The main problem though was (and still is) that I had too little talent to be a really great artist and despite my medalling with a guitar, a few pastel on sketchbook etchings and an attempt to make Mime the new language  of global communication I pulled back from faux creativity and became an observer.

I’ve been marking exams for about 6 years and have seen all kinds of variations on the correct answer. The easiest ones to mark are the blank pages because zero is zero in any language and by the way kids, that old wives’ tale about scoring 1 for spelling your own name properly is incorrect. We don’t see or even care about your name and in true ‘Prisoner’ terms you really are a number and not a name.

But I digress.  Students who put nought get nought. Waffle/padding is easy to spot and is not worth including. Eventually what leaners need to put is the right answer. I enjoy reading the extra stuff and once in every two hundred the candidate persuades me to give them extra marks. I however resist that temptation because although I may think it’s deserved, my performance too is being watched and if I were to unilaterally add bonus points I’d be sacked very soon after.exams

The pity then is that the 1 in 200 extra bit of inspiration evaporates. The student probably forgets what she wrote and the assessor can only focus on the correct stuff. Brilliant, inspiring spur of the under-pressure moment ideas arrive and depart in a flash. Tangents are erased and words like plan, focus and quantify continue to maraud the future.

Photo credits
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/TangentLine.html
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1354174/University-blunder-exam-papers-handed-answers-stapled-back.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought WANTED: Time to Create

Dear Travel Coach

Q. The good news is that my classic-car rental business, that I began during the recession, has done well. The difficulty is that as it has grown, I spend more time being the administrator and less time coming up with new ideas. Also, I get loads of emails requesting internships and money requests from needy charities. I believe in CSR but it’s all too much. How can I address these issues?

Sid, Northampton.

Dear Sid,

A.  It looks like you need a ‘right-hand person’. You will need an assistant that shares your passion and knows everything about the business. This will help in two ways. Firstly when you need to brainstorm and bounce thoughts around, it’s good to do it with someone who reflects your normal self, allowing you to play devil’s advocate. Secondly, you need a trusted person to be able to step in either when you take a well-earned break or if you get run down by the proverbial bus or more likely, a dose of the ‘flu. Invest time in selecting the right person and be prepared also to invest substantially in their wages. You are appointing a professional and not just someone to fill a gap.

Hertz advert

Once your ’emissary-on-earth’ is in place you can shut yourself away and get back to developing schemes, meeting creative talent (designers, web-builders, young tech experts etc). Your team will soon get used to arranging their own lunch breaks, sorting appointments and returning forgotten baby-seats and roof-racks without having to disturb you at all.

Forward non-urgent e-mails to a second, secret (known only to you) mail box that you can look through in your own time. It’s good to support students needing work advice and it’s important to consider the needs of various charities, but do these things on the way home or indeed at any time that you choose.

 

 

If these strategies are designed to show your team where their interaction with you halts, you need to do something that allows you to engage with them too. The best way to achieve this is to hold a weekly scheduled meeting. As always, it needs fixed start and finishing times and has to be structured. Although this may initially feel a little too ‘bossy’, a viable agenda is to allow your staff the chance to ask advice and opinion and for you to answer their queries and to agree their goals and strategies.

Ensure somebody takes notes of what has been agreed and make it clear that there ought to be no reason to revisit what has been said unless there are problems. Remember, the aim here is to empower each person to have total control over what they do, in order for you to be free to do what you want to do. These strategies are for everyone to benefit and that in turn will benefit your business. apple advert

Many artists, creatives and innovators find their idea gets swamped by their business admin – don’t let it happen to yours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(originally featured in Travel Bulletin’s Travel Coach /Ask Renato-October 2009)

 

 

Photo credits:

Hertz: q=Vintage+cars&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCjJPtnurTAhVnLMAKHdwNAYgQ_AUICigB&biw=1094&bih=487#tbm=isch&q=Vintage+car+rental+advert&imgrc=d5EyWNKrvHUqFM:
Apple advert:
i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/01/15/article-0-16F3902B000005DC-58_634x919.jpg

 

What Now

 

Travel Coach Weekend Thought:

Q. I am a student on work experience with a travel agency that is set to merge. What is the point in starting a career in travel when the future looks so bleak for me and the other members of staff?

Dorothy, Nottingham

A  Dear Dorothy,

There is no quick answer because despite all the changes in booking patterns in the trade, nobody really knows where our industry is heading. The speed of change is rapid and many of us find it hard to keep up with, let alone get ahead of the game. As a coach however it is my duty to focus on the positives, so here goes

 

Youth equals choice. Being a student means you can still select your career direction. If you develop I.T. skills, you will be in great demand because the industry uses technology a lot. Previously being a computer person meant being a background figure, but now and in the future, you have the chance to be much more centre stage.

A White Star passenger list cover from 1930

 

If you fancied front-desk work in a travel agency, why not use the same skills in a hotel or a conference centre? When I coach agency staff that looking to change career, I emphasise the great range of prospects in Hospitality. If you start at reception and become good at it, you can soon be on the route to management. The same applies to Food & Beverage and restaurant work. There are some really fantastic jobs in the Conference and Meetings side of the business and the support provided by organisations like ABPCO (https://www.abpco.org/) is way ahead of what has been available to retail travel.

Experience also equals choice. Your more experienced colleagues can take a similar view, because even if they may not have your exuberance and youth, they still have gravitas and know-how. Loads of people are achieving great success with the excellent satellite travel agencies (the term home-worker is being used less because many do not now work from home.) This way of working suits those who enjoy being their own boss, have an entrepreneurial spirit and are content with being alone for long stretches – it is not for everyone.

Travel agencies will not vanish completely. They will however become more specific in whom the serve and in what they offer. Your senior colleagues should focus on their individual skills and strengthen them. An example would be someone who is very good at selling a particular product such as cruises, or a destination such as Florida. They need to home in on what they are good at and become as indispensable as possible.

None of these ideas are guarantees of job tenure but it is important to remember that although there will be fewer jobs as a travel agent, the broader travel business will actually offer more prospects than ever before.  Opportunities are out there, but not as you knew them.

Photos:

http://titanicbelfast.com/Discover/Titanic-Stories/Secrets-of-ocean-liner-passenger-lists.aspx

thechronicleherald.ca/sites/default/files/u23/westinbellboy.JPG

Originally published in Travel Bulletin – What Now? Travel Coach 28 March 2007

©Renato Fantoni