How many of us have been on a train journey and had to listen to someone talking loudly on their phone?
Can this be harmful? Is this something we should be careful about?
Most of these calls involve talking to someone to tell them we’re on our way home, or we’ve just left or we’re going to be a bit late. No harm there. Normal everyday chit chat.
However two weeks ago on a trip to Manchester, I realised the dangers of sharing information about your business on a mobile phone while on a train. It can be very bad for a company’s image.
Be careful what you say…
Countless times I’ve heard people say ‘well, I can catch up with some work’. This is true but doing business over the phone where other people can listen in, can be very bad pr. You just don’t know who’s listening.
Let me tell you why. I listened to a man take several phone calls in connection with his job. I now know he works for a major sports brand retailer selling clothing – I was able to work out which company too. I know he’s the sales manager for that business and does a lot of travelling. I also know that this company is owed a lot of money – more than a million pounds – by a large British football club.
I now know which club apparently owes the money and I know this company is concerned about whether or not it will get that bill paid. I also know that while this man talks professionally and enjoys jargon in his conversations, there’s a female colleague who calls and his tone changes completely. The phrase used was along the lines of ‘I’ll always do that for you Emily?”. At which point I almost threw up.
Did he think for one minute that there was a journalist sitting in front of him who could write a story about such-and-such football club owing a large amount of money for kit?
If I know this amount of detail, how many other people on the train know this too? And where do these people work? Who do these people work for? Would this major sports brand want that kind of information bandied around?
As I was leaving the same train, I listened to a separate man talking loudly on the phone telling someone on the end of the line that a customer was ‘a right royal pain in the arse’. How lovely. What does that say about that man and his lack of respect for sharing his personal view about a third party in so public a way.
Top Tip – be careful what you say about third parties on the phone while on a train. Sooner or later, you could regret it.
Racism has been on my mind this week for three reasons.
One I’m making a film for broadcast which, by its nature, brings up issues of racism. The film is not about racism but the subject matter means that it’s inevitable that it’s discussed during filmed interviews.
There was also the case of footballer John Terry where he was found not guilty by a magistrate. That too made me think. And we’ll hear more on that one as he’s also subject to a further investigation which doesn’t require the overwhelming burden of proof that the criminal court demands.
So imagine these things are spinning around in my space.
Then the third thing happened – racism walked through my door.
One of my children was talking with a friend, who doesn’t go to the same school. Indeed, this child’s parents were so anxious to give their child the best possible education they sent her to school miles and miles away. This child doesn’t have white skin, though I’ve never even considered that to be relevant to anything.
This child is beautiful, intelligent, a positive influence who has brought my family into contact with a new culture, new beliefs and has generally enriched our lives.
But she is suffering racism at school – it’s bullying with a ‘black’ tag and it’s something she’s never experienced before. It appears she got into spat with a child who had been a friend and it’s escalated, involving other voices and messages on Facebook and texts which involve racist comments.
This child appears at a loss to know what to do, we’re not even sure she’s told her parents. We feel that this is because the family have sacrificed much to send her to this school and she doesn’t want to let them down. In her primary school life this child didn’t have any moments like this so it’s come as a real shock.
And it came as a shock to me. I’m amazed by how terribly angry I feel and how impotent. What can I do? I don’t know her parents well enough to go around and tell them what’s going on – my child will feel like I’m betraying a trust. Something that needed to be discussed with me in confidence. I don’t know the name of the school.
But my anger is this – why would any child think it’s okay to do that? If my child did anything like that there would be such serious consequences at home – no phone, no tv, all rewards removed until earned through respect. And what about that school? What action would be taking if it was drawn to their attention?
Would they call in parents and then the police? Or will they gently talk through it, chat to the children concerned and hope it all goes away. What’s the betting it’s the latter.
There are no easy answers to this but we must make it clear that it’s utterly intolerable. A teenager today should not have to spend even one second of their life worrying about a racist slur.
What would you do?
Life isn't black or white....
The untimely death of footballer and Wales football manager Gary Speed has made me reflect over the last few days. How much do we really know about those around us? What is it like to face such a tragedy in a family?
I didn’t know Gary Speed, though I knew of him. I’m not a huge football fan and I’ve absolutely no idea why he took his own life. I suspect we’ll find out in the fullness of time as there will be an inquest. But we may never truly know.
However I do know a bit about depression (if that even had anything to do with his passing) and I also know, all too well about the impact of losing someone so unexpectedly and far too young.
So for me, this whole situation is about his family – his wife and children, his parents, brothers, sisters etc – my heart goes out to them. The journey they’ve been forced to take is long, it’s painful and it eats at the very soul.
Earlier this year, my brother in law, aged 49, went to the gym, collapsed and died. I’ve written about this before on this site and on FB. Even now, I cannot believe that it’s true. Seeing it in black and white doesn’t make it easier to bear. I also know that the impact it has had on my family will never diminish. We are all deeply wounded.
For my sister, his widow, he went to do an activity that he’d always done and enjoyed and which, it turns out, he should not have taken part in. She didn’t make it to the hospital in time to say goodbye. The next time she saw him, he was dead.
For his three children, their daddy went out and never came home. It’s a reality that they cannot understand, although they can speak the words, they cannot make sense of it.
How much worse must that be if someone has chosen to die?
Gary Speed's family face an uphill struggle to deal with his death...
On the face of it, this man seemed to have everything – talent, success, money, happy family.
But life has taught me that such things may hide many cracks. Being successful in life, or talented, does not give a monopoly on happiness. Depression or suicidal impulses can overtake anyone whatever their personal situation. They might know that they’ve got things good – but their mental health might be dreadful. Death might be an escape from turmoil in their own minds. Something they just can’t rid themselves of, no matter how hard they try.
I’ve made films about mental health issues and you soon come to realise that the state of someone’s mental health can be separate from their seeming success in life. Equally being successful, having confidence, being respected can help someone’s mental health if they come from a low place. But there are no guarantees when your mental health is fragile.
So for me – it’s not so much about the why? It’s about reaching out to his family and saying ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me but I do know something of what you are enduring and it matters…’
No rascism even in the heat of the moment.....
I’m not a football fan – I’ve only been to a few matches and I’ve never grasped the off-side rule and, frankly, if someone explains it to me I’m asleep by the end of the very long sentence.
But I have been interested in this latest argument about FIFA’s boss and rascism. It’s made me think about rascism and how it affects us all.
Sepp Blatter has said that racist remarks on the field of play should be dealt with at the end with a match with a handshake and various other comments. Listening to a debate about this on Five Live, I listened to a female caller and a male caller argue the issue.
The woman, talked about her children, of mixed race, who suffered abuse because of the colour of their skin. For her, dealing with such comments, even if said in the heat of the football match, was something serious which should be stamped on strongly.
For the male caller, it was a storm in a teacup. He talked about playing in football matches where things were said in the heat of the moment which would never be said in the office, in the pub or elsewhere. The emotions and adrenalin of the match caused such things to happen. He said, as a man with dark skin, he’d said things that he’d never ever say in any other environment. He said it was not rascist.
The woman countered, saying that things said in the heat of the moment, off the cuff, often revealed what someone really thought deep down. So such comments had to be punished.
I thought about this carefully. I applied it to myself. What do I think?
I have many friends whose skin isn’t the same colour of mine. I don’t think of myself as rascist at all. Just as I don’t think of myself of homophobic – I have many gay friends. Frankly these friends are my friends and the rest is irrelevant.
But I also believe that everyone has prejudice in them and it’s dangerous to think otherwise. If we think we’re immune we may not recognise when something we say or do hurts someone else.
I’m reminded of two things that sometimes pop into my head unbidden and when they do I mentally slap myself for being so stupid.
One is seeing a gold coloured old Mercedes or BMW with a black man driving, of any age, and the words ‘drug dealer’ come into my head. Why is that? Where have I got that message from? I have no idea, no memory of where this comes from. I know it’s not real, it’s not logical and I feel ashamed to even allow this to pass fleetingly through my mind.
Another relates to groups of Irish travellers, who visit each year in Swindon. As soon as I see a group of caravans I think ‘mess, criminal damage, petty pilfering’. I know why these thoughts come unbidden into my head, because I’ve written many stories from residents who do feel those things.
However, I have had a group of travellers move on to land near my house – nothing was stolen from me or my neighbours. There was mess and I can’t say I liked them being there. But they caused me no personal distress.
Should something we might not always be able to control be punished?
One of my children, while at pre school, refused to hold another child’s hand because she thought that child’s hand was dirty. These children were three at the time and the other child was black. I was called into the school about this matter. I was horrified that my child thought such a thing. I apologised to the child’s parent and explained to my child that this was wrong. Even though I knew she didn’t mean to be rascist. And rightly so. Years later, my child cannot believe she ever even thought such a thing.
When any of these things happened to me – or happen to me – I berate myself and remind myself that it’s unacceptable even though it’s not deliberate.
So overall, I have to agree with the mum in the argument. Things said in the heat of the moment may be rascist , and may well pop out of the mouth without the brain being engaged, but it’s still not all right.
And the moment we don’t act to stamp it out, we’re allowing rascism to creep in under the radar.