One of the things friends often want to know is what I think is the biggest perk of doing this job. Is it getting to know influential leaders of industry? Is it getting to do all that radio and TV stuff? Is it all the freebies and trips abroad? Clearly, they are all great - although I don't get as many jollies as people suspect - but none of them represents my biggest perk. Nope. The thing I love the most is writing this column.
My friends always look at me strangely whenever I say that. But let's face it: there are not many jobs where you are free to express an opinion every week in the best trade magazine in the country about pretty much anything you want - and get paid for doing so!
Since taking over as editor in June 2002, I have tried to ensure this column has always touched on the big issues facing our industry. And I have always strived to express an honest opinion about those issues - in the hope that I will stimulate some debate, spark a few arguments and, perhaps, offer a fresh perspective on events as they unfold. You will have your own thoughts on how successful I've been!
As I say, though, it's always felt like a real privilege. But with this issue, that wonderful perk comes to an end. That's right: I am leaving The Grocer after more than nine very happy years. On 14 August, I start a new career as director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation. Clearly, I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. And you can expect an announcement on my successor to be made shortly.
Now, I don't want to get all mawkish - if you want any of that, feel free to head to my blog, which will be at www.juliansviews.blogspot.com until 14 August. But I reckon in all the years that I have been editing The Grocer, I have probably written 200 columns or so. At 300 words apiece, that equates to something like 60,000 words in four years. But I have to admit that these have been the hardest of the lot to write.