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 road.
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 October 1995 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.