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The road not taken

Many of you will know the poem by Robert Frost, and its two most often-quoted lines.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by…

I had no clear idea what to write about this morning. In ten years of writing the blog it’s the first time it’s happened.

It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look planned, professional or organised. But it’s the truth.

So I thought that – metaphorically – I’d wander off into the deep, dark woods and see where the ‘road less traveled’ led me.

And it’s led me to Melbourne.

As many of you know, my sister used to live just outside Sydney. Around 550 miles to the south east is Melbourne, home of the MCG, the Melbourne Renegades and regularly voted one of the world’s best cities to live in.

My sister’s back in the UK now, but the affinity lives on and I’m still drawn to plenty of Australian news stories. On Tuesday morning I read this one in Spiked. It’s written by a young Australian commentator and – sitting here in South Milford, the sun coming in through the office window – it’s scarcely believable.

A couple are watching their child play in a playground. They are fined by the police. They are further than 5km from their home.

A man leaves his home at 9:30pm to buy some cigarettes. He too is fined: A$1,652. He had left his house during the city-wide curfew, which comes in at 8pm.

A$ 1,652? It’s just over £900. A lot of money to watch your child on a swing…

Let me now backtrack to the first post I wrote this year. It was called A Decade of Change.

2020, I cheerfully wrote, sounds like a year when we should all achieve something significant. I’ve written about the pace of change any number of times. But one thing is certain: if you thought the pace of change was fast in the last decade then it’s going to be lightning fast in the next.

So don’t think it – I was talking about ‘change’ – can’t happen to you. An open mind, a desire to go on learning and adaptability are going to be the keys to success over the next ten years.

Those words have unquestionably come true – although not in a way any of us could have predicted. An 8pm curfew in Melbourne, enforced by the police and the army? If I’d predicted that at the start of the year you’d have said I’d gone mad. ‘There’s not going to be a war in Oz, Ed. Aliens are not going to invade Victoria.’

The pace of change? As I’ve written previously, Covid-19 has seen changes in working practices that would have taken 20 to 30 years arrive in less than six months.

But here we are and – as that article in Spiked points out – hundreds of thousands of Australians are going to lose their jobs. The same will happen here: I know of plenty of businesses now busy laying off staff who had been furloughed. The government has spent billions giving a temporary stay of execution to jobs that simply cannot be saved. As I write this on Tuesday morning, M&S has announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs over the next three months.

There’s chaos, confusion and cock-up all around us. And that’s before Gavin Williamson gets involved. The man who was heckled by his own mobile phone

I was going to say that these are the choppy waters we have to steer our businesses through. But they’re more than choppy. There’s unquestionably a second wave coming – but none of us know how big the wave will be or when it will hit. An open mind and adaptability? We’re going to need them like we’ve never needed them before.

And we’re going to need each other. Casting my mind a very long way back there was an ad on ITV. It showed a man wrapping his family in an insurance policy, which turned into a castle. ‘Get the strength of the insurance companies around you,’ ran the strapline. If you’ve two hours, it’ll undoubtedly be somewhere in this collection

That’s what we need now. The strength of other people around us. And as I mentioned a fortnight ago, people who want the best for us.

Maybe it is time to re-word a proverb I’ve quoted so often: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

And now? If you want to face it alone, go ahead. But if you want to get through it, stick together.

Nowhere will you find a better example of that – and people who really do want the best for you – than The Alternative Board. At a time when none of us know what will happen, being part of the TAB UK family could be the determining factor between success and failure.

After all, there’s a last line to Robert Frost’s poem:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.  


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