I’M GOING TO BE A CURMUDGEON *
It rather surprised my mother. Not the sort of thing expected from an eight year old. “Mom, I’m going to be a curmudgeon,” I stated with conviction. The fact that I used an uncommon word didn’t faze her at all. Not since Mrs White took me in hand.
In Standard One at Kloof Government School, with spelling bees the flavour of the day, I discovered (or, rather, the teachers did) that I trailed everyone else in reading and writing ability. At home, my attention was much more devoted to helping my father overhaul racing engines than reading books about boring Jim and Jane and their dog, Spot. Nursery rhymes like Humpty Dumpty were no attraction. I simply didn’t connect with the character typically portrayed as an anthropomorphic egg.
After all, my father ’s take on rhymes was much more colourful. “Jack and Jill fell down the hill, an act that’s very risky. If water made them act like that, I think I’ll stick to whisky.”
Cut a long story short, Mrs White took pity on me and suggested that she would devote four after-school hours a week to help me get up to speed. I’ve no idea what magic powers she possessed, but it worked. Within three months, I was able to hold my own in spelling. Three months more and I was ahead of the pack, with a robust vocabulary (including words like ‘curmudgeon’, ‘avuncular ’, ‘misogynist’, and ‘belonephobia’). The next year winning the top English and Afrikaans language prizes.
I even took languages at university and became a journalist.
My heart-felt gratitude, Mrs White. Thanks for ‘curmudgeon.’ Thanks also to Mr George Cato, a neighbour who brought the word to life. A successful man, then in his nineties, who seemed to spend his days muttering to himself or chasing dogs out of his property. Often crusty and ill-tempered, but a mentor to a ten-year old neighbour, he spent many hours in his workshop creating amazing things. I learned wood-working (especially turning) and many other crafts from this intolerant man who, when I was not yet a teenager, became a benefactor. He died and left me a significant part of his estate.
Those who know me well, understand that I’m a glass half-full sort of person and not at all a curmudgeon.
I can’t stand the ‘spreaders’ of doom and gloom, especially, the British who seem genetically designed to cause ‘double-dip’ recessions. According to Paul Krugman (Nobel Prize-winning NY Times columnist and economist), the growth in the UK economy was achieved despite rather than because of the austerity programmes they pursued to cut debt, the upturn coming when the programmes were halted. “If you repeatedly and gratuitously hit yourself in the head and then stop, you’ll start to feel better again,” said Krugman.
I recently became close to curmudgeonly when I read the World Bank Group’s Global Economic Prospects report (June 2015). The work of more than fifty staffers, the report is couched in the most politically-correct manner. Take an excerpt from the Foreword: “Risks to the outlook remain tilted to the downside, as new challenges have emerged even as pre-existing ones have become more balanced. In particular, tighter global financial conditions could combine with deteriorating growth prospects, especially in commodity-exporting countries, to raise the possibility of greater financial stress. The strengthening dollar could also slow the U.S. economy more than expected earlier, leading to some global strain.”
Cutting to the chase, there’s simply not enough demand for commodities. Crude oil is down from US $93/bbl in October 2014 to US $50.32/bbl. Fifteen years ago, it was at US $20 with the highest level being reached in 2008 at about US $140/ bbl. Copper was at about US $1/lb ten years ago, its highest approaching US $5/ lb in 2011, now at US $2.42/lb. Nickel LME Warehouse levels have been pretty static year on year 1998 – 2008, then increasing to current highs of 439 Kt. Nickel prices have been stable for fifteen years, then bouncing to US $23/lb, and now down to US $4.8/lb.
Even my favourite, Uranium Oxide, is not performing. From around US $45/lb in 2010, up to US $72 in 2011, to a low of US $28/lb in 2014, it is now at US $38/lb.
In his Perspective, John correctly says that it’s been a difficult time for our industry. Next year may also be no performer, but I’ve seen enough project interest developing to not be too pessimistic about 2017 and beyond.
The previously insatiable demand by China for natural resources “made it the world’s swing consumer,” says JP Morgan’s David Kelly. I’ve no doubt that the ‘middle-classing’ and urbanisation of the Chinese population will again become a demand restorer.
Something a lot closer to home and heart is this column.
I receive phone calls from a small number of people who enjoy it. But, not enough feedback to say it’s really worthwhile.
So, I’m now asking a direct question. If you have read this far, please email me (email@example.com). Let me know what you think of my columns. Good or bad. Of course I care. I’d rather have rave reviews. But, if you don’t like them or they don’t make you think, I’d rather know. Then, I can make a decision. Change the column or stop writing.
I never intended writing a regular column for STAINLESS STEEL. It kinda’ crept up on me. As chairperson of the Import Sector, I tried to explain how the Import Levy worked (4th Quarter 2011); followed by a call for responsibility and involvement (1st Quarter 2012); then, the purpose of the Import Sector (2nd Quarter 2012). By then, my presumptuousness allowed the slipping in of personal details like my New York-style loft and the anticipation of building an eco-house.
I skipped the 3rd Quarter 2012 column, writing, instead, on the NEW pressure equipment standard (SANS 347:2012 – Standard or Hurdle?).
Back to my hobby-horse for the 1st Quarter 2013: Disparate Thoughts – The Making of a Sector. The 2nd Quarter 2013 column discussed levy collections (with a liberal sprinkling of family anecdotes) – Straight Talk: Import Levy Collections.
The 3rd Quarter 2013 column showed how Import Sector members “pay their way,” and my penultimate Import Sector column alluded to the non-competitiveness of South Africa and the lack of an entrepreneurship. In my last Import Sector column (1st Quarter 2014), I stressed the need for the correct POSITIONING of an organisation. This is a concept sassda has now taken to heart, as evidenced by its focus on ‘engagement’ of members and all important, concerned parties.
At that time, I vacated my chairpersonship of the Import Sector and took over as chairperson of the Fabrication Sector and of the Pressure Equipment Manufacturers’ Association of South Africa (PEMA).
I continued my column under a new banner, NO SACRED COWS and in the 2nd Quarter 2014 questioned why a so potentially well-positioned product type as duplex stainless steel was not making it in the market. I suggested that the pricing strategy for duplex stainless steels did not “take advantage of nickel’s shenanigans.”
I expected comment from Outokumpu or Sandvik. Maybe others. Nothing.
My 3rd Quarter 2014 column criticised South Africans for being lazy. Again, no comment.
Either everyone agreed with me, or couldn’t bother to comment. It crossed my mind; maybe my column had no readers!
The 1st Quarter 2015 column touched on the importance of “belonging” to sassda. The 2nd Quarter 2015 column was written after twenty days of “immersion” at sassda, in preparation for the drafting of the sassda Marketing Plan 2015+. I noted that the plan called for “increasing the awareness of stainless steel” and of “increased perception of sassda as THE stainless steel knowledge base.” The ultimate objective is to increase the “real value” of sassda “to members”.
Comment? Once again, deathly silence.
My latest column (3rd Quarter 2015) dealt with the “evolutionary” re- branding of sassda, of the need for strong and consistent branding, an ethos of engagement and the resultant increased sassda visibility.
No reader comment expected. None received.
If the consensus is that my column is not wanted, I won’t have a ‘hissy fit’. A little rejection never killed!
In any event, I feel blessed.
On the sassda front, an evolutionary Corporate Identity exercise is virtually completed.
A new advertising campaign will be launched this week.
We’re engaging top executives of project houses and will soon commence lunchtime sessions to demystify stainless steel for engineers.
We’ll be speaking at industry conferences.
We’re ‘getting closer ’ to publications, resulting in improved stainless steel coverage.
We’re building alliances with important groups
We’re engaging more with members. And, our ‘outside-in’ approach will help ensure that sassda products and services are aligned to member needs.
Despite having Parkinson’s disease (which I diagnosed myself), I don’t regard myself as handicapped in any way. My brain is sharp and my sense of humour is probably even more ‘acue’ (urban lingo for ‘awesome’). Sure, I sometimes have difficulty perambulating (thanks, Mrs White), but I won’t use ‘handicapped’ parking spaces.
In fact, most of the time, I’d prefer to see myself as a ‘Michael J. Fox Method Actor ’ rather than PD sufferer.
But, there are times that could see the beginnings of muttering under one’s breath. Like, when I fell recently, severing my ‘longhead biceps tendon.’
Anyway, I’ve just spent a wonderful weekend with my best friend … celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary (and forty two and a half years of being together)!
The verdict on me becoming a curmudgeon is still out. If need be, I could still pretend.
So, take my muttering for real. Or, I could just be having a gas!