Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Falling for Henry

Red hair, good looking, athletic, young, doesn't say a lot and loves to be hugged. Who wouldn't fall for Henry? Well both Carol and I did on our weekend visit to Eastbourne where we met him.

Around 30 years ago Carol and I first met at Carnation Foods, in East Finchley. We were both in the marketing department for petfoods - specifically Go Cat and Go Dog (as well as some other dodgy stuff like marrow meal and a liquid slop for sick cats). We had a high time in those days, when corporate responsibility probably extended as far as 'how much wine should there be with the directors' lunch today?'.

So - thanks to certain on line social media - five of us got together again to relive old days and just find out how old we'd all grown. Carol and I, who have remained friends throughout the intervening years, drove down to Eastbourne on Saturday morning. We went the 'scenic route' which included as many road works as we could possibly find!
Three and a half hours later, in drizzling rain, we reached the seaside. Well, we reached the brand new harbour complex where Mike (my old boss) and his wife Linda now live. With Henry.

Norman, who we also used to work for, had already arrived when we turned up at Mike and Linda's. Norm has the dubious honor of being responsible for two out of the five times I really lost my temper in my life! He's mellowed, shall we say? I guess so have I.

We had a pleasant lunch and caught up a little on 'old times'. My! The things that the bosses did that we didn't know about! And it's funny how they've forgotten the dart board and rowing machine in the store cupboard and the lunchtime Scrabble games.

Mike showed us the sights of Eastbourne - taking us to Pevensey Castle, the old church at West Ham, the pier, and then driving us over to Beachy Head. However, the drizzle which was by now solid cloud, meant we couldn't even see the side of the road, let alone any views. Henry came with us. The love affair began...

We went back to the house and had a lovely lunch, and awaited the arrival of Mark, the other team member who had managed to attend this extraordinary meeting of the Pet Foods Division, Carnation Foods, 1979-81. Mark duly arrived an hour late, which is not that late for him we are told. We caught up on some stories about Nick (you weren't there, but we found out lots!), Chris, Reg and Keith and started, bizarrely, a body count. The more stories we told, the more people we knew who were now dead. By the end of a delicious curry cooked by Linda, we were up to around 78.

The evening continued with some wine, a trip to the station (to return Norman to London) and a bit of music. Many, many years ago Mike, Bryan and I had played in a band together: 'Mike Mucous and the Membranes'. We sang a little, played a little, but mostly we talked.

At around 1am we headed for bed. Carol and I shared a room and talked a bit longer, of all things about our fathers. But in the morning - the sun came streaming through the window and there was no way either of us could sleep in.

At 7.30am Sunday morning we were both wide awake. By 8am we were up, dressed and heading out the door with Henry. We didn't know the area at all, but Henry did. He took us straight to the beach, then along the harbour, all round the marina and then back to the house. We had no need to worry, he knew exactly where to go. I think that's where he fell for Carol - when I went back to the side road to deposit the duly delivered bag of litter, he stayed by her side until I reappeared.

We didn't exactly kidnap Henry, he came with us willingly enough (one sight of the lead and he was ours!) but when we got back to the house, Linda and Mike had gone to the beach ('where's Henry?' the usual walkers kept asking them?). We set out again to meet them coming back.

The weather this morning was fine and warm, a beautiful blue sky creating the most amazing backdrop to the beach and the scenery. Mike and Linda took us out for a drive - first into Eastbourne where we parked Carol's car (explanation later) and then on, in theirs, to Beachy Head.
This time the views were spectacular! And, of course, with approximately one suicide per week, we upped our body count considerably (by now we were counting friends of friends, and would have even accepted third party referrals if we could only get above 100!).

Beachy Head is beautiful - why do people choose this place to end their lives? I guess it's not just all the media coverage and the history it has of suicides, but also the fact that it is a beautiful place to make your exit.
After the trip to Beachy Head we drove to see the Wilmington Long Man. He's a bit like the Cerne Abbas Giant, but without certain distinctive features.
After that we were dropped back in Eastbourne and went to visit Carol's relative, Robert. He lives (at the weekends) in a beautiful apartment in a 1930's Art Nouveau block at the posh end of town. In his 70's he is very active and still working. He's a researcher on British government and Empire documents. I'd never met the man before but we spent a lovely two hours with him.
Heading home we went the 'other way' and saved a whole hour on the journey back! I really appreciated Carol driving - and enjoyed arguing with the SatNav (as I always do). It was a lovely weekend, full of talk and good food and good company. The lovely Henry, though, stole both our hearts.
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