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Such sweet sorrow: retirement in times of social distancing


Life is nothing if not a lifelong learning experience.

And what have we all not learned over the course of the past year! We’ve been attentive, diligent pupils. We all know now without a tape measure what one metre fifty looks like; we can discern the presence of a smile behind a mask; we’ve learned how to run a home office; and we’ve mastered all the leading video conferencing apps. We’d sail through a test on any of these disciplines. What’s proving harder to negotiate is the emotional landscape of the digital world, even though – God knows – it’s been our home now for over a year. So many offices, including our own, deserted! In the production of our publications, we have changed our working methods in such a way as to eliminate all, or virtually all, human contact. We manage in the course of this, shall we say, “neo-normal” day-to-day routine to get the job done without any real meetings. We are all creatures of habit and, as awful as it might sound, we’ve somehow got used to social distancing. We each get most of our work done within our own four walls: that’s where we take business calls, conduct video conferences and check in for our morning update – something we used to do informally, live and in colour, while the coffee was brewing in the kitchen. Yet all such rituals now are lying dormant, like Sleeping Beauty.

Yet they are real – not Sleeping Beauty, perhaps, but those moments when we do become painfully aware that there’s something not right about any of this: that it conflicts with human nature.

Taking one’s leave, retiring, parting in general – these are emotional occasions, when we often find ourselves choking back tears. In TOP FAIR’s editorial department, as well as other areas of Publishing Services, we have in the course of the last few months bidden farewell to many colleagues we’ve worked with for decades and grown extremely fond of – some having opted for early retirement due to the pandemic and others having reached retirement age. Normally a good excuse for a party, speeches, eulogies and exchanged hugs; to say how much we have enjoyed working together, what we appreciate in one another, how much those departing will be missed. Standing by the buffet, we exchange reminiscences, clink champagne glasses and tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. But it seems, alas, that all such scenes will have to wait a good while yet.

That’s why we decided at TOP FAIR to pour many of these feelings into a lasting memento that would also serve to tide us over until we can meet up in person once again for a real retirement party. The result is not only a splendid farewell film in which all of the staff participated but also two marvellous booklets, one containing reading tips, the other recipes – the latter beautifully presented and suitably mouth-watering. It will be interesting to see what else we can come up with. Of course, due to cost and material restraints, these all have a bit a bit of a home-made look to them, but the odd camera wobble here and there on a video or a slightly out-of-focus culinary snapshot, far from spoiling, lend these things a more authentic and personal touch – in a word: charm. And the best of it is that, in this ‘diecast’ form, such reminiscences and sentiments will stay with us, forever.

A recipe you, too, perhaps might wish to follow?

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