Ah yes. Doing things the Lord Russell way.
A simple phrase that perfectly sums up one of my life’s philosophies.
And something I feel passionately about, so much so that its one of the chapter names in my book.
So Russell, you’d ask at this point, what’s that all about, what do you mean when you say that?
‘The Lord Russell way’, is it something that’s exclusive to you?
The answer to that is, no, not at all. It’s something that we can all do, a personal ethos, goal, plan or whatever else you might like to call it, that each and every one of us can bring into our lives.
It’s about living life to the full as much as you can.
Making the most of whatever situation you are in and always looking for the positives. Seeing your glass as being nearly full rather than almost empty. And it’s about never-ever missing out on making the most of an opportunity, no matter how improbable or unlikely a successful conclusion to whatever that might happen to be is.
One of the examples I give in the book relates to an adventure I had at Number 10 Downing Street.
‘Adventure’? Yes, absolutely an adventure. That’s what life should be about isn’t it, an adventure?
Never let it be dull or routine. Make it an adventure.
I was at Number 10 for a work related event when I was at the Home Office. It is, after all, much more than ‘just’ the home of whoever might be the Prime Minister at the time, it’s much more than that and, whilst the façade of Number 10 and that iconic black door might be familiar to people everywhere (maybe it’s the most famous door in the world?), the reality of it is a little different to the image shown.
For a start, neither the letterbox, door knocker or doorbell work whilst the door cannot be opened by the outside. You need to be let in, in other words, regardless of whether you’re a visiting head of state or the milkman. That means getting the attention of one of the security guards inside the building who will only, and I mean ‘only’, let you inside if you’re expected, have your name on his or her list and arrive on time.
Getting into the most exclusive and expensive clubs in London is a doddle compared to getting inside Number Ten.
Once you’ve arrived and have been vetted by both the security guards and an elaborate security scanning device, you are free to go about your business inside-which, if you work for the Home Office, invariably means spending an hour or so in one of Number Ten’s many meeting rooms.
Which is what I was going to be doing.
Except I had something else in mind. Which was to sit in the famous Watchman’s Chair.
This is one of two antique chairs from the early 19th century that were reserved for the exclusive use of the two men who sat outside Number 10 as they kept a watchful eye on the building and its immediate surroundings, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year-and yes, even in the winter, as they were well provided for as there was a drawer fitted underneath the chairs into which hot coals were placed, thus keeping the recumbent watchman’s posterior warm as he went about his duties.
One of Mr Chippendale’s finest. Wouldn’t you want to sit in it? (Shutterstock)
They weren’t just any old chair brought in from the 19th century equivalent of Office World either. No, these were made by Thomas Chippendale. One of the two is now in the hands of a private collector whilst the other now sits safely inside Number Ten.
And I just HAD to sit in it!
There was just one flaw to my plan.
No-one is allowed to sit in that chair. Absolutely no-one. Not even the Prime Minister himself. Just as well really, as he’d probably spill wine all over it. It’s strictly out of bounds, a relic from another age that you can, at a push, look at, but on no account can you sit in it. Period.
But I have just GOT to sit in that chair.
This is what I mean when I talk about ‘the Lord Russell way’. When there is an opportunity, perhaps a once in a lifetime one, to do something remarkable, something you’ll remember for the rest of your life and end up telling, as I will, your grandchildren about.
‘Seize the day’. Remember the film?
Of course, the second I made to sit down, the security guard who’d been accompanying us turned a deep puce-like colour and strode over betwixt me and chair.
“Lord Russell, I’m afraid you cannot sit in the Watchman’s Chair. It’s against all the rules and against protocol of Number 10. Please step away from the chair…”
Too late. I’ve already sat down in it. And very comfortable it was as well.
The security guard is now, as you might guess, set to go into orbit.
“No no no…Lord Russell, please get out of the Watchman’s Chair, it’s not…..”
But I’d sat in it now. So I got up, smiled, shook him by the hand and made my way down the corridor to where the meeting was being held. To be fair to the security guard, he’d had half a smile on his face the whole time and, whilst he was serious about what he was saying, he was all smiles when we came out of the meeting and he saw us on our way. My colleagues, on the other hand, couldn’t stop talking about it.
“Russell, I can’t believe you did that”.
“No-one is allowed to sit there, you knew that. But you did so anyway. You’re such a…….”
“We can’t go anywhere with you Russell, we daren’t think about what you’re going to do next”
Well I can understand that. Because half the time I don’t know what I’m going to do next myself. But look. There I was. Inside one of the most iconic and well known buildings in the world and within sight of one of the most famous antique chairs in the world.
I’m not going to pass on the opportunity of sitting in it.
And, whilst it might not be something that you’d want to do, isn’t there, somewhere, a watchman’s chair in your life?
Something you’ve always wanted to do. But, for whatever reasons, haven’t been able to do so.
So when I talk about ‘…doing things the Lord Russell way’, that’s what I am talking about.
Reaching out. Touching the skies, being extraordinary. Experiencing something special.
And always making the very most of whatever situation you happen to find yourself in.
Do it YOUR way.
And ending up with a story that you might be telling your grandchildren one day….
Cover photo-LRB Personal Collection