A short few weeks ago, to the unmitigated joy of my colleagues, my boss and his boss, I officially stopped going into the office. This act is called retirement, which, according to the Collins English Dictionary, means I gave up my work or my post, especially on reaching retirement age.
Be that as it may, since my ‘retirement’, I haven’t had a moment to myself. Obliged to try and find a little peace and quiet, I lounged on a chaise longue on a private beach in Menton in the South of France and put some colour back in my cheeks after what was for me an all too emotional farewell party hosted by the kids back in the Europa Star factory. Days later saw me on a trip to Uzes near Avignon for a genial forty-years-on get-together of friends and ex-colleagues (isn’t it strange how everyone else gets older, balder and fatter and we stay exactly the same?). This was followed by a scenic drive down to Le Castellet where I met up with a whole host of journalists to enjoy an incredible Formula One and ‘Save the Children’ event organized by the dedicated TAG Heuer team with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Mercedes and McClarens zooming around the circuit. Later we enjoyed a party attended by many famous faces and finally, the following day discovered a fabulous new watch collection … the Grand Carrera, but more of that in a later edition.
I took the train from Marseille back to Menton where I was greeted most lovingly by Toby, my dog, and an irreverent grunt from the other half. After a short breather, a little more sun and a swim in a medusa-infested Mediterranean, I was stung back into action, and in particular to Nice, where the July sales were beginning. A few shirts and a pair of shorts later, not to mention the major investment in a bold, new Swatch watch with a crystal-set bezel purchased for the grumbler, it was back to the beach with an exalted feeling of being much lighter of pocket.
So far retirement was proving to be everything but. Work, shopping, swimming, eating, sleeping, sunbathing, it was all go with hardly a moment to sit back and reminisce about what was. Nevertheless, there was a schedule to follow and that meant packing a very small case to attend a wedding in the flooded north of England. The flight was from Nice to Liverpool, followed by a drive along unbelievably disorganized motorways and an even more adventurous expedition across the spectacularly undulating Yorkshire Dales that are liberally sprinkled with sheep and rabbits, many of which had been sent to their nirvana by speeding tourists.
It was here in a magnificent wayside tavern known as the C B Inn at Arkengarthdale, where mobiles ‘phones are about as useful as sun cream, that I came to the realization that I am an unreserved urbanite. Having carried with me a casual jacket and trousers without thought as to the physical demands placed on me, I realized that I had forgotten to bring a colourful pocket-handkerchief – just one of my sartorial fetishes.
Undaunted by the fact that there wasn’t a shop in the village, an hour’s drive, five dead sheep and eleven rabbits later saw us in a Yorkshire town called Richmond with a population of 7,245 and eleven shops (not to be confused with the borough of Richmond in Greater London on the river Thames with a population of 166,800 and eleven thousand shops) in my quest for a brownish garnish for my fawn-coloured jacket. As strange as it may appear, the town does not have a men’s clothing store, although it does boast two emporiums selling everything from sheep dip, shears and toilet rolls to heavy corduroy trousers. It was here I learned two things: the locals only wear ties for funerals (black was the only colour available) and innovative thinking can win the day. Having trawled through ladies underwear, skirts and unbelievably kitsch glass-tasselled curtains, I came upon a slightly glossy-patterned brown cushion for a mere £3.99. A snip in anybody’s language, which is what was required since I snipped away at the covering until I had a pocket-sized remnant that when artistically scrunched up looked like the finest silk ‘pochette’ that money can buy. During the wedding at Bolton Castle and the reception afterwards, I caught many a guest gazing admiringly at my handkerchief, although having freely partaken of the champagne it could be that they were ogling the elderly lady with a large bust that seemed to follow me around in the hope that she could steal the handkerchief to make a cushion cover.
This is my first, and hopefully not my last, Lakin at Large. I’ll get around to watches in the near future, but at present my life is all about time … and how to use it, make the most of it and try to obtain more of it.
When I left the office just a few short weeks ago now, the Europa Star team included in their ‘farewell gift’ a paper napkin that read ‘Since retirement, I miss weekends’. Well, despite the trips to here, there and everywhere, retirement ain’t what it used to be because what I miss the most is not the weekend, but my friends back in the office.
See y’all soon, somewhere,
Source: Europa Star August-September 2007 Magazine Issue