Friday, 29 March 2013


There are some couples where you just know why they are together. They share interests, body mass index, educational attainment. But there are other couples where you scratch your head and ask yourself over and over again, 'Why are they together?'

Couples where one party is a pain in the arse. Couples where both parties are pains in arses. Couples with nothing in common. Couples who look wrong together, couples who offend against the laws of attraction. Couples who, if they weren't bound in some way, would be leading the opposing armies of the next world war.

Although not a couple in the living together sense, Sid Schweinsteiger and Melody Bigger went back a long way and were probably the closest thing either of them had to a relationship. Seeing them together you would ask yourself 'Why?' and 'Why?' again. But the answer to that question was the same as for all the couples listed above. Sex.

Not necessarily sex as you or I would define it, but some primal urge that one was able to satisfy in the other. That is enough, especially where the primal urge is so unusual that the available population who could match the need is very small indeed.

Sex had brought Sid and Melody together when they were mere amateurs in criminal endeavour. Melody was learning her trade as a dominatrix and madame. Sid was experimenting with corrupting his friends with loose women before moving on to corrupting entire multi-national corporations with thousands of employees. Sid's motto was on the lines of 'If only everything in life was as reliable as a loose woman...' Melody practised her ropes on Sid. Sid missed an important meeting as a result, but never forgot her youthful enthusiasm. Although Melody was past the first flush of youth now, Sid still saw her as he remembered her, in leather underwear.

So when Sid returned to the hotel after the orienteering exercise, his photos of Caroline and Clive safely backed up, he switched on his rare charm with Melody, hoping to make money from my wife's indiscretion. Melody, however, was one step ahead. She had already seen Caroline naked in the pool at night and had identified her, along with Antonia, as the most likely candidates for an assignment which could, if successful, change the course of European history.

No, I'm not prone to exaggeration. Events in the Eurozone have been extraordinary beyond belief. And my wife Caroline had the misfortune, or the privilege, depending on how you look at it, to see the inner workings of the economic meltdown at very close quarters. I am able to go into more detail in the book, Shameless Ambition, which may have to see the light of day before long.

For those who read the last post and asked 'What did Caroline look like with a fringe?' the answer is below.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

How did we meet?

Antonia has had her say. I was going to tell you what Sid Schweinsteiger did with his portfolio of pictures taken when Caroline and Clive got lost orienteering. But before I do, I must answer the question posed on my FB page: how did Caroline and I first meet?

How does anybody meet anybody these days? Fate. Fate made us sign up the same dating website. Fate made us both mention wigs in our profile. There were all the usual questions, age, weight, height, favourite film, favourite animal. But then there was a section designed to delve deeper and which was used to fine tune the short-list of possible dates. They came at this from a number of different angles like one thing about you that other people might find surprising and one thing you would do in private but not in public.

My one thing that other people might find surprising was that I sometimes wear a wig at work. I know its hard to believe, but in the higher courts the judges and barristers still wear a fancy wig like it's the eighteenth century.

Caroline's thing she would do in private but not in public was wear a wig. The dating computer picked up the wigs on our profiles and decided we were close enough, even though we were imcompatible in likes and dislikes.

The truth is we both lied extensively on our dating profile. I did a photoshop job on a James Dean film poster. Caroline used a picture from when she was eighteeen and had a fringe. We were both busy at work and didn't take enough care on the accuracy of our biogs. We were both nursing wounds from a previous attempt to find harmony and were beginning to lose hope that we would find someone who was our equal. I suppose we elaborated.

Caroline has great red hair and has no need to wear a wig, but when we had got beyond coffee in Neros, a drink in All Bar One, and the latest Bond film at the Odeon Leicester Square, I asked her about the wig thing. She changed the subject. We probed each other politely and discovered we were incompatible. Even our lies were incompatible. I said we should sue the agency to get our money back and she was up for that.

We met for one last time at the wine bar to say goodbye. I told her I'd had a really good time and how much I'd enjoyed our dates, and what a shame it was we were incompatible. She nodded, and looked to the side.
'Do you really wear a wig?' she said.
'Not all the time,' I said. She thought some more.
'Do you fancy a shag,' she said, 'to see what it would have been like?'
We finished the bottle and went back to my rented mews flat near Lincoln's Inn. I showed her round, offered her a drink, but she cut straight to the chase:
'Can I wear your wig?' she said, only slightly embarrassed.
That night we discovered we fitted together very well. Caroline liked putting on a show, and I was an enthusiastic audience. A match made in wig heaven.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Guest: Antonia Anderson

Robert is a lovely man but he can be cynical. I told him he wasn't being fair about career and personal development so here I am to put another viewpoint.

I am Antonia Anderson, Head of Press, PR and Social Media in Monsaint Medical Instruments. That's enough about me. Robert says he will put a picture on his facebook page:

The fact is that MMI is a brilliant, dynamic company that cares about the future, and believes in nurturing internal talent. Our chief executive, Andreas Rivera-Castillo, knows that the difference between the winners and the also-rans in today's competitive environment is Leadership. Strong leaders have an undefinable edge which is why they get to the top. Belief is a big part of it. And that intensive experience in Spain with my colleagues was all about discovering the inner belief, the inner motivation that drives us to the top.

Leadership and working together. Robert jokes about it, but we left the UK as eight individuals and returned as a TEAM. Not Caroline, obviously, because she got the opportunity to pitch for the Europe job in Frankfurt and didn't fly back to Gatwick. I know my colleagues so much better, and I like them better too, even Donna. It's no exaggeration to say that I love those people. Hang on, exclude Donna from that. But Cherry, Clive, Alistair, Jay Emm, and Caroline of course. Despite all we've been through, she's still my best friend at work.

What does that mean, if we say we love a colleague? It means we trust them, we admire them, and in some cases, specific situations, we might go to bed with them. I admit I have. But that's the world of business. It's not nine to five. I won't say who, but I expect Robert will put in the book. He says he'll change the names so I don't need to worry.

It was hard work, yes, but we had so much fun in the sun. Clive had an App on his phone which listed the top ten bars in Allucano. One of them ran an amateur pole dancing competition on Thursday nights so we decided to go along for a laugh. It's also one of my hobbies - not in public of course. I've been going to pole dancing classes at my gym for about a year. I've tried swimming, boxing, rowing, but nothing does the stomach muscles as well as the pole.

It was difficult to persuade Caroline to come along to Spanish Knights, but something changed her mind. I know what it was, and if Robert ever let's me do another post, I might tell you.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Leadership potential

So Caroline was in the south of Spain with a few hand-picked colleagues from her company. A week away from the desks in East London, a chance to learn those crucial leadership skills, an even bigger chance to look a complete idiot.

It became obvious after the first two days that there was another agenda. Monsaint was looking for the high-flyer who was best suited to setting up their new operation in the heart of Europe. The job would have a grandiose title and be dangled as a stepping stone to better things.

Once this became known, the gloves were off. Everyone wanted to shine. Melody Bigger, the course facilitator, had turned to an old friend, Sid Schweinsteiger, to run the outdoor exercise that would sort the sheep from the goats. Sid and Melody had history. They both had a chequered management career. In Sid's case, he was lying low from the authorities after it was revealed that certain car companies had been bribing union officials with prostitutes. Sid had moved his wealth to Spain before the crash and was trapped there with a seedy bar on the coast he couldn't sell. He made ends meet taking parties of tourists for walks in the hills and running outdoor exercises for big companies.

So what exactly is the relationship between running around the mountainside in pairs and running a division of a multi-national company? What is it that the participants learn?

Well let's consider this specific example.

Donna, Director of Central Services back in London (stationery cupboard, annoying emails) learnt that everyone was scared of her. The others followed her directive that they should ignore the brief. They should think outside the box. They should co-operate, each pair going for two or three control points and she would co-ordinate the effort from behind the shade of a wall.

Alistair learnt that if revealing a personal problem once could get him inside a woman's pants, then it would work again and again. He was in a pair with Antonia, who reckoned, correctly, he was strong enough to carry her over the rocky bits. She helped him with his 'problem' in the shade of an oak tree.

Caroline learnt that Clive Pontin, Marketing, was hopeless at reading a map. He managed to misread the symbols so completely that they ended up extremely hot and sweaty beside a deep  ravine. She also learnt that he had seen her naked in the swimming pool the night before, and that he was a smooth talker.

And Sid Schweinsteiger, powerful binoculars and camera trained on the participants from a vantage point above, learnt that C has a very nice body and looks particularly attractive when emerging, after cooling off, from a pool in a mountain stream.

Friday, 15 March 2013


Melody Bigger, the facilitator, had spent half the afternoon going on about how, in business, the most important asset you owned was your reputation. She said it was more important than your job title, your salary, your CV, or what you actually achieved. What matters, she said, is what people think about you.

Then she said that this was true-times-two for women. Even in the twenty first century. This had Antonia and Caroline nodding sagely.

I mention this to explain what was in Caroline's mind when she agreed to help Alistair with his 'problem'. She had thought no-one would see her naked in the pool imagining her secret desire. It was late. People should have been asleep. When Alistair admitted that he had seen her, and openly admired her breast stroke, she was devastated. It didn't take much to imagine the knowing looks of her colleagues in the finance department if Alistair told them, even one of them, what he had seen. It would go round the office faster than an email with stationery cupboard pictures from the Christmas party.

She decided to follow Melody's second piece of advice on the protection of reputation:

'If someone has got something on you, make sure you get something on them.'

C thought she knew the solution to Alistair's problem and that if she helped him, he wouldn't dare say anything about her in the pool. Without going into too many details here, there is a recognised method for dealing with Alistair's problem, and she charitably put it into effect. He left her room a changed man.

Reputation saved. Problem solved.

Except that Alistair was not the only one of her colleagues who was not asleep at one in the morning.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Marathon or sprint?

I left you with Caroline floating naked in a warm swimming pool under a starlit sky.

Don't thing for one moment it is easy for me to write about this. If you knew C better, you'd understand that she's a good natured person who takes people at face value and tries to see the best in them. In business, she's ruthless and calculating, but for her that's a numbers game. She wants to win and she usually does. With people, I think she's naive, which means she sometimes loses.

I'm sure you've been in a work environment which works fine in the day to day, then the boss or the head of HR has the daft idea that things would be better if everyone knew each other, not just in a work way, but as a human beings. So they bring in a facilitator who takes them through a few bogus questionnaires, assigns them a score, and gets people to admit to their colleagues that they think they might be an extrovert gay, or an extreme introvert who has the urge to be dominated. I wonder how good this is for long term career prospects?

Alistair, head of R&D in Monsaint, chemical engineer by training I think. I met him once. Used to play rugby, now runs marathons. Driven. He had had his personal can of worms opened that afternoon. He had convinced himself that his inner drive was being hampered by his lack of success in satisfying a woman. He could do 26.2 miles in a decent time but couldn't last more than a few seconds in bed. He just found the whole business much too exciting. It troubled him, he couldn't sleep, so he took a walk out of the hotel grounds and into the olive groves behind.

When he returned and saw the vision of Caroline enjoying herself in the pool he didn't turn round and go the long way round through the hotel. He stayed and watched from behind one of the columns that supported the rooms above. In a moment of lucidity that had been lacking for most of the day, Caroline realised the risk she was taking and decided to run back to the the privacy of her room. She walked up the shallow end steps of the pool, emerging like a Botticelli Venus with a shake of her long red hair.

Alistair saw the key card drop out of her rolled-up towel. Like a true gentleman, he scooped up the card and set off up the marble stairs after her, following the wet footprints which led to C's room.

Sunday, 10 March 2013


I've just returned from a remote part of Scotland. The whiskey was good and the wi-fi was bad, so no posts for a few days. The wind was from the north-east, too much for my thin southern coat. I was clearing up a mess made by Forbes-Brown, one the partners in a commercial law firm we act for. It reminded me of how private matters sometimes collide with public events, often with disasterous consequences.

Like when Caroline was on a work jolly in the South of Spain. The pretext was that her company, Monsaint, were committed to developing the next generation of business leaders. This meant lavishing a lot of money on a few chosen ones, letting them eat good food and drink vats of wine in exchange for having their heads filled with the latest business theories, or mumbo-jumbo as it is called a few years later.

Caroline had had a hard day's introspection, trying to work out, with her seven colleagues, what it was that made them special. What would give them the dynamic edge to propel them to the very summit of an organisation?

The answer, according to the tutor, former chief executive Melody Bigger, was desire. They had to want it more than anyone else. So they had to explore their desires in small groups.

Caroline's other group member was best-friend-at-work Antonia (the blond one I mentioned before). Antonia has a one-track mind. Why not? She's single and not even burdened with a cat. So Antonia was adamant that Caroline needed to explore her secret desires without delay.

Caroline told Antonia things that women tell women, things she thinks about but doesn't usually speak about. Antonia said she should go for it, so after a few glasses of wine before, with, and after dinner, Caroline waited until everyone had gone to bed, stripped off, and tiptoed down to the hotel pool. Hard to imagine at this time of year, I know, but do your best.

The water, she said, was lovely and warm and the stars shone brightly above the hotel courtyard. She closed her eyes and acted out her secret desire. She thought no one was watching.

But there was.

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.