Of statues, castles and spooky apparitions

I took this photo on 8 April 2011. It shows the statue of Queen Victoria, with Windsor Castle in the background.

It’s a popular choice for tourists taking photos of their visit to Windsor. I was on my lunchbreak and – struck by how blue the sky was, and the lack of people in the vicinity – I decided to take some pics.

It was some hours later when I looked at them again, and when I looked I saw something that quite literally made the hairs on my arms stand on end and my scalp tingle.

And not in a good way.

I was standing partly in the road to take this first shot. 

In the next one you can see how close I am to the statue – right next to it.






I decided to move close up to the statue, as I’d been standing in the road to take the two previous pics and a car was coming toward me. I stood next to the statue looking at it from a few different angles before taking this shot. When the car had gone I walked back across the road, pausing to take one final shot.










In the final pic you can see the figure of a woman standing next to the statue.

She is dressed in a rather unusual, striking manner. The kind of figure I think most people would agree you would notice. Especially if they were stood right in front of you.








I can’t make you believe what I’m about to write. But when I looked at that pic, a few hours after I had taken it, one thought – and only one thought – ran through my mind… she wasn’t there when I took that photo.

I would have noticed and I definitely wouldn’t have taken it had there been someone else in the frame.

One of the reasons I took those pics is that it is rare to see the statue without people milling around it. The time that elapsed between the close-up and the final shot is literally seconds. Seconds after I had been standing next to the statue examining different angles for an interesting shot.

Surely I would have noticed if there had been someone there.

And how could I have failed to notice someone dressed like that?

Did it freak me out? Yes.

Spook me, put the wind-up, give me the heebeegeebees..? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Perhaps because I (still) feel sure she wasn’t there when I took the photo. And perhaps because the figure in the photo bears more than a passing resemblance to my mother.

Roy Castle and the art of delegation

If you’re old enough to remember when Record Breakers was hosted by Roy Castle on the BBC, you might also remember the song he used to close the show with and its assertion that “dedication’s what you need.”

According to Roy, it was what you needed if you wanted to “be the best” and also to “beat the rest.”

Without doubt it is good advice, the kind that will see you well in life. But given a slight twist it becomes what I think is a great piece of advice for anyone wanting to run, grow and develop a successful team or business. Rather than “dedication” though in this case delegation’s what you need.

What am I on about..?

Well, this is my point – most people get promoted because they’ve done well in the job they were doing. Maybe this has happened to you. Almost without fail, someone new comes in to fill the space you vacated and it’s likely you could be managing them. At first it’s bound to be hard resisting the urge to micro-manage them; after all, until recently you were doing that job. And what’s more you were doing it bloody well.

Otherwise you wouldn’t have been promoted, would you..?

But if you are going to grow as a manager you have to focus on what your new role and responsibilities entail and, just as importantly, you have to let the newbie do their job unencumbered by your interfering, otherwise they’ll have a frustrating time feeling like they never get out of the starting blocks.

When I was a senior reporter on the IT trade newspaper Computing, I had the opportunity to interview Joe McNally – the man who brought Compaq to the UK and grew it into a £1 billion operation over the course of something like 15 years. That was in the days when Compaq was a serious player in the business IT market, not some strange left-over brand name HP sticks on some of its consumer goodies.

I asked one of the most obvious questions you could possibly ask such a man – how did he do it, what was the secret of his success. He told me that he had always tried to surround himself with the most talented people possible, and to give them the freedom to not only do their job but to exploit any new opportunities that arose.

On the surface that might sound obvious but those are brave sentiments – they must be, because in the 20-odd years I’ve been in the workforce I’ve rarely encountered them.

So hat’s off to Roy Castle, because dedication is a great thing to aspire to. But the true art of delegation, the kind I think Joe McNally was talking about, that’s not to be under-estimated either.