Saying goodbye is never easy. Saying goodbye four times over is, well, four times as difficult.
Today we held a Farewell Lunch for the four amazing staff who have given
so much over the years to Voluntary Action Worthing, the organisation I am privileged to chair. As the one responsible for collecting contributions from my fellow Trustees and organising our Fare-thee-well-fest, it fell to me to somehow manage the delicate
balance between sadness and thanksgiving.
I had booked a table at a local restaurant called Food. As regular readers know, I do love a shop, a company, an organisation, a restaurant which delivers exactly
what it says on the tin. If food is what you are looking for, then Food is as good a place as any to go for a varied, reasonably priced lunch menu. No, just in case you are wondering, I don't get paid for such endorsements, as many a blogger does. I prefer
to be able to speak as I find. Without fear or favour. Which is a bit like delivering what it says on the tin if you come to think of it.
I arrived early having stopped off at Marks & Spencer to pick up
four bunches of roses. The sales assistant on the checkout had a terrible time trying to prise the sticky price labels off each bunch. Conscious that time was ticking by I tried to assist but this proved to be less than helpful as we both got into what my
dear Mum used to call a "two and eight". That, should you not know, is Cockney rhyming slang for "state" - my Mum was a closet Cockney, born within the sound of Bow bells, though she would have much preferred to be Scottish. She satisfied her Inner Scot by
calling everyone "lad" or "lass" and quoting at length from Rabbie Burns.
To return to the checkout at M & S, each bunch of roses had not one but two price labels on it. Moreover somebody unknown had gone
mad with the glue stick. While the shop assistant approached the whole Label Removal Business in a logical order, taking each bunch in turn, my more haphazard methodology meant neither of us could be sure that every label had been successfully removed so each
bunch had to be checked twice over.
At the restaurant I asked if my four (unlabelled) bunches of flowers could be hidden somewhere until after our lunch. A helpful waitress stowed them behind the bar for me
where I expect they got in everybody's way as they hurried from kitchen to bar to table. When we finally presented the flowers at the end of our meal, I was charmed to discover that somehow I had managed to buy exactly the right colour roses for each person
- white for Cath, coral for Lucy, yellow for Natasha, pink for Julia. "You must know us so well!" they all exclaimed. Was it more luck than judgement, I pondered, or could I possibly be possessed of supernatural powers? Am I - just the teensiest bit - psychic?
Oh, for goodness sake, I said psychic, not psycho. Perish the thought!
I had spent the previous evening wrapping up our gifts. I am not the Best of Gift Wrappers. Every Christmas I promise myself that next
year I will go on a course to learn how to make my presents look elegantly beautiful. Every year, come present wrapping time, I am forced to resort to my usual default position which mostly involves Lashings of Sellotape, bringing protests from small people
(and their parents) who struggle to unwrap my carefully chosen (but carelessly wrapped) gifts.
Placed on the restaurant table, the four parcels actually did look pretty special though I say so myself as shouldn't.
I can thoroughly recommend silver and gold paper to disguise any inefficiencies in the Gift Wrapping Department. It was, however, the gift inside which would count and how I had agonised over the inscription to be engraved on each glass plaque.
There was so much I could say about Julia, Cath, Lucy and Natasha. About hard work, about loyalty, about always going the extra mile for the organisations which make up Worthing's voluntary sector. There were
so many ways I could sum up the dedication and the contribution our very own Fab Four have made to community life in our town. And what about all the amazing comments from the people they have worked with and for, the organisations they have helped over the
years - could I perhaps borrow some of their words of much deserved praise?
In the end, I decided to keep it simple and each personally engraved plaque bore the message: "Thank you for everything you have
done for us."
Wouldn't you agree that's exactly what it says on the tin?