December 2019


Here’s the thing about Case Studies.

Case Studies that you might read, I mean.

Case Studies to inform your work.

Your industry.

Or your next move.

Maybe the thing you’re reading the Case Study about.

Is too late for you to act upon.

Because someone did it already.


Maybe Case Studies are not those things that shine a light on where you should go.

Maybe Case Studies are those things that help us to understand where not to go.

Because whatever they’re illuminating.

Has already been done.

Case Studies. 


Case Studies.

Are you reading them?

Or writing them?

I know my answer.

What’s yours?

When Coldplay first happened.

19 years ago.

In 2000.

I really liked them.


Yet with the passing of time.

I was unsure if I really liked Coldplay ‘back then’ simply because they were new.

And I was unsure if I grew to like them less because they became popular.

(This is quite typical of course).

But, these days, there is no uncertainty in my mind.

I am sure why I liked them in the beginning.

It’s because Parachutes is the best album they ever did.


Parachutes is the album that Chris Martin sings best on.

These are the songs that his voice was born for.

The songs are simple.

And bare.

And beautiful.

And here it is:


I am wasting less time than I used to.

On crapness.

Because I’ve started wearing a watch.


It sounds silly I know.

And it sounds like I have very poor self control.

(I do have very poor self control with many things, actually).

But this watch thing is real.

And it’s probably real for you, too.



Each time I pick up my IPhone to see what time it is.

I have alerts.

On the screen.





The BBC website.

And goodness knows what else.

And this ‘aren’t I popular?‘ dopamine hit means I forget that I looked at my phone to see what the time was.

Because I get sucked into reading the crap.

And 10 minutes later.

I’m reading about someone I don’t really know.

Chest-beating about winning something I’ve never really heard of.

And that’s another 10 minutes of my life.

Gone forever.


So there’s a thing.

If you want more time to do worthwhile things.

Get a watch.

Who knew?

So there we go.

Another one gone.

Well; in a month it will be.

Here endeth another decade.


I lived for 1 and a half years of the 60’s.

All of the 70’s.

All of the 80’s.

All of the 90’s.

The noughties.

And it’s looking like I’ll make it through the 2010 to 2020 decade, too.

So that’s 6 decades so far.


I’ll leave my 7th decade (2020 to 2030) aged 61.

I’ll leave my 8th decade (2030 to 2040) aged 71.

And, if statistically on-par, I’ll leave my 9th decade (2040 to 2050) dead.

I’ll have died in 2049.

Aged 80.

The List.

The big question for me then.

(Whilst I’m on this ‘decades’ thing).

Is what am I going to do with this next decade, then?

This 2020 – 2030 decade.

What’s on the list?

What will happen to me?

And what will I make happen?

Well; if I manage to stay alive, these things will very likely occur.

I’ll see Izobel become a teenager.

I’ll have no mortgage.

I’ll go bald.

I’ll have a life-threatening or life-shaking health scare.

I’ll get married.

I’ll become increasingly eccentric.

(In both how I look and what I do).

I’ll commit to more fitness – as part of my life, not on the edge of my life.

I’ll drink less regularly.

I’ll need two or three new hobbies.

(These hobbies will. 

I sense. 

Be revisiting things that I used to do.

Or just plain odd.

Or both).

I’ll still be working and I will want my work to be really, really significant and valued by a lot of people.

I’ll be volunteering more.

(I’ll be increasingly generous with my time and my learning).

I’ll live somewhere rural.

(With an AGA and a log fire).

I’ll have a soft-top car again.

And I’ll cook more.



It’s strange as I get older.

I am not really thinking:

Things I want to do before I die.

But I am definitely thinking about legacy.

And in my next decade.

The 2030 to 2040 decade.

(Should I get there).

I will be thinking about legacy even more so.

And all I really want as my legacy.

Based on today’s thinking.

Are two things.

Two things.

I’d like Izobel to be aware that she can change the world.

And that the difference she can make for herself, for other people and for the world could be seismic.



And secondly.

Rather more selfishly.

I want to live forever.

Live Forever.

I want to live forever because I want Izobel.

Every now and then.

To ask herself:

What would my dad have said?


What would my dad have done?

And this is good for me to remember.

Because it guides me each day.

To make sure that, by my actions today.


And Izobel’s children.

Will know the answer to those questions tomorrow.

Some things just stay with you, don’t they?

Memories, I mean.


I don’t wear headphones much.

But whenever I do.

I am reminded of a relationship I had 30 years ago.

I was 21.

She was 31.

And Julie was going through a divorce.

Julie was going through a divorce because of headphones.

The Divorce. 

At 21 I didn’t know much about relationships.

I puzzle over them even today, to be honest.

But I do remember thinking it was a shame that someone at just 31 was separated and divorcing.

School Teacher.

Julie was a school teacher.

I don’t know what her husband did.

But I do know that Julie’s husband had headphones.

And I even know where Julie’s husband kept his headphones.

He kept his headphones on the hall table.

Just inside the front door.

The Weeknight Routine. 

Monday to Friday.

Here’s what happened.

This was Julie’s weeknight routine.

Julie was always home before her husband.

Julie about 5.30pm.

Julie’s husband about 6.30pm.

Julie always knew when her husband was home because she’d hear the click, click of his key in the front door.

She’d hear his bag hit the hallway floor.

And Julie would also hear the scrape of his headphones as he lifted them from the hall table.

And put them on.

‘His’ Chair.

Julie heard her husband flop into ‘his chair’.

Turn the TV on.

And plug himself into it.


Monday to Friday.

Julie made tea and popped it onto her husband’s lap at around 7pm.

He ate it.

And at around 9pm he’d unplug himself from the TV.

Rise from  ‘his chair’.

And plug himself into his hi-fi.

(If you’re under 40.

Google will explain ‘hi-fi’).

And that was that.

Julie’s weeknights.


Julie was great.

We had a good year or so together.

She told me about how.


She’d imagine slowly walking up behind her husband.

Holding scissors.

As her husband was plugged in to his TV.

Or as he was – eyes closed – plugged into his hi-fi.

I was never quite sure if Julie’s daydreaming ended with the cutting of wire.

Or the cutting of something else.

I never asked.


In the year we were together.

I never did wear headphones myself.

Just to be on the safe side.

2011 is my favourite.

John Lewis Adverts.

There have been 13 John Lewis adverts.

The first was in 2007.

And it was called ‘Shadow’.


Here’s the set:

2007. Shadow.

2008.  Clues.

2009.  The Feeling.

2010.  A Tribute to the Givers.

2011.  The Long Wait.

2012.  The Journey.

2013.  The Bear and the Hare.

2014.  Monty the Penguin.

2015.  The Man on the Moon.

2016.  Buster the Boxer.

2017. Moz the Monster.

2018. The Boy and the Piano.

2019. Edgar the Dragon.



What about you?

Here they all are:


Don’t cheat.

This is The Lyrics Game (Part 1).

5 lyrics.

From songs you’ve heard.

See how many you get.

Answers below.

(Scroll down.

But not until you’ve done your best, OK?

If you get 5 you’re pretty cool).

  1. “In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name. By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same.”
  2. “I’ve changed my name, I’ve changed my face.
    But no one wants you when you lose”.
  3. “We started out as friends,
    But the thought of you just caves me in”.
  4. “Oh, can’t anybody see
    We’ve got a war to fight
    Never found our way
    Regardless of what they say”.
  5. “Boul ma sene, boul ma guiss madi re nga fokni mane
    Khamouma li neka thi sama souf ak thi guinaw
    Beugouma kouma khol oaldine yaw li neka si yaw
    Mo ne si man, li ne si mane moye dilene diapale”.




















  1. Prince. Sign O’ The Times.
  2. Peter Gabriel. Don’t Give Up.
  3. Terence Trent D’Arby (Sananda Maitreya). Sign Your Name.
  4. Portishead. Roads.
  5. Youssou N’Dour (Neneh Cherry). 7 Seconds.

Something beautiful:

And another:


They’re everywhere.

The Stupid Plastic Glove People.

You’ll probably see one today.

Around lunchtime.

The Stupid Plastic Glove People.

I’m really not keen on The Stupid Plastic Glove People.

Firstly, because I think.

That they think.

That I’m blind.

And you’re blind.

I think that they think we can’t actually see how contemptible they are.

Well; we can.

Small Businesses. 

I’ve run small businesses.

So I understand that even though multi-tasking should be avoided.

Sometimes, it just has to be done.

But if I am stood in your sandwich shop.

And you’re making me a sandwich.

With one plastic glove on.

Or two plastic gloves on.

And you then beep, beep, beep the cash register.

And reach out for and take my payment.

And rummage and rattle around in the little trays of coins for 10 seconds.

Before handing me back my change.

Still wearing the same one or two plastic gloves that you wore when you made me my sandwich.

Then you are one of The Stupid Plastic Glove People.


Contemptible is a harsh word.

Yet if we define it as (something like):

…a low standing in any scale of values.

Then I think that contemptible is an accurate description for the attitude of The Stupid Plastic Glove People.

Because I think that The Stupid Plastic Glove People don’t value me.

Or my safety.

Or any of their customer’s safety.

Or their own levels of hygiene.

Or their own systems.

Or common sense.

Whether they are disrespecting and undermining and weakening their own brand.

Or whether they are disrespecting and undermining and weakening the brand that they are working for.

And that’s why I think The Stupid Plastic Glove People are contemptible.

Last Tuesday Lunchtime.

And it is also why.

Last Tuesday Lunchtime.

I wandered into my local sandwich shop.

Where two Stupid Plastic Glove People work.

Still wearing the exact same overalls, wellingtons and gloves I had worn for three hours at that morning’s ‘Third Annual Cowshit Throwing Contest’ at Buttertrump Farm in Jesmond.

Before wrapping my gloves around, picking up and sniffing about 30 of said sandwich shop’s Danish Pastries.

And eventually buying just one.

They weren’t amused.

(But I was).


There is one fib in this story.

See if you can spot it.

One of my favourite restaurants.

Is Dishoom.

And perhaps the most unusual thing about me expressing this preference.

Is the fact that I have never been.


I met Dishoom founder Shamil Thakrar in London.

In November 2019.

And I am so certain that Dishoom is one of my favourite restaurants.

(Despite having never ever been).

Because of just two things that Shamil told me.

The first was this.

Shamil said that Dishoom is not a restaurant.

Well, not according to Shamil it isn’t.

According to Shamil, Dishoom is:

A love letter to Bombay told through food and stories.

I love the pictures this creates.

And the sounds that it creates.

And the smells.

And the tastes.

And the atmosphere.

I love the promise that that statement makes.

And because Shamil delivers on that promise.

I love Dishoom, too.


But it was the second thing that Shamil said to me that sealed it.

And it is a simple story.

It is a story about something that happened shortly after Shamil had been explaining his interior design vision to the team that creates his restaurants.

His designers.

And his builders.

(It is important to note, by the way, that Shamil bases his restaurants on precise eating experiences from a very precise period of time in Bombay’s history.

The year 1960).

The pictures that Shamil creates in the minds of his team are alive!

They are so vivid and beautiful that anyone visiting Dishoom today can breathe in the authenticity of the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay from that wonderful era.

And it was against this backdrop that Shamil spoke to me about something quite simple.

And something quite surprising.

He spoke to me about flathead screws.


One day.

As Shamil stood in one of his completed restaurant interiors.

A restaurant that he had painstakingly overseen the refurbishment of for weeks.

Shamil had a niggle.

Something wasn’t quite right.


Shamil walked over to the bar area.

Crouched down.

And gently touched one of the exposed screwheads with his finger.

It was a crosshead screw.

And whilst such a thing existed in the world in the 1960’s.

Shamil knew that this is not how the establishments in Bombay would have been constructed in 1960.

Little things. 

I pass restaurants every day.

So many of them struggling.

So many of them empty.

I see that they are empty as my eyes squint through their filthy fucking windows.

And as my feet crunch through the litter they they leave strewn outside their doors.

I squint to see the waiters and the waitresses inside stood mouthing their complaints about their lack of customers.

As they lean motionless against bars, chairs and walls.

And I think about Shamil.

And I smile.

Because when you get the the little things right.

You’re sure to get the big things right too.


In the restaurant I mentioned earlier.

Shamil had every last cross head screw removed.

And replaced.

With the more authentic flathead screws that would have been used in Bombay in 1960.


Dishoom serves 400,000 meals each month.

(Half of which they give away.

But that’s another story).

And I think I know why.

I ponder on so many things about my businesses.

And here are two of the most important.

Two things.

The first thing.

(And this is crucial).

It is whether my business is big enough.

And the second.

Well; the second thing is much more important than that.

It is whether my business is small enough.

Size Matters.

Size matters.

A business has to be big enough to make sense contextually.

It has to be big enough to make sense taking into consideration my available time, income and expenditure.

But I have to say.

And this really is the truth.

It is nowhere near as big a concern for me as smallness.


Smallness creates magic.

Because you have space to ignite your imagination.

Smallness creates meaningful relationships.

Relationships that may not make sense commercially today.

But that can transform your fortunes (and theirs) in the future.

Smallness increases understanding.

Because smallness allows you into the hearts, the minds and the day-to-day of your customers.

Smallness allows you to create brilliant and beautiful experiences.

Because smallness allows you to pause.

To stand next to your customers.

To see what you look like.

And experience what you feel like.

From where they are standing.

Smallness contains thinking space.

Space for your greatest ideas to come to life.

Smallness contains calmness.

And calmness means you can recharge.

Recharge in readiness for doing your best work.

Smallness contains the opportunity to truly excel.

Because you can get into the detail.

You can test.


And analyse.

Smallness really is beautiful.

So take it from me.

If you want to do something special.

If you want to do something really, really big!

Think small.