Life is seldom dull and this week was no exception, especially as it ended with a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in the open air near Wivelsfield for the benefit of St Peter & St James Hospice. It plays until the 26th June and I highly recommend it, although if you go, I hope for the sake of the players, that it doesn’t rain. The clouds were gathering as we arrived and the heavens opened mid way through the first half. We were sitting in comfortable chairs in covered marquees, but the players got doused, not that it affected their smiles and good nature in the least.
Today is the London to Brighton Bike ride, which once again falls on Fathers Day and makes it difficult for me to visit mine! Happy Fathers Day Dad!
I like to try to get to the top of Ditchling Beacon to share some of their pain (and delight), so I was up early to give me a chance to get there before it got too hot. The day dawned beautiful but I confess shock when I got outside in my shorts to find that it wasn’t really all that warm!
I ran down to Ditchling via Oldlands Mill and saw my first lone cyclist, who laughed when I asked if he was a front runner… it was 8.30am and the fast guys had been through an hour earlier!
I ran up onto the Beacon… it must have been a while as it was hard work, but I stuck with it and managed to get there without needing to stop.
After some banter with the marshals, who were running around trying to fix the PA system to give encouragement to people as they cycled, or walked up the hill, I headed back via Sporting Cars of Brighton, East End Lane and the path that goes to Ditchling Common Industrial Estate.
I was looking forward to running down the Magical Path, but by the time I got there the clouds had rolled in and it was cold, dark and miserable. I guess everyone is entitled to their off days!
So 10.75 miles in 1.51. 6mph on the way there (which is pretty good as it includes the Ditchling Beacon climb) but only 5.66mph on the return which reflects how little I have been running lately… also suggested by my need for a nap on the sofa when I returned!
That would be that, but I am reminded that it is twenty years since I actually rode in the London to Brighton bike ride and I thought I would reflect briefly on what has changed in my life, since that time.
I had just bought my first house in June 1990, with the help of my sister. It was a first rung on the housing ladder which I intended to keep for three years.
I valiantly defended my two handkerchiefs of grass from my green-fingered father: one at the front with two small shrubs and one at the back with a shed. Not for me all these plants and stuff: give me grass any day of the week! There were two runs of concrete on which to park my red company Ford Escort and once inside the thin porch, the dominant colour was professionally applied magnolia with expensive curtains, one benefit of buying the house from an ambitious young banker.
I had a lodger, Dawn, who initially slept on the floor, as did I, the only furniture in the house being a sofa that came from my best friend and a wooden coffee table from an antique shop. The latter supported the Rega turntable that half my music revolved around, the other half involving my twelve-string guitar.
I sold Commercial Finance for NWS, which entailed me visiting the myriad small & medium sized businesses across West Sussex and providing the finance for them to buy cars, vans, machinery. Even then I had a greater interest in what these companies actually did (which often made my work frustrating), something that I had picked up from both my father and from another Mr Foster, Ken, who had employed me in his art gallery a couple of years earlier. Ken had been the FD of a well known travel company and had eventually negotiated its distressed sale for one pound Sterling… a startling and fascinating concept for someone like me, who knew little of business at the time.
Each week I borrowed a lawn mower from my very kind neighbour, Pam (who I went to visit only this week) to cut my grass, me not being able to afford to buy one. I often also cut the grass of the attached house on the other side as it was generally unkempt due to being sporadically rented out. My skills with any other tools, garden or otherwise, left much to be desired.
What has changed since then? Life in the intervening years has certainly been interesting and there have been both high and low points, the latter including losing three really very good friends, one to Cancer, one sadly to suicide and another to his own avarice.
I sold my first house after 15 years (remember, I had intended to stay there for three), although I also bought, lived in for four years and sold a London flat during that time, enabling me to study for an Executive MBA at London Business School. I have now lived in my current house for five years (with my girlfriend of ten years!).
My father patiently (oh so patiently!) taught me to garden which, aside from considerably enhancing my surroundings at both houses, has instilled a much valued patience in me too. My treasured hi-fi has been sold and replaced with the kind of micro system (now itself old-fashioned) that I would have laughed at before. And I have stuff, lots of stuff, which for someone who is a minimalist at heart is fascinating. I wonder if we are hard wired to accumulate things until we have filled every nook & cranny.
I now work with the type of companies I visited twenty years ago, getting to ask those more searching questions and adding value by helping them to overcome their challenges or develop differentiated business strategies. My own current business is young and I earn even less than I did back then but my life is evolving, just as Charles Handy suggested it would in his book the Elephant and the Flea, into a portfolio of interests. Each of which I’m really passionate about in a driven way.
My Porsche of eight years sits on the driveway that I designed, while I sit and read (and once again today, type) in the tea-house that I also designed and patiently made. I have time to read and to think, which is how I perceive I add the greatest value to my clients. It’s the kind of lifestyle I might have only dreamed about twenty years ago. Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m very happy with it.
Though I really wonder what life will be like for me in another twenty years time?