Half a lettuce

FEO founder member Paul Sewell has published the story of his life, titled Half a Lettuce

The book chronicles Paul’s journey from the fruit trade and football to world class retail and regeneration

Self-published using the services of Whitefox, “Half a Lettuce” is limited to a print run of 1,000 and will not be appearing in a book shop near you. Copies are being distributed initially to private contacts and business associates and can be ordered from Sewell Group.

The book doesn’t have a cover price but donations are encouraged in aid of the Hull Animal Welfare Trust, the organisation formed by Paul’s wife Sue in 1982 and established as a charity in 1992.

Paul said: “The book is in no way a commercial venture and all donations will go to my wife’s charity the Hull Animal Welfare Trust.

“They say everybody has a book in them and that’s true for we all have a story to tell. I know now that it’s hard work and I have a renewed respect for authors of whatever type. After being encouraged to write it and capture some of my and the Sewell company story I have found the process most cathartic, remembering the journey and reinforcing the values upon which we have built the business.

To request a copy of “Half a Lettuce” from Sewell Group please email jo.taylor-standley@sewell-group.co.uk

Local Author, journalist, media and PR consultant Phil Ascough reviews Paul’s book:

Leafing through the laughs and lessons of “Half a Lettuce”

Half a Lettuce – the Life and Times of an Entrepreneur

Money, profile, setting the record straight. Possibly the three main reasons why someone would commit to the huge task of writing a book, and none of which are important to Paul Sewell.

The chair of one of the region’s most successful businesses, using any measurement you care to adopt, is donating all proceeds from “Half a Lettuce” to charity. He’s already very well known locally, regionally and nationally and he’s never been big on explaining – or apologising for – his actions.

But some people write books because they want to, it’s been suggested to them or they have the ability. All of those apply here although the author admits to having his doubts about that last point.

Anyone who knows anything about Paul Sewell knows that he views every day as a learning opportunity. That attribute shines through in a story which is part memoir, part business book, from learning how to seal a deal by watching his Dad squeeze the price of oranges at Hull Fruit Market to taking inspiration and insight from a speech by Rudolph Giuliani, then Mayor of New York, at the Yorkshire International Business Convention in Harrogate.

Paul is also an advocate of the policy of surrounding yourself with people who can do the things you can’t. He’s become close friends with Alan Johnson, the former MP for Hull West and Hessle who held many roles in Government and Opposition before becoming a best-selling author.

Alan has supported Paul with this project but is eager to emphasise the limits to his involvement. There is evidence that the author of “Half a Lettuce” has been influenced by the style and attention to detail in four acclaimed memoirs by the man he calls “the master”, but the ideas, words and structure here are all Paul Sewell’s.

The politician-turned-author is sincere and correct in his message on the front cover: “Few people have lived a life as interesting and varied as Paul Sewell and even fewer would be able to write about it with such warmth and wit.”

As someone who has been writing about business and many other subjects for more than 40 years I sense the authenticity of anecdotes and episodes which combine the language of the street, the Fruit Market, the football pitch and the various levels of the corporate world. They also display an honesty which might surprise many readers and a directness which shouldn’t surprise any.

There’s arrogance aplenty, but primarily in asserting a football talent which went unfulfilled. Perhaps perversely, there’s also acknowledgment of bouts of “imposter syndrome”, with Paul on occasions trying to persuade himself that he’s worth his place at the tables of high achievers.

Criticism, usually measured, is handed out – and also received and acknowledged – where it’s due, usually around mischief and a few misdeeds. A memoir wouldn’t be much of a read if it only ever patted people on the back.

Above all “Half a Lettuce” is fun and it’s full of insight. There’s an abundance of human comedy and tragedy – the lettuce story from York Market, the student streak in Roundhay – with quirky social history and local interest bits in between to make it a thoroughly entertaining read. But it’s also a serious business book.

In his personal and professional life Paul Sewell has demonstrated a curiosity linked to razor sharp powers of observation, and a determination to develop business as a force for good which earns an endorsement here from former MP and Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening in her capacity as founder of the Social Mobility Pledge.

All the elements are brought to life by an approach to storytelling which displays a real deftness to go with occasional daftness. “Half a Lettuce” is a compelling read, one which makes it easy to laugh and to learn.

Phil Ascough.

Author, journalist, media and PR consultant.

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