Saturday, April 20, 2013

Previously in A Chequered Career….. Competition in the fitted kitchen business was fierce at that time…….. I spent hours at the drawing board creating each and every presentation; several of our clients even framed their pictures…...  I travelled to New York where I stayed at the Vista which linked the bases of the north and south towers of the ill-fated World Trade Centre….. . We put the business on the market and it was snapped up…….. I fell head over heels in love with France, so much so that we moved across the water and set up home in a tiny village in rural Normandy.


Every job I’ve had, and I’ve had more than my fair share, has left me with one big abiding memory. When I think of Espalux, I can still see myself during my regular visits to the factory down in the deepest south of France, leaning on a wall and looking out over the rugged snow-capped mountains of the Pyranees.

I would think how lucky I was to have a view so magnificent from my workplace. 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. There, a long table covered with a crisp white cloth glistened with silver and glass; at its centre a regiment of bottles of local red wine. Two hours later after an amply sufficient repast, we would amble back in the afternoon sun to complete the day’s work. It was there and then that I realised that I'd always lived to work rather than embrace the French ideology of working to live.

At our new home in the north, we soon made friends in the village. The mayor would pay an occasional visit, his farmer’s apparel shabby and worn; trousers held up by a length of knotted twine. He’d sit at our kitchen table and share a bottle of whiskey which I’d carried over from the UK. We’d talk, after a fashion; me with no French, he with no English. And we’d laugh! It was a kind of magic. The cottage was totally unsuitable for our needs and so later we moved to a very large and dilapidated house over which we toiled to make it something truly special. The post woman introduced us to lots of families in the village, even ones with whom we could communicate! One particular family used to travel across the fields to visit us on their donkeys. Children were always included in dinner parties; babysitting was a foreign concept to the villagers. We would play pétanque on the gravel in the square beside the rushing river Risle, and sit on  wobbly stools in one of the little bars. We’d buy baguettes from the boulanger and viande from the charcutiers. Penny was making great strides at the little school and all was good with the world. At least that's what I thought.

Sadly, my passion with France was not shared by Denyse, and in 1990 we found ourselves back in England in a little bungalow near Bexhill on Sea. I resigned from Espalux, and as luck would have it I straight  away found myself  a new position.  I had landed a job as sales manager with Westfield Garages, which was another car dealership. Once again I was to sell my favourite French fancies, Citroen! Work-wise, I was back where I felt I belonged.

Unfortunately the whole experience had a ruinous effect on our marriage and in no time at all I found myself on my own again. It was something of a wake up call.

Westfield Garages was a business run by a family with an uncanny resemblance to the Ewing’s of Dynasty fame. They were quite well known locally, the Overs, so much so that the biggest pub in the town had a dish on their menu in their honour, the grandly named Over Grill which was a gargantuan feast of greasy meats and piles of fries! They had a few sons, three as I recall. Eric Over was my boss, and his brothers Richard and someone else looked after their Honda outlet and a sports car pitch respectively. Then there were the aged Over parents.  Mr Over the elder had little to do with the hands on part of running the company.He used to drive cars around when they needed shifting from place to place. His wife however was something of a matriarchal figure who liked to glide around the various showrooms whilst we would ingratiate ourselves by doffing our imaginary hats! She was often accompanied by the little Over cherubs who 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! Whilst we mere employees remained largely undaunted by these inspections, there was no doubt that their sons treated them like matters of state! Between them they lived in three enormous houses in the most prestigious road in the area; we referred to them as Southfork Ranch 1,2 and 3!

I was personally responsible for the two Citroen showrooms. The main one in Bexhill was attached to the workshop and was by all accounts a bustling place. By coincidence it was in the very road I live in now, although it has long been raised to ground and replaced by an anonymous looking block of apartments. The other one was much smaller and sat the base of an art décor building known as Marine Court on promenade at St. Leonards on Sea near Hastings. It's a furniture showroom now. It was, I can tell you, very boring. When on duty there I was always on my own. 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’. My main means of entertainment was to stick coins to the pavement outside the window with super-glue, and watch people’s vain attempts at picking them up. 

I was so, so bored. 

To be continued

Chapters  1     3   4   5   6   7    8   9   10  >   12


  1. His royal dodgyness is hanging around!

  2. I'm sure it was very sad "when they suddenly and unexpectedly tripped over our feet"!

  3. This is the saddest post in the series so far. But that is life; we would all be envious if you sailed through life without any rough weather that most of us experience. Let's hope there are calmer seas to come.

  4. It's tough to do something you detest, but it happens to everyone. I can understand why you dreamt of being across the sea.

  5. I enjoy the way you keep your story moving and I also like that you do not make bad comments about a lost marriage. You seem to be able to accept that which was and move on.

  6. The coin and glue trick is entertaining. Maybe your dream can come true.