After-work drink with Howard Davies, the head of the Financial Services Authority. (Don’t use the Sir” or he gets very cross.) We meet in the Havelock, a brilliant “gastro pub” and one of the two places to eat in Hammersmith that makes working in this neck of the woods bearable. (The flyover is closing in August, which will be W6 Armageddon.) Howard is coming to the end of his stint and is soon to manage the London School of Economics. It’s been job in which most would have come cropper, but despite the fact that the Consumers’ Association and Equitable Life policyholders want his guts for garters, he’s emerged pretty much unscathed.
Howard is an estimable operator and one of the most alarmingly wellconnected movers on the circuit. He’d have got my vote as governor of the Bank of England, but came second.
I’m chairing a seminar in St James’s Square on corporate social responsibility (CSR) with Blake Lee-Harwood, head of campaigns at Greenpeace.
When he isn’t throwing himself from rubber inflatable in front of a supertanker or persuading Lord Melchett to lie down and do a roly-poly over a field of genetically modified maize, Blake loves nothing more than humiliating David Blunkett and the Home Office for the use of illegal rainforest plywood in their current refurb.
Rather than a pair of vegan dungarees, Blake appears in a rather well cut suit and tie. (All these pressure group NGOs adopt the Savile Row look for the media these days.) Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP once described MT as admirably “open-necked” and I arrive tieless and sweating after an unpleasant journey on the Piccadilly line.
I’ve known Blake for years and I thought we made an excellent doubleact.
We ought to take our show on the road. He’s pretty suspicious of big business’s adoption of CSR, seeing a lot of it as cynical PR wallpaper.
Greenpeace is very wary of getting into bed with the hordes of corporates who currently want to cuddle up.
My view, for what it’s worth, is that it’s real and those who merely play act will be the losers in the long run. I do find it amazing, though, that one of its strongest advocates in the UK is British American Tobacco, whose line is a straight-faced “Yes, our products do kill people, but we treat the farmers who grow it very well”.
Lunch with the managing director of Wolff Olins at the River CafÃ© – the other nice W6 eaterie. (Thank God he was paying – with starters at £12 and mains at almost £30, for me it’s a thrice-a-year treat to see Rose Gray in her whites slaving over a hot range.) Wolff Olins does some extremely interesting stuff – Orange, Tate, First Direct and even the Lisbon Metro – but like so many consultancy organisations these days, it is forced to sign confidentiality agreements with clients, so we can never write anything about its projects.
Monday mornings have been especially trying for the past few months because we’ve been holed up in a temporary, non-air-conditioned office while our real home in Bute Gardens round the corner is refurbished.
It has been a nasty, sweaty pit in which to endure a summer. I’ve been in a white 13 foot by eight foot prison cell with my features editor, Andy Saunders. We’ve learned a great deal about each other’s unspeakably disgusting little habits – some of mine are quite vile.
But, like rats in a box, we’ve also learned the value of tolerance. The revelation for me, though, has been Andy’s predilection for It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum shorts when the temperature rose above 35C.
I mentioned our Bute Gardens address to a fairly senior business type I met the other day, who, before he could stop himself, asked: “Isn’t that the address of the old Hammersmith clap clinic?” Indeed it was, apparently, before Haymarket acquired it. And how
or why did he know? I think we should be told.
Three meetings in one day. Help.
I’m sympathetic to Archie Norman’s approach from his Asda days, where he made everyone stand up in board meetings so that they got on with it.
MT recently ran a feature on how to do meetings and the most important message was “think before you meet”.
My other favourite tip was “never include AOB – it’s an invitation for whingers and windbags to take over”.
8am appointment at the osteopath in Brixton. The practitioner in question is called Mr Simpson, a Geordie who must be six foot seven if he’s an inch. A few weeks ago my neck seized up – a sort of upper body repetitive strain injury. My staff insisted I do something about it after I scrounged one painkiller too many from them.
After a good deal of cracking, softtissue manipulation and a wild manoeuvre in which Mr Simpson performed a Big Daddy-style splash down on my prostrate form, I seem to have it sorted.
By the way, I had to get the osteopath referral via my GP. When I rang the surgery in mid-July and asked when I could see her, they told me the next available appointment was at the end of August. It’s nice to see that Gordon Brown’s extra £6bn for the NHS is proving so effective. backissues MT: getting hot under the collar