Tony Allen: And finally... Such is life

Sep 18 | 2023

Barry (aka Baz) is my oldest friend. I’ve known him since my first day at senior school when we were thrown together as two insecure individuals entering into a new and more grown up world. Fellow spirits really, I suppose. ​

Tony AllenWe ended up in the same class in what was then a much more disciplined environment, where pupils could be caned for the slightest misdemeanour and some teachers ruled by fear. Even so we were taught a set of values that hold true even to this day and, in the main, the old school actually turned out individuals who where a bonus to society. The happiest days of your life?

Baz and I developed our, sometimes esoteric, sense of humour together and our journey to adulthood progressed in tandem. In fact, he was responsible for introducing me to my wife Jan; and we’ve got our 60th wedding anniversary coming up soon.

I was best man at his wedding, and he was best man at mine. I recall, at my best man speech for Barry, remarking how he was responsible for introducing me to my wife – but that I didn’t hold it against him! Did I really get away with that?

Meeting Baz was one of the best things to happen to me … and now he’s in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease and living in a care home. Amazingly he continues to retain his sense of humour, so we still indulge in copious laughter; but he lives in the present with little understanding of the past or the future. He and his wife were divorced many years ago and he never did have any offspring, which somehow makes his situation more poignant.

It never ceases to amaze me how ideas for producing these articles simply come from nowhere. Anybody who has been given the task of producing something entertaining and readable will understand how difficult it can be to actually get going. It’s like a greyhound eager to be set free. But all it takes is that first sentence and then we’re off.

On this occasion there was no problem at all. I’d just spoken to Baz on the telephone and it made me realise how ephemeral everything in our life can be and I couldn’t wait to put my thoughts down on paper. You see it occurred to me that where we get to is often purely a question of luck. My old friend was a very fit individual who had played a lot of sport and had led a relaxed life running his own business – if that’s not a conflict in terms!

This doesn’t mean that you should eschew all fitness and dietary regimes, etc. – in fact on the contrary. Luck – or fate if you prefer – plays a nominal part in our existence. We do actually still maintain a high degree of control.

It’s very easy to forget that a company is an entity that needs to be nurtured. This is more apparent in its early days of existence when we are in close control. But a company is like an individual: it is born; it exists; it hopefully thrives and prospers.

But of course in the very nature of things, unless we keep ahead of our market, it is likely to go into decline and many companies do follow this downward path. If we take too much for granted in terms of our product, our staff or our financial stability then, as mentioned earlier, the result could be decline. We could almost infer that this is very much a perfectly natural and inevitable process and that when that occasional dose of bad luck comes along, we should be fully prepared for it.

If I look at the companies that existed when I first came into the moving industry, it’s surprising how many of them have ceased to exist as independent units, and especially the larger ones. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but lack of momentum is one of the main ones. No matter the size of a company or the quality of its management, what economists call ‘periodic slowdowns’ (or bad luck if you prefer) will occur from time to time.

So, whether it’s an individual or a company, surprisingly, the same natural laws apply. The moving industry is very good at adapting to the rigours of its marketplace but we can’t always avoid natural possibilities. Which sadly brings me back to my old mate Baz!

Photo: Tony Allen.