Point of View

Reading-Festival-2I spent the Bank holiday weekend at Reading Festival. Being well past the age when camping in overcrowded conditions with thousands of insomniac teenagers stopped being fun I now temper my festival experience by staying in a local hotel. Being a true Yorkshireman and appreciating the value of money (or being mean if you want to apply that reframe) I stayed in a basic bed and breakfast with my brother in law. He had booked it about 9 months in advance and called them to confirm all was well and there was on site parking. His text to me was typically cryptic.

Hi just checked B&B all booked in, check in from 1400.
No alcohol
No talking
No having fun
No music

But it did set the scene for my first meeting with our hostess.

On the Thursday my daughter was keen to get going to secure a reasonable place to camp and after grinding through the traffic I arrived at the B&B at 13.30. I parked and leaving my bag in the car, in case , went into the B&B to see if I could check in or at least leave my car in the car park while I went for a stroll to the pub.  The Landlady greeted me with a gruff:

it’s 1.30. Another one who can’t tell the time.

I said I knew I was early and if the room was not ready I was happy to come back in an hour or so. The landlady said that the room was ready and I was welcome to come in.

I’ve had them here at 9.30. ¬†It clearly says 2pm. ¬†And checking out, asking if they can check out later. ¬†It says right here on the key fob 10.00. ¬†This weekend of all times. ¬†You get all sorts, especially this weekend

I took it from the tone that ‘all sorts’ was not seen as a desirable state of affairs. But wanting to help her achieve a higher state of being (OK wanting to wind her up a bit) I said “How lovely, it must be great to meet a different type of guest than the usual business travellers”.

Her expression suggested that it wasn’t great at all. ¬†She showed me to the rather tired room. ¬†Never has the word ‘adequate’ been so apt.

It will soon be getting busy.  The great unwashed arriving.

I said that it was already very busy and when I dropped my daughter off the town centre was at a near standstill.

I don’t call that¬†traffic. ¬†Soon it will be nose to tail all along here. ¬†That’s traffic. ¬†Every day it’s terrible it is.

“That does¬†make getting about awkward but it’s great for you having so many people pass by, no need to advertise! ¬†And great for the town too. ¬†If the town is¬†busy it must be good for your business.”

Apparently not.

Looks like another muddy one.  Last year the mud was terrible.  They walked it in everywhere they did.

“Well” I said, looking at the grubby decor “I am surprised as I was at the festival last year and don’t recall any rain. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have done any lasting damage. ¬†I guess a wet festival must be good for business as it makes people more likely to use a B&B¬†”

Forecast for rain, even snow.  That will be nice for that lot.

“Oh, the¬†forecast I saw is for it to be a bit chilly but mostly dry. ¬†Snow in August. ¬†That would give us all a tale to tell!”

The next morning over breakfast the landlady chatted with various guests about various guests.  Interesting as I wondered what she was saying about me.

I wonder if we’ll see those two girls? I doubt it. ¬†I bet they won’t surface.

“That saves you the trouble of cooking and the cost of the meal. ¬†All extra profit.”

That Indian girl’s dad rang at midnight last night to see if she was in. ¬†He booked her in here and paid for it.

“It’s wonderful to see a father¬†allowing his daughter the freedom and yet keeping a discrete check.”

One guest asked if the doors were locked at any time and was treated to a sarcastic refresh on how one of the keys opened the front  door and the other his room followed by threats of physical harm should anyone lose a key and require letting in late at night, further followed by a critique of the headline acts

Noisy rubbish. ¬†Dreadful thumping all night, no proper tunes. ¬†Hasn’t been an act worth seeing for years.

“The organisers have to move with the times. Most of the people sitting here paid a lot of money to watch these bands, 90,000 people will be watching tonight plus a large TV audience.”

I’d love to report that my repeated reframing changed her in some way. ¬†I doubt it did because she was rarely listening out for anything except a lull in the conversation into which she could inject her opinions. ¬†It wasn’t even annoying her so I gave up.

It did change me though.  I decided not to ask if my daughter could pop in mid morning to use the shower in my room and I decided to hide the fact that I spilled a large glass of red wine all over the bed.  I am sorry Рnot to the Landlady, the laundry would get it out anyway, but to my daughter who had to go a few days as one of the great unwashed.

At least it didn’t snow.

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Stubborn minded enclosed to your own world
Wake up and see someone else’s morals
What right to you
Might be true

It’s a different point of view to you
You cannot see things that are different to me
And I can’t understand why you cannot see
The things that I cannot see

I see what you don’t see
I see what you don’t see
Turn around and the shadows are all around me

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Point of View – Blink 182


Silver Lining


These days I am spared the daily commute into London.  The occasional trips I now make serve to remind me that life is better without the 7.10 am from Swindon, even when things run smoothly.

Last week I only had to make the one trip. An 11.00 am meeting followed by lunch meant I could avoid the rush and get the first off peak train.   On my way to the station I heard on the car radio that there were problems but at the station I was assured that the 8.59 and 9.11 would be on time and the issues were resolved Рthey were just clearing up the backlog of trains.  So I cheerfully bought a ticket and presently got on the train which did indeed leave on time.

When we did slowly come to a halt I accepted that this was to be expected and there was little point in raging or stressing.  I had half an hour cushion in any case.

Eventually the train Supervisor made an announcement.

¬†On behalf of First Great Western I apologise for the slow running of this service. ¬†This is due to congestion caused by¬†an earlier closure of the line because of a fatality. ¬†The line is now open¬†but due to the backlog of trains we can expect a delay. ¬†I’ll keep you updated.

It’s worth pausing to reflect on the cause of the problems – a suicide in Slough. ¬†Not that long ago I might have moaned at how selfish it was to hurl yourself in front of a speeding express train during rush hour. ¬†Now I am genuinely saddened that someone was driven to the point where suicide felt like their best option, to a point where they truly believed that their friends and family would be better off without them. ¬†If you have ever stood close to a passing train you will realise that throwing yourself in front of it must take a huge effort of will, it isn’t a cry for help it’s a desire for oblivion. ¬†I spare a thought too for the driver, powerless yet left with truly horrific memories and often feelings of guilt.

We did move forward very slowly.  My 30 minute cushion had been eroded but my client was understanding and we exchanged emails joking about my OCD tendencies when it comes to timeliness. Then we picked up speed and moved on, to palpable relief in the carriage.

Then we stopped again.   The next announcement came

¬†…All lines are now open, there is congestion due to a backlog of trains. ¬†All platforms at Paddington are¬†full but as trains are coming out of the station they are freeing up platforms…

Surely that must mean we’d soon be moving on? ¬†Once again there was a flurry of texting, but I sensed a general feeling of acceptance. ¬†The issue was not one created by First Great Western and certainly not by the train crew who were busy helping passengers who had onward connections to make.

However we stayed where we were for a long, long time.

Around an hour after the scheduled arrival time I was reflecting on the stoic way that the passengers were waiting. ¬†I couldn’t hear any angry complaints, most phone calls I overheard made light of it and that traditional British characteristic of smiling in adversity was coming to the fore. ¬†Strangers were even talking, breaking the cardinal rule of public transport in and around London –¬†under no circumstances must eye contact be made with fellow passengers.

A further announcement came

Once again I apologise for the delay to this service due to an earlier fatality. There is congestion getting into Paddington station.¬†All the platforms are¬†full and we are fourth in the queue. ¬†Unfortunately a fire alarm has now been triggered and the station has been evacuated. ¬†Therefore there can be no movement until that is resolved…

I was, I admit, getting a bit stressy. ¬†Being over an hour late for an hour and a half meeting was bad form. ¬†Worse still my client confessed that he had nearly asked to switch the venue but left it in the City as it was easier for me. ¬†However I was deliberately trying to see the positives in the situation and not allow this to ruin my day. ¬†It was important that when I did get to my client I was on good form. ¬†Likewise the rest of the carriage seemed to be bearing up¬†and¬†the good old ‘blitz spirit’ was coming out¬†in force.

Then the next announcement came.

We apologise for the continuing delay to this service.   I am pleased to say that the station has now re-opened.

Unfortunately due to the combination of issues many trains and crews have been displaced and are not where they should be.  Crews are only allowed to work for a given period before taking a break.  Many crews have reached that limit and so there is now a shortage of crews to move trains out of the station.  Therefore we are now waiting for fresh crews to come, or the break period to be over before trains can be moved and free up platforms.

For most people on the train that seemed to be the straw that broke them. ¬†No longer was it ‘one of those things’ it was now ‘a bloody shambles’. ¬†Train crew became ‘jobs worth’s’ in that instant.

I started to smile because it occurred to me I had found the silver lining.  Here was a clear demonstration that in being open and honest in his communication the train Supervisor had initially won the support of most passengers Рbut the last disclosure was a step too far.  It seems that generally being open pays off and sometimes discretion really is advisable.

The trick seems to be knowing when to fully disclose and when to be more circumspect.


PS  I was very late for my meeting but my client worked round it and we still managed a pleasant lunch.

PPS I tried to get to Town today and left very early to avoid a repeat. Arriving at the station there were ¬†obvious problems. ¬†There was a train at the platform and another outside the station. ¬†The board simply said delays and suggested that slightly later trains were on time. I later discovered that due to a broken down freight train all services were in fact suspended. ¬†After 30 minutes¬†of waiting staff did finally advise us that there was little prospect of movement for at least another hour, then there might be slow running ‘due to congestion’. ¬†Being a quick learner I took a refund on my ticket and am sat writing this in my sunny garden, another silver lining.

And it’s hi-ho silver lining
And away you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining
But I won’t make a fuss
Though it’s obvious

Hi Ho Silver Lining – Jeff Beck

Don’t quote me on that

images¬†¬†“You’re a HR Director and an Executive Coach. You’ve done all that NLP stuff. So why are you such an a…hole at times?”

Maybe this (wholly justified) tirade from my lovely wife needs some explaining…

You see I didn’t mean any harm, I just didn’t think. ¬†We had been for a brisk walk around our very small town and were nearly home when a small car, moving very slowly stopped ahead of us. ¬†An elderly lady got out and peered up the drive of the large house she had pulled up in front of. ¬†She looked quite puzzled.

“Excuse me, are you local?” she asked looking at my wife. ¬†“We are looking for the Garden Centre. ¬†We thought this might be it. ¬†Do you know the way?”

She was outside what is,to my eyes, obviously a residence – Ok a large 17th century stone manor house, but still. ¬†She’d also just driven past the massive garden centre and all of it’s huge signs, vast car park and large greenhouses.

“Yes we are local.” I said. “This is someone’s home, the Garden Centre is back the way you came about half a mile. ¬†Straight across the roundabout and on right.” She looked worried. “You really cannot miss it. ¬†It has huge signs and a big entrance to the car park. ¬†If you do miss it there is a little lane a few hundred yards further on where you could turn round.” ¬†I felt I was being especially helpful.

“Ah.” She said, very nervously “Straight over the roundabout?”

“Well it would help if you kind of wiggled round it.” ¬†I said, smiling at my witty comment.

She looked very confused “Errr. What?”

“Straight over. ¬†It isn’t hard.”

“Hmm, but well it goes round. ¬†I mean …”

I pressed my advantage. ¬†Confused by a roundabout, missing dirty great big buildings, thinking a house was a Garden centre. ¬†What a fool. ¬†I’d show her my superior intelligence.

“Yes, if you keep going you can go round and round, it is a roundabout.”

Finally my wife stepped in. ¬†Physically placing herself between our puzzled visitor and myself. “If you just turn round, go back the way you came, take the first exit on the roundabout signposted Fairford, the Garden Centre is then 200 yards on your right and has a big wide entrance.”

We walked on in heavy silence and as we rounded a corner my wife rounded on me. I then received the tirade that started this piece. ¬†I’d talked over my wife and upset a complete stranger. ¬†I was feeling pretty bad, yet worse was to come. ¬†I was pondering why I was such an a…hole (¬†a total lack of empathy on my part? being so self absorbed I failed to notice or react to any of the signals being given that I was causing distress) when we heard the little car cough into life, a crunching of gears, the whine of an over revved engine and finally the ‘Crump’ of a small car reversing into a stone pillar.

Congratulations. ¬†Two old friends¬†decided to go out for a drive in the countryside, maybe stop for lunch at the Garden Centre. ¬†And I¬†bloody terrified them. ¬†They were clearly nervous, lost and confused. ¬†And I decided to choose that moment to demonstrate my ‘superior’ wit.

I suggested going to help but rightly my wife pointed out that that might just finish them off. ¬†In any event ‘that nice girl’ from up the street had just gone by and had stopped.


It’s clear I have work to do. ¬†The good news is that we can all learn. ¬†But Don’t quote me on that.

Its all Eggs Bacon Beans and a Fried Slice.

Did you see the one, yeah yeah,
The one they wrote in the paper just the other day,
Well, well would you believe it,
Well what I said, they took it all the wrong way.

Now you’ve gotta be careful, ’bout what you say,
Cos they’ve got a bad habit
Were you reading in between the lines?
Or is that what I said?, now I just can’t remember

Madness – Don’t Quote me on that