Wednesday, September 13, 2006


“Never can resist a challenge,” he said. I looked at him in amazement, goggle-eyed and mouth agape. What was the fool saying? Up until then I had regarded him as a pretty normal specimen of Homo Sapiens, showing no signs of incipient madness. Perhaps not quite up to my standard of intelligence but pretty close. (I do feel that false modesty is unbecoming, don’t you?)

And now here he was with something akin to the madness of King George, you know, the guy who gave Americans their independence.

For myself, I’ve always avoided challenges, rather like an adagio dancer crossing a minefield. There seems to be not much of a percentage in it.

In the middle ages, I understand it was quite the rage. In days of old when knights were bold, Knight A, for instance, would have his lustful eyes on Fair Lady C and would have to challenge her present courtier, Knight B, to a bit of tin-bashing to decide the winner. You will notice that I’m fond of allocating A’s, B’s and C’s etc. to characters. I feel it makes everything so much clearer, rather like in those school problems where A, B and C can dig a hole in 8 hours as long as that fool D doesn’t come along and start filling it in. I never could understand this and thus usually failed mathematics.

However, it seems that in those days Fair Ladies were a bit like stamps, you could swap them pretty easily, and so they could well wind up in the arms of T, D or H (Tom, Dick or Harry). In our case here, Knight A triumphed over Knight B who rode off into the sunset to get some metalworker to sort out his bent armour and A would carry off C only to find that B had gone off with the key to her chastity belt.

So challenges are fraught with difficulty.

When I was young, it was often suggested that I should look for a proper job. I would scour the sits. vac. adverts in the better newspapers, often finding just the job that would suit. I especially liked those where a car was part of the perks and preferred Jaguars. I would seem to be admirably suited for the post until, reading further, I would spot that the idiot employer had included the sentence: “This is a challenging position.”

Now what intelligent employer would want a man or woman who was looking for a challenge? It defies commonsense. What prospective employees are looking for is a post where they can drift in between 9 and 9.30, have coffee and a chat with the other employees and toddle off to an extended lunchtime around mid-day. Around fivish, it is important to leave a little early in order to avoid rush hour, always providing that you have had time to finish the Telegraph crossword during the day. And, of course, nothing in any way challenging during the day.

It’s no wonder to me that employers have a tough time filling vacancies.

But I suppose life itself is enough of a challenge for most of us.

That’s why I think anyone who goes out looking for challenges is in serious need of counselling. I recall that a mountain was climbed simply “because it was there.”

And all he got in return was a knighthood.

So for my part, I am going to restrict myself to the parameters of everyday challenges. Like getting up in the morning, for instance.


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