Monday, February 11, 2008

Home - Day One

Recently, I left New York on a 6pm flight to Manchester arriving at 5:40am. No big surprise that there was no one else at the airport. Thankfully I was met by Jan Walker, who runs 'Allinspired'. This is a great service which finds houses and runs them for absent owners. Jan is a one of a kind, dedicated helper with a passion for pleasing people. She found Michaels’ Nook Cottage for me, makes sure it’s stocked with all the right goodies and is cleaned and ready to use every time I, or my friends, rock up. She’s also got all the right contacts for the Lake District in her Rolodex and can get anything made, fixed or designed by the best of the best overnight. This is a woman who makes absentee expatriate living a dream come true.

So I was in a high state of excitement as Ben, Clarissa, her mother Patrizia and, most important of all, eight-week old granddaughter Stella were waiting at the Cottage. It was my first sighting and worth every second of the waiting. She’s everything you could hope for. 4 kilos of joy. Big open blue eyes, beautiful features, a lovely temperament and already showing signs of independence and curiosity.

The day passed with several thousand handlings of Stella and almost as many photographs, all of which were immediately posted on Ringo for all Stella fans to see. Ben had her dressed in a lovely outfit I bought from Agatha Ruiz De La Prada in New York, and this does not go unnoticed, by me anyway.

The dinner that night was at Andy’s crazy Jumble Room where Stella was the star of the show. Making a grand entrance to oohs and aahs, she then slept soundly through the mayhem, getting her first taste of John Prine and Robert Earl Keen. Patrizia, eating her first ever serving of mushy peas, dealt to the experience with great nobility.

If the rest of the day had continued that way I would have put it up there as one of the best in my life. Unfortunately, there was a set of calamities you don’t want to hear about involving me, the bathroom and a world of pain.

By the next morning I was still very fragile. Fortunately, it was only an hour’s drive into Lancaster to give a one-hour opening speech to the State Boarding School Association. This was a big event in my old school’s calendar. They are one of the founder members of the Association and I was being touted as a stimulating start to the two-day conference. It is moments like this when CEOs have to suck it up and be troopers; the show, as the voice in my head repeatedly told me, must go on. This was also Stella’s public debut and her first attendance at one of her grandfather’s speeches. Teach ‘em young is what I say.

In the end I arrived at the conference at 1:55pm with the introductions in full swing. I was able to get through the speech and take few Q&A's. Stella was the ultimate diversionary tactic but at the end of the speech I was wiped out. I was due for a meeting with Bob Skinstad on Esportif’s future but had to postpone that to the following day. All I was fit for was to be poured back into the car and headed back home. A dinner that evening with the State Boarding School had to be cancelled and I clambered back into a bed made up with fresh sheets thanks to Miracle Worker, Jan Walker. Not the best day I’ve spent in Paradise.