Thursday, May 18, 2006

Herry's Retirement from Thomas Miller - May 2006

Herry's Office Retirement Speech - a more personal affair than the many that had been made at the 13 parties around the world - and his last official appearance in Thomas Millers' offices

One should never follow a Stephen James’s speech, as he is one of the masters of the art. And having had more than my fair share of speech making over the past two months, starting with a farewell party in Hong Kong in March, I have used up my entire miserable stock of jokes. And I can asssure you I’m not going to repeat the speech that I made at Trinity House in April, which was far too serious for this company.

I shall miss so many things about Millers and so I thought I might just take you through a typical day here both to remind you and to fix in my memory what a remarkable place this is and how many remarkable people it contains.

Some of you know I always come into the office fairly early and park my car downstairs. It slots into a space that was bequeathed to me more than 20 years ago by John Henderson, who was Stephen’s predecessor as the UK Club’s underwriter. The only difference was that his car was a Roller – and they didn’t even have the Thomas Miller Share Incentive scheme in those days!....

I invariably find Tim Penn already there, washing down his fine motorbike, which although it’s nearly as old as my car, he keeps like new. I have to pass the room used by the cyclists and motor cyclists to change. I’m pretty sure that it’s the only room in the entire building that I have never ever been into. I don’t know why. I think it is something to do with all that lycra and leather. There is also this wonderful smell of aftershave that comes wafting out of it which makes me feel rather inadequate.

Going upstairs, I try and see if Steve Britt-Hazard is behind his desk - or whether he isn’t! It’s sometimes very difficult to know. I come upstairs to the Blue Lagoon and plonk down my laptop and switch it on and see what’s happened since I last looked at it. I hesitate to tell you when that was but I’m pretty sure to find something from Paul Sessions on it! As you all know, I have been addicted to email for years now, although I think I’m the only person in the Blue and Grey Lagoons who doesn’t use a BlackBerry – so you can conclude that my addiction is “mainline” and I will never be satisfied with “email lite”.

I then go down to see if I’ve beaten Ron into the postroom for the newspaper. I must say he has been jolly good recently. He leaves them unwrapped ready for me to grab as I go out to breakfast at the little cafĂ©, the Village, under our building. I’ve been going there ever since it was a very greasy spoon – for almost 30 years.

As I pass the car park I invariably bump into Kim Vernau who used to come in in the most marvellous racy Beamer but recently has unaccountably swapped it for a very PC Prius. I have forborne to ask her whether she thinks that was a good deal. And on the subject of Kim, how many of you know that when she was the internal auditor she was always in here before 7.00 am – and would feel comfortable about it if you did! At least you now know why I’ve always got in so early.

Another early arrival in the car park is Brooksey, who for some reason swapped his rather smart Golf a couple of years ago for a much more humble machine, I think under the misguided impression that it would get the Miller Remuneration Committee to treat him more sympathetically! Bad luck Brooksey!

Sitting in the Village, where my age shows as the waitresses seem to get prettier by the day, I can see certain of my colleagues who come past displaying various levels of enthusiasm on their way to the office. Andrew Jamieson always looks as though he has just caught another shipbroker up to something particularly nefarious. David Perks breezes along. Mark Hodson looks as though he has got the whole of the Iraqi debt in dinars tucked into his briefcase. And our beloved COO swings past, grinning happily at the thought of some new committee that he has thought up overnight and which will be known by an acronym pronouncable only if you speak Tamil!

Returning to the office after breakfast, I come back to the Blue Lagoon to enjoy that blissful peace that is only known to man when Hugo is not around. In fact, I know if Hugo’s arrived or not if I pass a certain very large black car in the car park. The same one that when it first appeared caused Kirsty Hart to lean out of the window of the Grey Lagoon and exclaim, “Oh – very David Beckham!”

We’re a very strange bunch in Millers - and I think in England generally. In France or Germany when you go into the office in the morning, you go round and shake everyone’s hand and say “Guten morgen, Herr Daines” or something equally appropriate – isn’t that right Katharina? Instead, we drift in like ghosts and you frequently look up from your screen to find everyone has silently arrived and no one has said a word!

There’s a wonderful book that I read last year called “Watching the English” which suggests, quite correctly I think, that the English are one of the most socially inept races on earth and we cover it up by turning almost anything into a joke. Mind you, you’d be pretty silly – and completely wrong – to suggest that Stephen was socially inept, so it’s not a universal truth.

Now, you realise that its not even 9.00 in the morning and I haven’t yet got out from behind my desk to see who is nipping along to the staff canteen to grab a quick toasted bacon sandwich - and hoping that no one knows that they have already had breakfast. If I went that way, I would have to pass Terri Lewis, who seems unaccountably concerned that I’m going to reveal secrets that only those who work close together in an open plan environment can possibly know about each other, and Jill McGrath is even more concerned that I’m going to tell you all the whereabouts of the inexhaustible box of HR chocolates!

So, I’m going to stop there and instead leave ‘Not the Miller News’ to carry on poking gentle fun at our many foibles, as it has so brilliantly over the last many years under its various secretive editors.

For myself, I’d love to continue walking the corridors with my mental camera, as well as my real one, recalling the weeks, months and years that I have been happy and proud to work amongst you all.

Herry Lawford
18 May 2006

Hugh Wodehouse, Peter Donnellan, Herry, Tony Payne and Colin Lewin

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