This post was updated on .
"He is indeed the most qualified man for the job, but is he lucky?" Those words were spoken by 'Napoleon Bonaparte', a man who understood that sometimes luck could alter history. As we all know, his eventually ran out. I truly smiled on the day my luck finally ran out, on the day I finally shut up shop for the last time. It was on an April 30th which was the anniversary of Hitler's death in 1945. My only problem back then, almost four decades after that fortuitous event was not having a job of any kind, so I consoled myself safe in the knowledge I was much better off than old Adolph.
Strangely enough, the man who had done more than anyone to stop Hitler, 'Winston Churchill', was born on an earlier anniversary of the day we opened our first ever shop. Although Winston's birthday occurred way back in 1874, compared to our first shop opening on November 30th, 1968. As I sit here, writing these words I can glance up and see the life size bronze head of the world famous statesman, the treasure that's been in my possession since 1977. This is the story of how it came to be mine.
It begins on a Friday evening in 1971 and I was hungry and in a bad mood. I had been to visit my mother and had found her feeling poorly so she was unable to cook me my usual, 'Worlds best egg and chips.' When I later visited my local to see my friends, I found there was no food available, no pork pies, not even a pickled egg. So, much later when my taxi took me back to Guildford, I had the driver drop me off at the 'Elite fish and chip shop' in Bridge street, where a ravenously hungry me, patiently stood in line with about six people queuing in front of me.
In our town at that time there were known to be a crowd of yobs who were famed for their weekend trouble making. It was my misfortune that they should decide that they too would enjoy some chips and two of them walked past the long queue to the very front of it. The fish bar entrance was long and narrow, just room for a single file in and a single file out. So when I realised what was happening, I stuck out my arm to bar anyone else from queue jumping. I informed the dozen or so yobs they could if they wished to be rude push past every one else, but they would not push in front of me. When one woman who had just been served tried to leave there was no room for her to pass, so the yobs were forced to back out of the shop. I was watching events and noticed they now joined the back of the queue. The yobs in the front were soon served and glared at me as they passed on their way out and, on reaching their mates, some half hearted threats reached my ears. But as the saying goes, 'Sticks and Stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you! So I ignored their words and was soon placing my order.
"Lots of salt and vinegar please", I said to the man as he was serving me and when I asked him if he knew any of the yobs he nodded that he did. I told him if there was any trouble when I left the shop I would be back for their names and I spoke quite loudly, wanting the whole queue to hear my words. I then opened my briefcase and putting the food in I left the shop. There were stares, glares and mutterings from all the queuing yobs and also from the ones waiting outside but, thankfully, there was no trouble. I may have looked calm to everyone there but, in truth, my heart was beating fast as I walked over the bridge and away from the unruly ruffians. Ten minutes later I was safely home with the love of my life and enjoying my much needed food.
The months that followed the above incident were good ones. I had won a holiday in some, ' Knowledge of the sports trade', competition, and my wife Jenny and I spent fifteen days in sunny 'Tenerife'. Shortly after our return we purchased and moved into our first ever home of our own and so life was very good. Business, in our latest newly opened shop was thriving, as it was in the others. This meant we were going to need more staff so I spent an afternoon interviewing a bunch of hopefuls. One of them was a big young man called Peter who impressed me greatly. After a second interview some days later he accepted my offer to join SupaSports. What I didn't know was that he he had recognised me the moment we met and, I was to discover, he was extremely grateful I didn't remember him.
It was about two years later when I learned I was talked about as some kind of hard man by my staff, that I discovered that Peter had been one of the chip shop yobs. I had never spoke of that evening to anyone apart from my Jenny but Peter, who was now a branch manager, had apparently been in the habit of telling his work colleagues that I had fearlessly faced down at least a dozen people. This was sheer exaggeration but his story of that evening, linked with the fact I often showed off my a skill at arm wrestling, had them believing I was some kind of unlikely tough guy . As we opened more shops over the years and new staff joined our team, the story was told, retold and and other tall tales were added to it. I must confess it was no bad image for this boss of a sports mad staff to have and I was happy for the stories to thrive.
I had often spoke to my staff about Winston Churchill, and my admiration for him. I could quote lines from his famous speeches and often did so. He used to have a wartime note pad that had printed on every sheet the words, 'Action this day.' On this he'd scribble instructions to his staff and it was known he expected them to be carried out on the day. I typically went one better with my version for each page on my notepad said, 'Action this second.' I too meant it and my colleagues also ensured that my wishes happened pretty darned quick. As the years passed and my authoritarian ways continued to grow the majority of my staff seemed to like the way they worked. Although there were some who didn't, very mysteriously, they decided to leave!
In 1977, many years after his birth, a limited edition of bronzed sculpture's called, 'The Head of Winston Churchill', became available for sale in the UK. Unknown to me, 'Chip shop Pete,' for that was how I now thought of him, and some of my other Managers had started a staff collection to buy me a Christmas gift. Together they had agreed that anything to do with Churchill would please me. When they totalled up the final amount collected it came to much more than they'd anticipated and so, with great excitement, they were able to purchase a bust, together with a diploma showing it was number 10 of a limited edition of 350 busts of the great man. On the Christmas Eve of 1977 they proudly gave it to me and the emotions of pride I felt on that wondrous day I cannot begin to describe.
It is strange to think that 'Chip Shop Pete', the young yob who would once have liked to have given me a kicking, was partly responsible for what is my proudest possession. When I look at it I am reminded that, if not for ever, for a long time I made a difference to peoples lives. A difference that made them hold me in such high esteem that they dug deep in their pockets and bought me such a uniquely special gift. In truth my luck, like Napoleon's, didn't last, and when it evaporated, so did some of those friendships. But the fact remains that because of what I once was, my family now owns something very special. If future generations ask how it came to be ours, they have the answer in this, another story of my yester years!
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|