Saturday, September 22, 2007

A face from the past

I had a strange but interesting day today at St Michael's. In fact, it started really on Friday night when we were setting up.

A new new age shop has recently opened in Ewell Village, where I used to live and where the Sanctuary is based. The lady who runs the shop was one of the exhibitors at the festival both today and tomorrow. Coran (who is one of the St Michaels trustees) and I went into the shop a few weeks ago to introduce ourselves and finalise the arrangements for setting up. I didn't recognise her, so imagine my surprise when she recognised me and introduced herself as the wife of my ex boss.

I worked for his fathers company for six years from 1984 - 1990 as a Telex Operator. Well actually I worked for four years as a Telex Operator, based at the father's house on Epsom Downs, and then for a further two years at the son's (her husbands) house in West Ewell. They ran a Telex Bureau which had some interesting customers - among them the Conservative MP David Howell, the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, and handbag company Tula Bags. This part of the company though ceased trading in 1988, and they opened up a new telex switching business with clients predominantly in Saudi Arabia. I worked as a Communications Supervisor for this part of the company then from 1988 to 1990, working Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 8pm (7am to 7pm in winter) initially from the son's house in West Ewell and later from a shop in Worcester Park, opposite my old infants school in Vale Road.

On July 1st 1990, I went on holiday to Canada for three weeks, and when I came back, I stepped out of the taxi and opened the front door to be greeted by my mother. I can still remember the words that she said, 'hello darling, did you have a nice holiday' she said 'by the way, your boss rang, the company has gone bankrupt and you no longer have a job. Ring him when you get over the shock'. What a homecoming!

Ring him though I did, though ittle good it did me. I later found out, when I tried to sign on that in all the six years that I had worked for him he had paid neither my National Insurance or Income Tax, despite the fact that he taken it from my pay slips. I took months for me to sort that out, and I clearly remember several conversations with the investigation team at Epsom Tax Office where they told me that they went to the father (Mr C's) house and a man answering his description answered the door and told them that Mr C has emigrated. Of course, because they had never met him before, they could not prove that it was him, and so as far as I know, he got away with it. After about a year I heard back from the Inland Revenue to say that they had been unable to trace his whereabouts, and so had taken both my Tax and National Insurance for those six years as paid. Still, it was huge worry while it was all going on.

After I left his company anyway, I obtained a place at college to study travel and tourism. Most of the other students were much younger than I was (sixteen and seventeen as opposed to my twenty five) and so I did not really fit in. I would not say that I was actually bullied, but the girls did their best for the most part, to ignore me, and my life was then, less than pleasant. I managed to make one friend, a Spanish girl named Nuria, and we were close for a while. She was married to a American-Italian business banker called John Paolo. After she left college she went back to Spain, as she was homesick, and so we lost touch.

The Gulf War put paid to any plans I might have had for a career in the travel industry, that and the age discrimination, which at that time was rife within the travel business. You see, all they were interested in was trainees who were eligible for youth training schemes, and young college graduates that they could mould to their company ethos. I was neither of those, and so didn't get a look in, even though by the time I was twenty five I had travelled half way round the world on my own, and even though I had already worked in an office. None of that counted.

I then drifted into retail, as it seemed the easiest and most flexible thing to do. By then telex machines were obsolete anyway, as faxes and email were beginning to take over, and after my experience with that company I was loathe to go back into an office environment. In hindsight I wish I had made a different choice, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I ended up then working for Superdrug part time, all the time relying on overtime to make up my meagre wages while they refused to give me a full time contract. I learned long ago that when it comes to retail, those three little words 'must be flexible' mean 'must be available at our beck and call'. After four years I had enough of it and so got a full time with their rival, Boots. That though didn't last and I got the sack after less then two months. I quickly though got a job with Cornhill Insurance as a Motor Vehicle Inspections Controller, and that is when my luck began to change.

It was around this time that I first discovered spirituality, and the rest as they say is history. After Cornhill I went back into retail, in kitchen and bathroom showrooms, until my Mum died at the end of 1999. It was then that I gave up work in order to initially study crystal therapy, and later to write my book.

Seeing the son there on Friday then and again today, felt very strange and made the memories of those six years and what his father did come flooding back. I know it is not his or his wife's fault, but I felt really quite awkward and embarrassed to be reminded of who I was back then. You see, I did not like who was I then, and I do not want to be reminded of that. I realise of course that those experiences have shaped me into the person that I am, and I should in many ways be grateful for it, but still it feels awkward, especially since she wants to actually stock copies of my book in her shop.

The thing that made me feel the most awkward was when Mr C Senior and his wife, B came into the Sanctuary at one point. Of course they are both a lot older than when I knew them (early 70's) and Betty at least did not recognise me. Mr C Senior though definately did, as he stood by my table, about two feet away, staring at the name on my book cover and trying not to look at me. I can only surmise that he must still be carrying guilt from those times, and in a way so am I. I actually felt quite sorry for him, as he is now an old man, but at the same time, I was also aware of this great anger rising up inside up, and part of me that wanted to go and talk to him and tell him the consequences of what he did, and how it has affected my life. I chose not to though fkir two reasons; firstly I did not want to make a scene as his grandchildren were there, and secondly because I knew that if I did I would turning myself into a victim and a martyr and that is not a role that I want to be seen in, or experience.

The family though are back in my life for a reason, so I have a find a way of reconciling how I feel. I can see as well in way that the roles have reversed, as I am now, or soon will be, a business supplier rather than an employee. Of course though, it is the shop owner and daughter in law that I shall be dealing with rather than her husband or father in law, both of whom I worked for. Still, it seems strange how this all came about, and I can't help but wonder why they have come back into my life at this time and how best to deal with it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Something for the weekend

It is always difficult not to compare yourself to others who have similar blogs to you, and I must admit that it has been at the back of my mind a to why so few people seem to post comments on here ! Is this an indcator perhaps that no one actually looks at this blog ? My fears have put firmly to bed though this week, as I have had several emails from people praising what I do here. In particular, this morning I had an email from one Jim Carroll, another writer it seems who came across my musings on Books and Tales. That in turn led him to my site, and then from there to this blog, which he says is a mine of information and very helpful and refreshingly honest. Well, I do my best ! Jim is also considering self publishing his first novel, and by the sound of it, has several more in the pipeline, but is unsure as to how to proceed, since he is moving to Australia in the New Year. I wish him luck.

To pick up then where I left off, on Wednesday I did some more ringing round and was delighted to secure orders from 2 more stores - again both Waterstones - Market Harborough (Leicestershire) and wait for this - The Trafford Centre in Manchester. I think I am correct in saying that Authorhouse writers pay something like £500 for this privilige. This sum buys them space for 3 months on the Authorhouse stand, where up to 3 copies of their book will be continuously displayed. The scheme extends to several branches, inclduding Oxford Street in London.

Of course the only problem is (and I have it on good authority that this has not changed) that the Authorhouse stand is not genre specific. Everything is lumped together on this one stand, which in Oxford Street at least, is placed slap, bang in the middle of the fiction area, This is great if you happen to write fiction, but as everyone knows, the majority of books written are actually non fiction, which need to be displayed in their own section relevant to their particular genre. Otherwise, how are people going to find them? Of course, when I mentioned this at the Authorhouse seminar I went to, in 2006, I was told 'oh well, people do browse the store though, so will find the books that way'. Not so! If you know you are looking for a particular type of book, you browse that section only, and if you do not find what you want, then you either go elsewhere, or you go and ask the sales staff where to find it. Perhaps most worryingly of all then, is that when I asked the staff in Oxford Street where the Authorhouse stand was, they were unable to tell me. Lesson - you don't need to spend £500 to get into these stores, all you need is a good product and to be able to get through to the right person at the right time, and sell yourself !

Thursday (yesterday) was as usual National Trust day, so I didn't do any book work, and then today (Friday) I am spending most of the day pricing up various bits and pieces for the St Michaels Mind, Body and Spirit Festival, which is this weekend. I shall be there with my books, and I am also, as an experiment going to bring along some batches of cards - quotations from the book, which I have printed out on Decadry business cards, and placed with a crystal, in some nice little shiny boxes from Clinton Cards. I will see how they go, and if they go well, then I may consider printing some more and selling them from website.

The Post Office is then calling, for me to go and get change for the weekend, so on that note, I shall sign off.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Feeling Blah

I don't know what has been wrong with me these past few days, it is almost like all my energy has gone. I just feel so despondent and low, and although I know there is loads that I should be doing, somehow I just don't have the wherewithall to do anything at all. Every time I think of ringing some more book shops, I bottle out, as somehow I just can't face it. I am sure what then is going on or how long this will last, but hope it doesn't go on too much longer. It has been a few days now, and the last shop I rang was on Wednesday last week, when I last wrote on here.

Everything seems to be a real effort though, even going to the gym I find that I have to really push myself and do not seem to have the same stamina. I can usually lift up to 21 kilos on most of the machines without problems, but it seems to be a real effort to lift even 14 kilos at the moment. I only managed 20 minutes cycling as well this morning, and normally I can do half an hour, with rowing as well before that. Each rower I tried today though seemed to have a flat battery, so I gave up in the end.

Last week I wrote that this other book was pressing my buttons, but I think that this is more than that, and there is stuff going on energetically as well. It is true that some of it may have been triggered by this, but I don't think that this is the whole picture. Given the Moon phase that we are in though (coming up to a full moon) I should be feeling much better and more energised than I am, instead though, most of the time I just feel like hibernating and bursting into tears.

Given my state of mind at the moment then I don't think actually that it is wise to be ringing too many shops, as I need to listen and pay attention to what is going on inside. The shops will no doubt pick up on a subtle level how I am feeling anyway, and are not likely to order because of this. By pushing myself to do things when I do not feel in the right space I could actually then create more problems for myself later on. Perhaps part of the problem is that I have been pushing myself too hard. The last month has been a real roller coaster ride in more ways than one.

At times like this I wish there was a vacancy on Lundy, as she would cheer me up and lift me out of this or at the very least, put me in the space where my head was clear enough to look at what lies beneath all of this. There is no space at all though until November/December.

I think I will then go back to bed for a while and just rest and give myself some healing.