The great bacon roll debacle

July 17, 2022

I had the great pleasure to be at Lord’s last week. It was a lovely treat. A place where the gentle hubbub of a contented crowd might just be the most blissful sound a herd of grazing humans can make. It is the sound of thousands of conversations that nestle in the weft of the unfolding narrative of a cricket match. It is partly the sound of relaxed good fortune and partly the sound of people finding joy in the lost art of being distracted together. On a warm summer’s day that rolls gently into a sun-blessed evening, it would be hard for me to find a better definition of living my most perfect life.

However, last week something unexpected happened. Lord’s made the quite extraordinary and unfathomable decision not to sell hot bacon rolls before the match began. Apparently, the 1pm start for the game meant there were no bacon rolls for the ludicrous rationale that bacon rolls are a breakfast food, and this was lunchtime.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a consistent advocate of working with whatever fate lobs in our direction. I believe we can learn from the exponents of theatrical improv and that an unexpected change of direction is therefore a gift and not an obstacle. I also mentor people to count their blessings in the midst of swirling uncertainty and to trust their judgement as their superpower. However, on this occasion I reacted as if I had been slapped by a stranger. I muttered for some minutes under my breath. FFS Lord’s, you just cannot make unilateral decisions of this magnitude and not expect some shit to be lost.

As I slept on my thoughts, however, I reached a point of understanding that I might not have found without the bacon roll catastrophe.

I realise, of course, that the absence of bacon rolls is not the end of the world, or even likely to spoil an afternoon at the cricket; but neither is it entirely trivial. While I am self-aware enough (just about) not to bang on like Major-General Tufton-Bufton hankering after matron’s eggy soldiers, changing traditions is never a small change.

Traditions and customs sit deep inside our identity. A change for some people might seem inconsequential; but the exact same change for some other people, might undermine their very sense of who they are. Change might seem small, but we should be mindful from whose perspective we are looking.

I know (of course, I know) that I am stuck in my ways. It’s not just bacon rolls. I like my event tickets to be things that are printed on substantial paper and to fit my wallet; tickets should be a keepsake of a magical memory, not just a means of entry. I also love my dear old Nokia phone because the battery lasts 3 months and it protects me from 24/7 connectivity. And a bacon roll before a cricket match connects me to the joy of the little boy inside who still cannot believe how lucky he is to walk into Lord’s to watch the game he loves.

Therefore, if you make me have an electronic ticket-app-hoojamaflip, or tell me I must have a smart phone or change my decades long routine at a cricket match, you do not update me, you lessen me.

The next time I hear myself suggest to anyone that small change is an opportunity, I will remind myself that the absence of a mere bacon roll resulted in me having a near existential crisis while composing in my head a whole series of unsent letters to the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Of course, change may be necessary, appropriate and well-intended, but we should also think about what the change represents and not just what the change is. Becoming the rounded leader certainly means becoming efficient at implementation and clever at strategy, but it also means knowing that compassion is an essential requirement, even for apparently inconsequential change. The Great Bacon Roll Debacle (as it will now be known) is my new benchmark for how we need to take care of anyone on whom we impose our view of small change.

And if anyone from Lord’s reads this piece, please remember that it is because people care that we are blessed to love the time we share.

Take care Paul xx

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