Random and rather satirical thoughts of mine about wine and business.
Words to guide a good life
Do you ever reflect on life when one chapter ends? I've been doing that lately and thought I would share my career and life path so far for your amusement.
When I was still at school I always wanted to be a VET. Bugger knows why because I hate the smell of wet dogs, sneeze whenever a cat is within 10 feet and I detest rodents but anyway, one day, I watched TV Vet James Herriott shove his arm up a cows jacksy and that was enough to change my mind. I knew I needed to see the outside world though (well, outside Cleator Moor anyway) so my next choice was the Forces with my grandads words ringing in my ear,,, face your fears lad! Well my fears were drowning and heights so I joined the Fleet Air Arm as a Mechanical Engineer and had the experience of a crash landing in a Sea King on a Scottish Island as a bonus. At this point I've got to say that every future problem going forward would be solved with my first instructors words (adding to my grandfathers) ringing in my ears 'identify the problem and if you cant adapt it, overcome it but if you cant overcome it, kill it!' Thankfully so far I've never had to resort to the latter but if the words identify, adapt and overcome were put to music, it would be my favourite song.
I thought I was in the Navy for life but the prospect of starting married life with a two year unaccompanied posting to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean meant that chapter needed to close and so began my foray into the world that is Sellafield. A short spell on staff during which I nearly caused a walkout over demarcation after being caught with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver in my pocket (Navy training did not include waiting for a fitter to remove a panel, an electrician to remove a fuse and a mechanic to dismantle a small blocked pump) led me into the Site Fire Service. They were in the process of upskilling and increasing their manpower and a role I adopted for myself was that of shift medical trainer which in turn led onto a 16 week medical technicians course in Glasgow with the Scottish Ambulance service. That was an eye opener, especially the training in the Glasgow City Mortuary with a long serving attendant who really was weirdly at home with the dead. He asked if I wanted a cup of tea then told me to get the milk which he kept in one of the body storage coolers and yes you've guessed it, the cooler had a tennant!
During this period in my life, our family started to grow and I may as well say at this point that we currently have 4 kids and 8 grandkids. The former wont be going up thanks to a skilled surgeon and a nice dose of anaesthetic but the latter may. I was also finding that full time employment and family life werent fully taxing my brain so I became a Magistrate serving on average 3 days a month for the next 19 years. A year after I first sat on the bench (why do they call it that by the way? It was actually a comfy chair with the added appeal of being addressed as Your Worship which was quite endearing for a lad off the Moor) I decided to become a Fine Wine Merchant, a career I still enjoy today. As if this wasnt enough, I had this crazy idea of starting a Festival for Whitehaven and for a short while, I was all of the above at the same time. In 2001, I left the Brigade to focus on getting some people drunk, jailing others and entertaining the rest. The next 18 years saw the business gain a number of celebrity clients and for a short while I was even advising on the Icelandic wine trades change from the public to the private domain (long story and far too good to waste in a condensed version right now). Running alongside sales of wine, we were organising International Festivals, Exhibitions, Military Parades, Tall Ship visits and best of all a couple of Royal Visits by HRH Prince Andrew and later on, HM Queen Elizabeth and the highly entertaining Duke of Edinburgh. During this period you really never knew who you were answering the shop phone to and in fact there was more chance of it being a celebrity, a military officer or even Special Branch with whom we had a close liaison than it was being a customer.
In the midst of all this and as if life wasnt interesting enough, I had the crazy idea of offering a Pardon to John Paul Jones for his heinous crime of unsuccessfully raiding the town for the US Navy in 1778. This eventually led to the shop becoming the Honorary Consulate to the US Navy and an award from the US Ambassador in 2011 for furthering International Relations between the US and the USA (yes, it does actually say that on the certificate which is rather cool). In fact the last decade has been awesome, with some lovely awards for the business, Jean Christophe Novelli cooking dinner for the family on one memorable evening and even a kiss off Katherine Jenkins and how many lads off the Moor can tick that off their bucket list?
Between 2012 and 2015 a Kidney Tumour and severe depression forced me to reconsider what was a rather hectic and ridiculous period of my life and much to Diannes delight I stepped down from the bench, hung up my Festival boots and took up the more serene hobby of writing books. Two recipe books with Jean Christophe Novelli and four local photographic history books later, Im now planning my first novel.
Sometimes while sitting at my desk day dreaming about the paths of my fictional characters, I dwell on my fathers words of advice when I was pondering my secondary school subject choices and worrying about what I wanted to do for a living. He said 'The main thing is to have a good life'. I asked him how I would know if I had and he replied 'Try to imagine getting to retirement and if you have some really good stories to tell your grandkids then you've had a good life'. The spanner in that plan is that I envisaged being an old retired man when it was time to tell the grandkids stories but Im only 55 and have more chapters left to write so they may have to take the stories in instalments!
So, if you're just starting off in life, let me offer you the words that have guided me so far 'face your fears head on, identify and overcome your problems and remember that when it comes time to tell your stories, you really want them to be interesting'!