Menial Tasks


I just read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (the SMH: my favourite Australian on-line read). It’s yet another one about senior female professionals being asked to do things that are below their pay-grade: doctors taking lunch orders in this case.

secretaryIt reminded me of a talk that my boss (the late Sam Wright, a good colleague and friend, much missed) gave to the staff he managed about 45 years ago. Let me explain the situation. All the men in the organisation were professionals and all the women were secretaries. So any woman was automatically junior to any man, and the women (or ‘girls’ as we called them then) organised a roster among themselves to ensure that everyone – men and girls alike – got tea twice a day and the cups were washed up.

It worked pretty well. But then one day the organisation – the British Federation of Master Printers as it was called then – hired a woman in a professional role. What to do?!

Sam grasped the nettle, called a meeting of staff and told us all that the new recruit was to be treated as a man. The girls were unhappy at first. She was a woman, right? So why shouldn’t she make the tea and wash up the cups like the rest of them? It was like the days of apartheid in South Africa, when Japanese were treated as honorary whites but Chinese weren’t.

But something in the SMH article jarred. Someone is quoted as saying “We’re talking about senior medical officers. Qualified doctors tasked with taking lunch orders and told to perform menial, secretarial tasks.” I looked up ‘menial’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and it defined it as “requiring little skill and lacking prestige.” I have never thought that secretarial duties require little skill, and the most skilled of the secretaries I’ve met were accorded much respect. Not prestige maybe, but certainly no-one would have labelled them ‘menial’.

The First ‘Stroppy’


Yes, that’s what some people have been calling the new Stroppy Git Award for Meaningless Twaddle. There have been some strong contenders, especially from the USA, but the winner is… Palladium! Their advertisement for a so-called summit on “reshaping the future through positive impact” was the very first nomination:


No other nomination surpassed in either meaninglessness or twaddledom.

Hotel Showers


I judge a hotel on its fulfilment of a few basic conditions:

  • Helpful staff.
  • Free wi-fi.
  • A fridge uncluttered with overpriced mini-bar stuff.
  • Separate waste bins in the bedroom and the bathroom.
  • Separate, decent-sized bars of soap for the basin and the shower.
  • A shower that I can stand under without using one of my hands to hold it up.

I recently stayed at a hotel that failed dismally on the last of these. Luckily I always travel with a coat-hanger made of very thin wire. This is how I had to shape it to hook the shower head on the top rail of the shower screen:


Do you have items that you carry around to rectify hotels’ deficiencies?



Today is the 193rd day since the Brexit Referendum. This being a prime number, and therefore indivisible, it seems an ironically appropriate day for a post about an event that exposed such deep and lamentable divisions among the people of the United Kingdom.

I didn’t have a vote, having emigrated from the Green and Pleasant Land 38 years ago, but if I had I would have voted Remain. I don’t know whether staying would be better in the long run for the British economy, but I’m pretty sure it would be better for Europe as a whole – economically, politically and in every other way in the short, medium and long run.

brexin brexout

But Joan Williams, a friend from way back whom I respect, voted for Brexit and I asked her why. Her answer had nothing to do with immigration or the NHS. I reproduce it here in full, with Joan’s permission:

“ If you really want to know why I voted leave, it’s basically because I’m afraid I do not think the EU is a good thing. I don’t think the world has outgrown the nation state yet, and that when it does it will not be through the likes of the EU. I love the individual European countries that I know (i.e. Germany, Italy and Spain), and value both our similarities and differences, and don’t see what is gained by trying artificially to weld us all together.

“ I don’t think any supranational institution is better than none, or that being semi-attached to an institution that is heading in the wrong direction is ‘the best of both worlds’. Most importantly, I revere the British constitution, and I don’t take our democratic freedom for granted; the more we compromise and dilute and sacrifice it, the more we are losing it.

“ We achieved our freedom and developed our democracy before anyone else, and it is still the best, and still an example to the world; whereas the EU, in its top-heavy unaccountable over-bureaucratic clumsiness, more resembles the old tired easily-corruptible19th century empires. One doesn’t need to invoke Napoleon: Nicholas II and Franz-Josef are bad enough! It is like choosing to be a dinosaur instead of a mammal. ”

Does anyone else out there feel the same way?