Chapter Three

Trying to adult

For my 17th birthday, Robin bought me a course of 6 driving lessons with BSM.  Once I had used them I found a driving instructor that lived in my Village and booked a lesson with him.  He had quite a small car, I can’t remember the make, but it didn’t have centre console so the gear stick just stuck straight up from the floor and the front seats were quite close together.  For the whole lesson he insisted on putting his knee next to the gear stick so I had to touch his knee every time I changed the gears.  I mean come on, did I have a sign on my head saying “fair game to abuse”?  These incidences were starting to seriously affect my opinion of men in general and my opinion of my worth.  

That aside I passed my driving test in the March after my 18th birthday but failed it twice before passing.  My first car was a blue 2CV which used to be my mum’s.  One of the first times I went out in it I took 2 friends Alex & Sarah and we decided to go to Blackpool pleasure beach.  If you know the 2CV you will know that it has a roll-back roof.  The weather was nice so we rolled the roof back and set off up the M6.  

We got about halfway and the bloody roof flew off, there was a metal bar that was holding the roof up, this hadn’t been secured properly so it swung back and hit me on the back of the head, this was not a great start to driving.  We had to stop at the next junction and call the police so they could retrieve the roof from the Motorway.  Luckily they were able to get it and bring it to us, they were pissing themselves laughing. 

I had left school at 16 with a CSE in typewriting, Office Practice and Biology.  I was more interested in horses, my boyfriend and socialising than I ever was in revising for my exams.  I knew I needed to get some qualifications, so I went to college to resit my CSEs.  I managed to pass English and Chemistry but failed maths.  I decided to do A levels the year after but only lasted 1 year before I thought it might be better for me to get a job.

My mum worked for one of the top guys, Gil at a company called BNFL and I did some summer work for him in 1987.  On the back of this, I managed to get a full-time admin job which I started in June 1988.  As I started, Gil had just left BNFL to head up the Railtrack Project in London.  My Mum was an amazing secretary and PA and after a few weeks, Gil begged my mum to relocate and work for him in London.  After thinking long and hard about it and me telling her to grab the opportunity, she took the job.  The offices were based in Waterloo and my mum found a nice little flat in Croydon.  

Her relationship with Syd was still ongoing and she had spent the last 4 years trying to get him to move out of the house he shared with his wife and move in with us.  Despite the fact he spent every weekend, holiday, Christmas etc. at our house, he never made that permanent move.  However, when she made the decision to move to London she asked Syd to move in and stay with me while she was in London and he finally agreed.  

My arse literally dropped out of me when she told me the plan.  Not a fucking chance.  

This was it, I no longer had an option, I had to tell her what had been going on for the last 4 years.  I felt so bad and she was so upset, she couldn’t understand why I hadn’t told her sooner, but I couldn’t find the words to explain how I felt.  I suppose now we know it as grooming and although I knew I should have told her I desperately didn’t want to hurt her.  She had given up her life pretty much to be with this guy, how could I tell her she had made the biggest mistake of her life!!  

Anyway, this situation arose and it was him or me.  I did say that if he moved in I would move out, I tried to gloss over what had happened as best I could without going into too much detail but at the same time making it clear that I meant what I said.  My devastated mum spoke to Syd who said it was all a big joke and I had blown it completely out of proportion and she chose to believe him.  That was her prerogative I suppose but deep down inside somewhere she knew it was the truth because he never did move in. 

I have to say my job at BNFL was so boring but I managed to stick it out and I met some really nice people.  There was one lady Maureen who was in her late 40s/early 50s and she had never had children.  I remember her telling me that she would dream that she was holding her own baby and would wake up in tears realising that it wasn’t real.  I found that such a sad story.  I think she and her husband just never got around to having kids and then realised that had been a mistake, but it was too late.

Another lady who worked in the same office as me had lost both her children in a car accident.  She bought them a sports car as a joint Christmas gift and they had a fatal accident on a bend with a lorry in the village I grew up in.  How do you ever get over that?

One of the great things about working for such a large company was you had to opportunity to move around and try different things.  I stayed in that first job for about 18 months and then decided that I wanted to be a typist.  I applied to the typing department and had some speed tests.  Typing was one of the exams I passed at school so I could touch type and was good enough to get the job.  I was placed as a typist in the Legal department.  I learnt two things while working in that department.  

1. you don’t need necessarily need brains to hold a professional qualification

2. typing up other people’s words day in and day out was mind-numbing

When I joined BNFL Robin and I had been on and off a few times but were mostly together.  Alex, a good friend of his has started dating this girl Jane, and we used to go out as a foursome.  Jane and I got on really well, we were both into horses and had other things in common and we always used to have a really good laugh together.   Our friendship grew and we ended up going to Tenerife just the two of us in the summer of 1989.  We met this group of lads from Sheffield and pretty much hung with them for the whole holiday.  I ended up having a bit of a thing with one of the lads Steve, which continued for a further 2 years.  I dumped Robin when I got back from holiday and for the next 2 years drove to Sheffield every weekend.  Steve had a sister Katie and we all used to get on so well.  His mum and dad had split up and he lived in a large bungalow with his dad and Katie.  His dad was really laid back and would go away a lot, it was his apartment in Tenerife that the lads stayed in so we had some great parties the weekends his Dad was away. 

Despite being on the pill, I ended up getting pregnant at 21 and we decided the best thing to do was have an abortion.  I still wonder why we made that decision as we were so happy but it was the right thing for us at that time and I think that’s all anyone can do really.  I remember being in the hospital afterwards on a ward with mums who had just given birth, a young girl that was heartbroken because she was forced into having an abortion and another woman that had an abortion because she already had 6 kids and couldn’t afford anymore.   Such sad times.

After spending about 12 months in the Legal department enough was enough.  This wasn’t for me and my issue was laziness not lack of brains so I had to pull myself out of my arse and get some proper qualifications!  I applied to go back into an admin role which was successful, although a few eyes rolled but, I didn’t care.  I started my new job in Feb 1991 and immediately applied for a day release course in business and finance. 

 Unfortunately, I needed a maths GCSE so I went to night school, paid for some private lessons and ended up getting a B in maths after studying for a mere 4 months before the exam.  I had surprised myself and proved to myself that if I really wanted something I could get it.  I started at college in the September of 1991.  Just before I started college Steve and I had broke up.  He wasn’t that keen on my going to college for some reason and this put me off him.  I was always a bit knee-jerky and fickle, tending to make incredibly rash decisions and never really giving anyone time to discuss things, I had made my mind up and that was that, a bit like my Mum all those years ago.  I went back to Robin for a while but quickly realised that things weren’t the same and never would be so I had a period of being single.  This wasn’t a bad thing as I was working full time with one day at college and had lots of homework to do.  I loved college and gave it 100%.  I used to stay at work till 10 pm regularly doing my coursework.

The department I worked in used to bring in a university work experience person each year.  Summer of 1992 Michelle started and although we were friendly, we didn’t become proper friends until Christmas that year.  We hit it off at the Christmas party and basically spend the next 6 months clubbing every weekend.  We had the best time and ended up going on holiday together to Gran Canaria in the summer of 1993 before she went back to do her final year at uni.  It was odd really, we kind of just accepted that it was a friendship fling and we have never been in touch or seen each other since.

The new chap that started in her place, Rob was a mature student so was a few years older than me, I think he was about 30 when I was 23.  We hit it off straight away and began dating.  He had spent many years travelling around the world before continuing with his education, he was an incredibly intelligent and interesting guy and I learned a lot from him.  We dated for the whole year he was at BNFL and then on and off for several more years.