I had just turned 50 when the advertising agency that employed me as a creative director decided I should transfer to our agency in Korea. I didn’t wait to hear whether it was North or South. Time to leave.

I didn’t have a wife to go home and break the news to, so I told the bloke next door. He took it well. We went out for dinner to celebrate.

It was time to face up to reality and plan my second career. I sought inspiration.

I went to Tuscany for a month in autumn and wandered country lanes watching farmers pick olives. I had hoped to receive a vision of my future during this time: voices in a deserted chapel, the shock of a renaissance painting, a deep feeling for the Italian way of life, a youngish older widow, a backward glance, a violin through an open window, the opening sentence of a novel scribbled on the back of a railway timetable.

Clear skies and cold nights. During the day we tramped the steep lanes as the smoke from burning vine cuttings rose in the crisp air. Down in the valleys in the mornings, the mists swirled about making fantasy islands of hilltop villages and distant chapels. Later in the day, the muddy valley floors echoed to the barks, shouts and shot gun fire of hunters in tailored camouflage suits with expensive pedigreed dogs chasing after, mostly imaginary, wild boar. It even snowed one day leaving the towers of San Gimignano stark against the white background.

I drank coffee and grappa in bars at neighbouring villages and persuaded myself I could recognise the difference between the freshly pressed green olive oil from our village and the next.

Darkness came early, but we had a wood fire three metres across to keep us warm. We drank the local wine and cooked food fresh from the markets. Local shepherd’s cheese thrown onto a grill over the fire and watched closely until it melted, wild mushrooms and crusty country bread that lasted for days. We sat up late drinking, talking and nursing the dying embers in the fireplace. Our hair and our clothes smelled of wood smoke and the sun streaming into the large room in the chilly mornings filled the air with dust motes.

I had hoped something of this would inspire a career as a different sort of writer but I came to the conclusion I was just a copywriter taking a holiday. Meanwhile back in Melbourne I paid the bills by writing advertising copy for whoever rang up while I waited, as I have since the age of 11, for a higher calling.

Anecdotes of my life in advertising became a dinner party staple and it occurred to me that I should jot them down before I heard myself saying: “We didn’t always have computers you know.”

And so I dedicate these stories to all those creative directors, copywriters, art directors, personal assistants, TV producers and directors, actors, artists, technicians, photographers, personal assistants’ best friends, account executives, planners, media buyers and even clients with whom I passed the working day in anticipation of lunch, doing lunch and planning the next lunch.

Somehow in that brief period before lunch I made hundreds of ads and television commercials. But when I close my eyes and think of England (where I worked for 14 years) I picture that delicious moment at say 12.47 as you sit down in a Soho restaurant and a person with a fake Italian accent puts a menu in your hands and you sigh and think this is better than coal mining – not that you get to wear a hat with a light in it. Except at the agency party of course. It never mattered if the theme was ship wrecked or cowboys; women in tattered clothing when the straights dominated and beautiful cowboys with low slung chaps when the gays were in control. I hope we saved our real creative thinking for our clients.

And so I raise a glass to the advertising industry and say thanks for lunch.

I can only apologise to colleagues who remember events differently. These days I have ask myself every time I write an ad: “Is this an original idea? Or did I just remember it?”

I didn’t take notes, so what follows may not be exactly factual but, I trust, that those who were there will agree it captures something of the feel of a certain time in our lives in an industry that was living out its glory days in the 1980s before slipping into the 1990s and a world of downsizing, globalisation and soulless accountability.

Finally, I apologise for whatever I really should be sorry for – but can’t remember.