A few years ago, I was lucky to meet a Gentleman; lucky, because I think that, in the passage of grey hair that I’ve acquired, I haven’t met many, and this man resonates with my soul.
He’s called Ted, Ted Welch, an East London man, now 76 yrs age, who grew up in poverty and austerity and built his own successful garage business in Leytonstone to employ over 15 men and one of who’s proudest moments was to collect the Queen’s Rolls Royce from Buckingham Palace in London and deliver it to the Royal Yacht Britannica, in Scotland.
The same man who, he tells me, used to look out of his school window and fret when the rain came down because his shoes had no soles and he used to slip sheets of paper into them so that he could walk home without his feet becoming wet.
There are of course,and I say that without sanguine, many such children the world over who have passed along the same footpath (sic) as Ted; I was lucky, one of the fortunate I guess, my father and family were comfortable, a position which today I respect and admire my father for, and along with that, question my own ability, to reach his standards.
In measuring my success or failure, I try to imbue the lessons learnt into my own two boys, my treasures as I call them, but as I write, why the soliloquy about Ted? -Well, perhaps a little context.
Ted, is what I what I would call a “Petrolhead”, whatever the car, the engine, the plane, the pump, the Meccano set or spanner, Ted is there, in bliss, with a smile, a kindred spirit indeed, but it’s not that makes him the Gentleman, it’s his personae and his attitude and his reverence to others, irrespective of their background or creed; I believe in an attitude personified in Aretha Franklin “Respect”
We have a lot to learn from the older generation. I’ve recently finished reading a book of short stories by the late A.A Gill, more anon, and he writes with piercing truth about how we engage with our elders, or rather fail too; we have a lot to learn as we travel, in our so called, modern, society.
Ted brings it home to me when I talk to him; it’s not a high brow philosophical discussion about the temporal things or the topical discussions about Brexit, the dollar exchange, the Bosnian crisis or even what even Bernini was thinking when he sculptured his Damned Soul, it’s more grounded, more tangible, more real, for me.” Have you spoken to you Mother this week?
The questioning comes with a jolt sometimes. I’ve commented before, on the desire to wear the latest fashion icon, drive the latest car and wear the sharpest suit, perhaps it’s my older age where the “stuff” just doesn’t matter any more and a sharpness of focus is acquired about what really is of value in life.
I often leave visiting Ted with a sense of Xmas future, wondering and questioning if what I do in my Consultancy practice is indeed of value, if indeed I have led, enlightened and bettered those that I serve?; I hope that I do, I try to; I hope that one day, I too, can perhaps, in my own vain, egotistical way, be also looked up to as one who tried to be a Gentleman upon this earth.
The auditors who served the Carillion Directors and their forefathers before, in serving Enron, Tyco and Worldcom were no different to those who served a local SME company to me, who’s Directors were betrayed over eight years and £80,000 by their trusted Bookkeeper- as Ted asked…. “How much did they pay them to do their job?”