In a fit of nostalgia, I am reading some of my 2014 diary entries. They make me realise that this time last year, I was having fun. I was only the VeePee and the VeePee is a carefree kind of role to have, positively insouciant in fact, compared to that of the Pee. Mr Davies and I were travelling round the country meeting CIPA members; it wasn’t exactly the height of luxury but everywhere we went we were offered smiles and biscuits, and when we cocked things up we laughed about it and apologised and tried something else instead.
Now I have almost no time to visit members. When I cock things up people get very, very cross with me. I am not allowed to laugh because it is undignified and I am not allowed to apologise because it might be seen as an admission of CIPA’s liability. I am not allowed to make friends with people in case they are secretly plotting to overthrow Council. I have to get permission for the things I do instead of making them up as I go along. I do not say “yes” half as often as I used to, and when I talk to Mr Davies it is largely to whinge. I go to some quite posh occasions but invariably I find that a jammy dodger with a CIPA member in Ipswich generates a warmer kind of atmosphere than a plateau of petits puddingettes with a President.
I realise, all of a sudden, that it is no fun at all being the CIPA Pee. This might be bearable if there were an element of power in the role, if I could tell people to stop being boring and pernickety and just do as I say. But there is no power. There is only the sense that if something goes wrong, you will be held responsible; that if something goes right, you will be asked why you didn’t get approval for it first; and that if you disagree with Council about the difference between the right things and the wrong things, you will be dismissed as naïve and misguided. If you stick up for the principles that you thought people elected you for, you will be branded a trouble-maker and micro-managed to the point of micronisation. Having written patents about particle size reduction, I know that micronisation is the point at which your particles either start flowing nicely wherever you send them, or become explosive. No prizes for guessing which type of particle I am.
And so, about six months into my tenure, it occurs to me that we will all be glad when I’ve stopped being Pee. Because then I will be able to start laughing again, and tell other people to stop being boring and pernickety. And I will be able to publish my diary again, to make other people laugh.
I am not cut out for this Being Professional lark. I am good at being bold and cutting through the crap. I am good at seeing the Big Picture and the Big Future and imagining things there that other people don’t want to see. I am good at saying yes: yes we’ll give it a whirl; yes let’s work together. I am also good at saying But let’s not worry about forms and procedures and reports and reviews, let’s just get on with it. I’m not always 100% right, but I usually move us further forward than if we hadn’t tried. I get things done.
This of course is the antithesis of what Council wants from the CIPA President. And no matter how many members you have eaten biscuits with, you just try being anything other than the type of President that Council wants. Just try.
I have called a meeting, at the start of next year, of the Chief Eggsek and me and the PeePees with the various numbers of Eyes (the EyePeePee, the EyeEyePeePee, the EyeEyeEyePeePee, etc). At this meeting we are going to discuss: Exactly what is the role of the CIPA Pee? And: How can we make it feasible for someone who is not either superhuman or retired? And: How can we make it more attractive, and I do not mean just changing the ribbon on the swimming gala medal?
I suspect we are going to conclude thus: We have learned a lot from this year’s experience, and you see that wurzel over there with the Red Bull® can, well, that is exactly what we don’t want the CIPA Pee to be like, and so long as we can avoid that, we’re happy.