Friday, 30 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Reorganisation (1)

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob


I've taken a brief time out from the Future Outstanding Leaders' Strategic Visioning Brainstorm Event here at Sandbanks to put the finishing touches on my presentation to all TESV employees on the Strategic Realignment Reorganisation in TESV. Could you run your practiced eye over it for any gaps, mistakes or whatever? I've also indicated a number of places where I need a visual on the powerpoint and perhaps you can execute those.



(first picture: a blue sky)



(second picture: footballer scoring goal)


(third picture: Core Values of TESV as reflected by the reorganisation, namely:

* A lean, muscular organisation
* A fit-for-purpose organisation for the twenty-first century
* Customer responsiveness
* A challenging vision
* Flexibility and manoeverability
* Team spirit
* Goal-orientedness
* A positive attitude
* A transformational mindset.

I propose to reorganise Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision around three core functions, CHALLENGE CULTURE ENHANCEMENT, CUSTOMER ORIENTATION and GOAL IMPLEMENTATION. I expect most of you have a pretty good idea of how you'd fit into those.

In order to achieve this vision there will be changes which will be quite difficult for us all and even in some cases painful. Believe me, it will hurt me more than it will hurt you. If you look at page 123 of your pack, you will see that there will be a number of redundancies. The process for achieving these redundancies and for slotting people into new positions is explained on pages 125-172.



FROM: Kelly Pattrick
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob


I've put in the graphics and changed "manoeverability" to manoevrability".


FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob



I expect you know that I've been mulling over changes to TESV to make us more fit for purpose for some time. I'm pleased to say I now have something to show you. Therefore please come to one of the two sessions listed below. There will be HR people present to answer any questions, and also. I'm really pleased to say, a voluntary sector presence from three outstanding organisations, Alcoholics Anonymous, Dignity in Death and the Samaritans.

Looking forward to seeing you all!


(to be continued, of course)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

How to walk from A - Z

I promised some tips about long-distance trail walking. They all apply to walking for several days on a trail or not. Some may seem obvious, but on the West Highland Way last year I came across people who'd thought the WHW was a good opportunity to try out a new pair of boots and others who'd clearly not found out what a full pack felt like on their back until they set out for the Glasgow train.

PLAN. Use the on-line information. Book accomodation in advance unless there's an abundance of it on the way (as on MOST parts of the South-west Coastal Footpath). Identify places where you have no alternative - just one place to stay - and book there first, adjusting your dates to fit what they've got. Make a list of what you need. Seek maps and guide-books in good time: many bookshops will have to order them. Take into account that the steepest climbs may take two or three times as long as mildly hilly walks - and that while coastal walks may have no mountains, you may have to keep going steep down, across half a mile of loose sand or shingle and then steep up again. Think about what you're asking of yourself. Can you really do an average 20 miles a day? What's your evidence? If you can do 25 miles in hilly but not mountainous country with full pack but that's near your limit, is there any way of breaking up that three-day 25 mile - 23 mile - 26 mile sequence? I fell down on that count doing the Wye Valley Walk - but oddly, the toughest day was the first of the three!

PRACTICE. If possible, not only do all the long walking you can in the months leading up, but take a short break to do intensive walking in roughly similar country about two weeks before you start the real thing, carrying roughly the same weight in your pack and using the same key equipment - boots, pack/rucksack and so on. This is a good time to find that those broken in but newish walking boots are more comfortable with the top toggle left unused or that the combination of fleece and cagoule doesn't work because the cagoule doesn't cover the bottom of the fleece. Do at least three-and-a-half days' intensive walking (but enjoy it too). Make it tough: the first time I did the WHW, I'd trained in the Lake District and there was nothing on the WHW as tough as ascending Blencathra or going over Black Sail Pass. That made me feel good on the WHW! Make sure you know from experience how to use your compass, too, or GPS if you use that.

CUT DOWN ON WEIGHT (unless you're using sherpa services). Think. Most clothes can be washed and dried somewhere on the trip, even if the washing is in a wash-basin and the drying by hanging from the top of your pack. How many pairs of each item do you really need? On any trip of less than 200 miles, I'd suggest you can plan to wear each pair of socks four days (two days, one wash, two more days' wear), but you shouldn't need more than three shirts. Do you need a tube of cream for insect bites, or will a small tube of antiseptic do? Leave the thermos behind: you don't need hot drinks on the walk and it's extra weight. Accept that the only reading matter will be the guide-book and anything you can pick up where you stay and then leave there, plus a newspaper occasionally.

YOUR FEET ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Despite what I said above, don't skimp on supplies of plasters and the like. A spare pair of foam inner-soles is advisable. Carry a support bandage: if you get a muscular strain, this can make the difference between a huge disappointment and success.

TAKE MAPS. OK the guide-book probably has maps, but they'll show only a narrow band along the route. That's not enough if you go off-course or if you're trying to orient from distant landmarks. Doing without a guide-book is possible, but tends to trip you up on small details, like where to go when the path enters a built-up area or where precisely to cross the river.

CARRY AS LITTLE FOOD AS POSSIBLE. Eat a good breakfast, make do with, say, a handful of raisins, a bit of chocolate and a plum at midday, and eat a good, balanced meal in the evening. The balance is important because on the longer trails like the Pennine Way if you're not careful you'll develop dietary deficiencies which will affect your strength and resilience.

BE BLOODY-MINDED. Rain is NOT going to stop you. That crap guide-book misled you and you're three miles adrift on a day when you have 24 miles to walk? Let your anger propel you until you realise you're reasonably on your time target again. But don't ignore problems like a slight pain in your foot. They'll get worse and there's probably something you can do.

HAVE FUN. Stand and stare at the water flowing under the bridge. Stay in pubs with good beer and company. Celebrate when you finish. It may sound grim if you haven't tried it, but it's huge fun and the feeling at the finish is great.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Walking from A to Z

I'm a long-distance trail walker. I liked nature, especially birds, since my age was in single figures, and started doing long walks as a student, but only attempted my first recognised long-distance trail, the Pennine Way, at the age of 33 - and failed because I tried to do too much too quickly (not realising that what was manageable over two days was not manageable over a week or more) and wasn't ruthless enough about weight on my back. I learnt, went back, completed the Pennine Way and was hooked.

I haven't done any trails outside the U.K. (perhaps because in a foreign country, there so much else I'd want to explore) but within the UK I've done most of the big ones including the South-west coastal Footpath (630 miles)in one go (that isn't in one day - just starting at one end and finishing at the other 35 days later). Last year I completed the West Highland Way for the second time and whereas last time I went on to climb Ben Nevis the next day, this time at Fort William I transferred on to the Great Glen Way and so did both - a very slow way of travelling from Glasgow to Inverness.

So what are the attractions?

There's a sense of achievement. Yes, you can set your own challenges, but there is something special about succeeding in a tough task someone else has set. It's a great way of seeing much spectacular scenery and finding some interesting small towns, villages, pubs, ruins and so on. The sensation of finishing the day's walking thoroughly tired but finally able to relax, to flop down on a bed and sleep for an hour, then to go for a pint and a meal, to reflect on the day's travel and plan the next, is fantastic. Some people cheat and use "sherpa" services. I'm not actually decrying that, but for me it's a too easy way out of one of the key challenges, balancing your real need for certain items (maps, torch, raingear, spare clothes, water bottle, insect repellent and so on) against the imperative of reducing the weight carried in every way possible and never giving way to the "that's just a tiny additional weight" mindset. A Dutch senior business manager I met on the Coast to Coast footpath put it brilliantly: "It is good to know that all you really need in life you can carry on your back."

Beyond that, we can recapture something of the sense of being a nomad - of having no home but a journey.

There are minuses, of course - the periods of several rainy days running, the frustrating realisation you've taken the wrong track, the times (I've come to realise for me they come once on each journey quite early on) when I think, "I don't have to do this. Why AM I doing this?". I don't accept the view of some serious walkers that long-distance trail walking is a kind of distortion. Nearly all the trail walkers I've met are either, like me, people who also do plenty of walks of their own devising and love to explore the hills, sometimes using the experience of doing a trail to inform them of where they could explore - or they're newcomers who may become hooked on serious walking and then joint the first group. The exception, I suppose, is the large organised groups, but they're few. I walk alone, that is without an undertaking to accompany someone, but often find myself walking and talking with other people from many countries and of all ages.

I'll return to this subject in a while and give a few tips. If you're interested, please comment and I'll reply.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Partnership (2)

FROM: Tamara Gold, Chair, COCVS; Chair, Odanglesex Safer Cycling Partnership



Just to update you that following the adoption of the Action Plan and everyone going away with actions they're responsible for, we've already made the following progress:

* Police have agreed to monitor the Dark Hill Gibbet and Unwelcome Sailor roundabouts on a regular basis, using cameras to record dangerous and aggressive driving.

* Hamish has gained the approval of his Children's colleagues for a questionnaire to go to all Head teachers asking about cycle facilities and cycling campaigns.

* Seven local businesses have agreed to sponsor cycle safety leaflets and short spots on Radio Odangle.

* The German Attraction, who are the third largest fashion retailer in Odanglesex, have started a cycle-to-work scheme for their employees and their Chief Exec has already joined it.

* Hottchester Borough are eliminating the break in the cycle track on Devonish Mary Avenue around the Lion and Garter to make the track continuous.

* Cllr Bill Waynflete has agreed to give us some publicity outside County Hall next week and has got his old bike out of the garden shed.

* "CYCLISTS CROSSING" signs are already up at that site near Weatherden Lows Farm on the A123!

No news yet on the replacement of the cycle sheds at County Hall demolished last year for the Festival of Odanglesex celebrations, but we live in hope.

FROM: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

cc: Dale Brashcon, Transformational Excellence Champion


I feel I should share some concerns about the direction of the Odanglesex Safer Cycling Partnership. The Partnership has approved an action plan without going through the Odanglesex Action Planning Tool Framework and it does not reference either the relevant Odanglesex Value (Moving where we want when we want) or Strategic Plan Commitments 3, 13 and 17 (promoting local business especially bus transport and road haulage; liberating Odanglesex from unnecessary restrictions on parking; ensuring a transformational experience for all through the Olympics). These were of course incorporated entirely into the Strategic Vision Plan of the Odanglesex Community Partnership.

I suggest we should call a halt until the Partnership can be dovetailed more productively into the Community Partnership.

FROM: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob


I don't know if you've seen the West Odanglesex Bugle today. The article headed COUNCILLOR COMES UNSTUCK is what I have in mind: "Odanglesex County Council leader Cllr Bill Waynflete came a copper yesterday (I think they mean 'cropper'). While attempting to promote the County Council's latest loony hippy scheme aimed at bringing on another ice age, leader Bill Waynflete fell off his bike. He had stopped to kiss a baby when his bike overbalanced. Mother of five Kaylee Lee said: 'My poor little Ricky is traumatised and I'm considering sueing.' Cllr Waynfete was not available for comment last night."

FROM: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Champion, Odanglesex County Council

TO: All Odanglesex Safer Cycling Partnership

Colleagues: in order to connect the OSCP more fruitfully to the Odanglesex Community Partnership and to achieve input from OCC's Strategic Review, the next meeting of OSCP has been cancelled. Another will be announced in due course.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Tamara Gold

Sorry, Tamara, this came as a shock to me too. I did assume Neil had spoken to you! Will from the Police has already been asking what's going on and I don't think they're pleased either. I'll speak to Kenneth and see what we can do.

from ED'S JOB, the blog of OCC Chief Executive Edelbertha Spengler

Hello again! I know when you all get up in the morning you're raring to get to work and do something really exciting, so that time between the alarm clock going off and sitting down at your desk (if you have a desk) can go by in a bit of a blur - but I want you to think about it. How long does your journey to work take? Does your choice of mode of travel cut down any trees? Do you smile at people on the way?

I asked myself all those questions after Cllr Waynflete's magnificent efforts for cycling - and what was the result? I got the old bike out. It took me a while to work out what was wrong with it (my son pointed out a wheel was missing) but as soon as we'd fixed that I was off! I got on again and cycled happily down the pavement waving at everybody I met and shouting greeting - and they shouted back! Isn't that marvellous? So I want you all to seriously consider getting on a bike this week and going somewhere - preferably County Hall.

FROM: Dale Brashcon

TO: Neil Balderson

Good news! The Odanglesex Community Partnership Standing Working Group on Traffic Congestion has agreed to add promotion of responsible cycling to its ToR as new point nineteen.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Sound of Silence

Odanglesex fans - and there do seem to be some in the U.S., U.K. and France - I'll return to and finish "the Partnership" next time I'm on. Right now I want to write about something else.

I'm a Quaker. Quakers are a worldwide movement and in some places - notably the U.S. - practices have gone a long way from the original. British Quakers have stayed close to the original in terms of practice and organisation - no clergy, meeting for worship centring on silent contemplation, a great shortage of DO's and DON'T's, just "advices and queries" - but I'm sure some would say that with our ranks including Buddhists, Hindus and agnostics, we're some way from the original theology. But this is not an essay on being a Quaker and still less a piece of proselytisation. It's an essay on silence.

Quaker worship starts with a period of silence we call "centring down" and it can happen a whole one hour meeting is silent. This is evidently very challenging for some people, and we hear the same from people leading meditation or spiritual experience in other traditions: people don't like silence as it makes them uneasy and they don't know what to do to fill it. This seems to be a growing trait. I occasionally attend my local Church of England church and when the priest says, "We will now have a moment's silence", the moment seems to last 5-7 seconds. However, there are still people who love spending hours alone and largely silent, fishing (and say the peace, not the fish, is the main thing) and others who walk alone in the hills as I do given a chance.

We're getting more and more used to instant replies and instant gratification. I hear someone on their mobile phone, perhaps walking along oblivious to the physical world outside, telling a partner or close friend about something that's just happened and is clearly not urgent, and I wonder if anything would be lost by waiting till they met. Many people apparently are really afraid of being separated from their mobile phones, unable to make or receive instant contact. If I'm curious about something factual, Wikipedia will tell me, and that's marvellous; but when do we leave time for calm thought, or beyond that, an emptying of the mind so the unexpected can come into it - or is that precisely what we want to avoid?

Any number of people have told me they find classical music "gloomy", and even apply this to gloriously joyful works like Grieg's "Wedding at Trollshaugen". Do they mean "gloomy", or disturbing because it encourages you to think, or are the thoughts that come to them below the surface all gloomy?

I strive to fill silence myself sometimes. I walk by an estuary or in a wood, and if I have no bird identification tasks before me, I analyse the relegation-threatened end of the football Premiership, or consider Diplomacy moves. That's why the discipline of the Quaker meeting with a common silence is so valuable - that plus the sense of coming closer in silence. I think I should be in silence more often - and if someone finds silence threatening, can they identify the threat and consider if it really is a threat?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Partnership

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager, Odanglesex County Council

TO: Caren Thwaites, North-west and South-East Odanglesex Transitional Primary Care Trust

Will Wainwright, Community Safety Co-ordinator, Odanglesex Police

Tamara Gold, Chair, Confederation of Odanglesex Councils for Voluntary Service

Basil Fogarty, Chief Executive, Odanglesex Association of Local Councils

Mark Cullompton, Wekebridge District Council (for the district councils)

Petra Partington, Vice-chair, CTC (Odanglesex Branch)


Many thanks for coming this morning. I thought the meeting was very positive indeed. Are you happy with this as a summary of what we agreed?

1: There is a need to co-ordinate action across agencies to promote cycling in Odanglesex as both healthy and environmentally friendly. No one statutory agency can deliver this alone: indeed, no one agency can.
2: Progress up to now with cyclist-friendly policies has been disappointingly slow and casualties are too high.
3: A Partnership should be formed of concerned agencies, headed by a small working group which initially could consist of the agencies represented at today's meeting.
4: The name of the Partnership will be the Odanglesex Safe Cycling Partnership.
5: The working group should report to a wider annual meeting.
6: The first task of the working group should be to draw up a plan of action, with a timetable, identifying who should be responsible for actions.
7: Responsible representatives should seek approval from their agencies for commitments in the plan of action.
8: Tamara and I will put together terms of reference.
9: We will meet again next month (e-mail with possible dates follows).

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: Hamish Carpenter

Hamish - thanks for updating me on the cycling partnership. I think Neil Balderson should be added to the membership of the working group.

FROM: Tamara Gold

TO: Hamish Carpenter

Hamish - I can't say I'm happy at OCC having two members on the working group to one for everybody else, but as you point out, we won't be taking votes often if ever. If this gets Kenneth on board, I suppose it's worth it. Everyone's happy with the ToR, by the way and it's very clear that it's a genuine partnership, not some kind of front. Sorry if that sounds cynical.

So that'll be all right, then, won't it?

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: Green Odanglesex (3)

FROM: Sam Speed, Emergency Social Work Co-ordinator

TO: Silesia Jones, Equality and Diversity Beacon Consultant

Hi! Have all the kettles disappeared from your kitchen too?

FROM: Silesia Jones

TO: Sam Speed

Yes. It's a bummer. Terry's trying to find out what's happened.

FROM: Sam Speed

TO: Silesia Jones

Especially as I work nights and the water heater is set to go off at 5.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Calandra Larkins, Spatial Diversification Officer (Upper)
Don Coggins, Hard Systems Manager (Core)


People on B11 have been asking what happened overnight to the kettle in our kitchen. It was a new one twelve people clubbed together to buy three weeks ago. We thought it might have been stolen or accidentally taken out and not replaced, but then both Sam Speed in the Emergency Social Work Team and Caradoc MacNab in Finance contacted people in my team because their kettles had vanished. The only information I've been able to get so far is that Dale Brashcon said he understood it was a sub-milestone on the Green Odanglesex Strategy. Calandra - you're our green person, so are you in the know?

FROM: Calandra Larkins

TO: Hamish Carpenter

cc: Don Coggins

This is news to me. Don?

FROM: Don Coggins

TO: Hamish Carpenter
Calandra Larkins

In pursuance of the Green Odanglesex Strategy, Safety Considerations and the Odanglesex Values Statement, all unauthorised hand-held electric water heating devices positioned in O.C.C. kitchens have been removed. A supply of hot water is accessible from the static water heaters situated in each kitchen.

The business case for this intervention is as follows:

1: The non-availability of hand-held electric water heating devices will reduce incidence of personal water heating activity and hence impact on our carbon footprint.

2: The static water heaters are more efficient.

3: A Safety Audit identified hand-held water heating devices as a health and safety risk because of the possibility of hot water product interacting with human extremities.

FROM: Calandra Larkins

TO: Don Coggins

Don: thanks.

As Green Odanglesex Champion (Core), I feel I should have been consulted, or at least warned, about action taken under the heading of the Green Odanglesex Strategy. By the way - is there a sound basis for stating that the static water heaters are more energy efficient? Also - where's our kettle gone? It's not OCC property.

FROM: Don Coggins

TO: All Directors and Heads of Unit

Please cascade the following water technology information. All unauthorised personal hand-held water heating devices seized from O.C.C. kitchens and marked with personal identification may be accessed for recovery at the O.C.C. Business Technology Pool at Ogden Hall (link to map). After this Wednesday they will be transited to the Odanglesex East Central Recycling Facility at Day's Grange for landfill.

FROM: Oliver Oldknoll, Innovatory Best Practice Exemplar Workforce Manager

TO: Anne Hathaway, Internal Finance Systems Development Officer


As I hadn't heard anything about another meeting of the Green working group on which we're both champions, I e-mailed Calandra to find out what was going on. The e-mail bounced back. Apparently she's no longer with the council. I tried Chris Van Hummel. He's vanished too. I've e-mailed their boss, Brett, asking who's taken over their roles and had no reply. At least to my knowledge he hasn't vanished, though (forget it). Have you heard anything? Who's picking this up?

FROM: Anne Hathaway

TO: Oliver Oldknoll

No-one, apparently. Rob Methuen did suggest we wait a year or so until the next green initative and then ask again. LOL.


We are especially proud in Odanglesex with our transformation into a Green County. In the last eighteen months we've embedded a Green Odanglesex Strategy, appointed external and internal Green Odanglesex champions and given our internal work pathways a thorough audit and shake-up through a volunteer Green Odanglesex Working Group. Of course the award of the title of Green Place of the Year was a triumph for all the people who have worked so hard to make our Strategy a reality. More innovatory still was our employee positive message tagging initiative...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Day in the Life of Simon Ernestovich

A busy day ahead. Drive over to Reeman, Dansie auctioneers in Colchester. Sit through endless coin and toy auctioning (but not without interest - why does a George IV crown go for about three times a James II one, given that said George reigned for about four times as long as said James and about four generations later?). Packaged food at counter is surprisingly good.Three items of interest to me come up. I get one below estimate. Enough time to drive back to Dovercourt to take train to London for Meetup writers' group, parking about 1 1/2 miles from home and near the station.

Meetup group is interesting with a wide variety of writers sharing their work. No other poets, though. Return to Liverpool Street Station to find unexplained delays on Norwich main line. Train delayed by some 45 minutes. getting me to one stop from home, is said to be leaving soon, but the train I was intending to get appears to be delayed, though there's no information. I waver but get on the earlier train. Cause of delays is person killed by a train - a secret tragedy we just see the tip of, probably a suicide. Approaching Colchester, announcement says the train is terminating there and not going on to Harwich International. Everybody gets off. Two puzzled railway employees are trying to field questions and saying as far as they know, the train is proceeding. Hear one say "all screens are showing false information". Those of us they can catch are ushered back on the train and it gets to Harwich International.

Note to self: in future, travel with 24 hour taxi number. It's now about ten to midnight. No staff around. My problem is that while I could walk home from here, my car is further away, too far for me to be willing to walk, tired, around midnight. Screen on platform says train to the remaining stations on the branch line will come at 00:17. There is a phone Help Point and I use it. They aren't able to tell me if this alleged train actually will run. I wait. The predicted time of arrival goes to 00:26 and then 00:28. I wait. Finally at 00:15, the predicted arrival shifts to 00:52. I leave and walk home in about 20 minutes. Next morning I pick up the car.

Tragically, deaths on the line are not that uncommon. I can't relate to the personal tragedy because all I know is that someone was killed by a train. What I can relate to is that systems for dealing with the disruption seemed to be thrown into total chaos.

Still, it was a mild night and not raining...and I slept well...

Back to the Odanglesex Chronicles next time.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: Green Odanglesex (2)

FROM: Calandra Larkins, Spatial Diversification Officer (Upper)

TO: Reema Narlikar, Hilary Hannah, Rob Methuen, Alex Knollys, Tom Kydd, Chris Marlowe, Anne Hathaway, Frances Hogg, Oliver Oldknoll, Samantha Macgillivray, Chris Van Hummel


I thought that was a fantastic meeting yesterday! I hope you felt the same. The first analyses of energy use across County Hall will be e-mailed to all employees next week, so please look out for them and in particular any hot-spots which show particular offices or work-stations have items such as printers or monitors left on overnight. The word is diplomacy, though. Fights are energy-intensive.

Sorry this e-mail comes from me apparently with my Spatial Diversification hat on. Internal Comms haven't been able yet to change my title on e-mails to include Green Odanglesex Champion (Core). They did say a new identity could be set up, but then apparently the system would insist on paying me twice.

Roll on the next meeting!

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: Dale Brashcon, Transformational Excellence Champion

Dale: Kelly's pointed out these maps of energy hot-spots to me. I understand a Green Odanglesex Champions' Working Group has been set up with all directorates represented. Who's our rep?

FROM: Dale Brashcon

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob


Apparently it's Reema Narlikar in Hamish's team.

FROM: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer

Reema: Kenneth would like to see you tomorrow at 10 about Green Odanglesex.

FROM: Reema Narlikar



I know you're in Moldova, but if I know u, checking your emails and losing your texts. So here goes. I'm spitting blood and want a shoulder to cry on. Yeah, OK, no-one really wants blood on their shoulder, but on your tshirts it won't show.

You remember I volunteered for TESV's Greek champion. Well, KSnob called me in and pointed out that everyone in the directorate could see on that map that he was leaving his monitor on and the printer in his office was being left on too. Of course, it was nothing to do with any embarrasment he might experience, but wasn't this kind of over-personal information likely to cause trouble? I pointed out that it was the same with all directorates and Calandra was in charge. He said he'd have a word with Brett and Simeon.

He also asked how much time I was giving to this role. I think if I'd said 0.1% of my time he'd have implied that was too much. Of course, he lost the turf battle to get Internally Greening Odanglesex into TESV.

Green, not Greek.

Beam me up, Scotty.

FROM: Calandra Larkins

TO: Reema Narlikar, Hilary Hannah, Rob Methuen, Alex Knollys, Tom Kydd, Chris Marlowe, Anne Hathaway, Frances Hogg, Oliver Oldknoll, Samantha Macgillivray, Chris Van Hummel

Fellow champs:

Just to let you know that the maps of out-of-hours energy use will now not show individual workstations.

To be concluded...

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: Green Odanglesex

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive and Directional Excellence Champion

TO: Simeon Lascelles, Director of Spatial Exploration and Direction Management

Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

cc: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development

Hi, both! I thought I should let you know that I've concluded the outward-facing and inward-facing functions of our Green Odanglesex journey should benefit from unified management. This means that both functions will be housed in the same directorate and as we previously agreed that the outward-facing officer should be in SEDM, it follows that the inward-facing function will be there too.

The consequences of this are the creation of one post of Outward-facing Green Odanglesex Champion in SEDM at NOAH(2) and the allocation of an 0.4 fte officer also at NOAH(2) from that directorate to the inward-facing role (to be achieved by internal efficiencies), this officer while acting in this role to be referenced as "Inward-facing Green Odanglesex Champion".


FROM: Calandra Larkins, Spatial Diversification Officer (Upper)

TO: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

Brett: I was delighted to be given the remit for greening OCC internally and to learn that I'd be working with Chris Van Hummel so that our promotion work with partners and stakeholders will be dancing to the same tune as our internal work. If I can speak personally, it's so much more exciting than that personal waste recycling promotion work I was going to be taking on. You know how committed I am to green causes.

This is to let you know that if that's acceptable, I can start on the new reponsibilities next week - one week early.

FROM: Brett West

TO: Calandra Larkins

Thanks for this, Calandra. Just to note that on reconsideration after a chat with Goneril Hayes, Simeon and I felt that the title of "Inward-facing Green Odanglesex Champion" gave the wrong impression, as OCC is outward-facing and customer-focused at all times. You will therefore be referred to in this role as "Green Odanglesex Champion (Core)".

FROM: Calandra Larkins

TO: Reema Narlikar, Hilary Hannah, Rob Methuen, Alex Knollys, Tom Kydd, Chris Marlowe, Anne Hathaway, Frances Hogg, Oliver Oldknoll, Samantha Macgillivray, Chris Van Hummel

Fantastic! I had almost no trouble at all getting volunteers to take on being Green Odanglesex Champions. It was a bit harder finding a suitable date, but the most popular was the morning of 3 May, so I've booked the Pond Conference Room for 10-11.30. Look forward to seeing you all! Well, nearly all.


Hi again!

Did you have a mother who kept urging you to eat your greens? I did. Now I urge her to do the same.

Eating more vegetables isn't only good for you (unless you eat huge amounts of them already, of course) but also good for the planet because growing vegetables uses up far less energy than growing meat. I thought I'd point that out because we're now making a major push to relaunch our Green Odanglesex Strategy and everyone should be thinking about how to contribute to greening the planet and in particular Odanglesex. Our aspiration is to be the greenest county in England.
If you have any bright ideas, please drop a line to Calandra Larkins, our new Geeen Odanglesex Champion (Core).

Meanwhile I'll be making sure I re-use ALL my shoes!

Bye for now!


(The Green Odanglesex Strategy should just be plain sailing now, shouldn't it? To be continued)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


There is a story about a man receiving a visit from the Special Branch (for non-Brits - this is the nearest thing we have to secret police - a police section dealing with spying, subversion and extremism) after a communication to him from abroad was intercepted. It said, "The Russian bear is preparing to infiltrate Liverpool". Presumably the man showed the officers his Diplomacy board, pointed out the supply centre of Liverpool and demonstrated how a Russian fleet might reach it.

Maybe that story is apocryphal, but I've been chatting on a train and noticed people beginning to listen in as I said something like, "If France and Germany make common cause, England can be smashed. The Russians have enough on their plate already because of the situations around Romania and Warsaw, so the only possible fly in the ointment is Italy."

Welcome to Diplomacy, a game based on Europe at the start of the 20th century and the rivalry of seven great powers. It's a board-based war-game. Immediate qualifications: you can play it on-line, though I'm not aware of genuinely interactive versions; and it's a war-game much in the way chess is. In fact you could describe it as seven-sided chess, with two important characteristics - the moves by all the players are made simultaneously (so you have to try to predict what others will do) and diplomacy between players is allowed, indeed encouraged. So you talk to neighbouring powers, try to get a sense of what they're planning, make offers for mutual support against third parties and, occasionally, make threats. In some versions of the game this is done face-to-face and with limited secrecy, while diplomacy conducted at a distance by phone is genuinely secret. However, no promise made is binding. You can promise one thing and do the opposite. If you do this too often, though, no-one will believe you and you will find yourself without allies. As there are seven powers in the game at the start, anyone who tries to go it alone in the early stages usually gets eliminated.

There are aspects of the game that have made me pause at times. You are expected to lie: but the game is based on a community of people agreeing to lie, just as a football or cricket or chess game requires players at time to deceive, albeit without words; and like other competitive games, a well-fought contest generates deep respect for the opponent.

I won't go into the technicalities here, but the technical side of the game is fairly simple and the skill lies largely in reading other people's intentions, in building up relationships and in timing decisive moves right. One player wins when he or she controls a majority of the "supply centres" on the board, but agreed draws are possible, mostly when a stalemate line has been reached.

I was introduced to a diplomacy circle many years ago by Martin Proctor and am still in it. Currently, as the President of France, I have indeed infiltrated Liverpool and, with the Germans, eliminated England, but a little difficulty has just developed with Italy, who may quite possibly read this post, so of course, it's all a storm in the Western Mediterranean and we're good friends really...

Friday, 2 March 2012

Who are we?

There was a discussion recently on a LinkedIn group on "What makes us human?". This focused on human behaviour traits, good and bad.

I'm not usually very literal-minded, but I had trouble with this one. I observe and display all sorts of human behaviour traits and I'm quite comfortable discussing human nature, but "What makes us human?" is either a question about mechanics to which the answer is "the instructions in our DNA, or rather a very tiny fraction of those instructions, as most of them could also make us chicken" - or it's inviting a comparison with something.

So what are we comparing ourselves with? Sometimes, as in "we're only human", we seem to be comparing ourselves with God, but as knowledge of God is highly disputable, that doesn't take us far except to emphasise our fallibility.

We know that we evolved bit by bit from a common ancestor with Chimpanzees, so our humanness, however defined, developed gradually and some of our quite marked traits are still basically common ape traits. In particular, studies of Chimpanzees show that some behaviours and perceptions we think of as very human are shared with them - for example, taking care of the dead and appearing to grieve over them, or something remarkably like ambitious people's office politics.

It appears that whales and porpoises are highly intelligent and dolphins probably even more so, but we are so different that we've understood little of the nature of their intelligence (we've also found it convenient not to probe into this while we kill them). The bodies of marine mammals are so different from ours that communication becomes fundamentally different and the marine environment, as opposed to land, almost certainly will lead to thinking differently. Besides, our concept of intelligence is so culturally determined that measures like I.Q. and learned discussions fail to recognise certain types of intelligence even among humans, so maybe if we knew far more about dolphins we wouldn't recognise - or wouldn't value - some of their intelligence.

If we had met even one extraterrestrial intelligent life-form (and survived) we could begin to answer the question "What makes us human?" because then we'd have a real comparator, a very different way of thinking, socialising and so on. We would find some things were common, so not distinctive of us, and others distinguished us from the other life-form (I'll leave machine civilisations out of it for the moment). Of course, just one comparator would not be ideal (imagine deciding what made us human by comparison with just one other earthly species, hippopotamus, say, or sea kale) and numerous comparators would be preferable provided none of them wiped us out.

Lastly, the mention of machine civilisations (much discussed in science fiction and somewhat in speculative non-fiction science) reminds me that when we ask what makes us human, we may be comparing ourselves with computers or robots. Now since some scientists see us as machines anyway, that's a difficult one, the more so because we sometimes build machines deliberately to mimic human thought processes and behaviour. Maybe I'll return to that - comments welcome.

Some answers would involve the soul, but while I'm comfortable with this idea insofar as I understand it, I'm not wedded to the Christian orthodoxy that humans only have something special.

I can't resist widening the extraterrestrial theme to say that our entire understanding of life and of how it arose on earth is constrained by a complete lack of comparators. If only we find something on Mars or on those moons of my lifetime, please...