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Saturday, 22 September 2007

A face from the past

I had a strange but interesting day today at a complimentary health fair I had stall at to try and sell some books. In fact, it started really on Friday night when we were setting up.

A new new age shop has recently opened in the village where the fair took place. The lady who runs the shop was one of the exhibitors at the festival both today and tomorrow. My partner and I (my partner is one of the Trustees for the building in which the fair took place) 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, and then for a further two years at the son's (her husbands) house after the business moved premises. They ran a Telex Bureau which had some interesting clients - 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 from 1988 to 1990, working Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 8pm (7am to 7pm in winter) initially from the son's house, and later from a shop a few miles away.

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 little 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 the local 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, and we were close for a while. She was married to a American-Italian business banker. 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 these, 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 working in retail 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 one of their rivals. That though didn't last and I got the sack after less than two months. I then got a job in an insurance office as a Motor Vehicle Inspections Controller (telephoning policy holders whose cars had been involved in accidents t0 arrange an inspection and/or valuation), 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 I left the insurance office (they relocated to the west country), I went back into retail, as Manageress of a kitchen and bathroom showroom, 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 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 the wife did not recognise me. Her husband 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?

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