My oldest friend – in both senses of the word – 92-year-old Geoffrey Hanscomb and wife Jessica, came to lunch today. Thank heavens they are both in amazingly good form. Geoffrey gave me my first job, when I was 15, in my summer holidays, and we have been friends ever since. It was Geoffrey, through a contact with his, who was responsible for getting me my first job as a trainee architect with Sir John Browne, A E Henson & Partners in Lower Sloane Street in 1950, from whence I was ultimately transferred to the surveying department which started me on the road for my Chartered Surveying career. Â It was Geoffrey who offered me the partnership to run the Canadian branch of GAH International, which I graciously declined. It was Geoffrey who, in the late 60’s, when I started my own property company, Nationwide Property Holdings and Nationwide Property Homes, gave me working space in his Bolton Street office in Mayfair, just behind the Mirabelle Â – all successful property developers seem to congregated in Mayfair in those days just as most successful tailors do in Saville Row A few years later, in the early 70’s, when my bankers went broke and my property companies were put into receivership, it was Geoffrey who was responsible for me becoming chief executive of WPHT Housing Association (now Sanctuary Housing Association). I only intended to use this as a stopgap but in the endÂ I stayed for 8 Â½. years. That was all before my change of direction into arbitration in the early 80’s. It was Geoffrey who very generously hosted my 70th birthday, black-tie, dinner party in the Arthur Conan Doyle room at Rules Restaurant in 2001.
In essence, Geoffrey has stood as locus parenti, for the father I never had. He has sat unobtrusively, quietly in the shadows, in the back of my ship of life, occasionally giving a slight nudge on the rudder, often unseen and unobserved by me. I am eternally grateful to him.
On the other hand I have had the privilege of being the guest speaker atÂ Geoffreyâ€™s 70th, 80th and 90th birthday parties as well as his 60th wedding anniversary. He and the lovely Jessica have been married now for 68 years. I pray they will reach their 70th. and well beyond but can’t help wondering whether I will be there?