Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Away Day (2)

Before I take you to Odanglesex County Council, let me apologise to visitors to the site who will have found nothing new for two weeks. I was on holiday, walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, and coming back with a tan (if you didn't know I'm basically white, you do now), memories of beautiful cliff scenery and a lot of quite spectacular bosses and ridges of hard skin on my toes.

Because it's over two weeks since I posted Part 1 of The Away Day, here's a recap. The Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision in Odanglesex County Council, Kenneth Spotlessnob, has decided his extensive empire should have an away-day to think out of the box, engage in blue-sky thinking, reconnect with strategic priorities, network and chase one another through a muddy assault course. He is himself too busy with important things to arrive at the start of the event, but for everyone else, it's a whole day thing. Most of the organisation is being handled by a senior underling, Dale Brashcon, and Kenneth's PA, Kelly Pattrick, and the publicity is with Dale.

Usually I record great events at OCC by reproducing a series of e-mails, but this will not work for the Away Day itself, so I'm fictionalising it as a story.


As Transformational Excellence Officer Reema Narlikar parked her ageing Saab and decanted colleague and friend Scott Fitzwilliam (whose souped-up Mini had fallen ill again) into the car park of the William Wayneflete Outdoor Activity Centre, she was a little concerned to see how full the car-park was. OK she'd taken one wrong turning (well, two, but the second had been a farm track soon reversed out of), but they did still have thirteen minutes before the start, didn't they? It was "arrive by 9:00", wasn't it? A wave from her immediate boss Hamish Carpenter, his unruly head and beard hair briefly ruly, reassured her. He seemed to be getting a lift from his daughter, unless there was something the rumour machine hadn't registered.

The three colleagues walked together to the obvious entrance under the big sign (ODANGLESEX COUNTY COUNCIL
and a green smiley sea-monster). With old-fashioned courtesy, Hamish waved Reema ahead. She strode to the door and tried the handle. The door was locked.

"Yeah, it really is locked. The bell doesn't seem to work and I've hammered on it!" said a familiar voice from a distance. The figure sitting on a low wall was lean, lithe and bespectacled. "I'm just waiting for Kelly to arrive, or someone with the key. We've definitely got the day right," Mike Finnegan added.

"I'll see if I can spot anything through a window," Hamish said. He did indeed spot something - a group of old ladies who either weren't OCC employees or internal communication was even worse than he thought - and as he stared at them, one of them saw him and screamed - but then he came on a side entrance. The door was open.

"First test passed," said Kelly Pattrick, making an entry on a form. "Thinking out of the box - spatial awareness - initiative - working with multiple options. Fail on leadership because you haven't brought anyone with you. Come in. Tea and coffee through there, coats and bags there, toilets there, interfaith or philosophy quiet room there. Hello, Reema."

Familiar faces were looking serious over coffee. The Directorate was beginning to gather, but clearly most had not yet arrived, or at least found the entrance, and not all the parked cars were theirs. Dale Brashcon, in charge, buzzed around those present like an inflated, untied balloon just let free.

Scott, alerted by the strange affair of the locked door, looked around for anything they should be doing and spotted some sides of flipchart paper pinned to the wall with a roughly-drawn grid on each and a series of odd words. Three sets of initials had been entered on the grids, but there was no indication of what the words meant. Reema joined him. He raised his eyebrows. She wrinkled her nose. Language was unnecessary.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Blogspot Disease

Sorry, lovers of The Odanglesex Chronicles - I'd meant to post part 2 of the Away Day today, but all my paragraphing and line spacing is disappearing and does not respond to EDIT. This makes anything of any length, particularly something set out as a series of e-mails, look totally unreadable. I can't see anything in the settings to account for it and right now I don't have time to join the Blogspot community to discuss problems. I'll be out of action here for a couple of weeks and when I return I'll make a major effort to fix it. Failing that, I'll recreate this blog on Wordpress where I already have a poetry blog -

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from followers and casual visitors:




For a while now, the U.K., the U.S.A. and Russia have been elbowing one another for top position. I'm particularly intrigued by the Russian readership!



Back to Odanglesex in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Favourite Places: Pin Mill, Suffolk

Why "Pin" Mill? I don't know. It's on the coast, on the Orwell estuary, just outside the large village of Chelmondiston. You can approach it by a narrow road, but I approach by foot through dense woodland along a ridge overlooking the estuary. As you descend you come to a series of houseboats, all with names, many with postboxes and with wooden walkways out to the boat, with plants in pots and other decorations plus various junk. Some are quite neat and others very dilapidated, plus the occasional rotting ruin.

Beyond the houseboats the path suddenly comes out to a small bay and to a concrete surface sometimes under shallow water, but usually merely damp. To the right are moored yachts, motor-boats and rowing-boats. To the left is a large pub against whose solid walls high tides lap - "The Butt and Oyster", which must amuse visiting Americans. It's an Adnams' pub which means decent real ale.

Beyond that, a road and a shambles of interesting buildings, workshops and the like, then a few brick houses, a marina office and more woodland. People come to the pub to eat or socialise and drink and the place attracts some day-trippers, maybe a few genuine tourists and of course people off the boats, but a proportion of the people walking around or driving vehicles very short distances are roughly dressed, long-haired, weatherbeaten men. I know few places quirkier or beter to rest on a long walk.

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Away Day

FROM: Dale Brashcon,Strategic Deputy Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: All Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

Hi! Good news! On the 24th we're all getting together for the most marvellous experience which I'm sure everyone will find fun as well as really helpful in doing our jobs better. You had the date already, but please note that because of the flood of ideas for what should happen and consultants' advice on the optimum time space for such events, it's now a full-day event instead of just in the morning. We're all meeting at the West Odanglesex Childhood Experience Centre at Much Yelling near Oakhead - nine a.m. prompt, please.

Bring outdoor clothing, but that doesn't mean hard hats! We've been able to meld a number of your brilliant suggestions about the day into the programme, which will be with you shortly. Basically the morning will consist of a number of interactive and participative activities indoors, while the afternoon will be outdoors in the Adventure Centre.

If you have any difficulties with the date or programme on medical or compassionate grounds please let Kelly Pattrick know soonest. Otherwise I'll see you there!

FROM: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer

TO: Scott Fitzwilliam, Transformational Excellence Officer

Scottie: Just got Dale's gush about the (squirm) away-day. Horrible thought: maybe the Great Leader and he have taken seriously that anonymous suggestion I posted about being chased naked by a wild boar through bramble thickets? Could they take that seriously? They could.

FROM: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Dale Brashcon

Dale: Kenneth will be arriving at The Experience Centre at about 10:30. He's really looking forward to the day.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Senior Transformational Excellence Officer

TO: Edwin McEvoy, Head of Local Projects, HM Treasury

Edwin: Sorry, but I've got to reschedule that meeting we had at 3 on 24th. I'm now required to be at an all-day Away Day. It was only the morning. There's a three-line whip.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

You Can Stop Progress - a few more thoughts

A belief in Progress goes along with economic growth. While economic growth, especially as measured by GNP, isn't a total good or the only measure or process worth considering, could a tendency to believe that things will generally get better survive in a no-growth situation, which we may well be coming to? @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ If you believe in Progress, you will not be convinced by people who say things that concern you can't change. But if you believe in Progress, you may be unable to question whether the major trends you see in recent history are for the good at all. 999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 The term "Progressive" in politics has described all sorts of people from reforming radicals with a populist tinge (USA) to several moderate conservative parties in Europe. If you say you're a progressive, what kind of positions does that rule out? If none, is the term meaningful? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????? The problem about the term "progressive" is that it can be applied to anything you think is the trend of the time. Eugenics was once thought very progressive and so were the early Italian Fascists. "Progressive" tells us nothing about where you stand on civil liberties, the environment, war and peace. Nationalism was once generally thought to be progressive and now to be non-progressive, though it was supposedly progressive in the Soviet Union in the view of the West - and, of course, reactionary to the Communists! Marx thought it was progressive to support the workers' cause because they were the force of the future - but what if he'd been convinced the flow of history was against them? %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Is it progressive to think the kingdom of God on earth is coming and to work towards it? Is there, in fact, a religious root to the idea of progress and has the root rotted? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

You can stop Progress: how we got here

The idea of Progress is quite new. Most people through history have operated on the working assumption that things would stay pretty much the same. Even while great civilisations and empires were developing, people harked back to an imaginary "golden age" which may have owed more to a fantasy of returning to the womb than to any memories of past societies. It was also common for people to think in terms of cyclical change: culture, like plants or daylight, grew, reached maturity, declined, died and rose again. Even in the Middle Ages of Western and central Europe, though, when change was quite slow, social systems solid and slow-changing and economic activity not obviously heading up or down, some people, mostly intellectuals, along with myths of a golden age,saw knowledge growing: we were dwarves standing on the shoulders of the ancient philosophers, but the dwarf could see a little further than the philosopher. It's worth pointing out that believing in a golden past is not necessarily conservative or deadening of effort to improve. If you believe things were once much better and it's possible to return towards that state, you have confidence to challenge the status quo and you may achieve great change, though probably not quite what you expected. Martin Luther and the Levellers among the Parliamentary militants in the English Civil War both believed they were giving people a chance to throw off oppression and distortion and return to a better earlier state. Rapid economic growth, initially in Italy and the Netherlands, unleashed the Renaissance and an expectation of progress in all sorts of fields. It took about another two hundred years for progress to become a common and settled expectation, till the early 18th century, but by then economic development, scientific discoveries and rapid development of new skills in the arts such as music made this belief compelling - in Europe (excluding the south-east under the Turkish empire) and the European colonies in America. It was not long before this created new expectations in politics, that political systems could be devised that would be better than those before, though there was still a strong tendency to hark back to idealised past models, whether a state of primitive tribal equality (Rousseau) or the Roman Republic (theoreticians of the American republics). The brutality and devastating war unleashed by the French Revolution revived a tense conservatism, but the idea of progress across the board did not go away - nor could it as the early 19th century saw railways and massive industrial development. Few people questioned that this was progress, though many saw disadvantages and worked to overcome them. Europeans saw Australia, unspoilt as we might now say, and thought of huge opportunities to turn forest and scrub to cities and farms. A rural scene or a sleepy town turning to a mass of factories or mines and a jammed-together mass of housing for the workers was progress. We might now look back and see devastation of habitats teeming with wildlife, the ruin of both inventive civilisations and simple, sustainable lifestyles in the Americas or Africa or a subtler loss of a sense of wonder, a coarsening of spirituality perhaps, but few did so at the time. The human disbenefits of "progress" were seen as solvable - and most of them were, with better sanitation, a spread of basic schooling and so on. While the vision was mainly secular, religious people too (mainly Christians) saw economic development, colonisation and the advance of science as the realisation of God's work and plan. Darwin did not seriously disturb this: indeed, many Christians rapidly accepted the idea of evolution. The concept of biological evolution, though, did encourage people to think of evolutionary improvement in human society, false though the analogy was. In Germany in particular, before the Nazis but especially among the Nazis, it was common to see "survival of the fittest" applying to struggle between races, states and nations and to think that out of the struggle better things would emerge. Some colonialists had somewhat similar ideas. Those who fought against Fascism or colonialism still mostly believed in human progress of some kind. When I was growing up, it was still common to hear (particularly in the U.S.A.), "You can't stop progress". In other words, change was basically in a good direction, but if you didn't like it, tough. So was that fair and true, and where has it taken us? That's for next time! BY THE WAY - APOLOGIES TO READERS, BUT WHY THE $$$$$ DOES BLOGSPOT, TO WHICH I WOULD LIKE TO DO INDESCRIBABLE THINGS, KEEP REMOVING MY PARAGRAPHING???????????!!!!!!!?