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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Over & Out

Jason Alexander as George Costanza in Seinfeld, 1996

Seinfeld: Season 8 Episode 6

"Oh god, not Seinfeld again. Still at least it's not Dexys Midnight Runners." Yes, at least it's not Dexys Midnight Runners ...

George Costanza is round at Jerry's apartment studying a textbook on risk management. Puzzled, Jerry asks why, to which George explains that everyone in the front office at his work - inexplicably, the New York Yankees - has been asked to give a lecture on their area of business expertise.

"What makes them think that you're a risk management expert?"

"I guess it's on my resumé."

That's how I feel about accounting: it's on my resumé, which may give the impression that I'm an expert on the subject. After 38 years perhaps I should be, but I'm still finding my feet. Maybe that's a good thing? Through a convoluted plot the Seinfeld episode concludes with George standing in front of the Yankees' board of directors talking about Ovaltine. Given a choice between presenting a lecture on accounting or warm nighttime beverages, I'd be more comfortable with the latter.


As to why I chose accountancy I can't say, or rather, I now don't remember. It could be that the schools career officer presented me with an alphabetical list of professions and having rejected abattoir operative & able seaman, I got bored and went for the next one. More likely, having seen my sister go through university then qualify as a Chartered Accountant, I thought I'd give that a shot. Either way, no regrets. In any case I hedged my bets by taking a joint degree course at Heriot-Watt University in accountancy and computer science, figuring that computers would be the future. A visionary at age 17.

Fourth on that careers list would likely have been architect and I reckon I would have made a reasonable stab at that or, like George Costanza, pretending to be an architect. Over the years, through trial and error - once literally through a trial, which eventually settled out of court - I've come to learn a lot about the world of reinforced concrete rafts & oriented strand board, and amassed a half decent library of architectural books. It's all about confidence when explaining your vision to clients, "the roof must go on top, windows on the side, etc". And keeping your fingers crossed that the building regulations haven't changed too much since you designed the new addition to the Guggenheim.

In 1973, then aged 8, I wrote to children's author Elisabeth Beresford to bring to her attention a plot anomaly and some spelling discrepancies in her most recent novel "The Wandering Wombles". She replied - I still have her charming handwritten letter on Wombles Ltd company headed stationery - acknowledging her errors, going on to opine that I "obviously had a very clear and retentive mind". A less generous interpretation of my letter would have been that I was being a pedantic little shit but it was a lovely thing to say. However she also suggested that a career in publishing awaited me and now, 50 years later, I'm going to follow her advice; fifth on the list, author.

I've been developing an idea for a book for a while now. In reality this has meant doing little beyond buying a notebook and almost filling 4 pages, some of it in joined up script. That was 15 months ago but writing is something I enjoy and now feels the right time for a change of direction. Today is my last day working at Lane Media, maybe my last day working as an accountant, who knows? And on Thursday I'm starting a non-fiction creative writing course at the University of Edinburgh. A new beginning.


I take this opportunity of thanking Jude Cook and Barry Fearn. It would be surprise me if either of them considered me to be an expert in accounting (or architecture) but they both saw something in my resumé that inspired them to hire me at ShareIn and Lane Media. My career wouldn’t have been half as interesting if I had not been a part of either of those companies, both are great to work for, team-builders par excellence. But most of all I want to thank Fiona Greig who I met the first day I started work in 1986 and taught me everything I know about agricultural stock taking methodology. More importantly - especially over the last 7 years or so - she has been there as a sounding post and has regularly reminded me that I am actually quite good at the things I am quite good at.

And so to Dexys Midnight Runners. You didn't really think that today of all days I wouldn't write about Dexys? As I have said - many times - before, the music of Kevin Rowland's band has both helped me through the bad times and been the soundtrack to many of my happiest memories. Somewhat unbelievably, after a silence of 10 years, a new Dexys single surfaced only two weeks ago. A glorious slice of springtime soul, the lyrics to "I'm Going To Get Free" seems uncannily appropriate:

Guilt it had such a hold on me

I tried many times before

I did realise that it all comes down to me

Now I'm going to get free

An album in July, shows in September. So much to look forward to.

Over & out xxx

First published on Linkedin

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