Less ‘Star Wars’, more ‘The Water-Babies’ this week.

Remember Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By?

Here’s what happened.

It all started when we booked a meeting room. (The offices will remain nameless. And identity-less. Unchallengeable credentials of grooviness and minimalist coolth rendered this building indistinguishable from anywhere else that has suffered a design-led re-fit in the last 5 years)

This booking process wasn’t a walk in the park, by the way. The keypad on the wall outside had to be activated at the right time, with the right code, and the right closing minute. You can do the arithmetic- those are big odds in favour of failing to even get into the room.

Perhaps this system ensures that every meeting starts on a note of triumphant achievement. And then. We all noticed the gradual increase in temperature at about the same time.

Amidst jokes about meetings held wearing only underpants, it became clear that no-one had magic power over that deceptively simple and small wall-mounted dial.

The service people were called. Most warmly.

It would be fixed – they were delighted to report – well within the contracted 24 hours.

Far, far away. The people to whom maintenance services had been contracted were based far, far away.

Look, the coffee shop was fine. Better, in fact. But this stuff matters.

‘Employee Engagement’ is a current top topic in this particular office.  How can employees be expected to ‘be engaged’ when basic aspects of support and the environment have been, literally, ‘dis-engaged’?

Can anyone be expected to be enthusiastic, energetic, innovative and committed when no such qualities are apparently demonstrated in return?

Do as you would be done by?

I heard that the problem was fixed the next day, and that a ‘how did we do?’ customer satisfaction email was sent the day after that.

What was the name of Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By’s buddy?

Oh yes, the tough and unyielding Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did.


Penny Hunt and Change Chemistry logo imageA contrarian café today. The corners are light and bright. The window seats are dark. The espresso sparkles. The latte droops. Nothing is as it should be. Or is it?

A dark thought, then a laugh. A really dark thought. Addiction.

To the jolly, convivial, comforting familiar, enabling, ritual of coffee and its amazing power to shrug off the guilt and remorse that cling to other lovely consumables.

As substance abuse side effects go, insomnia is an interesting cookie to crumble.

Insomnia image - Penny Hunt's blog on the surprising benefits of loosing sleep

Let me convert you. Let me suggest that taking
an opposite view, just for fun, will yield something of value. Let me suggest that what seems bad may be good.

In the spirit of things not being as they seem: is a night’s sleep of an uninterrupted 8 hours absolutely the best and only sleep pattern for us? The World Service reported a while back on the loss (I heard the programme during the night of course) of a ‘two sleeps’ pattern that had been common until the late 17th century. Imagine. No panic. Permission not to agonise. Just wake up after 3 or 4 hours, have a potter about, write a bit of a diary, chat to the family and then back for another little sleep.


Or in today’s world, send those texts that were bothering you, find that address you were looking for, watch that bit of The Bridge you missed and then just shimmy back to bed. It’s all here for you:


So many possibilities when a familiar truth is reframed: just by embracing an opposite viewpoint, just by letting a dark thing be a light thing.

An undreamed of benefit of staying awake in the middle of the night- this between sleeps time- is the changed quality of experience. It is not just the pleasure of the radio, but its heightened weirdness as the brain chunters A 1950s radio - Penny Hunt and the pleasure of late night listeningalong on over-drive. Insomnia delivers a Through the Looking Glass vividness to sound in the middle of the night.

I’ll share an example of an unexpected gift. This nighttime joke changed the following day beautifully. It encouraged me do the precise opposite of what was expected, to swap goods and bads, to zig not zag, and be in a generally contrarian place the whole jolly day. It was wonderful, productive and a great creativity boost.

Radio 4 Extra was whispering that night: Lord Peter Wimsy, Wilkie Collins, Mark Gatiss all danced through the small hours.

And then – a familiar voice.

Eric Morecombe?

Was it a trailer? What was happening? An unfamiliar sketch was rumbling along. Eric was apparently pretending, as he impressed another character, to belong to a local church.

The lie got bigger. Perhaps he was actually … the Vicar?

Then a challenge:

“But I don’t recall seeing you there on Sundays”

And our lovely Eric made the heroically contrarian response-

“ Oh, I tend to go on Saturdays: fewer people”.

And if that isn’t a little light coming out of some darkness and worth a sleepless night or two, I don’t know what is.

Light from Dark -  Penny hunt's blog