One of our every day experiences is to check “best before” dates on all types of packs of consumer products. These give reassurance that the producer has taken responsibility for freshness and they give advice on when the product may be getting a little old.

Some of these have rather bizarre implications however. It is possible to find bottles containing water which is thousands of years old and which has “percolated through ancient rock for time immemorial to give you a pure drinking experience to be enjoyed at any time”. So how come the label recommends “best before March 2004.”

This I fear is more a comment on the lengths to which bureaucracy and legislative stupidity have driven food producers to avoid risk of claims for negligence, rather than a jibe at the quality or integrity of the water, its container or even the rock through which it has passed!

Now I fear the need for consumer information is reaching the holiest of places when I hear that nuns making the hosts for communion now have to put a best before date on. Presumably, after this date, the Holy Spirit evaporates and we can all go to hell in our own way.

Now I will get personal. I always felt I was best before May 1960 – which was when I was 21 years old although many of my friends and colleagues in the world of packaging might have other views.

Since the magical days of our twenties, an inevitable general deterioration sets in for all of us. For me, the passing of a best before has never been much of a problem. I have managed to fool most of the people most of the time and had a thoroughly enjoyable, long and satisfying career in doing so.

But now I am approaching another “best before” date which will be marked by my retirement and official departure from The Institute of Packaging.

When I arrived just over 5 years ago, my stated objective was to help transform the Institute into the acknowledged Centre of Excellence for education and training for the packaging industry worldwide. With our recent achievement of helping our industry create an Awarding Body and the development of training qualifications within the national framework, I am delighted to say we have come a very long way down the road to achieving that goal.

So it now gives me the greatest pleasure to hand over to somebody whose experience in education and training will ensure that we capitalise on what we have achieved. Someone who can continue to build an ever more comprehensive and successful Institute for the benefit of the industry and its ultimate profitability (see p42).

In so doing I would like to publicly thank the countless friends and colleagues I have met over the last 40 years and who in so very many ways have enabled me to look with pride on what I have achieved. You all know who you are and I look forward to swaying (sic) thank you personally.

In any case, like the great classics of packaging, you may still see me around for some time yet!