University of Life

neanderthalI washed my car today.
Properly washed it that is, with a bucket, sponge and some elbow grease. I cannot remember the last time I did this, I don’t think I have ever done it to our current car. As I approached the poor thing it nervously eyed the alien-hose-thing as if I was about to subject it to a form of auto-enema.

So that’s at least 3 years – probably much longer as I don’t remember handing my old car back clean.

We, of course, do wash our car but this is normally performed at the filling station, once every 3 months, a Sunday afternoon, sat there, windows tight shut as program # 5 runs its course. The end result is the same – a clean car, but there is a certain satisfaction gained from doing it yourself. Can you remember the last time you exited a car wash, stopped, got out and stood there admiring the work of the robo-cleaning-garage thing?

It was this satisfaction which has lead me to the conclusion that I am slowly going soft.

My world is now so full of labour saving devices and people that I now don’t have to worry about such trivial things as cleaning the car, ironing my shirts, cleaning the house, fixing the house, booking my travel, I even have a 6 month old who does my sleep for me. When was the last time you wrote a letter, by hand? Even writing a postcard is a pain, and there’s only 5cm² to fill in!

I finished my masters degree last year, a 3 year program and the climax of each year was a set of exams. Normally 3 hours in duration each and there was 5 exams a year. For the exam you are allowed to bring into the exam a pen and a calculator, nothing else.

Imagine if you will how terrifying a prospect this is – no spell check, no goal seek, nothing to refer to other than your brain. Believe me after 3 hours of writing my wrist ached like I was 13 years old again and I shudder to think what the marker thought of my writing or spelling.

Yes I am going soft.

Ok I accept I was never going to be a workhorse, Boxer from Animal Farm. Physically I was not built to toil the fields but I have done my share. It’s been a while though since I have sweated, through physical exertion, to earn my living.

Finance is not a career which requires much physical ability, it does require ability, but none that would help me should I find myself challenged to a wood chopping competition. No, finance requires other skills, number one being common sense.

Yes you need the qualifications.
Yes you need to understand the rules.
Yes you need to understand the regulations.
Yes you need to know the fundamentals.

But beyond this it is simple honest common sense.

We use lingo, acronyms and financial mazes to create a smarter-than-you smokescreen but blow it away and if you have good common sense and know the fundamentals its a fairly easy profession.

The University of Life folks will never know this though, it takes a bit of determination and wherewithal to find this out. That’s a small hurdle to overcome to find this truth out and I would argue, brain surgeons, fighter pilots and grand master chess champions aside, that most professions are similar. Not all require qulifications but they all require common sense and hard work.

One day the our cover will be blown, everyone will jump on the bandwagon and salaries will fall through the floor. Until that time though, I will continue to earn my money avoiding calluses along the way and perhaps take up something more manly in my spare time – taekwondo?.

Or I might just wash the car more.


Wont Get Fooled Again

whoI was raised by a toothless bearded hag.

I was schooled with a strap right across my back.

But its aaaaaaall right now, in fact it’s a gas.

Now that’s how it should be, some steel in the spine, the Dunkirk spirit.

That’s how empires were built, countries conquered, penal colonies established and Who wants to be a Millionaire? exported.

On one hand I read about the bravery being shown by the young men and women overseas and on the other I read about the winging and the militancy which is again raising its ugly head in the UK and I struggle reconcile the two.

If it didn’t affect me directly I would probably have a more aggressive opinion on the whole thing, more Thatcherite in tone.

But as of today Sunday 21st March I still am not sure how I will return home next weekend and just want a resolution, whatever that is.

I am, as always, booked to travel with British Airways next weekend and in their infinite wisdom the Unite union have decide to strike this weekend and the next affecting mine and a lot of other peoples travel plans.

Just sort it out, please.

My childhood was spent in the 70`s and 80`s, two decades of intense militancy.
The teacher strikes and the miner strikes, two which I remember clearly but there were more, lots more. Everyone was striking, everyone had something to complain about, everyone was the victim of the management.

Two decades on thanks to Thatcher the British unions are a shadow of what they were 20 years ago but they can still be disruptive, even for a non-UK resident like myself.

But is there a place for a Union in today’s day and age? It will come as no surprise to you that I don’t think so.

Working practices are not quite as Dickensian as they once were. Health and safety, minimum wages, working conditions are all covered by legislation and the Unions are now left arguing over the scraps of pay, conditions and trying to tell management how to run a business.

If BA wants to freeze pay, reduce services and costs then why is this anyone’s concern other than BAs? If the staff don’t want to work under the new conditions they are free to seek other employment elsewhere – I am sure Ryanair or Easyjet will happily explain to them the realities of the world as it exists today.

Reciprocally, if they are in fact right and the services decline then customers will not hesitate in telling Willie Walsh and the rest of the management quickly and directly. Surely the fare paying customer are the ones to decide if they are right or wrong, not the Union?

In my right of center, private sector, management, humble opinion there is no place for a union in the modern world, none whatsoever. Thatcher for all her faults knew this and I concur.

“The staff and Union take no pleasure in this action” . This apparent somberness was notably absent when they voted to strike for 12 days over the Christmas period last year and the scenes of jubilation did nothing to further their cause. I shudder to think what would have occurred had they gone ahead with the proposed strike.

This time they have said that they will not strike over Easter, thanks a lot Unite.

Is the fact this is an election year and Unite are a major contributor to the Labour party a coincidence? I don’t think so and am happy to see, at least in public, the government condemning the strike.

I would imagine behind the scenes they are getting their money’s worth from their “friends” in Westminster and this is what worries me about our current labour government. The radical left winger Michael Foot might have passed away recently but his politics still form the foundations of the current labour government. Like permafrost it remains and I see this current action as a last gasp attempt by the Unions to eek out something before it is too late.

Give it a few months and the political landscape will have changed dramatically.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Not this time.