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HOW LONDON CALLED FOR CRAIG SANDFORD

Craig Sandford is a final year student of Parade’s class of 1985. His younger brother Glenn followed suit in 1989 and, in a later life, turned out for the Collingwood Football Club.

This probably explains why Craig has always been fan of slightly more obscure sports. As he said: “All of the family football skills lay with my brother Glenn, so I was limited to playing football in the PENSA competition – and certainly not with our best PENSA team”.

“Academically I was competent, but a very social year during my HSC was reflected in my marks, so I opted to start working full-time rather immediately going to uni,” Craig said.

Reservoir is a long, long way from London where Craig and his wife of almost 20 years now live and work, and from where the former forwarded this latest correspondence. As a passionate Old Paradian, Craig has ably assisted Peter Wilson with the formation of the OPs’ London chapter, and encourages any old boy heading to the Old Dart to get involved in their regular catch-ups at sundry pubs flanking the Thames.

The following is a Q and A with Craig Sandford:

 

Craig, can you talk a little bit about yourself and the Parade days and the immediate post-Parade years?

I grew up in Reservoir, and started Year 7 at Bundoora in 1980. I’ve always been a fan of slightly more obscure sports, and represented the college in ACC competitions in cross-country and hockey. Academically I was competent, but a very social year during my HSC was reflected in my marks, so I opted to start working full-time rather immediately going to uni.

A few years with Commonwealth Bank and a small finance company led to some interesting work, particularly performing repossessions of cars and prime movers, and helped me focus on what I wanted to do going forward. I left work after four years to study Statistics and Econometrics at La Trobe. The decision to study in that area may or may not have been related to the fact that I ran a small betting operation in my final years, giving odds for VFL results and the Saturday metro meetings on the horses.

Giving up an income helped me focus whilst at uni. I certainly fully participated in university life, but also set aside plenty of time for study, often being in the library on the evenings I wasn’t playing basketball or netball. La Trobe also gave me the opportunity to meet my future wife.

 

What took you to Europe? What are you doing workwise?

After graduating in 1993, I couldn’t find work in Melbourne, so moved up to Sydney, sharing a house with 1985 Parade Dux, Michael Germech. My wife moved to Canberra after her graduation, and then after 12 months moved up to Sydney to join me. My first role in Sydney was with PA Consulting, an international Management Consulting firm, with varied projects across Australia and South East Asia. My time with them allowed me to experience working in the steelworks in Newcastle, coal mines in Queensland, utility companies in Australia and Hong Kong and insurance companies and banks around Australia and Singapore. My proudest work achievement during this period was being part of the 3-person team that came up with the concept of BPay.

I left the firm in 1999, and joined St George Bank in a Product Manager role with their Commercial and Private Banking division. Despite the narrowest of harbour views from my desk, 18 months in the same location gave me itchy feet, and I took advantage of an opportunity for an international role with 20th Century Fox acting as the liaison between the IT department in Los Angeles and the various business units of their cinema, home entertainment and television distribution arms between New Zealand and Pakistan. Managing a team in Sydney and Tokyo had me travelling up to Japan a few times each year, combining this with visits to the various offices around the Asia/Pacific region. I really enjoyed working with some very different cultures, had the fortune of tasting unusual ingredients in the local cuisines and picked up some basic language skills in Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia/Melayu and Tagalog, although they are now laying to waste through lack of use.

During this time, my wife was spending increasing amounts of time in London. It made sense for her career to move, and I was more than happy to make a change in mine. Since arriving in London, I have set up a small Management Consulting company, and have a former Fox staff member working with me providing some specialised skills to our clients. I’m no longer working full-time, but bump my hours up as needed on the projects we operate. The extra time has enabled me to complete my Master of Science in Finance at the University of London.

 

How’s life in London for you? And can you talk a little about your interest in the wartime memorials held in the city?

One of the things I’ve found with working and eventually moving overseas – I’m very interested in learning about the local culture, and try to immerse myself to a certain extent, but you also latch onto your Australian identity as well. British culture isn’t too far removed from our own, but there are still some glaringly different attitudes to some things, providing both fascination and frustration.

Part of the latching onto the Australian aspect has been looking at the experiences of other Australians being over here and at different stages of relationships between our countries. Some things are as you would expect. I’ve always had some form of party on Grand Final day, but it is a unique experience drinking beer and eating pies at 5:30am with a few thousand compatriots in some converted theatre/beer barn screaming blue murder at an umpire’s decision. Or there’s the corporate atmosphere watching an Ashes Test at Lords – which is so far removed from Bay 13 it isn’t funny.

Another occasion where the ex-pat community gets together is on ANZAC Day for the dawn service. I’ve experienced some very different services over the last few years. The London war memorials for Australia and New Zealand are only a few metres apart from each other in Hyde Park Corner, and the High Commissions from both countries take turns at acting as host. There’s normally a couple of thousand turning up in the cold, it’s respectful and unerringly quiet for London, as the local police block the roads around the area during the more solemn parts of the ceremony. As soon as the ceremony finishes, the passengers on the double-decker buses stare in at us, wondering why there are so many people gathered in a tiny park in the early morning light, and quietly fuming as only the British can do at the interruption to their daily commute.

In 2015, the British took over the ceremony for that year to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings (and to remind us “colonials” that we weren’t the only ones involved in that battle). This time there were several thousand in attendance, and we were spilling out onto the road. After the British had their ceremony at Wellington Arch, the Kiwis and Aussies had a more traditional smaller ceremony at their respective memorials on either side of the Arch. Once again, there was that feeling of connection with your own – people that were having the same life experience as yourself.

2016 found me in New York on ANZAC day, so my wife and I attended the dawn service held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just off Wall Street. This is a much smaller commemoration, with about 100 in attendance. Once again, that feeling of being connected to something bigger back home was quite a drawcard.

 

Craig Sandford encourages any Old Paradian heading to London to make contact with him, as he assists Peter Wilson (1978) in steadily growing the London branch of the Old Paradians’ Association. Interested OPs can contact Craig via craig.sandford@btinternet.com or go to the Old Paradians in London page on facebook.