Chapter 43: Resettlement, 1971

Those leaving the Services at the retirement age of 55 can be expected to seek some employment elsewhere. Provision is made in various ways to ease the difficulties of finding appropriate jobs in the wider market. I was waiting to be resettled. We had returned to Southill to find that the establishment was running smoothly. My mother, with twenty years of movements between army quarters, knew the problems. Still there was much that she had planned that awaited our help. Meanwhile I put my name down for a course in ‘Business Management’ and awaited a vacancy.

Southill House from the air
Southill House

There was a large coach house in the courtyard behind our house and for convenience a cottage for the coachman. This we improved and then advertised for a couple to work for us and with us, both in the house and the gardens. There was a winding drive leading up from the road to the house and beyond it an avenue of lime trees leading to a substantial walled garden. A profusion of snowdrops and daffodils lined the walk in their seasons. The garden round the house provided tennis courts and more great mature trees. We were delighted when an army Quartermaster and his wife took on the jobs offered and became close and very competent friends.

I expect that there were many like me who had given little time to considering what sort of career might suit their circumstances. I had taken over from my father on the board of Rollalong Ltd, who produced good caravans. They were also making wooden structures for working desert villages in Tunisia where oil was being extracted. This was interesting but Board meetings do not take long. When the call came I spent six weeks in London learning about business management. This was useful but did not lead to any further activity. I remember instruction on how to write an application for a job. It was important to attract attention. At a time when single-handed sailing feats were frequently in the news, the example was given of a girl whose cunning was well thought out. Her first page ended with the words ‘I have rowed single-handed (turn over) across the Serpentine’. This was expected to make the recipient say ‘This girl we must see’.

Fortunately for me there was a further offer of help for job seekers. I was invited to present myself before an Advisory Board in Bristol. By some means they extracted information from me that was relevant to my commercial value. I might have thought of it myself. I had many contacts with people in high places in the communications world, at a very busy time of development. A younger member of the panel asked, “Have you thought of applying to P.A. Management Consultants? Your contacts might be very useful to them.” He was right. I soon found myself accepted on a two day a week basis. By chance the retiring Managing Director had been at Oundle with me, though a couple of years my senior. This may have played no part on my selection but certainly did no harm. In due course the Air Force was brought in when a retired Group Captain was added to the group. From the Navy Admiral Cassidi found that the work level fitted in well to his already busy life, so all three services were involved. A scientific civil servant friend became useful with his knowledge of Ministry workings. Others who contributed from time to time included the German General I had worked for at SHAPE and the retiring head of SHAPE Technical Centre. I was kept in interesting work until the age of seventy when I decided to retire and as ever there are more friends that we keep in touch with in various ways.

Another call on my time came from the Ski Club of Great Britain. The amateur Club had been formed in 1903 and as in other sports professionals now had to be taken into account. The International Skiing Federation was making the rules and ours had to fit theirs. Artificial ski slopes were being developed and Aviemore became a valuable resort on Scottish slopes. Chris Congleton, a baron since the age of three, led the work and I was his deputy. It was important that we looked after Scottish and Welsh interests in the solution. With the job completed he found himself President of the Club and I was his Deputy. An interesting member of the Ski Club Committee at that time was John Hunt of Everest fame.

The long and happy story of later years cannot be covered here, but one problem will be mentioned. In every country that I had worked close friendships and mutual respect came easily. Different religions were practised without conflict of any kind. Yet it is plain that there are clerical leaders who use their power in what becomes destructive activity. What should my own position be? There is certainly value in solemn practices connected with marriage and death. These are easy to accept in principle and humanity is bringing changes for the better in some areas such as marriage or the bonding of same sex partnerships.

I have close friendships with people of many nations and inevitably of several religions. Where can we rediscover the humanism of classical times and focus on healing issues on the planet that is our home. Surely this is more important than suffering now in order to achieve a possible eternal life of greater value.

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