No one has a monopoly on pain or suffering because we all have or will experience loss in our lives at some time or other. It may be a loss in monetary terms, the loss of a loved one or something else. Whatever, it leaves us with a sense of emptiness and despair because there seems no way back.
Personally, I have always found it more beneficial to forget the “what might have been” and focus on the “what can be!” But then I've always been an eternal optimist.
Certainly, some of us can deal with what life throws our way better than others. Personally, I believe that we should strive and strive again “so if we fail, we will fail while daring greatly!” The way we meet and deal with the travails of life and rise above them can mould our character and feed our soul.
One thing I, myself, have come to learn about life is no matter how tough the going gets or how long the journey may be, there is always an end to everything. The sun always rises in the morning as day follows night. Nothing is more certain!
Sure, we can cave in and accept our perceived lot but where does that get us? In accepting that we cannot change anything, we accept defeat from the start. This is a coward's way of dealing with disaster. I’d rather put up a heck of a struggle because we can only succeed in this life if we are willing to accept knockdowns along the way and get off the canvas again.
It’s not easy. It’s damn hard, in fact. Yet wars are never won by those that resign themselves to the ‘NOW’. Rather, they are won by those that know that the ‘NOW’ is merely a moment in time; the dark that comes before the dawn.
All of us have a divine destiny. We may not end up rich and famous but that's not really important. It's who we are that counts. This life of ours is not really about us. Rather, it's about what we do with our life, be it short or long, that helps others to achieve and be successful. In helping them, we ultimately help ourselves.
“It alright for you to talk!” some might say. “What do you know anyway?” Fair comment!
Let me tell you a story about someone I knew years ago in England. By the way, that man just happens to be I.
Many that have read my ramblings in the past may have assumed that I’m one of those persons that grew up with all the advantages, the benefits of a good education for one, and a solid career path for another. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I came from humble beginnings. I’m sure I have plagiarized that from somewhere but it sounds good so I’ll use it anyway!
I was born in a place called ‘The Mumbles’ which nestles on Swansea Bay in Wales. Its only claim to fame these days is that Catherine Zeta-Jones’ parents live there.
My schooling when I was young was “hit and miss” because my parents travelled around the country from pillar to post. When my father committed suicide in 1951 my mother moved us all, my older brother, my sister and me, to Deptford in London’s East End.
Long ago, Captain Cook sailed in the ‘Endeavour’ from Deptford on his first voyage of discovery around this dark and fearsome land we now call Australia. Trust me, Captain Cook, knew what he was doing when he left Deptford. I just regret that he never told everyone else to leave too. It’s not a place one wants to be in for too long.
In fairness to the Deptford of today, I revisited it 9 years ago and it has changed out of sight. Believe me, it had to because it was a slum when I lived there in the fifties and sixties
After living in the country, London in the fifties seemed grey and foreboding with its bombed ruins and shabby buildings. Children, however, are adaptable and it didn’t take long before we blended into our new environment.
Having the name ‘Francis’ and a rustic accent as well made me an instant target for the playground bullies that normally go on to become crims or bankers when they grow up. Same thing really but they just dress differently!
In such circumstances, you had no choice but to answer their threats with your fists. I, of course, copped many a beating but I also learnt an important lesson and it’s this! In life you must stand up for what you believe in even if you get bruised and bloodied in the process. That way you keep your self-respect and you earn respect.
Trust me, it’s not easy when some overweight thug is towering over you, threatening to tear your head off. I’ve found though that they bleed too when you whack them in the nose. In fact, deep down, many of these bully-boys are cowards at heart. But then bully-boys tend to be when push comes to shove!
When I arrived in London in 1952, it just happened to be the year of the “11 Plus” which was the road to oblivion for anyone that didn’t have a decent education. The “11 Plus” was an exam that they would give schoolchildren in England when they were eleven years old to assess whether they were suitably intelligent and worthy of being placed in higher education schools.
Nearly fifty-eight years has passed since that fateful day but I still remember it as though it were yesterday. Every question in that examination was written in ancient hieroglyphics. Later I found out that this so called dead language that I was trying to decipher was in fact nothing more than simple fractions, long and short-division, and undemanding essay assignments that a reasonably educated child of eleven would be expected to pass with ease.
Unfortunately, being anything but reasonably educated, as a result of living a nomadic life (7 schools) up to that point, I found the whole thing completely beyond my understanding. I also found myself some weeks later alone at the same school with only the “also-rans” for company. The “also-rans” were the bullies and the dullards that only had solid bone between their ears for company. They were good at sports though. You had to give them that.
It didn’t seem to matter then because football (soccer) filled my days and school was just something that was a mild irritant. Little did I realise at that time that there is always a price to pay for everything in life. The price of ignorance is paid for later when the only suitable employment you can find is work of the most menial kind for very little return. You are part of the driftwood that people pick up to burn. Your self-esteem suffers enormously when you find yourself in this position, believe me!
In England then, and probably they still exist now, were a series of books entitled, “Teach Yourself………..” I just happened to pick one up in a bookshop one day. I would have been about seventeen at the time. It was a book about maths. In fact, it was called, “Teach yourself Mathematics.”
Suddenly the figures that were a complete mystery before were now, or so it seemed, dancing off the pages. They were no longer hieroglyphics, but rather symbols and meanings that my brain was able to translate and process. What had seemed dull and uninteresting at school was now alive, momentous, exciting.
It was then that I realized that I wasn’t quite the idiot I thought I was. Rather, it was the way I had been taught and the lack of opportunity to further my education that had been the factors holding me back.
I found new worlds opening up before me as my thirst for knowledge increased. I was like a kid with a new toy as I absorbed everything I could find. Prospero was alive and well. Today, I still get a kick out of learning something new that adds to one’s understanding of the world we inhabit. But that is now so I’ll return to then.
Esoteric subjects such as Mathematics, English, history, geography, art, philosophy, science, and all those other wonderful seats of learning that I had previously found empty became suddenly available to me as a young man, and more importantly, they were comprehensible.
Education opens up doors of opportunity that are firmly locked without it. Knowledge is the key that turns the lock but it is never enough. That’s why the world is full of educated derelicts that never make that next step which is the willingness to apply that knowledge.
I quickly rose from breaking bottles in the wine cellars of the Trust Houses in Drury Lane, and found work as a shipping clerk. Working in a shipping office on the Thames, some ten minutes from home, at the age of twenty-three, was quite a step up from what I had been doing. Anything was! However, I wasn’t happy! Certainly, I had come a long way from breaking bottles in the Trust Houses for a living, but the challenge just wasn’t there in the work I was doing. I longed for fresh horizons.
We had a Mr. Porter that was the General Manager of the Company I worked for at the time. He had a fearsome reputation for being a “hard man” and no one had the temerity to ask him for anything, particularly the junior clerks that inhabited the infernal regions beneath his office.
I therefore knocked on his door one day with a certain amount of trepidation. Standing there, I knew how Oliver Twist must have felt.
“Well!” He said, when I finally made my way over to his desk. ”What can I do for you?”
This was a man that I had never spoken to and didn’t even know my name. He probably didn’t even know I had existed until then either.
I explained to him with a thumping heart that I felt that I had more to offer. Of course, in those days, I probably sounded like a mouse squeaking for more cheese!
When I finally left his office, my colleagues downstairs were waiting for me. Gleefully they asked, “What happened?” “Did he fire you?” “Did he give you any more money?”
I could only stare at them in amazement.
“He’s just made me the Manager of the Forwarding Department in Bourverie Street!” I stammered.
“But what do you know about managing a freight department?” they asked.
“Nothing!” I responded but I couldn’t wait to learn.
One door in my life had closed and another one had opened
I realized years later that I got this job, not because I was any brighter than anyone else, but rather because I had the nerve to ask!
And so my career in international freight forwarding and management began. It required a lot of hard work, dedication and the appropriate qualifications, but that was no problem because ambition is a wonderful motivator. My career would eventually lead me to work overseas in Germany, NSW and WA in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, but that all lay in the future.
In 1972 when my career was blossoming, and I thought I had it made, I met a girl in London that was returning to Australia with her family. She wanted me to go back with her so I had a big decision to make.
On the way to work one morning on a train, I watched the sun rising over Southwark Cathedral and thought, nothing will ever change unless I made it happen. This was to be a reoccurring theme throughout my life.
By the time I arrived at work I had made up my mind!
I paid my ten pounds (yes, I’m one of those Poms!) and I was on my way. Okay! It wasn’t quite that simple, but I did finally emigrate to Australia in October 1972. When I arrived in Sydney I had to start again at the bottom in my industry but that’s the price one pays for love.
Another door closed and another one opened.
For one reason or another, I never did marry the girl but moving to Australia was the best thing I ever did in life. It was everything I imagined it to be.
In Sydney I worked my way back up the management chain and was eventually transferred to Western Australia in 1975 to take up a position as State Manager. Whilst living in Perth I met a girl and married her in 1977. Unfortunately, that marriage never lasted. My fault, not hers! Wherever she is in this world of ours, I wish her well.
I was eventually posted to Manila as the General Manager of the company's Philippines operations.
Another door closed and another one opened.
By then I had worked my way up the management chain again, to the top, in fact. I had a wonderful job, a company house, maids, a company car and a chauffeur to drive me around. I thought I was the bees-knees at the time. I probably was!
It’s a funny thing though! Just when you think you’ve got it made, life has a way of coming back and biting you in the bum. Remind me to bend over for you one day so you can see all the scars on my backside
In Manila one night whilst entertaining clients that had flown in from Singapore, I had a heart attack. I was just forty-one at the time!
There is nothing that focuses the mind quite like a near death experience. All that happened before that moment suddenly didn’t seem to matter anymore. Being a workaholic had destroyed my marriage, and had ruined a few other relationships along the way. I quickly decided that I wasn’t about to spend the little time I thought I had left working my butt off for the shareholders. So I returned to Western Australia and did what any sensible male would do. I went bush for six months looking for gold.
I didn’t find any yellow metal but I had a wonderful adventure that I wouldn’t otherwise have had, all things being equal. What’s more, I found something more precious than any gold! My health!
Looking back on that crazy period in my life, I made every mistake that it is possible to make out there and survive. I ran out of petrol between Wittenoom and Port Headland, I bogged down in a dry river bed, 70 ks outside Marble Bar, I nearly fell down a mine shaft, God knows where! I almost got bitten by a snake, I nearly got lost, and I found myself with two cartons of tinned food at one stage but no tin opener. When I open my mouth now, you can still see the tin embedded in my gums! Crocodile Dundee, eat your heart out!
Am I colouring this a bit! I’ll leave it for you to figure this one out!
Whatever, I survived, be it more by good fortune than by good judgement. What’s more, my heart still continued to beat despite my exertions.
What to do now, I thought when I finally decided that I wasn’t really cut out to be another trailblazer.
England beckoned so I packed up and went back to visit the old dart again before the Grim Reeper finally caught up with me. Some eight months later he still hadn’t made his appearance, and I found myself running out of money. This wasn’t working out according to plan, I thought, because I was very much alive. Back I came to Oz and worked in Sydney for a while.
Another door was closing and another one was opening.
It was during this time that I did some work for the Government which I found interesting and also enlightening. Trying to incorporate private sector thinking and methodology into the public sector is somewhat akin to asking the BOQ in North Ward, Townsville for a housing loan that was “above board”. In practice, it just doesn’t work!
It was during this period that I was offered a position as the General Manager for the Brambles-Steamships Joint Venture in Papua New Guinea so I was off overseas again.
Another door was closing and another one was opening.
I would probably have worked overseas until I retired if fate hadn’t intervened once again. On the way back abroad after taking annual leave one year, I stopped off at my mother’s place in Brisbane. She was eighty-five then and it was obvious that she was not well. She had a touch of dementia and had become frail. I, of course did what all dutiful sons would do in the circumstances! I stuck her in a home and prepared to return to PNG.
Funny thing though! When I went to see her that last time, I couldn’t do it. Here was a woman that had looked after me through my youth, had given me all that she could, and as mother’s do, had given me unconditional love as well. Now I was about to leave her in a lonely place, alone, and forgotten.
There was a woman in the next bed to my mother and she kept screaming all the time. I think her screams really made my mind up for me!
Turning back as I reached the door, I saw the look in my mother’s eyes, one of resignation. My mother was a stoical Irish woman that never asked anyone for anything because she was fiercely independent. I knew that she would never ask me to stay, because she did not want to hold me back.
She had waved goodbye to me so many times during the course of my life and I knew that once I passed through that door, it would be her final goodbye to me.
“Com’on Mah! We’re going home!”
The smile on my mother’s face still remains with me today! Yet, when I said it, I knew then that my decision would finish my career forever. So it was to prove.
Another door was closing but the door beyond was firmly locked this time and the key was nowhere to be found.
I looked after my mother at home for some 6 years until she died in 1996. Looking back it was the best decision I ever made. It was also the right one. Another important lesson in life that I have come to learn is that you cannot hope to achieve happiness in this world if you walk over the backs of others to obtain it. This is not what life is all about although there are some that think otherwise.
During that hiatus in my life, I wrote a book called ‘THE THIRD SECRET’. Again, it was something that I always wanted to do, but never had the time to actually sit down and complete.
After my mother died, I moved to Woodridge in Brisbane where Helen just so happened to have her shop I would pop in to use her fax in the shop from time to time in order to contact book publishers around the world and the rest as they say is history. That was in 1997.
The next door had finally opened!
In 2003 Helen and I bought one half of the shopping centre where her shop was located. We sold the shop in 2005 and sold our interest in the shopping centre in 2007.
It’s a strange experience to have a million dollars in your hand. Unencumbered at that! Our futures appeared assured.
Yes, we felt very fortunate indeed. The journey had been long and hard for both us but we had come through.
We did some research and thought that Storm Financial offered us what we were looking for – a safe investment and a steady growth that would provide an inheritance for Helen’s children and grandchildren.
We then went off to the UK and Europe for 93 days from April to July 2008. During that time, we stayed in London and I made a point of going back to Deptford where I once lived. The house I lived in was gone, and a park now occupied that space. My old school had been closed up and the place where I worked on the Thames had also been closed down. Mr. Porter no longer reigned supreme there although his ghost may still haunt those empty buildings yet. Nothing in life ever stays the same, nor do people for that matter.
One day, whilst on holiday, I found myself walking past the Trust Houses in Drury Lane where I worked as a lad of sixteen breaking bottles for a living. As I meandered down Drury Lane that day, I reflected back on the many doors that had opened in my life and what I had found when I stepped through them. There were no more doors now, or so I thought, and I was truly looking forward to gazing out in my old age upon Shangri-La - a place that offered peace and happiness.
I failed to notice however that STORM clouds were gathering overhead and my future was anything but secure. The biggest door lay before me, yet to be opened, and all those doors that had proceeded it were just a side-show to the biggest challenge of all.
To understand what lay ahead of us, you will have to read my books 'PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY' and 'I ACCUSE'. You will then understand how we lost $1.6 million Australian dollars in 15 months. Shit happens! It's how you handle it when it comes your way that makes all the difference.
I do believe that we all have a singular destiny. We might duck and weave, twist and turn, but we cannot avoid what life has in store for us. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should accept what life dishes up as final. If it is not acceptable, then send it back!
Until we breathe our last breath nothing is over for us, and even then, who knows!
“And so it is written, and so it shall be!”
Nah! I don’t go along with that! God didn’t put any restrictions on us or preordain how we will live our life. Rather he (or she) has been saying to us since the moment of our birth, “Nothing is written until you write it!”