Tuesday 29 April 2014

The jury's out

Am I alone in thinking that if a jury takes over seven days to reach its verdicts, and then only by a majority decision, those verdicts are more than a little dubious?

Because that's what happened in the trial of Max Clifford, who was found guilty yesterday of eight indecent assaults on women as young as 15.

He may very well be guilty - certainly the women concerned say he is - but surely if the facts were clear-cut it shouldn't take that long to decide? There must have been some pretty heated debate in the jury room between those who thought he was innocent and those who didn't.

Yet everyone from the media to the woman in the street is treating the verdicts as totally reliable, with no doubts of any kind. All that matters is that verdicts were reached, and how they were reached is irrelevant.

Unfortunately the law bans jurors from explaining their deliberations, so we have no idea to what extent they thought he might be innocent.

But it seems to me there should be a time limit on how long the jury can consider a case, and once that limit is met either there should be a new trial or the case should be abandoned. Some juries have taken over three weeks to reach verdicts, but still the verdicts were accepted.

You would think such lengthy ruminations would be grounds for an appeal against the decision, but I've never heard of that happening.

Of course you could also argue that if the jury come to a conclusion too quickly, that verdict is equally unreliable, but what's more likely is that the evidence was so overwhelming there was simply no room for argument.

But for many people a verdict is a verdict, and they don't really think about how it was arrived at. Especially if they were sure of Max Clifford's guilt to begin with.

Pic: Max Clifford

Thursday 24 April 2014

Why compete?

I've never liked competing. I've always thought it was a vastly over-rated concept. I much prefer to set my own standards and try to reach them. Competing so often becomes a mindless desire to "win" and to defeat other people, frequently in the name of some dubious goal like making a fat profit or being famous or exciting envy.

And does competition drive up standards, as it's generally said to do? Look at all those jobs where competition is rife and tell me how high the standards are. Politicians? Estate agents? Journalists? Car salesmen? It's more like a race to the bottom, with principles thrown out the window in favour of being top dog and trouncing your rivals.

All too often the frantic desire to win leads to widespread cheating and fiddling - drug-taking by sportspeople, plastic surgery by models, gazumping by estate agents. Publicly it's condemned, but in private the attitude is, anything goes in order to reach the top.

I've always thought that the people who achieve the most, be it happiness, job satisfaction, a purpose in life or creative innovation, tend to be motivated not by competition but by personal standards they've set for themselves and tried to live up to or exceed. Rather than endlessly looking over their shoulder at what other people are doing, they're ploughing their own furrow and following their own impulses.

They may be aware of what others are doing, they be influenced and inspired by them, but they're not competing with them, they're simply using them as grist to the mill, as a shot in the arm.

The people who impress me most are not Oscar winners and gold medallists so much as the determined individuals who make a name for themselves solely by pursuing their own high-minded goals and meeting them. Camila Batmanghelidgh, say, or Paris Lees or Shami Chakrabarti. I take my hat off to them.

Monday 21 April 2014

Over to you

We at Nickhereandnow are proud to unveil our new personalised blog post service. From now on, there's no need to plough through whatever nonsense we foist on you. You can design your own post, perfectly suited to your tastes and preferences, knowing that full satisfaction is guaranteed! Simply select your requirements from the choices listed:

Subject: (a) Nick's neuroses (b) fluffy kittens (c) other people's weird habits (d) a domestic catastrophe (e) other

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Conclusion: (a) there are so many idiots out there (b) I could have kicked myself (c) no wonder I hate beetroot (d) the insects are taking over (e) other

With a brief mention of: (a) beekeeping (b) guacamole (c) bicycle clips (d) eyebag concealer (e) other

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Best wishes from Nick, Samantha, Elise, Hajika, Binario, Sebastian and the whole team at Nickhereandnow

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Thursday 17 April 2014

Bedroom secrets

A lot of people don't like to talk about their negative bedroom habits. Or their partner's. And I don't just mean sexual, I mean all those other little things that can drive the other person nuts.

Like snoring. Or hogging the duvet. Or being overheated. Or smoking in bed. Or eating pungent food in bed. Or sleeping with the dog.

I think most of us couples like to give the impression that everything in the bedroom is just fine. We get into bed, we snuggle up together, we make love, we read for a while, we fall soundly asleep. All very cosy and comfortable.

It's not really the done thing to admit to all the petty irritations and annoyances, the things our partner detests, the things that keep us awake, the things we're ashamed of. What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom, right?

Which is why people don't like to admit they sleep separately. That can trigger all sorts of false assumptions about sexual problems, marital difficulties, incompatibility, other personal failings. There are good reasons for sleeping apart, but they're not the ones other people think of.

And we like to give the impression that even if we do have the odd infuriating bedroom habit (which of course is highly unlikely), our partner is infinitely tolerant and understanding and would never see it as an insurmountable problem, more an endearing and amusing foible that only makes them love us all the more.

So true to form, I'm not going to reveal any of my iffy bedroom habits, or any of Jenny's. Suffice it to say that we don't sleep separately (that's the honest truth, guv) and that we enjoy snuggling up together.

And that's all you're going to get out of me, whatever blandishments you offer. My lips are now firmly sealed.

(Thanks to Ramana for the inspiration)

Saturday 12 April 2014


I'm a forgiving person. I don't hold grudges. I don't look for revenge. I don't persecute people for their shortcomings. I don't think of people with bitterness and resentment.

But that doesn't mean that I overlook their faults, that I don't care if they've done something nasty or harmful. It doesn't mean I just turn the other cheek or pretend it never happened.

Of course I feel angry or disappointed or shocked or disillusioned. I might want them to make up for what they've done. I might want them to see the error of their ways. But I don't harbour any vicious or hateful feelings towards them. To my mind, that would damage me more than it damages them.

I certainly don't believe in an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. That doesn't solve anything, it usually only escalates the bad feeling as it turns into a tit-for-tat cycle of violence.

On the other hand, I don't much believe in the sentimental idea that forgiveness is only real forgiveness if you not only shun revenge but feel affection and compassion for the person who's wronged you. I think that's possible only if it's someone you love deeply in the first place, like a spouse or a child. With anyone else, it's asking an awful lot, especially if the person has done something quite brutally and coldly abusive.

Plenty of people have treated me badly, starting with my father, but if I'd nursed grudges against them, plotted revenge against them, I would have become a horribly sour and twisted individual. It would have driven all the happiness and buoyancy out of me and utterly contaminated my life. And why give such people the satisfaction of knowing I'm busy obsessing about them, fixating on them, when they're simply not worth thinking about?

But forgiveness seems to be a very under-rated practice right now, in the age of relentless smear campaigns and character assassination. It's about time it came back into favour.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Give me glamour

How do you define glamour? What do you find glamorous? It definitely means something but it's hard to pin down. Probably everyone has their own idea of what it is.

Of course at my age a lot of things I used to find glamorous are now quite mundane, as I'm more aware of the artifice behind the public image - like all the Oscars palaver and all those photo-shopped supermodels - but there are still plenty of things I find glamorous.

So what does glamorous mean? I would say especially exciting or attractive or stylish. Having an almost magical or enchanted quality, something so special it seems almost unreal.

For me, certain places have that quality - Sydney or Vancouver or Venice. Certain people, like George Clooney or Claudia Schiffer. Certain things, like beautiful scarves or pottery or paintings or jewellery. Even little things like nail varnish or passport visa stamps or signed copies of books.

Some things just aren't glamorous, like food or restaurants. We all know the behind-the-scenes drudgery and anxiety that goes into the finished product, so glamour disappears. A plate of risotto may be delicious, or nutritious, or satisfying, but glamorous it ain't.

I would hate it if I got to a point where nothing seemed glamorous any more. The world would be so depressingly humdrum, squalid, dreary. What I like about glamour is its instantly uplifting quality. It makes me feel life is worth living, the world is full of unexpected treasures and delights, there are things so wonderful they make me gasp and go weak at the knees.

Whatever your definition of glamour, life would be sadly lacking without it. Like a face that never smiled.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Niggling doubts

However much we try to hide them, I think the most basic human emotions are insecurity and vulner-ability. That's how we feel when we come out of the womb, that's how we feel when we're old and fragile, and that's how we feel in between, despite the veneer of confidence we have to assume for the sake of our jobs, our families, our 101 responsibilities.

How often does some apparently poised, decisive, suave public figure confess that actually they don't feel that poised inside, they often feel nervous and stupid, or they feel like an undeserving impostor?

Deep down, however successful and happy people seem to be, I think there are always niggling doubts and fears - that our supposedly solid lives aren't as solid as they look, that our good fortune might not last, that an unlucky turn of events could unravel it all.

Deep down we crave reassurance, comforting words, signs that everything will continue, signs that we're truly loved and cherished, signs that the intricate scaffolding of our lives isn't about to collapse.

Of course we have to act confident to get things done, to keep other people's respect, to get what we want in life. But this air of confidence is something we learn, a cultivated show of strength that hides the vulnerability we don't want to display.

And we don't want to display it in case it's abused; in case we're seen as weak and submissive and ready to bow to someone else's will. So it's only sensible to keep it out of sight. But the vulnerability's still there, even if you can't see it. It doesn't magically disappear as we grow up. It hovers inside us like a chilly breeze, curtailing the sunshine.

Beware the seamless show of confidence. It might just be a confidence trick.