Wednesday, 11 April 2018

I am honourably discharged from Her Majesty’s Press, am handed the traditional tin of Werther’s Originals and can look forward to many years of peace and tranquility (well, someone’s got to and it might very well not be you)

Well, there’s no way to sugar the pill: I am officially now a pensioner and after serving in Her Majesty’s Press for two months short of 44 years, an ex-hack. (I was, for one reason and another - for one very practical reason, I have to say, apart from other less practical reasons - casting my mind back to early June 1974 when I turned up on the Monday morning at the office of the Lincolnshire Chronicle. But far more on that in a future entry. I worked my last shift last

Wednesday, spent a fortune on Wednesday night entertaining friends, son and brother, and colleagues at The Britannia, Kensington, to the drink of their choice and a variety of nibbles, buggered off down here to Cornwall on the Thursday, and my life is now my own.

To be quite honest, I haven’t - unusually I imagine - got all that much to say about it. I have been planning for it for the past six months, so I am not ‘in shock’ anything, and, crucially, I am well aware of the goal I have set myself, and I shall be taking that super-seriously. But apart from that, the only discernible difference between life now and life until 6pm last Wednesday is a curious and very welcome feeling of not having to rush: before when I returned from London on Wednesday night, Thursday morning and had just three days at home, there was always a list of things to do - my stepmother’s shopping, sorting out this and that - and until a job was done, I always had this feeling it was hanging over me. That has now gone.

But these are early days. My send-off from work was rather touching: I was ‘banged out’ by pretty much the whole newsroom at the Mail (the whole newsroom because when one end of a newsroom hears a banging out has started, it joins in whether or not it actually knows who is being banged out). It is a tradition which started in the hot metal days of compositors etc and is not at all usual, so I was very touched. Very touched.

So that it is. As almost always happens when a hack retires, my colleagues designed a spoor front page and I shall post it here once I get hold of a pdf. So far I have ten printed copies, but not means with which to digitise them (they are A3 in size).

The timing has inadvertently become rather good in that my daughter is expecting her first child and it is due on Friday (April 13), though that is just a guide date. On Sunday I shall be up very early - in fact, I probably shan’t go to bed, to drive my son off to Heathrow airport to catch an early-morning flight to Madrid and then on to Panama, and then, after getting a few hours kip at my brother’s in Earls Court, it will be down to Deal in Kent to see a college friend. I actually met him a few months ago when the former drummer in a band he was in who eventually moved to America and the computer industry made his annual trip to Old Blighty with his wife, but until then I hadn’t seen him for about 37 years. He hadn’t changed a lot.

I shall be taking my electric guitar and a small amp, and what with that and the fact that he is an enthusiastic supporter of Jeremy Corbyn whereas I think Corbyn, the current Labour leader is a decent, but useless politician stuck in adolescent left-wingery, it might be a memorable trip. His wife is a painter and has her own studio, so I look forward to seeing her work.

In May, I am off to North-Western Germany for five days for my niece and goddaughter’s wedding, then in June and July there are two one-day trips - as in fly in and fly out the same day - trips to Bratislava for the work on my implanted front tooth to be completed. Around the end of July, I think there will also be my now annual trip to Bordeaux for the music festivals.

But that’s it, really, in November I shall be 69, and with luck, if I keep myself healthy in every way, I might have another 10 to 15 on Earth, so let’s see what the future brings. I must say that although my daughter’s pregnancy was unplanned, she is in a stable relationship with a nice guy, but more to the point I, who very much enjoys the company of children, rather feared that if, like many other women these days, she didn’t have her children until her late twenties or even early thirties, I would have popped my clogs rather earlier and would never has seen them. Well, now I shall see at least one.

. . .

On other matters, what with the various international spats and the discussions about whether World War III should be started this summer, or whether we should wait a while and first have several rounds of futile summit meetings followed by last-minute appeals from the Pope and other dignitaries to see sense before the killing stars, we shall, as the Chinese say, be living in ‘interesting times’. Talking of the Chinese, I don’t doubt that Emperor Xi Jinping is mightly pissed off with the latest turn of events in the Middle East as war is bad for business, unless that business is building weapons and the like.

There he is, attempting slowly but surely to create a world empire by peaceful means and the West rather tactlessly looks like fucking it up for him by getting all moral about a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian dictator Assad (and the Russians, who pull his strings) and threatening attacking Assad, when previously they had merely huffed, puffed and condemned like the best of them. Shouldn’t wonder if Emperor Xi doesn’t choose to take it on himself to act as a peacemaker to ensure business isn’t too badly affected.

But that’s it. Got a lot on today, so I shall wish you all the best.

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