Lunches are back, and so is my newsletter…

First post-lockdown lunch…

Best Meal

Embarrassingly, feedback from my regular newsletter readers over the years revealed that their favorite section was not, as I had hoped, my insightful analysis of boards, leadership and ESG issues but my Best Meal section.

One reader declared “I never read your other stuff…I just go straight to the bottom of your newsletter to your Best Meal”.

So, I moved it to the top.

It was pointless, therefore, publishing my newsletter during lockdown.

Now that restrictions on lunches have eased…

My best meal recently was at the Castle Hume Golf Club – a Nick Faldo course and location for the 2013 G8 Summit – at The Lough Erne Resort near Enniskillen.

I wasn’t there to play golf nor to look at the great G8 pictures in the bar.

No, I went there with my newspaper and with unseemly haste for my first post-lockdown lunch. There’s a balcony with an elegant corner table overlooking the final tee. Not that I was in the least interested in what was happening on the final tee.

I ordered a pint of Guinness – asked them to set up another – and a large bowl of chips with sachets of ketchup galore.

Purists may argue this does not qualify as a meal. They are wrong. Experts rightly claim: “there’s eating and drinking in Guinness”. There is.

I had a great time.

Once, this would have been an unremarkable event. Now it was a special occasion. After months of lockdown the Guinness tasted like nectar. T’was properly “pulled”. The chips were like chips should be. Fluffy inside. Crisp outside. Hot. The sachets of ketchup were faultless save that the opening nick was missing on the sides. So I tore these open with my teeth but in such a rush that I must have looked like yer man from Revenant. The service was friendly, indulgent and frictionless. What was not to like?

Books

These stand-out:

  • Wounds by BBC War Correspondent Fergal Keane is a must read if you know nothing about what happened in Ireland between 1918 and 1922 and want to understand some of the root causes of the Troubles. And if you do but haven’t read it, read it. These events took place not far from where I was born and raised but I was unaware of the fine detail. The fine detail is grim but important.
  • I’m fascinated by the USA’s presidents, especially the link between their formative years and their conduct in office. So far I have read, or listened to, books on Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Eisenhower, Obama and, currently, FDR: No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin which is excellent – not least because of the detail on his early years’ influences. Robert Caro’s Passage of Power on LBJ is brilliant especially his first hundred hours in office.
  • I don’t read much fiction but enjoyed Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Music

Cooking

  • Many years ago a lawyer friend gave me a recipe for anchoïade which I have since deconstructed, reconstructed and, if I say to myself, have brought to an entirely new level. Like life, it’s all about balance: between the black olives, garlic, anchovies.
  • I learned how to make a Portuguese soup using chorizo and cabbage and stock which is great.
  • I ruined umpteen tea towels during lockdown. In mitigation, I tell my wife, that when cooking I feel like a conductor of an orchestra and get a bit carried away, mistaking the oven glove for a tea towel. For some reason this genuine explanation causes her to roll her eyes.

Work

  • During lockdown I managed, by Zoom, to deliver – inter alia – a programme in the USA to a GC and their team on reframing the relationship between their law department and “the business”…
  • …facilitated the board of a family business to improve decision-making by putting Propose/Debate/Vote at the heart of their governance and by reframing their relationship with their NEDs and Family…
  • …supported the CEO of a regulator and their management team in their purpose, strategy and behaviour…
  • …helped an entrepreneur launch a new consultancy …
  • …facilitated several senior leaders launch portfolio careers…
  • …pioneered an online “off-site” for a law department over six weeks using Zoom, What’s App & Slack instead of three days in a country house hotel…
  • …helped several leaders manage their First 100 Days in a new role and helped one secure a senior role…
  • ….supported a CEO through tricky COVID related decisions…
  • ….took part in a live online mock boardroom crisis in which I advised “the chair”: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/ciaranfenton_anatomy-of-a-boardroom-dispute-a-live-mock-activity-6796399299228921856–Pcg
  • developed a programme to help boards change their decision-making processes and behaviour in the light of ESG which is no fad and here to stay.

Looking forward to loads of lunches.

There are only so many left.

Ciarán Fenton

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