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Sheep to be sheared...

Updated on July 29, 2011

What's in Barnes...

My first direct sales job came about by accident. I had replied to an advert offering work in exotic places, and been 'blagged' into travelling to Germany to sell hand painted English pottery and Bibles to American servicemen.

In order to do this I was told needed forty pounds for my first weeks expenses "until my wages arrived" - I was 16 years old and just had no idea!

Eddie, my 'boss' said he would help me to raise the cash, and with simple Jewish logic told me that I was fired, "So now you can get a better paid job to make the money you need"

The 'better job' was to work in an injection moulding factory where some of my mates worked, so I told them I was 18 to get the man's rate and worked from 7am till 7pm to get the overtime.

When the day arrived for me to depart to Germany, they refused to pay me.

I called the 'office' and told them the bad news, and they suggested that I came and worked for them a while, they were an 'associate company'.

They sold double glazing.

On my first day they sat me down, gave me a large window in a plastic carry case, a contract pad and some finance forms and told me to get a train to Barnes. "What's in Barnes?" I innocently asked "Lot's of houses" they replied.

Cold calling houses can be the worse thing in the world until you learn some rules.

For the first six weeks I earned nothing, yet I saw older more experienced salesmen earning good money, eventually (when they could not get rid of me) some of the guys took me aside and told me the facts of life!

  • If you get in a house, stay there until you get the sale or get kicked out, you will never see them again either way.
  • "Don't have sympathy for them, if God hadn't of meant them to be sheared, he wouldn't have made them sheep" Actual words spoken to me, at the time I accepted them as true.
  • Sometimes you will have money falling out of your pockets and other times your pockets falling out of your trousers.
  • Always mug a mug, never mug a mugger.

The next week I earned two hundred pounds, which was big money for 1968 when the average male salary was twenty pounds a week.

My breakfast room!
My breakfast room!

From then onwards I always managed to live well despite the fact that it was up and down financially, because direct salesmen tend to burn out when they have been on a good run of sales.

They take a few days off, or get drunk for a while.

Some would earn fabulous money and blow the lot gambling all weekend, others would take a team of sales people away for two weeks hard selling in some remote town, then not work for a week or two.

My day started at mid day when I got up, showered, dressed and went into London to our office. Breakfast would be taken in the Russell Hotel, which was next door to the office, and normally would be an 'astronauts brunch' - so called because it was supposed to be fed to the NASA crews before launch day.

Four o'clock would be the time to pick up the canvassers, normally fresh young girls just arrived in London and seeking fame and fortune, but working for us to earn cash.

Very few of them made a dime, mostly they got used and abused for a week or two, or as long as they could take it and survive.

We (the 'closers') would take care of particularly fanciable girls and/or people who we though may actually be able to earn us money, but he rest were just cannon fodder replaced daily as we needed them.

Vauxhall VX490 TOC - Nice car!
Vauxhall VX490 TOC - Nice car!

'Oh Warminster'

When I had been out on the road and the 'knocker' for a year and a half, I finally passed my driving test at the third attempt.

The first two failures were par for the course where tests and myself were involved, because nobody ever explained that tests had structure and that you could learn to pass tests.

I naively thought tests were just that, designed to test your whole knowledge of a subject, not just selected bits learnt in advance.

As a consequence I rarely finished any written test and never got better than a C+ in my whole school life, (except when Miss Rose cheated for me as she thought I had brains, but was useless at tests)and left school at 15 with absolutely no qualification whatsoever.

That's when I started learning!

It had all gone wrong when I realised at 11 years old that our school was skilled at producing pen or button pushers. The teachers divided the classes into one or t'other classifications and then steered you towards pushing pens or buttons.

I guess Britain needed pen or button pushers at that time, and nobody seemed to think of what you may want, and as we were in State education, the State would decide what they needed us to be 'educated' for.

Anyhow, aged 19 I passed my test finally and got back to our double glazing hideout (which by now was in Leicester Square in Central London, opposite Egon Ronay's hotel guide offices) waving my certificate like Neville Chamberlain fresh back from Hitler's place.

I was immediately given a Vauxhall (Crysler/Opel depending on where you come from) VX 490 TOC - which translates to a 118 bhp, 2300cc twin overhead cam powerful death-trap, in which to drive my team to work for the first time.

Previously I had used drivers and hired cars to go to work, and had never driven anything bigger than my driving instructors Ford Escort, and then never faster than 30 mph!

These beasties did 106 mph with acceleration form 0-60 mph in 11.1 seconds.

Sandie and myself with Nicky Horne, a Capital radio DJ after we won a dance competition! - Strewth we were young!
Sandie and myself with Nicky Horne, a Capital radio DJ after we won a dance competition! - Strewth we were young!

Needless to say the drive down to Banstead in Surrey, our designated target for the night, was hairy for the passengers, especially when it got dark, 'cos I'd never driven in the dark!

Following behind me was a new girl who had just started work that day, so I had eight people 'out' on the 'area' that night.

The new girl was a 'posh' ex public school girl, who was 'slumming it' for a while whilst between secretarial jobs, mainly for a laugh.

We stayed together for 16 years, she taught me to speak English, I taught her street smarts and we made a whole heap of money eventually as Central London Estate Agents and property dealers, but I get ahead of things, that night, like bomber pilots headed for Berlin, we had Banstead in our sights.

Over a drink before we started work, she asked me where I came from 'Warfumsto' I uttered 'Oh Warminster' she said - it took her 18 months to get me to be able to express myself sufficiently to communicate with the world!, but I had time, it was 8 years before her parents spoke to me.

Our Pimlico home!
Our Pimlico home!

Ermmm... thought I should mention!

As this is now heading towards an autobiography, a note for anyone who has read this first.... it's number three!

If you want the first two or the next two click below!

  1. Smoke whilst you'r praying...

  2. Summer of love '67

  3. Sheep to be sheared

  4. Passport to Pimlico

  5. Passport to Pimlico (Part 2)


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    • profile image

      John 5 years ago

      Yes youre wright there,have a nice time ,try kuala lumpur,its great

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Thanks John... would that be Wright?

      Anyhow, yes, many journeys and pathways trodden, and hopefully even more to come!


    • profile image

      John 5 years ago

      Hi aguasilver

      thanks and compliments for the interesting biografy seems you,ve come a long way since

      Loved the bit about Rosie F . It was also a background of our youth,I found myself reading and trying to find the bit about us in it,I think the film "Cathy come home" all the rage was then.Keep writing.Regards.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 6 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Really, no never! besides the last time I saw Yusuf Islam, (Cat's new muslim name) he was bearded and dark haired!

      I have been confused with Christ Tarrant before though!

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 6 years ago

      I am really enjoying this trip down memory lane and I really appreciate you sharing this story with us.

      By the way, did anyone ever tell you that you looked like Cat Stevens?

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      John, what a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it in all its wonderful details.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      "Did you ever get rid of that familiar spirit?"

      Oh most definitely yes, in a self deliverance session that took place not long after I came to faith, I vomited him out and was free, it's written about in a hub somewhere, if I find it, I'll add it to this hub as a link.... I should do that!.... if I can't find it, I'll write a new hub covering it.


    • LeslieAdrienne profile image

      Leslie A. Shields 7 years ago from Georgia


      What an interesting and life. You are an example of making the best of what you have.

      Maybe I missed it in tje readings.... Did you ever get rid of that familiar spirit?

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 8 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      I hated door to door, but managed it for a lot of years, the best thing was that during that period I got to study many people and what made them tick.... valuable information!

      I should get back to the other bits of this series! - slowed down for a bit as it seemed a mite egocentric to write about me all the time!

      Thanks for visiting and commenting...


    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I could not imagine trying to sell products going door-to-door but do have to say that you certainly succeeded. I remember as a young child the gentleman would come to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners of course our family bought one and mom still has it till this day. I also enjoyed the pic of you and yours way back in yesteryear I am certain that you have a strew of memories that I am looking forward to reading. :)