A week last Tuesday, the venerable members of the unofficial subsection of the Shell Pensioners Association known as the Shell Old Gits convened in Shell Centre for the traditional lunch, a tradition which will soon be two years old. Ten members were expected, following frivolous excuses from the others, such as watching tennis at Eastbourne, exam invigilation, on holiday in Turkey, working in Calgary and Houston (though presumably not simultaneously), on holiday in Spain, and having laser eye surgery. The excuse from Ian that he was working in his new three day a week post as Secretary of the Shell Pensioners Benevolent Association was accepted as entirely unfrivolous; you never know when you might need the SPBA. I almost emailed Ian saying if he was already going to be in work that day, why couldn’t he just pop down and join us, and then it clicked – he’d be in work at Bank Street, from which Shell Centre is five stops on the Jubilee Line, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone.
By noon, nine people had turned up – Jeremy, Malcolm, Nigel V, Geoff, David, Keith S and myself, plus first timers Gary and Gerry. Notice I use the term ‘first timers’, not ‘new members’. Gary and Gerry have been on the list for quite some time, but have always had frivolous excuses before. This time they made it, which was excellent. Also, it is quite hard to be a ‘new’ SOG. Many former employees of Shell are already Old Gits without necessarily realising it.
The missing tenth person was Adam and no one had a phone number for him to check whether he was on his way, so at ten past twelve we went up to the restaurant. I usually like to get up there early so that everyone can sit at the same table, but this day there was lots of space, so much, in fact, that two separate tables at opposite ends of the room were occupied before everyone could be corralled back together. About halfway through lunch, I realised that I could contact Adam via Twitter, since we both Tweet (him more than me), so I sent him a direct message. A few minutes later, my phone told me the message could not be sent. I seemed to have signal, but my phone insisted on using the office wifi network instead, to which I didn’t have a password, so nothing was getting through. After remonstrating with the phone and telling it to ignore wifi, I re-sent the message, and a bit later got a frivolous excuse from Adam about an urgent job coming up. At least we hadn’t left him moping and alone in the Shell Centre reception.
After lunch, a few people went to see their old departments. I couldn’t do that. The emotional turmoil would be just too great. Also, and possibly more so, my old department (a) went to Bank Street and (b) was disbanded. Makes you feel useful, that. The rest of us went to the Camel & Artichoke. We found the outdoor seating full, so sat indoors until everyone else arrived, at which point there were a few outdoor tables free and we moved. I emailed Alun to express the hope that his eye op (perhaps not so frivolous an excuse, after all) had gone well and he seemed to think it had. We drank beer in the sun until it was time to go. I caught a train, managed to remember that I had cycled in to the station and should find my bike, not a bus, and failed to fall into the canal from the towpath whilst riding home. A most satisfactory day.