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I think it would be fair to say that, on reflection, I've been lucky in my life. A beautiful and vivacious wife, a lovely daughter who hasn't brought me as much grief as she might have done, exceptionally good health and sufficient money not to worry overly about it. Long may it continue!
I'm a product of the fifties 'baby-boom' and whether I like it or not, the values I had drilled into me as a child remain. I have vivid memories of when I was a boy playing street games with my friends in the traffic free back streets of a gritty, industrial town in Lancashire where my maternal grandparents lived; swimming in the municipal pool on a Saturday morning or attending the ABC cinema as an 'ABC Minor'; watching huge ships tramp silently up and down the Manchester Ship Canal and waving furiously to the sailors leaning over the railings.
Then my parents upped sticks and moved to the much more bucolic atmosphere of Chepstow, a charming market town straddling two countries. From my bedroom window I watched as the twin support towers of the first Severn bridge rose like two massive rugby posts from the villages of Aust and Beachley. No doubt this sowed the seeds for my love of rugby and engineering.
All too soon there was another move on the cards, this time back 'up north' to rural Cheshire and my fourth school in as many years. This time my family intended to stay - but not me. I was off to university in that land much misunderstood and maligned by my ancestors - Yorkshire, which turned out to be just like Lancashire except for the foreign dialect. Four years later and I was back in Cheshire - not through choice but because it was a great job offer. Thank God I did; if I hadn't I wouldn't have met my fantastic wife Julie who I still love deeply after almost thirty-two wonderful years of marriage.
However, moving around makes one restless and before long Julie and I moved a little further than the neighbouring county - Papua New Guinea, in fact. Boy was it sticky! But the laid back lifestyle and complete lack of one-upmanship more than made up for the humid climate, and the colourful people we made friends with were marvellous. Now we had an appetite for travel - next stop Hong Kong! Four frantic years in a city that never sleeps was exhilarating but demanding. The energy put out by those all-night mahjong sessions would illuminate Blackpool for a week!
Time to settle down and start a family, and as the demand for engineers had imploded at about the same rate as the current housing market we returned to good old Blighty and an uncertain future, but with a compensating baby girl, Charlotte Grace.
Coming home (not going overseas, surprisingly) was a culture shock - I guess all returning expats will tell you this. I found myself over qualified and over expectant. Career change calling! What on earth could I do after almost ten years in my engineering comfort zone? I know - I'll try selling! Yes, like you, I, as a professional man, rather looked down on selling - it wasn't a profession; it was a job that mouthy, flashy, shallow people went in for, wasn't it? How wrong I was. During the past twenty four years in sales I have known some of the most charming, intelligent and engaging people one could ever hope to meet - colleagues and customers alike. I've come across ex doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, engineers - some disenchanted with their professions, some hungry for change. It's a challenging, if stressful life knowing that you're the crucial cog without which no one gets paid, and no two days are ever the same.
But now that Charlotte's flown the nest and there's a pile of stories in the old cerebral attic waiting to be aired, I intend to bring them out into the open for all to enjoy. In those immortal, unattributed words:
"Unless a man undertakes more than he possibly can do, he will never do all that he can ."