23/09/2021

First event managed

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Early on I was set a challenge that had nothing to do with selling. Ken’s district was to host a national sales meeting in Bristol and I was asked to find a suitable venue for an evening out. This would involve guys of all ages, all marital statuses and with extremely varied interests. There were no women among the team, and worse, to modern ears, one of the absolute must-haves was strippers – those were the times! I chose the Webbington Court Club, today a spa hotel, back then a club with strippers, gaming tables, a cabaret, dancing and a restaurant – something for everyone.

It was the practice back then to stay in twin rooms, sharing with a guy from elsewhere. I was twinned with a Londoner who worked a little too hard at being what we Bristolians called ‘fly’ (streetsmart). We laid on a coach to take everyone the twenty miles to the club and everyone settled in to enjoy the evening.

My room-mate was stood at the urinals when he heard someone talking strangely next to him. He turned to see the by-then retired middleweight boxer Terry Downes, aka the ‘Paddington Express’. He had held a version of the world middleweight championship in 1961-2. Downes either owned the club or was considering buying it. He was dressed in an unlikely lemon-coloured suit – because he was a celebrity I suppose? As he turned my room-mate finished his last few drips down Downes’s trouser leg and where it hit it noticeably turned the material a peagreen colour.

Terry Downes

My room-mate came flying out of the loos and I shepherded him to the coach where he lay on the floor at the back all night, occasionally supplied with food and drink, while Downes and two helpers were scouring the club for him. Terry kept asking ‘Where’s the dirty bastard who peed down my leg?’ The culprit was rather subdued for the rest of the weekend.

ASIDE: Talking events, at this time Monroe, Sweda’s sister company, produced an early electronic printing calculator that would be on our joint exhibition stands and at hotel presentations. It had very limited programmability but I learned that stretched to its most extreme you could get it to produce a temperature comparison chart. The task was to have it print 1.0C, calculate the Fahrenheit equivalent and print 32.8F, then clock up one to 2.0C and convert this and print it – repeating this from 1 to 100 C. It took all my skills across moments grabbed through the day and pushed all the limits of the calculator to achieve this. There was no memory at switch-off and it could not print out the programme when I had completed it. At subsequent exhibitions, in a Groundhog Day-like exercise, I had to work it out from scratch all over again. Today I could just look it up on the Net!

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