By that time I had none of my money left and I had to start again. I moved to London and got a job with a large security firm with offices at Piccadilly Circus. I was given the grand title of Assistant Operations Manager but mostly looked after the payroll. But I was duty officer on Sundays. Every week a different demonstration marched past but always with the same pipe band playing Scotland the Brave. Later the Salvation Army band would come down playing Who is on the Lordís side? They might well ask.
During my time in the Theatre my tax affairs had got into a mess and I knew that when it was sorted out I would owe quite a lot of money. So it was back to scrimping and scraping again as I lived as frugally as possible and saved as much as I could. When the tax demand finally arrived I was able to pay it off. In a phone conversation with a local tax office it seemed that the lady concerned had gone to some trouble to work out how I could pay it in instalments. She sounded quite peeved when I told her that Iíd paid the lot.
I began writing with a top writer and I learned a lot from her. The BBC accepted a short talk for their program Womanís Hour. This went out live daily and had an audience of about 4 million. As I was working for a rather dodgy organisation I took care not to let them know that I was involved with the media. Fortunately I was able to get away long enough for the morning rehearsal and the afternoon live broadcast. Each contributor to the program had his or her own producer. There was one producer of the day who consulted a stopwatch frequently. Being the BBC the broadcast had to stop dead on the half hour for something or other and again dead on the hour. If somebody spread by, say, 10 seconds that meant something else had to be cut. I found that you couldnít imagine 4 million people listening to you.
On the front page of the Sunday Times one week was a piece about a simple system of shorthand and about a new school that was to open shortly in central London. I didnít know at that time that the owners of the Sunday Times were also the new owners of the British franchise. It had been invented about 40 years previously in America and was well established in the States. An elderly gentleman taught it in a small school in London. Iíd always had a problem getting ideas down on paper quickly enough. I rang and enrolled in the correspondence course. After that I felt I needed some live practice and I did a week in the school. That clearly wasnít sufficient and I carried on at night for a while.
A notice came up saying that teachers were needed for the new school. I applied and got taken on. As they were short of teachers I taught in the day school and in the evenings as well and I found I could cram my previous work into two long days at the weekend.
Lorna was one of the day students. I first noticed her when she came in early one morning and asked if I could put a tape on so she could get some extra practice. I remember thinking that this was a lousy job because there were some nice girls around but you couldnít meet them partly because you were too busy and mostly because I didn't approve of teacher/student relationships. Later she worked for the school as a secretary during the day and became my assistant in the evening school. This is beginning to look like another good stopping point. I fall in love, marry, migrate to Australia. What could be more ordinary than that?
When we started going out together we kept it a secret from the people at work because when office romances fall apart, as theyíre very liable to do, itís embarrassing for everybody. Ours didnít fall apart but when Lorna went in and told her colleagues that we were engaged they thought she was joking. When we went together to tell the Managing Director that we were to be married he said ďI could have told you that six months ago.Ē We rather wished he had because it would have saved a lot of heartsearching.
As before Iím tempted to stop but I think Iíll go on for a little longer. In advance I imagined Australia to be much like England only with a better climate. In fact it was quite a big adjustment. And migrating at 40 when it was unlikely that Iíd ever be able to afford to go back meant being virtually bereaved of all my family and friends in one hit. That was tougher than Iíd anticipated.
In order to qualify for an assisted passage (now long abandoned) you had to have a sponsor in Australia. This was Lornaís eldest sister and her husband in Brisbane so that was our first stop. The assisted passage meant that you travelled for a nominal sum of ten pounds each but the government kept your passport for two years to stop you going straight back. next