My secret ambition has hovered between being a conductor, a concert pianist and playing rugby for Wales. But since none of them was ever in reach, I settled for a more mundane existence. And I did manage to 'start again': after 28 years in the civil service, I launched myself into the business world. Most people in Britain end up with single-track careers, which is a pity - there is a great deal to be said for mingling government and business. I very nearly went into business from the beginning. In my last term at Oxford, I was accepted by BP, but the next post brought an offer from the Foreign Office, which conjured up visions of secret treaties and glamorous chancelleries. The reality was more exotic still. My first job involved countersigning manumission certificates for slaves who'd secured their freedom in Muscat by clutching the flagpole in the courtyard of the British Consulate-General. But I've never regretted my years in the diplomatic service, whose highlights spanned learning Finnish to trying to keep pace with Margaret Thatcher as she circled the world. I'd certainly equip myself better for modern life by going to business school and becoming more numerate and technically minded. The sight of my grandchildren manipulating a computer while I struggle to bring the stock market prices up on a Reuter's screen is a standing humiliation.
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