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  • Peter Smith

TUESDAY 22nd FEBRUARY 2000; Happy Memories and Back to Reality


We wake to a cold, beautiful morning with perfect blue sky and wisps of smoke rising up from the houseboats on the Cam just opposite our hotel. The city looks stunning as we give Ginny my nostalgia tour; John's, my old college, including a look at the new library and a quick peek into the Chapel; Trinity; Kings Chapel; and various places where post boat and football club dinner escapades took place. (Did we really paint an "F" in front of the Arts Cinema sign? And see who could get the biggest collection of other colleges’ dinner plates?)


It is a superb day to visit, as there are few tourists around and the students are not yet in frenetic pre exam mode; there is an atmosphere of calm purpose about the place. I show Ginny where I performed in Footlights revues and discovered that although I could write the odd thing that made people laugh, they generally laughed louder if it wasn’t me performing it. Griff Rhys Jones auditioned me for the big summer revue and finally made this lack of talent clear - although I still think asking me to sing a nursery rhyme in the style of Frankie Vaughan was a bit unfair. This was 1977, for God's sake - I was into The Pistols and The Jam, man!


My main claim to fame was directing a "smoker" late night revue for Footlights, as a "promising" fresher, alongside Martin Bergman, who is now a top Hollywood producer (we weren’t friends) and rejecting at audition a keen young actor chap called Bob Bathurst, now star of stage, screen and Cold Feet on ITV. We rejected him on his writing ability, not acting, but I guess that sums up my ability to spot talent.


It all seems a very long time ago and, to my surprise, I find that I can't actually get too worried about whether or not daughter comes here or not. Her happiness can't be guaranteed by getting a place at Cambridge, that's for sure. But walking over the Bridge of Sighs, through the New Court cloisters, out onto the Backs, and along by the Cam on a crisp, cold morning is still a memorable experience. It is as stunning a setting as I think I have ever seen anywhere in the world, and I remember how I first felt when I came for my interview as a fairly naive 17 year old from a state coprehensive in the North-East; I just could not believe that students were allowed to live amongst such beauty and history.


When we get home, I have a message from Bernard. We are meeting Richard on Thursday to discuss Redgrave (the purcahsing joint venture with Andersens). Bernard has found out that I have talked to Richard about my feelings on Redgrave, hence I need to handle this carefully. I don’t want to upset Bernard, even if he isn't around for long. I only told Richard that I don’t think I personally want to lead Redgrave; I didn't say the whole idea was necessarily wrong.


However, I am struggling to see how we could do the RBS integration, and generate the millions of synergy savings I think will be expected, while simultaneously outsourcing purchasing and setting up the Redgrave joint venture. Apart from anything else, keeping the staff might prove rather difficult under that scenario.

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