Monthly Archives: July 2018

Lazy language

Regular readers of these blog posts will know I have a series of ‘red rag words’ that get my goat. (You’ll also know I like alliteration). Just three are ‘engage’, ‘deliver’ and ‘disrupt’ (as related to business innovation).

I think what I dislike about current use of these words is that, more often than not, they’re lazy language; used so vaguely as to be meaningless. ‘We will engage with the community’We will deliver Brexit’We’re in the business of disruption’– but how, why and when? Just saying it doesn’t commit anyone to anything. Lovers get engaged, letters are delivered – although both increasingly rarely – while train delays increasingly disrupt people’s lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted if one word can take the place of three and when a single word used in the right context needs no further explanation – that’s the beauty of our language well-used.

I’m now fast developing a collection of red rag phrases – ‘agile working’ (see my blog on the subject), ‘fit for purpose’, and ‘blended learning’ are three recent additions to the list. I think people use phrases like this because they trip off the tongue (there goes that alliteration again) and they sound positive and definite. In reality, they don’t have any consequences for the speaker or writer so they’re safe to spout.

Say what you mean and mean what you say’ is sound advice. Yes – language has to evolve, yes – grammatical rules are there to be broken, but clear communication is too important for words to be carelessly used and abused by lazy linguists.

Further rants…

On agile working https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/is-agile-working-the-answer

For other blog posts in this ‘communications matters’ series, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/communication-matters

 

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The cost, price and value of tents

The other weekend at the Latitude Festival I witnessed the best and worst of human behaviour in a 24-hour period. The best was seeing a bar worker sprinting 50 yards after a customer to make good some accidental short-changing. The worst example was the dumping of four tents by a group of lads departing early on the final morning.

Festival waste is as old as festivals themselves of course but campsite waste, and abandoned tents in particular are, to my mind, one of the most pernicious elements. A 2014 Buckinghamshire New University survey of 1200 festival-goers in various countries found that that 86 per cent of music festival waste comes from campsites, and 60 per cent of respondents admitted they discarded their festival tents [so the real figure is probably higher].

The problem lies with the decreasing price and quality of tents, relative to the price of festival tickets at least, and the perceived pressure on our time that makes re-use and recycling seem like too much effort for too many people. ‘Single use’ applied to tents as much as other resource-intensive items – here today, sod tomorrow.

When I mentioned the abandoned festival tents to my running buddy Ian be was much more pragmatic about the whole affair. “They see it as cheap accommodation – 4 nights, 8 guys, four tents costing less than £100 in total. At less than £3 per person per night, the additional ‘cost’ of packing up the tents and carrying them home to be stored until the next festival doesn’t make sense.” 

I could sort of see his point, but of course it ignores the economic and environmental impact; the cost of the clean-up after a festival and the sheer waste of resources. Most abandoned tents go to landfill, however enlightened the festival organisers try to be. There have been numerous noble attempts to gather tents and distribute them to those in need of shelter (refugees in ‘the Jungle’ in Calais being one such opportunity). But no one seems to have cracked it yet. A quick visit to the website of the ReTent initiative http://www.retent.co.uk and their social media feeds suggests they ceased to be active around 5 years ago.

Bigger brains than mine have worked on this problem for much longer, so I don’t expect any immediate solution (do let me know if they already exist). In the meantime, I would encourage all ‘right-thinking’ festival-goers to encourage other campers not to abandon their tents but to take them away for re-use, recycling or re-purposing – see links below. Happy festival-going!

http://giftyourgear.com/gift-your-gear-reuse-recycle-old-unwanted- tent  #giftyourgear @giftyourgear

https://www.lovecamping.co.uk/news/how-to-re-use-and-recycle-old-tents 

https://resource.co/article/discarded-glastonbury-tents-be-donated-refugees-11204  @resource_media

The Tent Commandments [Credit: http://www.loveyourtent.com  #justtakeithome]

1. Thou Shalt Love Your Tent

2. Thou Shalt always take said tent back home again

3. Thou Shalt Respect Your Tent and the area in which you pitch it making sure you clean up after yourself

4. Thou Shalt spread the word and encourage others to Love their Tent

5. Thou Shalt recycle your waste throughout the weekend, taking it to the relevant recycling facilities

6. Thou Shalt love thy neighbour and not disturb them by playing bongos at 4am

7. Thou Shalt help less fortunate neighbours who didn’t bring tent instructions and after 2 hours are still trying to put the frigging thing up!

8. Thou Shalt invite any lonely campers for dinner or drink

9. Thou Shalt join our growing community – find us at www.facebook.com/LoveYourTent, twitter @loveyourtent and instagram

10.Thou Shalt be happy campers and share the love

 

My love affair with books

In the last three weeks I’ve read a John Grisham bestseller (Camino Island) and been to see a stage play (84 Charing Cross Road) both set in the world of bookselling, which partly explains this blog.

But books (and I mean real books) have played an important part throughout my life.

I grew up surrounded by books – my parents were both avid readers and book buyers; we hardly needed to heat our house as the walls were so well-insulated with shelves of books. I inherited from my parents a reluctance to get rid of books once read, and the Little Library outside our house today is the way we currently share unwanted, but not unvalued, paperbacks with passing readers.

Professionally, I spent the first 17 years of my so-called career selling books around the world – by direct mail, to bookshops and distributors, and at events. This was the heyday of ‘alternative’ ‘radical’ ‘community’ bookselling. It was (still) the days of the Net Book Agreement – before discounting and downloading from the internet changed everything to book prices and any sense of a level playing field. Even in those days – nearly 20 years ago – they were talking about the death of the printed book but here we are in 2018 and that’s still not the case.

When we first arrived in Royston – a market town of 15,000 people – we had two bookshops, now we only have a very niche bookseller and, Tesco, if you call them a bookseller. The nearest independent bookshop is 12 miles away (whom I support by ordering my books online through Hive who make a small % donation from each sale to my nominated bookshop).

On the subject of real books, you’ll not be surprised to hear that I’m a fierce opponent of e-readers. Yes – they are great for storing and reading hundreds of books the instant you want to read them on a device the size of a slim paperback. Yes – they save the trees that go into making printed books (but use other precious, less recyclable resources). Yes – I’ll probably have to get one when my eyesight needs large print, but, but, but…

My dear old mum used to go into bookshops, open a hefty new hardback and sniff inside the spine. I don’t know whether this was a version of glue-sniffing, but you can’t do that with a Kindle.

http://www.facebook.com/MillRoadLittleLibrary

https://www.hive.co.uk

Walking the talk

You know about dog-walking and house-sitting, but what about people-walking?

To be honest, when I first heard about this I thought it was a ridiculous idea – another fad from America. I was dismissive because it sounded like a service for people who are just too lazy to do their own walking.

In fact, it is an idea from the USA; I first heard about people-walking from an exponent from California. As he described his typical clients (I think it’s become a viable business) I changed my mind…

Some people feel safer walking with something else, others who are new to an area want to find their way around with someone with local knowledge. Some want the reassurance of having a walking partner because of poor physical ill-health. The last customer segment he identified as lone workers (who may also be home-based) who simply miss the company of another human during the working day. Walking and talking are objectively ‘a good thing’, so what’s not to like.

The people-walking service was profiled as part of a radio programme about confiding in others and, of course, this is what happens between regular clients and the people-walker. Walkers start to confide in the people-walker because, as we know, it’s sometimes easier to share our innermost secrets and concerns with those we’re not too close to. The professional distance between the two walkers is important and avoids the baggage that comes with family members and friends.

It also illustrates an observation from the world of Men’s Sheds – that people often feel more comfortable talking shoulder-to-shoulder rather than face-to-face. So, in any relationship, not having to face the person you’re talking to may be less intimidating.

Nearly a decade ago, before I became passionate about Men’s Sheds (for passionate read ‘he can bore for England’) I thought I’d hit on a new idea for thinkers and talkers – the Walkshop™.

It wasn’t an original idea of course – I think it’s quite big in Australia – but it was borne of a personal interest. I decided that a circular walk in the countryside (preferably with a pub at the end) discussing a common topic, idea, problem etc with other like-minded people would be an enjoyable and potentially useful way to spend a couple of hours. The physical exercise, fresh air and a rural environment would stimulate the brain and promote creative thinking within the group.

That was the theory and, with the support of a very creative thinker from Bedford (thank you Kayte) we piloted it in a work and after-work situation. But the idea never really took off; life got in the way of reviewing and developing the concept. Given the apparent success of people-walking, maybe Walkshops should be for pairs of walkers, as well as groups?

I still think the Walkshop™ idea has legs (pun intended) and if others think there’s mileage (second pun intended) in developing it, feel free to take the idea [but you’d need permission from the designer to use the logo] and run with it (last pun for today) and let me know how you get on.

To link to the relevant June 2018 Radio 4 programme about people-walking, go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4zwz8 To meet the people-walker, go to https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplewalker