We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday

It dates me, I know it does, but there is a generation who, at this time of the year, find themselves singing the Cliff Richard song from his 1963 film Summer Holiday. It’s now that time of the year:

We’re all going on a summer holiday

No more working for a week or two.

Fun and laughter on our summer holiday,

No more worries for me or you,

For a week or two.

Children, especially in the UK will be struggling over exams and the summer holiday is a chance to regroup and gather themselves before they return to school officially one year older. It’s a myth that the holiday was to release the children from school to go back to the fields to help with a harvest. The break was far too early.

Holidays have a much longer history.

Holidays derive from the ‘holy day’ and in the Middle Ages, where this story starts, whatever you might think the Church of England was always up for a party. There were nine Principal Feasts, three Principal Holy Days, and 26 Festivals –which is not too different from today’s annual leave allowances.

While the Middle Ages’ middle class may have gone on a pilgrimage to Walsingham to pray for fertility, the rich might drift off down to Rome or Jerusalem the forerunner of the Grand Tour which was the 18th century top of the range package tour.

Getting away is a key part of the Summer holiday. In the late 1950s, we would drive from London to Devon to stay in a farmhouse close to the sea. It would have been idyllic if only I had any interest in farm animals. One of the main beneficiaries of this urge to travel was the garage owner. My father’s car had to have a full service before this 600-mile round trip.

As the 1960s progressed, and Cliff was in full song, the lure of exotic foreign climes was urgent. The car was more reliable, and we headed off to France towing a caravan. It was in France’s Riviera, under the hot moon at the beach disco that my passion for foreign women first showed. If only I could remember her name I would give a shout out to that French girl who made my week as we danced to Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman. It was more when a boy loves a girl.

Travel and the holiday have become ubiquitous. We all do them: teenage trips to Magaluf, a cultural cruise to Viking Fjord of Norway and still the Devon beaches. Getting away for those 14 summer days is deep in our culture.

Be prepared for co-workers to start complaining. ‘I haven’t been away yet and I need to get away. I need a break.’ will be the chat over mid-morning coffee.

I am ahead of you all. Paraphrasing the words of Willie John McBride, the captain of a British rugby team playing in South Africa who initiated a mass brawl, I am going to get my retaliation in first.

Summer has come early. Over the next two weeks, I will be with Lucinda and the Mighty Bertie before flying off to be with Sasha for a week.

I am going to put down my pen, refresh and attempt regeneration. I may find the temptation to write irresistible, but my plan is to return to this task around about June 11, saving you all the pressure of reading my thoughts. If I do resist the irresistible it will be no more than an odd, one-off post.

So, until then I wish you all a good two weeks and don’t feel too jealous of me. Your two weeks will come but, in the meantime, get to the shower, open up your vocal chords and join in the sing-a-long.

We’re going where the sun shines brightly

We’re going where the sea is blue.

We’ve all seen it on the movies,

Now let’s see if it’s true.

Everybody has a summer holiday

Doin’ things they always wanted to

So we’re going on a summer holiday,

To make our dreams come true

For me and you.

For me and you.



Rehearsal, the missing step in Planning

Nineteen Behaviours of Effective Leaders! Have you seen this form of click bait on the internet? Self-help and mimicry of successful leaders are the staples of these articles. Honestly, they drive me to distraction but today I throw away all my principles, embrace the need to market a punchy start and drift, warily into the minefield

Planning has been at the core of my professional career, I should be good at it. I certainly have intimate knowledge of most of the things that can go wrong but if any prospective clients are reading, everything was always recovered within contingency.

Planning is on my mind at the moment because next week I will be in Kiev with Sasha. It goes without saying that I am excited and looking forward to the trip, but it also requires planning. Not only do I have to plan the trip but also how to produce these pieces while still enjoying myself.

I know what you are thinking. What’s the problem? I wander down to the computer mid-morning after a long lie in and hearty breakfast. Some tippy-tappy, all is finished, and I am free for a pre-lunch sherry.

It’s nothing like that but oh, how I wish it was.

Never a lie in, hearty breakfasts are long in the past and I don’t drink, but it is the idea of a rapid tippy-tappy that is furthest from reality. Even if I know what to write about it takes forever to edit and re-edit until I am happy and even then, as yesterday, I spot a typo only after I have hit the publish button (empathise came out as emphasise, so much for auto correct).  I may be old, wizened, and experienced in life’s vagaries, but for me writing is a skill in its juvenile years.

Honestly, there is no way that holidays and daily blogging can coexist unless I plan properly.  How good I am at planning will only be seen next week; the proof will be in the pudding as the saying goes.

This is the more formal planning problem of task management and scheduling time which is euphemism for saying that I will be waking very early and taking note books to jot down a passing phrase or thought.

But good planning is not a virtue in itself. Talking a great game plan is of no use unless it gets executed and for my tuppence getting things done is of far more significance.

There is however the intermediate step of rehearsal, which often totally ignored. In formal planning processes we rehearse alternatives by conducting ‘what if’ analysis and there is a whole literature around ‘scenario planning’. This is what we do for the big problems and then ignore it day to day.

What a shame because rehearsing tomorrow is a great way to be successful and so here, finally, is Gerry’s One Activity That All Successful Managers Should Follow.

Think of this.

Imagine an experienced politician being interviewed in a serious programme with a good interviewer. In other words, everything that the Piers Morgan’s interview with President Trump wasn’t. Do you see how easily the politician avoids and evades questions they don’t want to answer? I know it is hugely frustrating, but it ensures they make the point and avoid bear traps.

This isn’t because they are more fluent, better educated, or brighter than most of us (we could debate that on another day). It is because they have rehearsed and practiced. Of course, they have extensive media training to make them feel comfortable in the studio, but it is the team of researchers rehearsing and planning questions and answers that makes the difference.

That wonderful play that you have seen didn’t just happen. The actors didn’t learn their lines and pitch up and meet for the first time as the curtain lifted on the first night. We all know that. They spent many weeks rehearsing what was going to happen.

Most of us are not politicians or actors, but there are positive lessons. Between planning and delivery there is rehearsal and it is a technique I have used for most of my life.

It started with the advice I was given as a wet behind the ears consultant. I was told that on my way home from work I should think back and reflect on what I had achieved during the day. And on the next morning, sitting among other commuters on the train, set my objectives for the day, thinking about what I was going to do and who I was going to meet.

I have one advantage. I can day dream and I have no problem imagining and rehearsing upcoming meetings. If you have read previous pieces you will know that I’m the man that has imaginary conversations with dead physicists.

I think we can use my trip to Kiev as a simple and trivial example.

It is a holiday and I will be spending a lot of time with Sasha and although we will normally be eating out I have promised to cook a meal for her and her parents, Iryna and Stanislas. I have no idea what I will cook and will wait until we go to the supermarket and see what takes my interest.

I do quite fancy a smoked fish in a curried coconut sauce. Sound good? I imagine myself walking round the supermarket and hunting through the shelves of the supermarket. What would be missing? Well turmeric and my favourite curry spices might be hard to find. So, I have made up a small sachet of what I will need. It takes up no room in my case, weighs next to nothing but may solve a later problem. I got there by rehearsing the walk around the supermarket with Sasha.

I am now thinking about arriving at the airport and checking in. Maybe I will meet again that Ukrainian ballerina carrying a small dog in in a bag over her shoulder. I get to the front of the queue. What is my booking reference? It is in an email from British Airways. I can see it and I know I will have to find it quickly. I hold up my phone to the rep on the desk and show it to her. I don’t print or carry extra paper and so I copy it into a folder easily accessible on my phone, so it is immediately available.

When I know I am meeting someone new or even for that matter someone I know well I go through all the questions they could ask me and then think about my answers. I don’t just rehearse the obvious questions I will face but also the most outrageous and outlandish. It doesn’t matter. I have an answer and remain fluent. There is nothing worse than being caught unawares.

As Sasha knows I think planning is important. Maybe I go too far but that is my training and I love it when plans work out well.

In Men in Black III there is a character, Griffin. He is the last member of the Archanan race and therefore the last who has the unique ability to foresee the infinite potential outcomes that are dependent on the actions taken in any given scenario. We don’t possess many or most of the skills of the Archanan’s skills but through rehearsing we can improve the chance of a plan becoming reality.

When you mentally rehearse the scenes, then one day, maybe just one day, your dreams will come true.