Thursday 18 September 2008

Sent off in a pasta wrap

Working for my supper

Yesterday was a day back at my former place of work to conduct a handover with my successor who I had only really spoken to before on the phone in an interview I conducted from Lisbon and to have an evening out for my leaving dinner.

I had more cerebral excitation than I expected with my old colleagues than with the guy who succeeded me, I should suppose he was all clued in on what he needed to do, which proves that age-old fact that no one is indispensable.

When the evening came we left for Veri Sapori [1] an Italian restaurant that clearly states on the entrance – we don’t do pizzas – and thank God for that.

Veri Sapori is a well known lunch haunt, not open on Mondays; we sometimes went there for lunch but have never been able to sample the deep Azzurri delights because of time constraints, we only had pasta and that was about to becloud my view of that restaurant as the choice for my leaving dinner.

I resisted the impulsive urge to fire off an email to the arranger to accuse him of lacking imagination and that was one urge I successfully restrained – that restaurant is a different place when you are not pressed for time.

An appetizer for an aperitif

Not all the invited guests could make it to the dinner for all sorts of reasons that were expressed to the arranger rather than I considering I was asked who I wanted to be at the dinner – anyway, we cannot have everyone we want and we are deeply honoured to have the ones that came.

As the eight of us settled down for a sumptuous night, manager asked for an appetizer when he meant an aperitif and that was before we had downed any alcohol, but we all started with a Prosecco.

One of the directors could not stay the whole evening so we decided to dispense with the speeches and gifts before the entrees were served.

What use are scissors for cutting ribbons?

Sometimes, you have no idea of what you have done until when someone does the reckoning at the end of your tenure, the words were gracious, full of praise, admiration and gratitude, I was truly touched.

My first gift was to be something that would keep me in remembrance of where I had worked before – from KaDeWe in Berlin[2], a kilogram of Darjeeling Earl Grey tea – I can imagine with the amount of Earl Grey tea I drink, I probably have an Earl-ish demeanour and I am nigh on looking gray.

It looked like an easy task, I took the wrapping paper off, the ribbon had a bow that was an easy pull, but like all projects, it then had a Gordian knot I could not undo.

We called for a scissors, it was blunter than using a hammer to cut the tape – the right tool in ideal circumstances but too overused to meet the current task. After struggling with the scissors as people looked on expecting the scissors to do its job, I handed it to someone else who proved that the scissors was literally useless, vindicating my experience. A typical project management scenario.

At which point a knife was suggested; like projects, we have the right tool but end up improvising with something else that appears to do the job even though it is suited for something entirely different – basically, take a knife to cut every problem down.

In the end, what should have happened in a snip happened in a long gnawing by the blunt scissors, then I needed a knife to cut the sealing tabs to reveal the bags of sealed Earl Grey tea – definitely, a good supply for a year.

Highly fed and lowly taught

My two colleagues went for the supposed humorous side of my clowning abilities and I was given a mug in which to take my tea – a bit wider in circumference than typical mugs decorated with Shakespearean insults. I could not desire that we be better strangers but I was about to be the anointed sovereign of sighs and groans.

The third present was acquired in Namibia where my manager having ridden altitudes in Ecuador last year was riding the sands of the desert earlier this year. I now have a staff of sovereign authority that allowed me to do a mock rain-dance at the end of the evening.

Then the senior men also presented me with a bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial champagne in a cask – quite a handful of presents to cart away.

The Berlin connection

Lest I forget, Ich bin ein Berliner [3] – or something to the effect of being a doughnut of sorts like a JFK malapropism, my love of Berlin, known to many was crowned with a book of photographs of Berlin landmarks by Wolfgang Scholvien [4] – it had German, English, Italian and Japanese footnotes – it was quite apt having a German director, we communicating in English in an Italian restaurant sending me off from a Japanese company.

I gave a speech which included the offer to seek therapy for being a sometimes difficult person to deal with, but the words spoken by the people who honoured me could not be bettered.

When our menu selections arrived, there was not a pasta dish in sight but genuine Italian cuisine at its best, washed down – such crudeness – with some of the best of Italian wine.

I did not see the bill but it was wads of crisp cash, [Veri Sapori does not have electronic payment systems] a wonderful night was had by all and at the end, I could only give thanks, express gratitude and be quite moved with the affection shown by people I really did enjoy working with that went back two years and one day – we’ll meet again.


[1] Italian restaurant Veri Sapori in Amstelveen –

[2] Kaufhaus des Westens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Ich bin ein Berliner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Wolfgang Scholvien : Photographie : Berlin

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