I employed many talented young ladies during my time in my new Asprey offices above Garrard. Being prepared to work hard was always a prerequisite for being part of the team, and a sense of humour was essential. The atmosphere was charged with every kind of excitement. New ideas – often outrageously original – were bandied about. Intoxicating new projects were thought up daily. The buzz was so contagious that each one of the girls had her own theories, perceptions and striking images to contribute. After so many years I still cannot tell whether the energetic environment was the catalyst or vice versa. Each one of them was a character worth describing, either for her singularity or her eccentric disposition. But since I consider food to be one of life’s most pleasurable diversions, I will mention my cook, Hattie Beaumont.
Hattie was endowed with exceptional culinary talents and used them with remarkable originality. She improvised almost on a daily basis, creating the most delicious dishes that seemed effortless but always had the required effect. She ranked alongside Charlotte Millward, my cook at Namara House, who likewise never failed to dazzle everyone with her exquisite cuisine. Charlotte herself was not without her eccentricities, but in Hattie it was her skittishness that was her most lovable trademark. Both were cheekily attractive to suit their personalities, Charlotte being more controlled while Hattie was a bit of a loose cannon. When Hattie was on her best behaviour, she had no equal, and conversely, if she was being naughty, her equal would also have been hard to find. She was adorable and exasperating in equal measure. Her exploits were hilarious and sometimes played havoc with her life and ours. But once you loved her, nothing mattered. She became irresistibly addictive and there was no getting her out from under your skin. Her secret was eternal youth, for she looks no different today from the way she looked then: radiant with optimism and joie de vivre.
Work and Antics
I worked for Naim for several years, moving with him from Namara House to Regent Street, where he then presided as chief executive of the Asprey group. When I look back on those years, I do so with much nostalgia, for they were indeed some of the happiest of my life. We were an eclectic gaggle of girls working for him with a fierce loyalty that we maintain to this day. Most of us agree that he was endlessly forgiving, even when he felt compelled to sack us for chronic misbehaviour, which in my case was not a rare occurrence. But he always relented in the end.
He was more of an indulgent father figure who managed us all charmingly well. Even with so many hormones flying around, we never fell out. In fact we looked forward to every morning breezing into work with a skip in our steps and a smile on our faces that reflected our pleasure in working for such an enigmatic and caring man. Along with the normal workload, we had time for many amusing antics, which we played on our wonderfully patient boss. He would turn the tables on us occasionally, like the time when I was meeting a potential boyfriend at the local pub and he and some of my workmates came to spy on me, after warning me beforehand to play hard to get and not to succumb to any physical temptation in the early stages of the relationship. He had also told me he would easily find out whether I’d taken heed of his advice by the expression on my face next day: a roguish smile would divulge all and I would be in trouble! So it may be imagined how I felt when I saw him and his entourage sitting in the corner of the pub watching my every move. I turned tomato red and wanted to flee, but I was too embarrassed to tell my companion. The following day, when we all gathered in Naim’s office to dissect the goings-on of the evening before, there were too many episodes to recount and I suspect they’d be far too naughty to repeat to gentlefolk. In a nutshell, Naim is a man who deserves great respect, who has had a wonderfully colourful life, has not been immune to his share of hard times but has always taken them in his stride with an upbeat attitude. I shall retain these happy memories and consider myself lucky to have had the pleasure to be part of his life.