A potted history of life before writing!
When I was sixteen years old and passed my ‘O’ Levels (yes, they were called ‘O’ Levels in those days!) my father wanted me to stay on at school, go to college, and get a good job. I wanted to work with horses – he said no! I stayed on at school for several months and then he got a promotion and we moved to a different county. I refused to start another school at the age of nearly seventeen, and instead got a job, working in the office of a local garage.
It wasn’t a brilliant job, not enough to do. There were two other girls and the three of us spent a lot of time chatting and avoiding the garage owner – my first experience of a dirty old man. We could never turn our backs on him! And we always went in twos when we had to go to his office! I then decided that I might enjoy a career in the army, so sent off for details. Unbeknown to me, a recruitment officer turned up at our house several weeks later when I was at work. The poor woman was given short shrift by my father and was I in trouble when I got home. So no army career then.
My father arranged for me to have an interview with a local bank. He was friends with the bank manager – I failed the interview!
At the tender age of nineteen, I married a university mechanical engineering graduate and we moved away and worked at Rolls-Royce Aero Engines. At last, I was free of the confines of parents who expected so much from me. For the next five years, I moved up through the ranks at Rolls-Royce, finally reaching the pinnacle for secretaries – Mahogany Row. The top floor where all the Directors had their offices and their own toilets, with keys!
Then followed eight years of having and looking after my children and getting divorced. I went back to work part-time at the local council offices, where for one day a week, a group of us were locked in a basement room where we made up the wages for all the council workers. In those days, they were paid weekly. Half a million pounds doesn’t look very much when you see it in a small suitcase. This job came to an end, when I was forced to sell the family home and move to a different area. The council said I was too far away, so I had to leave. There followed a succession of little jobs and then, through a friend of a friend gained part-time employment in the Birmingham Adult Education Department, again working my way up until I was offered a full-time position as manager of the main office dealing with wages (again), Adult Ed teachers and exam papers.
I worked there for several years, but due to cuts in council spending, the office was closing. I was offered a similar level of position at another department, but it was miles away from where I lived and at the time, I was still a single parent. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the job and was considering my options. Around this time, I had met the man who was eventually to become my second husband. He had a kitchen studio in a suburb of Birmingham and knew of a coffee shop up for sale in the same road, was I interested in buying it? Why not, I thought, always up for a new challenge.
I bought the coffee shop and had a fairly successful business for a few years. Unfortunately, there was no room for expansion, which of course you need to do to continue to grow your business. Reluctantly I sold it, as I was now living with husband-to-be and his children as well as my own, so couldn’t cope with coffee shop and kids. I was out of work for a while, which did not suit me, so found a part-time position in a large department store in the city centre, where I attempted to sell furniture for a concession within the store – boring! We would stand all day, with nothing to do, no customers, then five minutes before closing time we would see someone’s head appearing as they came up the escalator. Audible groans emanated round the floor and suddenly we were very busy, bending down, cleaning out cupboards (hiding) and praying that they wouldn’t stop to look at our furniture.
This job didn’t last long. I then gained full-time employment at a discount furniture store, and this time sold kitchens. My abiding memory of that fleeting job was of a sale day, where hundreds of people were queuing outside waiting for the sale to begin. The doors flew open, hoards of people leapt over the turn-style gates and rushed towards me; I have never been so frightened in my life.
From there I went to work in a kitchen showroom, where I was expected to take leads for the two designers. They hated each other with a vengeance and I ended up as piggy in the middle of their feuding. This lasted for about a year, then I was shunted off to another studio, with one designer who could never get out of bed! The times I had to cover for him and lie for him – ‘Yes, he has been in, but he’s out on a call now. I’ll get him to ring you when he comes in!’ Those words are imprinted on my brain. As luck would have it, the manufacturing part of this kitchen company were looking for someone to work in the office, so as that was more up my street, I moved into the factory/offices. I thoroughly enjoyed this job, as long as I could cope with the two unpleasant men who ran it and their woman sidekick. This all came to a sad end when a new high flying manager was appointed, took a shine to me, promised me a great future in the company, but one day suddenly said that if I hadn’t reached the dizzy heights in six months, I had to sleep with him! Then proceeded to make sure I never reached those heights. I got out of there fast. There was no-one to complain to in those days. I would have been laughed at if I had claimed sexual harassment.
It wasn’t too difficult to find another job and this time I went to work for an interior design company. I got on well with the owner and again worked my way up through the ranks until I was a manager, running the cutting room, with several staff and a large group of outworkers producing soft furnishings. I loved the job until, you guessed it, another unpleasant man was taken on as managing director to get rid of people in a round of redundancies, because the boss was a coward, he couldn’t do it
This person was someone, who when I was introduced, I could not shake hands with him. There was such an aura of unpleasantness surrounding him. He made my skin crawl. Everyone hated him. He invaded my space whenever he was able, he would stand close to me and drape his arm over my shoulder; my attempts to move away and cringing must have been blatantly obvious to him. At the time, I was lifting forty metre rolls of fabric, which were becoming too heavy. I went to this man and asked for help; in answer to my request, he brought in his sixteen year old daughter, on holiday from school! The result was a blazing row in his office. Working there became untenable and several months later, I handed my notice in. It was a power game with him and I was the loser.
Next came an office manager position for a small import export company dealing in pet accessories. The premises were a dump, I had never worked in such an awful place before, but I could see the potential. I had to set up the computerised accounts system, which I had never done before and enrolled at night school so that I could learn.
As the company grew, I produced their first catalogue, so that we had handouts for our first show at the NEC in Birmingham. The company grew from strength to strength, more staff were taken on. I was made a non-executive director, given a substantial pay rise and felt as if I had finally landed on my feet.
But, yet again it was not to be. The boss sat in his office one day, discussing his retirement. He was going to retire at fifty-five, he announced and would leave myself and another employee, who was also to be made a non-exec director in charge to run the company. He obviously had no recollection of how old I was, because when I thanked him for his trust in me, I also jokingly pointed out that, as I was ten years older than he was, I would be retiring first. From that moment on his attitude towards me changed. He went out of his way to be unpleasant, would pick arguments and the last straw was me being summoned to the boardroom accused of letting bad debts escalate to an unacceptable level, even though he would encourage the sales staff to sell to companies that my accounts department had put on stop and were chasing for money. I was not prepared to be shouted at and treated in this manner after all I had done for his company, so I resigned my directorship and walked away with a six month salary settlement.
By now I was sick and tired of working for little dictators and chose a totally different career. I went into home care, looking after the elderly and sick in their own homes. A huge drop in salary, but a huge rise in job satisfaction. I had finally found something worthwhile. It was a job I was good at – I loved it. I worked in home care for several years and also trained as a Reflexologist and became a mobile therapist, which fitted in neatly with the home care.
At the time, I dabbled in poetry. My son and myself lost all contact with his two children through an extremely acrimonious divorce. Nine years later, we have still not seen those children. They are now eighteen and sixteen. The poetry helped me to cope with the pain and the hurt caused to me, but worst of all, the awful hurt done to my son, who I was incapable of helping. The book of poetry – Heartfelt is now published as an ebook. Publishing it was a very cathartic experience and for anyone who has bought it, I hope it has helped them in some way too.
Next came the move to the West Country and I planned to work a little longer before I retired, so again was employed as a home carer. It was a much more difficult area to work in and I was employed as more of a companion than a carer and eventually gave it up. That was it – retirement – how wrong could I be? I met a wonderful, disabled lady who needed care, so began to work for her on a part-time basis. This lady is author, Sallyann Sheridan. At the time she was involved in writing work-shops and I would act as her assistant. She then set up a writing group in the local village; again, I began acting as her assistant, but eventually taking part myself. We would write short stories, but I could never get excited about them. I suddenly had the urge to write a book. Several months went by, with me not knowing what to write about. Then I read an article written by Penny Vincenzi and a story began to grow in my mind. The rest as they say is history. My first novel Every Why was published as an ebook on Amazon in March 2012, closely followed by the sequel, Be Mindful in December 2012. My third novel is two-thirds of the way finished and I have several more ideas swirling round in my head waiting for their entrance into the world.
I never could have envisaged the direction my life would take me. I never would have believed that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all I want to do. Retirement – I just love it!
This feels like War and Peace! I have never written so much about myself, ever. I hope at least one person reads it. If you do, let me know please.