Saturday, 11 June 2016


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St Enoch is the patron saint of Glasgow. According to Genesis, the first book of the bible, he was Noah’s [of Ark fame] grandfather.

I am reading an old [1971] book at the moment called The Private Sector by Joseph Hone. It’s a spy story; it’s good, there is a review below but it has this line:

. . . the ritual in everything, the extreme concepts of honour and pleasure. Honour among men; the tough sink-or-swim male society with its inexplicable, cruel rules . . . like school.

Okay, it’s out of context but I had never thought before in my life about maleness being sink-or-swim. But it very often is. My old accountant, Andrew was very fond of saying, ‘if you aren’t going forward, you are going back; you can’t stand still’. What a pressure, eh?

Unfortunately there is a lot of truth in it and some men do give up and do something else: play golf, watch football, join the camera club. Something they can compete indirectly in or where failure isn’t the end of the world, as it might be if you take one risk too many and the business fails or you haven’t the stamina to make it to the next peak. Or whatever manly pursuit you are undertaking that day. Or of course, if you can’t find the courage to ask the new girl in HR out on a date and flash Jimmy who has no such hang-ups takes her out and next thing is they are disappearing every lunchtime in his car. Straight to the ladies when she gets back to tidy herself up. Jimmy nonchalant at his screen. And you loved her. She was different; you had stuff in common. It could have been something.

Being an aggressive male isn’t always a hallowed place to be however.

Back in the late eighties when business was booming ding dong and we were firing on all cylinders, we were offered the order for the new St Enochs shopping centre in the centre of Glasgow. Uniquely, never before or since, we could name our price; even at cost it was a £200000.00 job for us . . . all we had to do was supply the stuff on time. There wasn’t a lot of time.

The sole UK Agent for the stuff wouldn’t supply us.

The contractor had fallen out with this sole UK Agent, a very aggressive alpha male who shall remain anonymous because he is dead now but I’ll call him err . . . Bill and who was forcing him to buy his product and dictate the terms. I knew the contractor pretty well [another alpha male I suppose] from previous projects and he said that if I could find a way of supplying him which allowed him to put two fingers up to the Bill, he would pay whatever we asked.  So, one alpha male against another alpha male and quiet, never-raises-his-voice industrious little me in the middle. Benefitting.

I imported the stuff from Riyadh. Paid extra for airfreight.

All hell was let loose. I had Bill on the phone literally five times a day, threatening me with everything he could think of, including violence, ‘I’ll bankrupt yer’ being the least of it. He had the [Danish] manufacturer phone his man in Saudi to threaten to take the Saudi agency away from them if they supplied me. But in those days, Saudi was probably the single biggest construction market in the world so I never thought he would get very far with that. We got the goods; they came in at Gatwick about thirty wooden cases and supplied our clients without any repercussions, and we got paid promptly.

Aggressive male? Moi?

I had the sole agency for this product in the eighties, for everywhere in the UK except London, but including Scotland and bit by bit they took it away from me. I spent months, years trudging around Edinburgh architects doing the groundwork opening doors, making introductions then finally when I had broken through, they give it to Bill. Why? Cos he asked. Cos he said he could do better than me. Did they consult me? No. Did they compensate me? No. They just arbitrarily handed it over to someone else. Someone suitably macho. So when the opportunity came, completely unexpectedly to nick the biggest job they had ever got, I’m afraid I didn’t hesitate. The sink or swim male society. And it’s cruel rules. They don’t always work against you.

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