2012 predictions

I’ve come over all prescient with the best part of two large glasses of Sauvignon blanc inside me (Actually both of them – never touched the sides). Being in a currently amused state of mind, I thought I’d throw my scabby hat into the ring with a few predictions bout current events.

Kicking off with the UK and politics;
1. People will carry on griping and grumbling, but following the collapse of the Conservative / Liberal coalition in late April there will be a June general election in which the Liberal Democrats are electorally speaking, toast. Support for all three main parties will take yet another big slump.
2. The ‘New Thatcher’ will fail to materialise, and there will be a hung parliament. The recession and ‘cuts’ will continue.
3. A small dog will die of heat stroke in one of the ‘Occupy’ encampments. Widespread arrests and clashes with the Animal Rights movement will occur. Sometimes with ‘Occupy’ protesters beating themselves up because they belong to both factions.
4. Taxes in real terms will continue to rise. Real cuts in public spending will fail to happen. So what’s new?

1. The Euro will fail but be ‘rescued’ by imaginary money supplies dreamed up by a Dutch MEP who has spent too much time in an Amsterdam ‘Coffee’ shop.
2. A major French or German MEP will survive an assassination attempt (Cries of ‘Shame’). Nigel Farage will be arrested on suspicion, even though it’s nothing to do with UKIP
3. The Greek economy will ‘fail’ (Again)
4. French air traffic controllers will fail to go on strike in the holiday season. UK Government responds by causing a strike by UKBA staff throughout July.

Middle East;
1. Iran blockades straits of Hormuz. US postures but does nothing. Iranians run out of AK47 ammunition after firing all their bullets into the air in celebration. Blockade lifted.
2. More rockets fired at Israel.
3. ‘Arab Spring’ fizzles out as fundamentalists try to assert control, then see grass roots support fade away.

China etc;
1. Chinese have big ‘Oh shit’ economic breakdown when they find all their US Dollar bonds are worthless.
2. Kim Ying Tong of North Korea dies of massive heart attack while lounging on a couch made of peasants. Millions mourn (Although not really).
3. The Dalai Llama dies of acute smugness when visited by Bono of U2.

The Americas;
1. Hugo Chavez dies. Blames the USA.
2. Fidel Castro dies. Also blames USA.
3. Barack Obama loses US presidential elections to unknown independent.
4. Climategate 3 breaks. David Suzuki is ‘terrified’.

Apocalypse fails to arrive…………..

I’ve been told I have to stop and drink more wine now…

TTFN and may your 2012 be a little better than 2011.



In defence of Ebeneezer Scrooge

Every year the same old piece of pro over-consumption is trotted out; specifically versions of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’. The maudlin story containing a hidden threat that somehow one will be punished by supernatural forces for not emptying one’s bank account, instead spending one’s hard earned on tackiness and waste. Dickens mawkish polemic of seasonal propaganda could not have been written better by some shadowy organisation whose aim is to drain everyone’s bank account once a year.

Gift giving in some circles has disappeared beyond the ridicule event horizon. In some it resembles the custom of Potlach, where items of value are destroyed in a massive display of one upmanship “Hey, look how much I can afford to throw away!”. In others the gift becomes almost a competition “Hey, I can afford to give you this big shiny thing because I’m better than you”. In others a bribe “I hope this shiny thing makes up for my total indifference towards you over the past year”.

Money replaces sentiment. Cash subverts emotion. Not to follow the pack leads to accusations of ‘Scrooge!’ after Charles Dickens fictional creation in ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Personally, I feel that Dickens unfairly traduced the character of poor Mister Scrooge, painting him as villain rather than victim. Through the medium of Dickens story, we see a man embittered by being denied love, subsequently hiding his emotional life from rapacious relatives and a hostile world. We see him struggle to stay in business, maintaining a frugal lifestyle, whilst manfully saving for old age and potential infirmity. No NHS or Social Services for the Self-employed in Victorian times. No remaining close family? For those who had no blood relatives to care for them, there was only the terror of the Poor House in those days.

So, when Scrooge maintains an austere business model in a time of financial recession, Dickens holds him up for censure because of his model of thrifty behaviour. Denying himself creature comforts Scrooge becomes the very model of probity and austerity. In times of shortage a man to be copied, not scorned. In the exacting business of a small counting house, he is seen to demand as much from himself as his employees. Promptness, accuracy, and attention to detail his businesses only defence against penury. His laughter when counting out his small, hard won fortune should therefore be viewed not as a mean maniacal cackle, but rather one of relief, a sense of pleased propriety that he has funds to continue another day.

Scrooge, Dickens appears to contend, is merely callous because he has little time for the fecklessness of Bob Cratchit. He points to the acts of thrift and necessary discipline within the workplace as meanness and heartlessness, not the deeds of a business owner struggling to maintain employee payroll and premises. Scrooge is furthermore not a profligate man, he ‘lives over the shop’ and I would argue that he is not the miser Dickens portrayed, but rather a struggling small businessman with many sterling attributes. To be emulated rather than abhorred. Therefore for us to cheer his supernatural persecution is in itself an uncharitable, and one might say reprehensible, act.

The tyranny of the office party

Visiting Longriders blog this morning, I was not unsurprised to read his account of a Christmas ‘celebration’, and enforced playing of a silly game thought up by HR. The person who thought that one up deserves to be stabbed in the eyes and burned alive. As a team building exercise, making people play ‘Christmas games’, although the one Longrider described was a new one on me, has to have FAIL stamped all over it. It was a complete waste of After Eight mints too.

Who dreams up this shit? Have they nothing better to do with their time? Those of us who are humble working stiffs come to work to perform our duties as agreed in our contracts, hopefully to mutual satisfaction before going home to our real friends and families. The idea being that after a suitable break we return refreshed and enthusiastic to our cash-earning tasks, thus contributing to the health of the enterprise we work for.

I will say this to any Manager or employer who wishes to drop by this blog; please, please, no more ‘organised’ office parties. They are always unremitting mental torture. Anyone of anything but the basest intelligence or sophistication abhors them, so why bother? People should have lives outside of the daily grind, or they tend to lose their effectiveness over time.

Every ‘Works; Christmas party (Although I know these are only a tax dodge) I have ever been to has been intended to motivate, but actually had the opposite effect upon me and my co-workers. Let me explain; my personal time is precious to me. I spend enough of my life with the people I work with. If I wish to socialise further with them, I will do so, but will not be forced to.

In addition, asking people to pay to attend such an event is I think, merely rubbing salt into an open wound. Like the appalling forced gift giving, or ‘Secret Santa’ practice, which only a minority really enjoy. On the whole, only a few, and if you’ll forgive me I’ll be sexist here, persons of the female persuasion ever suggest such activities. Males, on the whole, do not.

If an employer wishes to show their appreciation for loyalty and good work, perhaps a small cash bonus might be in order, or a small gift. The best Christmas gift I ever had from my boss was fifty quid, a bottle of decent blend Whiskey and large jar of Quality Street Chocolates (Well, it was the early 80’s). Sure, he’d probably bought them at wholesale prices, but for this I was duly grateful to my employer (I’m easily pleased). In fact a lot of this kind of informal reward went on until the tax man cracked down on such practices. Mostly because the exchequers in question thought it was a tax dodge. Up until that point, the ‘Christmas Box’ or seasonal bonus had been a long standing British tradition. I once left work with a large deep frozen Christmas turkey in my backpack that my boss had handed to me, along with a small cash gift, having to hitch-hike twenty miles home on a damp and unpleasant evening with a frozen patch of skin. This gift too was deeply appreciated, as my family was a bit borassic at the time.

For my own part, I am no Ebeneezer Scrooge. In our house we are always delighted to welcome friends at this, or any other time of year, and Mrs S and I will happily break bread or share a toast with friends old and new. In Canada, there is the long established practice of the ‘potluck’, where neighbours bring along beer, wine, and some other goodies to share and have a damn good jaw. You come or go at your pleasure, and there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can stay or who leaves when. However, that is purely voluntary. Shouldn’t this always be so?

What raises my hackles every time is any attempt at coercion to attend any event. This single element is what makes the office party one of the most unpleasantly tyrannical and demotivating acts an employer can visit upon their employees. Notwithstanding, such an event is a minefield of inappropriate conduct, so that any Employer / Manager with even the slightest concern about litigation should steer clear of by a country mile. Similarly, alcohol and the workplace should never mix, unless of course you are a taster of wine or other alcoholic liquor.

No more. Or at least make attendance a purely voluntary affair outside working hours. Your employees will reward you for it. At least, the ones who have lives.