In 1971, when chartered accountancy and I agreed that we weren’t made for each other, the National Cash Register Company (NCR) offered me a fresh start as a career trainee, based at their office in Sheffield, 3 miles from home.

I was straightway booked on my induction course at their UK Education Centre in Greenford, close to Heathrow Airport.  In an excited frame of mind, and having just acquired my first car, a brilliant red MINI 1000, I set off on my drive to the hotel, at which I would be staying for the week.  Minis are not designed with long motorway journeys in mind, so after something on a bouncy, deafening 3 hours on the road, I pulled up at the hotel.

I announced myself to the receptionist “My name’s Barnes, and I’m booked in until Friday morning.”

‘Your initial please?”


“Yes, that’s fine – you’ll be sharing with 3 others in your party, and they are here already”

This was news to me as was at least expecting my own room for the week, but at least I would get to see colleagues at work and play, for better and worse.

Key in hand, I sallied forth to my room, put the key in the lock, and was met by three girls in various states of undress, who, it must be said, were surprised to see that I’d let myself in.  And, for a 21 year old innocent on his first big assignment away from home, my immediate reaction, apart from a mouth hanging open, was that this might be a lucky day.

“Er….I was told that I was in this room…..”

“Are you here for the conference?” queried one of the three girls – and not just any three girls, these were girls of cinematic beauty, fully equipped in all departments.

“I’m on a training course starting tomorrow in Greenford.  Is that what you mean?”

“You’re not here for the Fabergé sales conference?”

Ah, these were three of the famously gorgeous Fabergé cosmetics promotion girls.

“No – I must have been given the wrong room and key – which from my point of view is a great shame.”  Lots of laughter and smiles, and an invitation to the party that they were having that evening.

Back to reception, enquiries were made, and there were two R Barnes guests – the other one being the girl destined to share with the Fabergé beauties.  I never did meet her.

I know that I went to the party, but disappointingly can’t remember a single thing about it.  What I can remember, is buying a drink in the hotel bar, and standing on the terrace overlooking the main Heathrow runway, and watching, for the very first time, a Jumbo jet (Boeing 747) take off.  What a sad man am I….