Nine of the dozen 1983 Austin Rover sales and marketing graduate trainees gathered on Thursday afternoon. Driving up there I had been much in thought...well the traffic was so hideous that there was plenty of time as I went no where fast...my main concerns were trying to remember the names and faces of the people I had known thirty years ago. Most had passed into oblivion. Just like the cars...Maestros, Montegos, Metros, Princesses, Triumph Acclaims.
Around a bottle of champagne, we re-introduced ourselves. We were at Haseley Manor, a fourteenth century house that had once been one of the training basis for ARG. At some stage in the demise of the company it had been sold on and then sold on again. Now it lies empty and abandoned in need of a new owner. Yours for just £4 million.
We all had quite a lot to say to each other. I remember when I first met up with old school chums some twenty years ago there was quite a lot of jostling to see who had done the best. On this meeting, there was none of that...it was just very enjoyable chit chat which kept going into the early hours of the morning.
Interestingly, three things that characterised me at Austin Rover have followed me throughout my life. Everyone (but me) agreed that whilst there I had spent my time railing against the system. I don't remember that, but it is true, and an explanation of why I could never be a corporate man...and explains some of the ups and downs of my working life. I guess I just like doing things my way.
I was also described as having 'a light touch with work'. It may be that over thirty years I haven't been nose to grindstone all the time. There have been restful periods, there have been periods, long, long periods when I've worked harder than anyone I know. But, I have always been able to convey such an air of calm, that people have assumed I'm not doing very much. Being laid back isn't always good when everyone else is losing their heads...
Everyone seemed to think I had left under a cloud. The truth is that I hadn't, but some months before I resigned there had been an incident. A year after we joined, it had been time for a new round of graduate recruitment. As the blue-eyed boy I was asked back to Haseley Manor to give the short list candidates an insight to what they could expect. I took it upon myself to give my talk, stay with them at the bar and then take them out to a local night club. We got back just as the sun was rising. Some of them were somewhat worse for wear, and it showed badly in their final interview. The rumour was that I had slept with one of the girls - not true, but she did a few months later come and live with me, and we spent a few good years together. It's a fact that throughout my career there have always been 'incidents'....always when my sense of fun and adventure has been a little bit more than was expected.
I had a fabulous night, I loved seeing all these people again, and we all hope to do it again.