We should pay tribute to the ones making and keeping peace. NoéMie Schwaller in conversion with Randolph Churchill on how to take time out.
A trip to the heart of Europe was Winston Churchill’s first travel oversees at all, bringing him to Switzerland where, in 1893, he walked up Monte Rosa and also hiked the Teufelsbrücke (Devil’s Bridge) in Engelberg. Beyond his travels he was in touch with Swiss painters and always carried paintings with him that were made there. Ever since the Churchill family had a strong bound to Switzerland.
Churchill’s love for cigars, though, he found on travels to Cuba. The cigar became his most renowned accessory – next to scents by Floris London and shirts by Turnbull & Asser. One particular image stays strongly in mind: It was in June 1944, when he had told the king he would land on D-Day itself. The king then wrote him a letter that he, as king, would have to land earlier. When Winston arrived in France wearing his cap, his cigars had gone out. A worker handed him one with a smile of victory. A small museum in London later airbrushed the cigar out of this picture. You can’t take this away from him! After all, cigars made constant happenings in his life.
On occasion of the 70 years jubilee of Churchill’s infamous, visionary speech held on September 19th 1946 in Zürich, where he, in the university’s auditorium, called for a German-French reconciliation and Europe’s unity: “Let Europe arise!”, I was able to speak with his great grandson Randolph Churchill.
Randolph, we are meeting in celebration of Oettinger-Davidoff’s cigars named after your ancestor Winston Churchill and his visionary speech held here in Zurich. What do you do when you’re not busy guarding your great grandfather’s heritage?
This relationship with Davidoff has been a wonderful way to celebrate my great grandfathers memory in a very fitting and distinguished way. It’s lovely that Davidoff is a family company that has made some wonderful cigars. It’s a beautiful tribute to Churchill. Me myself I am a cigar lover, I enjoy them when I have friends around for dinner. It occasionally rains in England, and when I go out walking in the rain, it’s a lovely feeling when smoking my cigar. Apart from that, I have a family with four kids, they keep me busy. I’m a passionate gardener and we grow our own vegetables at home. So I’m looking forward to do things like Brussel sprouts for Christmas. In the summer we have the red and black currants, raspberries, strawberries… We also have sheep and chickens at home. When you have a busy career like I do, dealing with lots of things, it’s nice to take a break and take time out. It’ important to people to slow their lives up, not look at their phones every 30 seconds. Whether it’s gardening, having a cigar or doing family things – life is exciting.
It seems like you’re a master of this work-life balance we’re all trying to achieve.
You have to be quite ruthless and block some time off the diary and try do things with the kids that take them away from all the electronics of this day and age. I’m 52-years-old and 48 of these I’ve skied in Switzerland. We love doing this as a family and we love walking in the mountains here. We’re brave enough to swim in your rivers (laughts). I feel if you’re doing your outdoor pursuits, you can feel very positive about life. One of my great grandfather’s famous sayings is: ‘We create our cities and environment, and that creates the cultural realms.’ In the modern days, when we have all the stresses, our cities need to be functional but also creating a community. In your Swiss cities you have such wonderful and historic heritage. If you can mould that with modern apartments and other things people are proud of you can build a proper society, which is a great help.
You mentioned before that we are to give the younger ones a better society. I completely agree. How is that feasible in your eyes?
I’m passionate about handing a better society to our kids. People need to be less obsessed with themselves and their circumstances. Look at the amount of pleasure people get from volunteering and doing things in the community. Now, in Switzerland you have a great tradition of this, because you’ve had your national service, which makes people think about the community the whole time. Particularly in cities people feel quite isolated, and actually life’s only good if you get involved in a hole range of things in your society and local community. Our generation is lucky, as we live much longer than our great grandparents ever did. The challenge is that we have more elderly people to look after. But those coming up to retirement need to do their own bit to support the community, because whilst you’re fit and well, I think everyone of us has a duty to make their mark. It could be a simple thing such as checking on your neighbour and making sure they’re ok. It doesn’t take much time. The politicians cannot solve all the problems of the modern world. A lot of these need to be sorted out by the people themselves. The Berlin wall coming down was one of the greatest things that happened in my life, and my great grandfather would shed a tear knowing that Europe is headed by a brave woman.
If you were to give advice to the average working person undergoing the stresses you’ve mentioned – how can they be motivated to still take the time to help out within the community?
One of the problems we have in Britain is that there is not enough housing for young people. That is a huge, huge challenge; here in Switzerland as well. In fact, we have a very good new Mayor in London. Mr. Sadiq Khan, who is doing a great job because he knows how to reach out across the different communities, and he has a very positive manner of engaging people. What you need more than anything else in politics and community is people who are prepared to reach out across the communities to make them better.
Back to Davidoff: Is this a collaboration to be continued?
Oh yes! Where Oettinger-Davidoff has been so clever is they’ve respected the history of Davidoff, they produce wonderful products enjoyed by people, but they never stop reinventing. This is the story, it’s no secret. Davidoff really consider that people need to take their time out and enjoy things, and one way to enjoy yourself is by smoking the occasional cigar.
So what is the best thing of the moment when having a cigar?
I think it’s just to take time, to engage with others and have a conversation. In today’s world where everyone is texting, twittering and instagraming, it’s actually to sit down and have a conversation with friends. For me, smoking a cigar is very much a social moment.
About Randolph Churchill:
Born in January 1965, shortly before the death of his great grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill. After attending Harrow, Randolph undertook a short service commission in the Royal Navy and served as Gunnery Officer of HMS Alderney in the coastal protection squadron. On completion of the Navigating Officer Course he was appointed Navigator of HMS Swallow in the Hong Kong Squadron and promoted Lieutnant. Subsequently, Randolph attended Buckingham University, where he was awarded a degree in Financial Management and Accountancy before joining Deloitte and Touche, where he qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
In 1995 Randolph joined Lazard Asset Management, becoming Director of the Charities Division. In 2000 Randolph joined Schroder Private bank and in 2003 he moved to Rathbones, where he is an Investment Director.
Randolph is a Trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Director of the Armed Services Charities Advisory Company (that oversees the investment for over 100 service charities) and Trustee of the Churchill Centre UK and US. He is a regular speaker at Churchill conferences and dinners. Randolph and his wife Catherine have four children and live close to Sir Windton’s home at Chartwell in Kent.