Hard Work

I’ve not been enjoying work recently; but it could be worse…

Here are some stats on how the rest of the British workforce feels about the daily grind:

According to research by YouGov, 37% of working British adults say their job is not making a meaningful contribution to the world. Half (50%) say their job is meaningful, and 13% are unsure.

At least I get over this hurdle. Stuff I do, and make possible, does make a difference to thousands of people; and potentially to many many more. I tick this box.

Men (42%) are more likely to say their jobs are meaningless than women (32%).

In a week where we learned men are invariably better paid, why are men more gloomy? The hormones we have, the expectations society sets or the jobs we disproportionately do?

Whatever the causes, I’m on the right side of this one too.

Despite this, most people with ‘meaningless’ jobs say it’s unlikely they will change jobs in the next 12 months (53%, compared to 35% who say they might change jobs).

I’m in the 35% here. Never say never, I say…

I’ve moved sectors, countries and jobs plenty of times; so although the grass is usually no greener, it always pays to keep your feelers out – if only to feel you have options and skills people want.

The survey also asked if British workers find their jobs personally fulfilling, and a similar portion (33%) say they do not. 63% say their job is fulfilling, although only 18% say it is very fulfilling.

I scrape into the 63% here – my work is not very fulfilling, nor does it feel like the very best use of who I am and the skills I have; but hey you have to get over yourself a bit don’t you. As my son once famously said “it’s not all about you Dad.” Cheeky monkey.

As for explaining myself to others…

Many introductions at social occasions begin with a conversation about work, but only 49% of British workers say they’d be proud to tell someone about what they do when meeting for the first time. 8% say they’d even be embarrassed, 41% say neither.

…I usually start embarrassed but end up more proud. Education is the Lord’s work; even if academia can be a fractious and frustrating place.

Compared to many, I’ve not got that much to complain about. It helps to be reminded of that by the travails of others.



A poignant moment for me but one amongst millions for her – this week I shook (quite gently) HRH The Queen’s gloved hand.

At the launch of a new Academy of International Relations, I stood in line; first to be inspected by Prince Philip, before the immaculate, steady grace (and not a single silver hair our of place) of her Majesty.

We exchanged no more than a few words and she was on, and gone. The intensity of her eyes, and the very clear focus within them is striking. She doesn’t say a lot, but she doesn’t miss a thing. And what things she has seen in a long and very public life.

Whatever you think of the monarchy, she is dignity and hard work personified. A time-capsule of Britain and the world’s history. And on a very ordinary grey Tuesday night in November I shook her hand – which I makes it a grey ordinary Tuesday, I will remember for the rest of my life.

The Farm


Funny how life throws things together… I got a book from the library on Joan Miró, finally got round to reading it; then he appeared in my DailyArt App – and thus ‘The Farm’ (above) came to symbolise my week.

According to DailyArt:

Miró wrote “The Farm was a résumé of my entire life in the country. I wanted to put everything I loved about the country into that canvas-from a huge tree to a tiny snail.”

Miró spent as many as eight hours a day for nine months working on this painting, for which he then struggled to find a buyer in a Parisian modern art market crazy for Cubism.

Much like Miró, I sometimes think of my working life as being like working a farm. It has its annual rituals, seasons and festivals – planning, budgets, conferences etc.

It also has its fair share of the features of Miró’s farm: cockerels crowing, structures we all talk about but haven’t actually built yet (like the red frame of the non-existent barn) and hard working folk like the washerwoman in the background – who are easily missed, but quietly getting things done.

Miró’s farm, like mine, has lots going on. But the most important thing, is to recognise the blue sky and solid structure to the left. It’s easy to forget; the fundamentals of the farm aren’t bad, especially when you look at the big picture.


Boy Wonder


A Champagne cork popped – or at least some cheap Prosecco – for our beguiling boy this evening. And we gave him that cork to mark and celebrate his fantastic progress post Parents Evening.

Until recently a past master at diversionary tactics and avoidance, the Boy Wonder has found his feet, developed some self-confidence and nosed out ahead of his age average, with confident predictions of more to come.

Much hard work from the whole family has got him through a sticky patch and maybe now he’s away. His reading has raced ahead, his maths is fine and he aced his reasoning tests – scoring off the chart.

But what matters here isn’t school, me or his mum. What matters here is him. He may always muddle ‘was’ and ‘saw’ and get his numbers back to front, but the best news of today is his application.

When the rest of the class had finished, by all accounts the boy was still working steadily away; on his own, in the corner. Head down, having a good go.

Me and his mum couldn’t help a ‘high five’ in front of the Head and his teacher. They smiled. We were all delighted for the world’s loveliest boy.



The throbbing caterpillar in my vein
Concertinas toward my brain
Which tells me that I must be calm
Not much time for repose
Life all over me like a rash
Oh for some time to ponder,
To dream or meander, as I dash
But instead I keep on marching
Doing, fixing things
But snatched words with good comrades
Some solace brings.

When I’m busy and under pressure at work, the ‘caterpillar’ – which is a prominent artery on my forehead – sometimes comes out. It’s a bit of a standing joke, as I suggest it’s marching like a thrombosis towards my brain, shortly to bring blessed relief in an aneurism. But it’s also a warning sign. When the ‘caterpillar’ comes out I’m working myself too hard. Time for a brief pause. Friends are an important part of keeping the caterpillar at bay. Three of them, in three good humoured, thought-provoking and rich conversations, this week, helped keep me sane. I salute you Comrades.