Good Reading : February 2008
34 goodreading ı FEBRUARY 2008 word of mouth mind body spirit Everything about books www.goodreadingmagazine.com ONLINE in and out of the scrum Imagine a combination of self-help and rugby union: that’s the flavour of NIGEL MARSH’s new book, Observations of a Very Short Man. ROSAMUND BURTON talked to the author at his Sydney home. Iarrive at Nigel Marsh’s house in Bronte to be met by Mattie, the Jack Russell terrier Marsh was cajoled into getting by his wife and four children, despite his fear of canines.Toys are positioned haphazardly around the main room and Nigel is in the middle of wrapping a large box, as it is his wife’s birthday the following day. Nigel Marsh wrote his first book, Fat, Forty and Fired, when he was made redundant. Rather than look for another job he decided to step off the corporate ladder for a year and spend some time with his family. Not only was it an eye-opener for him to see how much had to be done every day on the home front, but it was also an opportunity for him to learn to swim more than a few strokes, give up alcohol, get fit and lose weight.The book, which has sold more than 75,000 copies in Australia alone, is an amusing account of his year off and is currently being made into a film by Robyn Kirshaw, the producer of Looking for Alibrandi. At the end of his year Marsh was offered the position of CEO at the advertising fir m Leo Burnett, so he returned to the workforce fulltime. He signed a three-year contract and when that finished stepped off the treadmill again.Today he is chair man of Leo Burnett, and is also a keynote speaker to large corporations. He was also one of the initiators of Earth Hour, the scheme that prompted two million Sydneysiders to turn off their lights for an hour on 31 March 2007. Observations of a Very Short Man was inspired by the 1,400 letters he received from readers of Fat, Forty and Fired. ‘What I am trying to do [in Observations],’ says Marsh, ‘which I probably shouldn’t admit because it’s too worthy, so I’ll sell it as a bunch of lads’ gags, is I want to make the world slightly better, however arrogant that is.’ Observations is very funny in a self-deprecating kind of way, as he has a propensity to put his foot in it. But it is also a poignant read. His amusing stories make you think. His ever- tolerant wife, Kate, and he have twin girls and two boys so many of the anecdotes are about them, and a running theme throughout is communication. In one chapter he discusses how to listen well, and in doing so to really understand what is important to the other person. There is also a chapter on sex. After Fat, Forty and Fired was published Nigel received over 700 letters from men saying that they loved their wives, but were permanently sexually frustrated. Some claimed their wife’s goal seemed to be to get away with as little sex as possible, and one writer described himself as ‘overworked and underlaid’. Marsh conjectures that hese men believe their wives simply on’t care enough’. So his advice to women who want to be in a happy oving relationship, but are only having ex with their partner on an occasional basis, is ‘bonk him more’. Nigel is planning to call his next book F*** Off Lance Armstrong. Not that he has anything against Lance Armstrong, he says quickly. ‘I’m sure he s lovely. But I m not going to win the Tour de France, so maybe he is precisely the person I shouldn’t be listening to. I hate the phrase “ordinary people”, but maybe we shouldn’t be listening to experts or super achievers, we should listen to ordinary people.’ Marsh puts himself in the category of an ‘ordinary person’, but it’s debatable whether anyone who is CEO of a successful advertising company and can read the New Testament in the original Greek can be deemed ‘ordinary’. Also, for the record, height-wise he is not excessively short (170 cm, or 5 feet 7 inches), although apparently his youngest son once described his father as ‘a very short man’, which inspired the title of the new book. Marsh moved from England to Australia with his family in 2001 and says, ‘Within eleven minutes of landing here I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I am so in love with Australia. I wept in my citizenship ceremony, and if I see litter in the streets I think it’s nice litter because it’s Australian ’ But if the Wallabies are playing England Nigel Marsh can’t help screaming for England.Whatever advances he has made on the personal growth front, when it comes to rugby he admits he can’t change! Observations of a Very Short Man is published by Allen & Unwin, rrp $27.95. Fat, Forty and Fired is published by Random House, rrp $24.95.
December January 2008