01 August 2008

Farewell, farewell

I took a seat on the train and called the local taxi company to pick me up. "The last train?" "I suppose it is." Perhaps that's a measure of a good evening. Opposite me, a passenger tapped a sleeping occupant of two seats opposite each other - in other words, feet up on the facing seat - to wake him, and before the newcomer could take his seat the other leapt up and left the train, which had been standing at Paddington for ten minutes, as quickly as ever possible.
I asked the couple sitting next to me - Paul and Josephine, going by the tattoo on his leg - to ensure I didn't stay beyond Didcot, to avoid a similar performance. "Oh, we'll be long gone by then", Josephine told me. Meanwhile the companion of the passenger who had tapped the sleeper on the leg to wake him yawned and hiccupped loudly, and while the leg-tapper caressed her leg and kissed her gently on the cheek she stared at a point close to Bristol Parkway. I piped "Red and Gold" into my ears, reasoning that music would keep me awake to my destination.
Red and Gold is perhaps not the best choice. It is an excellent song, and the chorus never fails to rouse me, but it is too closely tied up with the annual festival held on the field of the battle it describes, and the Cropredy Festival is the greatest and most traumatic cause of nostalgia I know.
To cap it, I had spent a few hours with Ben P, who was there with me when last I heard Fairport perform this song on the very battlefield, and in the pub - putting back more beer than I normally do in a month.
The reason for all this was my departure from what I referred to in an email to the said Ben as "the service of Mr Dyson", whom he happily confused with Mr Lacey ... to add to the other Fairport references I had dreamt up: Farewell, farewell quoted in my parting email to my colleagues (with an alternative reference to Kevin Ayers's See You Later ). And Tony the disenchanted Fairport fan, had come up with "Who knows where the timesheets go?", which I will adopt as a motto.
Listening to Farewell, farewell (as I hope my colleagues have been doing) brings on new waves of nostalgia. I had been gently alerted to the fact that I might have to undergo one of those presentations that I have so often participated in at the office, but when I left my room at about 4.15 intent on returning an armful of books to the library I had forgotten altogether about the prospect and was caught completely unawares.
It fell to Ian to say a few words, which harked back to 1995 when, the merger of Bircham & Co and Stoneham Langton and Passmore being imminent, he had come to Bolton Street to hear me give a talk on trade marks, claiming that he had insisted to his partners that the merger go ahead to secure my services; and confiding in the audience that both he and I had been born in Hartlepool (which of course was not true, but I am not going to spoil a good story, even if I have to assume the role of a monkey-hanger to oblige him). But we have, as he reported, exchanged books on Hartlepool (though the exchange has so far been one-way, from him to me). Then he presented me with a card signed by more people than I realised I knew, in an envelope nicely decorated with a photo of runners, and a small gift bag containing (gift-wrapped, so it was not clear what they were) a pair of running socks, a can of Red Bull and a jar of recovery sports rub. Plus a gift voucher from the local running shop in a sum that I could scarcely believe. The hand of Nancy is clearly identifiable here.
I planned - truly - to spend a few minutes in the pub and to drink very little. Several pints later, that resolution was in tatters. I went back to my desk to send an email to a client, and to deal with a few other odds and ends. A box was filled with my personal possessions (what the author of "Then we came to the end" referred to as "shit"), mostly by Ben J rather than me. I sent an email and copied it to the senior partner, the source of the client. He sent me a reply. I responded, and so did he. This is not how it should be at 1030 at night. I sent a email to an attorney in California, and less surprisingly she replied. I left the office, and found my way to the train and an MP3 player full of ancient Fairport Convention songs.
I am pleasantly surprised that my colleagues - who are also my friends - should have gone to such lengths to mark my departure. I myself should not have gone as far as I did - leaving work in a state I had not intended - but there will be ways to put it right shortly. I had come to regard this as merely a job, where I had the pleasure of spending time with delightful colleagues, but I realise now that there was always more to it than that. The colleague who confided that she loved her workmates too much identified a truth that holds for me too.

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