Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wassail!


Our season’s greeting, here’s to your good health.
It’s actually a bit early for traditional wassailing which usually happens in orchards around the country, on 12th night. Seeing as this could be 5th January or 17th January depending on which calendar you are currently using I thought l’d usurp the sentiment and adopt it as our Christmas greeting.
There you go, even traditions brought to us from the Anglo Saxons and Vikings have changed, been adapted and adopted. Their ‘Wassail’ greeting (‘be healthy’) was used like we’d say Hello, Good Morning or even G’day. This was accompanied by a hospitable drink if you were invited into their home and so the greeting became a toast.  Which fitted nicely with festivities to celebrate the apple trees which if ‘wassailed’ by pouring cider around their roots, making them an offering of bread or toast and beating the trunk with sticks to scare away evil spirits, would awaken the tree to give a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
Nice idea for increasing productivity: praise people for what they have contributed, offer them food and drink, then beat them with sticks!  Maybe miss out the last bit.
Wassail to you all.
The Waissailing Song – Blur

Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee
So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee
And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee
So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee
And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee
And here is to Colly and to her long tail
Pray God send our master he never may fail
A bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear
Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all
Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock 
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.
Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee


Lessons from Commedia dell ’Arte


Prologue:
‘What a meeting that was, the two of them sparring like two male buffalos.  She just sat there smiling smugly, chirruping away, playing one off against the other.  She got her comeuppance in the end; when they found she hadn’t sorted-out the finance team.  Well the rest of us could see it coming from a mile away.  Jealousy, intrigue, and rivalry.  It was pure theatre.’  Pure Commedia dell Arte that is. 

What possible interest might sixteenth century Italian theatre be to people seeking ways of transforming the way they work?  As the ‘cast’ enter the stage, each in their distinctive costume we begin to recognise familiar characters and keenly anticipate how they will react as the plot unfolds.

The foolish, the arrogant and the scheming all meld in familiar situations; the outcome uncertain. What we do know is that they will give their observers much amusement as they second-guess the actions of their fellows and manipulate things through alliances, conniving and misdirection to achieve their ends.

Now you tell me that this isn’t a good description of the meeting you sat through yesterday.

Do you recognise any of these characteristics of your colleagues in these stock Commedia characters?

Harlequino:
He acts stupid but is cunning, ingenuous, diffident, a busy body. He’s a critic.  He can usually only entertain one idea at a time but rarely considers the consequence of it or learns from the experience. Never short of a solution even if he has no expertise in whatever it is.

Pantalone:
He has a long memory and never forgets or forgives the slightest past transgression.  Pantalone will offer money to get whatever he wants.  He will not, however, pay for anything.  He is usually trying to pass himself off as something he isn’t.

The Doctor:
Wise, deep, difficult to understand – talks too much. Generally has little idea what he is talking about.  To make himself sound important, he will babble on forever. The other characters (surprisingly) hardly ever question what he is talking about; since he is a doctor, he must be right.

The Captain:
A hero, a leader, an adventurer, a winner.  He is extremely arrogant, with a huge ego, and he constantly brags about his many accomplishments.  Of course, all of this is a lie.  He often has a very long and important sounding job title.

Pulcinella:
He is either stupid pretending to be clever, or clever pretending to be stupid, either way, he is always pretending and self-centred. He is suspicious and disrespectful of anyone from outside, how can they possibly know anything about his business?

The scenarios were always based around lack of understanding, poor communication, spells and magic. Possibly like the scenarios played out in many organisations, with tragic consequence.

At your next possible opportunity, detach yourself from the business of your meeting.  Watch the action unfold as if you were in the audience at the theatre.  As you witness the nonsense of ego, politics and posturing, consider the thought it doesn’t have to be like this.  Ask what would the performance be like if you were witnessing a truly ‘top-performing’ team or even what would you be doing to play your role in a great ensemble.