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Tips for Business Start Ups: what your holiday swimming pool tells you about your next business move.

Clare is currently on holiday, sat at a Mediterranean hotel pool-side considering her next career steps. A long history of regular employment within the manufacturing industry has been a source of much stability and comfort; but increasingly as that industry gets leaner and meaner, she finds herself increasingly inside someone elses business, looking out at the possibility of setting up her own. A recent redundancy threat has focussed her attention substantially.

This move from long term employment to making something from nothing is a huge step for a fledgling entrepreneur who’s not spent the last 3 years at university on various boot camps, workshops or motivational seminars which are all geared up to the thrusting alpha (fe)male, hungry generation Y millenials who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain and know nothing other than cutting your opponents throat before wishing them to have a nice day. For Clare, and many others who are coming into business after a long time in employment, the thought of taking the next steps into self employment is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.

Today however she’s at the hotel pool-side, waiting for her kids to join her and as it’s still early, the pool has been undisturbed, it’s surface flat and as still as a mirror. She sits on the edge of the pool and slowly dips a toe in and out: and that small action sends out a series of ripples across the pool surface which travel undisturbed to the other side and from end to end. A ripple pattern shapes it’s way across the surface and before long she sees her small actions having a series of small but significant effects across the pool. She’s disturbed the status quo and nothing will be quite the same again.

Dipping her toe in and out of the pool is her first business move: the occasional phone call, the hesitant email, the chance meeting all combine to produce a series of actions which show the early business actions, reactions, causes, effects and consequences: all at a distance, someway removed from where she’s sat: but actions they are, and there’s no un-doing them.  Her business is beginning to make ripples back in the UK and when she gets home, her second steps will be to make some bigger waves and reap the consequences of those first tentative toes in the water.

You can read more ‘Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life’ here.

“I put it all down to Lord Andrew!” Cameron Norrie bares his soul to Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch.

Cameron Norrie, one of the best men’s tennis player in the world, produced one of the most predictable Masters 1000 triumphs in recent memory last night. From a set and a break deficit, Norrie recovered to comprehensively thrash Nikoloz Basilashvili and become the first British man to win the prestigious Indian Wells title. Ever.

In a NOP exclusive, Norrie gives a unique insight into his playing style and why he puts his entire success down to the hard wrought experience and wisdom of Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch, currently being Pleasured by Her Majesty at a secret location somewhere in the depths of the Californian desert.

“When I was two years old, I used to watch the tennis on the TV and especially the guys like McEnroe, Borg and Nastase” confessed Norrie to Lord Andrew over a steaming mug of gruel.

“Round about Wimbledon time, my brother Decameron and I would play a kind of tennis out on our grandfather’s lawn. I would take on the role of John McEnroe and he would enact Jimmy Connors.  I would invariably win as I was two and he was just beginning to get to grips with being swaddled.  It was all done to the fact that I had a proper tennis racket and knew how to score properly.  He had nothing and knew even less.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become clearer that proficiency in tennis is not all about age but all about who you know and what inspirational illustrated comic guide books on how to play tennis you can read before breakfast. Your book, Lord Andy, if I may call you that…?”

At this point, Lord Andrew JPGRM of Kirkintilloch nodded sagely, giving the young buck licence to bare his soul, prostrated at his master’s bare feet.

“Your book, Lord Andy, offered me a veritable cornucopia of playing tips and tricks which helped me deal with all sorts of opponents of all sorts of sizes and shapes, playing all kind of strange shots in the oddest of circumstances.  The Californian desert being one of them.

Part two showed me how to apply those skills and strategies to go on and win a major international tennis tournament.  Last night of all nights!”

At this point, Lord Andrew’s security advisor arrived and informed the visitor that his time was up and there could be no more advice and guidance from the oracle.  Cameron Norrie however refused to leave the company of Lord Andrew and protested vigorously at his imminent ejection.

“But I need some excellent advice on how to deal with the media interest and the furore around becoming an international tennis superstar and Sports Personality of the Year!  Which is surely mine now that Emma has disappeared in a Transylvanian smog of her own making?” shrieked Norrie as the security advisor doubled in size and number.”

Lord Andrew of Kirkintilloch took pity on the young tennis buck and offered him these words of peace and harmony.

“My book, Cameron, is for everyone who has suffered at the hands of pomposity or institutional inertia and feels that the traditional English values of fair play, a stiff upper lip and self-deprecation are lacking in many areas of our public life. 

With this in mind, part four offers some hard-fought wisdom about how to deal with the Machiavellian politics of the sports club and by extension our Great British society as a whole; something you have just witnessed firsthand. And for that ignominy, I am truly apologetic.  Ours is not to reason but just to sit back and take it on our substantial Roger Federer inspired chins.”

As Lord Andrew has shown many times before, Britain is not as ‘Great’ as it might like to think it is and the treatment of Cameron Norrie is yet another example of how mighty empires rise and fall.

You too can become an international tennis superstar and be inspired by Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch by joining him in a rare attendance at Westfields Tennis Club at 21 Eastfield Rd, Leicester LE3 6FE on Thursday 21 October from  7pm.

“It’s never too late to leave your mark on the tennis court of life” as he sagely remarks here.

My name is not Russell Crowe. Lord AJPGR Murray dispenses advice to Emma Raducanu.

My dear Emma,

To say I was hugely disappointed at your news this morning that you had fallen at the first fence of the BNP Paribas Open in Indiana Wells in such a miserable fashion would be an understatement.

I was devastated, distraught and filled with remorse that I was unable to guide you through those early baby steps outside the hustle and bustle of the Grand Slams.

I realised too late that I should accepted your request to be your coach once you had dispensed with the services of that previous no-hoper you employed. Tim did his tiny best I am sure but it should have been me on that aeroplane with you to California.

Too late, too little: such are the risks facing eponymous tennis champions and their coaches and failure is a tough lesson to learn for both of us.

But never-mind Emma: now is not the time to crow or wallow in self doubt and recrimination.

We will return in style and I will make it my number one priority to be court-side with you (albeit via a Zoom call as my current location doesn’t allow for personal visits) on Monday morning to pick you up off the floor, put that determined little smile back on your chubby cheeks and get that forehand swishing again properly.

Indian Wells will be but a distant memory on Monday afternoon as we prepare for your next great challenge: Frinton on Sea Lawn Tennis Club in November.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Mmm peachy. Lord AJPGR Murray confesses.

I’m not a little relieved that my impersonator has been reunited with his plimsolls over night.

The accusatory looks I was getting from my so called neighbours was all getting a bit too much.

“The scent of peach around your legs is a bit of a give away” remarked one local wag, as his dogs kept on sniffing sniffing sniffing around my nether regions.

Just cheap aftershave I explained, trying to shoo them away in the process. The dogs weren’ t listening though and it soon became clear that I would have to take drastic action.

Fetch! I threw my trainers over the railway crossing as the gates came down, hoping those infuriating hounds would leap on to the railway track about the same time that the 15.47 Liverpool train was passing.

Jump they did, fetch they did but true to British Rail form, the 15.47 was 2 minutes late and they were able to bring me back the trainers intact, albeit covered in a slime of dog slobber. I held them up, scrutinised them and held them to my nose. Mmm, still peachy.

I put them back on my feet and marvelled at their perfect fit. My impersonator had clearly done his homework. Quite how he had found out about my size 16 feet is anyone guess – and quite how he thinks he can get around a tennis court carrying those barges at the end of his legs is quite beyond me too but I have to admit, they felt comfortable, well worn in and clearly had many tales to tell about their owners trials and tribulations on the world’s tennis courts.

I luxuriated in them for a bit longer before reconciling myself to the fact that they would need to be returned to their rightful owner, even if he was unwilling to return the title of Wimbledon champion and Sports Personality of the Year to me.

Timing is everything I mused as I posted them through the outsize postbox on the front door of his bungalow. I rang the doorbell and scarpered away as fast as I could back home. I wasn’t in the mood to confront my imposter, even if his plimsolls reminded me of the Algarve.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Imposter alert! Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch puts the record straight.

The news that some two bit tennis player who calls himself ‘Andy Murray’ has had his wedding ring stolen whilst attached to his plimsolls has led to various accusations that yours truly is implicated in some way in this heinous crime.

I would like to assure my many fans that these rumours are unfounded, untrue and unnerving in the sense that they suggest that one’s private life is not as private as one would like it to be.

The proposition that I would somehow have the capability to track down the location of this so-called ‘Andy Murray’, then be the slightest bit interested in his plimsolls – even if they did reek of a rather pleasant peach like odour – or even be a bit remotely bothered by the wedding ring which was probably carelessly entwined around the aforesaid plimsoll laces without any consideration of the poor woman who had foolishly pledged her life to follow in his footsteps (I warned her, I really did) – is just plain ludicrous.

Quite where these spurious allegations have arisen is a complete mystery and unfortunately, given my current circumstances, somewhat difficult to contest.

But contest them I shall. And Mr. so-called ‘Andy Murray’ will regret the day he attempted to brief the paparazzi against yours truly. Mr ‘Murray’: je ne regret riens but you may well do very soon.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch speaks!

We’re delighted to inform our readers that far from disappearing downstream into the morning mists of the River Mersey all those years ago, the Mighty Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch has resurfaced ready to share his wit and wisdom with all those who care to listen to his recent forays into the steaming cauldron that is International Tennis.

This weekend saw him pull off one of the most incredible achievements in living tennis memory: the complete and utter obliteration of his opponent in the Women’s Final of the US Open Tennis Championship in New York. Whilst not a man of many words, we managed to pin him down to say a few words for our readership.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you all. I can’t believe that this has ended in such a thrilling style, with so many decisive moments, nerve tingling decisions, and life changing choices.

Fergy was an incredible opponent this afternoon, but I agree with her when she says the best woman won (i.e. me).

So, congratulations to her for putting up such a spirited fight, and congratulations to me for pulling out all the stops and astounding everyone.

While now is not the time to crow, it is worth remembering those who fell at an early stage during the competition and for the valuable contribution blah… blah… blah… they have made to the upper echelons of the tennis fraternity.

Holding the trophy aloft will stay in my memory for the rest of my life and I would like to finally thank you all, my supporters, my coach, my advocates and my enemies for the encouragement you have given me or the motivation which has spurred me on to prove you all wrong. This year’s US Open has proven to me that anything is possible, with the right attitude, guts, determination, and fertile imagination.

My club, my tennis, my world, my gender, will never be the same again.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Lord Andrew will be available for book signings, contracts and endorsements at the usual address.

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: if in doubt, say ‘Creative’.

You’re in a meeting; it’s bumbling along; minutes are handed out and people frown and glare or pass out in the heat of the moment. There’s mutterings under breaths; there’s sighs, grunts and the occasional fart. Some bright spark says ‘what we need is a creative something something something‘ and suddenly the whole room has lit up in technicolour: the sighs become shouts, the grunts become groans of delight and the farts metamorphose into sounds of rejoicing: the whoopee cushion is something we all want to sit on now the creativity cat is out of the bag.

Because make no mistake: dropping the ‘c’ word into any business venture is bound to galvanise your workforce, impress your investors and stoke up the heat of admiration upon you. It doesn’t matter what the ‘something something something’ is (you could have equally said blahdy blahdy blah): the fact that you’ve introduced the ‘c’ word to your proposal is what’s fired up the meeting.

In the olden days we would have used the words ‘magic’ and the effect would have been the same. These days, ‘creativity’ has replaced the word for ‘magic’ (and ‘alchemy’ and ‘smoke and mirrors’ and ‘snake oil’ for that matter) and the world and it’s business offices have become far happier places as a result.

So, if in future you’re stuck in a turgid negotiation, CRM update or monitoring moment, just drop the word ‘creative’ into proceedings and see your business proposition grow wings and fly to the heavens. It may not last long up there as it gets too close to the sun, but your colleagues and customers will thank you for liberating them from their non-magical daily grinds.

More on how ‘creativity’ can influence your work and employment prospects here!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to make a daily micro story funny.

Think of an incident in your life and ask the following questions:

1 How old were you and when did it happen?

2 Where were you? Be specific.

3 Who were you with?

4 What can you see and what can you hear?

5 What are you doing?

6 What are you feeling on the inside?

7 What was the outcome?

Meld and compile these separate lines into a short story of no more than 100 words.

Now do something to it that will make you laugh, chuckle, smile or guffaw. Anything that tickles your funny bones which might be anywhere in your anatomy.

Don’t worry about whether it makes anyone else laugh. It has to make you laugh first of all.

You could do all sorts of things: change perspective, modify the language, make fun of yourself, subvert cliches – the list is probably endless. There are loads of websites out there which will ask you to fork out to join a course to hear the words of wisdom from a humour expert: when the truth is, you know what makes you laugh. And you can bet your life it will make it other people laugh too. As we’re only too fond of quoting William Goldman, ‘No-one Knows Anything”. So you’re in good company!

Voila, your short funny story for the day!

Please feel free to share your stories with us here!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to make a daily micro story.

Think of an incident in your life and ask the following questions:

1 How old were you and when did it happen?

2 Where were you? Be specific.

3 Who were you with?

4 What can you see and what can you hear?

5 What are you doing?

6 What are you feeling on the inside?

7 What was the outcome?

Meld and compile these separate lines into a short story of no more than 100 words.

Voila, your short story for the day!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: what could schools do for writers? 6 Easy Pieces…

Many years ago, the Labour Party had the bright idea of engaging artists, celebrities and other media types to support the campaign efforts of the party. Entitled, Arts for Labour, the programme involved wheeling out celebrities and artists at key moments during the 1987 campaign. In hindsight (always a best friend, Mr. Hindsight), this may not have been a particularly effective use of many people’s time and energy: but one thing it did do was getting artists asking of the Labour Party, how about a Labour for the Arts parallel campaign? Or, what did the Labour Party ever do for the Arts?

This fell on deaf ears at the time but these days, what with schools engaging writers in a kind of Writers for Schools campaign, one might be tempted to ask, what about Schools for Writers? We might ask ourselves what did schools ever do for writers apart from pay them modest remuneration for a role which can be confused, disconnected and intended to provide short term attainment fixes to long term systematic problems?

Here are 6 things schools could do for writers if they had the health of writers at heart:

  1. Commission new plays from new, local playwrights rather than repeating yet another version of Willy Russell’s Our Day Out
  2.  Install a writer in residence for a term with a brief to capture the ‘essence’ of the school which is not just flattering and designed for best possible impact in PR terms, but is critical and capable of shaking up a few well held preconceptions
  3. Role model creative writing by all school staff to students which encourages the development of voice, style and expressivity and goes beyond secretarial niceties
  4. Encourage the whole school community to read any kind of writing – literature, pop culture, graphic novels – for pleasure as opposed to reading for assessment, policy keepie-uppie, and duty.
  5. Appreciate that different authors give you new knowledge of the world – not just different perceptions of existing knowledge – and build that knowledge into the curriculum.
  6. And thanks to Ruth Pringle from Blue Noun... “Encourage blogging, social media posts. Loads of school kids are being massively creative on their own SM platforms. I guess schools don’t even see this, and I know unmanaged SM/kids a minefield but it’s a really valuable modern day skill which kids are developing themselves – often excelling in and being massively creative in without the school ever seeing/grading those skills. A resident writer working on a media project/website/blog could get them engaged and expressing themselves in really workplace relevant ways.

More from the NOP Werkshop here.

You can also download the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) research report on the impact of writers in schools, Class Writing here.

Please feel free to share your tips here too!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: 21 tips for better writing in a digital age

1. Psyche yourself up to write something that needs writing.

2. Write it out as a word or pages document – or use any other relevant software.

3. Don’t save it at all.

4. Close the doc without saving it.

6. Watch your hard wrought efforts disappear.

7. Try and write it again.

8. Admire it, second time around.

9. Don’t save it again.

10. Close the doc, watch it disappear again.

11. Continue this process for as long as you can bear it OR upgrade your computer to the newest operating system and carry out steps 1-6. The effect is the same.

12. When you feel like abandoning it, print it off.

13. Don’t save the doc. Shut down the app.

14. Scribble all over your hard copy, make amendments, cut it up with scissors. Get closer to what it is telling you.

15. Re-type on your computer – or better still, non-correcting typewriter.

16. Throw away the tippex.

17. Print again, despair again.

18. Discard computer, typewriter and anything with a memory. Apart from yourself. Buy a Parker. And some nice parchment.

19. Write with physicality, with full body attention.

20. Sweat, breathe hard, ache.

21. You are now a better writer.