Monday, November 22, 2010


Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone else’s withering contempt? Let me tell you, it’s easier to accept if it’s unjustified.

In the early 1990s I was working at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) in Harlow, Essex. At the time I spent many Sundays flying paragliders at North Weald airport nearby. I wrote an article about this in the STL magazine, naturally playing up the more lurid aspects.

“As you come into final approach, at around one hundred feet, you may hit turbulence causing a canopy collapse. At that low altitude recovery is impossible and you will smash into the ground. Another failure mode is when being tow-launched at a speed of around 60 mph. Under the enormous tension of the tow-rope the canopy is unstable and can enter a condition known as ‘lock-out’ where it begins to dive sideways, finally arcing into the ground. This situation is unrecoverable and the jeep driver in the towing vehicle carries a sharp knife to cut the rope - just in case.”

A colleague read the article and came up to me. “Do you really do this?” he asked. I nodded. “And you have a wife and children?” he replied with complete contempt, spinning on his heels and walking away.

In fact flying paragliders is about as dangerous as riding a motorbike, and I never had an accident.

The second time was when I joined Cable & Wireless as VP for architecture in 2001. A colleague asked me what I had been doing before. I replied that I had run a consultancy, Interweave Consulting Ltd - he had clearly got the impression this was a sizeable concern, employing perhaps 20-30 people.

“So what did you do with your consultancy when you joined C&W?” he asked.

“I shut it down,” I replied.

Contemplating such selfish callousness his expression told it all. He just turned and walked away.

In fact Interweave Consulting Ltd had just two employees: myself and my wife. But I didn’t disabuse him.