Retirement – again and again

| September 21, 2010
By Mike Carvalho

I was born, as the saying goes, ‘with a silver spoon in my mouth’. As a result, I still see the funny side of daily life, much to the annoyance of many of my colleagues.


This sense of humour has enabled me to write many pen pictures of colleagues and friends; some of them at their retirement and some who had sadly ‘shaken off their mortal coils’. As I do not want to do the latter just yet, and as truth is better than fiction, I thought I would share with you how I came to establish Independent Education in collaboration with Mark Henning.

Having attended English private schools and having been beaten on a regular base as I was dyslexic and hated school, I walked out at 15 and, by the time I was 28, had made enough money (I thought ) to retire.

Mike Carvalho – pie man extraordinaire

But a sense of duty compelled me to serve in the Royal Airforce (RAF). My military career was, however, cut short. I managed to contract meningitis, which caused so much brain damage that I had to learn to read and write all over again.
The result was that I started a new life as a pie and sausage manufacturer. The company went public on the London Stock Exchange for five million pounds, which in those days was quite a lot of money, and I had a few shares. So, next stop: South Africa – where quite a few friends had already settled – and retirement in the sun.
It took about a month to organise my permanent residency, thanks to the South African Ambassador in London. In the meantime, I met this amazing girl and, as a joke, we decided to get married by special licence just to upset everybody in the local pub where she was working, as all the bachelors wanted to take her out. Joke over, but we are still married and it gets better every year!

Excuse me, my dear, but haven’t we met somewhere before?

Upon arrival in South Africa, we first lived in the Langham Hotel. We had some tremendous parties that motivated the management to suggest that we curtail our stay! A funny story from this time: a friend arranged to meet us at the hotel, and when my brand-new wife Genny arrived back from a shopping trip, I could not remember her name and, as she had a brand-new hair-do, I did not recognise her. She has forgiven me… I think! Money was disappearing fast, and no-one in South Africa at that time wanted a sausage and pie maker.
Fortunately, a good friend swopped me for two British Lions rugby tickets with the Chairman of Premier Milling, Joe Bloom. At that time, the group only manufactured food products (mainly bread) but there were so many opportunities for diversification. Led by Tony Bloom, Joe’s son, the group became (and still is) one of the most successful diversified conglomerates in this country, with major shareholdings in South African Breweries, Gallo, Exclusive Books and over 200 other well-known companies.

No rest for… the wicked?

In 1969, I contemplated retirement in earnest, but quickly life got really exciting and I joined Monetary Machines with a boyhood friend from Aylesbury. Together we set about introducing new technologies like automatic teller machines, cash counting machines for banks, parking gates, ticket spitters and card-operated gates into the daily life of this country.

This venture proved so successful that we were advised by our bank to acquire a cash partner, so we sold the company to Premier and controlled the bulk of these markets for the next 22 years. Time to retire again, but my wife informed me that “she married me for love, not for lunch” – so off to work I went. Some of you may have heard of American Dr George Land, recognised as one of the greatest creative thinkers in the world today. I worked with George and his South African representative, holding workshops for all the major banks and mining houses and helping them discover more innovative ways to run their businesses.

A meeting of the minds, or the terrible twosome? Mike and Mark

Retirement time again? Nothing doing, for who should I meet on the golf course, but a certain Mr Mark Henning, then Chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC). I approached him with the idea of publishing a magazine for the independent schools sector, based on a similar publication produced in the UK.

Neither of us knew anything about publishing, and I believe this was a blessing. The publishing industry is bound by many outdated practices, and consequently more companies go out of business than in virtually any other market sector. Our philosophy was simply to apply good business rules and to innovate wherever necessary.
From our investigations conducted prior to the launch of the magazine, it became obvious that independent schools staff – especially teachers – needed a platform to share ideas and experiences in all aspects of school life, including rapidly changing methods of teaching. I think that to a large extent we have managed to provide this platform, and I believe the magazine will continue to do so .

I am particularly proud of our coverage of information technology (IT) in education. From the outset, it was obvious that educators at all levels needed to share information about tools and software and the application process, both as it was developing in this country and all over the world. I am sure we are only seeing the start of the process.

Still more left to do

Retirement time looms again, but I have one scheme left up my sleeve. I wish to set up language laboratories (English to indigenous languages) in government schools using interactive whiteboards. I will also launch a worldwide directory of educational software and, to keep out of my wife’s way, am planning to drive across America from east to west, sampling the beer in every state. (When I first planned this trip, it was women but, as age crept up, it is now beer!)
Thank you all for your tolerance and friendship, and I will certainly try to keep in touch with all the amazing people with whom I have worked over the last 12 years.

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Category: Spring 2010 Edition

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