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In 1974 we would often light our shops by candlelight. It was during the miners strike and my shops still had to trade despite the constant power cuts. I recall a young man called Bobby Adams who worked in our Guildford shop, phoning me during the first of these cuts to inform me that without electricity they could not operate the tills. I suggested that he use the power of his will to open the tills and, if that was insufficient, to keep some money in a safe place to enable them to give change, etc. I would often use expressions like, 'power of one's will,' it was part of the image I had created for myself. It was during my never be ill and nothing is impossible period, I truly believed back then if you acted the part you became the part, for a time I had everyone fooled, including myself.
Later that day I remembered watching the engineer who had installed our tills, repairing one. He had turned the power off and was still able to open and close the till. How did he achieve this I wondered? That evening, when the staff had all gone home I visited the Guildford shop to investigate for I had a plan for some fun in mind. I discovered that inside the till there was a small lever that when pressed would open the cash drawer. To this lever I attached some thin but strong fishing nylon that I carefully pulled out of the base of the till, I then ran a long length of the same nylon along the carpet and up the stairs to the first floor clothing department. I then hid the end of the nylon. I had gone to great trouble to ensure that the nylon could not be seen and I had succeeded, my elaborate plan was ready for action.
Early the next morning I arranged for a senior member of my staff, Tim Stoop, to meet me at the shop, where I explained my plan to him and told him what he must do. The shop staff arrived for work and I busied myself, patiently awaiting the first power cut which duly came. As Tim Stoop made his way up the stairs to the end of the hidden nylon, young Bobby Adams called out to me and suggested with a cheeky grin that I may like to, 'use the power of my will,' to open the till. All the shops staff were there plus a couple of customers, as I, in the flickering candlelight, stood three feet away from the till and commanded, 'Till Open.' Unseen upstairs, Tim Stoop pulled the nylon and, completely according to plan, the cash drawer silently opened. "Oh my God," said a startled Bobby as the other staff watched on amazed. I made no comment and quietly went back to what I had been doing, my elaborate plan had worked, superbly. At the first available opportunity I cut the nylon near the till and Tim Stoop, secretly and completely unseen, gathered it up. Within minutes we had both left the shop, mission accomplished!
I had sworn Tim to secrecy over his part in my hoax and he knew better than to let me down. Looking back I often ask myself why I went to such lengths for little gain and the answer was it was fun for me, and for my staff. That power cut story had reverberated around our shops within hours of my performing, 'The Power of my Will,' miracle. During those dark days of strikes and power cuts, I had succeeded in lightening the mood of those I worked with and, once again, made our growing company an enjoyable and interesting place to work!