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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gardening Leave

How often have you wished you could start fresh; have a new life? We all have at some point in our lives. This is a story of a forced start over. Unlike a straight redundancy “gardening leave” is a quaint English expression that takes being laid off to a new level. As a Department Manager in a large Financial Establishment Chris Bower’s narrator is told to take six months gardening leave meaning he is on call if they should ever need him but they are not going to pay his salary except as a lump sum settlement at the end of the rest period. As a Manager he gets to keep the perks of the job, the company car for instance until the final severance.
Bower’s book Gardening Leave is written in the first person narration making it feel autobiographical and so we share in the recovery from the heart attack, the despair of being unemployed, the joy of discovering a lost hobby that becomes a salvation and the road to recovery. We laugh at the transition from Mercedes to Mini and feel the elation of new found love, even if it is with the wife he has had for years, his triumphs and sense of dignity as he gets a fresh start, whether he wants it or not.
From the seaside town of Brighton to the streets of Paris we too learn what is like to give the finger to the powers that be and learn that there is sanctity in self indulgence and thinking outside the box. This is a must read for all of us that only dream of starting over.

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