Mr Grumpy....6th February, 2020
By the time you read this, I’ll be in Portugal.
I’m not quite sure where in Portugal (that’s far too much detail for me) or even what I’ll be doing when I get there (I’m sure someone will pass on such trifling matters before I get there) but as I’m there all week, I need to write this in advance.
I’m walled up in my usual hotel (life is tough, but I’m close to London, so there has to be compensation) and the big(ish ) telly is full of the latest killer disease from China.
You will recall they invented Sars back in 2002 and kindly distributed it (cheaper than any other country could) all round the world, killing about 1,000 people — probably more because they will have lied about how many of their own people died.
China always lies: grossly exaggerating when they want to impress or playing down when they want to play something down or not look stupid.
At the time of typing, they claim around 90 people have died, so add on a “0” and you’ll be about right.
Long-standing readers will recall I lived there for several years and can fully understand how these diseases can develop and spread.
In each case, diseased bats have been involved, probably infecting other animals at the cramped, squalid markets that are all over the place — tourist guides might describe them as “colourful”, I’d say “s***holes” — the disease spreading because most public transport systems are so cramped and — not least — because no-one covers their mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Frequent spitting is a tradition, one which Chinese leaders and politicians have to be politely reminded to suspend when strolling around the White House garden, or the lawns of Buckingham Palace.
One tabloid suggested the new Coronavirus strain (new / improved!) originated from a bad bowl of bat soup; I was offered this when I was there (suddenly, even a Pot Noodle made with dirty hotel water seemed preferable) and I think it may even have been when I was in Wuhan, where this outbreak started.
China was a fascinating place in a strange sort of way, and I’m reminded of a phrase we used to use whenever we’d witness something totally bonkers, accompanied by a disbelieving shaking of the head: “Only in China … only in China.”
So what else has happened this week that will be old news by the time you read this? A famous basketball player (who I’d never heard of) has died in a helicopter crash, which is obviously sad. Apparently, in 2003, he was accused of sexual misconduct with a young hotel employee: everyone is innocent until proven guilty (a strange phrase that applies in court but not the media) but the matter was “settled out of court” and after a hiccup in multi-million dollar sponsorship, he resumed his status as a hero. How things have changed; I’m not sure if it would be that straightforward these days.
Another paradox is the claim that Prince Andrew (equally accused but everyone assumes is guilty, possibly because no-one likes him and he’s not a sporting hero) was also “involved with young girls” but the FBI has publicly said “he’s not co-operating: zero”.
Yet the wife of an American diplomat who ran over and killed a young English lad can scarper back to the US and the whole country closes ranks around her. The word “hypocrisy” springs to mind here too. Short memory / double standards, too.
On a more positive note, earlier today I interviewed a chap who was being considered for a fairly senior role within Grumpy PLC. After reading his CV I had pretty much decided my time was being wasted and my journey down here extended by a couple of hours unnecessarily, on the basis he was far too inexperienced.
I was assured, “trust us” which — in my experience — is as reliable a statement as “your cheque is in the post (and other promises)” and I was delighted to be proved wrong … sort of.
I was totally blown away with the determination of a young man who had proudly followed in both his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps into the RAF but been discharged after a terrible accident took away the use of one of his arms.
Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “My life just had to change direction” and he went on to say how every day he was truly grateful for what he still had; life itself, for a start. The guy was incredibly driven and positive, highly structured (“Structure is the best way to productivity: I need a path to follow, but not actually directing”) and — without being patronising — he made me feel humble.
I was right about him being too inexperienced to be handed the keys, but immediately said we’d restructure the business to fit him in so he could inject what he had (but the business hadn’t) and to buddy up with another manager who hadn’t got what he had. Batman and Robin. A Team.
His accident was a gift from the big G as much a challenge, and I am blessed to have met him.
We’re all given gifts, in all shapes and sizes, it’s just that sometimes we don’t see them because they don’t come wrapped up in colourful paper.
Next up, a couple of examples of “political correctness” not gone mad, but bending towards it.
First up, it’s Oscars season (which means it’s easy to find / download dodgy copies of the advance screener copies sent to the voting panel!) but legendary horror writer Stephen King is in hot water for comments around (guess what) diversity in the movie industry.
He initially said, “We should never consider matters of diversity in art, only quality”, following “observations” that few women (and of colour) were up for awards, particularly as directors.
Call me racist, too, if you like, but I tend to agree. Bit like not many females (of colour) being football team managers: there aren’t that many around, and even few seem to be good enough to manage Manchester United.
Of course, this opens up a whole field of discussion asking why, but all he (we) are saying is “whoever is best is best and should win”.
Of course, people think he should repay all his royalties then have his entrails pulled out and fed to vampires, possibly following one of his published storylines, and he’s now in fear of going to Tesco (sorry, Walmart) and saying “The awards are rigged in favour of white folk”, which is a play on words to me.
Next, legendary news anchor-man Alastair Stewart has “resigned” after “errors of judgement” in his use of social media, where it seems during a war of words with a member of the public on Twitter he quoted a line from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in that people with little authority on a subject often come across as “….an angry ape”. It seems Stewart has referenced the phrase before (it’s a posh way of saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about”) , but in this case, he was debating with a black man. You can guess the rest.
Again, on the face of it, offensive, but with all the facts and history in place, I doubt a court would send him to the gallows. It sounds like an innocent mistake, but innocence seems to be a word open to interpretation / as it suits your needs / want these days, so the guy had to go. Interestingly, the guy he “offended” says an apology “would have sufficed” but ITV / ITN had already caved into the uninformed backlash and braying by a noisy minority who weren’t in possession of all the facts.
One might say “several angry apes making a lot of noise”. But one might not be brave enough.
Footnote: If the editor would grant me more space, for your pleasure, here’s the full phrase from the play, which you will not find in the pages of Hello or quoted on Love Island.
“But man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.”