In praise of purposelessness

Image(234)“Come on, get your shoes on”
“Why?”
“Because we’re going out”
“Why?”
“We need to go to the shops”
“Why?”
“To buy food for you to eat”
“Why?”
“Well, because if you don’t eat, you’ll die”
“Why?”
“Just get your shoes on, OK?”
“Why?”….

Anyone who’s been a three-year-old (except perhaps those whose parents and elder siblings responed to every question with silence or a slap) knows the joy of the “Why?” game.

It’s great fun for the person asking, but not so much for the person who has to come up with the answers. The trouble in organisations is that the small number of people who get to ask “Why?” over and over again ar eht ones who get the say over whether or not something happens, or at least whether or not it gets paid for, which is, more often than not, the same thing.

I think it’s sad (and irritating) enough when this is the accepted state of large organisations. But even sadder is that we continue to let ourselves be dominated by purpose when we step out of those organisations as individual entrepreneurs or small businesses.

I spent a delightful afternoon yesterday DEVOID OF EXPLICIT PURPOSE (except perhaps the challenge of having fun in London without doing anything pre-arranged or spending huge wodges of cash). My companion was a young lady who I won’t name here in case she doesn’t want it splashed about the blogosphere that the spent the afternoon doing “nothing” Though of course she’s free to ‘out’ herself in the comments or on her own blog (that narrows it down a bit I suppose) …errrr… if she has one, of course.

We started in Charlotte St and walked in a vaguely south-westerly direction. We walked relatively slowly and tried to keep our eyes up and looking around us rather than focusing on what was directly in front. We talked all the while as we went. We passed the Capel Bedyddwr Cymreig (Welsh Baptist Chapel) in Eastcastle Street and tried to decipher the consonant-heavy writings on its outside. We then slipped across the road to browse in the Getty Image Gallery, admiring black and white prints of Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, Liz Taylor & Monty Clift, Clark Gable and Chelsea Football Club among hundreds of others.

Out again and down over Oxford Street, we got talking about the relative merits of tea and coffee and whether coffee is really bad for you or not. Into Carnaby Street, where even Boot’s the Chemist tries to look trendy, we took a surreptitious wander into G*Room to check out those famous men’s grooming products. From there through the backstreets of Soho to the New Piccadilly, one of the last “caffs” worthy of that name. We rested and chatted over tea that had been brewing since 1958 when the formica tables where brand new.

In the New Picc, we sat and chatted (all the while trying to steer conversation away from work where possible) and I learned that an instant cure for teacup-burned fingers is to pinch one’s earlobe to cool them down (the fingers, not the earlobe, obviously) This naturally raised the question, “What if you burn the tip of your tongue?” I turned round to demonstrate on the women sitting behind me, but thought better of it.

We nipped across through Piccadilly Circus. Unfortunately the Criterion restaurant was closed for a private party, or we’d have popped in. “Are we going to Tesco’s” I was asked as we crossed Lower Regent Street. “Erm… well we weren’t, but why not?” I said and as we crossed the threshold, I knew how we would end our afternoon. I made a beeline for the bakery section and picked up a large madeira cake. Ducks love madeira cake (I got this from my friend Debbie) so it was off to St James’s Park.

Just before five and getting dark, we crossed the Mall into the Queen’s front garden and met a multitude of wild fowl including several varieties of duck, moorhens, canada geese and the other kind as well as a couple of swans. All of them wolfed down the madeira cake. Suddenly my coat felt very heavy and I realised that a squirrel was climbing up towards my pocket. I told him (not very politely I’m afraid, but in very clear terms) that this was unnacceptable behaviour and he should scamper off. He quickly complied.

The conversation as we strolled around the park at dusk (Big Ben chiming in the background), before jumping on a 211 towards Victoria, covered the S&M qualities of current London fashion, the decline of the British Army and the futility of British politics. We also discovered that 10 years ago, my companion had been living a matter of yards from where I was working for the Audit Commission – small world.

Why did we do this?
What was it all for?
Did we meet any of our strategic objectives?
What did we achieve?
What did it cost? (well, £2.00 for two teas (including tip) and £1.13 for madeira cake – and don’t give me that opportunity cost shit)

…are all the wrong questions, especially if we had tried to answer them beforehand in order to know whether or not to go in the first place.

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One thought on “In praise of purposelessness”

  1. The big question is why no podwalk? Sure you BLOG about it, but can mere text capture the joie de vie we can only assume present at the passing of madeira cake to ducklings. Please pick up the mic and beetle around town again with or without purpose and/or female accompaniment.

    I’m going to sulk over a custard tart now. . . .

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