14 February 2005

The Retiring Assistant Manager – Mch 1990

The retiring assistant manager penned his last initial, put down his weary biro with an air of finality and pondered. His “in tray” was empty, his “out tray” full and yet there were loose ends…things remained undone and must forever now remain so. There was no more time. The sand lay flat in the lower chamber of life’s hourglass. Intentions, objectives, ambitions; these were the loose ends which could not be neatly knotted and cut.

He drew comfort from the tangible and considered the forest of paper that had traversed his desk these four decades, hungrily sucking the ink of a thousand pens; gorging the graphite of a towering pencil. His mark lay on reams of records stowed safely in the banking bowels below. Tasks completed, returns returned, ledgers ruled and checked. There lay the rich seams of evidence indelibly stamped in banking history.

A million signatures had authorised, confirmed, advised, certified, applied, declared, reported and claimed. With this unique monogram a mountain of responsibility had been safely shouldered. Our man reached for a cigarette and wreathed himself in its haze. The mood of reflection continued and he seemed almost to disappear within the plumes of blue and grey, his mind a raft drifting on the sea of memory. An endless tide of faces, names, places, conversations ebbed and flowed out of time and context. When reality returned he would try to remember these details in ordered fashion, but not yet. Enough for now to indulge at random.

A column of white ash dropped unnoticed. Imagination slipped its leash and began to pad softly down the corridors of wistful thought. So much to do, yet so little time. Off these corridors lay unopened rooms containing untested talents, unexpressed emotions, abandoned projects, forgotten thoughts, lapsed aspirations. With frightening suddenness, conscious thought returned. His empty desk stared gravely back at him. An old and trusted friend, he must remember to bid his faithful wooden companion farewell. But how to say “goodbye”? How to say “I won’t be back”? Its drawers would fill with foreign clutter and this it would accept with either brave resignation or bland indifference – he did not like to contemplate which.

Sadness came over him. ‘End of an era’, how woefully inadequate. What an empty phrase. Sadness turned to frustration as he glanced at the relentless clock. He willed it to stop and encapsulate the moment. On it went into the future. If only it would just mark time or pass the time of day! He laughed aloud. With that the spell was broken and the fleeting moment of regret was past. It was the future that held the key. The key to all those unopened rooms of opportunity, potential and above all time. With spirits rising he left the Bank.

A broad grin spread across his face as he detected a spring in his step, which had not been there yesterday. Was that last step more of a skip? The years rolled back and he remembered that glorious July afternoon when a small boy of twelve had pedalled furiously home from school, eyes ablaze with anticipation at the summer holiday stretching endlessly ahead.

He hadn’t felt like this in years! Cares, worries and responsibilities lay strewn in his wake as he hurried towards his tired old car. His mind whirled with expectation on the journey home. He concentrated on nothing in particular, allowing himself to bask in expectation – summer holiday, cricket, garden, Vivaldi, sun, solitude, deck-chair, reading, writing... He nearly drowned in euphoria! Full of unabashed excitement he hurried home to the future and with a sigh of relief he closed the door on a most eventful day.

The beginning…

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