Annie Feuermann

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I find it impossible to remove the personal and contact details of deceased persons, with whom I have been close, from my diary & address book. Thus, every 14th October the name of ANNIE FEUERMANN pops up in my diary.

Annie was a close childhood friend to my mother’s sister, Lisel and then of Herta, my mother. As Socialists,  Annie & Lisel shared a life of political activism. Due to the untimely early death of Lisel and Herta’s mother – from an infection from a tooth extraction in the early 1920s (my mother was born in 1918) – Lisel’s role was much more than that of an elder sister to my mother. Following Lisel’s own death in 1960, Annie in many ways took over that role and I recall very clearly the emotion and excitement that accompanied Annie’s visits to our home. After my mother’s death in 1988, Annie – who by then had moved back to Vienna – was a regular visitor to my Father’s home and my own. I last saw Annie in 1993 – on a memorable trip to Vienna with Dad, Hertha Lowy, a lifelong friend, and Jane – when she presented me with a glorious lithograph of the Franz Josefquai, which hangs in our living room today.

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Annie was one of those very rare people who seem to have an aura about them. Always understanding and interested, Annie was a gentle and kind person who always had, or made, time for others. Sadly, though I retain some details, I regretfully do not recall enough to write a credible biography of Annie’s remarkable life. Fuelled with these memories of her, I took to the internet to see if I could discover a bit more and to my joy discovered an entry in Das RoteWien, the online Lexicon of Viennese Social Democracy and, incredibly, a video of an interview with her televised by Austrian television in 1989. (Link to video)

The interview concerns itself with Annie’s experiences in the 1930s as a Jewish teenager of strong Socialist conviction – a period effectively bookended by the General Strike & Uprising of 1934, which heralded in the suppression of political opposition, and The Anschluss of 1938, when the Germans marched across Austria’s opened borders to occupy the country. The following is a rough transcript of that interview:

Annie Feuermann was born in 1913 into an orthodox Jewish family. She was aware that anti-Semitism existed in Austria because it was a subject talked about at home. Her father ran a small clothing business and she recalls his telling of the minor indignities that he felt he suffered as a Jew; especially when travelling on business, when he was often interrogated as to who he was and where he came from and was more-often-than-not offered inferior accommodation. Annie said that these were the ‘small pinpricks’ one experienced as a Jew in Vienna at those times, whose cumulative effect made Jews often feel as ‘Anderen’ – foreigners.

 At the age of 16, Annie joined the Socialist Youth party. By her own admission she was a ‘book worm’ and, when she was given a membership card to the library ran by The Party, the world of the major socialist writers opened for her – the ideals of the French Revolution, the 1848 movement, 1871 Paris Commune & the Russian Revolution. Even more significantly she was now in contact with other like-minded individuals, who saw the solution to all social problems, including anti-Semitism, in the notions of Equality and Freedom as intoned by Schiller’s refrain: ‘Alle Menschen werden Bruder’ – all Men should become Brothers (and one’s religion was a personal matter & not a basis for discrimination.) In the interview, Annie is asked whether she was aware of there being anti-Semitism in the SD party and her reply was

“I’ve now come to realise that this was the case but I still haven’t changed my mind that a world where all people are brothers and equal is still possible; one where all people have the same potential regardless of race or religion.”

Annie recalls a Socialist Culture – one where on where smoking drinking or dancing were frowned upon, as opposed to ‘wholesome activities’ such as hiking, swimming, skiing – and spending a lot of the time in discussions, not only with fellow Socialists but also with those of different political persuasions, in the youthful belief that such debates offered a route to the peaceful resolution of issues. These debates also brought her into contact with some very eminent individuals including Max Adler, the Marxist philosopher, who offered views that one simply did not get at school!

At 11.46 am on the 12th of February 1934 the Viennese tram system came to an abrupt halt signalling in the start of the 4-day so-called Austrian Civil War. (For a fuller account see here). Annie, now a 21 year old full ‘card-carrying’ member of The Social Democrat party, makes her way to an official SD Gathering Point near her home in the 1st Bezirk to await further instructions expected by telephone. She had been more than aware that conflict was possible, even inevitable, and was prepared to give up her life for socialism; given an absolute conviction that the working class would have to fight for the rights of the down-trodden in the long term interests of the world. The call never comes and, when it becomes clear that all is lost, she returns home but not before helping to hide or destroy a store of incriminating material. After the failed uprising, the Social Democrats are declared an illegal political party. The disappointment for Annie is that the Social Democrat party’s organisation and plans had not only failed but had in no major way been acted upon. 

Annie continues to work clandestinely for The Party until The Anschluss on 12th March 1938; after which time the issue at hand becomes one of personal survival. During this time she finds herself twice in prison. The first time in 1935 when she is scheduled to meet 2 others on Petersplatz. When these two young men are detained by the police, who suspect that they are in possession of stolen bicycles, find illegal socialist materials in their possession and furthermore are told that they were waiting for a certain Annie Feuermann. Police come to her house and find a draft article for the illegal socialist newspaper.  Annie is arrested and detained in prison for 60 days. In a single cell with 5 other women, a political prisoner among criminals & prostitutes, she recalls that she was most scared of what her father would think. In prison, that first time, Annie spends her time studying for her exams. Annie was now known to the police and, after her release, is the subject of continued observation. In 1937, after again being found in possession of illegal materials, she is sentenced with 2 others to 4 months of political detention, again in prison as there were no special facilities available for women.  For the first 6 weeks, of this her second detention, her glasses are confiscated from her; for her the worst punishment of all, as she can not read. When the glasses are returned she remembers reading Crime & Punishment. Conditions are poor – nothing compared to those after the Anschluss – but awful by any contemporary standards. She remembers being continually hungry and the solidarity among the prisoners of all political persuasions who went on a hunger strike over poor food, which lasted 24 hours until better food was offered. She also remembers hearing beatings. The imprisonment cost her her graduation, as she was banned from attending university. She was allowed back after the day after the Anschluss but by then she was more concerned with saving her own life.

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 I do not know exactly how long Annie remained in Austria before she managed to flee. In the interview, she recalls that three weeks after the Anschluss two Jewish boys were picked up by the police. Their mother heard nothing and then she received a postcard with no other explanation from Germany excepting that she could fetch the urn with their remains from Munich. This was not unique but she remembers it because it was the first time that such a thing had happened. Annie did manage to flee from Austria. From the Rotewien, I can see that she was assisted by The Quakers to get to Paris and then made her way to Glasgow, which was her home when I first remember meeting her in the 1950s.

Annie remained in Glasgow until her return to Vienna in 1959. In Glasgow, Annie worked as a hospital care-worker and I think it must have been there that she met and married Mr. Kohn, with whom I never made any acquaintance. I also do not know what became of him – I, now presume that he died before 1959 as I certainly have no recollection of his being in Vienna, on our first family visit there in the summer of 1959, when we met up with Annie.

Upon her return to Vienna, Annie threw herself into public service, serving among other things as Chair of Poale Zion, the Jewish Workers Union. Annie also spent a deal of her time concerning herself with the conditions of Austria’s immigrant population. Her boundless energy was still very much to the fore, when I last saw her in 1993.

I wish I had spent more time in conversation with Annie about her personal life and political opinions. I was very interested, for instance, to learn from her interview that she blames the increased presence of anti-immigrant nationalist sentiment in Austria on the fact that the country did not undertake any measurable process of self-examination or reconciliation during the aftermath of World War 2. But that was Annie, one of those rare individuals who concerned themselves more with others, rather than talk about herself. The fact that one year after her death, The Annie Feuermann Day Care Centre was founded in her honour is a testimony to a remarkable human of the highest ideals and one who devoted her life to the service of them.

 

יהי זכרו (זכרה) ברוך

May Her Memory Be A Blessing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Start Of An Affair

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On this day, 62 years ago, I went to Craven Cottage for the first time. This was the second professional football match that I had attended. On the 17th September I had been taken to see Chelsea, the reigning league champions of England, play Aston Villa. The game that day ended 0-0. Not seeing any goals was a huge disappointment to this 6-year-old. In those days, with Saturday afternoon public entertainment low on the ground, it was not uncommon to support a couple of local teams. Strange as it sounds now, many chaps went to Arsenal one week and Spurs the next. In the case of my father & uncle, they went to Chelsea & Fulham. So when, 3 weeks later, I was taken to Fulham and saw them score 5 unanswered goals against Hull, I declared that I only had interest in Fulham – despite their playing in Division 2 – from that day on.

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I can’t say that I honestly remember too much about the Fulham v Hull game beyond the scoreline. What remains for me from my first Fulham match experience are the memories of what it was like going to a game at Craven Cottage. The record books show that 21,207 folk attended that game of October 1955. This was by no means a sell-out. However, compared to Stamford Bridge where greyhound racing took place until 1968, Craven Cottage was a very compact stadium. The closeness of the pitch, the presence of Craven Cottage, squeezed into the corner between the Stevenage Road & Putney stands and the stadium location on the north bank of the Thames further enhanced its intimacy. The record books show that the largest crowd to attend a game at Craven Cottage was the 49,335 that saw Fulham play Millwall in 1938. However even in the 1950s, with standing on terraces still at three ends of the ground, games often attracted crowds of around 45,000. It is very likely though that attendances were even understated not only for the purposes of tax-reporting but also because many youngsters like myself entered the ground not through the turnstiles but over them – for the price of a ‘tanner’ (sixpence) or so, which was pocketed by the chap at the gate. I can’t remember quite when an actual ticket was first purchased for my attendance but it was certainly not for a couple of years yet. I certainly can recall matches where the ground was so full that people were sitting on the ground on the small track surrounding the pitch. Also, the crush of people as the crowds exited the ground.

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The next season, 1956-57 my father & uncle also abandoned Chelsea, ostensibly following the transfer of their favourite player Roy Bentley from Stamford Bridge to Craven Cottage. When Fulham gained promotion in 1959, they bought three season tickets in Stand G for the 59/60 season and my days of ‘flying’ rather than walking into the ground were very truly over. It is hard to imagine in today’s global village the relative scarcity of intimate information available to fans about their clubs. Sure the back pages kept tabs on the major news of the bigger 1st division clubs, but smaller & lower league mostly received a skimpy match report at the back of the Sunday paper. The only match shown live on television was The Cup Final, with short highlights featuring occasionally in news cinemas. There was some live radio coverage from the grounds on Saturday afternoons but it was the epic BBC Live Programme’s 5 o’clock Sports Report programme that brought the full set of Saturday’s results to football fans. However, a unique media feature of those days was the publication on Saturday evenings of a football-special paper – in London’s case The Evening Standard & The Evening News. At around 6 o’clock queues would form at corner shops, awaiting the arrival of the news van that transported these footballing tablets of stone to the faithful and the hopeful. From Monday to Friday football fans of smaller clubs survived without much more until Saturday came round again. I felt this sense of isolation more for the fact that we lived in North London and what football banter there was, in the playground of my school, centred on Arsenal & Spurs. Even when we ascended to The First Division in 1959, supporting Fulham was a very minority occupation in my neck of the woods. It also needs to be said that we weren’t supporters who went to the pub before & after the game; so even that sort of mingling with fans didn’t exist for us. So when, on Saturday afternoons, we settled into our seats in Stand G it really did feel like we were getting together with our football family. This is still the case today among season ticket holders – I now have season tickets at The Hammersmith End of the ground – but in those days the feeling was much more intense. I particularly remember the Greek fellow who sat behind my father, who chain-smoked throughout the game and who over the years burned many a hole in my father’s various coats. We also had 2 celebrities who sat right in front of us: Harry Fowler & Kenny Lynch. As I recall it, Kenny used to get quite annoyed when things didn’t break Fulham’s way but Harry was more laid back about things.

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Looking up the Fulham v Hull match in Fulham Facts & Figures, I am amazed to find out that the Fulham captain Bedford Jezzard scored all 5 goals on that day. Perhaps it is the fact that Jezzard’s footballing career ended the following summer, after breaking a leg during a pre-season tour to South Africa, that I have no real recollection of him at all. The player that I do most fondly recall from that time, if not that particular match, was Johnny Haynes. Without a doubt, Johnny Haynes was Fulham’s stand-out player from those times and, most would agree, Fulham Football Club’s most famous son. So much so, that when we were blessed with our first child, few of my friends were totally surprised when we named Samuel Haynes. (How I got this one by his mother is a different story!). I have recounted this event and my feelings about The Maestro in an earlier blog entry, (see here); however it would be hard for me to overstate how much I adored him. At the time he seemed to possess a vision to pick out, and an ability to execute, the perfect defence-splitting pass. I sincerely believe that he was a man of true character as many have also noted and as reinforced via my subsequent contact with him in the 1990s. Suffice it to say that loving Johnny Haynes was the central plank to my earliest Fulham experience.

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The match programme of that day noted that Johnny Haynes 21st birthday was upcoming on October 21st. I Line Upalso note the influence of the Dean family on the club of that day: C B Dean (Chairman) and R A Dean & C B Dean Jr. as directors. But the tone of the club was very much set by the presence on the board of nationally-acclaimed comedian, Tommy Trinder. Both as a cause and effect, the tag ‘Joke Club’ attached itself to Fulham. (Some would claim that this holds true to this very day!) Despite being majorly unfair, there was something to this epithet, which has morphed into the well-used descriptor ‘Fulhamish’, as used to this very day. (See: Fulhamish podcast here). Today it refers mostly to the club’s ability to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory,FFC v Hull but in those days Trinder did milk his Fulham connection as part of his act, and very often in a not very supportive manner. However, there was, and is still, something about Fulham and its fans that is somewhat Quixotish – a smaller club tilting against the odds at windmills. Fulham relatively may not be a small club but compared to its ‘noisy neighbour’ and other giant London clubs it is, and is always likely to be, a poor relation.

How different my life could have been had Chelsea scored one single solitary goal on 17th September 1955! However, I am truly glad Chelsea failed to score that day and that Fulham’s 5-0 win, 3 weeks later, led me to be where I am today. Despite 62 years of lean pickings, when joys have been low on the ground and there have been many disappointments that still truly hurt, I would have it no other way. Sure things change, but I care to believe that Fulham are a unique club, who still do things in a way that doff a cap to the club I first encountered in 1955. We may never win the Premier League nor get to another European final but Fulham is my first, and remaining, true footballing love. COME ON YOU WHITES!

My word is my bond.

As indicated in my previous blog, The Ericle intends to publish a series of anecdotes from his personal life – in no particular order and on no particular theme. This is the first of them – an account of my first salaried employment. 

At around the age of 15, I announced to my astonished parents that I was interested in becoming a rabbi. This was greeted with as much amusement as when as a toddler, I had declared that I wanted to become a train-driver. However, this inclination towards teaching remained with me and upon the completion of my degree course, in International Relations at Sussex University, I gained a place on the Masters course in Education at Goldsmith’s College, London. My parents were aghast; protesting that they hadn’t endured the rigours of being Jewish refugees from Nazi Austria in order for their son to become a teacher. Quite why I succumbed to their emotional onslaughts and deviated my choice of career, was to become a feature of quite a few discussions with various therapists in the years to come, but succumb I did. As a result, some months later – via a sponsor, a friend of the family – in November of 1971, I joined the stockbroking firm of Dunkley Marshall & Smithers of 4 London Wall Buildings, London EC4.

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I would imagine that many Army conscripts would speak of their experiences in similar terms to how I came to feel about DM&S – I didn’t ask to be there and, though it had its moments, it was mostly not to my liking but the experience was in some major part ‘the making of me’. My reference to The Army is not coincidental because the ethos & culture of The London Stock Exchange very much reflected that of the military, and as for DM&S that of the English army at the beginning of the 20th century. At its base was the demarcation between an officer corps made up mostly of Gentlemen and the mass of foot soldiers who came from Ordinary Folk. In London Stock Exchange terms this translated to Members (The Nobs to the Manor Born), Dealers (Officers who had risen through the ranks) & Underlings (Infantrymen). Despite my educational qualifications, I was definitely one of the latter.

The offices of DM&S were a mixture of utilitarian, with a splash of Dickens, and hierarchical. Worker Ants, like myself, laboured in cramped poorly lit chaotic clusters while The Partners enjoyed carpeted rooms, in which they could practice their putting, between bouts of speaking with clients and visits to their drinks cabinets. However, it was the toilet where the most telling area of social apartheid took place with Partners having their own cubicle, accessed by key. I kid you not.

 

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The London Stock Market until ‘The Big Bang’ of 1983, (see here), comprised of Jobbers & Brokers; the latter being the wholesalers of stocks & shares, and the latter being the customer-facing retailers. My first assignment at DM&S was within Jobbers’ Ledgers, the department that calculated the balance of monies for each individual stock owed to and from the individual jobbing firms by DM&S from the previous accounting period; ‘The Account’ being the period of time, normally 2 weeks, in which shares could be traded before ‘settlement’ had to take place. It was, thus, possible to buy and sell shares within an account, without taking ownership; the buyer then being financially responsible for the difference. Clients who did this were labeled ‘Bulls’. This strategy could also be worked in reverse; selling stocks & shares in the prospect of their falling within the accounting period. Such sellers were known as ‘Bears’. Both of these financial manoeuvres – given the fine-timings involved, the ‘spread’ between buying & selling prices and the commissions – retained a high degree of risk; especially being a Bear as theoretically there was no limit to one’s risk exposure. (Think about it!). Though some Bulls and Bears were solid citizens, many or most were not – and that included me! Never really having the funds to own shares, I began to trade within accounts on the basis of the belief that I had an inside steer on matters, given my proximity to the markets. Given that my starting salary was £800 Guineas (£880) per annum, which rose to a lofty £1500, 3 years later, I was not exactly rolling in funds, despite my enjoying parental board & lodgings. If the truth be known, being a Bull – I never dared be a Bear – was a mug’s game and my adventures overall proved, at best, to be a ‘zero sum game’. However, it was when I played at being another Stock Exchange animal, that of a Stag, that I did make the odd penny. Unless one was completely idiotic, or extremely unlucky, being a ‘Stag’ was the closest thing to gaining ‘money for old rope’ on the stock exchange. A Stag was a buyer of newly issued shares about to be ‘floated’ onto the markets. New issues were invariably keenly priced in order to attract institutional investors and to get the shares off to a buoyant start when trading commenced. In a rising market, most new issues were massively over-subscribed and individual applications for such shares would be proportionally paired down to spread share ownership. Moreover most Stags, like myself, applied for many more shares than their finances could cover in the realistic expectation that they would be issued substantially less than that for which they had applied. (Later, when the Thatcher’s Tories got to power and denationalized many public assets, such issues became national ‘gold rushes’ – the most famous being The British Gas ‘Tell Sid’ denationalization). In short, Bulls, Bears & Stags were the spivs’ of the stock market & The Ericle spivved along with the best!

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I spent 9 long tedious months in Jobber’s Ledgers. Every day I’d receive a stack of handwritten dealing slips from the previous day’s trading, which I’d then transcribe by hand into the ledger. At the end of The Account, using a comptometer, I had to calculate the balance owed to or from each particular Jobber for every share. I would then telephone each Jobber in turn to confirm the balances. The Jobbing firms had evocative names, some of which I can recall to this day: Akroyd, Berger, Bisgood Bishop, Pinchin Denny, Smith Brothers & Wedd Durlacher. I liked my colleagues in the department and I’d like to think that they came to like me, though they were quite definitely from a different background. The department head, Alan, was a real old lag whose mood-swings were impossible to read; definitely better in the afternoon after a lunch spent at the pub. My mates were Dave – now in his late thirties but who clearly had been a bit of a rake in his youth – and a pretty but quite large young woman, Jenny, on whom I developed a bit of a crush. When I eventually summoned up the courage to ask her out, she very politely turned me down while letting me know that she & I were ‘not really of the same sort’. A couple of months later Jenny & Dave announced that they were to get married. I don’t think I was the only one for whom this came as a surprise! After a couple of months in Jobbers Ledgers, I began to anticipate that inevitable moment when The Senior Partner, would pass by the department, and seeing me there, declare: “Wilton, what are you still doing in Jobbers’ Ledgers? A man of your talents needs to be doing a lot more than copying transactions and calculating balances. We need the likes of you on the floor of the exchange.” After 6 months or so, it became clear to me that this moment would not arise of its own accord and that I’d be left there till the proverbial cows came home. My lobbying to move on after 6 months did not exactly ingratiate myself with my colleagues, most of whom had spent a decade or more in the department but eventually, mostly due to the support of my sponsor, I managed to segue myself in the direction of the stock exchange floor; as first as a Red Button (working in an anteroom of the Exchange, confirming the previous day’s trades) & then as a Blue Button.

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The hierarchy of buttons on the London Stock Exchange were: Silver/Members, White/Professional Dealers & Blue/Non-dealers. A Blue Button’s job was to run around the exchange checking on prices prior to a dealer making a potential transaction. The aptly-named Squirts Guide was the Blue Button’s bible as it gave him the names of all the jobbers dealing in particular stocks & shares. (And there were only males when I started. However, women were admitted during my brace of years on The Exchange on the 26th of March 1973: see here). The Exchange marched on formality. At first glance, this may have seemed as quaint for the sake of peculiarity, but in reality it was the formality that made The Stock Exchange’s motto, “My Word Is My Bond”, stick. Dark suits & black shoes were the required uniform, excepting the Government brokers who wore top hats & tails. Shoes had to be shined and suits pressed. Extreme politesse & care with the spoken word was de rigueur with a huge amount of formulaic language being deployed. When asking a price off a jobber, one was given 2 prices – the lower being the selling price and the higher being the purchase one. So a dealer with an order to buy shares of XYZ at 65p could be told the price as “64-66”. He might then intone that he had an order “in the middle” The jobber then had the option to accept that price or to offer an adjusted price to say 65-66, which would have been no help. On the other hand if a price quoted was 64-65, the broker would be obliged to trade. If it ever transpired that a broker traded elsewhere on the back of having ‘opened’ a jobber, his name became mud.

Unsurprisingly, given the large number of dealers who were ex-servicemen, the culture of The Exchange was very muchNellie cast in the military mode. This included a HUGE amount of playground humour, drinking and picking on the lowest in the pecking order. On returning from lunch, on my first day on The Exchange, there was a note left for me to check the market thoroughly for the price of R. Supwood. Not finding R. Supwood in my Squirt’s Guide, I asked the dealers which jobbers sold the shares, to be informed that this was a new share on the market and that I needed to check with all the jobbers as to whether they dealt in the shares. So yours truly did check with every jobber asking: “Excuse me, Sir, do you deal in R. Supwood” to which I received a number of rather robust replies! It was childish humour, of course, aimed at causing a rookie the most possible embarrassment. However, as a means of introducing a newbie to the market it was priceless. Giving the Blue Botton a cruel nickname was another favourite wease. Given the size of my proboscis, I quickly was rechristened as Nellie; a name I had to endure for the duration of my stay on The Exchange.

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Being a Blue Button was exhausting work. It was my everyday responsibility to haul the dealing boxes from the office to The Exchange and back in the evening to enable after-hours trading. My days were spent answering phones & ‘squirting around’ chasing prices. In between times, I had to keep the dealing room blackboard up to date with prevailing prices plus chase down dealers from the various Throgmorton Street pubs when their services were required. It was complete mayhem at many times but never boring. It also had moments of high excitement such as the volatility that accompanied surprising major political or economic news. I remember well the wild trading that accompanied the news that the UK was leaving The Gold Standard, when gold mining shares – the most notorious being Poseidon – were traded from pennies to pounds in a matter of moments.

I left the London Stock Exchange and DM&S in June of 1974. My reason for leaving was not that I didn’t enjoy the job but rather that the market was in the doldrums and I had decided to take a sabbatical in order to travel. I fully intended to return and seek a dealer’s position as soon as the market improved. Events took me elsewhere, but that’s a story for another day.