Fifties NLP

The Path To The Future (NLP and Other Stuff!)

Whilst I owned the shop in Glasgow I went up once a month to check out how things were going. I borrowed money from my bank to buy a new flat there. The price was very reasonable. I only had it for a short time. Kate now had two small sons. She and her husband brought them to stay with me there for a week. I shall never forget the sight of three-year-old Oliver with a blue hat on his head and a wide smile on his face climbing up all the stairs to the second floor. It was a big adventure for him. During the stay we went over to visit my great friend Alasdair in his fairy-tale house in the middle of mountains and country views. The boys were very thrilled with Scotland. I loved it too and even thought of going to live there in the land of my grandfather. But that was one of the many dreams that I came up with that never happened.

The country was on the edge of falling into one of those economic troughs that government was unable to prevent happening several times since the end of World War 2. I tried to find a buyer for my business in Glasgow but without success. But I did sell my Glasgow flat and made a small profit on it.

Before that happened, I had given up my franchise idea. Whilst I was thinking of doing some training for my future to work as a therapist. I saw an article in a Sunday newspaper about a new method called Neuro Linguistic Programming. Two American accademics, Richard Bandler and John Grinder had worked out a new way of altering lives by finding fresh ways to see, hear and feel. It is to do with changing habits. A sensible and popular motto for NLP is:

If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you always got.

Think about it.

The fundamental principles of psychology were laid by Freud, Jung and Adler. I believe NLP is by far the most original and practical way of tackling human problems since those days. Nevertheless, NLP is a set of very useful techniques and that is all it is. Most people, more than anything else, love to be told what to do. That is why it has become so popular. It is great fun. Anyone can learn it. To try to penetrate the mysteries of any one human being and get through to him or her is another matter altogether. Very few people can do that.

Hypnosis is an important tool for NLP. My great grandfather had been a well-known hypnotist and I already knew that I, too, was born with this gift. That is the main reason why I paid money to learn this new method: that and curiosity. I wanted to see if hypnosis could be taught. After my experience in courses, conferences and watching people trying to learn it, I came to the conclusion that it is an inborn skill. It is just like everything else.

I always wanted to play the piano when I first heard the piano. I had to wait until my mother bought one when I was fourteen. I had lessons and practised every day. In three years I got up to grade six, which is quite an accomplishment, especially when I was studying for my School Certificate. My music teacher held a class for some of her keener pupils every Saturday morning. I listened to an eight year old boy playing a very simple piece. He had only been learning for two months. I realised that he had a musical gift that I would never have. I gave up once and for all.

I heard that an NLP course was being run by a Scotsman, who had been a social worker and had gone to America to be taught by the two founders. He was one of the first to teach this new method. My talented friend, Paul Brook, who designed two shops for me: the one on Kings Parade and the one in Glasgow, was intrigued when I told him about it. I had done some work with him using hypnosis and he was very impressed. He said he, too, wanted to go on the course. The venue was the Lake District in a large house used for educational purposes. We completed that course and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This was indeed something new and we enjoyed the enthusiastic people who attended. It was especially exciting because it was the first one John McWhirter organised and he did it very well.

We liked it so much that he suggested that we go to America later in the same year where Bandler himself was leading another course in San Diego in California. My Cambridge shop was in business again after the repairs and doing very well. We were both self-employed and we could afford it.

We flew out together a few months after our first course.

I have been to several different conferences and courses and I had more fun on this one than any of the others. San Diego is famous for its interest in ships. We stayed in a splendid hotel at the edge of the sea which was full of all kinds of boats. We all had our own suites with sitting rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. The hotel price was incredibly cheap. The reason for this was that it had got into difficulties and had been taken over by receivers who were desperate to bring money in. Lucky old us!



Getting into Trouble

The flat I was living in belonged to the tenants of a housing association. Soon after I moved in there was much talk about handing over to the tenants so that they became the owners. This was very lucky for me, because I was able to buy mine at a very reasonable sum. Properties were beginning to rise heavily.

I lived there for five years. Then I went back to my old home with Bob. A lot of water had gone under the bridge by then. I sold the flat for a good price and bought a piece of land in a good position, hoping that I could get enough money together to design and build a house.

This did not happen as one catastrophy happened after another. First, my college landlord told me I would have to move out of my Kings Parade shop into the much smaller one next door. The shops in the parade were all joined together, so one by one they were being rebuilt from the inside, because they were very old and dilapidated. My shop was going very well. The one next door, where I had to stay for eighteen months while the repairs were being done, had a much lower rent, but this was not enough to balance it with the greatly reduced sales. I lost quite a lot of money and I had to find a good designer to refurbish the inside after the repairs had been finished.

Quite by chance I met a brilliant man who did a very good job for me. The whole place looked wonderful after everything had been put back. Once again I was doing well, but my financial state was precarious. I started to think what I could do to earn more money. Shops were springing up all over England selling posters. A friend suggested to me that the shop was so popular that I ought to look for shops in other places, dress them up and franchise them.

It sounded like a good idea. I hadn’t then realised that looking after franchises from a distance would constitute my having a lot more worry in an area about which I knew nothing. After looking for shops in England I was shaken by the size of the sums of money needed just to buy the leases. In the end I heard about Princes Square, a beautiful shopping centre in Glasgow. I took a shop there.

For the time that it lasted I went up to Scotland once a month to see everything was alright. This was the biggest mistake I ever made. The shop was beautiful but I wasn’t careful enough in appointing the manageress. She seemed such a nice young woman, and she gave me a good reference. But after a while I discovered that she had a drink problem. I tried to help her and that was another mistake. She was just not up to the job. Eventually I had to let her go and a more able woman took over. She did her best but it was too late.

By then I realised the idea of a franchise was both impossible and not what I really wanted.

My financial position was now a lot worse. I had two major assets: The Cambridge shop and my piece of land. If I sold both of them I could clear my debts but I should have to give up my business. It was a blessing in disguise. I had been in working in shops for a long time now. I had enough practical experience to become a good psychotherapist. All my adult life I had accumulated a lot of knowledge from books. One of the most important mistakes I had made most of my life was being sorry for other people and helping them too much.

My dear friend Jerry Planus who had had a far more difficult childhood than I, was against psychotherapy. He said everyone ought to be responsible for himself. “Put yourself First” was his motto. He was so right. I still had a way to go to prove this entirely to myself. But I did it. Like me he abhorred regulated religions. He lived with Catholic nuns in a boys’ home. He wrote a story about his childhood and sent it to me. There was no love there for those poor boys. They were mentally and physically badly treated. But he was a man of great inner strength and determination with a superb brain. I have noted throughout my life that the people I have liked most, because of their open mindedness and ability to think clearly were either atheists or agnostics and mostly men.



A Look into the Future

We are all driven by the genes we inherited from out ancestors. Most people were like my parents, especially at the times when they were living. They did very little with their lives. It was routine, routine, routine. I got all my ideas and excitements out of books and my constant curiosity to learn something new every day. I had the intellectual equipment I needed and my curiosity about human nature that led me to notice everything that drew my attention to what was going on around me.

It is one of the hardest things in the world to understand ourselves. You might think that at my great age I should know myself very well, but I am still analysing why and how I led my life the way I did.

If you are my kind of person, always looking for new things to do, I can assure you that old age can be the best time of all, as long as we stay reasonably fit.

The reason I am writing this book is to show my readers the path that I followed in my life that helped me to understand what was really my fundamental purpose in living. I am now in the happy state that I have no regrets. I have tried everything I wanted to try. I grasped every opportunity that I recognised with both hands. I made all the right kinds of mistakes. We learn far more from ourselves than from our successes as Rudyard Kipling wrote. Shakespeare, the wisest writer of us all, taught us the value of self-knowledge.

Why am I pushing these thoughts? Because I now see clearly how everything that went wrong in my life, mostly from unforeseen events, inevitably led me down unexpected paths. Every one of them brought me the greater understanding I had been unknowingly searching for.

My husband wondered why I did so many things later in my life, such as writing and researching which brought me to my PhD. He did not understand that everything that I had brought into my life through my entrepreneurial ways was grist to the mill. The wider our interests are, the more arrows we can shoot from our bow.

These opening paragraphs are a preparation for my readers. After building up for the possibility for creating a string of poster shops which I intended to franchise, I lost all my money. I didn’t quite go bankrupt. I was left with a few thousand over. I had always promised myself that when I finished with my businesses I would take three months off to go round the world, or rather to those particular places I wanted to see. I learned a lot, despite my anxiety, because at the time I knew I might go bankrupt but at the end I didn’t. I will tell you all about it later.

When I came back to England I was again living in the same house with my husband. The feeling of freedom that overwhelmed me after years of working every Saturday and sorting out problems was very great. I still had my car and found that I was owed a few more thousand pounds and I was well equipped to begin my next career: running a private practice as a psychotherapist in a room of my own in Bob’s house.

I was then sixty-two. I had two grandsons by my daughter and I looked forward to watching them growing up. During those fifteen years I finally learned to be a professional artist and, best of all, a real writer. I have given up painting for the time being because I have several more books to write. I may never paint again, but it doesn’t matter. I have proved to myself that I am a real artist. My best works are portraits. I don’t know how long I shall live but that doesn’t matter. I am in reasonable health and I shall be working for the rest of my life. Everything I have done in my life has provided me with endless ideas in my favourite subject, people.

I agree with Alexander Pope: “The proper study of mankind is man.”



Signs Of Change

Quentin had been working for and with me for several years and never once did we clash. I knew one day he would decide to leave when he was ready. When he told me he was going I was both glad and sad: glad for him and sad for me. He had learned a lot about books and the way I ran a business and I had learned what it was to work in harmony with my own son.

This event increased my need to get away from Bob. I should have to do something. But what? I was still dithering about whether we should divorce or not. The time was now ripe. Kate was fourteen and the boys were grown up.

Both my sons had always loved motor bikes. As soon as each reached the age of seventeen they went out and bought one. They were mechanically-minded. Robin took his to pieces and put it together again. He got into difficulties at first but the next time he succeeded. I was constantly worrying about them when they were still at home . At such times the dark side of my vivid imagination came out in a negative way when they came home later than I expected. I could imagine all kinds of nasty accidents. I think of them as ‘ last case scenarios’. They were sometimes useful in business. I often changed my mind suddenly at the last minute, as when I decided not to go to Oxford and chose Cambridge instead.

I was delighted that Quentin had decided to start a business of his own. His wife was going to work in the office and he and two friends had shares in the business. They intended to build up a motor bike delivery service which covered a wide range in the South of England.

I was still uneasy about my sons’ love of motor bikes, but they had already had considerable experience and were well aware of the dangers. Quentin started by spending most of his time on cold-calling. He always knew how to talk to people and many businesses were in need of this kind of delivery service that they soon built up a clientelle. The business was successful. It was arduous work but they were all young and strong. Quentin and Lynne still had a band and occasionally went off to gigs. However the competition was so great that the chances of getting known well enough to make a good living was well nigh impossible. This avalanche of bands was launched into being by the huge success of The Beatles.

Quentin and Lynne were beginning to realise what a nomadic life they would lead if they became well-known. They asked themselves whether that was what they wanted and the answer was NO. Neither did they want to be chasing all over the place on motor bikes. The business went so well that after two or three years they sold out their shares for a good sum of money. They were now able to give up renting and put down a deposit on a house. During this time Quentin decided to teach himself about computers. Robin was doing the same. Their particular skill was the writing of programmes. Quentin now has his own company with a partner and a number of employees. Robin prefers to work on his own and most of his life that is what he has done.

Without Quentin and the way that the market was going I began to think about what I should do next: but what? Rents were rising and books were scarcer to find. Bob had learned more about the business and was running it fairly well with an assistant when I was away. I was still dithering with myself about whether or not we should divorce. Kate was now fourteen and the boys were grown up so I no longer had to worry about upsetting them. In any case, I felt we had done as much as we could do to get them launched into life. When I was away buying books, Bob was running our shop on his own with one assistant. We could both see that our stay there would come to an end, although it was still doing well-enough.

A large shop on King’s Parade, right opposite King’s College came on the market. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to take it on. If books were drying up, what about old prints? The site was perfect and there were two large windows which we could fill with enticing pictures.

I suggested to Bob that he should carry on with the bookshop as long as that was possible. He was seven years older than me and getting closer to his sixtieth birthday. He was looking forward to retiring. My ambition was as strong as ever. I never wanted to retire. I always loved the joy of finding something new and different to do. The tenant of the shop on King’s Parade had been there for a long time as a seller of antiques and jewellery. He also wanted to retire. I approached him to talk about the possibility of my taking over.

This happened at a time when a rented shop in a particularly good position could ask for a premium from the new tenant. To my horror, the sum I needed was much more than I could manage. Once again I took a risk. I borrowed the money from the bank.

At this time the number of summer visitors from abroad, as well as our own, to important cities like Cambridge, was increasing at a great rate. Another opportunity? Not exactly. We did very badly at first because we were only selling old prints and maps. I had employed a hard-working young lady who

had just finished at Art School. She told me about the sudden growth of interest in modern posters. Whole shops were opening up in London selling nothing else. It seemed everyone suddenly wanted posters, especially undergraduates. For the second time in my life I saved my bacon by switching what I sold.



Rosina Wachtmeister A Brilliant Discovery

When I got back from my holiday in Ireland I did exactly what the stranger had suggested to me. The flat was there as was predicted. It was part of a building society and the rent was reasonable. It was in Cambridge and not far from the centre. Rarely do I take advice, but so tired was I with not being able to make up my mind that I gave in and went ahead. Bob accepted my decision and I think it was a bit of a relief for him as well, although he did not want me to go. We had one of those amicable divorces. We agreed on everything. I gave back my half of the house and Bob gave me his share in the business.

The children accepted it as they had been aware of our difficulties. They loved us both and they wanted us to be happy.

I can’t say I was excited about the move but I knew it had to happen. We both needed to find out what this new arrangement would be like. Now I could make all the decisions in my business and trust only myself. Was I strong enough to manage it on my own? Of course I was. We got into a pattern, Bob and I, when we met regularly at his house. I could invite anyone I wanted to the flat and I did. I also had a small group of men friends but the thought of marrying again was anathema to me. My sense of family was as strong as ever on both our sides.

Bob looked after the bookshop for a bit longer and we were lucky enough to find a buyer for it as a going concern. Bob retired. I was busy building up the shop in King’s Parade and once I had changed it into a poster-shop things began to look up and I enjoyed doing exactly what I wanted to do without interference of any kind.

I kept a small number of old prints but nearly everything was new. The big windows glowed with colour. People began to pour in. Reps came in every week to show me their wares. I only bought what I liked, which was only a few and sometimes none at all. One particular rep was very pressing. He only had one idea in his head: “This is a good seller”. They were always the ones that I liked the least. I barely looked at them. I knew at once if I liked something or I didn’t. He said to me “You are the most arrogant woman I have ever met”. I laughed. He was describing himself, not me. I gave him short shrift.

One day a rep came in who was working for a Dutch business by the name of Verkerke. It was the best portfolio I had seen. They were very different from all the others. “Stop there!” I said. “That one is stunning!”

“That is by a new artist. No-one has bought any of hers yet.”

“I like the big one of the silver cat with an upside down mouse in its tummy. Give me six of them”

He was astounded. Why don’t you take one to try it out. It is very unusual.”

“That is why I like it” I said. “Give me six.”

I had four of them framed and I put them all in the most prominent position in the window. They sold in no time. I rang up the rep and asked him to come again. I ordered some of every design made by this artist. I asked him to find out her address. It turned out that she lived in a very old small village named Capena, near Rome. Her name was Rosina Wachtmeister. I wrote her a letter and asked if I could come to see her. I flew out to Italy as soon as she wrote back and said she would like to meet me.

I had never been to Italy before but I had a smattering of the language. She had adopted the name. She was born in Germany and brought up in Brazil and later moved to Italy.

If you look up her name on the internet you will find her striking work all over the place.

I gave her her first exhibition in England of original works. I loved them. There is no-one like her.

I still have a very big picture of hers that I bought at that time. It is one of my favourites.

Verkerke made her famous. I was the first one to recognise in this country just how unusually delightful her work is. This lady had been painting for years and had very little money when I first met her. Now her life situation is very different. But she still spends a lot of her time taking care of stray small animals.



A New Friend

I had often seen John, who was the manager of Deighton Bell, the bookshop opposite mine, but I had never spoken to him except to say “Hello!”. One day when I was going up to Edinburgh for a book fair I found myself standing on the railway platform at Peterborough with John. We were both waiting for the train to come in to take us north. We sat in the same carriage and started to talk. By the time we arrived at Edinburgh we were firm friends. This was very rare in my life. I was always looking for people who shared my interests and that indescribable something that enables strangers to get on well from the start. My small number of special friends always started like this.

I was the first “straight” woman friend he had ever had and he found it confusing for him to understand why he became so interested in me, especially since I belonged to what he called “the sex he wasn’t attracted to”. What he said annoyed me somewhat, but on reflection I laughed. After all, I had learned by now that men and women are capable of making friends without being sexually interested and vice versa.

John made me laugh and he was very well read. We spent two holidays together, one in the Scilly Isles and one in Ireland. We both loved the beautiful countryside, we went for long walks and we never stopped talking. He was a true friend and still is although we rarely meet.

I never stopped reading. I was finding out about psychotherapy and all the different kinds. I had developed my own version of speed-reading through learning my own technique for recognising what to read and what to gloss over. Above all others I found myself tuned in to the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung.

Through our friendship, he did two things that helped me forward in my state of confusion. He was undergoing a long term of psychoanalysis with a Freudian analyst. He knew I preferred Jung and he gave me the name of a friend who was a jungian therapist.

I thought in my innocence that it would help me to decide whether I should divorce or not. I got on very well with him and went to see him several times a week for seven years. I don’t really know what I got out of it except that he was my kind of person and we understood each other. What I learned was that, in the long term, we always have to decide for ourselves. I refused to lie on a couch and we spent much of our time laughing, one of the best healers.

The second thing happened on our Irish holiday. We were staying in a small hotel on a very small island. As we were returning from one of our walks, we saw a tall man unloading some fish from a rowing boat. He and his wife and daughter had arrived that day.

He invited us to his table to share the fresh fish he had caught. Afterwards he asked me to go out for a walk with him. He had been watching me over dinner. I never fail to notice such things unlike most people. Clearly he was intrigued by me. He said nothing for a while and then we sat down on a bench facing the sea.

Then he spoke: “What’s bothering you little lady?”. I burst into tears. He waited till I calmed down and then he said “I know a lot about people. I work with them. Tell me if you like.” So I did “I cannot make up my mind whether I should divorce or not.” He paused for a moment and then said some sensible things. “How old are you?” I told him. “You are fifty and a fine-looking woman. You may have happy times in the future with someone else.”

I told him I thought that would never happen. I had tried once or twice and I felt sure that I did not want to marry again. It was something in myself that I needed to sort out.

“Perhaps. You know best about that. But you must take some action. Don’t talk. I’ll tell you what to do. As soon as you get back from this holiday tell your husband at once that you want a divorce. Then buy a local newspaper and look for a flat. You will find one to rent. Then move out. Just do it. I want you to write and tell me when you have done so. I won’t reply. You will never see me again. I just want to know and more important, you need to know that I know.”

John was very curious when we returned from the walk. I told him what had happened. He laughed. “Oh yes. A good looking man tells you to do something and you believe it!”. The next day we left the island and the man we met came down to the shore to see us off. As we drew farther away from the shore He put his hands to his mouth and shouted out “DO IT NOW”.

When I got home I did everything he said. The flat was there ready. Luck or what? How could I know? But it was the right thing at the right time.