Previously in A Chequered Career…….. I settled back with my family Winchester……. My new job took me
daily fifteen miles up the M3 to Basingstoke……. My task was to look after
existing company car buyers and to seek out and explore new avenues…….. I got
to fly to Edinburgh now and again to wine and dine their buyer……... Twice a
year I gave my customers treats from
sailing yachts in the Solent to paintballing, and my favourite, flying lessons
in Cessna light aircraft……. My goodness, how I enjoyed that job!
CHAPTER 14 - MUD AND TEARS
If our customers could have seen where we kept our stock of
new Citroens they would probably have been shocked! We rented a field on a farm
in a village just outside Basingstoke and about a hundred or so cars sat there
exposed to the elements. Some cars in less than popular colours or
specifications could sit there for a year or more. A regular task for our
bodywork shop was to re-spray roofs and bonnets of sold of cars where bird droppings had eaten
away at the paint. We also had problems with mice who liked nothing more than
setting up home in the cardboard air filters which they shredded to make into
desirable residences! Weeds and grass sometimes clambered over engines and grew
through radiator grills. And then there was the mud! We regularly had to fetch
the farmer and his tractor to tow an embedded car out of the field and onto the
By 1994 computers were becoming an essential part of every business.
Everything we did from ordering our cars for stock to working out finance deals
for our customers was done with the tap on
the keyboard. Microsoft was working away
in the background building up to the launch of their hugely successful Windows 95
system. We were one of a handful of companies in the UK given the chance to
trial it before it went public. My son
Timothy was heavily into the new technology, so when I heard that we were about
to appoint a computer specialist within the group, I put his name forward and
in no time at all he was on the staff! Every time a salesman or an admin
assistant found themselves with a sudden blank screen or a seemingly impossible
action they called Tim! This experience at such a young age provided him with a
perfect springboard for a career in computing. When Windows 95 was launched he was
hot property, and he’s never looked back having worked with several major
corporations, and today for Microsoft themselves.
Suddenly and without warning we were informed that Hadley
Garages had been sold to an Irish company, Whichford Motors. I can still see
the look of shock and disbelief on my colleague’s faces as they took in what we
had just been told. And it got worse, because the new owners were to bring in
their own staff to take over key rolls from managing director Barry downwards.
My position was also to be a casualty of the cull. It’s was at times like that
I was grateful for friends in influential places, and on the very day I learned
I was to be leaving I got myself a job with a Citroen dealer in Bournemouth.
The day in June 1997 when I left Hadley’s was one I’ll never
forget. I was only to work the morning. I was
called from my office into the
Citroen showroom where the sales team gathered around me to wish me luck and
bid me farewell. I was handed a beautifully wrapped present. They insisted I
opened it then and there, and to my surprise and delight I found inside two
crystal gasses, one for wine, another for whisky, each of the engraved with
words ‘Good Luck from all at Hadley’s’ and the iconic Citroen logo. I didn't realise how popular I had been!
Throughout my time at Hadley’s I’d enjoyed what I believe is
referred to as a special relationship with my admin assistant Julie. It was of
course purely professional, but there always was something of a spark between
us; something unspoken and resisted. I can’t remember whose idea it was but on
that final day we went to a country pub together for lunch. On the way back
everything poured out. She became extremely angry with me for holding back all
those years. To this day I don’t think I've ever seen anybody so distressed. I
often wonder how differently my life would have panned out if I had followed my
heart rather than my head during my time there. Anyway, I dropped her back at the Garage and
never saw or heard from her again.
I started my new job in Bournemouth. One of my fellow salesmen was one Henry Jackson, a chap I’d worked with many years before back at
Westfield Garages. He was not happy there and he wished me luck; he said I would need it. It was a tiny,
miserable little garage and I felt like a fish out of water. I had only been
there a month before I was told it had gone bankrupt. Time to call on my
contacts again! I did exactly that, and the sun peeped out from behind the
black cloud that had hidden it for the past few weeks.
Little Charlie Sargent was one of the most popular boys in
school. Mainly because he was very good at solving crimes. His friends turned
his name around and called him Sargent Charlie! The other day someone took Sally’s
pen. Sargent Charlie found the culprit in no time. “It was naughty Nick that
nicked it” he said. “Nick the Nick - you
One playtime a very serious crime indeed was committed. Joanne’s
bag of M&M’s disappeared. Well, it was actually half a bag, but it was
still a serious matter. First he had to visit the crime scene. It had happened
when Joanne was sitting on a bench in the playground. The bag of M&M’s was
beside her. Patrick was also on the bench, and Nigel was sitting cross legged
on the ground in front of her. Somebody, she thought it was Jason, shouted
quite loudly behind Joanne, and she turned around to see was happening. When
she turned back her bag of sweets had gone, and little Polly Perkins was rushing
past. This was case for Sargent Charlie, and everybody knew that come what may, he would bring the offender to justice.
“Right” said Sargent Charlie pinching his chin the way detectives do on television, this is a darstab....darsten...."
"Dastardly Sarge" said Joanne
"Yes, a dastardly crime" said Sargent Charlie. “We have three suspects; Patrick, Polly Perkins and
Nigel. Plus Jason because he caused a distric….disrtoc…”
“Distraction Sarge” said Joanne.
a distraction” said Sargent Charlie. “So he might have been a conprit…consirup….”.
“Conspirator Sarge” said Joanne.
conspirator” said Sargent Charlie. He thought for a moment. His deputies stood
around him in silence waiting for him to come up with a master plan.
“Right” he said “This is what I’ll do. I’ll gather up the
suspects”. He soon found them all. “Come with me” he said. They just stood
there looking sheepish. “Come along” he said a bit more firmly. They
obeyed. He stood them in a line. “Hold out your hands and stick out your tongues”
he said. Then he slowly walked along the line-up with his hands behind his back.
“Polly Perkins, step forward. Jason step forward. Patrick and Nigel you are free to leave. Polly
Perkins, you are under arrest for taking Joannes M&M’s and Jason you are
under arrest for being a conspit…comspiro...helper.
“How did you know?
“spluttered Polly Perkins.
”Elementary Sarge” said
“Yes, elementary” said Sargent Charlie. “Your fingers are stained and your
tongues are a funny colour” he said. “Your punishment will be to do Joanne’s arithmetic
homework for her tonight”.
Previously in A Chequered Career …. I had travelled in the footsteps of William the Conqueror!......
when we put on a fashion show would-be models of various shapes and sizes would
totter along a plank wearing creations from a local dress shop…….. One thing
led to another, and we thought damn it, let’s give it another try! It was
decided I should move to Winchester…….. I was interviewed not just by the
dealer but also by Citroen themselves as they were to make a contribution to
the very generous salary on offer. It was clearly meant to be, and a couple of
weeks later I waved goodbye to Westfield Citroen and started a whole new
chapter of my varied life.
CHAPTER 13 - DOUGHNUT CITY!
The year was 1993. I was settled back with my family in a
house on a sprawling estate on the edge of Winchester. My new job took me daily
fifteen miles up the M3 to Basingstoke. Basingstoke's claim to fame is its forty roundabouts which are dotted at frequent intervals along its roads. Doughnut City they call it. Taxi drivers always complain that they get through a
disproportionate number of front nearside tyres! Hadley
Garages was a
collection of individual showrooms and workshops dotted across an eight acre
site alongside roundabout 37 or was it 38? Rover in one, Peugeot in another;
Toyota and Citroen in their own. We also had a facility which stretched cars
and turned them into mobile gin palaces, or bullet proof vehicles of state. And
then there was the Fleet Sales Office and that was my place other work apart
from my desk in the showroom. It was a somewhat uninspiring space with tiny
windows and very little daylight. I shared it with a guy called Ian Abraham who
was my opposite number selling Rover cars to company buyers. And then there was
the lovely Julie who looked after all my admin. Our managing director was a
large and imposing if rather quiet character called Barry Oakhill. Provided we
did our jobs properly we had very little to do with him. My task was to look
after existing company car buyers and to seek out and explore new avenues. We
also had one of new-fangled mobile phones which we shared. It was a monster of
a thing which consisted of a huge battery atop which sat the instrument itself
attached by a curly wire. It was great just to take out into the streets of the
town and pose as if making a call even if you weren't!
Hadleys was very keen on training and made full use of Citroens' training facility at their head office in Slough. I went there on many occasions and took part in interactive sessions on 'Selling the benefits', 'Closing the sale' and the 'Art of selling'. There was lots of role play, quick fire questioning and written tests. On one occasion we were required to sit in an office with a trainer on a one to one basis and close a sale whilst the whole thing was videoed. Afterwards we watched, as a group, everybody's efforts and discussed them openly. I had a streaming cold on the day and thought I'd made a complete mess of it, but surprise surprise, I got a round of applause from our group and my video went on to be shown to future classes as an example of how it should be done!
I love a job with perks and this certainly had its fare share.
For a start my largest customer was a company
called Standard Life. As their
name suggests, they are providers of Insurance. Their headquarters was situated
some distance away from me; Edinburgh in Scotland to be precise and one of the
bonuses of the job was that I got to fly to that magnificent city now and again
to wine and dine their buyer. He was probably my best customer and I fed him a
steady stream of Citroen ZX’s all in bright red. And that wasn’t the only perk
of the job. Twice a year I had to select four of five customers and thank them
by giving them a treat! Also, I got to choose which treat to take them on from
a list of events and adventures provided by Citroen. They varied from sailing
yachts in the Solent to paint-balling and my favourite, flying lessons in Cessna
light aircraft. We also held extravagant Fleet events whenever we had a new car
to launch. These we held at nearby Highclere Castle, a venue now recognised world-wide
as the setting for Downton Abbey. One such event, a three-dayer was hosted for
us by Jeremy Clarkson and Quentin Wilson of Top Gear fame.
And then there was the launch of Citroen’s little Saxo
model. Dealers from all over the country were invited to Birmingham to watch a lavish
show hosted by Jonathan Ross. Eight cars, one in each of the colours
on stage either from the wings, from behind the audience or down from the
ceiling. Each car had several dancing girls in colour-coordinated flowing satin
gowns accompanying it. The whole thing was accompanied by the saxophone band,
The Fairer Sax! As it drew to a close, the wall to one side of the auditorium
swept back and the chandeliers came alive to reveal a French style restaurant. There
were dozens of round tables and at the centre of each was a flower arrangement
topped off by a saxophone. My colleagues
and I found ourselves sharing a table with Mr Ross himself. Whilst we eating, a
fashion show took place. And that wasn't the end of it, because just after the
boss of Citroen had made a little speech and wished us farewell, another wall
slid back, and this time it had behind it an enormous crescent of Citroen
Saxos, headlights blazing! Each dealer was to take one each back to their garage
in readiness for the public launch a few days later; I drove home in N 53 SAX! It's funny that as many details of my past begin to get fuzzy, car registration numbers somehow stick in my head! It's the shame that my talent couldn't have been channelled to something more useful!
Previously in A Chequered Career…I can still hear a voice
calling “déjeuner mon ami”; time for lunch, then crossing the street with my
bosses and colleagues to a blue shaded bistro…...I was employedby a family
with an uncanny resemblance to the Ewing’s of Dynasty fame…… the littlecherubs would rush around shrieking, and
planting sticky hand prints on my pristine motor cars. It was so sad when they
suddenly and unexpectedly tripped over our feet!........ I used to sit at my
desk looking out across the road to the sea wishing I was still on the opposite
shore in ‘La Belle France’………I was so, so bored.
CHAPTER 12 - A HUNDRED MILES AWAY SOMETHING WAS CALLING ME!
It occurred to me that I had in recent years travelled in
the footsteps of William the Conqueror! I had left Normandy and was living a
little bungalow in the ancient town of Battle which was where the Battle of
Hastings took place in 1066. ‘Willy the Conk’ made a great success of his
journey, so why hadn’t I?
Although life at Westfield Citroen was pretty dull, it did
have its lighter moments. When I drew the short
straw and found myself working
alone in the little St Leonards showroom on a Sunday, I invariably had a visitor
for coffee to brighten up my morning. The politician, social reformer and, some would say, infamous Lord Longford lived close by. He used to take his poodle for a
stroll on Sunday mornings and I was on his route. At first he used just to
smile and raise his hand, but one day I was standing in the doorway and we got
chatting. After that he regularly came inside and shared a mug of instant! He
had of course led a crusade for penal reform for many years, and he instituted
an unpopular and unsuccessful campaign to secure the release of the Moors child
murder Myra Hindley. Keen not to get into any kind of political or moral debate
with him, I tended just to chat about the weather and last night’s TV!
We managed to breathe some life into the main Bexhill showroom
once a year too, when we put on a fashion show. We would construct a catwalk
between the cars and would-be models of various shapes and sizes would totter
down the plank wearing creations from a local dress shop! This was all done to
the accompaniment of screeching music from a cassette player, whilst along one
wall I would run a buffet comprising cheeses various, cold meats assorted, and
things wrapped in pastry. We would add a few bottles of dodgy wine and we all
had a jolly good time!
Bexhill’s main claim to fame, well second I suppose as the
art décor De La Warr Pavilion is its main
attraction, is that it is the official birthplace of British motor racing. It was in 1902 that the first car race
in the country took place and it has been an annual event ever since. Nowadays
vintage cars are raced in attempt to recreate the days of old, and because of
Westfield Citroen’s location at the far end of the promenade/race track, our
workshops and part of our
showroom were used to safely store the magnificent
machines during the race weekend. To be up close, to touch and to smell so many
of these legendary cars all in one place was inspirational. One year Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang was in our possession for several nights. Fantastic! A few
days earlier it had come to prominence in the media because Michael Jackson had
tried unsuccessfully to buy it ‘at any price’! I knew where the keys were; if
only I’d had Michael Jackson’s phone number things could have been very
It was the year of our Lord 1993. I was living alone and
doing a job which was wearisome, monotonous and mind-numbing. I had kept in
touch with my first wife Sarah, mainly in order to arrange and carry out visits
to me by my children. Some years back she had met someone with whom she had
moved in and become a family. A change in job meant they had to up-sticks and
move a hundred miles away to Winchester. However, she like me had found herself
on her own again, and we started meeting for the occasional drink in a pub at
the half way point near Arundel. One thing led to another, and we thought damn
it, let’s give it another try! It was decided I should move to Winchester. There
was however an obstacle in the way. I in no way relished the thought of a two
hundred mile round trip each day to work and back. And then as if by magic, I
heard via the Citroen area manager that they were seeking a salesman to set up
and run a fleet sales centre within one of their dealerships in Basingstoke.
The job entailed selling cars in quantities to companies from an office just thirty minutes
from my proposed new home! I simply could not resist it!
I was interviewed not just by the dealer, Hadley
Garages, but also by Citroen themselves as they were to make a contribution to
the very generous salary on offer.
However there was still one other problem which needed solving. Our dear son Timothy was not happy with us moving in together in an unmarried state. And so we did it. Sarah and I got married all over again! Everything fell into place; I waved goodbye to Westfield Citroen and said hello a whole new
chapter in my topsy-turvey life To be continued Chapters 12 3 45 678 91011 > 13
Some of my regular visitors (like you Oldegg!) may feel they've read this before. Well, you are right; I wrote it a couple of years ago, and here it is again!
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Felicia who dreamed of
being a fairy. A picture of innocence. A
little pointy pink dress of satin and lace. Wrinkled sparkly white leggings and
silver ballet shoes. A garland sitting lop-sided on top of a stack of golden
hair. Her arms flying this way and that as she struggled to put on a pair of
Wriggling from side to side she heaved up her leggings then
straightened her headgear. She picked up her wand, adjusted the glittery star
on the end, and she was ready to go! “There are spells to perform, happiness to
give out and wishes to grant!” she called.
Falicia the fairy tip-toed out into fairyland. Thomas the
ginger tom casted a wary glance in her direction as she tottered across the
lawn toward him. He sat unconcerned as
she tapped him gently on the head with her wand, then bent to stroke his sun-warmed glossy back.
Little Freddy pulled a quizzical face as a fairy which looked
very much like his sister, wandered over to his play pen. She reached into her
pocket and scattered a handful of glitter over his head. Freddy cried. Felicia
wandered off in search of a more appreciative audience. She was certain that
when she grew up she would become a real fairy and then he wouldn't cry.
Twenty years have passed and Felicia is ‘something in the
city’. She is successful. People come to her with their dreams of wealth and
she grants their wishes. Her stardust is now signatures on share documents. Her fairy land is
the stock exchange.
But in those quiet moments she is still that little pink
fairy from her childhood; in those quiet moments when she drifts away and imagines
herself flitting from flower to flower in a magic garden. When she sleeps she
wears a smile as she swings from a rainbow and plays ring-a-ring-a-roses with
But she knows it will never be. She tells herself she was
stupid to have ever believed it. The kids that teased her were right.
A tiny fairy hovered outside her office window. Felicia
turned her head, smiled. It darted off and a dozen pink rose petals floated down from