On behalf of Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources I’m thrilled today to be hosting an extract from this wonderful and inspiring memoir, Life’s a Banquet by Robin Bennett.
If life gives you lemons, add gin
Life’s a Banquet is the unofficial but essential ‘guide book’ to negotiating your way through life – through education, family life and business, to relationships, marriage, failure and rejection.
Aged 21, Robin Bennett was set to become a cavalry officer and aged 21 and a half, he found himself working as an assistant grave digger in South London – wondering where it had all gone wrong.
Determined to succeed, he went on and founded The Bennett Group, aged 23, and since then has gone on to start and run over a dozen successful businesses in a variety of areas from dog-sitting to cigars, translation to home tuition. In 2003, Robin was recognised in Who’s Who as one of the UK’s most successful business initiators. Catapulting readers through his colourful life and career, Robin Bennett’s memoir is an inspiring tale.
Nowadays, at work, I tend to get wheeled out only when things either go very well or very badly. In between times, I do what every other businessman does, which is: watch cashflows, fret about invoices, staff, the economy and carry boxes about.
The rest of the day – about half of it – I’m pretty much retired and free to waste energy on things that really shouldn’t concern me.
I’ll give you an example: just recently, we arrived back from our travels to find our perfectly flat wooden flooring in France had gone rogue. It now undulated like waves in a small harbour.
After previous incidents, that I would call ‘learning experiences’, but Hélène talks about as national catastrophes on a par with the Eiffel Tower disappearing into a sinkhole, I solemnly gave my word I would never touch another power tool as long as we both drew breath.
Nevertheless, as soon as H had gone to the shops, I changed my trousers and went to the barn with a great sense of optimism, to hunt out a jigsaw I bought when I built a kitchen (badly) in our Clapham flat in about 1997.
The problem was simple: the floor had expanded in the heat and was too ‘long’.
I would make it shorter.
It was a win-win – we’d be back to non-corrugated flooring, and everyone would be so impressed I could revert to my old ways of taking a lump hammer and gaffer tape to any DIY problem around the house.
Turns out jigsaws have a shelf life. Since I had last used ours it had got used to its retirement. Seconds after I turned it on, flames with sparks started coming out of the plastic casing as I flayed about with it in my hand. Briefly, I looked like Zeus.
Coming to my senses, I turned it off at the wall and spent the next five minutes getting my breathing and pulse back to normal before deciding that it was only a minor blip and I would press on.
Old school, I thought when I noticed the plane; back to basics. From woodwork lessons at school, I remembered the calming effect planing wood has on a person and, sure enough, within five minutes I was even thinking of a career change: I would turn my back on Mammon, lead a simple and good life. I would carpent (= repent + woodwork).
Time passed and my soul healed.
When I finally blew off all the shavings, I saw that my work had done the trick: the bit of flooring in my hand was noticeably thinner. Hang on, it was much thinner.
The cold dark shadow of foreboding fell across the worktable and I walked slowly back to the house with a rising sense of dread.
I think now is the time to tell you about our underlay.
Underlay, in my experience, is usually a neutral colour: russet, Sherwood green or taupe. For some reason, ours is made of a sort of super shiny material cute female aliens on ’70s episodes of Star Trek always wear. Captain Kirk was always a sucker for gold lamé.
The underlay now shone through the floor with the intensity of the sun. It was as if I had just chiselled away the planking to discover a hidden world – a happier place of light and colour below our feet.
Perhaps that’s how I would sell it to H?
Bollocks, I thought, reality flooding in, that won’t even work on the children. Nothing for it, I will have to cover my tracks.
Mastek will be my friend.
 It’s a fact of life that however important you become, you will still need to pick up boxes of stationery on a depressingly regular basis and carry them from A to B. I bet Elon Musk still has to. In fact, I feel quite good about that.
Author Bio – Robin Bennett
Robin Bennett lives in Henley on Thames, Oxon. He is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children and books on the swashbuckling world of business. His documentary, Fantastic Britain, about the British obsession with magic and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards.
Robin says, “When the world seems to be precarious and cruel, remember that the game is to never give up – there’s everything to play for, and it will all be OK.”