There was a time when I imagined that in my sixties life would have started to become a pleasant, carefree stroll through the sunlit uplands. Ah well …
This is what has been competing for space in my head this week. Why collagen makes better sausage skins than animal gut. Why you should leave your money to a famous university. How to teach a group of administrators in Zurich to write better reports. What to call a new bottling of a famous whisky. How to be interesting and witty about a firm of stockbrokers. Why you should send your children to a certain well-known school. How to encourage groups of chief executives to tell stories. How to market a Dark Angels course in Sweden (not difficult). How to teach 3,000 Indian managers to make better contact with their customers and colleagues (more difficult). What to do about my elderly mother who is losing the plot five hundred miles away in Kent (very difficult). How to finish the almost finished novel I haven’t been finishing for the last eighteen months (impossible). What to do about an epileptic iPhone. And what to write about in this blog.
These are no vague musings, rather a platoon of small but highly trained attention-seekers armed with megaphones. They shout at me first thing in the morning. They whisper and nag me last thing at night. And they know nothing about collaboration. It’s each one for himself and may the loudest, the most insistent win. I was wrong. They’re a rabble, not a platoon.
Earlier this week I sent through the first draft of an interview to its subject, one of the people whose stories feature in the school recruitment brochure. He rang me a couple of days later. It made him anxious, he said. He had talked about certain family issues. It was very personal.
I replied that the interest for the reader, and the value to the school, lay precisely in the personal aspect of his story; that without it, it might end up reading simply like a CV. He agreed, but still felt that some of what I had written was too close to the bone. We duly toned it down – without, I hope, losing any of the warmth and candour he had transmitted during the interview. The story still makes the point that the school had equipped him well to deal with the challenges of adult life.
On which subject, I spent last night with my son Jake in Newcastle. He’s in his second year of a business studies course. We went out to dinner and he talked about his preoccupations, all entirely real and deserving of serious consideration. I listened to him and thought of my rabble. What a good thing it is, I thought, that we only really acknowledge the things we know we can deal with.