Tuesday, 14 October 2014

I blame apples

So, according to this morning's business section, said Alexander Stubb.  Alexander Stubb?  He's the prime minister of Finland.  But when I looked more closely at the article I saw that it wasn't apples he was blaming for the parlous state of his country's economy, it is Apple.

It seems to me that the Finnish economy is based on two things: mobile phones and paper.  Nokia is one of the leading manufacturers of mobile phones but, according to Mr Stubb, has been badly hit by Apple's iPhone.   Finland having vast expanses of trees, soft wood trees, they have a great newsprint industry, although I'm not entirely sure that they actually make paper.  I think they simply export the timber for other countries' paper mills.  But Mr Stubb asserts that this industry has been hit by Apple's iPad.

Just how much truth there is in those assertions is something I couldn't say, but the whole thing reminded me of the last ten or so years of my working life.  I had been employed to act as general manager of a newspaper company.  It was just a small company which published only the one title, a religious newspaper for a church of which I was not (and still am not) a member.  But, as the chairman who employed me said, they wanted professionalism before piety.  The entire board of directors, bar one, was non-executive, the one exception being the paper's editor.  He and I more or less ran the company as a partnership, the editor's role being to see that the white spaces in between the advertisements were filled and to hire and fire the editorial staff.  All other aspects of the business - advertising, distribution, printing, accounts, staff management, premises management, company secretarial duties - all fell to me.  This did have the advantage of giving me a varied job which, for most of the time, prevented the onset of boredom.

My first chairman - and, indeed, his successor - were keen on the Newspaper Society, of which our company was a member, the NS being the trade association of the local newspaper industry.  I duly stood for and was elected to the council of said society, which opened for me several interesting doors such as access to invitations to royal garden parties and, on one occasion, a reception at Windsor Castle.  It also meant that I would be included in the annual lunch just before Christmas each year hosted by one of Finland's leading wood pulp companies.  And I can still remember the story of the Finnish snowbird as related by the chairman of that company at one lunch.

The snowbird lives deep in the vast forests of Finland and during the long winter months, can suffer hunger because food is scarce.  One particular snowbird had found itself having to fly further and further each day in the search for food and one day simply fell from the sky, completely exhausted.

A wolf saw the bird fall and was on its way to enjoy a snack but it so happened that a Finnish ox-cart driver also saw the bird fall and, being a kindly soul, stopped to see if he could help.  He realised that the bird was hungry and cold, so he scooped up a handful of warm, steaming ox dung and wrapped it round the bird.  He placed the bundle back on the ground and went on his way.  The wolf smelled the ox dung and went on its way as well, not wanting to eat that.

Later, the bird regained consciousness but was unable to fight its way out of the ox dung, which had by then hardened into a shell, but the ox cart driver returned, broke open the shell and released the revived bird.

And the moral of the story is that your friends not only dig you out of the shit, but they drop you in it in the first place.

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