Comment: How to win friends and influence people?

March 17, 2019

‘How to win friends and influence people’ is a well-known book by Dale Carnegie. It is so well-known that it has become a catch phrase in our language. In the book, he  spells out basic common-sense ways to get on in life, whether socially or financially.

Some of the suggested ways of behaving include: become genuinely interested in other people; think less of self and more of others; be happy and pleasant to be with and listen and try to see things from the other person’s point of view.

It is amazing that he has had to tell us this. It is common sense isn’t it?

So why do so many people ignore these principles and even though they may be in business, show complete disinterest in us and what we want? It is no wonder so many businesses fail.

Recently, I needed and engineer to come to fix the TV. The business employing him would not make an appointment. I had to wait for a phone call from the engineer the following morning and he required me to stay in ALL day so that he could pick and choose when to come. How helpful is that? Is he not aware that I have other things to do with my life than sit and home and wait for him ALL DAY? Needless to say I won’t be rushing back for his services in the future if I can help it.

There are so many businesses that are trying to get rid of the human element and become almost completely automated. In the supermarkets we are encouraged to do absolutely everything ourselves. So far there are usually some assistants who can come to the rescue when machinery fails, but I often wonder how long this will this last. No matter how well automated machinery is designed and maintained, it is a common fact that machines often fail. It is very hard to argue with a machine. If a mistake is made, there seems no way for us as individuals to rectify the matter.

It is time for us to realize that machinery is there to serve us and not the other way round. We should acknowledge and have faith in the value of the human element. Shopping, for example, is much more that getting the goods we want, it is a social experience and there is no accounting for the value of having a good chat with a salesperson while we shop. Being able to discuss the product in detail and having an assistant who will make the effort to try to understand exactly what you want saves time and money and in the long run it usually leads to success.

Let us have fewer self-centred, grouchy and uncooperative people in business so that our society can thrive. This could well be relevant to our current political situation, but that is for another time.


Ely Consort’s concert in Ely Methodist Chapel on Saturday 16th March 2019

March 17, 2019


Ely Consort, directed by Matthew Rudd, is an excellent choir and obviously delighted the packed audience in Ely Methodist Chapel on Saturday. Their singing was a very high standard and as a choir it proved particularly competent at fusing complex chords into emotive, cohesive harmony.

Many of the pieces in the programme were new and those of us who are wary of contemporary composers were given a very pleasant surprise. Matthew obviously knows his music and the selection chosen for this programme, which included many modern-day composers, was particularly musical and delightful.

Pianist, Charlie Penn, and cellist Anna Jones also made and excellent contribution to this lovely programme. Charlie had some highly challenging material to play, and he managed it all with real panache. It was very pleasing to hear the rich tones of the cello. In ‘Serenity’ (‘O Magnum Mysterium’) by Ola Gjeilo, the cello was especially well integrated, making the piece meaningful, heartfelt and expressive.

Other highlights for me were ‘Time is Endless’ by Vytautas Miškinis, ‘Cantata Domino’ by Ko Matsushita, ‘The music of stillness’ by Elaine Hagenberg and the final ‘Polovtsian Dances’ by Alexander Borodin. ‘Time is Endless’ contained gorgeous, ethereal harmonies, ‘Cantata Domino’ was tuneful with a tinge of attractive melancholy, ‘The music of stillness’ had a beautiful, sustained texture with exquisite harmonic changes that were clearly expressed, and the excitement and exotic exuberance of the Polovtsian Dances ended the evening perfectly. None of this detail would have been possible to enjoy without the skill and sensitivity of this wonderful choir and its director.

Their next event will be John Rutter’s ‘Feel the Spirit’ in St. Mary’s Church, Burwell on the 29th June 2019

Review of Viva’s ‘Chicago’ in the King’s Theatre Newmarket on Thursday 7th March 2019

March 10, 2019

Dan Schumann 19Wow! This production of ‘Chicago’ was amazing. The razzmatazz of Chicago in the bad old days permeated this wonderful production so that there was hardly a moment when we were not absolutely amazed. This large troupe of highly talented young people filled the stage with fantastically choreographed movements and tableaux while at the same time it delivered very powerful, toe-tapping and unforgettable music.

The singing, dancing and acting were spot on and we were very much aware of the sheer falseness of the flashy style of living in a criminally-driven society in which murder and corruption were the order of the day.

The actors were phenomenal and included murderess Velma Kelly (played by Kiera O’Reilly), the slippery lawyer, Billy Flynn (Olly Manley),brassy Roxey Hart (Riley Williams), a powerful Mamma Morton (Dresden Goodwin), and the splendid Amos (Joseph Hall), and Mary Sunshine (Katie Kirkpatrick). Other key contributors included the MC and Harry (Mark O’Reilly), Fred and Reporter (Jordan Thorpe), Fogerty and Reporter (Dyan Cardwell) and Judge (Sam Laws).

They were supported by wonderful murderesses, dancers and members of the ensemble. Best moments for me included the hard-nosed, spine-chilling Cell Block Tango, the slick, sexy dancers, and when the hollowness of the razzmatazz was made clear with well-defined sarcasm and wit.

A highly accomplished orchestra led by Richard Hayward gave outstanding support and the choreography by Jess Clifford was second to none.

What a fantastic production this was! Congratulations to the Director Dan Schumann and his team for such an exciting evening’s entertainment.

The next Viva production to look forward to is ‘Brassed Off’ from the 17th to the 20th April in the ADC Theatre, Cambridge. To order tickets:

Pictured is Dan Schumann

Comment: Saying so does not make it so.

March 9, 2019

Recently an individual called at my door and said that he had been contracted to work in the Main Street of our village and that I had spoken to him about three weeks about fixing the gable of my house. I had no recollection of this, sent the man on his way and, after seeing on social media that he had obviously been visiting other homes with the same lie, I reported him to the police. While there are some audacious people who will tell outright untruths like this, there are others who may make statements that they believe to be true, but which to others do not make sense. One person once said that if a barrier was taken away from a certain cycle path, children will never ride straight out into the road. How can he be so sure? He would not listen when I suggested that it could, in fact, happen.

Politicians are renowned for saying emphatically that something will or will not happen. They have often been proved to be incorrect, but at the time, they speak as though what they are saying is fact, absolute fact. One set of politicians say that Brexit will never happen, others that it will. They can’t all be right. Different people are adamant that we will be much better if we left Europe, others say that we will not. The fact is, that nobody really knows and saying so, does not make it so.

What is needed, is evidence. Someone needs to make comparative lists showing the economy now, the predicted economic situation after Brexit and the predicted economic situation should there be no Brexit. Evidence should be gathered and shown relating to all the other aspects of belonging to Europe or not.

Even with the evidence, nothing is absolutely clear. We all know that statistics can be twisted to match findings that we want rather than what they really say. If a study shows that a majority of people in the study like to read the newspaper, this does not prove that most people in the world like to read the newspaper especially when the group of people studied all turn out to be journalists.

We should all take care when making unequivocal statements and if we do make them, we should provide the supportive evidence. We should also realize that there are people out there who will blatantly lie and expect to bully others into beliefs that are not correct or not even common sense. We need to make sure that we study the evidence and make up our own minds no matter what others are saying.

Comment: Attack the ideas, not the person.

March 3, 2019

So many times people are attacked in a personal way for their ideas. While it is sometimes difficult to separate the two, it nevertheless can and should be done.

It is difficult, for example, to separate the character of Boris Johnson with his ideas. Sometime ago he set the cat among the pigeons by saying that our Prime Minister, Theresa May, had wrapped a suicide vest around the British Constitution in her Brexit plans. He was also quoted as saying that May’s Brexit plan last year was ‘deranged’,

While a person may be ‘deranged’ or wrapped in a suicide vest, ideas and plans, I argue may be unsound, unsupported by evidence or unwise. While the choice of metaphor is very effective in creating a picture in our minds so that we are likely to react strongly and agree or disagree with Boris, by choosing personal metaphors, he makes his criticism personal. It would be far fairer and better to spell out the specific reasons for his reaction.

Jeremy Corbyn was described by some of the press as ‘failing the Brexit test’. He apparently forgot the party position on Brexit at an interview. To my knowledge there is no particular ‘Brexit test’. No one can predict the future and no one can be said to know absolutely everything about what will happen after Brexit. People fail to understand and or remember many things; plans and negotiations are no more than that. A person may win or fail an argument; they, themselves may not be failing, they may be perfectly well and clear minded except at a particular time regarding a particular issue

Recently, closer to home, an inspector upset a council by criticising a plan and making suggested changes. The inspector, rather than the process, seems to be criticised for this. There are always two sides to a controversial situation and an inspector doing his or her job, is doing just that. He or she is not being personal when they make criticisms. It is the process, the decisions and the plans that should be criticised, not the person or people involved.

It would be so much better if a simple statement was made that a named person has said or done something and the following language continued in a calm and reasoned manner with addressing the problems with what the person said or did.  It would be so much better if there was less personal attack on people as they try to do their jobs.


Review of Cambridge Chorale’s concert ‘A Sense of the Divine’ in the Lady Chapel Ely Cathedral on Saturday 2nd March 2019

March 3, 2019

The title of this concert was most fitting and the Lady Chapel was the perfect place for this marvellous choir to perform. Under the expert baton of Owain Park, the choir’s meticulous concern for clear, precise focus on the sheer beauty of sound created a concert of the purest quality. There are very few choral groups that can reach such perfection.

The varied programme included works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Henry Harris, Charles Villiers Stanford, Judith Weir, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Thomas Tallis, G.P. da Palestrina, John Tavener, Hildegard von Bingen, Gerda Blok-Wilson, C.H.H. Parry, Eric Whitacre and the conductor, Owain Park. These pieces ranged from the 11th to the 21st century and the variety of styles and voice ranges required created a huge challenge that this amazing choir met with sophisticated ease.

Highlights for me were ‘Silence and Music’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, ‘Faire is the Heaven’ by William Henry Harris, ‘Evening Hymn’ by Einojuhani Rautavaara, ‘Sicut Cervus’ by Palestrina, ‘O Little Rose’ by Gerda Blok-Wilson and ‘Beati quorum via’ by Owain Park.

Serenity, cohesion and harmonic balance were immediately evident in the opening ‘Silence and Music’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, whereas in the following piece,  ‘Faire is the Heaven’ by William Henry Harris, we were entranced by the music’s attractive cheerfulness and contrasting moments of excitement. A sense of character and courageous melodic expansion using an amazing range in the voices pervaded ‘Evening Hymn’ by Einojuhani Rautavaara. Singing  ‘Sicut Cervus’ by Palestrina in the Lady Chapel and its renowned lengthy echoes made it easy for us to be transported in time back to the 16th century when this music was first performed in the ornate cathedrals of Italy. Works for male voices only are usually on the macho -bombastic style, but in ‘O Little Rose’ by Gerda Blok-Wilson, the male voices of Cambridge Chorale sang with tenderness and beauty – a most enjoyable and rare treat. ‘Beati quorum via’ by Owain Park was a sophisticated reference to Stanford’s earlier version and Owen’s piece and was a very impressive modern, full-blooded and expressive work of variety and interest.

The final ‘Her Sacred spirit soars’ by Eric Whitacre with its amazingly powerful climaxes was a fitting ending to this superb concert and the encore by ‘Heavens Flock’ by Ērics Ešenvalds was certainly well deserved.

Cambridge Chorale next perform at Trinity College Chapel on the 18th May 2019. For more information contact






Comment: Grey areas are only for cowards.

February 23, 2019

So many times we contact companies, authorities or legal firms for a clear definition of what is and what is not allowed according to terms and conditions, laws, or current regulations. Many times we are fobbed off with: ‘Oh, it’s a grey area’, suggesting that no one knows.

When terms and conditions, regulations and laws are installed, it seems certain that the people responsible did not intend them to be referred to as indecisive grey areas. If, on the other hand, the authoritative figures we approach were to say, ‘It depends on how you interpret current law’, this would be at least the start of a reasonable reply. To answer our queries fully, they would then need to reply more fully, for example: ‘if the following statement in the regulation/law means this, then that means you will/will not be able to do what you intend’.

So many times when we use the internet, we are inclined to click on the required box to say we have read the pages and pages of small print, when we have not. Some of us think that no matter how carefully we read the whole document, when it comes to making claims, we are often refused. The other party is likely to say we have disobeyed one of the conditions, when we know we have not. So many times we know we are in the right, but either the law is an ass, or someone we are negotiating with has the bull-headed arrogance to believe that the more they shout the more successful they will be, even if they know they are in the wrong.

It took me eighteen months to get only part of an insurance claim back on damaged luggage once. As the law stands, if you have lovely huge trees in your garden, even with protection orders, and the neighbour chooses to build a flimsy construction next to one of the trees and the structure then suffers subsidence, the tree owner has to cut down the trees and pay for the privilege of doing so. This seems to be the law in the UK; it has nothing to do with common sense and fair play.

At times I have asked the companies I have approached what specific parts of their terms and conditions mean. The people answering these questions are often new recruits who have no idea and I am still left in the dark and am expected to sign up without this clarification. What should happen is that my questions are given to someone who does know and are answered fully or the language of the terms and conditions are clarified. It took the tax man three months to give a reply to my questions some time ago, and even then, my questions were no fully answered. Important points were ignored.

It is time we had clarity and complete information given by people who bother to find out what the true facts are, not incompetence and fudging by lazy people who hide behind grey areas.

Comment: ‘I want, does not get’.

February 17, 2019

Many of us learned as children that just because we want something, it does not follow that we will, or should, get what we want. One may want to live in a castle, but as we well know, it is very unlikely to happen to many of us.

Recently, a young girl left home against her parents’ and her country’s will, to join known terrorists in a far off land. She was not kidnapped and while she may have been persuaded to go, she certainly did not have to leave her home for her new terrorist cause.

Recently, she wanted to come back to the UK to have her baby. Unfortunately for her, she has apparently already given birth so the need is probably not so urgent.  However, the presumption that because she wanted to come home, she should, remains, and the question of what to do about all the other British citizens who rejected their British origins and code of behaviour to join the terrorists and now want to come home still remains.

In addition, President Trump has dared to declare a State of Emergency simply because he has been unable to get what he wants – funding for his wall between the USA and Mexico.

While it is tempting to say that they have made their beds so they should lie in them, this offers no solution. If we are to remain human, we should feel some compassion for those who are suffering and perhaps go some way towards understanding why someone wants something. However, this also does not mean that we should give in immediately to people who say what they want and expect it. The solution lies in improving the situation where they are. The refugee camp in Syria should be made more habitable and hygienic for the refugees. Trump should be persuaded not to be so impatient and be ready to save up for his project while still seeing to the other needs of his citizens.

There has probably never been a time when war hasn’t been waged in some part of the world. War is destructive but when the ideology of a people is to kill outsiders, to deny people’s human rights or to injure and maim them for the slightest misdemeanour, someone somehow has to make a stand against them. If the world authorities really wanted to, they could alleviate much of the suffering that exists now and has done for years. What is missing is a strong will to act and to act selflessly. It is time the world authorities made an effort to make a real difference and not rely on charities many of which are bravely trying to tackle the problems alone.

Comment: social media and religious communities are not competitors for our beliefs.

February 9, 2019

A Church of England bishop in England has said that it is a ‘delusion’ that social media can replace religious communities. This was in response to the news that more people have been shown to use social media (including Facebook) than those who are Christians. (Yet again, this information was presented in the press as a sensational headline, designed to create controversy.)

What is stopping those who use social media as well as their Christian connections to socialise and gain a sense of communal support? How many of the numbers collected are both users of social media AND members of a religious community?

I am not the one to lecture on what social media and religion does for everyone, I can only comment personally, just as the bishop above may have done.  We are all members of the one race. Few would say that we do not need others’ help. In nearly everything we do we need support in the form of sympathy, understanding and moral guidance. We need to have faith in our lives; we need to believe that there is hope for a better world than the one we have now and both social media and a religious community can have a role to play.

In both forms of communication, there are the goodies and the baddies. This is a fact of life. On social media there are people who say unkind things, who always complain and find fault. In many religious communities there appear to be many people who claim to be true Christians, for example, which we assume means that they love others as much as they love themselves, but by their actions they seem to be far from Christian. History has demonstrated that over the centuries religion has been no more than an excuse for violence.

On the other hand a quick comment on a social media platform asking for help and advice is often answered quickly with very helpful and supportive comments. With a decent website, and within a close community of believers, a religion can also offer the same. The more support we feel we are getting, whether from social media or a religious community, the more we can develop a strong faith, beit in ourselves, our world and our world of the future or in a supreme being.

Perhaps there is one way in which religious communities may be said to be better than social media and this is the close personal contact with other people offered and the spiritual bond that may develop. We all know how frustrating it is when the internet suddenly goes slow and the meaningful conversation we are trying to have with our loved ones is interrupted.

Whatever the case, what really matters, is on how we integrate with others, whether on social media or in a religious community.  Numbers have little to do with it.



comment Combatting our dark side

February 9, 2019

Recently a famous actor revealed a dark time in his life when he found out that a friend of his had been raped by a ‘black man’. He admitted that for about a week he spent his time wandering the streets ready to seek revenge by attacking and even killing the first black man to antagonize him. He did not care who the man was, where he came from and his circumstances. He had an overwhelming feeling of destruction. Fortunately after a time, he suddenly realized how wrong it was and asked himself what on earth he was doing. He stopped himself in time.

This has horrified many people who have immediately railed against him as an out and out racist. While this reaction is understandable, note should be taken that this brave human being has had the courage to speak out openly about a time of his life when he wrongly wished harm on others. He had not thought the situation through; he had not applied common sense. He declares that he is not a racist, for if a white man had raped his friend, he would have sort out a white man on whom he would administer his revenge.

We all have moments that, in hind sight; we have behaved in a manner of which we are ashamed. Most of us will not have had an experience like this actor’s, but there are few people who have never made a mistake or had a dark moment.

It is time we calmly and sensibly looked at the darker side of these mistakes, even though some may be horrific, and use the information to help us understand the ghastly events that still occur. For example, we learn of people being attacked by a stranger in the street for no apparent reason. We need to understand and deal with it, not blindly decry the person and situation without thought. Doing this displays our own lack of wisdom.  The more we understand what causes the ills of today, the more we can alleviate them.

There is much talk of the lack of support for people who have mental illness. A number of mentally ill people have been known to attack others. They are not thinking straight. It is a mental health doctor or nurse they need, not a riotous population cursing them. This is not condoning their actions, it is simply stating that they need to be incarcerated for their own good and we need to establish many more ways of dealing with these people. Leaving them to their own devices and leaving the society he or she lives in to deal with the problem is not the answer but unfortunately that seems to be the way these days. It is time for change.