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.