Friday 13 September 2013


It's a funny place, Loughton station 9.28 on a weekday morning.

Men and women hanging around nervously looking around.  The odd furtive glance upwards, but mostly avoiding people's eyes.   If they were teenagers, the police would be called.

Today there were two police standing behind the barriers.  Much more purposeful they looked.  Perhaps there has been trouble before

Above their heads, the station clock quietly ticking away.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.  It heads towards 9.30.  As the hands move round, there is a palpable tension.  Should a train arrive in those precious two minutes you can see the flash of frustration - cheeks become reddened, a look of despair.  Watches are checked.

At 9.30, they all suddenly turn as one and march through the barriers.  Most rush along the passageway and up the stairs to the platform.  Five minutes until the next tube rattles along headed to West Ruislip.

You see, it's cheaper to travel after 9.30

Do you know where you were on 9/11?  This year's anniversary made the middle pages of the press.  The media has short memories, even if that one cataclysmic event changed the course of history.  My memory is shorter than most.  I'd remembered listening to the news in the office as it all unraveled, but not later.  I was reminded today.  I had gone for a pizza.  A friend I hadn't seen for many years, but met for lunch today says he has a very clear memory of our evening eating pizza that night.  What did we talk about?  I have no idea.  I can't imagine.  Could we have spoken about anything other than the events in New York that day?  It seems unlikely.  I wish I could remember.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

You're just ordinary

There was an enormous irony that Nobel Peace Winning President Obama was ready to bomb Syria back to the stone age, the deeply unpleasant President Putin managed to shaft him by leaping on the suggestion that Syria's chemical weapons should be put under international control.  You can say what you like about the KGB, but even now they're one step ahead of the west.  look out, there's probably reds under your bed.

At home, we're getting ready for the start of a new era.  The Cat goes off down to Exeter at the weekend.  We're driving her down...a change from when I went there and and to head south west under my own steam.  Aren't the young pampered these days?  There's been a round of buying to make sure she's suitably equipped, and hopefully it'll all fit in the car...we're taking the small one as The Cat's Mother doesn't want to drive my tank.  Meanwhile, The Boy is still hoping to go off and do a season at a ski resort, but is finding in the real world, promises are easily broken - the place that offered him a job last year is proving truculent this, and alternatives are few and far between.  We have our fingers crossed, but Plan B may have to be created very quickly....

I think I'm in trouble with Grandma in Cyprus again.  We've not headed to Cyprus this year, and from over there it must look as though we're avoiding her...after all we've been gallivanting everywhere else.  Scotland, Geneva, Burgundy, and soon Turkey.  But not one of those holidays has been for us...Scotland to see the kids perform, Geneva and Burgundy for a wedding, and Istanbul for an American friend's 50th birthday surprise.  Back home we're trying to sort the kids out (see above), and in between I'm trying to do some work (actually I'm trying to do a lot of work).  So we'll get there, but I'm not sure quite when....

We watched two programmes the other night about decline and fall.  Both on the BBC, one about Ford in the UK, one about the once great city of Detroit.  The one about Ford was oddly perverse.  It used lots of Ford promotional videos and was extremely upbeat...only mentioning in passing that Ford no longer makes its cars here because of old fashioned labour practices and expensive overheads.  I don't think they mentioned how many ordinary people had been put out of work.  The other one was called Requiem for Detroit and was a startling piece about the decline of the city.  It was built on the success of the motor industry, but became a car crash itself when people stopped buying them during the financial crash (those bankers again) I'd recommend watching it.  Alongside the collapse of Detroit (it filed for bankruptcy this year) a new industry has grown up - photographing the decaying remains of the depopulating city centre.  Some of the pictures are stunning in their beauty, and some of the best can be found here.  And here's a trailer for the programme

BBC Documentary: Requiem For Detroit from Logan Siegel on Vimeo.

I laughed and laughed and laughed when seven BBC executives sat in a committee room in the House of Commons and were grilled like lamb chops over payments to departing executives.  Somewhere in the discussion the phrase that "ordinary people will find it hard to understand" that these folk were given overly generous handouts for no reason.  On the same day, a journalist said that she'd got a ticket to an event, but she didn't know how ordinary people would get one.  So that day I felt very ordinary indeed.  But then we are all ordinary aren't we?  It's just that certain groups feel they are a privileged elite.  A cosy club who should be immune to the same rules that the majority are.  For the BBC, the grilling was a tragedy as the senior management team came out of it looking arrogant, out of touch and elitist...and that's not what anyone wants from the BBC.  It's one of our greatest institutions, and it would be a disaster if idiot managers provided the fodder for another arrogant, elitist bunch - politicians - to tear it to shreds.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Birthday time

It's been a tradition (evidently) that when it's The Cat's birthday she has a sausage supper - sausages, beans, tomatoes,  mushrooms.  Obviously that started long before I ever arrived on the scene, and has carried on even though she's now 18.  As it happens this year, and hereafter she won't be at home...she's off to Uni next weekend.  Friday was The Cat's Mother's birthday, so in honour of the tradition, sausage supper was served to the family.  Delicious.  Some foods remain fabulous no matter how many times you've had them, and no matter that we eat in some truly wonderful restaurants.

The Cat's Mother's birthday celebrations are always over several days.  On Saturday we went to The Globe to see Midsummer Nights Dream.  Fortunately we were in the covered seating area, rather than the groundling space which is open to the elements.  It rained and it poured, but don't think that would weaken the resolve of the stewards who resolutely don't let the groundling find shelter.  It's a funny old Shakespeare play this one...often people's first introduction to Shakespeare I suspect.  There are some rip-roaringly funny sections, but also some periods that are frankly just tedious.  The same was true of the performances...Oberon and Titania adopted the traditional/old fashioned style of performing Shakespeare, and just shouted at each other from start to finish., Puck was a truly odd performance...I'm still not sure what he was trying to achieve but I'd come to loathe him long before the final scene which he performed chewing gum.  Bottom was terrific.  Anyway, I fell off my seat laughing at the good bits, and fell off my seat because I'd fallen asleep in the tedious bits.

Sunday and we headed off to West Side Story at Sadlers Wells.  As I've said before, I like a bit of dance I do.  This is an American production and done exceptionally well.  There are, of course, some great, great songs, and at Sadlers both the dancing and the set were superb as well.  The Guardian reviews it well here.  Here's a clip which gives you a flavour, or if you can do go and see it.

Monday 9 September 2013

Old men of the motor industry

Nine of the dozen 1983 Austin Rover sales and marketing graduate trainees gathered on Thursday afternoon.  Driving up there I had been much in thought...well the traffic was so hideous that there was plenty of time as I went no where main concerns were trying to remember the names and faces of the people I had known thirty years ago.  Most had passed into oblivion.  Just like the cars...Maestros, Montegos, Metros, Princesses, Triumph Acclaims.

Around a bottle of champagne, we re-introduced ourselves.  We were at Haseley Manor, a fourteenth century house that had once been one of the training basis for ARG. At some stage in the demise of the company it had been sold on and then sold on again.  Now it lies empty and abandoned in need of a new owner.  Yours for just £4 million.

We all had quite a lot to say to each other.  I remember when I first met up with old school chums some twenty years ago there was quite a lot of jostling to see who had done the best.  On this meeting, there was none of was just very enjoyable chit chat which kept going into the early hours of the morning.

Interestingly, three things that characterised me at Austin Rover have followed me throughout my life.  Everyone (but me) agreed that whilst there I had spent my time railing against the system. I don't remember that, but it is true, and an explanation of why I could never be a corporate man...and explains some of the ups and downs of my working life.  I guess I just like doing things my way.

I was also described as having 'a light touch with work'.  It may be that over thirty years I haven't been nose to grindstone all the time.  There have been restful periods, there have been periods, long, long periods when I've worked harder than anyone I know.  But, I have always been able to convey such an air of calm, that people have assumed I'm not doing very much.  Being laid back isn't always good when everyone else is losing their heads...

Everyone seemed to think I had left under a cloud.  The truth is that I hadn't, but some months before I resigned there had been an incident.  A year after we joined, it had been time for a new round of graduate recruitment.  As the blue-eyed boy I was asked back to Haseley Manor to give the short list candidates an insight to what they could expect.  I took it upon myself to give my talk, stay with them at the bar and then take them out to a local night club.  We got back just as the sun was rising.  Some of them were somewhat worse for wear, and it showed badly in their final interview.  The rumour was that I had slept with one of the girls - not true, but she did a few months later come and live with me, and we spent a few good years together.  It's a fact that throughout my career there have always been 'incidents'....always when my sense of fun and adventure has been a little bit more than was expected.

I had a fabulous night, I loved seeing all these people again, and we all hope to do it again.