Lifes A Banquet
If life gives you lemons, add gin
Life’s a Banquet is the unofficial but essential ‘guide book’ to negotiating your way through life – through education, family life and business, to relationships, marriage, failure and rejection.
Aged 21, Robin Bennett was set to become a cavalry officer and aged 21 and a half, he found himself working as an assistant grave digger in South London – wondering where it had all gone wrong.
Determined to succeed, he went on and founded The Bennett Group, aged 23, and since then has gone on to start and run over a dozen successful businesses in a variety of areas from dog-sitting to cigars, translation to home tuition. In 2003, Robin was recognised in Who’s Who as one of the UK’s most successful business initiators. Catapulting readers through his colourful life and career, Robin Bennett’s memoir is an inspiring tale.
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Robin tells us a bit more about himself below:
Aged 11, my idea of culture had been limited to what was on TV for kids for two hours a day. I loved television in a way that you love a morphine drip after an amputation. Charles loved it too, but for the other twenty-two hours a day, when he wasn’t beating me to death with his plastic light sabre, my brother liked nothing better than sitting down with a good Hornblower book or almost anything by Alistair MacLean. I couldn’t see the point. All efforts to get me to read up until then had utterly failed, with no exceptions.
Reading meant concentrating on something inert, it meant sitting still and, above all, it meant not talking.
In short, there was nothing – to my way of thinking – that recommended books.
However, it took a move to France, terrible TV I couldn’t begin to follow and abject boredom to lead me to the one activity I can enjoy to this day that is entirely simple, blameless… and quiet.
I’ve learned with our children that telling them they have to read something is the absolute slayer of any actual desire to read. The only way is to leave enough books lying about the place and hope. And read to them before bed.
My own reading career started with leafing through my mum’s old copies of Country Life and the romance stories in the back of The Lady. Armed with a thorough knowledge of the housing market and flawed, yet terribly attractive men, I moved on to fiction.
Now I don’t, as a rule, like animal books – especially those written from the point of view of an animal (usually a dog, or a cynical cat), but White Fang literally grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. I picked the book out of the bottom shelf of the bookcase in the hall because it was a large hardback with a yellow spine and hard to miss. I then read it through in less than two days. I’ve never read another Jack London since… but, reader, he was my first.
After that, I moved on to Len Deighton, Jack Higgins, and I borrowed my brother’s Alistair MacLeans when I could. I quite enjoyed all of them, but it wasn’t until I discovered Dick Francis that I found an author I could stick with. If I’d been a more careful reader, I would have realised that he had mastered the most important trick of all in writing: character. Create someone the reader cares about and you could have them stacking shelves in Tesco’s for the next two hundred and forty-two pages and it would still work.
My parents, who had always read a lot, noticed that with a book in my hand I became less annoying and so started plying me again with stories they thought I should read, which was more a reflection of their tastes than anything else: this meant I went through a lot of Daphne du Maurier and Jerome K Jerome before I rebelled and regressed.
This took the form of reading all the books I was meant to have read at seven. Around the age of twelve I was comfort reading James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, Danny the Champion of the World (with whom I felt a strong affinity on several levels) and anything else I could lay my hands on by Roald Dahl.
I hadn’t learned a word of French (outside of school) but, ironically, France taught me to love the English language.
Thank you for the insight Robin
Robin Bennett lives in Henley on Thames, Oxon. He is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children and books on the swashbuckling world of business. His documentary, Fantastic Britain, about the British obsession with magic and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards.
Robin says, “When the world seems to be precarious and cruel, remember that the game is to never give up – there’s everything to play for, and it will all be OK.”