As a boy, I had spent most of my time shut away from the world by well-meaning parents who fretted constantly about my frail state of health.
Adopting a strange form of escapism, I fantasised about being a general directing my troops on the field of battle and being saluted according to my rank.
Three decades later in Abu Dhabi, following my founding of the Al-Manara Trading Company, I found myself at the helm of a small outfit consisting of former officers from the British army and one ex-Royal Navy officer.
All were employed by Al-Manara and its subsidiaries and I was their chief. The naval man was Mike Mackinley, and the others included Mike Brennan, a former army man who was in charge of Falcon Enterprises. This was a sister company of Al-Manara, which was engaged in entrepreneurial activities to do mainly with contracting.
The irony of it would have eluded any observer of the scene, but for me they became the little army of my dreams. My forces were engaged not in conflict but in battling on the highly competitive field of commerce. Their brief, as pioneers in a region that was rapidly meeting the challenges of a modern economy, was all-embracing.
They were accustomed to inhospitable conditions in rough terrain and had the discipline to adapt to whatever they came up against. The problem-solving skills they had learnt in their forces careers were carried across a completely different set of circumstances.
Best of all, the local inhabitants took to them and they seemed able to blend with any sort of background.
Whenever I flew in on one of my monthly visits to Abu Dhabi, my little platoon would be there to meet me, drawn up at the airport. They would greet me in the manner taught by their training, evoking their previous military roles translated into civilian courtesies.
It was for me as if an innocent dream, born out of sheer frustration, had turned itself into a fragment of substantiality, allaying any resentment I might still be harbouring about my lost childhood.
It’s lovely to evoke childhood memories later on in adulthood, especially if converted into near reality.