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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Home truths

The most sung song in Liverpool is not Eleanor Rigby, it is not even Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, I Ran by A Flock of Seagulls, Enola Gay by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark or even Walk On by Gerry and the Pacemakers, although as the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, this one comes a close second. Other, more unlikely contenders might be anything by Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, Rick Astley, The Icicle Works, The Christians, or indeed the song There She Goes written by the cult band The La's but made very famous as it was covered by the dire folk band Sixpence none the Richer and then included in the soundtrack of the kid's film Snow Days, despite being blatantly, (and in the first interviews about the song by clear admittance), about heroin usage - if I may quote:

There she goes
Pulsing through my veins
And I just can't contain, this feeling that remains

And Mr Declan MacManus AKA Elvis Costello, despite being very famous does'nt even get a look in, nor does The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary, The Real Thing's You To Me Are Everything, Lisa Stansfield's All Around the World or Julian Cope's World Shut Your Mouth.

All the above, are either Liverpool linked or originated, and most can be heard with regularity on any FM Radio station in Canada, or similar stations in Leeds today (it is amazing how identikit Radio Stations in the English speaking world are, even down to the play-lists: in short I still get Shania here). All these songs pale into insignificance (in terms of popularity in the city) when compared with song made famous by Sixties folk sensations "The Spinners". The song, perhaps sums up everything you need to know about Liverpool, and Scousers attitude to their city, and is called In My Liverpool Home. The full lyrics can be found here:

It is not just music that Liverpudlians boast about. Plays such as Educating Rita, Boys from the Blackstuff, politicians such as Harold Wilson (Prime Minister of the UK) and the scriptwriter Eddie Braben all came from Liverpool. Liverpool id currently Eurpoean City of Culture, and most Scousers will tell you "About time too! This is the most famous city in the World - Adolf Hitler studied painting here". Overall, Liverpudlians count themselves as great communicators, racontuers and storytellers, something they regard as part of their cultural heritage.

I had left Liverpool for over ten years when I moved to Canada. In Halifax, I settled quickly, and rose meteorically through the ranks of the first company I worked for, becoming Vice President of Operations within weeks. I decided, very quickly, to initiate a weekly briefing of the shop-floor staff. My intentions were to get a real grip on how things were going in production, have any 'issues' raised before they became a problem, make myself available. I spent very long hours before this first Production meeting, planning schedules and allocating work, flagging areas where I wanted to see improvements, refining my agenda for the meeting, checking facts, preparing handouts.

Despite this detailed preparation, I was nervous on the morning of the meeting, but optimistic, imagining all sorts of possible outcomes. Maybe that guy with the moustache - ("I think his name is Tony?" I asked Phil, the President) might have a few suggestions? Maybe the new era of 'parallel management', where office doors really were open, and guys who really knew the work would really buy in to my concepts of ownership and engagement, I thought. Whatever happens, this is a step in the right direction and I had the whole thing planned to a tee.

I entered the workshop at the agreed time, and all the guys(there were no women working there when I first arrived) were sitting down drinking Tim Hortons. They'd also treated themselves to a big tray of donuts, and most of them were smoking. The meeting was scheduled for 10.00am, two hours after start time, but it was obvious from the immaculate condition of the shop that absolutely no work had been done that morning.

I got the guys' attention by handing out my agenda notes, and introducing myself. I'd worked for the company for a short time, in a lesser capacity, but mostly on-site in Halifax, so most of these shop-based guys were new to me, and I to them. I launched into my agenda by saying

"I dont want to keep you all, I'm just going to go over a few things, and if there's any questions, you can let me know at the end. Or just see me in my office later. Allright?"

The meeting went quickly. As I completed each point on my list, there were no questions, not even from Tony, just the the occasional nod, or maybe a quick "Ah-ha" if I happened to catch someone's eye. "They'll take a bit of time to warm-up" I though to myself, so I sped through the list, making it clear as I went that we'd be doing this regularly, and that my office door would be open.

The meeting ended when I'd finished talking, and with still no questions, I returned to my office. It was timesheet day, and I was quickly immersed in accounts. After a while though, there was a knock on the office door, and Tony entered. He took off his baseball cap, sat down in the chair opposite me and scratched the back of his head.

"Hiya! What's up?" I asked.

"Well, Mr Martin, you seem like a nice fella and all, so I do'nt want you to take this wrong or anything, but I spoke to the boys, and they want me to ask you what that little meeting was all about."

Pleased that my meeting had raised the guy's interest, I was however, not entirely clear what Tony meant.

"Well, Tony, - it is Tony isnt it? - I'm just trying to get everyone involved, you know? Let you guys know what contracts we've got coming up, find out what's happening on the floor - keep everyone informed, you know? Was there anything in particular that wasnt clear?"

Tony scratched his head again.

"Now you come to mention it, there was."

"What bit?"

Tony paused slightly.

"All of it, really."

"What? All of it?"

"Well, yeah. Like I say, you're a nice fella and all, and I dont want to hurt your feelings or nothing, but no-one could understand a word you said in that there meeting."

"What? Nothing?"

"No. Nothing. It's ok when we're sitting here talking - I can get maybe 50% of what you say, and the rest I can piece together, but out there in the shop, it just did'nt make any sense. It sounded like French."


"Yeah, French".

Tony left the office. Later in our 'relationship' (which mostly involved me firing him), I learnt that he'd never heard of Liverpool.

The photo album is compiled form recent trips to the city - once before I went to Madrid, and again a trip that Nel and I arranged with Cristiana, a colleague who works in Durham. I should just add that the photos view best without captions.



Grasshopper said...

Just catching up after a weekend away, kayaking in PEI (Malpeque Bay and Rustico Bay). Enjoyed your picts of Liverpool. Yes, I know this is naive, but I always picture Liverpool as foggy and grey. I was quite surprised to see that it is, in fact, presented in full Technicolor. Live and learn, eh?

MJN said...

I was just missing kayaking, as you can see from picture of the week, I kept it up after we left NS. I was also just missing Canada, but that's a constant.
RE : Liverpool, your impression of the weather, at least, was (note tense) accurate. And your impression of a general greyness (of this and many similar cities of England's industrial North) was also bang on the money. Your comment made me think, and although I know the convention is that discussions on posts should be held within the comments page(so that the discussion can be equally commented on) , if you do not mind, I will reply in full as a post.

MJN said...

I should add that I'll label this any if you guys have any further thoughts you can either just comment, or post. under the label.