I’m in my second home within a second home, the British Airways lounge at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, beginning the start of two weeks on the road through Hong Kong, Sanya, Hong Kong again, Incheon and Seoul.
This is the first of no doubt many trips during my 63rd year on this planet. 63! How did that happen? It’s a terrible birthday in my view. Not a ‘big’ one but hardly a small one either. And guess what? It marks the fact that I have now spent more years in the UK than in my native New Zealand. This is having a terrible influence on me. When I go back to New Zealand, my Kiwi friends say I sound like Prince Philip.
I came to this land when I was a mere stripling, a whippersnapper of 31. Now? Heck, I would need a telescope to even see 31 in my rear view mirror. Let alone my beloved New Zealand.
I spent my birthday (March 1, St David’s Day, a day that always reminds me of the passing of my great friend Alan Edwards, that proud Welshman and such a loss to our industry) with my four bairns (from left above Declan, Sami, Ali and Sinead) and the most adorable blonde on the planet, my Golden Labrador Mickali.
I’ve spent a lot of time (too much) away from them over the past 32 years (Sinead was just two when I arrived, Declan just taking shape inside his mother’s womb; Ali’s and Sami’s respective arrivals on this earth still miracles in waiting) and I enjoy the compensatory moments more than I could ever express.
Being 63 means you need plenty of regenerating of course. So, before making the long trek over to the C gates at T5, I stopped in at World Duty Free to buy a tub of Crème de La Mer’s La Crème Régénération Intense, which I find pretty effective in warding off at least the worst ravages of age. The nearby FID screen was showing me I had ten minutes before the flight closed and I still needed to get the train to Concourse C, so I needed to move fast. I need not have worried for my customer experience at the La Mer counter was straight out of the training manual.
“Can I help you?” the assistant asked with a warm smile. Her name was Shelly Gill.
“Yes please, I need the regenerating cream.” I hope we have enough in stock, Shelly could have been forgiven for thinking.
“Certainly,” she said and took me over to the display. Shelly duly and properly suggested I trade up to the best value sku, a super-sized tub that looked as though it might keep regenerating me until I was 83, while wiping out my bank reserves at 63. I said thanks but no thanks and opted for the smallest (60ml) size.
We chatted as Shelly placed my purchase in a nice green La Mer bag. “It’s good stuff, isn’t it?” I said.
“Oh yes, it’s wonderful.”
“I know, you wouldn’t think I’m 95 would you?” I said. Shelley looked back at me and (after a slightly worrying delay) chuckled, realising that I was joking. Probably.
I asked if I could take a selfie of the two of us for my Blog. Shelley said she had been just about to retouch her lipstick when I approached her and could she do that first to ensure she looked at her most professional? Sorry, I said, I was in a desperate rush. Flights wait for no man, regenerated or not.
I have a busy couple of weeks ahead. From Hong Kong I take the short jaunt to Sanya for TFWA’s China Century conference, before flitting back to Hong Kong en route to what promises to be a fascinating week in Seoul meeting some of the key players there. I have visited South Korea each year since 1989 and I love the country.
But before I say hello (Annyeonghaseyo/안녕하세요) Korea, I say farewell Britain. Goodness knows what will have happened here by the time I get back given the current extraordinary political turmoil over Brexit. Like the distinctly shady looking horse behind me in the BA lounge, I suppose it will be a case of “the neighs have it, the neighs have it.”