Monday, 30 March 2009

Mind broadening

Travel broadens the mind according to some, no doubt, Thomas Cook sponsored pundit of yesteryear. If that really was the case I wouldn't be able get my head through the door the amount of globe trotting I have done recently in the interests of umbrellas. But my head stays pleasingly just the right side of very big. The way I see it, the more I travel, the more I realise that my own prejudiced narrow world view is indeed correct. The States has been a real eye opener and the more someone tries to get me to eat some ghastly crab or slurp some Californian wine, the more I realise that new experiences are not all they are cracked up to be.

I muse on this as I blog while travelling on a train to New York City, the so called Gravy Train. I am told the view on this bit of coast is breathtaking in parts but I see none of it as I am avidly glued to that little Blackberry screen which is my real window on the world. I suppose I should be excited about a trip to that largest of apples but am feeling underwhelmed....(another skyscraper? Purleease...)

The Blackberry tells me that a BUBB conference on umbrellas and the health sector went well. Donald Holding, umbrella matching specialist and formerly of Spokespools has moved to a new organisation called Feudal. He really is the best in the job. This has nothing to do with the aforementioned conference but I do like to sneak a blatant plug in for Donald whenever I can.

I then get really excited when I get what looks like an invitation to the White House, to be quizzed, probably on the mooted umbrella initiative I mentioned last week. The time has come to meet the chosen one, is what Barack must be thinking. But I am mightily disappointed to realise that it is an invite to a quiz night at the White Horse, a pub in Blacbury. Oh well, I will soon be home and I ponder what present to get Barkles. Apparently there are vendors selling dog-related merchandise on every corner of Manhattan. And you can choose whether to get mustard or ketchup with every purchase. Sounds perfect.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Washed out in Washington

By heck it has been an exhausting week. But really useful in terms of getting a different perspective on how people view the future of umbrellas, especially during the downturn. What is clear is the consensus from different groups that it is a real opportunity and should not be wasted. Now is the time for blowing our own trumpets and reinventing wheels. Or should I say spokes

I have a fascinating chat with Dwight P Reinhardt III, ceo of USURPS (United States Umbrella and Rain Protection Society). "Reuben," he says (I keep telling him but he is too important to remember something as trivial as a name), "the way I see it is like this. The car industry is on its arse. You know that, I know that, Barack knows that. People will have to walk distances unimaginable in this country for 50 years. And there will be rain. Lots of it, even if the carbon emissions causing some of it reduce. You can't hold back the weather. Now is the time for umbrellas."

And the word from those in the know is that Barack is already considering setting up an Oval Umbrella Office to explore the possibilities of brollies that are not the standard round shape. There is a whisper that he is very keen to talk to me to draw on my experience with BUBB but that may only have been me talking to myself.

I overhear a bunch of understated Americans chatting near the pancake station at breakfast today about some irritating limey guy who keeps wondering around offering to share learning and pestering them to speak at his conference. I am intrigued to know who this is as I believed that I was the only Brit here, other than Fab. Apart from anything else it would be good to give them the gossip from back home, or at least my version of it, before they discover the truth.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A night in jail

Oh sweet Mary mother of Jesus. You would not believe what I have just been through, but let me tell you first up that it was neither cute nor cool (words I believe you are legally required to start using when blogging from the States).

Yesterday started well enough. A couple of briefings with American umbrella devotees then back to the bed and breakfast (we're really staying in a 5 star hotel but don't tell the members, eh?). We are only a few blocks from the White House but I haven't as yet seen it. I am then faced with a dilemma - all you can eat hotdog lunch or a trip to an iconic building? As choices go this is Hobsons, and 14 sausages and 3 litres of mustard later, I am gently snoozing. We have all seen the White House on the telly and how whiter can it really look in real life?

I am tempted to have my photograph taken sticking my tongue out at the Roosevelt Memorial - chancer President who got lucky by seeming to react to a recession (Cameron, take note) but frankly I can't be arsed.

By the time I wake up it is time for Fab Jobsworth and I to go for dinner with some dreary American academic (beard, naturally) who doesn't even bother wearing a tie. He does have some interesting points to make about strategic planning and I prod Fab with my knife to make sure he is listening. Except, I mistakenly use my steak knife and stab him just below the rib cage. Blood everywhere and pandemonium. The police are called and I am hauled off by the cops on a charge of attempted murder.

I protest my innocence of course, and Fab does rouse himself from his semi-coma to slur something about it being an accident but it don't cut no ice with the DC cops. My cell is frankly squalid, only fit for criminals, and I naturally refuse the offer of a lawyer. When Bogg is covered in shit, only Bogg can flush it away.

The night is endless and one repeated concern keeps flashing through my mind. Will they let me keep the Blackberry so I can blog from within Guantanamo Bay?

Fortunately, Fab is fine and when he comes round explains that it was really all an accident and I was released this morning. I suspect that Barack had a quiet word as well to oil the wheels of justice. I have been asleep all day and am just about now recovered, but what an experience.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

States of play

The globe-trotting part of my job never stops it seems and I am currently in Washington for an international bean feast for umbrella head honchos from all over the world. It will be a week of high powered presentations and will help determine global consensus (as long as the Americans say so) for umbrella policy over the next century.

Mind you, I am lucky to have got here at all. I initially thought for some reason that the event was being held in Washington, Tyne and Wear. It never occurred to me that a nation such as the USA would have any interest in umbrellas...surely they all drive everywhere rather than walk? But fortunately my excellent director of strategic direction (map reading etc.), Fab Jobsworth (Oxford, naturally), managed to get me to the airport and on the plane and now here I am.

I already knew that Barack Obama is secretly quite an advocate of umbrellas, having once owned one when a student. But it is something he tried to keep quiet during the campaign lest it harmed his chances, despite being subject to a spoof version of Rihanna's timeless umbrella opus. When he was elected I did send him a text message congratulating him and saying I hoped this would usher in a new era of US-led global umbrella advocacy. But I never expected things to move on so fast. He has been subject to hyperbole that would make Jesus blush but like all effective leaders he takes advice from the right people. Messiah, second coming, saviour of the free world. By all means use any of these epithets when describing me if my undoubted influence on Barack leads to a great new age for umbrellas. And once that is sorted I'll give him some advice on sorting out the financial system, the Middle East and drug related gun crime in Blacbury's infamous ghettoes.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Not a great few days

April may have been the cruellest month for that poet so beloved of pseudo literary types everywhere, T S Eliot (personally speaking, the only thing he wrote of any note were the cat poems), but for me March has been a right sod.

First of all, the Sunday papers come crashing through the letter box, nearly crushing Barkles, and I find I have made the headlines in one of the more downmarket titles. "Illicit fumble-rella fella" screams the front page. Apparently, I have been photographed leaving some dodgy flat in Hoxton after partaking in a sordid finger pointing orgy. I admit I was at the address in question but did at no point, point the finger or anything else. I never would but can happily list several others who were there and did (eh, Hubert?).

To try and take my mind of things, I settle down in the favourite armchair to listen to my Desert Island Spokes performance on Radio Blacbury ("104.5 FM - putting the juice into Blacbury"). But they only go and cancel it to air a tribute to Trudie Hood, some reality TV star who had tragically passed away overnight, and apparently the people's princess for the chav generation. While I have every sympathy for the plight of Miss Hood, who right til the end tried to milk every last drop of media coverage out of her undeniable mediocrity, and my heart goes out to her young children, the whole episode is just plain bizarre. And the fact that news of her death hits most people on the very day they are frantically gathering overpriced blooms or dragging Mum off to the local carvery whether she likes it her not just smacks of one last final attempt to take centre stage.

Even more nauseating was Gordon Brown's latest Blair-lite moment, when he leads tributes to Hood in a desperate attempt to engage with his broken public, in an act redolent in the worst possible way of the attempt Blair made to accumulate political capital after Princess Di's murder.

Glad I have got that off my chest - don't know what came over me. It was almost as if someone else hijacked my persona...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Leadership tussles

Oh, here we go again. Brolly sodding Weekly is raking up the old rivalry between BUBB and the National Canopy and Visor Organisation (NCVO). They have run a story saying that disagreements between us ultimately led to the government pulling the funding plug on the umbrella leadership centre based at the Len Ganley Management College.

It's all nonsense of course. True, we did fundamentally and secretly disagree about the direction of the initiative but that is to be expected when two high powered representative bodies are jockeying for position. There are several holes in the story that show it must be rubbish. Firstly, it mentions some correspondence that was unearthed through a freedom of information request. Now we all know that nothing remotely useful or interesting comes from one of them. Anything of any value is blocked for some reason or another.

Secondly, the story mentions attempts by my deputy, Hector Rule, to engage with NCVO on this. Does Brolly Weekly really think that I would delegate such important squabbling to an, admittedly capable, underling? Of course not. I would be right there at the front, leading the charge in the interests of BUBB.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Plastic paddies

Out on the razz tonight for St Paddy's Day. Obviously, like a lot of other people I am only tenuously Irish. The Boggs do have Irish ancestory going back - the Peat-Boggs were a wealthy Wexford farming family back in the day. Which is more than enough of an excuse for me to wear the shamrock. But never has the word sham been used more appropriately .

Interesting fact. Both my mother and umbrella minister Gavin Lennon's father can't stand U2. And it doesn't stop there. They have both been to Dublin. Freaky or what? Gav could almost be a relation. I am seeing him tonight at some dreary book launch before I hit Waxy O'Connors. I wonder if he will be wearing his Thin Lizzy 1978 tour T-Shirt as well?

Monday, 16 March 2009

Desert Island dreaming

A dream come true for me this week as I have (finally, what took you so long guys?) been asked to appear on Radio Blacbury's popular long-running programme Desert Island Spokes. I will be interviewed by Christy Mung about my life and asked to choose my top eight all time umbrellas, fictional or otherwise, that I would want with me if I were to be marooned on the Isle of Wight during April. I will also be asked to select one book and a luxury item.

Asking me to narrow down my brolly choices to eight will be tough - a bit like asking John Prescott to plump for the best pie he has ever eaten....(I did ask him once. he told me to Bogg off, as he does to everyone on instinct, then conspiratorially confessed to me that he still gets dewy eyed recalling a gala pie he had from a deli in Rochdale, 1989).

Nevertheless I have made my selections after much cogitating. I won't reveal what they are - you'll have to tune in to find out when the programme is broadcast next weekend, but if anyone would like to guess what might be included via the comments box below then there could be a small prize in it for any correct/amusing suggestions.

Friday, 13 March 2009

A load of meatballs

Still in Malmo and the conference draws to a close today. Frankly it has been a bit boring - a lot of guff about parapluies and regenscherms, paraguas and ομπρέλαs. I am all for learning from others but I realise that there is nothing the Europeans can teach us Brits about brollies with their fancy designs and impractical technology. I am also a bit peeved that I wasn't asked to speak. And if I see one more kottsboller I will scream.

One worrying development came out of a session given by European Umbrella Commissioner, Gampmeister Ella Umber. Over the years the UK has had to fight some bizarre directives from the bumbling brollycrats in Brussels. BUBB led the charge to successfully counter the proposed size restriction on the little plastic bit that fits over the spoke, for example. But the latest piece of Eurobabble nonsense really takes the bourbon. They want to standardise umbrella handles and make them all straight, thus signalling the death knell for millions of brollies with curved handles. This is a idea is plain bananas and BUBB will fight it all the way.

My plane leaves in a couple of hours and then it is off to Blacbury for the weekend, after picking up Barkles. I hope he is OK - I couldn't find anyone to look after him so he has been chained to a lamp post in Brockwell Park for the last couple of days, with a big juicy bone.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Seeking European glory

Stuck in Sweden for a couple of days at a gathering of the great and the good from the European umbrella scene. It is an event organised by EuCLUTS (the European Committee of Leadership in Umbrella Technology and Sophistication) which is a body BUBB set up a few years back. Detractors say that this was merely an excuse for me to blag some fancy trips around Europe at the expense of members but I ask you, in all seriousness, if that really was the case, would I really be holed up now in such a shithole as Malmo?

BUBB may be British in its focus but that doesn't mean there aren't things that can be learned from our European cousins. The highlight today is a talk by Swedish umbrella guru, Magnus Brollestom and there will be some top notch networking once the wortleberry wine kicks in later. As they say in Sweden, "upp paraplyet".

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Great news. Umbrellabuilders, the government backed umbrella investment fund that I chair, has just scooped another great pool of cash from the Department of Health. God knows what it's for and what we will do with £100m, we can barely spend what we already have, but who cares? This is great credit to UBE's chief executive Donovan Morris and his team who put in a tremendous amount of work concocting some story about a pressing need for social investment in enterprises doing work highlighting the health benefits of umbrellas.You know the type of thing - umbrella equals dry head equals less chance of a cold equals healthier workforce equals greater productivity.

This will no doubt prompt the usual whinges from those such as Heston Mayday at Canopy Bank about skewing the playing field of social investment in the umbrella sector area and ignoring the claims of proven institutions but frankly I don't care. It shows that our model of promising to get the money out quickly without bureaucracy, (for which read properly checking the background of a claimant) fits perfectly with the government's short-term-quick-win (or loss) objectives.

They don't care if ultimately this approach lacks sustainability and means money is not going where needed most. They want to be able to turn round and pull the plug in three years rather than wait for ten so that the money can be redistributed to something they really care about. And any help we can give in this regard, we certainly will.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Union dues

Yesterday sees me attending a forum of representatives from BUBB (me), the umbrella makers union UBUM (Union of British Umbrella Manufacturers) and the government's umbrella office, to discuss, you've guessed it, the recession. Like anyone whose career has been enhanced in the slipstream of New Labour, I pretend to respect the proud tradition of unionism while secretly wishing they would all just shut up and stop interfering.

And I am not worried if any union leaders, including UBUM's tubthumping general secretary Doug Lettuce, might read this because as we all know they can't read. Only joking Doug - the fact is that the union leaders privately share my view as they are only paying lip service to worker's rights, using their position to join the queue at the trough themselves.

Those who can remember the dark days of the 70s during the great umbrella strike will know the damage that rhetorical nostalgic Tolpuddle Martyr left wing posturing can achieve. Do we really want to again see TV images of people walking around in the rain using newspapers to protect their finely permed 70s barnets just because some lazy spoke engineers want a pay rise and better conditions?

There was a time when these talking shops would be tuck shops as well with overweight union officials hoovering up pickled eggs, pork pies and soggy quiche. But not these days. It's all vol au vents, satay chicken and sun blushed waddymacallits. Ponsy food for ponsy people. I love every crumb.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Loving the recession

I don't think I have ever been busier than since when this recession lark started. Be it lobbying for exorbitant sums of cash from government to support umbrellas, giving speeches or having my thoughts published in the press, Robin Bogg has not shied away from what is important in these tough times - promoting Robin Bogg.

Why only this week I gave a sermon at an event hosted by a big accountancy firm - I won't say which one but they are among the top 37 in the UK so know their onions. They too are loving the opportunities presented by the recession, what with it being an excuse to trim lazier staff and rake in those lucrative receivership appointments.

Coincidentally, one of my sisters, Laura (not to be confused with Sonia who still hasn't got her book on teaching perfected despite 12 attempts and whose dim son, Kieran, is reading media studies at Newport) works at said accountancy firm as a cleaner so I take the opportunity to remind her boss that she is due promotion and a new mop.

BUBB has also just launched its recession support website. What is unique about this is that we have opened access to everyone, not just members. To share expertise to the benefit of all in umbrella land is a radical departure for us as we usually like the closed shop mentality. Some will say that they don't know why we didn't think of this before, sharing knowledge, working closely with rivals etc, but rest assured, when the smoke clears and the economy is back on track, we'll go back to our petty fiefdoms and territorial disputes.

But for now these are indeed tough times and the more we can show that we, by which I mean me, are working hard at self-promotion the better.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A nanny state

Is it really 45 years since one of the most culturally significant events of the last, well, forever? I am of course talking about the release of the timeless, seminal, awesome, wonderful, pretty damn good film classic - Mary Bloody Poppins.

I must admit that when I first saw it about 35 years ago, as a callow youth, I thought it was, how should I put it, pants. I regarded it as Disney fantasy nonsense with sinister lesbian undertones. Consider the evidence - strong female lead character with ambiguous sexual orientation, and songs with titles such as "Feed the birds" and "A spoonful of sugar". Even the actor playing the male lead (a chimney sweep if you please) was called Dick van Dyck.

But over the years I have come to realise that Mary Poppins symbolises the freedom and power that comes from a good umbrella. A nanny state is often used as a pejorative term but if there were more governesses like Poppins overseeing the troubled youth of this sceptred Albion, we'd all be a lot less scared of knife crime. And spiritually happier as well.

If you have yet to slurp from the glass of this celluloid rioja I urge you to do so. And rejoice in its sheer body, bouquet and class.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Playing the name

There are many qualities that an effective CEO must possess and I have at at least two of them - networking and name dropping. I have lost count of the number of times that esteemed friends and colleagues including Bernie Clifton, Roy Hattersley, Anne Diamond, Bleary Hazel, Jesus H Christ and the bloke down the local chip shop who swears he's Elvis, have said "Robin - no one, but no one, drops more names than you for the cause of umbrellas".

I wrote a book on the subject of name dropping a few years ago. I say a book, more a pamphlet. Well, few suggestions scribbled on a sheet of A4 (still available from the BUBB website for five English...dig deep, we need to boost our reserves). So with my obvious previous form in this arena, it was no surprise (but no less of an honour) to be asked to give the keynote address at this years International Name Dropping Symposium down in Port Talbot.

This long-established gathering is a must for anybody who is anybody, wants to know other anybodies and more importantly wants the world to know that they know plenty of anybodies. Here the most important item in the delegate pack is the delegate list, produced in large print and laminated.

My speech is a hit - I litter it with random tales of my many encounters with illustrious stars of politics and showbiz - legal and illegal - and the five hours just flies by.

Port Talbot is a much maligned town but while I am there I admire the stunning architecture of the steelworks - temples to a higher God in the pre Great War days. I also manage to catch a film at the Multiplex, which to be honest is a bit disappointing. I thought it would be a straightforward frothy rom com about the white stuff that cows produce but it is a dreary well meaning polemic about some politician in America. Still, I am soon cheered by a KFC bargain bucket which I take back to the hotel and munch on while reflecting upon the day.