Road Trip!

Fear not for blogging and its frequency. Short road trip to Porto going on.

So far complete and abject failure at tracking down the bloke I was at school with who owns one of the port trading houses.

The only time I’ve ever tried to use that old buy network and it’s not working. How is it that it’s such a powerful force in British life then?

37 thoughts on “Road Trip!”

  1. If you have to track it down, you’re not in it. Much as the same as repairs on a Rolls, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.

  2. P’raps he doesn’t want to be found.
    Never understood this “old boy” thing, anyway. I had a profound disinterest in anyone I was at school with & hopefully the feeling was mutual. As far as I was concerned, the final day at school was release after time served. Is there an old lags network?

    That said, I accidentally became aware, some years ago, that 5 of my classmates had committed suicide. (Individually. Not some sort of team effort) Out of 26, that’s pretty good going.
    Have pondered on that, at length.
    My best guess is it was the education. State grammar school. Tended to equip one for the sort of careers that have been savaged by technological & societal change. I know my initial chosen career, if I hadn’t made a resounding success of it, I probably would have found myself discarded somewhere in my forties. The jobs no longer exist. Difficult age to be on the scrap heap.
    I’ve acquired a varied & useful skillset. But that’s all my own doing. My education gave me very little of practical use. We were educated to be paper pushers or managers of paper pushers. Not much paper around now, is there?

  3. Recently met up with a friend from school days. Although we occasionally corresponded, hadn’t seen each other for 45 years. Unlike moi, he had maintained a line to the past – confirmed that the kids you thought would succeed, did in fact achieve. Likewise those destined for prison and premature death. More interesting was the arbitrary nature of life, good/bad luck notwithstanding, especially on the medical front. BiS is correct in that we all disappeared over the horizon and rarely looked back.

  4. Perhaps the old boy network requires a certain density to work its supposed magic. I suspect that the density of old boys from a minor public school in the West country in Portugal falls below that threshold 😉

    Tangentially, one of the things about being In Foreign is that nobody gives a damn whether you were educated publicly or privately, or where you went.

  5. @eris23
    ” Much as the same as repairs on a Rolls, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.”
    More like, if you don’t ask how much you won’t be affording it much longer.
    It’s a car they’ll take the piss on, given the slightest chance. It’s only a car FFS. Same as any car, but bigger. And they share a lot of parts with much more mundane vehicles because RR only made engines & bodies. If I remember rightly, the starter motor on a Silver Cloud 11 (last proper Roller?) shares the same part number as that fitted to a Commer van. And is as difficult to fit. As in, not. Later models borrowed a lot of their electrics from Granadas.

  6. Not sure what that added to the conversation. Apart from avoid public school boys. Most RR concerns seem to be run by them.

  7. Ah yes Porto!!, the scenic seven bridges river boat rip which takes about 15 mins…what a rip off.

    Porto reminded me of a run down English town, a bit like Yarmouth….well to be honest more grotty and dirty.

    If countless thousands of Portuguese want to live in Yarmouth that tells you quite a lot about Portugal, and for some reason none of the dozens of portuguese I have asked will ever admit to speaking spanish.

    odd but true

  8. Not so much paperwork (BiS) as an individual’s expertise – their intrinsic knowledge of the subject. Once upon a time people tended to know what they were talking about. Following a series of major incidents, however, the growing realisation the buck has to stop somewhere (most probably with you), quality assurance was invented. A tick-box culture. This has since been superseded by an app. Nowadays you can wheel in any number of glorified clerks to process enquiries. I’m not saying today’s ‘clerks’ are any less or more educated than we were, but pointing to the soul-destroying nature of many people’s role in the modern era.

  9. “for some reason none of the dozens of portuguese I have asked will ever admit to speaking spanish.”

    It is quite remarkable. The language does indeed change at the Guadiana. Even if you can see Spain they still don’t reckon they can understand Spanish. Despite it being almost the same language. On the other hand, the Spanish, the other side, refuse to understand Portuguese.
    But I have a cunning ploy. I take Brasilenas.

  10. @bloke in spain, whenever I have bad English speaking Portuguese who claim they cannot speak spanish to deal with. they always know exactly what you mean when you say it in spanish.

    The Portugese travel 6 in a car and work in Norwich, there is plenty of work around, infact even the most useless lazy bastards not just Portuguese get hassled by employment agencies to work for them.

    Just the mention of Brexit and foreign worker restrictions in the future brings hard nosed landowners in floods of tears cos they can’t get staff now.

  11. Last year was 30 years since I left school, and now I think about it I wonder if there was some old-boys/girls get-together I never heard of. But then there’s also the problem that that was when I left Sixth Form, so most of my cohort would be “class of 1985” not “class of 1987”, and my class of 1987 consists of about 12 people. I’m still in contact with about four of them, along with about four of my group at university.

  12. @bis
    Portuguese is just Castellano with a lisp (or possibly vv). But can you hear any difference between spoken Portuguese and Galician?

  13. Jeez, I kind of liked Porto. Spent a week there last September. A little raffish and run down, true, but full of good eats and drinks and amusing people, some interesting sights and small museums etc. etc.

    I’ve got a photo of myself next to the Arthur Wellesley bust as well as the Abel Salazar statue.

    The place was full of elderly Brits wandering about sluicing and browsing, the gents with white clothing, panama hats and red sweaty, faces, the ladies trying to keep them sober, unsuccessfully.

    My face was red and sweaty too, and I was no more sober than necessary.

  14. Chris Miller – My lusophone wife tells me Spanish is Portuguese spoken by camp men!
    In all seriousness written Portuguese and Spanish are very similar but spoken they are very different.
    The closest Spanish Language to Portuguese is obviously Galician but they are all obviously Iberian Romance languages in the same way that Danish and Swedish are north Germanic languages.

  15. As a commited spotter of all things British Leyland I was amazed at just how much of a 1970’s Rolls is a BL parts bin special.

    The owner of the Rolls was, for some reason, not as impressed as i was.

  16. I spent a week and a bit in Porto in 2006 and I think it was the best holiday I’ve ever had. We ate and drank so well that my travelling companion came home with gout.

  17. What rjb said.

    Don’t forget to make time – and room – for a Francesinha at the Cafe Majestic. One of the few plates of food that got the better of me.

  18. I went to a school class reunion once: former pupils plus spouses/lovers. One of the girls had married a bloke from two or three years ahead, who was the first fellow ever to punch me on the rugby pitch. I reminded him of this while towering over him.

    We received letters of greetings from former teachers, with anecdotes about how X had said this and Y had done that.

    It was all rather agreeable. It was a bunch of the girls who had organised it, having decided to do so when they’d gone out to lunch together on the last day of school 25 years earlier. Bless ’em: they were still just as nice as they had been in class. I don’t envy males who go to single-sex schools.

  19. I have a class photograph and memories of my schoolmates of fifty years ago; I really don’t want to meet up now, in our bald and paunchy sixties.

    Except maybe for Helen Anderson. Ooooooh.

  20. The old boy network is much bigger in the imagination of those on the outside than it is in reality. In fifty years I ran into, in business, two guys from my school – one, and the younger brother of a schoolfriend, each hoped that I could help him sell his firm’s services to my boss – I couldn’t in either case – the other was mildly friendly but that didn’t make any difference to our business relationship.
    There are occasions when it works – I attended an Old Boys reunion and met one of the stars of my year (1st XV at 16, 1st XI Hockey, 2nd XI Cricket, Cambridge) and really nice guy, who had become a solicitor and he told me that his boss had asked if he knew of a good young barrister to take a case so he mentioned another contemporary who was brilliant (9 good ‘O’ levels at 13, Classics ‘A’ levels at 15, Cambridge of course – my school thought that Oxford was for clever, lazy boys and hard-working ones should go to Cambridge) who did an excellent job on that and subsequent cases they referred to him leading to Silk and appointment as a Judge on one hand and success for the firm of solicitors on the other. This rarity is memorable, whereas my failure to help either colleague of my friend’s younger brother is forgotten (until you ask about it)

  21. I’m with John77 on this.

    For the most part “the old boys network” is just another whine from unsuccessful people. It might occasionally create a sliver of an edge because of familiarity but familiarity can come from many sources and no-one succeeds in business of all they do is favour people they know.

    It’s like all that “anyone can run a multi-national company” bullshit.

  22. I’m suspicious that a lot of success that is commonly attributed to the “old boys” actually has a lot to do with socialisation within a particular segment of society, and becoming fluent in its social norms.

    There are a bunch of very powerful or successful people in business, the professions, politics etc who I simply couldn’t mix it with, because I do not understand their manners, etiquette or even the cutlery they use. Certainly a classier upbringing could theoretically have enabled me to build and sustain connections amongst such a group that my inability (and frankly, lack of interest) to socialise with them prevents.

    On the other hand there are other corners of society – thinktank land, swathes of the public services, perhaps the media – where my inability to think in fluent PC identity-speak would mark me out as clumsy, a misfit, a potential liability and certainly not “an ally”. If I had wanted to venture with confidence into those corridors, I should have had the foresight to take a more “aware” degree (something with “socio” or “psycho” or “studies” in the title) and done more of my socialising at protest marches.

    On the face of it, freelance programmers and developers might seem a more wholly meritocratic bunch – I’m sure if we could measure these things (has this been done? can’t believe it wouldn’t have been studied by economists) we would find that they are – but even the community of geeks has its own social norms that can be quite impenetrable to outsiders. I’ve known folk with logical mental ability and with some practical experience coding for their postgraduate education, who nevertheless failed to get into it professionally because they didn’t know where the way in was. Just one CV in a pile of thousands in all the grad jobs they applied to, until they found another line of work instead. On the other other hand I’ve known more hardcore guys who had already established reputation within their technical communities through their undergraduate (sometimes even high school) education, and whose acceptance into professional ranks was easy, busy and remunerative. Not as simple as them being hired by or even recommended directly by their mates. But they had become schooled in how to navigate that corner of the world, and that knowledge came with significant financial value for them.

  23. Well Rickie I disagree, Porto is a very handsome town with excellent browsing and sluicing. Try and get there when they are grilling sardines in the street (June?).


  24. When I made my comments about Porto I had Charleroi in Belguim in mind after visiting there a few times, I then saw a video today on the BBC calling it the ugliest city in the world.

    Porto in my opinion isnt quite Charlero grubby but its not my idea of a tourist attraction.

    I haven’t been there in the summer, I wouldn’t go back to Portugal either, some places just dont do it for me, even though its a very popular country for holidays.

  25. I don’t know about old boys’ networks but I do think highly of nepotism. I appointed a cousin to a job once and he proved excellent.

  26. @rickie – ” about Porto I had Charleroi in Belguim in mind after visiting there a few time”

    I didn’t know that Charleroi is a dump, i had the idea that it is a another lovely French town in a lovely part of the world full of lovely french towns ( and its not even in France !)

    Napoleon crossed into Belgium via Charleroi on his way to meet his fate at Waterloo.

    I had intended to stop there for one night this June, en route to Vienna with the kids, now that I know that it is a dump I will go elsewhere ( Liege ? ).

    It is difficult to know whether somewhere is a dump without local knowledge, guidebooks tend not to tell you.

  27. I haven’t been since 2006 ish, I remember a lot of shabby hotels were renting rooms by the hour right close to the centre of town which tells you something.

    Take a look at BBC website for the video

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