Thursday, December 13, 2007

Old Friends: Gold in the bank

“Old Friends, sat on their park bench like bookends...Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy. Old Friends.” (Paul Simon)

Well, I’m not 70 yet, although it felt like it was when I was in Ecuador, but I spent last weekend in Grasmere with one of my oldest and best friends, Joe McCollum. We ended up at 3am on a cold but crisp wintery morning sitting on a David Truebridge bench in my garden. We were overlooking 'The Lion and The Lamb' in Grasmere and reminiscing about the past 25 years. Together, we remembered those glory days. And, fueled by some Becks and local Bluebird Bitter (named after Donald Campbell’s beautiful but ill-fated speedboat which crashed on nearby Lake Coniston 40 years ago) we were also sharing our dreams for the next 25.

Joe is a remarkable guy. Of good Irish stock and one of 7 or 8 brothers, he trained to be a priest but was kicked out early for good behavior. He hooked up with Kate and then pursued a series of adventures: working for a hospital in Saudi Arabia, buying a bar in Bangkok, and ending up as my HR Director at Pepsi in Cyprus. After that, he did an MBA at Columbia, which is not too bad for a young Brummie Irish boy, and was elevated to a top HR position at PepsiCo HQ in Purchase, New York. From there he joined me on my New Zealand adventure by heading up HR for Lion Nathan. Together, we moved the company from a domestic New Zealand brewer into a peak performing Australasian operation. Much of New Zealand business today is run by Lion Nathan alumni brought in and nurtured by Joe. Joe went on to greater glory in ICI and EMI and also works with me in our purpose-driven, Peak Performance leadership company, Inspiros.

Kate stuck with him all the way (through thick and thin) and through Joe’s nomadic wanderings. She gave him 3 terrific kids; my goddaughter and brilliant musician Lizzie, the wonderful warm Amy who is training to be a chef and just passed her grade 2 National Qualification on Friday, and the energizer himself, Mr. Perpetual Motion, young Rory.

On Thursday, Kate joined us, and after reminding all of us of our past misadventures, left the two of us together all day Friday and Saturday morning. On Friday night, we went to another of those Lakeland pubs, The Mason’s Arms at Strawberry Bank. It’s a 700-year old pub that has now become a cozy eating house complete with its original crooked floors, low hanging ceilings and beams. You know you’re in the right place when they serve you black pudding and poached egg on a bed of local mash as a starter! From there it was a short journey to a steak and ale pie with Joe opting for the liver and bacon. Well done, of course. Two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape to wash it down and it felt like we had just put on a battered old sweatshirt, a pair of track pants and some 5-year old floppy sneakers. At The Mason’s Arms I saw an old plaque that read, “Some friends are new, some friends are old, new friends are silver, old friends are gold.” Cheers, Joe!