Back to work or school means..…stuff.

From pencil cases to laptop cases, the mood is all about new kit.

It’s irresistible. New start, new tools.

Yet the Christmas de-cluttering books will also be out any day now, so it’s time to prepare a line to take against all that finger wagging. De-cluttering exhorts you to simplify and focus. Lose what you don’t need, go minimal. It’s all your fault.

Watching this ebb and flow of wanting to reduce then acquire (it applies to objectives and plans, too) with clients and teams, I am convinced that there is a natural force at work. This building up of stuff can’t all be our fault.

A brilliant science-fiction brain got there way before me. Philip K Dick used the word ‘kipple’ in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ set in a post-apocalyptic future.

The word refers to useless junk.

But the special quality of this useless junk is that it reproduces itself when nobody’s around. There is a natural law operating, ‘kipple drives out non kipple’ says the kipple philosopher in the book, and adds ‘no one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot’. (Which does seem to have inspired much of the visual design in “Blade Runner’, Ridley Scott’s take on the story)

The entropy idea feels right, but it’s the ‘temporarily and in one spot’ that has always struck me as so helpful. The word ‘clutter’ lands with a thud of moralistic righteousness. The word ‘kipple’ comes with no such …clutter.

It’s simply one of the many forces at work in the world in which we live. Anything you can do, in any small way or space, to push back the tide of absolute kippleization becomes a fantastic triumph against a force of nature.

It just sounds so much more enjoyable – to try a little conscious un-kippling.


How was your summer?

As we all stream back to school, it doesn’t feel as if this is going to be an ordinary new term. Too much has happened. News bulletins became more like drive-by shootings during the summer as huge, life shaping, sometime shocking, events and happenings were announced. Newsreaders assumed new but useful facial expressions of – frankly – bewilderment.

So what do we need to look out for at the start of the new school year?

Having just been fortified by witnessing an excellent discussion between some Brexiteers and some Remainians (truly, the office seemed to provide a context for this team to be wonderfully grown up and generous as they argued and then argued some more while listening too), it will be the ability to rise above differences that I’ll be working on.

As if on cue, an old joke was sent to me by an American friend about this very thing: about why looking at what we have in common rather than magnifying differences is going to be kinda crucial.

I was taking a short cut towards a bridge one day, and saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump.

I ran over shouting ‘Stop! Don’t do it.’
‘Why shouldn’t I?’ he asked.
‘There’s so much to live for!’
‘Like what?’
‘Well…are you religious?’
He said: ‘Yes.’
I said. ‘Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?’
‘Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?’
‘Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?’
‘Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?’
‘Baptist Church of God.’
‘Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?’
‘Reformed Baptist Church of God.’
‘Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?’
He said: ‘Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915.’
I said: “Die, heretic scum,” and pushed him off the bridge.

I’m less sure, now, how funny that actually is………..


Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsI am ready for the apocalypse.

My lucky pencil case made it through the summer, my neatly written project is ready to hand in, and my hair is properly tied back.

I am ready.

Back to work / back to school: is there difference? A few more buttons to do up. A bigger bag to carry. (Literally. A big satchel I see, as I check out the trend pix).  But there’s a huge difference, oh chums and classmates.image02


The smaller people will re-invent themselves. They will do things they’ve never done before.

Now is a ‘real’ New Year.

Forget all that old January new-year nonsense.This is the time to make some resolutions.  You know how the grown up January resolution thing will go. More focus on fixing things, more pointless attempts at getting closer to some random standard of perfection, more simplification and tidiness.  (Our smaller selves had such interesting stuff amongst the scrumpled up sweet papers at the bottom of that satchel.)

The beauty of resolutions made now is that they can be fun. This new-year doesn’t fall straight after a giant delivery system for stress and calories, so none of the new stuff has to be remotely about self improvement. (Or is that ‘punishment’?)

Resolutions. Revolutions. Let’s do new stuff.

(Before the apocalypse. Step away from the newspaper)

Here are some suggested little revoresolutions, with a loose connection to education, that feel as of they might be enjoyable as well as helping with the new term.
(Not a single mention of fitness or weight)

Wonderfully naïve’.

The new chairman of Tesco, Dave Lewis, late of Unilever, has been asked to come into his new school earlier than planned. (They really needed the Head Prefect to be there apparently). His approach? He says he will come in a spirit of being ‘wonderfully naïve’. Sounds like a great antidote to that groundhog day feeling that so many grown ups report about going back to work.

W H Auden on Penny Hunt's blog
W H Auden

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases’.

A rebel resolution from Auden’s ‘Under which Lyre’. He was reminding students at Harvard in 1946 – when all were war weary and the world was wounded and destabilised – to retain their individuality against collective pressure, to protect a sense of being a free spirit. It ends with ‘Thou shalt not live within thy means, nor on plain water and raw greens’ which as a counter to tired January resolutions feels like it should probably be on a T shirt. (We’ll ignore the line ‘thou shalt not be on friendly terms with guys in advertising firms’.)

We’re not laughing at you we’re laughing near you’.

Robin Williams’ John Keating character in Dead Poets Society threw everything at the rigidity of the prep school at which he taught English. Perhaps he sometimes sounded a little schmaltzy. But the beauty of this thought as a resolution is that in one breath it gives permission to laugh and then the perfect line to deliver if others disapprove. Brilliant.

You can be creative in anything- in maths, science, engineering, philosophy – as much as you can in music in or in painting or in dance

Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk (can over 25million views be possible?) and the follow up books and papers all talk to the difference between being trained to be a good worker and being trained to be a creative thinker. This particular wee sound bite is handy because it feels inclusive and encouraging. It reminds us to enjoy doing the most unlikely things. A creatively-made cuppa, anyone?

Happy new year and new term dear fellow newly-polished-shoes wearers.