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Archive for September 8th, 2006

Chelsea tractors and other animals…..

I just happened to be standing outside The Bollo in Chiswick (another favourite place of contemplation) with Nick Jarrett-Kerr and Dr Friedrich Blase of EDGE International when Friedrich looked intently (in the manner which managements consultants do ) at a grotesque five seater SUV. I think it was a BMW. Friedrich is from Germany. His remark was precise. He remarked ‘What a large SUV’. This prompted Nick, who does an excellent Management Course: The Management of Professional Service Law Firms for The Legal Practitioner – available online to say “Ah…yes, Chelsea tractors…”

I can’t stand SUVs in London. Can’t see the point. Being a motorbike rider I only need to see one of these absurd vehicles being driven by a yummy mummy with two kids in the back – all three talking on their mobiles – to become very wary and give them a wide berth. Dr Friedrich asked for an explanation as to why they are called ‘Chelsea tractors.’ Nick gave him one – or should I say, rather more fittingly .. Nick explained why.

Of course, I did not just happen to be standing outside The Bollo with these two doyens of the international law consulting world – I had the pleasure of having lunch with them. As I had not seen anyone all morning, I may have talked too much. It was an enjoyable lunch. I had spaghetti bolognaise or, a fairly English version thereof – which is an excellent dish to eat when having a business lunch – the sauce goes everywhere. Dr Blase took a very pragmatic approach (Caesar salad) because he was wearing a pristine light blue shirt and had an important meeting to attend after lunch. Nick, who enjoyed a glass of Rioja, raised his eyebrows when he saw me drinking Diet Coke! I explained that I had much thoughtful work to do this afternoon and could not afford to be over refreshed while doing it. I also re-assured him that I would be drinking Rioja tonight at a special ‘gala night’ I am having at The Swan. We talked, not surprisingly, about management matters, law firms, recruitment policies. It was at this point, perhaps over stimulated by too many espressos and Silk Cut cigarettes, that I launched into my new one man show – “Charon on recruitment policies and why law firms are getting it wrong”. Nick smiled in an avuncular way. Of course, he knew what I was banging on about. He was managing partner at Bevan Ashford and has probably forgotten more about managing law firms than many managing partners know. At least Nick got something useful out of my peroration on a theme. I told him about Dan Hull’s excellent “What about clients?’ blog. This website is most interesting – and not just for managing partners.

Anyway…back to SUVs. I am pleased that the vehicles and the drivers are held up to villification and amused contempt by most Londoners. There is absolutely no excuse to drive around in such a vehicle in London. There is rarely a need, in London, to engage 4 x 4 traction, drive over ruined buildings – our roads are in a reasonable state of repair – or pull a plough behind the vehicle. I want Ken Livingstone to tax them to the hilt and would be quite happy to see the drivers of such vehicles served with ASBOs on grounds of bad taste. Have you seen the Porsche 4×4 SUV? Astonishing that anyone could be so lacking in taste and common sense to even think of buying such a monstrosity, let alone being happy to be seen driving one. Porsche 911? Fine… no problem – unless you are over 40 and are trying to look cool. Better to accept the onset of the best years of one’s life with grace than to start wearing combat trousers, trainers, camoflage tops and Police sunglasses and drive slowly down Chiswick High Street. Better, by far, to get a huge motorbike – but no leather chaps, please, chaps!

I am not in a particularly inclusive mood this afternoon. I have started work at 3.30 am every morning this week, have lost half a stone and feel ready to march against the French (again)… Cry God For Harry, St George and Rioja… have a good one.

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Delighted to see that fellow smoker and wine drinker, John Bolch, who runs Family Lore (a very useful family law blog) picked up on the Al-gebra joke which I found the other day. I know little about family law despite having troubled various Ministers and Superintendents of Births, Marriages and Deaths over the years, so I can’t really provide any insight into family law matters.

What I can do, however, is to thank John for encouraging his viewers to pop over to my blawg and draw attention to the government’s new ‘grass up a smoker’ campaign. This new campaign encourages non-smokers to phone the government if a smoker should dare to light up in a public place when the new and draconian anti-smoking laws come into force during the summer of 2007. There was a programme on TV years ago presented by Shaw Taylor. I think it was called ‘Police Five’ (more popularly known as ‘grass along with Shaw Taylor) – where Shaw encouraged members of the public to provide information to the Police about criminals. Apparently, so enthusastic were some members of the British public to shop their neighbours, the Police were inundated with calls about quite trivial matters.

There is something terribly ‘un-British’ about sneaking. A headmaster of mine, when I was young, could not stand sneaks. He would rather have had schoolboy sins go unpunished lest a boy be grassed up or sneaked on by another boy. He took the entirely reasonable view that it was the responsibility of his team of teachers and prefects to ‘police’ the school. I suspect that the new smoking police, who are to be appointed by the state to ensure we obey the laws on smoking, will have uniforms. Perhaps white shirts, white trousers, white shoes – with a golden brown coloured hat so they look like cigarettes?

Down at The Swan in Chiswick with my ‘Last of The Summer Crime’ friends, conversation occasionally turns to what we are going to do when we cannot smoke in the pub. Of eight people around our table – film producer, codebreaker/IT specialist, management consultant, nurse, lawyer, banker and sundry playboys who have never actually been seen working – all but one smoke for pleasure. We even take the entirely reasonable view that while we may cough a bit, it has not been proven beyond all doubt that smoking and cancer and causally related. A number of leading american doctors have taken this view. We plan to open our own ‘smokeasy’ establishments – at our own houses, taking it in turns to host the event. The reality is, however, that we shall mutter and nip outside like everyone else who smokes…when the fateful day comes. I suspect it will then be more amusing outside the pub than inside. We shall see.

I am appalled that the government are encouraging the people of Britain to behave like Eastern European ‘Stasi’ grasses and report smokers to the authorties. I refuse to believe that Dr John “Witchfinder” Reid could be behind this grotesque plan. I have no desire to grass on someone who eats too many buns (obesity is next on the government hit list), or grass on binge drinkers (restrictions on alcohol consumption coming soon?) or, indeed, grassing on anyone committing minor sins. I would, of course, have no hesitation is reporting any devious and disloyal Labour MPs behaving in a suspicious ‘plotting’ manner, hanging around Downing Street, if their purpose was to de-stablise the state and bring down our revered leader, the Lord Protector.

Addendum for those kind enough to post a comment: 2.10 am Saturday 9th September (See Comments)

To Liadnan et al….
I have a small box of mentholated snuff – which I keep in my motorbike bumbag just in case I find myself in a non-smoking environment – like a church ( only joking)…or the RCJ, Lunar House or the RSA where I am a card carrying Fellow.
Surprisingly (and pleasingly) I can smoke myself to death, if I choose to, at my local Esporta gym… in the bar area!

I have noticed that there are no ‘No smoking’ signs in the Sauna or steam room. I also find that hospitals – in Britain, the most obvious place to contract some deadly disease, are not too happy about smokers lighting up – even though I did see a couple of consultant surgeons and some senior physicians having a quiet fag out the back, behind the mortuary, on a visit to see my Father some years ago. I would add, of course, that the old man (Vice Admiral Charon) wasn’t in the mortuary – he was merely (and, I felt, that his presence was not that welcome – because he could not be ticked off as a ‘cure’ because he was a recidivistic toper and smoker) preparing to visit the great bar in the sky. He defied medical science for many years – as,indeed, I hope to do. I appear to be doing quite well so far.

My brain surgeon (you may wonder why I have a personal Harley Street brain surgeon?) told me that he is a great believer in a bottle of red wine a day – half for the heart and half for the head. I remember as a boy at school finding the combination of taste of the thin white communion wafers and the quite excellent red wine, poured with panache, by a rather strange man in a black cassock every Sunday, rather exciting. It was disappointing, for me, after reading a book on Tort when the solicitor at Litigators ‘R Us direct.com, told me that I was barred by the Statute of Limitations from bringing a claim against the dodgy guy in a cassock who gave me the wine. I was obviously under age and not capable of appreciating the subtle qualities of the claret he was dealing in every Sunday morning. I am reasonably sure that this traumatic stress disorder incident in my life inspired me to read Law. The rest is history – thankfully.

As an aside… and it may help some of you to know this – but, so far, I have not contracted MRSA or any other killer bug at a UK hospital. I put this down to the fact that I smoke before I go into these godforsaken places. I do hope that I do not have to die in a hospital. I rather like the idea of being able to go at a time of my choosing, without some over nourished and absurdly disloyal Labour MP – or even a gaggle of them – telling me that my time is up. I can tell you this – I will not seek re-election, but I will serve a full term writing this blawg.

I want to be absolutely certain that I will not just be remembered for drinking Rioja, smoking Silk Cut, sipping espressos and writing ephemaral nonsense. I would like to think that one member of the Charon family, since Baron de Charon (Pictured left) overdid the juice, rode in full armour on a horse onto a cross channel ferry in 1066 and invaded Hastings with his old mate Guillaume – had done something useful with his life.


Returning to the question of snuff
….most people I come across have absolutely no idea what I am doing with a brown pepper like substance in the fold between thumb and forefinger – and are even more surprised when I snuff it up my nose.

It is time for me, now, to prepare myself for the morrow.

A piu tarde

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