“Late Bloomers”

12 October 2018, 08:01 am
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

This summer I stumbled across two facts that in particular stuck in my mind.

Firstly, a reminder that Winston Churchill’s age when he took over as Britain’s war time leader was 65 and a half. Secondly that Sooty is still on stage at the age of 70. It appears that both of them were invigorated at the prospect of a challenge in later years. Churchill, as we know, contributed to the salvation of western civilization and, although Sooty’s achievements as a family business may be more modest, the fact that they both kept going under difficult circumstances says a lot about character at a certain time of life. They are two examples of late bloomers.

I am mindful of this in particular because the start of September saw the return of the Speciality & Fine Food Fair. It is always a highlight of the year. Having been to about 24 of them, the event is not only a great showcase and celebration of the best but also an opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from the past and make new discoveries and contacts for the future. Many exhibitors are late bloomers themselves, having embarked courageously on a change of course in life after giving up the day job. Recently, the topic of retirement has surfaced. In particular, I am often asked about whether I’ve thought of ‘packing it all in’, or indeed receive confirmation that those who have ‘stepped back’ regard it as the ‘best thing [they] ever did’. I am sure one day, and maybe sooner than I had previously expected, that I will be saying the same thing.

However, as a committed sexagenarian, the question of retirement now arises of its own accord and not just during wet weekends, or team bonding sessions. Is it still appropriate to look at Twitter, wear shorts, turn up at new product launches, and talk about life during the first EU Referendum? (Just for clarification I have only ever tweeted twice and certainly not worn shorts for over five decades).

Although nothing much physical happens when you break through the 60 barrier (touch wood), a gradual but noticeable intolerance to certain experiences starts speeding up. A lot of life’s background noise moves into the foreground. Here I am thinking of pension funds, business rates, building works and the like, not to mention political and environmental woes. It often seems there is a mountain to climb while trying to sell fine food at a later time in life. I am sorry if this is beginning to sound like Ed Reardon’s Week in Speciality Food!

However, seeing the new and innovative fine food at the show and listening to the people who created them is inspirational. It brings to mind examples from the wider world.

Senator John McCain who died recently just a few days short of his 82nd birthday was still a serving US senator. Paul McCartney is launching a world tour at the age of 76. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he started KFC. Daniel Defoe was a wine merchant before he published Robinson Crusoe at 60, and let’s not forget the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Job of 2015. As Mark Twain said, it is not about the size of the dog in the fight but about the size of the fight in the dog.

And for those of us running a speciality food business, it is never too late to become what we might have been.

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