Happiness is working at Whistler


Writing in The Spectator this week Victoria Lane had nothing but praise for her recent skiing holiday at Whistler, British Columbia:

…Now this is all very nice, but a distraction from the main point of Whistler. This is not the skiing or the snowboarding, but the service. The service! You are bombarded with attention. In the ski-hire shops there are more assistants than customers, and they treat you with incredible solicitude, inquiring lovingly after your toes.

All the attention, combined with the upbeat demeanour of Whistler’s workers, was too much for one of Victoria’s friends:

Another of my companions was having a struggle. Everyone was too cheerful, and it was putting him in bad humour. “They tax everything here,” he observed at one point. “They should tax happiness — that would sort them out.” He reminisced fondly about a skiing holiday in a small town in Spain, which was run by a family or company called Crap. There was the Crap restaurant, the Crap bar, the Crap ski-hire. Oh for something Crap!

Her friend is right. In terms of happiness, most Canadians are incredibly rich.

To breed or not to breed

Woman's Hour web page

The Woman’s Hour web page

…is not the question. Instead, it seems to be when? The BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour discussed the subject of “late motherhood” the other day, and all kinds of passionate opinions were expressed during the phone-in about the dilemma faced by modern women in choosing between children and a career.

Isn’t it odd how the tables have turned? Twenty years ago, when my generation was just about to graduate from university, preganancy was almost the worst thing that could happen to a girl. Now, the inability to have children is the great tragedy of my age group. From one extreme to the other in 20 years. Hindsight is often considered a wonderful thing, but what will we tell our daughters to do when it’s their turn to choose?

Business fiction

The New Year has started strongly on BBC Radio 4, with several thought-provoking programmes:
Last week In Business examined why so few novels are set in the world of work, and attempted to explore the consequences for both business and society. As presenter Peter Day said “fiction normally shuns the working world or is deeply suspicious of it”. He wanted to investigate “why creative types don’t respond to this thing called work”.
Fiammetta Rocco, literary editor of the Economist, was interviewed and expressed a feeling I’ve had for a long time:

“We’ve really lost that sense that business is about progress and doing good. There’s no sense of that anymore. It’s very, very hard when people don’t feel strongly about something to create fiction out of it.”

Peter Day then pointed out that:

“The way business is presented to people is part of the culture. If decent people think that it’s not a subject that engages the imagination, or the intelligence, or the humanity of themselves, and don’t go into business, then you kind of get the second-raters all joining up for it. So we need decent artistic representation of the business world.”

However, the hottest tip of the year came from Rocco:

“We do review a lot of fiction in the Economist. We review it every single week and I’m always looking for great books. But a book that really told a story that developed a fantastic hero, that armed itself with this person’s struggles and fears and difficulties and problems and triumphed in the end, in a business setting would be truly fantastic. I think that one of the enormous difficulties that exist now is that we’re more comfortable with the idea of business than we may have been in the 19th century, and that makes it much harder to explore, it’s a much bigger challenge to create something which is subtle and interesting and not a caricature. Somebody should do it.”

So there you go. There’s still time for one more New Year’s resolution — write a great novel about business. For inspiration, here are a few of the authors or novels mentioned in the programme:

  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens.
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope.
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos.
  • Nice Work by David Lodge.
  • Free to Trade by Michael Ridpath.
  • Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.

Upgraded to nowhere

The server on which this weblog is stored suffered a fatal disk failure earlier this week, and its replacement wasn’t fully operational for two days. I could live with the inconvenience if that’s all it was, but when replacing the machine my hosting company installed a different (more recent?) and incompatible version of the server’s database software.
Consequently, all my previous posts are no longer in the database, and I must now start from scratch. I have copies of all my previous individual posts, and perhaps I will replace them individually over time, but as of now they could be hard to find.
Sorry, but that’s progress for you!

Global warming Canadian-style

From Radio Canada International’s Cyberjournal for January 9, 2004:


Several regions of Canada are enduring extreme cold conditions. The cold has led to the deaths of at least five people in Western Canada. Areas of the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec also are enduring severe cold. The temperature reached -39 Celsius in the northwestern town of Royun-Noranda, Qu

Queen Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

Last night Channel 4 broadcast a programme titled Britain’s Real Monarch, in which Tony Robinson (of Time Team and Blackadder fame) presented the theory that the current Queen is not the rightful heir to the throne.
It seems that substantial evidence suggests that Edward IV was illegitimate, and that the crown should have passed instead to his half-brother George, the Duke of Clarence; and subsequently to a completely different family line than those of the Tudors, the House of Hanover and the House of Windsor.
Robinson concluded that the history of Britain might have been very different if the “real” King George I had succeeded to the throne in 1461. Without Henry VIII England might have remained a Catholic country, and the United Kingdom might never have been formed if an independent Scotland had retained its own monarch.

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.

The programme’s web site contains a full family tree that illustrates both the present and alternative royal lines. If you follow the alternative line closely you will see that King Theophilus II should have succeeded to the throne in 1705. In 1728 he married Selina Shirley, aka the Countess of Huntingdon, who converted to Methodism in 1738 and went on to establish many non-conformist chapels and eventually founded her own “connexion” within the Methodist church.
So if Theophilus had been King, Selina would have been Queen, and Methodism might have become the dominant denomination in England. Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, once called the “Queen of Methodists”, would have been Queen of England too.
For more information on Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, see Making History: The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion or The Elect Lady by Gilbert W. Kirby.