Monthly Archives: December 2015

Rudeness in its Different Variations

Does rudeness in the office generate a way of life that is contagious and spreads like a disease?

Scientists have found that incivility in the office and harmless gossip could, they said, foster an atmosphere in which there is a culture of bullying, fear or all-user emails complaining about the washing up.

For two studies from Sewden’s Lund University almost six thousand workers were surveyed about rudeness. The scientists were interested in whether there was a link between being uncivil in the office and experiencing incivility – and also in the general social climate of the workplace.

Could the sort of office where people have no qualms about leaving a smelly cycling kit under a desk also be the sort where people get excluded from work drinks or ostracised in the canteen?

The research, half of which was published in the journal Biomed Research International, found it did.

‘Witnessing co-worker incivility was the most important dimension to explain instigated incivility,’ the researchers write. ‘Or, put it another way, rudeness spreads like a disease. This was specially worrying given that three-quarters of those surveyed claimed to have experienced rudeness in the preceding year.’

Eva Torkelson said that one particular finding of their research pointed to the self-perpetuating nature of workplace rudeness – that it can somehow help, rather than hinder socially.

‘Those who behave rudely in the workplace experience stronger social support, which probably makes them less afraid of negative reactions to their behaviour from managers,’ she said. ‘Ultimately, the only way to stop behaviour that is often considered harmless is to show people what it leads to. When people become aware of the actual consequences of rudeness, it is an eye-opener.’

However, in my own view – having experienced rudeness that can be comically uplifting and rather cleverly administered – it can sometimes be endearing rather than off-putting.

They call it eccentricity.

 

 

A Christmas Soul-Searching

To maintain high spirits at Christmas when one’s personal circumstances, due to an illness in the family, are so debilitating, is almost an impossibility which defies description.

The loneliness and frustration to keep body and mind in working order, so as to attend to the needs of someone you love and whose loyalty and companionship you have experienced for over six decades, is a hefty undertaking especially when the odds against you prove insurmountable from time to time.

However, your inner strength, combined with the flame of an everlasting love and commitment, keeps you from falling apart. For life has its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and failures, which augment the capacity to withstand the oscillation of the good and bad turn of events, enabling you to weather any storm no matter what it throws at you.

Sacrifice cleanses the soul and reinvigorates the body. You become a more complete human being. Your emotions are more visible. You cry, not out of weakness, but when the flow of suffusion overwhelms you. You feel a variety of soul-searching factors which you did not know existed. Hence, a transformation is born out of the realization that a little suffering complements an eventual joy.

Christmas was for me this year what one might call a visit to purgatory, where hopefully my previous sins are redeemed. I pray that this is not a hallucination developed in old age, but the advent of a wisdom, lacking in my evolution to manhood.

Joss Stone the Campaigner

Nothing surprises me about Joss Stone, least of all her talent which is phenomenal.

Stone rose to fame in late 2003 with her multi-platinum debut album, The Solid Sessions, which made the 2004 Mercury Prize shortlist. Since then she has never stopped, topping the music charts in addition to a barrage of acclaim from her large coterie of devotees.

As an English soul singer, songwriter and actress, she has scaled great heights at a young age to the astonishment of the world’s media.

However, with tears running down her face and her body painted to look like reptile skin, Joss is the latest celebrity to pose nude in the name of animal rights.

The singer is fronting a campaign to try to stamp out the cruel practice of using crocodile skins for handbags. She called on others to join in leaving wildlife out of their wardrobe.

She bared all for the photographs, with the slogan: ‘3 animals are killed to make 1 crocodile bag. Say NO to exotic animal skins.’

The pictures by Peta come after an investigation by the pressure group which claimed top fashion house Hermès are using tanneries with cruel practices for their reptile-skin handbags.

The crocodile bags can cost as much as £295,000 and versions have been seen on the arms of celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Petra Stunt.

Footage from an undercover video shot at a Texas farm that supplied crocodile skins to the brand showed reptiles left twitching in a bloody ice container to die after being shot with a bolt-gun and cut with a knife. Other covert films showed reptiles crowded in shallow pools, clambering over each other to find space.

After the exposé singer Jane Birkin, once in a relationship with Serge Gainsbourg and famed for the release of their duet ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’ in 1969, threatened to take her name off the crocodile skin versions of the celebrated Birkin handbag.

As a result of this fracas, Hermès issued a statement saying it worked in the strictest compliance with international regulations and that an isolated irregularity at the Texas farm had been resolved.

However, Miss Stone, twenty-eight, retorted: ‘Although I’m not as familiar with crocodiles as I am with dogs and horses, I know that animals are capable of suffering.’

Elisa Allen of Peta added: ‘We don’t need to steal animal skin for fashion and we’re grateful Joss has joined us in sending this message.’

Looking at you, Joss, is like feeling the comforts of a beautiful flower undulating in a salubrious summer breeze. Although I must admit crocodile skin has some magic over me, nevertheless your message has won me over.

The Abduction of Kaiser

The first Bahrain Book Fair took place in 1984.

A generous subsidy from the then Board of Trade, so long as we flew British Airways and stayed in British-owned hotels, allowed Quartet to exhibit – though I flew out later under my own steam.

A few weeks after our return from Bahrain there was a major break in one weekend at my offices at Namara House.

The items stolen included Kaiser, a magnificent tiger skin I had become closely identified with as my mascot.

The police arrived in force on Monday morning and could not have been more sympathetic and helpful. The only loss from my office that I cared about was Kaiser and the press quickly rallied to mount a hue and cry.

The Standard featured a large picture of me and Kaiser with a report headed ‘No Smile on Tiger’s Face’. The caption read: ‘Naim and friend. Kaiser in on the right.’ The piece was concise:

Kaiser is a tiger with a price on his head. His head and skin were habitually stretched across an armchair in Naim Attallah’s Soho office until weekend burglars ransacked the place, stealing thousands of pounds’ worth of electronic goods – and Kaiser. The Palestinian-born publishing tycoon was too distraught to speak of the loss this morning, but an aide offered a £1,000 reward for the beast’s return.

Nigel Dempster took the same line in the Daily Mail next day, mentioning the reward and displaying the same picture of myself and Kaiser with the heading ‘Naim Loses His Head – and Skin’. The piece that followed was similar to the one in the Standard the evening before, with the addition of a statement from a Quartet source that ‘Kaiser is of great sentimental value and was acquired from West Germany after considerable legal wrangles. The tiger had escaped from a German zoo and afterwards had to be shot’.

Nigel then embellished his story with his own satiric comments: ‘It is no secret at Quartet that pretty Sloane Rangers, such as Lady Liza Campbell, Virginia Bonham-Carter, Nigella Lawson, Bridget Heathcoat-Amory and Rebecca Fraser, are drawn to Naim’s employ by the glamorous creature – even if Naim is under the impression that it is his own charisma!’

The publicity did the trick. An anonymous voice on the phone claimed the reward for Kaiser, saying he had bought the beast in good faith without realizing it was hot property. I asked the caller to ring me again the next day to arrange the exact location for the exchange of the reward and the tiger skin. To this the caller agreed, but stressed that any police involvement would result in Kaiser’s destruction – and promptly hung up.

I then reported the conversation to Asprey’s security chief, who was coordinating the operation with the police. They asked me to draw the reward money and entrust it to one of my aides, preferably a girl, to keep the appointment with the robbers. It was vital that she follow their instructions to the letter and be wired up so her whereabouts could be determined at all times. My assistant Anna Groundwater volunteered for the mission, who I thought would be the one best suited to this sort of adventure.

When the caller rang next day to give me his instructions in detail, he made it clear he knew of my connections to Asprey from the press reports and asked who would be bringing the money. He seemed to become more relaxed when he was told it would be one of the girls who worked for me. She was, he said, to carry an Asprey umbrella and walk casually down Bond Street towards Piccadilly. Repeating his dire warnings of the consequences for Kaiser of any police involvement, he said she would be picked up and driven off in a fast-moving car to an unspecified destination where the exchange would take place.

Anna then stuffed the money down her tights and set off along Bond Street as instructed, the police having been informed of the plan. Nothing could go wrong, they assured us. They would be out in force in Bond Street undercover.

The scheme ran like clockwork as Anna was picked up and rushed as a passenger to King’s Cross station, where it turned out Kaiser had been kept in a left-luggage locker in a black bag. Anna exchanged the money for the bag and, with the mission accomplished, was told to make herself scarce. As if from nowhere, the police then pounced and collared all three of the robbers in one scoop, together with the ransom money that Anna had handed over.

With Kaiser back in Namara House and restored to his former lordly dominance of the scene, Anna was proclaimed a heroine.

But the most bizarre aspect of the story was still to unfold when Anna and I were called as witnesses for the prosecution at the trial of the three thieves concerned.

As we gave our evidence, the leader of the gang, a big beefy bruiser of a fellow, showed no signs of hostility towards us whatever. On the contrary, he kept smiling at us, and on one occasion even winked, as if to say, ‘No hard feelings.’

His two partners in crime seemed equally friendly. Strangely enough, both Anna and I ended up feeling sorry for them.

A Fine Ass for the Desperate

Are university students taking their learning less seriously than my own generation ever contemplated?

Gone, it seems, the comportment we adhered to, being privileged to attend such august institutions as Cambridge or even perhaps its rival in Oxford, whose students, from time to time, display a total lack of inhibitions by parading naked to show the world their wares – and as these pictures demonstrate, bums galore to marvel at, so as not, presumably, to end up bottom of the class in the poll to find Cambridge University’s most desirable rear.

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Among the ten showing bare-faced cheek in the contest, run by student paper The Tab, is one named only as Anne who sports a Santa hat in a library while a bravado William strips on a roof. A Beatrice, on the other hand, reveals her thong in a dining hall, and Kate bares all next to a statue.

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Sexual innovations reflect a new generation of those seeking knowledge as preoccupied with sex as the rest of us mortals, who conceal it under the pretext of respectability and false decorum.

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Could Herbs and Spices Nourish the Brain?

Although researchers and scientists have gone bonkers these days telling us what’s good for our health in general, it is always wise nevertheless to keep an open mind lest we miss a new discovery that actually works.

I have often considered spices a deterrent for ill health when applied in a good cuisine.

A diet rich in hot red chillies, parsley, thyme and camomile seem to boost the brain’s function and improves memory and learning, researchers have discovered.

The herbs and spices have high levels of the plant compound Apigenin, which improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells, a study shows.

Brazilian scientists said Apigenin, part of a group of compounds called Flavonoids, has the potential to treat diseases such as schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The study in Advances in Regenerative Biology is the first to show direct positive effects of Apigenin on human cells. Laboratory tests showed human stem cells treated with Apigenin become neurons after twenty-five days and make strong, sophisticated connections.

Professor Stevens Rehen of Rio de Janeiro University said: ‘The connections are crucial for good brain function, memory consolidation and learning.’

It is certainly welcome news for people of an over-mature age, who suffer some deterioration in memory retention, especially where it concerns familiar names of people and objects. In the circumstances, they are well advised to use spices which in any case enhance the gourmet’s appetite while at the same time give the brain a jolt to reactivate its possible languidity.

Being the mug that I am for new discoveries, so says I to spices: ‘Here I come and you’d better be alert to serve me well.’

Patricia Highsmith: A Tortured Soul

The film Carol, which is based on author Patricia Highsmith’s troubled life, is being tipped as a possible Oscar-winner, given also that the much-hyped film is drawing critical acclaim and rapturous reactions from audiences.

But behind this cinematic adaption of Highsmith’s tale of a lesbian affair in 1950s New York lies a real-life story of love and loss, for like one of the film’s characters Highsmith, too, had a penchant for married women.

Her novel is an extended love letter for some of the heterosexual women she had fallen for.

‘All my life’s work will be an undedicated monument to a woman,’ she wrote in her diary in 1942, ten years before the publication of The Price of Salt, which she penned under a pseudonym before it was re-published under her own name as Carol in 1990.

In 1993, two years before her death, I went to Lugano, the nearest town to Highsmith’s hideaway, where I spent the night before negotiating the Alps in search of her. She had given me directions to a small village where she would be waiting. She was there when I arrived, looking dishevelled and rather strange.

The house stood in a semi-wilderness and its interior was sparse, its décor grim. It struck me as an unhappy environment in which she led a kind of monastic existence. She offered me an alcoholic drink as I entered but I declined. I needed to have my wits about me for this potentially difficult encounter.

The interview was full of drama, as I suspected it might be. Twice during my questioning she stood up furiously and refused to proceed. As I tried to placate her, she poured herself a large whiskey and gradually became less tense and more amenable.

Her hostility disappeared when I referred to her book, People Who Knock on the Door, which she dedicated to the courage of the Palestinian people and their leaders in their struggle to regain a part of their homeland. Her face then became animated and I realised how committed she was to the Palestinian cause.

From then on the interview became less of a burden and I felt I had achieved my goal. Unpleasantness had been avoided, partly because of my Palestinian origins…

Despite what I deduced from that encounter, she was certainly a tortured soul at great odds with her environment, more in tune with animals than human beings, but nevertheless a gigantic talent whose literary output was phenomenal.

A large number of her novels were turned into successful films in Hollywood and Europe. She will always be remembered as a great novelist who understood the vagaries of human nature but lived a life in isolation which lacked the serenity that brings a measure of contentment in one’s life.

I mourn her passing.