So, who are you, then?


7th January 2024


6th May 2024

Leaning on the railing of the verandah, I looked over the harbour toward the western docks. A cruiser sat a mile or two offshore as the crickets sang in the trees below.

“So, what are you then?”, she asked.

The bar behind us was busy but not raucous as it could sometimes be. She — I forget her name — was wearing a fire-engine red t-shirt dress that didn’t sit well with too much recent sun on her skin, nor did it suit her hair colour. White might have been a better choice. Or green, like that seen upon an Irish Queen.

I looked at her for a moment and said, “Not an alcoholic, although I sometimes wonder.” After a long journey on the wagon, I had resurrected my old love of Claret. Or anything from Bordeaux. The anti-inflammatories from the idiot doctor had returned my taste and smell, but had done nothing at all for the injury.

She took a wild guess. “A musician! You look like a musician.”

“Well, yes, I am”, I said, “in the same sense that alcoholics are always alcoholics. I was a card-carrying musician once. Bass player, if that counts.” Music, especially plinky-plonking at a piano, has always been a sanctuary for me, although I haven’t played with others in a long time. Somewhere along the line, I must have lost my swagger, become stuck in the sand, like some old tyre on the beach. When was that, exactly? It seems to have been gradual, over some number of years.

“You seem to be avoiding the question”, she said. “That’s OK.”

I responded quickly. “No, it’s not really. It’s a great question. It’s like, ‘who am I?’.” Who, indeed. I remember my name but have been worried that I might lose who I am. Back then, in the band, I had swagger. In the military, too. They sort of expect it.

It carried me through a career in industry, too, all the way to the board room. There was clarity of purpose there — ROI for the shareholders or owners. Clear principles, too. Everyone paid enough to think about it, understands that, and applies their skills, talents and resources to that purpose, observing the principles. Everyone maximises their advantage that way too, and it is beautiful how it works, if not a little vicious at times. I forgot that once, working for a guy in Broken Arrow (near Tulsa), who told me, “you’re the technical director, Nick. Be a technical director.” This advice helped me focus on what mattered to him, and, ergo, to me in that role.

I turned to the girl in the red dress and said, “Do what you know.” She looked puzzled for a moment. I said, “it was advice from a friend who had made a fortune in impex. I never really took his advice, and never really made a fortune.”

“Correlation or causality?”, she asked.

“I never thought about it.”, I said. The clouds reflected the sunlight from beyond the horizon and I thought it time to call it a night. I wished my temporary companion a pleasant evening as she lit another cigarette and waved me off like an over attentive waiter.