Conversations on Planning

My father was a very good planner. As he always said, he planned for the worst scenario possible.

I always thought this was inherently a Greek form of negativity. I have come to realise that most Greeks use it as a smoke screen, to talk as if the worst has befallen them, yet meanwhile they are living life to the full, enjoying time with friends, not working too hard and avoiding any responsibility to the nation and fiscus as a whole.

My father was different. He was responsible, and added to the nation’s fiscus.

When anyone else went to him with a problem, be it personal, financial or moral he could easily crystallise the problem for the person who was seeking his help to be able to see the solution. Sometimes the solution was a series of options, results depending on which scenario unfolded. My father was a kind of Clem Sunter, although unlike Clem he often seemed to end up in a negative scenario, and then he would work his way up from that.

My father could easily read an architect’s plan and visualise the structure. He could improve the efficiency and allow for future expansion in his mind. The simplicity of it all was encapsulated in his Flexihome concept of the seventies. An affordable 3 bedroom house, lounge dining room and kitchen with a car port that could be closed in later to add to the lounge. There was also a bedroom wing that could easily have rooms added on as if part of the original design. I remember printouts from the accountants on A3 paper, narrow blue and white horizontal stripes allowing one to read the figures easier. I would sit unfolding piles of this paper doing the costings on the houses as a teenager. It would probably take an hour or so now with a spread sheet, but then it took me a whole day to do one style of house. My father frowned on the use of a calculator. He would sometimes look over my shoulder and look at a column of figures and say:

“Let’s race. I’ll add it up in my head and you use the tin brain.”

He usually won!

That’s not to say he did not use a calculator. He was a pioneer in the use of the HP financial calculators, which were really small computers that used Reverse Polish Notation. I was quite proud at university when I mastered the use of this calculator in the scientific realm. I felt disappointed when I could not use it in medicine.

The last bit of planning I saw my father had done was after he died and we were clearing out his office. He had an exam pad with cash flow calculations for the business, going three years ahead. His untidy left hand converted to right hand scrawl sloped this way and that, with the final figure double underlined and circled.