Today’s Guest Column is from our friend, Jim Cunningham. Jim and his wife, Marilou are soon to embark on a trip to a new life. In just a day or two they will move permanently to Talakag, Bukidnon. Jim retired just a couple of months ago, and this trip is something that he has been anticipating for quite some time now. All the best of luck to Jim and Marilou as they embark on their journey toward retirement.
The last two months have been a blur in so much that there has been so much to do pending our imminent move to come and retire in Bukidnon.
Since leaving our respective jobs at the end of September Marilou and I have hardly had a minute to call our own. From arranging our container to be shipped and visiting the Philippine Embassy in London to obtain my visa as well as travelling to Germany at the invitation of my former employer.
For me the travelling started the week before I officially retired. I had arranged to attend a meeting in Budapest, Hungry as part of a European Union joint venture between my company in the UK and companies in Hungry, Lithuania and Germany. This joint initive is to foster relations between European companies in order to solve workplace problems using multicultural thinking. Although this venture started last year and I knew I would not see it to its conclusion I could not give up my interest just because I was due to retire. If I’m still in the UK next year when the project concludes I will attend the last seminar in Frankfurt as the whole process has been so interesting.
The following and last week of working I travelled with a colleague to Hemel Hempstead on the outskirts of London with me driving I may add, almost 600 miles there and back in the same day. Enough of the boasting it was all in the name of work and nothing out of the ordinary for me at least. That week culminated in a presentation in our company premises on the Friday and a fine dinner organised by my colleagues where I was given lots of farewell gifts too numerous to mention. However one gift I must mention was from the brother of my sales manager and good friend David Mackenzie. David’s brother Murdo a fellow Scot wrote a Bagpipe tune especially for me called “Jim’s Farwell to Peterlee” he even recorded it on a CD so I could play it every New Year and cry into my whiskey.
Not to be outdone Marilou was being given the royal treatment by her colleagues at Durham University Business School where she has been the Editor for the MBA and MA Distance Learning Faculty or almost 18 years. Her farewell concluded with a lunch with all her colleagues and I’m lead to believe lots of tears were spilt.
Having worked in Peterlee in the region of East Durham for almost 18 years you can begin to imagine I have met a lot of people as Works Director of BHK(UK)Ltd as well as Chairman of East Durham Development Agency, Chairman of the Joint Executive of East Durham Business Services, Member of the Board of Governors of East Durham College and latterly Chairman of the East Durham Engineering Forum. You guessed it, yes they all wanted to say their farewells with a dinner and presentation. To be honest this has played havoc with my normally average waistline and not wishing to offend anyone I will have to get stuck into my gardening duties when I get to Talakag in order to get back to something like normal otherwise none of the clothes I currently have will fit me.
As I previously mentioned Marilou and I have had our share of travelling over the last few weeks. My former boss and joint owner of the BHK Group of Companies Peter Kottmann invited Marilou and myself over to Buren Germany for yet another farewell dinner. As usual we took the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam as this has always been my preferred method of travelling when visiting our HQ or customers on the continent. The drive from Rotterdam to Buren was uneventful apart from my customary clearing of the carbon from my engine as soon as we crossed the Dutch border and I was able to let my Mercedes hit 130MPH at least for a few miles. Marilou’s eyes were firmly fixed on the rubber mat at her feet I might add during this part of the journey.
The dinner that evening was superb with all the Kottmann family whom I have the greatest respect for in attendance along with all my good friends and colleagues within the company. During the course of the evening after the numerous speeches and presentations the Kottmann family sprung a surprise on Marilou and I by giving us a three day break in Berlin in a 5* hotel and a chauffeur driven tour of the city. Berlin was till then the only large German city I had not visited and the visit was superb as the Chauffeur was very knowledgeable and took us everywhere of any significance a truly wonderful city to visit. We could have done with spending a whole week there especially to see the museums which are magnificent.
Whilst driving back to Buren we decided to pass through Potsdam and now we know where all the German tax payer’s money is going as everywhere we drove building works were going on. Continuing our journey back to Buren Marilou informed me that since we had already de-coked the engine previously there would be no need for a repeat performance as she wished to reach Talakag in one piece to retire.
Following our household effects being packed and the container being loaded for shipment to the Philippines the next day we were off to London this time by Coach (Bus) Marilou had still not forgiven me for the autobahn episode. We left Peterlee at 11.30pm and arrived in London like a bag of rags at 6.30am. I just hate buses they are like aircraft only slower with the same legroom. The weather in London was nice to compensate for the journey so we had breakfast then strolled along Buckingham Palace Road and took the customary pictures outside the big house on the corner, you know the one with the fancy railings and personal security guards in red tunics and hairy hats. Then it was up the Mall to Trafalgar Square and more sightseeing and picture taking. The Philippine Embassy is just off Trafalgar Square so it was easy to find and I must add a much more imposing dwelling for the Ambassador that the former one. The visa processing went very smoothly as we had to book an appointment previously with the Consul so no waiting. The consulate staff could not have been more helpful so just after lunchtime we were once again tourists wandering around the Smoke as it was once called. We took the chance to visit the Portrait Gallery and rub shoulders with Van Gogh, Rubens and Picasso to mention a few.
After walking around aimlessly and finding, yes you’ve guessed a Filipino Cafe we enjoyed coffee and cake, it was still too early for dinner. The bus did not leave London till 11.30 that evening by that time both of us has sore feet and even the bus was appealing by then. (Never again).
Last night Thursday 20th November saw the last formal dinner in our honour which was held in the old college premises of Howletch in Peterlee. The reason why I say old is pre the farewell dinner we had a tour around the new college facility that has newly been completed as part of a 35Million£ rejuvenation project for education facilities in East Durham. How proud I was to see this project completed during my tenure as a governor of the college. Incidentally the dinner, company and the gifts were superb and Marilou and I retreated home once again knowing my waist was nearing danger level.
Tomorrow sees the last of our dinning out experiences as we will go out with someone I have known since his birth as his father is a long time colleague and friend from my days in Scotland where it all began for me in the panel/furniture industry. Unfortunately his father cannot be with us due to work commitments in Birmingham, Alabama but I will be thinking of him as he eventually gets the bill from his son.
So as you can see moving to the Philippines has not an easy task in fact it’s been damn hard work but when I reflect back early planning was a god send its only a pity that the GB Pound took a dive recently but being the eternal optimist I’m sure it will come full circle again and like the canny Scotsman I am, I made contingency plans to cover shall we say the longer term future. So here’s to an England past and a Philippine future god and friends willing.