Corona Virus and Common Sense

So 2020 is coming to an end and I think we can all agree that it is time to say good riddance.

The year of course has been dominated by Corona Virus that has affected everybody’s every day life. It has led to conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine sentiments and Donald Trump more or less suggesting an injection of bleach could be the cure. The year has ended with newer more virulent variants that have sent infection rates through the roof – especially in the UK.

Can I use this last post of 2020 to appeal for some common sense – whatever you believe!

Let me explain my life philosophy with some examples. It removes controversy or conspiracy and just makes everything clear.

Example 1:

Whatever your view on climate change the common sense approach is that you leave a place how you found it. How annoying is it when you go to the beach only to find somebody has left their rubbish. Take it home! Most people don’t collect their household rubbish in their homes. They take care of their space. If we all took this attitude the environment would be a better place and you don’t even need to believe the science. Or to put it more bluntly if you step in dog mess you don’t then traipse it around your home. You clean your shoes so you are not carrying the crap around with you.

Example 2:

One of the differences between the main Christian denominations and Jehovah’s Witnesses is that where as on the whole it is believed that Christ was crucified on a cross the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that he was crucified on an upright post. The confusion comes from the Greek word stauros which can mean an upright post or an upright post with something (like a cross piece) attached to it. Roman tradition suggests it was a cross as derived from the Phoenician’s who originally devised crucifixion as a means of execution and they used a T-shaped frame. But does it really matter. For any Christian believer it is the death and resurrection that mattered and not the exact means of execution with all of its gory details!

In other words focus on the important message and not the detail.

So what’s this got to do with Corona Virus?

Again we should take a common sense approach whatever you think of the science or whether you believe that Bill Gates is using it as an opportunity to microchip the world (why would he when we all have smart phones and other devices that snoop on us anyway?) or a some unknown sinister cabal is using it to take over the world and bring in a New World Order.

Let me put it bluntly. The pandemic is real. Look at death spikes and overwhelmed health services to get a real view. Personally I know two people who have died as a consequence of Corona Virus and about half a dozen others who have had it. My wife and I too had a mystery illness in April that may have been Corona. A test in September proved to be inconclusive, but it didn’t feel like any throat or chest infection I had ever had before and the respiratory exercises we were given by somebody who was hospitalised with Corona Virus definitely helped keep our lungs working.

It may not have been Corona Virus, but if it walks like a dog and barks like a dog it’s probably a dog!

Keep your distance!

As a coach who focuses on communication and soft skills an important element is personal space. If somebody feels that another is too close they feel intimidated or uncomfortable and a key lesson is that we are all in charge of our own personal space. We have an invisible bubble around us and nobody can enter it without our express permission. Think about when you have had a disagreement with somebody close to you – you don’t let them close until the issue has been resolved. The only possible exception is when a ‘naughty’ child has fallen over or got upset and needs parental comfort. Now let me throw in #metoo – nobody with a brain would argue that it is acceptable to invade (especially in this context men encroaching on women’s space) somebody else’s space.

personal_space

It really is straightforward if somebody wants you to keep your distance respect their wishes.

Mask Wearing.

Before getting into this let me state categorically that wearing a mask means wearing it properly – that means on your nose too. I have seen memes that compare incorrect wearing with wearing a condom on the wrong part of the anatomy – let’s just say balls are often kept in a bag!  Another comparison could be wearing your trousers around your ankles. So if you are going to wear a mask then do so properly. Here is a guide.

mask_wearing

Another infamous example was a woman saying that she doesn’t wear a mask for the same reason she doesn’t wear knickers – ‘it needs to breathe’ she exclaimed furiously.

No comment!

So the two main issues with the masks are that it inhibits breathing and the personal freedom and liberty.

First the breathing issue, this complaint usually manifests in two ways, simply I can’t breathe or I am breathing my own carbon dioxide and that can’t be good. The truth is that the carbon dioxide argument has no foundation as any impact is absolutely minimal. As somebody who wears glasses and has to contend with steaming up I am possibly in a more difficult position than many.

Secondly connected with personal liberties, this argument is frankly ridiculous. Ultimately a mask is an item of clothing and should be treated as such. Nobody can walk around naked in public and we have to comply to certain standards of dress. Alternatively, for health and safety purposes, it could be compared to wearing a hard hat and steel toe-capped boots on a building site

Being told to cover up for these reasons is not about personal liberty. If it was builders across the globe would down tools and more pointedly countless medical professionals would refuse to work.

The effect of how our breath spreads can easily be demonstrated on a cold day and even more dramatically I recently saw somebody who was smoking an e-cigarette It was shocking to see how far the smoke she breathed out carried, but at the same time I have to point out in fairness she was keeping her distance.

I have seen a simple visual image recently. It is an information film that shows somebody going about his day to day life with no regard to wearing a mask and in the last scene he is hospitalised with Corona Virus and an oxygen mask is put on his face. The end message was brutally simple.

‘Choose which mask you’d prefer to wear!’

If you want another direct example I don’t think I am unique in this when my wife tells me when we wake up not share my morning breath on her!

So I am not being controversial I am using my common sense and respecting others. Keep your distance and wear a mask. It’s not rocket science. The virus is terrible, but idiocy is making it worse.

On a more positive note vaccines are coming out and 2020 is coming to an end. So just want to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Copyright Richard Horton 2020

 

A Reality Check on #MeToo

This article has been put together after studying the issue in some depth; a series of informal interviews were conducted, information was gathered from a documentary shown on the BBC and some general internet based research was carried out. Finally the article was submitted to a focus group of females before its final publication for reasons that will be explained later.

In late February 2020 film producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and other related charges. The process that led to this started in 2017 when allegations began to surface that he had abused his position of power and influence to sexually abuse and rape many fledgling actresses and others within the movie industry. Almost all felt like they had no other choice, but to give in to him and remain silent. First one actress spoke out and then another and then another and before we knew it huge numbers of affected women were rising up and saying #MeToo.

The #MeToo movement had started over a decade earlier in 2006, but it was the Weinstein allegations that really brought it under the spotlight. It was a catalyst and it created a similar chain reaction to that seen in the UK when the Jimmy Saville scandal shone a light on the endemic culture of the BBC during the 1970s and 1980s.

Suddenly it seemed that Twitter in particular, but not only, was full of women from all walks of life who were also saying #MeToo.  My initial reaction was cynical as it seemed to me that many women were simply jumping on the bandwagon and this had some potential negative impacts. I was worried that such a deluge of complainants would cheapen the genuine testimonies of real victims and consequently securing convictions would become harder. It seemed to me that #MeToo was simply trending and that was all it was. It’s all too easy to align with a fashionable hashtag nowadays with no real integrity.

However, I know that cynicism can often be the enemy of truth so I carried out some informal research and was shocked by the results. A single question was asked:

Have you in your life, ever had somebody behave towards you in a way that is sexually inappropriate that has made you in the very least feel uncomfortable?

When asking I set strict limits on the question. I only asked ladies who were aged at least 18 as while sexual predation affects younger people too it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to approach such young girls with the question.  I asked respondents just to answer with a simple yes or no, without details. It wasn’t the purpose of the question to be intrusive and make the respondents feel uncomfortable.

Out of a sample group of more than 50 women all but one answered yes and in the most clear cut example one particular lady in her 20s looked me straight in the eyes, raised her hands, and simply said ‘me too.’ The lady who answered no went on to explain her view which I will comment on later.  This means that based on my small sample  an overwhelming 98% of respondents identified with ‘me too’.

My conclusion was simple and shocking. #MeToo is real and it affects almost every woman.

This is a profound indictment of at least a portion of the men in our society and it indeed challenges the behaviours of all men.

A lot has been made in recent years about how women should change their behaviours around men and the obvious response is – why should she?

I came across an early example of this when I was in secondary school in the 1980s. Back in those days boys were absolutely forbidden from wearing any kind of earrings in school, but girls were allowed to wear stud earrings, but no ‘dangly’ ones. This was possibly unfair to the boys too (but they were different times – even though that is never actually an excuse), but the primary reason why girls weren’t allowed to wear dangly earrings was for health and safety purposes – just in case they got hurt because boys thought it might be fun to pull on them or even yank them out.

This was the earliest example I know of girls having to change their behaviours to be safer around boys.  More recent examples have included encouraging girls never to go anywhere alone, especially at night, to carry keys between their fingers so they can slash out at any would be attacker and even telling girls to moderate what to do on a night out and even what they wear.

Again I ask the question – why should she?

It really should be as simple as ‘Hey guys just leave (wo)me(n) alone!’

A lot has been made about men needing to learn to control themselves, and while I am sure it only applies to a minority of men, I wholeheartedly agree. However, further research has shown that it is not necessarily so black and white and while it is always wrong to blame the girl there has to be wisdom and common sense rather than naivety.

I am definitely not defending any man who even slightly crosses the line, but society needs to take a serious hard look at how it projects women and the consequences of this image projection.

All too often opinions are influenced by the media. A particularly stark example of this is both the video and lyrical content of many pop videos.  I am no prude but when lyrics are reduced to sexualised and objectified language about a woman’s anatomy and what it’s for (!) and the video content exaggerates this, it projects an image.  It is bad enough when a male artiste is saying such a thing, but even worse when women allow themselves to be treated in such a way or even sing about themselves in accordance to this fashion.

Secondly some women have made a point of wearing the most provocative and revealing clothes they can find and wear legally to send a message that could be summarised as ‘I can wear what I want – it’s not an invitation – deal with it!’

I absolutely agree. Whatever she is wearing, it is never open permission for a guy to ‘help himself’.  The truth is that guys who have a problem with women wearing anything revealing are the ones who have the problem because the problem is their own thoughts and not what the women are wearing.  However, just as equally such women cannot then get offended when they find themselves being stared at.  You can’t have it both ways.

I was at a rock concert in the late 1990s and I was really pleasantly surprised by the good behaviour of the crowd.  I found myself in the mosh pit with an old school friend when he suddenly signalled that his shoelace had come undone.  Under the circumstances this was potentially catastrophic.  I indicated to those immediately around us and 8 to 10 people formed a protective circle so he could go down and tie his shoelace.

I was eagerly awaiting a review of the concert and in those days the internet was still in its infancy so I needed to wait for a magazine to come out.  I read the review and then the fan letters that were on the following page.

One girl had written that she was appalled that when she went crowd surfing she was groped and touched inappropriately by several men.  She had deliberately and consciously climbed on top of the crowd knowing that there would be huge numbers of men, many of whom had drunk large quantities of alcohol. Of course this shouldn’t have happened nor does it excuse the men’s behaviour. In an ideal world all would have been fine, but I found her outlook naïve.  When you climb on top of a crowd and let them carry you wherever they want (usually to the front as it is a tried and tested method of getting out of the crowd if it becomes too much) you are literally putting yourself in the hands of strangers.

When in a crowd like that the first thing anybody knows about a crowd surfer is an elbow or heel in the back of the head and instinctively the crowd just passes the person over without any real awareness of where they make contact. It is just possible that I was one of the guys who touched her ‘inappropriately’ as I tried to remove her foot from my ear.  Having said that, I have heard that girls can usually tell the difference between an accidental touch and a more lingering, intentional one.  Being a guy there is no way I can comment on this.

Which brings me to another point concerning responsibility.  Responsibility and blame are not synonyms and shouldn’t be interpreted as such and especially with what follows below.

A 2019 documentary A High School Rape goes Viral tells the story of a young girl who went to a party and according to at least one eye witness was very flirtatious and all around the boys earlier on until she got so drunk that she was barely conscious.  She was then driven to a second party by two boys after refusing the intervention of some of her classmates who urged her not to go because she didn’t know them. She was so drunk that at one point in the evening she was photographed being carried by a couple of people, one had hold of her arms and another, her legs. At some time after leaving the first party two boys had sex with her in front of witnesses and she woke up the next morning knowing something had happened, but not remembering a thing.

There is no doubt about this.  It was rape.

Consent is active and must always remain so. Passivity or failure to give permission is just that. Any answer other than an uncoerced YES is always NO; end of discussion.

However the story went viral with comments even being left using the word rape and other comments suggested she was so far gone that they thought she was dead.  This makes it even worse because witnesses failed to intervene, which in my mind makes them as guilty as those who raped her.

What challenged me was what was said on the radio, played in full on the documentary.  I wanted to disagree with him, but found myself unable to. To paraphrase:

When people go to a party things happen.  She was flirting and playing around with the boys and they took an interest and they probably did rape her, or maybe she consented and regretted it later.  It all comes down to ‘he said she said’ ultimately… just saying…

I think it is obvious why I find this objectionable, but it raises a valid point.  In the heat of the moment things happen – often regrettable and terrible things – and while the blame clearly lies with the boys (who were convicted later) the responsibility lies at the hands of all who were present, those who raped her, those who failed to intervene and the girl herself.

I know this may offend some, but responsibility means taking good care and behaving in such a way not to make oneself vulnerable and trusting in relative strangers is naivety at best.

Let me illustrate with a less inflammatory example. Many years ago a guy who I knew got so drunk he barely knew where he was and even walking was an effort.  I wasn’t there at any point in the evening, neither when he was drinking nor later when he was staggering home, but I was there to deal with the aftermath when he turned up at my home the next morning asking for help.

It was late and dark and to get home after his night out he had two choices. He could either take the shorter route through an unlit park by a river (which was more of a storm drain than a true river). The area around the park was a known haunt of gangs of drunken youths who had a reputation for yobbish and violent behaviour. Alternatively he could take a more circular route that was well lit, but would take probably 10-15 minutes longer. In his drunken state he chose to go through the park and he was confronted by five yobs who mugged him and stole his phone. He attempted to fight back and they threw him in the river. A few minutes later one of his attackers pulled him out. This was almost certainly not out of any compassion, but probably because he had enough wits about him to realise the serious legal implications if their hapless victim drowned or was really seriously hurt.

The first thing I knew about the incident was when he turned up at my door the next morning with a battered and bruised face and I went with him to the police and did the best I could to help him.

The point I am making is this.  There was no way that it was this guy’s fault and there is no excuse for violence and the mugging he was subjected to.  However his state had impaired his ability to make decisions and there were serious consequences that could have been so much worse.  He wasn’t lucky and he wasn’t to blame, but he needs to take some responsibility because his decisions had left him vulnerable. In an ideal world he would have gone home and woken up with a hangover and nothing worse.

In principle is this any different to the girl at the party? She had even turned down an easy opportunity not to go with the two guys to the second party where tragically she was raped.  I reiterate, like the mugging victim, it wasn’t her fault, but her state had left her vulnerable.

Finally I would like to come back to the one girl who didn’t say #MeToo as she had an interesting qualification to her point.  To summarise she said that at times people are too sensitive and there is too much political correctness nowadays and just maybe a comment that is meant to be lighthearted should be interpreted that way however vulgar it might be. Additionally a certain amount of messing about is just that and people shouldn’t make such a big deal of things.

I am quite sure that most will disagree with her, but her point raises an interesting point about interpretation. Words and gestures are interpreted by those they are aimed at.

Maybe it is an English thing but when I get together with two of my best friends from school, including the one who was at the rock concert, we do nothing but insult each other mercilessly. We don’t get offended as it is probably some kind of indirect affection and just the way we are.

So maybe some girls do feel like the one who has never categorised herself in the #MeToo camp and think we take things too seriously.  The point is this; if you don’t know a girl leave her alone or in the right social circumstances approach her with respect. If she is a stranger don’t say anything vulgar or do anything to make her feel threatened or uncomfortable and particularly sexually. Work on this assumption and you will never go wrong.  Good relationships grow and boundaries develop and change as they do so.

Appropriate behaviours are defined by respectful relationships; it really is as simple as that!

© Richard Horton Omega Support Services 2019

Feedback from the Focus Group

Before publishing I shared this article with a small group of women whose input I valued. I did this for one primary reason. Discussing such a difficult issue as #MeToo is undoubtedly hard enough for women and in another way it is hard for guys to have a real conversation about it as sensitivity seems to run contrary to candour. So it was my wish that I could express a real opinion without offense.

Some modifications were made to the original text thanks to the feedback and it is unnecessary to go into the details. However the views of some of those who asked are worth sharing. Their names have remained anonymous and their comments have been streamlined, but not posted without their express approval.

Some people may find it offensive. But it’s quite a sore subject

I agree with what you said. It was rape though. But everyone was in the wrong like you said

She shouldn't have got herself in such a state as that and then rely on random men to take care of her

I have been in a situation like that before... too drunk to make a decision. But i never went on about it. Mistakes happen.

K.

This means that the respondent is clearly also saying #MeToo while acknowledging her own responsibility. Please remember that I make a strong distinction between blame and responsibility. As with the girl in the documentary there is absolutely no blame attached.

Another person wrote:

I didn't find [the article] offensive – it’s subjective, but based on facts and discussions you had.

Well, it's interesting to see that guys have similar opinion […]

[I know it was written by a man but] if I hadn't known […] I would have said that it had been written by a woman  🙂

M.

A third commentator wrote:

I am so pleased that you asked me to read your piece of writing as it's something I do have an opinion on. You have not offended me in any way- in fact you have hit the nail right on the head! Like the girl that said 'no' to your question I feel people are too sensitive and that comments can be taken the wrong way & political correctness [has] gone mad.

When I think back to when we were school, boys would often be flirtatious but I wouldn't think anything of it & would laugh it off. Yes if the guy pushed & pushed & had no respect then that's a different issue. Working with engineers in my previous job, I enjoyed the banter & there were many things that could have been taken the wrong way but it was harmless banter & they knew their limits.

As for the subject of girls wearing provocative clothes, I agree it certainly doesn't give a man a right to help himself. However, women know by dressing this way they will get a reaction – it's one a way that a male is attracted to a female.

As for the drinking- everyone knows that you lose the ability to make sensible decisions. Back in our day people would [often] get off with someone after a few drinks & then regret it but that was the end of it. […] If drink is involved, both parties need to be careful with their actions. It does seem to sometimes get all blown out of proportion & men wrongly accused. I'm not saying there aren't some genuine cases as I know there are & these men have to punished. Your summary at the end is spot on'

K.

And finally,

The only paragraph I had a ‘problem’ with as such [was the paragraph that starts] “All too often” [when discussing pop culture]. The part I wasn’t sure about was “when women allow themselves to be treated in such a way”. Not quite sure how you could put it. I suppose I’m thinking along the lines of women buying into today’s sexualised culture because they feel they have no choice. It is what is expected of them because physical attractiveness and being sexy is positively valued. I think some may view the points raised as controversial. Some would argue that women shouldn’t have to moderate their behaviour at all. I think the points you make are valid that men should be taught “don’t rape” rather than teaching women to “avoid getting raped”. At the same time as a woman, and mother of daughters, this is balanced by common sense and not making oneself vulnerable, which we shouldn’t have to do but this is the world we live in sadly.

S.

Rather than adjusting the original text I decided a better approach was to leave it alone and include the opinion as I believe that S addressed the issues far better than I could have.

Finally I would just like to thank all of those who expressed their views in helping me shape this article.

Brexit – When the Remainers Shot Themselves in the Foot!

In my last article about Brexit I made a strong case for a second referendum based on the fact that if the entire electorate were to be taken into consideration little over 37% voted to leave the EU.  Admittedly by the same token approximately 34% voted to remain. There was a turnout of 72% and the rest of the electorate either didn’t vote or had their votes spoilt in some way.  The basis of my argument was that a vote to leave needed to be an active vote and a threshold of 50% would have been required.  A non-vote would therefore not count for a Brexit vote.  To justify this seeming bias I explained that passivity and lack of interest could and probably should be interpreted as I don’t care.  Change requires activism and it was necessary for the Brexit supporters to ensure their campaign led to the requisite number of votes based on the entire electorate.  I have reproduced the results below.

The May 2019 European elections would have been a perfect opportunity for Remainers to send a strong statement of intent.  The results when they were announced showed the decimation of the main parties.  The Conservatives under Theresa May have lost popular support due to what many see as her mishandling of the whole situation and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn failed at least in part due to his failure to make clear what his stance is and how his party stand on Brexit.  Corbyn’s dithering makes Theresa May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ in comparison clear, rather than the empty rhetoric it truly represents.

A further consequence of this was that Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party (a mere 6 weeks old) won at the polls taking just under a third of the total vote.  Combined with other leave groups (UKIP being the obvious one) they commanded approximately 34% of the popular vote.  However the overall vote showed that Pro-Remain parties (in particular the Liberal Democrats and the Greens) secured a greater number of votes, but it was a divided vote.  Compared to the referendum, the turnout was low and the figures are probably more an indicator of a return to apathy and a weariness of our politicians’ ability to deliver anything.  Unlike the referendum though this really is a first past the post election with a simple majority being enough to secure election.

The result, summarised above by the BBC, sends a mixed message on where Britain stands concerning Europe and the Remainers only have themselves to blame.  Realistically only three parties have a chance of acquiring real power (no disrespect to the Greens – who at best will be seen as a fringe by a majority until the world faces a cataclysmic ecological disaster*), and for a long time there seemed to be only two.

* I know some will already say the world is teetering on the edge – see for example Extinction Rebellion.  Most will not believe that we face imminent danger until rising sea waters are lapping at our feet or something else just as visible.

The Liberal Democrats have undergone a remarkable resurrection after getting into bed with David Cameron and sacrificing their principles (think Nick Clegg and Student Tuition Fees).  They were completely crushed in the last general election and the unheard of happened when a sitting party leader even lost his seat.  Since the referendum though they have developed a clear and effective remain policy that has been communicated across all channels.  Unlike the Conservatives and Labour we know where they stand.  We may not agree with all of their policies, for example increased funding for the NHS means higher taxes or we might be uncomfortable with their age old adherence to Proportional Representation (which suits them politically more than the Conservatives or Labour), but if it is a one issue vote everybody who is in favour of remain should have got behind them.

It may mean tactical voting, but if that 40% had largely been made up of Liberal Democrats the country would have to sit up and pay attention.  The waters would have been muddied and there would have been no clear mandate to either remain or leave.  This would have forced a new referendum – which should be conducted on the principles outlined previously.

Instead Remainers splintered their vote and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party became the largest single block.  This could have been avoided.

Halloween beckons and with it a no deal future.  Remainers if you want to stop it step up and stop shooting yourselves in the foot!

© Richard Horton, Omega Support Services.

Is Reading Becoming a Thing of the Past?

It is widely thought that the arrival of the new millennium marked a new age and as vinyl had become a thing of the past so would the printed media.  Many lamented the death of both.  Interestingly in recent years vinyl has had something of a revival.

The millennium was supposed to mark the end of the book because it was the time when Generation Y would come of age.  A notable characteristic of Gen Y is a preference for digital media.  It was widely believed that they no longer read more than short internet articles and the newspaper is completely lost on them.  Some drew the conclusion that the book would be consigned to history.  Advertisers, who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have abandoned traditional advertising in newpapers and magazines, are focused more on creating an online presence to reach Gen Y and those who have followed.  Similarly the TV was considered an out of date medium for them and the internet was the only way forward.

Books are to be treasured.  The written word has been central to maintaining history and storing knowledge since the dawn of time.  Historians often refer to prehistory and recorded history and the line of demarcation between the two is the advent of writing – which by implication means reading too.  Books inform and educate, they don’t only transfer knowledge but they are one of the best ways to learn vocabulary and develop imagination and as a result, creativity.  The creative spark is one of the things that makes mankind unique and separates us from other species.

It is not that Gen Y and subsequent generations won’t read, it’s the idea that they will no longer read books that concerned older people.  Reading and writing have been such an essential tool in the development of culture and identity that the abandoning of the book for more superficial writing seemed to be a travesty.

Then along came J.K. Rowling! 

Just when parents were despairing of getting their children to open a book for anything other than school work, Harry Potter arrived on our shelves and a whole new generation were captivated.  The remarkable thing about Harry Potter is that it is not all that remarkable.  It is not unique in featuring little witches or being teen fiction*, nor is it remarkable in its setting in a school, yet a whole generation were hooked and our eternal love affair with books found new life.

* to label it teen fiction or a young reader’s book is a misnomer because many adults enjoyed the series too.

Harry Potter wasn’t unique in this category, but it was the one that stood out the most because of the popularity of both the books and then subsequently the films.  The Eragon series (strictly speaking known as The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer went a long way to re-establishing reading as a habit for the young and not just older generations. Again they were made into films and while Eragon was relatively well received the Twilight films were generally labelled as ‘terrible’.

I am not particularly a fan of any of these series and I find some elements of Harry Potter quite objectionable.  Let me illustrate.  It is typical of adventure stories to put the protaganists in danger as they face challenges, overcome obstacles and ultimately defeat an enemy.  However, in my mind, Harry Potter stretches credibility (yes I know it is a fantasy world – or am I just an unknowing Muggle?), because the children are exposed to danger during the normal activities of the school, Quidditch is probably the most dangerous game in history and the lesson with the Mandrake roots in which Hermione Granger acknowledges that “the cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it” is not a lesson that responsible teachers would teach.  Chemistry teachers do not teach bomb making and woodwork and metalwork classes are not devoted to weapon making for a reason.

As a teacher myself I know that student safety is of paramount importance.

I reiterate that I know it is fantasy, but this is pushing the credibility too far.  Teenagers sneaking out of class and going into the woods on their own to follow a suspicious character and getting into trouble is one thing, but danger in the classroom is something else.

Despite these objections, I am grateful to authors like J.K. Rowling who has led the way in getting a whole generation to pick up a book.  It might just be that one day we will look back and view her as the saviour of the book.

So thank you J.K. Rowling and the rest of you.  Your contribution has been noted and appreciated.

© Richard Horton, Omega Support Services 2019

A Right Royal Profit!

Harry and Meghan’s spectacular wedding grabbed headlines all around the world  It was the perfect fairy tale.  Although she was no Cinderella, Meghan; in many ways an ordinary American girl, fell in love with a charming handsome English prince.  It was the stuff of Hollywood, only it was real life.

Just a thought, and I am not particularly a royalist nor a republican although I have grown to appreciate the role the royal family play in ‘Brand Britannia’

The Sun claimed that the wedding of Harry and Meghan cost a whopping £32m [1].   I am not a Sun reader, but it was the first figure I found online. Whether this is accurate or not let’s work with this figure.

As with most things, it is not as straightforward as the headline suggests.  It was not that simply £32m was deducted from the public coffers and the poor long suffering taxpayer was exploited for a royal indulgence.  Why couldn’t they pay for their own wedding I hear socialists and republicans alike cry.

Much of the money spent would have gone on catering, florists, stylists, tailors, seamstresses and goodness knows what else.  This money didn’t just disappear.  It was spent supporting business and employment.  Not only this but these expenses incurred taxes.

Firstly, staff will have paid tax on their earnings using the simple PAYE [2] basis.  To the layman this is as though I gave £5 and got £1 back.  Assuming that staff costs amounted to a quarter of all costs the government claimed through PAYE approx £1.5m and this hasn’t even taken into account National Insurance receipts.

Suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad.

Secondly companies pay tax on profits, and not all of them behave like Amazon, Facebook or Starbucks. More money returned to the coffers.  It would be impossible to speculate as to how much, but it would be a significant amount that would be increased by the fact that a lot of these companies will also have paid net VAT (those whose turnover qualifies) on almost everything that was invoiced.

Then less directly there is the through trade particularly in Windsor and profits and taxes from wedding memorabilia – even if most of it is tacky (in my opinion). Profits for companies, taxes for the government, and horrible ornaments, mugs and other chintz for the general public.

Now – if you are still with me – there are the television revenues. It was truly a global wedding with worldwide audiences. Do you think each country had cameras in the chapel?

No – they paid for those rights. Let’s assume the big three in Britain (BBC. ITV, Sky – although we may wish to forget about SKY) had cameras in place.

I am sure other nations had cameras around but outside and probably just doing ‘piece to camera’ sets with journalists.

These international networks will have paid for the rights to broadcast. More money for UK broadcasters, more taxable income,

I don’t know it may just be that the government made a profit on the wedding and maybe even enough to put decent cladding on every tower block in the country to avoid another Grenfell.

Just a thought…

Now who is the next Royal we can get married off.

References:

[1] The Sun Online – How Much did the Royal Wedding Cost

[2] Pay As You Earn – Income Tax

Story Telling

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of mankind and was a great way of memorising traditions and history .  Oral tradition was the only means of keeping records before the invention of writing.  Writing which was developed in the Middle East (probably by the Sumerians in modern day Iran or Iraq) provided an alternative way to record the histories of people and it was a natural process for histories to become simply stories.  The Epic of Gilgamesh that dates from earlier than 1000 BC is widely considered to be the first written story and prior to being recorded it had been kept alive by oral tradition.  Later what we recognise now as the Old Testament was recorded that traced the formation and travails of Israel before moving into the New Testament.

Pilgrim’s Progress written in 1678

Stories don’t only entertain, but can be used to inform and educate.

While not unique among the ancients, for story telling, Jesus is widely recognised as an outstanding example through his use of parable and allegory.  John Bunyan used The Pilgrim’s Progress to convey the Christian journey and a similar trend has continued into modernity.  In the 20th century the Christian apologist C S Lewis picked up this theme again with the Narnia books and in particular The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which is a transparent allegory of the Christian message and even references Old Testament principles in the light of New Testament interpretations.  Some elements were obvious like the sacrifice and resurrection of Aslan; while others were less so – such as the deep magic which represented the law that condemned and the deeper magic which stood for the grace of God

Away from Christianity a personal favourite, that I was introduced to as a teenager, was Pawn of Prophecy (Part 1 of the Belgariad series) by David Eddings, a  coming of age novel set in a fantasy world.  A key character is Belgarath the Sorcerer who is initially introduced as the Storyteller who provides the back story for the boy Garion as he starts his epic quest..  Eddings drew on real world oral traditions as his methodology for bringing the world to life with its vibrant history of the Wars of Gods and Men in their fight for supremacy as good sought to overcome evil.

Before I get too distracted I want to underline the point that story telling is an essential communicative tool and it has a role in the workplace too.

The best and most effective communicators have always used stories to help make their point.

So what do good story tellers do?

  1. Real life stories make the speaker more real and can help hold the interest of the listener when well delivered.
  2. Stories illustrate better than abstract principles and ideas.  A good story can be used as an anchor to make a salient point or simplify an idea.
  3. Stories can entertain and amuse and enable greater rapport with the audience.
  4. A good story should engage the emotions, build anticipation and stimulate the imagination.

Some Does and Don’ts for Story Tellers.

  1.  If you decide to tell a story or anecdote it must be short and make a point or illustrate something
  2. Don’t make the story too long because the story then becomes the dominant element rather than the point that is being made.
  3. Don’t allow the story to sidetrack you into a memory trawl.  Stay on point.
  4. Use stories sparingly as there needs to be real content behind the message
  5. Employ your full soft skills tool set to communicate and engage the audience as much as possible.  Do so as naturally as you can while avoiding repeated fillers and unnecessary sounds like ‘erh’ and ‘erm’.

Can you think of any more?  Please use the form below to let us know about any ideas you have.

Omega will soon be launching some training on how to develop and use Story Telling as a communicative tool in a business environment, so keep in touch.

Let he without sin…

On Saturday 10th March 2018 Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 in what has historically been considered to be the number one match in the Premier League.  Liverpool dominated English football in the 1970s and 1980s and Manchester United did so in the next two decades.  Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, now a Sky Sports Pundit, was filmed spitting at fans who drove by while tormenting him about Liverpool’s loss.

What he did:

The obvious thing is that he should have ignored them.

Defending the Undefendable.

Jamie Carragher was wrong.  To spit at anybody under any circumstances is a social taboo and out of order.  It is black and white and his offense even more obscene because he is a role model and public figure.  In the mind of many what makes it even worse was there was a 14 year old girl in the other car who was not even involved in what some have termed banter.

So why am I ready to defend him?

The following day he appeared in a prolonged interview (reproduced below) in which he apologised totally unconditionally.  He described his actions as 5 seconds of madness and continually apologised.  When asked about the 14 year old girl he again said sorry with the glint of a tear in his eye.  He is not an actor and I do not recall him being interviewed particularly often post match.  The interviewer – quite rightly gave him a hard time and pushed him as hard as she could by invoking the example he had set to his own family, and the fans as well as those who he directly spat at.  When asked if he should keep his job he simply said that he couldnt comment on it one way or the other because anything he said could be perceived as an excuse or attempt to reason his unacceptable behaviour.  This was something he refused to do.  His five seconds of madness were replaced by immediate regret and remorse and a preparedness to face the music.

What he said afterwards

I am not particularly a Liverpool fan nor was I a fan of Jamie Carragher as a player, but the way he has held his hands up speaks volumes about his integrity.  Integrity is not about being perfect, but it is about taking responsibility and being willing to face the consequences.

Personally I really hope he keeps his job because ironically his example stands as a shining light to politicians and business leaders who have no shame.

Finally, we are all flawed so let he without sin cast the first stone.