Sunday, January 04, 2009

I confess to having been exceptionally quiet. Most of my posts related to my former employment and have been kept private.

Regular readers (that is if there still are any after this long hiatus) will be aware that I am a motor-racing fan of long standing. I love my motor sport. I am the nut who sits in front of the TV but spends most of the time looking at the live timing on the laptop and believe me I can follow the race better with the laptop than I can with the commentary. This wasn't always the case. There was a time when the TV coverage gave a good overview of the of the changing pattern of the race. Sadly those days have gone. Firstly, through the retirement of Murray Walker compounded by the inane wittering of his replacement, James Allan, and secondly through the arrival of Lewis Hamilton. Sadly, the TV coverage in the provided by ITV seemed to fall into the sort of nationalistic fervor that is normally only seen with the most unsavory of football supporters. But it's worse than that! Nationalism would imply that all the British drivers are included. Not so. There is only one person who is on the receiving end of the ITV idolatry – Lewis Hamilton. Typically, the programme would start with a welcome to [circuit] in [area of country] for the [country] GP. Then there would be a description of the circuit's attributes usually followed by some comment that this would be perfect for Lewis Hamilton. We would then have a quick review of LH's thoughts for the upcoming race. There might be a 5 minute section on some general issue where we might, if we get lucky, see other drivers being interviewed for quick soundbites. Then its back to LH, a quick review of qualifying perhaps an interview with Antony Hamilton, Lewis's father. All of this is interspersed with Steve Rider and Mark Blundell waxing lyrical about LH to the point that you half expect them to genuflect at every mention of the sainted Lewis. Then they get to the race at which point the insufferable, half witted egomaniac, James Allen, would take over. From here on the Hamilton lovefest was always excruciating – if Hamilton is quicker by a tenth of a second in a sector Allen has him as the fastest man on the track, it doesn't matter that someone else is quicker in the other sectors. If Hamilton had been out qualified then we are told that he was unlucky or the other driver was on a low fuel strategy and would be soon pitting for a refill. There was the famous incident where the TV producer was, quite rightly, concentrating on cars that were fighting for both race position and the potential of winning the World Championship but Allen shouted “come on producer we want to see Lewis”. Well no we don't. We want to see the most exciting and most relevant battle for position at any given moment of the race. If we were to fall into Allen's trap we would believe that there is only one driver and his name is Lewis Hamilton. There has been one voice of sanity in the whole ITV team. Martin Brundell did his best to give a relevant commentary of the race, only to have the Allen idiot bring the whole thing back to LH. Sadly, though, even Martin succumbs to moments of Lewis mania but thankfully as an exception rather than the norm.

The most annoying thing about this is that James Allen has gone on record as saying that those who object this kind of biased broadcasting and knocking Lewis Hamilton are either jealous or racist. I'll be honest I don't like Lewis Hamilton. I don't like his driving style, which although fast is very untidy. I like drivers who are aggressive and yet drive with neat, tidy lines. Felipe Massa fits this bill, as does Robert Kubica, so does Nick Heidfeld (well most of the time). I suppose this is why I liked Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Elio de Angelis, Jochen Mass and quite a few others over the years. There have been a couple of exceptions – Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve were both capable of driving beautifully precise lines whilst being aggressive (French GP 1979 is one example) but were both equally capable of being all over the track, but they had something else. I've been trying to put my finger on it but hindsight has blurred my memory so the only thing that comes to mind are flair and humility. The whole sense of it seemed a good idea so I tried it and I don't believe I had the ability to pull it off. Yes, they were ambitions. Yes, they were supremely self confident, but to the average race goer there was never any sign of arrogance. Hamilton on the other hand, despite the constant exhortation of Ryder et al that he is charming and personable; a genuinely nice guy; is anything but. He exudes arrogance. Since winning the championship I haven't seen a single comment from him commending the other drivers for the close race and no acknowledgment of the fact that in reality he didn't win the championship - Ferrari lost it by making silly mistakes. Without these mistakes it was likely that Massa would have gone to his home GP in Brazil already World Champion.

Don't take my word for it. In this video from the BBC Lewis has had a bad performance at a kart race. Look at the sulky, petulant way he deals with his father. How many parents would put up with that behaviour from a child. Next a look at the 2007 McLaren launch (it keeps appearing and disappearing - the joys of take down notices). You'll see he stays half a step behind Alonso and then gives his team mate a sneering look of contempt. Surely the assembled press should have been able to predict the fireworks within McLaren after seeing that. Then look at all his interviews in that first year, and they way that he subtly paints Alonso as the bad guy, at the way he used the focus of I'm a team player but Alonso isn't to drive a wedge straight through the team leaving a 2 times world champion to be treated as a rookie whilst he, the actual rookie, is treated like a king. Look also at the way he speaks about the stupidity of rules every time he is caught out by one. Case in point. Canada 2008 when he ignored the pit lane signal and ran into the back of Raikkonen. The rule is there. Everyone knows about it. Two drivers were disqualified for leaving the pit lane under the red light the previous year and Hamilton's comment “it's a stupid rule. It's a shame because I was leading. I was breezing it” Erm no, he was 3rd. If he were leading he would not have had Raikkonen and Kubica stopped at the red light in front of him. This incident at Canada brings me back full circle to the appalling coverage of F1 by ITV. After LH had crashed out Allen's first suggestion was that Raikkonnen had stopped when he didn't need to, then spent the rest of the race talking about what could be happening if LH were still running. At the end of the race he was more concerned with LH's bad luck than the fact the Kubica had driven brilliantly (tidily aggressive) to take his maiden victory at the same circuit where he had crashed horrifically only 12 months earlier. Scarce mention was made of the BMWs being 1-2 and how strong they were looking at that part of the season. Since then, at the end of each race, it seemed that the only interview ITV wanted was LH even to the point that he got preference over the winners press conference. Alternatively, ITV leave the press conference as soon as LH had spoken.

All I can say is thank Bernie that ITV have lost the rights to the coverage. Lets hope that the BBC team who take over from 2009 will do a better job and from their announced line up it's looking promising. Meanwhile I'll keep supporting my tidily aggressive drivers at BWM, Ferrari and Williams and hope that just occasionally they will notice my boys enough to give them a mention.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blog title

Most of the bits I've been posting lately are not being made public for various reasons so it may have given the appearance that I had abandoned this blog. It's not the case.

This post is quite brief as it is giving a reply to an email I received asking about the blog title.

It's the title of a poem by Stevie Smith published in the 1950s and which is reproduced below.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

I've always liked this poem, it speaks of the chaos of modern life, of the effort of keeping one's head above the endless tide of inane tasks required in todays world.

There will be a couple of blogs before christmas, I have a long rant brewing about the state of motor sport that I need to get off my chest and also a general update of life, the universe and everything.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Things that make you go hmmm!

If, as a company, you find that you have a department that has had 5 of the 18 administrative staff leave in a period of about six months (three of whom left within a six week period of each other) wouldn't you be asking hard questions of the management?


I know of a business where this has happened (see post below) but they are not looking to see if there are problems with the management, but are instead saying that the staff who left are to blame for not being motivated, etc. No one is asking why the staff are not motivated. No one is paying any attention to the admin staff, not even when they are complaining to the Harassment Officer. But of course there is a very good reason for this. The manager who is responsible for these staff started as an admin assistant in HR and is a friend of the HR manager, in fact, the Harassment Officer is also a friend, so one of the admins was asked if she could put up with the bullying rather than making waves.

Personally, I'd be putting the manager through the disciplinary procedures, but I have no influence so my opinion counts for nothing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Not Quite the End of an Era!

Well that is it! I have finally had enough of the bullying from my employer. Even when a new person was brought in to add another layer of management, the person chosen was someone who clearly has the same ethos. It was only on Friday that the new person decided that it was completely appropriate to admonish me for being late to a meeting in a public stairwell, during a period of high movement (lots of people around) and in a patronising manner that most people would be ashamed to use on a five year old.

Now I know that some of you will be thinking that it must be me who is being awkward, touchy and getting what I've asked for.

But let me put it to you this way.

In less than a twelve month period the line manager was reported for harassment (not by me) twice. The company chose to do nothing about this. Partly because the line manager started work for the company in the HR dept and so was friendly with the Harassment Officer, and partly because the company culture is that the higher up the food chain you are the less likely anything will be done to you.

I was on leave for most of July. Shortly after my return to work one of the secretaries in the team handed in her notice. About a week later another handed in her notice. A few weeks passed and then a third handed in her notice. That's three secretaries from a team of fifteen who left in a six week period. Or to put it another way a fifth of this particular line manager's staff!!!! (It's actually worse but the others who left were retiring so really don't count in the dissatisfaction ratings)

And no one in authority is asking questions!!!!

Since she is so crap at managing staff she has added another layer into the management and this new (junior) manager is the one who thinks it's okay to speak to staff at though they are at kindergarten and who seems to think that micro-management and punishment are the way to treat staff who are thoroughly demotivated by the years of mismanagement by the (senior) line manager.

Sorry if that is a bit hard to make sense of, but obviously I'm not going to name names.

Anyway, I have handed in my notice. I am leaving at the end of February - unless they want to pay me to stay at home, which is no skin off my nose as I can do a lot more work towards my MBA.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Casa di Giulietta , Verona

Perhaps the strangest thing we encountered on our recent visit to Italy was La Casa di Giulietta in Verona. The house originally dates back to the 13th century but has been modified over the years including a 1930's reconstruction of a renaissance balcony. The original owners of the house were the Dal Cappella family and their coat of arms is over the arched entrance to the courtyard. The similarity between the family name and Capulet, led some to surmise that they may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's story, however, it was during the inter war depression that the legend really came into it's own. The City Council, or what passed for the tourist board in the 1920's turned the property into a museum, began advertising the new attraction as Juliet's House in the hope that the increase in tourism would kick start the local economy, and create a few jobs. However, it has taken on a life of it's own. Visitors flock from all over the world to touch the right breast of the bronze Juliet statue (for luck) and leave messages asking for Juliet's help in matters of love. These notes are stuck to the walls in the entrance archway by means of gum which has been chewed by both partners in a relationship for maximum effect. Not to be outdone the 13th century convent of San Francesco al Corso, which by 1935 was controlled by the Civic Museums, was opened at the site of Juliet's tomb. Even here the walls are graffitied with messages and requests for help in matters of love.

Okay I confess that I paid money to go into the tomb, but I should say that the convent complex has been turned into a nice little museum/gallery and was in itself worth the three euro entry fee. However, the museum are cynically perpetuating the racket by virtue of having one room, a restoration of a complete set of mural decorations rescued from a riverside palazzo's that was demolished to make way for flood defenses, which is hired out for wedding ceremonies.

I suppose what I find most disturbing about this is that this is another example of people not being able to separate fact from fiction. Just as the Da Vinci Code has visitors flocking to Roslyn many of who are convinced that it has links with the Priory of Sion (which doesn't exist) and the Freemasons (who exist but apparently have nothing to do with Roslyn), the house and tomb have people visiting who are so blinded by their own fantasy that they not only want a fictional character to be real but they also want this figment of a dead playwright's imagination to fix their broken hearts and relationships. From an anthropological view it is interesting as this is effectively the creation of a saint/goddess together the associates pilgrimage and ritual, but on the other hand it could also be said to be a study of just how gullible people are.