It soon became apparent after a series of “goings on”, that it simply wasn’t working with me and Sonja living under the same roof. The branch manager at Sun Alliance put me on to an old acquaintance of his, who he said might be in a position to rent me a room. Enter Vic Davies; a lovely elderly man in his late 60s. I knocked on the door of 10 Dowling Street, just off Swindon Town Centre and no more than 200 metres from the branch office. Vic answered and I explained that Dave Hollister had suggested I come and have a word with him. Vic and Dave went back years and he offered me an upstairs room in his house. Vic was a lovely man, but he had the worst speech impediment I’d ever encountered. It was so bad that I would finish his sentences off for him. We got on very well and for a while a modicum of normality entered my life.
Of course, I was no longer living in cloud cuckoo land, which meant that the money had stopped flowing in. Because I had paid into the NAAFI pension scheme for under five years I was entitled to claim all my contributions back. This I did and my timing was perfect. I received just over £500. I mention the timing of it because it wasn’t long after I received the cheque that NAAFI sent me a bill for removal charges. It was over £180. I felt they were taking liberties as I’d had to leave stuff behind due to the lack of available space on the removals van. I didn’t pay it and they never caught up with me.
I should mention before going any further that during my time in cloud cuckoo land I had not been so aware of my deep-rooted psychological issues; I presume because of the constant flow of alcohol. I will also mention here that what I have tried to do with this series of posts is use language that is in line with my level of consciousness at the time the events took place. The idea is that the reader takes the journey with me and has the experience of evolving with me from the completely unconscious fool I used to be to the not so unconscious fool I am today; or something like that. I will also be adding details of my amazing experiences along the way, so that the whole story comes together with perfect precision.
The job was a bit of a wake up call too. The products we were selling were fantastic. The trouble was, and it’s probably still true today, that people have an aversion to life insurance. The truth is that most people don’t understand it. They don’t know how it works, they don’t understand the great value it has and will either avoid it like the plague or buy a policy that isn’t suitable for their needs. At that time in the 1980s there was a hell of a lot of money to be made in the financial services industry. The sky was the limit. This was just before the Financial Services Act of 1987 and commissions were very high. I soon realised that what you needed to do to be successful was to try to sell at all costs the products that paid the highest commissions. There were people in the insurance business back then, just ordinary salesmen, earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Some of them would only make one sale a month, but it would have a massive commission. Invariably, I came into contact with people who didn’t have a lot of money and I wanted to help them. I wasn’t going to tell them lies. But the writing was on the wall from the start and I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t going to work. I did learn something very valuable though.
At one point I decided to go to a hypnotist (I can hear you laughing) in order to be hypnotised into being an amazing salesman! He may or may not have been genuine, but one thing I will always remember is that he could, if he’d wanted, had me coming to see him indefinitely. But he didn’t do that. After I’d been to see him three or four times he said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I can hold your hand and lead you to the M4, but I can’t drive you to London”. For those who don’t know, the M4 is a motorway that stretches from near Carmarthen in Wales up to London; en route it passes through Swindon. It made me realise that the only person who could make me into an amazing salesman was me, and as my heart wasn’t in it, something had to give. I didn’t foresee what happened next though.
I was enjoying my new-found freedom and went out one night, not returning to Vic’s place until 09:00 the following morning. I saw the look on Vic’s face and he said to me, “have you been into the office”? I said “no”. I looked at his face and for some strange reason I thought he was going to tell me that my brother was dead. But instead he said, “your brother rang, your dad’s dead”. I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t have the understanding that I have now. We’d buried the hatchet nearly seven years ago but for most of that time I’d been living in Germany so we’d not seen a great deal of each other. I’d recently been to London and helped him with some work in their new flat and he’d taken me for a beer in one of the local pubs in Wood Green. For the first time ever I’d felt really close to my dad but now he was gone. I can’t remember what I did immediately after Vic gave me the news, but I know that at some point I made a phone call to London and said I’d be on my way soonest. I also remember going into the office, it was there that I shed my first tears. There was no way I could have driven so I went to the bus station and bought a ticket to Victoria. It was a surreal journey, with all kinds of thoughts going through my head. When I arrived at Victoria Station I went straight into the pub and ordered a double brandy. I knocked it straight back and then walked the half mile or so to the railway station. I got the tube to Wood Green and I remember as I walked to the flat that it was such a beautiful day for October. As I walked up the road I could see my dad’s light blue Ford Cortina parked outside. It was such a weird feeling.
I’m off on my travels in a couple of days, so I’m hoping to write part eight later…