We quickly became a team. When we didn’t have enough money to pay the rent, we emptied our wardrobes of Gerardine’s homemade clothes and my collection of second-hand clothes onto a table in Camden Market. We subsequently opened a stall in the sadly missed Kensington Market and our first brand, Red or Dead, was born. It’s no bed of roses running a fashion company, especially if you are doing it with no money, no backers and without any experience whatsoever. It’s even tougher when, in the Hemingway fashion, unplanned babies start to come along! We never learned the art of family planning, and in terms of kids have happily repeated our initial lack of it a wonderful three times.
But like generations before us, we coped and adapted, and teamwork has enabled us to go onwards and upwards. When the business got one of us down, the other was there to lift th e spirits and deal with the tasks in hand. When one of us was stuck for inspiration, the other has always seemed to find it. When one of us is bogged down with the economics, the other has always taken the creative reigns. Without constantly learning to support each other and recognise our needs on a daily basis, then the exciting, productive and rewarding work life that Gerardine and I continue to enjoy just wouldn’t be possible.
As in our businesses, our family life has been a partnership. Having four active kids, who have never been the kind to sit and watch telly, stare at a computer game or, despite nagging, read many books, needs energy. All that football, tennis, cricket, cycling, table tennis and just doing stuff isn’t easy for a couple who are sharing the responsibility for running decent-sized companies. There are times when both of us are knackered and have just not felt like going out into the drizzle to kick a ball. But one of us has always been able to spot who was the most knackered and got up and done the right thing with the children. There are never arguments over it; it just has to be done. We’re not saints, just pragmatists who realise that partnerships are just that.
It’s not easy, and maybe not possible, to maintain that first flush of passion. It’s human nature to fancy a change. Part of being human is to be inquisitive, to want new experiences, new stimulations. That’s why we travel, change jobs, move houses, try new recipes, wear new outfits and have hairdos. It’s easy to chuck relationships away but for me, relationships are a ‘work in progress’. Each month is a new chapter in the relationship.
So much in life changes, and sharing those changes with someone who was there at the beginning is rewarding. Our eldest three may have left home, but they haven’t left the family. They may no longer need their clothes washing or their dinner preparing. But they have Mum and Dad there as a team to call on for advice on their own business startups and bringing up their families (I am looking forward to being a grandad!) and to discuss football and music. When you’ve still got a passion to share all this, then you’ve still got passion.
I love our ‘work in progress’; love the challenge of maintaining our desire to be together till our golden anniversary and beyond; love the challenge of still being there as a team for our kids. I’m lucky that I have this ethic for my marriage. If Gerardine reads this, then maybe I won’t have to work very hard at the passion side of things this week!