Martin's Mailbox: Juggling the diary

Martin's Mailbox: Juggling the diary




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As we head into the final two weeks before the Christmas break, juggling the diary becomes something of a full-time job. I’m not really complaining because it’s a pleasant chore as a result of too many invitations (to seasonal business social events) against too little available time. It can cause a problem, though.


In the past couple of weeks I’ve had to miss two events I would dearly have loved to attend. Regrettably, both involved the estimable hosts of this column, B&C. 


The first was an Omni-hosted dinner for the commercial and editorial teams; the second, the legendary Directors’ Lunch. The fact that both turned out to be superb makes me feel even harder done by.


Of course, I had very good reasons why I couldn’t attend (you try explaining to your daughter why a business dinner is more important than her school Christmas concert) and I gave good notice of my impending absence. It raises a point, however, about the right etiquette in such circumstances.


I was brought up to understand that manners matter; they are not simply a social affectation to be applied arbitrarily, but a template to smooth potentially awkward situations and help manage relationships in their formative stage. Without manners, it becomes far easier to blunder, offend or alienate. 


Witness the recent tragic events following the ‘prank’ telephone call by two Australian radio DJs to the hospital caring for a pregnant and clearly unwell Kate. I’m not going to delve any further into the detail – words almost fail me – but it suffices to say that in a more mannered age such a call would have been unthinkable and unconscionable. 


So, what is the etiquette for managing a busy business diary without offending your well-meaning prospective hosts? Well, first and foremost, be decisive: don’t accept just because you feel you ought to, or to hedge your bets in case nothing better comes along. Accept only if you have every intention of attending and are free to do so. If not, far better to decline immediately. 


Once accepted, the event should be sacrosanct in your diary unless a true emergency or unforeseen clash occurs, such as illness. If you have to withdraw at very short notice, I would suggest a phone call is better than an email and definitely better than a text. Your disappointed host will also appreciate a degree of explanation. An offer of compensation in the form of lunch or dinner on you is also likely to go down well, even if it is not taken up.


It may sound old-fashioned, but I also like to thank my hosts post-event. Here an email or text is fine, and a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way. After all, events don’t just magic themselves up – somebody has to do the work to pull them together, even if it’s just thinking about whom to invite, where to place them and pre-ordering the wine. Moreover, places at large-scale events, such as industry awards, are pre-paid for and no-shows cost the host hard cash.


Few of us are paragons of exquisite manners, and life seems to get busier with age and each passing year, but I’ve been reminded myself in the past few weeks of the need to pause occasionally and think beyond my own little world. I love bridging and the people involved in it (well, most anyhow) and it serves me well to acknowledge, from time to time, the many little kindnesses paid me. So, to all of you who have added me to your invite lists recently, my thanks.


Before I close, I wanted to revisit the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) and the recent noise about how well it’s all going…


Fluff (or words to that effect)! 


Figures just released by the Bank reveal that only six out of the 35 banks and building societies signed up to the scheme have actually drawn down any of the cheap money available to fund new mortgages: just 17 per cent. 


It may still be early days for FLS, but is it the old cynic in me that wonders if it’s more important for some mainstream lenders to be seen doing the politically acceptable thing rather than acting upon it? There’s no FLS funding for short term lenders, of course, but we’re still one of the few groups making liquidity available on terms dictated only by commercial necessity rather than Government-sponsored PR gimmicks. 

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