Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Flipping Hell

The Demon Aunt's been on a training course. She was away from home for two days and spent the night in a hotel. Dinner, breakfast, lunch, travel: it all adds up. (Meanwhile, nationwide company accountants are weeping over their balance sheets.)

One day was spent writing down morning routines on a flip chart. The trainer gave an example:

I get out of bed.
I turn on the shower.
I get in the shower.
I pick up the shampoo and squirt some in my hand.
I lather my hair.
I get dressed.

AHA! said Demon Aunt, You forgot to rinse your hair.

This, apparently, is not entering into the spirit of things. (Clearly, it runs in the family.)

Everyone wrote their morning routines onto flip charts and then wandered around the room admiring everyone else's morning routines. Demon Aunt invented a dog, some chickens, a goat, highly efficient bowels, a solicitous husband who roasts and grinds his own coffee beans, and an ability to complete the Glasgow Herald crossword in under two minutes.

The point of this exercise - it was revealed - was to show that everyone has a different morning routine. Therefore, you should ask any elderly person in your care whether they would like their face washed before or after their breakfast.

I'll pause for a moment as I'm sure you will want to make a note of this startling piece of information.

I have a thing about training courses. In fact, if I had my time again I'd come back as a trainer and only accept Government contracts.

Most of the courses I've ever been sent on  attended begin with the trainer splitting people into groups, giving us a topic to discuss, getting us to feed back our findings and then summing up with: "Well, there are no right or wrong answers".

In recent years, I've been sent on attended courses called Making Work Fun! and Making Work Safe!

In MWF!, we watched a DVD of fish merchants in a Seattle fish market juggling with sprats and slapping each other around the chops with a wet haddock. O! Those Seattle fish merchants were having such fun skidding on sides of salmon - shouldn't it have been skate? - and using Atlantic Cod as ventriloquists' dummies.

Wouldn't you like to have similar fun at your desk?

Yes, but I would only feel qualified to enjoy myself quite so freely once I had completed the Handling Wet Fish At Work: Health & Safety Level III Training Course.

That DVD had cost my employer over TEN THOUSAND POUNDS. I would have dressed in a clown suit and got a toy poodle to do tricks for a fifth of that amount.

The second course, Making Work Safe!, was clearly bought from WeSawYouComingTraining.PLC.

Here are five photographs of complete strangers. Now arrange them in order of the threat you think they pose to you. The most dangerous will be first; the least dangerous last.

Isn't it rather stupid to judge solely* on appearances?

Just engage with the process, please. (The trainer smiled like a QVC saleswoman but her jaw was tight.)

Now, here is some more information about the photographs. Person A has recently been made redundant and has a grudge against the Dean. Person B has a shotgun licence and a manual on plastic explosives and a grudge against the Dean. Person C does Latin-American dancing and wants to display her Shitzu at Crufts. Person D likes choral music, solitude, monochrome clothing and the Pope. And so on.

Information was fed in miserly gobbets. We arranged and rearranged the photographs until ultimately the nun was deemed to be the biggest threat not only to us personally, but to Society as a whole.

Then the trainer announced: "This exercise proves that one cannot judge on appearances."

Three hours to get to the point we'd originally identified

So if anyone ever asks me to write my morning routine onto a flip chart, I shall claim a libidinous lover who's a whizz at the Times Cryptic, likes to be beaten on the bottom with The New Statesman and does me four times before the alarm goes off.

* impossible to avoid the puns once the subject of fish has been mentioned.


  1. All I care about on these things is, is there a good lunch? Are there Danish pastries before we start, at coffee time, at lunch time, at tea time? Is the coffee good? Will the lunch send me into that graveyard slot between 2 and 4 satiated enough for a good sleep? These are all to be considered before signing up for any of these things.

  2. All excellent points, Fran. I'd forgotten about the possibility of pastry.

    Alas, on MWF! we were offered value bourbon biscuits, the least fun biscuit ever invented.

  3. I've decided to go against type and take UMBARGE... erm ... EMBRAGE... nope, UMBGARE... bugger... UYMBRWe...this is so much more difficult than i thought. I#];ve decided to take UMBRAGE at this, despite half a bottle of rather pour red wine. poor. i meant poor. I usedf to work in thge iunestimable National Tennants Resource Centre where we trained Real People in techniques to develop real community projects. These were people in shite council estates who hadn't been in a classroom since they were fifteen and I saw people's lives change right in front of my eyes (and I'm checking my spelling now because I don't want to disrespect those people despite my state) - amazing people learning to do extraordinary things better through training courses and small grants.

    And I know they're not all great - before i left my last job i went on an awayday where i had to go to a butchers with no money and blag sausages - which I had to make myself and get filmed footage of myself doing so - but I've seen some crackers and they sometimes work and the Very Next One I Am Sent On I Will Subvert.

    thankyou and goodnight

  4. Well (she says sweetly) I can only imagine that you would NEVER force a Real Person to watch a DVD about juggling wet fish, nor would you spend three hours making a Real Person feel threatened by nuns.

    Unfortunately, all the training courses (bar one, which you led and I've just remembered - erk!) I've ever been subjected to have been completely bob and haven't included a single sausage (filmed or otherwise).

    Hic right back at ya!

  5. Well clearly you're just not going to the right ones. We used to have great fun with practical exercises that made you go: 'Ahhhhh! Now I see!" and 'What if...' scenarios... and I went on a great 'Creative Thinking in PR' one which left me buzzing with possibilities ....although the campaign I came up with for Great British Breakfast Day... 'Farmers in Pyjamas' was never used, sadly...... oooh, I've just crossed posts with the B&B one ... have I upset the space/time continuum? Is it yesterday yet?