Getting older has few compensations; bits and pieces you never knew you had start to ache and a great deal of time is spent between the doctor’s surgery and the chemist, getting prescriptions for ailments that I’m sure they had never even invented when I was young.

Another consequence is that younger people often ask me what is the most important thing I have learnt over the years about business. It’s a difficult one to answer, but I think my response would be: "Stop, take time and don’t rush into things so fast."

a cautionary tale

When I was young, I spent a great deal of my time solving problems that never ever came about.

One example I can give is as follows. On one very good shop of ours, we have a lease that can be broken every seven years, at the rent review time, if the leaseholder wishes to develop. But if they do so, they have to pay to remove us to another site. Well, their agent phoned me to say they were thinking of developing. Years ago, that would have been a signal for me to start rushing around like a lunatic trying to find alternative sites, spending an enormous amount of time planning for a potential move, and engaging in all-round concern.

Instead, I said to my staff: "Wait, do nothing and see what they come up with, as we shall have plenty of time. And don’t waste any time worrying about a move. Spend your thinking time improving what we have, not worrying about what might happen."

Well, as you may have guessed, it never came about. Yet how often have we all sought and found answers to problems that never came about?

qualification cynicism

Whenever I am told this or that qualification is modern and rele-vant, it usually makes me think it may well not be worth the paper it is written on. For example, when someone is being interviewed for a job, we ask them: "Where did you last work and what did you do?" Never have I asked or heard anyone else ask, "How many NVQs do you have?" Yet we spend a great deal of time and money teaching people to collect NVQs.

There has to be an alternative, but I freely confess I don’t know what it is. All I do know is that I don’t see the sense in doing something that doesn’t work.

It’s rather like the huge number of CCTV cameras now around; knowing that there are policemen sat in offices watching me getting mugged on CCTV doesn’t make me feel any more secure. The thought might cross my mind, but would it not be better for me if they were actually on the beat, stopping me getting beaten up? Zero tolerance is considered confrontational in this country. That could be why I feel so much safer walking in the centre of New York, Chicago or many other American cities.

mixed messages

The UK government apparently agreed with the death of Saddam