The fast lane to love and auditing

Following on from the apparent success of speed-dating, Reed is organising a speed-recruiting day for those interested in careers in financial services.

Interviewer: Hi, what lovely eyes you have.

Applicant: Thanks, and a first-class degree as well.

Interviewer: So not just a pretty face. Do you come to these things often?

Applicant: Not really, I was thinking of a career in the civil service but a friend said to come along.

Interviewer (stroking glass): Well, I'm sure glad you did. Drink?

Applicant: Just water thanks.

Interviewer: Abstemious too. I like that. So, anyway are you up for some auditing? Think that could be fun?

Applicant: No, but I've always wanted a Porsche.

Interviewer: You're talking my language. Why don't we blow this joint? My office is round the corner. I'd love to show you my spreadsheets.

Applicant: Sounds great. I've got to talk to that guy from KPMG and the lady from the FSA. Then I'm all yours.

Next interviewer: Hi, what lovely eyes you have.

Applicant: Thanks, and a first-class degree as well.

Of course, speed recruiting is just a new twist on the old days, though the questions were a bit different.

Interviewer: Morning, er, Peter. So where did you go to school.

Applicant: Winchester.

Interviewer: Splendid. I see you're Lord Bloggins' youngest. D'you shoot?

Applicant: Oh, yes.

Interviewer: Welcome aboard.

Oarsome feats

Somewhere in Walsall a man is sprawled across his living room floor, poring over a Royal Geographic Society map and meticulously planning his record-breaking attempt to cross Antarctica on a space hopper.

Even now he may be contacting Midlands businesses in search of commercial sponsorship. But what is beyond doubt is that he is filled with admiration for the four daring men plucked from the Atlantic just 370 miles short of completing their own assault on the record books by rowing across the ocean.

Much fuss is being made of the four oarsmen of the apocalypse, who came close to death when their boat was smashed to bits in a storm before, happily, they were rescued by a Danish cargo ship. Ironically, had they broken a record most people didn't know existed they would not have enjoyed even a fraction of the attention being lavished upon them for nearly perishing in the attempt.

No similar attention is being paid to the crews of the ship or the RAF Nimrod that braved the storm to save them.

Barely a year goes by without some heroic sort having to be rescued from a mission so foolhardy and pointless that it is held up as the acme of British derring-do. Overgrown schoolboys who routinely sacrifice large chunks of their bodies to line-dance to the Pole or rollerskate down the Matterhorn are honoured as great British eccentrics.

The rowers' exploits were duly lauded. Few questioned the point of the exercise because this type of amateur adventurism is admired simply for its own sake. It has to be, of course, for there are few big heroic discoveries on offer to the common or garden adventurer; Nasa isn't going to send them to Mars and there is hardly anywhere new left to go on the kind of expedition you plan in your local pub.

Captain Scott died trying to be the become the first man to reach the South Pole, mapping uncharted territory on his way. Although he was at least as reckless as his latter-day followers, there was at least some purpose to his fame-seeking.

Why should one admire and encourage men who try to row across the Atlantic when they could have flown or gone by liner? Not only was this no voyage of discovery, there were presumably no great technological breakthroughs attached to it either. At least those people who strap their bottoms to some four-wheeled cruise missile to break the land-speed record can claim to be advancing engineering.

The four did raise money for charity but they could have done that in the London marathon. Of course, they are free to test human endurance. People are free to climb Everest, trek across Antarctica or even go to sea in a sieve. They are free to lose bits of their bodies and die trying. They are even free to endanger the lives of others sent out to save them when things go wrong. They are no less worthy of rescue than two lads in a dinghy who get into trouble off the coast of Skegness - it's just hard to see why they are that much more admirable either.

Howard's way out

Michael Howard's latest political foray is a lament on the demise of discipline in schools that is undermining respect for authority.

It's a fair point, but a cynic might note that this sorry tendency can also manifest itself in criticism of the party leadership and attacks by pushy young Tories on older “bed-blocking” MPs who won't retire to make way for the next generation of young thrusters. And you boys at the back, no more plotting behind the bike sheds.

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