Friday, February 27, 2004

"You've got to help me. I have a blog to update and absolutely nothing to say."

"Why don't you go for a walk round the lake, breathe some fresh air, clear the cobwebs. Usually works for me."

Did absolutely bugger all for me though.

"Then have a lazy surf, read the papers, phone up a few friends and shoot the breeze."

Nope. Squat. Sweet doo-diddley.

"Well, there's nothing else for it then."


"You'll just have to start."

Well, I'll give it a go.

One of my company's contracts expired today and wasn't renewed and I've been out celebrating. Now that I'm in, I find the celebration has yet to reach its natural conclusion. My client very thoughtfully provided me with several bottles of Hungarian Cabernet Sauvignon of exceeding good vintage. 2000 was an exceptional year for the grape here and I find my appetite for the stuff quite unquenchable at the moment. They also saw fit to provide me with a case of something white, the provenance of which escapes me right now but on being presented with it, I seem to recall musing upon the fact that if this was the gear he was giving away, he must have restocked his cellar since last I saw it. And it was pretty blinding then, I can tell you.

Before you accuse me of pronoun slip, might I just make it clear that the 'they' referred to the company and the 'he', to the chairman/CEO thereof? Thankyou.

Chairman. Such an impressive word, don't you think? And one which, to my eyes anyway, still looks decidedly odd appended to my name on company correspondence. We, that is he and I, have had a chairpersons' relationship for some 13 years now and, as I owe all that I have to the largesse of his company, maybe it should have been me dispensing the Vintage this day. Naaaaaaah. Get a grip.

I remember our first meeting. I was shit scared. I mean, this was the Head Honcho of an oil company for Christ's sake and me, an Englishman on the make in post 1989 Eastern Europe. My first impressions did little to quell my fears, his aura entered the room a good few seconds before he did and all others present seemed to be in a strangely numb and stutteringly dumb state of obeisance. Then I noticed the way he walked, the way he planted his if he knew he was there, if you know what I mean. I saw the smile playing around just behind his lips. He didn't, but it was almost as if he'd winked when he looked at me and I remember thinking, "Aye, aye!"

I still have no idea why it was that he chose to reveal himself to me at that moment, but I am sure he did just as I am sure that it was a deliberate decision on his part. I've seen this guy at work with subordinates, customers and high ranking politicians and I have never seen him even for a moment exert less than total control over himself. What I saw that day, he had allowed me to see. And as I looked around, I knew that somehow he had contrived it to be for my eyes only.

The ease with which negotiations passed surprised me and it did not seem at all strange that we were the only two who seemed to find the whole situation amusing. I remember leaving his office and having to restrain myself until I was well clear of the building before letting out such a whoop that has only been heard since on the occasion of the play-off semi-final last year.

He took me to his vineyard. Blimey. Every other poor sod has a two up-one down cellar, his you could have lived in and wondered where the room service had got to. Anyway, we had a nomadic wander from barrel to barrel and had it not been for the fact that his chaffeur was on 24 hour call out, we would both have had an unscheduled swim in the lake on our way home. A chairmen's night out...bloody marvellous.

He asked me to teach him English. I'd go in with a beautifully detailed lesson plan that would last all of about 5 minutes before he'd just cut loose. I don't think he had anybody with whom he could relate without reference to a different agenda. I was an outsider, a foreigner, not even an employee and we talked about anything and everything. He would even ask my opinion on how he was bringing up his two children. The amount of trust he placed in me by opening himself up in such a way, I have never experienced from any other person. Okay, I always knew that if he asked me to jump, my reaction would have to have been, "How high?" but the fact that he never in all those 13 years actually asked should tell you something about both of us.

I only ever had to bend the truth with him on one occasion and even that was an extension of the Hippocratic oath that I exercised with him. I taught his children English and went out for a drink with his son once. I had to tell his father when he rather tentatively asked me that I had not seen him after 2 o'clock in the morning. We had agreed that it might be for the best if he alone accepted responsibility for his rather distressed state and the wonderful scent on his fingers rather than blame it all on me. I was exceeding grateful. As for the scent, you can rest assured that we didn't get it from each other.

So, an end. And yet another beginning. My company has just signed a moderately lucrative contract with a well known English language learning institution and will sign another on the morrow. Kan the Man Enterprises Inc. is still far from the breadline.

But, as I sit here in a house I designed myself and had built, looking out on an enormous garden which presently could successfully audition for a traditional Christmas card, within easy reach of several bottles of the finest malts the Isle of Islay has to offer and typing this on a beast bought with oil company money...I would be hard hearted indeed if I failed to raise a glass to the man who made it all possible. Thanks, Miklos.

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