Deported! Syncordia 1991 - 1998
Ok, so the 1990 started with a year's unemployment. Not the
best of situations but the recession had just kicked in so there was little
I could do about it. Still, it gave me the opportunity to follow the downfall
of Margaret Thatcher. Fortunately my ex-boss Mick Jones came to the rescue
and offered me a position in a new BT startup company - Syncordia. (He left
three months later and I took over his position). It seemed that they couldn't
put up with me in London, so they shipped me and the family out to Paris for
five years - C'est la vie! We all traveled out by car, the cat went British
Life was hard - a modern 4 bedroom detached house in a commune with its own private tennis courts, St. Nom la Breteche golf course less than a minutes drive away, the Chateau of Versailles just down the road. Best of all, we weren't paying for it. Saturdays spent looking around Paris in the mornings, stopping for a leisurely lunch (and a bottle of wine of course) then forgetting whatever it was we did in the afternoon! Joyce enjoyed it even more - shop till you drop and don't mind the scorch marks on the credit card! With her new circle of friends they were probably blacklisted by every museum in Paris. Our son stayed a year then went back to the UK to catering college. Kate continued her education at the British School of Paris, a superb school on the banks of the Seine.
For my part, I was building a new support team, commuting between Paris and Atlanta and getting a good taste of British Airways First Class. I can throroughly recommend it - just make sure that someone else is paying. 12 years later and I still have more air miles than I know what to do with!
The most memorable experience, however, was when I was having dinner with the consultant who was assisting our recruitment drive in Paris. We had chosen a nice little brasserie in St. Germain de Pre, a local haunt of Francois Mitterand - the then French President. As we left after dinner, I was blinded by the flashguns of a horde of paparazzi outside. Thinking I had suddenly become famous I was reminded that the guy behind me was Sylvester Stallone, we'd been sitting on the next table all evening and I hadn't even noticed.
We made many friends in Paris. Sylvie and Francois Cormier, with their boat on the Seine - we still keep in touch. Jacky Pautonnier and Alain Martinez - I still remember their first trip to Atlanta. In France it's not normal to tip in bars and restaurants. They were confused as to why they were getting such a cold reception everywhere they went! Steve and Carol Partington - Steve was a hustler disguised as my golfing partner! Dave and Lesley Jelley - Lesley was famous for her outrageous outfits. Then there was the rest of the team at Syncordia Paris - too many to mention here - I can honestly say by far the best group of people I've ever had the privelige of working with - just a shame that BT never saw their real potential.
All good things come to an end, and after five years it was time to go back to the UK - ugh! The biggest problem was getting the cat back. We took her on the ferry, which was like a scene from "Deadly Virus". Warning lights flashing and not allowed off the ferry in Portsmouth until the cat had been collected by the courier. There would have been less problem if we'd had the Black Plague.
After 18 months back in England, and having just finished landscaping the garden we finally owned up that we couldn't settle. Working back in London was the "pits" and I had a boss to match. The only good turn he ever did me was to offer me early retirement at 50. I snapped his hand off and skipped down the road to the tube station for the last time . We put the house on the market, went to Cyprus on holiday (during which time the house was sold) and by November we were back in France looking for a property to renovate. I never did return to the office!
By the following March we were living in abject squalor. Deep in the Ambazac hills, in a property that had no water, electricity, toilets or windows, and had been empty since the Second World War - HEAVEN!