Games people play

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John Bird, 50, founder and editor-in-chief of `The Big Issue' magazine.

I think a lot of the people who have done interesting things often start believing their own propaganda. There are always a few people around who want to help you on to a pedestal, which is not particularly good if you're going to do anything useful, because the minute you're up there, people will wait a decent period of time, say, six months to a year - and then try to remove you.

So the idea of playing games and having fun - cracking jokes and being irreverent in meetings - has largely worked in my favour, because it stops people from considering me as a person of great gravitas. Games are about having fun and feeling very exalted, because I'm now in a position where people have to listen to my jokes.

If you ever have the luxury of a summer holiday with enough time to sit down and read Socrates, you'll find out how much fun he had and how many games he played. At the end of the day, people didn't know whether he was the wisest man in pre-Christendom or a complete asshole.

In the six years since I started The Big Issue, I've had a lot of people trying to say this must be a stroke of genius. I remember on one occasion I met a neighbour of mine who didn't know me from Adam, but had seen a lot of television programmes about the magazine. I was walking down the road with a friend, and the neighbour said: "It's absolutely wonderful what you've done, helping all these people."

He was being really kind and nice and supportive, and he went on for a considerable period of time. After about 15 minutes' paeon, I turned to him and said: "Have you got any jump leads?" which I think was me at my best.

`The Big Issue' is available at any good street corner for 80p. Oh well, here's a pound; you can keep the change. Thank you very much, you're a real gent.

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