Pastures new, new things to do.

When promoted to Birmingham, the centre of my major new sales territory, I decided that, rather than carry on renting from my employer that vintage Morris Minor I would turn it in and buy myself a new car. With my wife Joan I spent hours poring over the glossy brochures before deciding on a white Ford Anglia; "The car that looks as if it is going fast when standing still" said the advertising splurge. My cars have always gone fast, so that really did appeal to me!

Returning my rented old Morris up to head office in Liverpool for the final time I have to confess to having had a bit of a lump in my throat. Never since then have I developed any actual affection for a car - or for any machine for that matter, (unless you include boats as machinery), but that car with its orange flip-out indicators had been a part of my personal renaissance. Not just career-wise but also family-wise, for we often travelled in it to Joan's family in York, then used it to explore the wonderful county of Yorkshire, especially its coastline. So far as I recall, we were the first in the extensive Wood family to have a motor car. How many people can you fit into a Morris Minor? Lots and lots! To this day Joan's sister and brothers tell the tale about when we were proceeding speedily to visit Castle Howard. Those in the back included Auntie Margaret with a broken leg. As we went over a speed bump all of us hit the roof except poor Margaret whose plaster cast was trapped under the seat in front of her. Everyone but me and Margaret thought it hilarious, and still they do, reminding me whenever we get together.

Then there was the time, back in East Anglia, when I had been driving my boss John Williams and his boss, Sales Director John Gee  from Norwich to Kings Lynn. I was conducting them on a tour of my territorial customers. The straight and level East Anglian roads were empty and I must have been doing about seventy when, fifty yards ahead, a woman with headscarf wheeled her pushbike out from behind a parked lorry straight across the road in front.. She was oblivious to my approach. On my left was a very deep dyke. If I had swerved right I must definitely have killed her. I swerved left, braking hard but as carefully as I could and came to a stop with the car balanced at forty degrees over the embankment and the water, having missed a telegraph pole by a matter of inches. My sales manager John Williams and sales director John Gee were for once stunned into silence. I murmured, "John" (Williams in the passenger seat), "Open your door and climb out. If I get out we'll overbalance and you'll all be in the drink." Both Johns evacuated the car in something of a silent, careful hurry, scrambling in their nice suits down into the edge of the dyke and up the grassy embankment on to the roadway. When I got out I went to say some choice words to the headscarved lady but relented when finding she had suffered a broken little finger. My side mirror had just clipped her hand on the handlebar. Strangely there was very little damage to the bike, but six inches either way and 'where the hell's the nearest hospital' would have been the order of the day - for her, or some, or all of us. There were no repercussions, legal or otherwise. But I shall never forget John Williams surveying the scene, shaking his head. "Bryan Islip, do you have any brothers?" he asked, tongue in cheek. (I think I took that as a compliment.)

Having collected my brand new Ford Anglia from the dealer in Bristol I drove it proudly homewards up the A38. In the outskirts of Birmingham I braked to allow a man across the road on a beaconed zebra crossing. Five seconds later, bang! Some bastard had driven right into my rear end. Relatively minor damage but my first experience of the hazy, mazy insurance industry. My homecoming was somewhat less than in might have been as Joan and the little girls came out to admire the new car with its newly bent rear fender and its broken tail lights.

There were much happier associations with that Ford. Besides the aforementioned trips to York we used to pile kiddies and stuff into it for weekend day trips to the seaside. Living close to the dead centre of England we had a choice: east to my old stamping grounds at Lowestoft or Yarmouth, south to the Hampshire  / Sussex coast or west to Barmouth in Wales' Cardigan Bay, the closest by road - and our favourite. Off we would go at crack of dawn on a Sunday, car packed with beach stuff, picnic stuff and little girls squealing with excitement. I remember driving across the Welsh highlands past the Dolgelly mountainsides studded with grazing sheep that Kairen had christened 'woolly maggots'. Isn't it strange how you never remember the rainy days? I can't, anyway. Always the sun shone and always the sea was bitingly, shriekingly, laughingly cold. Sandcastles got built but then so saddeningly dissolved by the incoming tide, Our picnic was shared out and relished. Then at end of day the long, long drive home. When darkness fell the girls would be asleep in the back. Joan and I would enjoy the silence. I recall that special tiredness and that splendidly uncomfortable sunburn on back and, for some unknown reason, on insteps. Our hands would touch and hold as the miles unrolled.

My sales results were climbing satisfactorily. By this time I really enjoyed being out on the road. I enjoyed the personal freedom of it and the steady growth of income. I enjoyed making new customers for my company's machines to churn out and making new friends on my Midlands territory in the process. Even  senior colleagues in the Group's Birnmingham office condescended to climb down from Mount Parnassus to take notice of this fresh faced newcomer. As we've all heard, success does indeed breed success - and success breeds the confidence that ensures even greater success. There were no hurdles too high for me to jump, or try to jump, so in those days.

For instance, there was an elderly  man called Jimmy Rudge, Group Catering Officer of the mighty Joseph Lucas Group headquartered in downtown Birmingham. I was determined to crack the large-scale industrial catering market for my company's hot and cold drinking cups. Cutting quite a long story short I learned that (a) Mr Rudge never saw salesmen and, (b), he always arrived in his office by eight in the morning. For several intermittent days I waited, sitting in that imposing reception as the man strode in, immaculately suited and hatted with his shiny briefcase. Each time I rose to my feet and each time I received short shrift; just the odd sideways glance, never friendly. The receptionist, by then familiar with this fruitless routine and patently feeling sorry for me would call him once he had reached his office then put down her phone, shaking her head apologetically. 'On your way', said the headshake and the shrug of her pretty little shoulders.You can guess the rest. One day he stopped to ask the receptionist who the hell I was. That was the beginning...

Next time I'll write about one very hard lesson in commercial  finance from a jazz festival organiser and about developing my interests in painting and fishing and opening my first bank account and my newfound friend  the Midland bank manager, Shirley branch.

And next time I'll tell you about the birth of our third child, Robert Henry. It's a boy! After the two girls, such excitement .

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