Sunday, 28 November 2010

Never ask a man in a flat cap for a cappuccino

I was taken out for lunch on Friday. The pub we went to was what some would call traditional and others would call retro. The place mats, paper napkins and lack of an open fire reminded me of the 'moderrnised' pubs I'd frequent 35 years ago.

Here you'd eat beef pie, treacle tart and drink beer, beer or perhaps just for a change, more beer. Soft drinks were for girls and coffee something you drank at home - and then only the instant variety.

The landlord wore a flat cap. Nothing wrong with that either I guess, perhaps he's sensitive about his baldness or simply making some kind of fashion statement. The food was hot and filling and a coffee seemed like a good idea. Asking for a cappuccino however prompted the kind of look you'd expect to get if you asked where the First Class compartment was on a Blackpool tram.

The man in a cap clearly knew what cappuccino was, but could not think why I'd be asking for it in his pub. We had 'nice' cups of filter coffee instead. He had a point I suppose and his pub was packed with people munching pies and enjoying jam rolypoly with custard.

Of course the problem is mine not his. I prefer not to be reminded of the 1970s and in particular the pubs I visited in that era. One thing is certain though; I'm going to avoid any place where the guy behind the bar is wearing a flat cap!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I've always liked being busy, but right now opportunities seem to be leaping out at me from every corner. It's good to be recognised for the work I do. Better to be in demand by those willing to pay for what my expertise can deliver them. But being busy can have its down sides too. Not enough quality time for me, to re-charge, refresh and re-connect.

This week for example, my planned 'quiet day' with two meetings and time to enjoy the moment has been sacrificed to accept an invitation to a London event. No ordinary event, it's a Big Society workshop for senior civil servants and I'm told one or two Ministers of State. It's a unique opportunity to share my views with people able to shape policy and I hope, be swayed slightly in their thinking by the experiences I'll be sharing within them from my work at the 'Big Society' coalface. And yes, I'll learn from them too.

But the fact remains that my week now feels as if it's accelerating out of control. Much of this is of course perception and panic, whilst the reality means time to think and write on trains and for a couple of hours on Thursday morning in my favourite London hotel.

Being busy forces you to prioritise, to make time for the projects you're committed to completing. It also forces you to tread that fine line between saying yes to everything and sacrificing your sense of self and sanity, and being selective to protect what matters to the inner self.

It's a difficult path to tread and mot one foreseen when setting ambitious career goals.