- Friday, 16 November 2007
[Back, from left to right: Julian Cox, Glynis Askew, yours truly, Campbell Alexander, Gerry Prior, Paula Courtney and Penny Waymark.
Front, from left to right: Heather Potts, Kate vd Berg and Debbie Cox]
I actually prefer 'goodbye till later' to 'Farewell' which has such a tone of finality to it.
Once again I have realised how short our time here on earth as earthlings are. 5 Years and 10 months with AlexanderCox Attorneys flashed past and I am asking myself what have I done with this time so generously dished out to me ... what have I become as a person ... fortunately I can account for quite a few things that made me a much more content being ...
My farewell was arranged for 1:00pm at Tala Game Reserve situated between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. But due to an accident on the N3 Highway involving a truck spilling chemicals, the N3 between Shongweni and Durban was closed for most of Friday, 16 November 2007. This resulted in panic pandemonium at AlexanderCox, with me ducking as a curve ball headed straight for yours truly who had to decide where she wanted to have her 'goodbye' lunch. After trying numerous venues who were all fully booked we all ended up at Butcher Boys in Hillcrest. It was a cold, rainy and misty afternoon (true to Kloof/Hillcrest weather) which even emphasized the sadness of the moment.
Whilst enjoying delicious food accompanied by delectable red wine and very chatty colleagues, Campbell my boss for the last 5 years/10 months started his 'goodbye to Desire's speech'. It was a seriously lengthy story that began from the day that I arrived at his home for the dreaded interview. He described how he saw me through his study window as I was making my way to the front door. He panicked as he saw this very professional smartly dressed blond girl with a nice looking hand bag over her shoulder approaching ... he ducked for cover and ordered a colleague (Debbie) to greet me at the door, whilst he changed from his 'boxer shorts' into something more presentable i.e. knee length shorts and a casual shirt with slops.
At that stage, AlexanderCox did not exist. Campbell resigned from the firm Cox Yeats who he had been with for 20+ years to be with his loving wife Jenny who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2001. About the only thing I remember of this interview was a framed poem on the wall which was shoved under my nose to read. The poem was written by a previous secretary of Campbell (whom he seemed to think the world of ...) who had been with him for several years.
The only part of the very lengthy poem I can recall was something about the best part of being Campbell's secretary is 'when he is not in the office'. Mmm ... I thought to myself ... this sounds like someone who could not wait to get rid of her boss so that she could relax and get on with personal fun stuff ... never would I have known then that that part of the poem was exactly how it was working for Campbell. Whenever Campbell was in the office you had to make sure that your multi-tasking skills were freshly polished to be able to do a million and one tasks simultaneously... this is no exaggeration. So, obviously when he was out of office everyone could sigh in relief and get on with doing one job at a time.
I left the interview thinking to myself ... oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained. A few days later however Campbell phoned and offered me the job. I could not believe that I found a job within the first week of landing in Kloof and that only 4km from home. Now tell me, you don't believe that there is someone out there watching out for us.
In any case, I started on 8 February 2002 working with the data management girls i.e. LitigAID in Campbell's diningroom which was their make shift office. A few weeks later a computer station, desk and chair was bought for me and I set up office in Campbell's lounge, next to his study - very open plan-nish, quite the contrary to having my own office with a door I could keep open and shut as I wished, which I enjoyed for many years with previous firms I worked for. Being the private person I am, this was a serious adjustment for me. Campbell was very seldom in his study, dividing his time between caring for his beloved Jenny who was at times very ill and consulting with counsel at chambers.
Later on an air conditioning unit was especially installed for the lounge where I was everything but lounging. This gesture also made me realise that Campbell is all out for making his employee (me being his first and only employee for the first 4 months) as comfortable as possible and keeping her from running away, especially when her letter of employment stated that she could give him one day's notice!
I collected scrap paper in a box underneath my desk which was eagerly and regularly utilised by the resident feline Stroppy as a personal potty. I realised from these early days working in Campbell's lounge that he and his wife Jenny was very kind hearted people. Jenny insisted on preparing lunch for me during my first few days. This gesture I have never forgotten.
Campbell joined forces with Julian and started a partnership, AlexanderCox. Julian brought his secretary, Thanusha Padayachee (the real TP) with from Mooney Ford and after several weeks of office hunting, we moved into AlexanderCox's new home in Inkonka Road, Kloof, Durban on 1 June 2002. Jenny, Campbell's wife passed away during July 2002 which brought Campbell's life to a standstill for nearly a year.
Campbell and Julian wrote the following moving messages to me in a card with a picture resembling the late Stroppy who had a paper box as its own personal loo:
"Dear Desire, It has been a pleasure to work with you over the past 5 years and a bit. We have certainly been a great team starting from very basic beginnings which have been developed, refined and have run smoothly for some years. We have also had some outstanding successes - the biggest I will ever hope for. It will be difficult to find someone to step into your shoes and for me to know that the office and accounts are under control while I get on to win cases. All the best for your future in Gauteng and remember you are always welcome back here. Thanks for everything. Campbell."
"Desire. This is to wish you and Conroy all the best for your future adventure. Thank you so much for all you have done over the past 5+ years. It has really been appreciated even though the pressure and stress at the time may have made you think otherwise. Your calm manner certainly helped get through some stormy moments. Please keep in touch. Julian"
Thank you Campbell and Julian. You have instilled in me 'the strive for zero defect' and afforded me the opportunity, apart from how the legal world operates, to learn amongst other the financial side of running a business - this will definitely come in handy when running my own business.
I will definitely miss everyone at AlexanderCox and LitigAID (the document management sisters). You have all been very friendly, helpful and unselfish in offering assistance especially when me and Conroy still had to find our feet here in Kloof 5+ years ago. Thanks for all the contact numbers and directions it definitely made settling in a breeze.
Thank you to AlexanderCox for the beautiful leather handbag - Campbell just don't run away next time you see me approaching with it hanging ever so stylish over my shoulder. To LitigAID - you will all be fresh in my memory when I serve up a salad with my beautiful CaRRoL BoYeS salad servers ... and to Gerry and June my fellow indigenous garden enthusiasts ... the birdie will definitely find a worm or two in our new Gauteng garden.
- Ex first AlexanderCox Employee Signing Off