Taking Stock – Strachan kitted out for a banging retirement.

For most people, retirement conjures up images of games of bowls, gardening, slippers and cardigans, old maids drinking warm beer and cycling to Holy Communion over quiet country cricket pitches. Or something like that. But one recent civil service retiree ignoring the conventional in search of something a little more radical is former Customs & Excise boss Dame Valerie Strachan. TS has learned that Dame Valerie will be banging her own drum after finishing work – because Customs staff bought her a drum-kit as a leaving present. She is understood to have been wanting to learn to play the drums for some time, but could not devote sufficient spare time to thumping the snare and rattling her cymbals. Dame Valerie’s choice of such an energetic and stress-relieving hobby is quite understandable. At times, being grilled by government ministers must have taken its toll. MPs sitting on select committees have been compared to packs of vicious dogs who sadistically pursue their quarry over questions of financial mismanagement. Most recently, TS witnessed ministers tear into Dame Valerie and colleagues over the potential merger of Customs with the Inland Revenue. Dame Valerie has just been replaced as Customs chief by Richard Broadbent. If her experiences in front of ministers are anything to go by, perhaps Broadbent should invest in a pair of sticks and practice hitting things with them sooner rather than later.

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