Saturday, 30 April 2011

I do find small things amusing (that's not what she said!) because even in the most mundane item there has been an awful lot of concious decision.

For instance, this  morning I was surprised to find a 2l bottle of diet lemonade in the fridge.

I began to think about the life story of said bottle, and how many concious decisions went in to getting it where it was today.

From most recent to most histroic
- somebody decided to put it in the fridge rather than store it at room temperature
- somebody decided to buy diet rather than regular lemonade
- somebody decided to go shopping
- somebody decided that they should sell this particular brand of diet lemonade in store
- somedody decided the price should be set at 79p
- somebody decided that they should manufacture this particular brand of diet lemonade
- somebody decided that one of the sizes of bottles should be 2 litres
- somebody decided that lemons mixed with carbonated water makes a refreshing drink
- somebody decided that plastic containers can be forged to hold liquids

And soon we shall be able to add to this list:
- somebody decided to drink it

Friday, 29 April 2011

Books Read Feb - April 2011

Kavanagh & Cowley - The British General Election of 2010 (2010)
J. Bronowski - The Ascent of Man (1973)
Stanislaw Lem - The Cyberiad (1967)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment (1865-6)
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932)
Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis and Other Stories (to 1924)
Tom Perrotta - Election (1998)

April hasn't exactly ended yet but I'm not going to be finishing any other books over the next 30 hours, so am posting now.

Have been reading relitavely little owing to the fact that I have been focusing most of my intellectual energy on applications, interview preperation, financial reading and (as of ten days ago) studying for the professional exams and I can only take in so many words per day. Fortunately the situation seems set to change and I shall once again have the time and energy to properly engross myself in leisure reading.

My enthusiasm for reading hasn't diminished, though parts of it have transferred to other topics for the time being. Business becomes rather amusing when you appreciate that it is, ultimately, a study of human interaction, and that even the most obscure figures and subtle percentage points changes are nevertheless aggregates of real and essentially logical individual human activities, and that government legislation does make a difference.

That said, I still generally find the imaginary worlds of Lem more absorbing. Having read some Kafka recently I can see their is some weight to the interpretation of Lem as essentially being 'Kafka with a sense of humour'. I've mentioned this before, but I am surpirsed when people see 'comic' writing as somehow being juvenile, picking out easy truths and ironies and lacking any 'real understanding'. For me, humour is understanding. A joke is shared because two people (or in this case the author and the reader) as both understand the situation already - they don't need to labour on it, as it's all blindlingly obvious to them. To 'get' a joke is to 'get' the situation! That said, there's a big difference between, say, satire and wordplay, whether printed or in conversation.

Having almost exhausted the Lem works we have in the house I think I shall study Borges. I've found his work too ethereal in the past, but tastes change and I shalln't base my opinion on just one book (Book of Sand) anyway.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


Major news.

It isn't an offer. When I do get an offer I shall find a better post title than 'Applications'.

(Or I might not post at all.)

However, I can confirm that following my Tuesday assessment centre I have been invited to the final interview stage of a Big Four firm.

The interview isn't till the end of May.

I still have another assessment centre coming up next week (for a smaller, London-based firm) and so at least I've got something to shoot for in the meantime.

But I can't overexaggerate what a singularly good peice of news this is. Two and a half months ago I was stuck on the seabed. Now I can feel the sun rays through the water surface.

Better yet, if this application proves unsuccessful I can still put my name forward to a special recruitment register for vacancies of this sort. Which may not sound like much, but basically being on a list of 'tripped up but only at the last hurdle' candidates means that the firms, looking out for new recruits, already have a list of candidates who have gone through and passed the hoops of application forms, online tests, competency interviews, assessment centres... and that is a good place to be.

I feel no reason to guard myself from optimism. This is going to happen.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

No offence mate...

"...but how do you combine your socialst principles with paying an extra £26/week to have a slightly larger university room and your own bathroom?"

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Taxing Times?

You wouldn't think receiving a set of Principles of Taxation learning materials could make somebody so happy. Well it has.

And actually I did think that it would make me happy, that's why I applied to take it (as the first module of the CFAB i.e. the Knowledge Modules of the ACA). There's nothing quite like starting out a new folder, getting out a textbook, fountain pen and a fresh pad of high-quality paper (it's practically vellum) and studying. Though I have not got a training contract yet I shall look back on 19th April 2011 as the day I started my professional life. It's not clear how quickly I'll get through the materials but it's not unrealistic for me to take this module some time in late May.

Anyway I'm not going to London today after all. I got a phone call yesterday to arrange the date of my Assessment Centre: Tuesday 26th in the Wild West of London. So I'll get to see London anyway, probably in the long, balmy afternoon following the assessment. Although I don't actually know what time it's going to be yet...

Either way, not much use me taking a day off at the moment!

I love the fact that these blog posts will look conspiciously mundane in, say, a year or two's time when I'm travelling the country committing audits, having wine and 'bites' with red-faced partners and forming social relationships with other people in my position (oh, and maybe the occasional friendship).

And yesterday was a great practical step in making this nightmare a reality!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Wow, for a ten-minute phone interview that was difficult! She literally asked the first question within about 15 seconds of saying hello, and it was a hard one - 'What do you think companies look for when choosing a [n accounting] firm', or something like that. And five more questions followed, only one or two of which could be answered formulaeically. It was a BANG, BANG, BANG sort of interview.

Still, feel quite invigorated after that, and if I found it tough there'll be many out there who found it tougher. I do know that one of the things this firm looks out for is socially able people. I'm not socialy disabled and I can rise to socially demanding occasions, but anyone who knows me will appreciate that I have a tendency to speak in generalizations and speak more as if through ether than through the four earthly elements, something which can often take the form of rambling. So all the specificity and detail required in interviews (especially with HR professionals) is something I'm learning as I go along. But any suggestion (by myself or others) that I am decidely anti-social isn't really valid - I'm always willing to socialize with people whom I actually like!

I won't say who the firm in question is and I shalln't speculate about my chances of getting to the next stage as I have been profoundly wrong about that in the past. Back in March I had an interview with a medium-sized London firm at their London office which I came back fairly chirpy from, but I didn't get to the next round. Two weeks ago I made a angsty post about an upcoming phone interview with a Big Four firm, and I felt fairly resigned (if relieved) once it was over. Well, I passed that and have been invited to an assessment centre (BIG news). The only interview I have been totally right about was a Big Four pre-screening interview which pretty much involved me reading out preprepared answers - I literally couldn't fail that one. So far I've had a 2/3 success rate at first-interviews, but then all three (well, all four now) have been very different.

However, one thing true of all these interviews is that knowing your stuff well will help you. This sounds obvious, but you need to be able to whip out the facts when required. Sure, structure the facts in your mind or on paper, but have the facts, not just the structures! Also, have a couple of bananas just before! I used to do this back in my driving-lesson days and it did make a difference, and I doubt that difference was entirely psychosomatic.

Still, I'm dropping my naive pessimism one brick at a time. Also, this afternon my first set of learning materials for the CFAB are going to arrive, though I probably won't start learning them till Thursday - I am considering a London daytrip tomorrow (not meeting anyone, am just going to go on one of my classic exploratory walks peppered with the occasional museum or burger). This will be my last chance to go to London before Easter/Royal Wedding/Assessment Centres/Bank Holiday crowds etc etc etc. Plus it's set to be 25oC!!!1

Feels funny writing all this here as I literally write more or less the same thing in correspondence with friends, who are now able to read it in two different places at once!

I shall have to think now about what to do today. Catch up on financial reading I suppose, and maybe make a start on another application. Although logically it might be better to wait till the outcome of this one is known... but then, that might not be for a few days... and by the time a few days is passed the assessment centre and first office interview dates for my Big Four applications might be set, and I'd be preparing for them!

Yes I suppose I'll write an application today AND catch up with financial reading. The more I do today the more I'll enjoy my day off tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A vision

I envisage that at some point in the next fifteen years I shall one day find myself face to face with an American businessman, maybe in London, maybe in Seattle. He'll be chubby, in his fourties, sporting short-cut spiky light hair and wearing a checkered shirt and a dark tie. He'll look at me through his glasses and say, excitedly, "Let's do lunch!".

I'll have made it.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Rap of Charles I

Good evening all! My name is Charles Stuart
or Charles I, yes, that'll do it.
Believe it or not I was once your monarch
with the crown of England on my noble head honoured!

Yet the history books
(or so it looks)
show me like some sort of fool
stupid, stubborn as a mule,
The English King who lost the plot,
though technically I was born a Scot.
But my native accent I have lost
along with my head! but let's not be fossed
with the particulars of that Janaury morn
that deathly silence, that groan folorn
for only seconds did it take
and tho' good history I know it make
there were by then 48 candles on my cake
so let us rather concentrate
on the earlier hours on my life's clock
rather than the axe and then block.

I was never born to be a king
yae my brother Henry, that was his thing.
Athletic, bright, tall and broad
as good with the pen as he was with the sword.
But I, poor Charlie, the younger brother
was born quite frail, tho' I'd soon recover
through routine exercise and riding
(lest I get my father's chiding)
and by age eighteen I cut quite a figure
though I sometimes wished I was a little bigger
with my sword and my armour
I'd be quite the young charmer
and every little painting
would send the ladies fainting
but as you see I'm short, of course
so instead they paint me on a horse.

Years passed and my dearest brother
died and then too my dear father,
so down to London I was sent
to take the reins of government.
But governing soon proved a pain
tax revolts, wars with France and Spain
and the fermenting agent for all these problems
was none other than the House of Commons!
Something that I ought to mention
the word 'Parliament' is from the French 'an
if we have it roughly translated
means 'talking shop' - and their talk ne'er abated!
Now if it had all been harmless banter
which never provoked a more hostile encounter
then that'd be fine, they could sit forever
without throwing assaults upon my endeavours,
for a King neds money to fight his wars
but the members of Parliament, those tepid whores
would raise no tax till conditions they set
on grievances were duly met.
With the details of these I will not bore you
but for my own part I do implore you
not to consider my judgement lacking
when I chose to send the whole lot packing.
For through I realise things are now different
in my days parliaments were meant to be deferent
the bowl of justice and the dish of democracy
had no place in my set of political crockery.
Indeed to me it seemed little more than mockery
so I made the government of England my property.

Now my critics both in past and present
have used an adage most unpleasant
to describe this period of my reign:
'Eleven Years Tyranny' - are they insane?
Did I slay all the first borns and boil their ears?
Did I trample my enemies and implale'm with spears?
Obviously not, no one says so, it's be asburd
yet these are the images conjoured up by this word
and as the name tyrant is misleading and cruel
we now prefer to use to term 'Personal Rule'.
One thing my critics do have right
is that it was eleven years, that I won't fight
and a blissful eleven years it was too:
peace, laughter, prosperity to name but a few,
pies and dances, revelry and games
while the rest of Europe was set in flames.

But in 1640 it came to an end
for a Scottish army was now on the mend
I had a northern frontier to defend
and there was noone from whom I could lend
but Parliament... yes, Parliament. I recalled 'em
but my obstinate refusals over grievances appaled'em.

So that didn't  last very long
I was right and they were wrong -
it was rarely ever the other way
but unfortunately I had bills to pay
so in Novekber that year once more I recalled'em
and I gave some concessions, and that consolled'em
but on some things I simply could not budge
and I gave not succint answers - I prefered to fudge.
I was immune of course, as their king
from the sharpest pangs of their viceral stings,
they couldn't touch me, as God's annointed
so instead they attacked those men I'd appointed
to Council and Archbishop and other positions
sending me death warrants and terms and conditions
but by July '42 it was getting so rough
that I'd decided that I'd had enough.
So I raised my standard at Nottingham
and so the Civil War began.

At first we had some great success
the better soldiers we had to excess:
the ramshackle parliamentarians were dire
while Royalist morale could not have been higher.
But soon came Cromwell's New Model Army
singing hymns into battle, it was really quite smarmy
my men were not used to these fresh-faced foes -
they were better organized, I suppose -
but my Cavaliers fought gallanty
though at the battle of Na-se-by
they cut our ranks incisively
we lost very decisively.

But still I was King!
And there's the thing,
for tho' radicalized members of the army would moan
they couldn't budge me off of my throne
for the Presbyterians in Parliament couldn't face
a settlement without the King in place.
So I toyed with their affection
and did not expect any defection
but Parliament too had their limits and bounds
and chased me much like a pack of hounds
so I solicited help from some Scottish friends
that I might imrpove things for my own ends.
But they too betrayed me! and after a fight
I was captured, imprisoned on the Isle of Wight.
By now I was not trusted, not a friend in the land
I'd long since forfeited the upper hand.
It seems, you see, that for my obstinacy
the people had had quite enough of me.
And so Colonel Pride was able to purge the House
of my sympathisers, that nasty louse,
to see to it that I, their sovereign
would no longer their plans be a-botherin'.

In short, they  wished to put me on trial
on charges of treason, this raised a wry smile
for treason means 'against the crown'
and aren't I the only King in town?
I didn't recognize their right to try me
the very idea was improper and slimy
but much to my anger and much to my shock
they proceeded to bring me to the dock.

The language was lofty, their humility sparse,
it was at once both tragedy and frace!
At times the whole process came close to collapse
as the arguments raged and the hours elapsed.
But eventually the judge, with fine eridution
spoke 'The Prisoner shall be taken to a Place of Execution'.

Some words of protest I managed to mutter
(throughout the whole trial I spoke without my old stutter)
not that it mattered how I now used my voice
the verdict was final, I had no other choice.
All I could do was act with decorum
as I was tropped away from the Westminster forum.

And so to the morning of my beheading
to the executors block I'd soon be heading,
so cold that morning, frosty too
so instead of one shirt I worte two
for if I were cold I might be fain shiver
and a tragic exit I'd be unable to deliver
for my shaking might be mistaken for fear -
I'd look a coward, the crowd would all jeer.
For in truth I wan't scared at all,
my mouth wasn't dry, my voice didn't fall,
for what more could a vain monarch desire
to be remembered as dying for Something Higher?
The gallant King Charles
with his long flowing curls
was all the smarter
for dying a martyr.
For Providence was on my side
and even as my head did slide
upon the block
my courage didn't rock
for as the axeman's axe came down
I flew to an Incorruptable Crown
where there may be no disturbance
or Parliamentary perturbance.

And when my head was severed moments later
'twas picked up - "behold, the head of a traitor!"
Well, this wasn't quite so nice to hear
as the blood rolled away from my dripping ear.

But I'm happy to say, if a decade too late,
that Cromwell's head met a similar fate
propped on the pole of a Westminster gate
with no-one  around to comiserate.
And tho' my reign seems many years past
it's important to observe that I wasn't the last,
sometimes I wonder whther the British public
have any great appetite for a republic.
For what's a republic except a crown
where you bring your leaders up and down
on the basis of votes, or the basis of money
it does seem to me rather funny
because monarchy too needed cash and support
and some sort of constitutional rapport -
no monarch is ever safe for life
is that not clear from my very own strife?
It just so happens that now we select
not by the bullet but the ballot - we elect
but I shuldn't berate you - what suits you best
democracy too has passed the test.
But I suppose your psyches will always make space
for CHARLES THE FIRST and his infinite grace.

Royal Fish

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Go, Go, Power Rangers

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
don't you ever come back.
Make yourselves all strangers,
disband your paltry pack.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
we'll flatter you no longer -
your vanity, it's contagious
but our medicine, it's stronger.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
you're not welcome at my door.
We'd once thought you courageous,
well, we don't think that anymore.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
your time here now has passed.
Go hunt some other dangers
for here you've seen your last.

Royal Fish

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Funny how I'm more intimidated by HR/recruitment professionals than Partners and Managers. It's partly becaue HR professionals are so friendly. Of course I'm not against friendliness, but it can be difficult to know whether they're really interested in you (be it over the phone or face-to-face) if they issue the same smile and nod everytime, as if they were the doctors and you the patient. In a way these sort of interviews demand this - they are diagnosing your suitability for the job. But Partners, they seem to want a conversation! They'll scowl slightly, raise their eyebrows, chuckle with acknowledgement and ask you genuie questions, as if you were a client they had already built a rapport with.


"I have rejected Society!" (he claimed)
though this was a desperate whim:
for seeing through his sloth and false piety (ashamed)
Society rejected him.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


I have some big interviews coming up. And I am anxious.

I don't mean anxious about the interviews themselves. That is passé and in my case false. It is a broader anxiety. There is a possiblity that none of these applications come to anything. An interview followed by a rejection can be taken as a lesson. You can analyse where you need to improve, perhaps pinning your failure down to interview technique rather than anything more chronic. However, multiple rejections would surely indicate that there is something fundamentally lacking in the applicant.

As it happens I have only had one rejection so far. I have reason to be encouraged - the majority of the firms I have applied to have expressed interest, and I have so far been offered three interviews (two of which are coming up very soon). The first interview resulted in failure.

Of course I understand these are very competitive positions I am applying for. That in itself doesn't daunt me. It's a fact. Nor do I have any doubt that I'll get a position eventually. Different firms look for different things in their candidates, and rejection from one firm does not mean rejection from the profession as a whole. But if interview after interview results in failure, then failure can not simply be put down to 'interview technique'. Indeed, I felt my last interview went well, but I was rejected all the same. Sometimes you have to realise that even if you're a 'good' candidate there will be several other applicants who are 'very good'. And that, essentially, 'good' isn't good enough.

Which begs the question - what is 'good enough'? Well, that's not an easy question as different candidates may be attractive for different reasons. But the point is, they are attractive. They have established a good life-narrative and fulfil the relevant competencies. Sure they will have worked hard for this, and sure they too will have had to have milked their skills and acheivements dry. But they are milking a bigger cow than I, a cow that has walked many pastures. Their milk is fatter and fuller.

Luckily I have a Plan B. It's actually just a longer route to Plan A, but would involve fulfilling many of the apparent gaps in my résumé. I know exactly how I would go about this plan and it is very likely to succeed. I won't tell you the specifics - there's no point. It's elegant and efficient and perhaps utterly neccessary. It would involve hard work, but varied work and work with a common purpose. Other aspects of my life will suffer, but they're suffering already. May as well suffer for something worth suffering for rather than simply walking in a circle with one foot chained to the floor. And that's been the problem - each time I write an application at the moment I have no idea what the chances are of its succeeding. And that's OK for, say, the first two months of applications (god, it's been that long. I have been doing other stuff though, although maybe that's part of the problem). But when I set out on my applications I expected that I would have an offer by April or May. Of course there's still time to go, but if these two current big ones fail then suddenly I'm back where I started. Now, sticking to your guns is one thing. But what if you're simply firing blanks? I'm shooting at the right target, that I know. But who's to say my shots are getting through the armour? Perhaps my pistol isn't good enough.

Analogies aside: the point is, if several applications fail at interview stage then the common denominator is me. And if I continue applying and find myself in mid-June with nothing in the pipeline, I will have wasted an awful lot of time and have nothing to show for it other than experience and some good war stories.

I am tempted to invoke Einstein's definition:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Of course my Plan B does involve hard work. But it will without question improve my employability. I feel rather ashamed that I hadn't thought of something like this before. But now I have, hurray!

I don't mind working hard. Not at all. But only so long as I know where the work is heading and it is a goal which is both worthy and plausible. I've been hiding from the world too long

I would also like to make the point that I do not blame anyone for what I perceive to be my own long-term apathy and lack of ambition.

I also don't really care if I alientate people in the process. I've never spent enough time trying to fulfil my ambitions and now I am definitively trying to rectify that, and though I have already barred myself from a number of time/energy/cash-consuming pleasures (chiefly visiting friends in other parts of the country - I have only left Brighton once since February and that was for an interview) I shall bar myself from more still if I have to.

I'm sure I've posted this before

but it's so good I'm going to post it again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A common mistake I sometimes make is assuming that everybody else has sorted out their lives and are more effective and clear about what they want from their existence than I and are actively pursuing it. I have since realised this is not really true - a lot of people are disarmed by internia, frustration or laziness. However, I have also realised (and this, perhaps most importantly of all) that just because it's normal (and implicitly 'OK') to become victim to these traits, it doesn't mean you should.