Tuesday, 20 March 2012

275 and going strong

I think The Boy is now qualified to be an air steward with British Airways...at least in Germany.  I read in the weekly school bulletin (no, don't be ridiculous, of course he didn't tell me) that he has passed his BA Flag Award.  Or may be it's just that he can tell the difference between all those flags painted on the tailfins of their planes...you know the ones that so enraged Margaret Thatcher.

I was at a party once, and I think it will for ever stick in my head as a particularly surreal event in my life.  It was a very loud party indeed.  It was work-related, and I was attending just a few days after The Boy's mother had died.  I was hardly in the party mood.   But the client was there, so I had to be too.  During the middle of it, my phone rang, and I answered it.  Through the noise, I could just make out it was the father of one of the children The Boy was at school with.  He was offering sympathy, although it was hard to tell, and I dread to imagine what he thought about me partying the night away at such a time.  Grace Jones was singing on the stage, Miquita Oliver (of TV, now bankruptcy fame) was chatting to her friends and I stood chatting to some girl who at some stage thrust her phone number at me.  It was only as I walked away I realised that I'd been chatting to Skin from Skunk Anansie.  Over in the corner were the VIPs, including a very glum looking David Frost.  It didn't look much fun for them either.

As part of my job I've been known to give media training...telling the innocent and the stupid how to deal with journalists.  I think in future I should save my breath, and just point everyone in the direction of Frost on Interviews, which aired last week.  It was fascinating...really interesting stuff...whether you're interested in politics, celebrities, or the media.  I was quite captivated.  It wasn't without fault though.  In fact there seems to be a trend at the moment of big-name presenters not being reigned in by their Director/Producer/Editor.  I ranted recently about the awfulness of Jeremy Paxman's Empire series and here the problem was similar.  The programme was really poorly structured and organised, with some sections just not fitting.  Tragic as it was to see successive interviews with Mohammed Ali as he went from being mentally nimble as a bee to barely being able to string a sentence together, the impact was lost largely because it was out of place.  It's as if no one is prepared to take the decisions to make a great piece of television.  But I did like the point he made that as people like me have given interviewees the expertise to deal with probing questions, the interviewers have got more aggressive.  This creates an atmosphere of stalemate where the interviewee won't open up and give illuminating answers for fear of being tripped up and made to look a fool whilst the interviewer gets ever more aggressive.  A vicious circle.  Anyway, I'm sorry for ruining your TV pleasure.

Yesterday, The Boy's/The Cat's/my school celebrated it's 275th anniversary with a service at St Helens Church in Bishopsgate London.  The venue was chosen because the school's founder was buried there.  In fact, although his tombstone is inside the church, he had managed to buy the freehold.  Yes that part of the church no longer belonged to the church.   It would be fair to say that the school's founder was not a popular man.  In fact as his coffin was carried through the City streets it was pelted with manure.  He was a successful 'city fixer'.  It would be good if this tradition could be revived whenever any of our current batch of city fixers passes over.   When he died, he left the very princely sum of £28,000 which remarkably was enough to found a school and almshouses in Mile End.  It doesn't sound a lot, but it must have been.  This was a school for one hundred children, twenty of whom would be children who would not normally be able to pay for an education.  So he may have been a bastard, but his heart was in the right place when he went to meet his maker.  I wonder how many of our present day bankers will feel suitably charitable at the end of their days?  Not many at all I suspect.  Greed is good, especially if you're ungodly.  The service was attended by governors, parents, teachers and scholar pupils.  I'm not quite sure how they choose, but in one case (and I suspect many), the parent is a partner in one of the UK's largest accountancy firms.  I suspect that it wasn't because they're short of money.  Greed is good.

I'm glad the school has set up a new foundation to help the less well-off to attend and gain an excellent education.  I was able to attend with the help of a grant from the county council, so it is something that I am all in favour of.

The service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of London.  I'm not a great fan of organised religion...in fact I regard it as a root cause of many of the world's evils.  But here was a man who was worth listening too.  He boomed out as you would hope a senior member of the church would, and everything he said was riveting. The school was founded in times of tectonic change, when three of the five world powers were Muslim, and it celebrates its 275th birthday at a time of similar tectonic change.  I was not alone in being impressed...in fact the entire audience (congregation?) left muttering about his wit and wisdom and how he had conveyed his views on the founder, the city and the world order very clearly without offending a single person.  If he was standing for Archbishop of Canterbury I would vote for him...albeit in the knowledge that it is something of a poisoned chalice.  Not that I have a vote anyway.