12 Sep

I remember vividly when my father became unemployed in the mid 1970’s. Dad had enjoyed a great career after leaving the army and after various and varied jobs he became a copywriter in London in advertising and at the same time London Weekend Television bought and produced one of his plays for their ‘Frighteners’ series entitled ‘Bed and Breakfast.’ He was flying high. So high in fact that he had ventured out and started his own advertising agency based in Richmond-Upon-Thames

Unfortunately for dad, the agency which he had invested a lot of money in failed and after reaching the top of his profession he fell back down to earth with an almighty heavy thud.

So it was, in 1976 that Dad found himself middle-aged and unemployed and at the height of an economic recession, trying to seek a job back in a career choice in which he was already considered to be an old man.

Being only young at the time, I didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation we as a small family found ourselves in. I had no idea that the mortgage repayments could not be met or that my father who was used to relying on his tremendously creative mind to conjure up magic was now being asked to retrain as a bank clerk or insurance salesman.

There are a few memories from that time that on reflection are very telling of the stress my parents must have been under and how the fall from grace must have hit them like a speeding train.

I remember dad getting some passport photographs for a job application. In those days it was the photo booth in ‘Woolworths’ with the vivid linen curtain stained from a thousand sweaty palms.

I waited outside the booth as dad posed for the snaps. Then all three of us waited for the photos to drop into the slot outside. Mum grabbed them first. She let out a disgusted volley; “Bloody hell Peter you look awful! You can’t send those off they will think you have a criminal record!”

“They are fine, there’s nothing wrong with them” Dad snapped back and took ownership of the mug shots.

“No way are you sending them, you can tell from these you have depression.” mum almost shouted. “Angela get those photographs from your father” mum then directed her ire at me.

So being the dutiful daughter I sometimes tried to be. I obeyed my mother and thought I was somehow helping my father.

Dad was fuming as I snatched them…..”give them back” he called after me as I ran off with them.

“Good girl” mum said now put your nail down them while they are wet.

I put my nail down the photographs and they were ruined. My father was furious both with my mother and of course with me. I remember they didn’t speak to each other for days. My parents were not in the habit of arguing, but for those six months they argued a lot.

My father took to sitting in his chair and reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Carl Jung and he grew a beard and started to wear odd hippie style clothing and not the smart shirts and trousers I was accustomed to seeing him coming home from work in. I also found a book on self-sufficiency by his chair which included a chapter on growing your own marijuana. It seemed the work crisis had also caused my father to have a life crisis.

I noticed my mother who always liked the finer things in life, as I suppose we all do, had stopped buying clothes and she had started to work again part-time. I remember vividly one afternoon mum enthusing about how she had ‘always wanted to give nettle soup a try.’ So we went for a walk over some nearby scrub land and picked as many nettles as we could find.

The nettle soup became dinner for the next two nights. At the time I just thought it was another of mum’s fads like candle making. Only now, with the hindsight of a middle- aged woman, can I see with clarity that it was no fad it was a necessity brought on by the parlous situation we found ourselves in.

I have always been a firm believer that in this life, often events, situations, circumstances if you like can come back around identically but just wearing a different face.

So it was in the Summer of 2013 that I found myself to be in the exact same situation as my father at pretty much the identical age as he had faced his crisis.

I had owned my own successful business for nearly twenty years. A business that had granted me a very nice lifestyle. Widespread travel, luxury cars, the finer things in life. I Always had money in my pocket and no worries in my head. I think when you get into that niche you just assume that is how life is always going to be.

Unfortunately with the advent of the digital age, widespread copying, stiff competition from the supermarkets, internet and other companies even one competitor stealing the name of our business, our company found itself on it’s knees. Also many of our assets had been used to prop up a once thriving business that was now almost a redundant profession.

On that early Summer’s day in 2013 I had to face the cold hard truth that I was a weekend away from bankruptcy. If that weekend my store premises sale did not complete there was no earthly way I could pay my creditors. It would be all over. I thought for a brief moment I might actually physically collapse.

Thankfully the shop sale did complete that weekend and bankruptcy was avoided but this left me without a business, without a regular means of income and without the prospect of ever having the lifestyle I had grown very used to.

My partner in both life and both business Dawn and I were both absolutely shell-shocked. I don’t think either of us could believe how close to the brink we had both been and how radically life had now changed.

I will always remember Dawn saying to me that she did not think I could get used to having to as she put it “cut my cloth according to my means.” She was wrong though. I had done that as a girl. I could do that again. It was the acceptance of failure that I found so hard to comprehend. We had dazzled for so long and then plummeted so quickly it was hard to accept.

I didn’t realise it at the time but I started to follow down a similar path to my father. Often it was a whisky soaked path. The appeal of alcohol was most beguiling. Having a good old drink always makes things seem better and what it doesn’t improve you forget about for a while.

I certainly wasn’t yet an alcoholic but I definitely was beginning to walk down that path.

I started to blame myself. Why had I enjoyed life so extravagantly and been so lavish. I should have been more prudent. Less foreign travel, less trinkets, less everything. The downward spiral of my self recrimination had started.

Some friends understood, others perhaps not so much that it wasn’t just a case of ‘getting over’ what had happened in a week. We had lost everything and we were right back to square one and but not as young and vibrant as we were back then.

My father was unemployed for six months and finally took a job in an agency in Holland. It got dad back in the game. After six months he was offered another job in a London agency and he rose back to the top. Higher than he had been before. The hippie clothes disappeared the Jean-Paul Satre went back on the bookcase and life returned to normal. It took him a year but he got there.

For me, the bottle has gone back in the cupboard. The boxing gloves have gone back on and are fully laced and ready to punch. It’s taken me a year but I’m ready to fight my way back to the top again. My mind is full of ideas and plans.

Watch out world, I’m back!



  1. tony wood September 12, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    What a great honest and well written blog – I am glad to hear you are ready to come out fighting again.
    In many ways I think I have a charmed life, and I know lots of people have things harder than me but one thing I’ve always found it easy to do is live within my means, when I have money I spend it, but when I’ve not had money I’m aware possessions are just things and they don’t buy happiness

    • angelacollings September 13, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      Thank you so much Tony. It’s easy to lose sight of how trivial possessions are compared with the really important things in life. Sometimes I think we use bury ourselves away in them. xx

  2. margueritequantaine September 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    I’m glad you’re back on the road to Superwoman because you are a super woman.

    • angelacollings September 13, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Oh Marguerite what a lovely thing to say xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: