Polish presenters and spitting

There were four speakers, 3 Poles and a Brit. And there was no mistaking who was who. The Poles had not made any particular preparations. Everyday clothes, no last minute checking to see if the computer and the projector were going to work. No quiet period of preparatory reflection.


The Brit by contrast, dressed in a good business suit, prepared himself in text book fashion and, my goodness, what a difference he made. A succinct and effective presentation. By contrast, the Poles each began by apologising for not being prepared or for repeating what the previous speaker had already said. No agenda. Meandering arguments. Very little eye contact, no audience involvement techniques. As for not checking the machinery, there had been no need. No slides, no visual aides. Text book catastrophes.  Shambolic.


However, talking to the presenters individually afterwards, the people who impressed me most were the Poles. The Brit was still in presentation mode: maybe he couldn’t switch it off?


I suggested to my colleague in corporate training that, on reflection, I probably leant just as much from the meandering but knowledgeable, though hardly organised Poles, as from the highly polished Brit. “That’s only because you like rambling yourself“` she retorted defensively.

Perhaps, but the rambler usually knows more about the lie of the land than the motorway driver, whose only intention is to get from A to B in the shortest time.


Which brings me to spitting. When I was a boy we were taught that spitting was an effective way of spreading diseases. Given the fact that so many of us have been suffering from summer flu, please could someone tell that to my neighbours?


A day at the Warsaw race course

  ”Let’s go to the races”, I suggested.

We wern`t dressed for Ascot. Isobel hatless in a denim dress and Ted in the Prince of Wales check he uses for most things, the trousers more than the jacket. Even so, when we`d driven up the impressive tree lined avenue to the delapidated members` grandstand, we felt over dressed. The place has the air of a Dolce Vita lost. And there were no colourful bookies.


”What’s that?” exclaimed Isobel, beverage in hand, clamping eyes on a large ungainly equine paraded in a paddock.  A British Shire, available for stud, according to the pamphlet: and a cursory glance at its rear end was enough to confirm that potential. Whether naming a stallion ”Julie” affects its ability, I am not qualified to say. It would do strange things to some men I know.


We soon lost interest in the racing but there were alternatives. For example, the star display rider who failed several attempts to coax his horse over a massive jump almost from a standstill. Despite a lot of kicking and shouting, the horse showed commendable good sense and the crowd warmly applauded each refusal. And the Native North Americans, originally from somewhere near Warsaw, who taught dance routines in their camp of assorted wigwams, kept our attention for a good long time.


Though not Ascot, all this plus waffles, hotdogs, beer and ice cream, which were readily available, and a stall selling manic sunflower-shaped garden sprays, made for an enjoyable day at Wyscigi, which I heartily recommend.

How Poland fell apart…….remind you of anything?

  …..With the nobility honour is the most important thing. How was Poland torn to pieces? Every nobleman wanted to be king.  In the Sejm when one nobleman said it was Sunday, another screamed it was Monday. When the Cossacks attacked Poland and slaughtered whole villages, the squires remained drunk in their castles, intriguing against one another. When the enemy approached, the squires twirled their moustaches, dressed up as for a ball in sable furs, put on swords each of which weighed a ton, and even wore gold chains around their necks. The horses were fat and lazy. The squire would ride to war with his retinue blowing on trumpets. The Cossack was as light as a feather and his horse ran like an arrow from a bow. He moved like a demon, chopped off the squire’s head, and carried it on his spear. This is how Poland fell apart.

(IB Singer: The Blizzard)

For Cameron and Osborne read Rostkowski and Sikorski

Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph:

I’ve written before about David Cameron’s rudeness. He turns his good manners up and down like a dimmer switch, depending on how useful you can be to him. It’s a technique associated with a certain breed of old Etonian – and wannabe Etonians, too, such as George Osborne. The Chancellor is even more haughty than his boss: he seems to be on a mission to alienate potential Tory donors by staring through them.

I’m not saying that ex-public schoolboys are ruder than any other section of society – just that certain young toffs employ unusually sadistic techniques of freezing people out. These techniques have been refined over centuries of competitive snobbery; they’re deployed with glee by members of the Bullingdon Club and other Oxford dining societies.

These are just children’s games, of course. Under normal circumstances, the only people who care about them are chippy Left-wingers or social climbers who’ve been silently “dropped” by the posh boys. (The silence, the lack of explanation, is part of the game.)

But these aren’t normal circumstances. Perhaps the oddest thing about this Government – even odder than the cohabitation with the Lib Dems – is the way the adolescent cruelty of the Oxford smart set has been turned into an instrument of statecraft.

We caught a hint of it this week, when the Chancellor’s “friends” started briefing against the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, for opposing a third runway at Heathrow. Not long ago, Greening probably thought she was close to, if not part of, the inner circle. Then the whispers started – just as they do whenever the Bullingdon tires of one of its hangers-on.

“The fact is that David and George don’t like people very much,” says a politician who has known both men for years. That’s a bit sweeping: it’s probably fairer to say that the membership list for their club of friends was closed years ago. (Until recently, billionaires and media barons were let in as associates, but that didn’t work out.)

This is the modus operandi of amateur statesmen, not the professionals Britain deserves in a time of crisis. Cameron and Osborne’s snootiness stifles their intellectual curiosity and is poisoning their relationship with a Tory party that, even if it adored them, would have difficulty making sense of their policies. I suppose Dave could turn up the dimmer switch of his good manners so they reach the back benches, but my hunch is that he’s left it too late.

What is it about senior Polish politicians?

What is it about senior Polish politicians?  They really do seem to lack the common touch.


         Last night, at a party, I had a short chat with a very senior member of the government whom I’d met briefly at a conference in Budapest last year. His first gruff line of defence was,” I haven’t been to Budapest for four years.” Well, it’s not the sort of thing you’d make up, is it? But, then he remembered and back pedalled. Of course, anyone can forget anything but what struck me was that he lacked any sort of charm or pleasantry. There was no reason for doubting me, was there? It goes without saying that no apology was forthcoming.

Could this lack of manners be because so many senior ministers are not elected? They have not had to face the hustings. They are simply appointed.


On second thoughts, Leszek Balcerowicz has the common touch, so, may be, it’s just something to do with this particular PO government. Mind you, being named “Finance minister of the year” by The Banker in 2009 must be quite hard to live down, given the banker-generated crises in banking both then and now.

Not just the bankers. Ashamed to be British.

  Not just the British bankers.  Yesterday, GSK, the British pharma company, was fined $3 billion in the culmination of the investigation into the biggest scandal ever in the pharmaceutical business in America. They were found guilty of promoting unapproved drugs to the underage through the bribery and corruption of doctors. They were found guilty of inflating charges and rampant profiteering. Morally, they were found guilty of a callous disrespect of their customers’ welfare in the pursuit of untold profit.


 $3 billion might seem a lot to you, but not to them. GSK made a profit of $40 billion last year and had already written the fine into their annual accounts. Companies like GSK are now prepared to face huge fines rather than miss out of the vast profits available to them if they ignore the law.


I am ashamed to be British…oh, I know the Americans and the others are just as bad but, in less than seven days the reputations of two of our leading industries lie in tatters, through their own faults, through their own greed. Once again, we all have to pay the price and not just with our pockets. An Englishman’s word used to be his bond.  Where is that honour now?


But the wider question must be whether the corporate world is out of control. Most global corporations have become too big to be controlled by national laws. Laws hold no fear for them. Laws must be strengthened and chief executives subjected personally to the full rigour.  If this means prison sentences for the high and mighty, so much the better for all of us.