The other day I spotted a news item in which William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary (and one-time Conservative Party leader) announced that the only way for the economy to escape from the current recession was for people to ‘Work Harder’.
‘Yes!’ I thought, on reading this: we need someone young and dynamic to revive the good old work ethic. ..think of how many opportunities there are for people to work harder.
For instance, there are over 500,000 lorry drivers in the UK hauling their cargo of chemicals, components and clothes. Surely each of them could be persuaded to drive a little faster and spend a few more hours behind the wheel?
The fast food industry employs thousands of people in Britain; they could work harder by hurling burgers and fries at customers instead of handing them across in a pleasant manner.
The UK also has about 3000 undertakers; surely they could be made to work harder, by conducting two or three funerals together instead of the leisurely one-at-a-time approach. Of course, this leads on to the Dave Allen comedy sketch in which two rival undertakers take part in a race to the cemetery.
There are 11,000 dairy farmers in the UK; they could work harder, for instance by fitting their cattle with roller-skates to get them around the yard more quickly. And there are about 120,000 bus-drivers, who are obviously not working hard enough; if they were to ignore waiting passengers it would improve efficiency no end.
In the UK, we also have 530 art galleries and dozens of concert-halls; the gallery staff could work harder by hustling visitors quickly from one painting to the next, while the concert venue managers could persuade performers to play louder and more quickly. The idea of ‘louder and faster’ could also be applied to church services, which would make it harder work for the congregation as well as the clergy (except for Ian Paisley, who has attained suitably impressive heights of volume already, thank you).
Yes, we need someone to launch a new Crusade of Zingy Wowness, to restore Vim and Vigour to Britain. I could see future vast horizons of gleaming factory towers and roads and cars and busy housing estates filled with joyous, motivated workers…
…and then I found myself going to The Richmond Tea Rooms for an afternoon drink. Civilised tranquillity; I was surrounded by light, floral curtains, elegant and unmatched furniture, and lace tablecloths. A pot of Ceylon tea arrived, with a strainer; in the background, mellow swing and jazz numbers from the thirties and forties played to create a relaxed atmosphere. And I realised that we do not need to be told to ‘work harder’; sometimes, we need to sit back and unwind, to enjoy the whimsical delights of British culture – afternoon tea, darlings? But of course!
Please, no more exhortations to hard work; we’ve tried that it the past, and it’s not really us, is it?