When the time came for him to retire, an elaborate leaving ceremony was held. It was staged in two parts, the first part in the auditorium with an invited audience, and the second – a dramatic fire ceremony – in the building’s capacious grounds. I was on front-of-house duty that night and my contribution to the proceedings was to ensure unobstructed passage from one location to the other. Because I was working blind, it required radio contact and some careful timing to get the opening of several doors just right.
It worked perfectly, and when the entourage had passed out into the night air, the Front-of-House manager, whose job it had been to co-ordinate the whole enterprise, came over to me. She was the extraordinary Judy Bowker who has received honourable mention on this blog before, and whose open-hearted generosity, intelligence and lightness of spirit made her a legend among those who knew her. She wrapped her arm around my elbow, took my upper arm with her free hand, pulled me towards her and said: ‘Thanks, Jeff.’
It doesn’t sound much, does it, and yet it was a supremely special moment which will ride high in my consciousness always. It was one of those occasions when the God of Small Things shows Its beneficence and makes the lowest of light glow a little bit brighter.
And so I come back to an old theme of mine – how important the little things are when compared with the big and showy ones because they reveal the abstract which lies at the heart of the human experience. I mean, who on earth should want to become the President of America or the tyrant at the head of a business empire? Such an aspiration leads only to the massaging of a power-seduced ego. Having the God of Small Things take your arm and say ‘Thanks, Jeff’ makes your soul grow just a little more substantial.