I regularly find myself needing a word to describe something for which there isn’t yet a word. There’s are so many new experiences and life is changing all around us, yet we use the same old words to describe them, and these words are so often inadequate.
As an example, I have a family member who has a chronic illness and people ask me how she is and all I have to respond with is “OK”. I can’t say that she is “fine” because she isn’t, but she’s no worse than she was yesterday so it doesn’t seem right to say “ill” or “poorly” because somehow “poorly” describes a situation where someone is going to get better. So we resort to the inadequate “OK” and a facial expression that tries to indicate “OK Good” or “OK Not Good”.
There seems to be a rash of news articles at the moment along the lines of:
How I made a gazillion when I was only 16
I never had that experience, but I did have a valuable life affirming experience that involved a £10 note.
In my teens, my daily routine before and after school was to get on my bike and cycle into the town where I lived to a small newsagent just off the market square.
There I would pick up a pile of newspapers which had already been labelled for me by the owner of the shop. The papers would be deposited into a large PVC messenger style bag which carried advertising for the local evening paper and I would head out.
My attire was entirely governed by the weather. Fine weather called for shorts and t-shirts. Rain called for a kagool and waterproof trousers, but no gloves because that slowed you down. Wintry conditions required a move to a thick coat, thick trousers and bikers gloves which, in those days, were long and came half way up your lower arm.
We delivered in all weathers. There was no option to call a parent and ask them to come round with you in their car.
Each of the rounds that we went on had a number, and an informal place in a league table from very good to quite bad. The place in the league being defined by three things – how many papers needed to be delivered, how many awkward deliveries their were, and how good the Christmas tips were. I started on a reasonably good round, eventually moving to a very good round. I can’t remember what number the round was, but think it was 7, it didn’t have too many papers, it was in the town so had few drives to go down and the Christmas tips were supposed to be excellent.
There was another huge advantage to this round, the people were pleasant.
There was one particular row of houses where you delivered the paper through the rear door because there wasn’t good access to the front. The rear gardens were relatively small yards and on most days when the weather was good the people who lived in these houses were in the back yard enjoying the sunshine or hanging out the washing. But even in poor weather they would look out for you and give you a wave as you went by. A smile and a wave goes a long way when you are wet through to your underwear and can’t feel your fingers. I would always return the greeting.
One year, at Christmas, I was delivering to the houses on the row and it was raining. There’s a particular type of rain in the area where I grew up which has travelled across the North Sea from the Baltic and slices through you as you travel through it. As I reached the end of the row the older couple who lived there open the door for me and handed me an envelope. I thanked them for it and gave them a Christmas card whilst depositing the envelope in to my PVC messenger bag.
It was only when I got how that I open the envelope – it contained £10.
These people weren’t rich, but they were generous and £10 was a very generous tip.
That £10 didn’t make me rich, but it did teach me a very valuable lesson about generosity of heart as well as financial generosity. It wasn’t the £10 that made me remember them, it was their smile and their wave. The £10 was an unexpected bonus.
We have a way of co-opting words into office speak. The latest for many people in the technology arena is agile.
The word agile means:
able to move quickly and easily.
Something that many organisations aspire to do. They want to move more quickly and without it being so hard to do. In our office speak this has become known as “agile with a small ‘a'”.
This word has then been co-opted by a methodology that was birthed in the software development arena, but is becoming more widely used outside that arena. In our office speak this has become known as “Agile with a capital ‘A'”.
We need to differentiate as we speak so that we know which meaning is being used. It’s easy in written text, but as we speak we have no way of differentiating and sentences can have a very different meaning depending on which is being used:
“My customer wants to be more agile.”
Meaning: customer want to be able to move more quickly and stop taking so long to do anything.
“My customer wants to be more Agile.”
Meaning: customer wants to do a better job of adopting the principle of the Agile Manifesto.
This is where it gets fun, because one of the ways a customer may become more agile is by adopting Agile. Which is easy to understand written down, but when you are speaking you need to say:
one of the ways a customer may become more agile with a small ‘a’ is by adopting Agile with a capital ‘A’.
That’s clear isn’t it?
But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also lean and Lean and sometimes Lean and Agile are used together to help organisations to become more lean and agile 🙂
There’s more, don’t forget about safe and SAFe, waterfall and Waterfall, word and Word, workplace and Workplace, need I go on?
I’m off now to write a few words into a Word document for an organisation that has a nice workplace next to a waterfall about how they may communicate using Workplace as they move away from Waterfall toward Lean and Agile, because they aspire to become more lean and agile 🙂
For a long time the author of these books was little known and the books published by a small publisher using the printing capabilities of the local newspaper.
The first of the guides was published in 1955, it wasn’t for another 11 years, in 1966, that the seventh and last was available to buy. During that time the books grew in popularity, but A. Wainwright remained a little known figure.
The strange thing was that Alfred Wainwright was quite well known in his local community, not for the books, but because he was the Borough Treasurer. This is a role which required him to attend civic functions and interact with the public. Apparently few people put A. Wainwright and Alfred Wainwright together as the same person.
Since their publication climbing the 214 hills documented in the Pictorial Guides has become a target for many, myself included.
This biography isn’t really about the guides it’s about the man who wrote the guides.
A man who came from Blackburn, a Lancashire mill town, but fell in love with the beauty of the Lake District.
A man who we all know as silver haired and old, not as someone with red hair, which he had for most of his life.
A man who had a difficult home life, much of it his own creation.
A man who scrapped the first hundred pages that he created because he preferred a fully justified writing style to the left justified one he’d started with.
A man who preferred low living and high thinking to high living and low thinking.
A man who became frustrated by the popularity of the Lake District, a popularity that he had a significant role in creating.
A man who despite being quoted as saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” rarely went out in poor weather and didn’t wear specialist mountaineering equipment, preferring instead to wait until the weather improved before venturing out.
A man who didn’t appear on the television until the 1980’s when he was well into his 70’s and around 30 years after the first guide was published.
A man who never learnt to drive and did much of his work by public transport.
A man who closely guarded his privacy, yet put a self-portrait in each of the guides.
The guides are masterpieces but I’m not sure how much I would have connected with the man. There are all sorts of lessons in his life about dedication and sticking to the task for the long run, but those things come at a high price.
It was great to learn something more about the man from the writing of Hunter Davies who knew him.