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The Office

I left school in July of 1966 with 5 GCE O Levels: English Language, Religious Knowledge, Cookery, Needlework and Art, as well as 3 CSE's in Mathematics Grade 4, Chemistry Grade 3 and Art Grade 1.

Three years before, at age 13, I had written in my little green diary that when I left school, I planned to go to Art College to become a teacher, but by August of 1966, I wrote that so many of the dreams my friends and I had, seemed to have burst like bubbles during our school years, and our individual natures were getting squashed into the mold of offices.

An office was the last place I thought that I would work, but I had plans to leave for Holland in two years--as soon as I was 18. So it didn't seem so bad, temporarily.

A couple of my friends left for Art College and I envied them, but it wasn't possible for me then.

I'd spent a month of the summer in Holland, and Dad had been with us for part of it this time. It was a turning point because he had responded to Mum's desperate unhappiness in England by setting up some job interviews in Holland and exploring the possibility of moving there.

In retrospect, I can see what a monumental step that was for Dad and what courage it took to step out of his comfort zone and do such a thing. He was English through and through and content in his life in the village that revolved around his job, his garden and the pub. It didn't work out though, and it was such a crushing disappointment for all of us, especially Mum. When we got home we found Dad redecorating the house, and it hurt so much because it said, "I'm here and not going anywhere." It was then that something inside of Mum died. She moved out of their room, and their unhappiness deepened.

If my focus had been on a future in England and if our family had not been in such distress, my choices might have been different, but as it was, when I got back from Holland, I met with Mrs. Savory, the guidance counsellor and wrote afterwards that I expected that I would end up as an office junior. The next day I decided to apply for a job at Autocar and Transporters in the office where Mum worked.I had a disastrous interview in which my mind went blank, but they hired me and I started work on August 31, 1966. I worked there for three years, until I got married on August 23rd 1969, just before leaving for Canada.

The photo below is of Patricia, Mum, Rita, Lynne and Maggie, playing cards at lunchtime.

At the far end of the office, behind a big glass window, was the office manager, Mr. Burston (who would one day be my father-in-law), Stan Yarnold the accountant, and Mr. Rainbow, who was a very sweet man. Mr. Rainbow called me Desert Flower, although I have no idea where that name came from! Besides working in the office, he was an artist, and sometimes he brought in his work to show us.

After a week at the office I was panicking. I wrote in my diary, "Last night I had a horrible trapped feeling. I don't want to waste everything in an office. I must keep on painting and if it is still possible, I'd like to enroll at the college for art classes. I wish I could have gone to an art college like Viv and Rosemary. It isn't really fair, Rosemary wasn't really made about art, but her parents are well off."

A few days later I enrolled in two night school courses at the local college: shorthand and typing and German. I also joined an art club in Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park.These activities fed my need for growth and creativity. My friend Eileen and I also went to a weekly folk club, held in a room above The Golden Fleece pub in Redditch. The floor would shake as we stamped and clapped in time to the raw,earthy music.

I had much to learn at work and I immersed myself into understanding how to use a Burroughs machine, a sort of mini computer that calculated the deductions on the driver's wages; while outside of work my life was a whirl of activity.

That October Mr. Burston invited me to a Billy Graham movie at the local college. He was pastor of a church in Redditch and they were sponsoring this movie. I invited Eileen to come with me. It was there that we both answered, "Yes," when we had the opportunity to respond to an invitation of a different sort--to follow Christ.
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