THE PROMISED FIRST CHAPTER

PROLOGUE

‘Hello. Stevie Bellingham here. I’ve an appointment with Tony Frogmore.’

‘Hello.’ She called. Louder. And again. Still no response.

Weird. If I was so minded I could run off with all the art works in the gallery. Nobody would know. Where’s Frogmore for goodness’ sake?

CHAPTER 1

Irritation replaced the euphoria Stevie had enjoyed at seven-thirty that morning. Under the shower shortly after her early morning run around the lanes near her cottage, she’d sketched a celebratory high five. That bastard Andreas hadn’t once sneaked into her mind since waking.

She’d managed her early morning run without his curdling her brain and had even eaten her breakfast fruit without recalling he did not like kiwis.

Andreas: he of the challenging brown eyes, of the instant smile. He, whose touch she knew could still send delicious tremors through her.

He whom she’d finally kicked out when she could no longer stand his belittling comments. Or his constant attempts to take absolute control over her life.

He, who had stolen her money and used it to fund his own dreams, leaving her broke and in debt. He, despite all, whom she feared she still might love.

Six months of wallowing in despair, drinking too much and cutting off contact with all her friends had taken its toll. She had been left physically and mentally bereft.

But worse than that he had turned her innate trust of people into a sceptical disillusionment, one which now coloured every aspect of her life.

Since she’d thrown him out she’d managed to pay her way, managed to keep up payments on the mortgage, but every month it had become harder. Now, even though her bank balance was almost back in the black again, her life had become one of scrimping and fear of losing everything.

If she could land the job she was being interviewed for today it would bring financial peace of mind back into her life – and maybe then she might be in a position to live again.

‘You sound as if your background and skills are exactly what I’m looking for.’ Mr Frogmore, the owner of the new gallery in Beverley had said ‘I realise you have never actually worked in a gallery before, but you are an artist yourself. That surely means you will understand more than I do about the creative side of things. Come in for a chat and we’ll see how we get on’.

As a professional artist, Stevie’s pictures sold well. It must be said, though, still at a price only sufficient to support a meagre lifestyle. Her bank account was only now recovering after she’d kicked Andreas out. It had been a while before she’d learned how often he’d ‘borrowed’ her bank card during those final months.

And an even worse blow was how, as a goodbye gesture, he’d raided her wallet on the day he left, taking its contents to the last penny.

Her own fault she’d admitted when the overdraft letter from the bank arrived. For months she’d never bothered checking her statements, Instead she’d lived on cloud nine, totally enthralled in what she’d imagined was a permanent love affair. A perfect idyll – a pastoral shared life. Her with her painting, he turned small-holder, mini-farmer ……. She must have been mad.

So here she was. Saturday Market. Beverley. The addess of the new gallery.

No problem at this early hour in finding a parking spot close to it. She slid the Mini between two delivery vans alongside the newly refurbished bandstand with its spire gleaming white in the sunlight. The vans would soon be on their way. In the next half hour, she knew, all the large vehicles would be gone, leaving the square pedestrianised and crowded with tourists adding their melting pot of multinational accents to the local Yorkshire dialect.

As she flicked off her seat belt the bells of St Mary’s Church, not far away in the nearby Georgian Quarter, chimed out the hour, confirming she’d made good time.

Ever since she was a young girl and her father had brought her here each Saturday she had loved it. Especially on those days when it was filled with its namesake market stalls.

They had bought cheeses and crusty bread from the Italian baker and bell peppers and kiwi fruit which she loved more than any. And juicy black olives and farm bread chicken which they would cook back at the cottage if the weaher was good on the brick built barbeque her father had designed himself. How easy it was to fall into reminiscing.

The appointment was for a quarter past nine. ‘Good going Min. We’ve a few minutes to spare. A little deep breathing I think. Wish me luck. I’ll certainly need it. Now to get a parking ticket. Don’t want a fine.’ A wry smile. Had things got so bad she’d even started talking to the car?

Walking to the ticket machine gave her ample time to enjoy the square. On Saturday it was filled with market stalls selling local produce, hardware, luxury goods, and everything in between from picture framing to beauty products and dog food.

Today, without the market, she was able to see the whole area of the square and reflect on the multitude of public houses still serving Beverley. They reminded her that this was a town built when horses provided the only means of transport, when the hostelries not only provided food and lodgings for the human travellers but also sustenance for the horses. No wonder a national newspaper had desribed Beverley as one of the best places to live in the whole of the UK.

Back at the car, parking ticket in hand recalling the reason for her being here, her stomach lurched. Uncomfortably. Many moons had risen since she had last been interviewed. Interview. The word unleashed bad memories of those meetings with college tutors when her work had seemed never good enough to please them. At the thought of their derogatory comments her fragile confidence began to crumble. It took only a moment before Andreas picked up the reins and led her to the top of the slide.

It did not take much these days to put her on the downward track. As from nowhere a feeling of apprehension flared in her mind. It seemed the very buildings bordering the square mocked her. How could she even imagine the gallery job could be hers?

Her gaze swept across the cobble stones. Right. Left. The Cafes …… all around the Saturday Market again. This time it seemed she searched friendly support. But it was too early yet for the local shoppers or tourists to arrive.

Too early also for the tempting aromas of cooking which later in the day would filter out from the numerous restaurants and various cafes. Each wanted visitors to sample their menus and tried at this early hour to entice workers to buy a take-away as they wended their way to offices and shops.

Her mouth watered. No time for that now. Instead she promised herself a cappuccino if she got the job. The thought seemed to do the trick of ridding her of her doubts.

‘And a large slab of chocolate cake to go with it,’ she added showing a bravado she did not feel. Taking care over the cobbles this time she prepared to face her fate.

The reality of her dwindling bank balance drew her onwards to the window of the Frogmore gallery. Nothing more.

Like a lamb to the slaughter she was unaware of what lay ahead. Certainly no capuccino or chocolate cake.

AM I REALL Y A WORKHORSE AT HEART?

New projects. New ideas. New agendas. New commitments. New experiments. New ways of working. Some might say I am too old to even think of such things or even that I am stupid even to imagine I might succeed in achieving some of my dreams. Let me say, as you might guess I would, that you are never too old to dream. And what is the use of dreaming if you do not take actions to at least make some effort to achieve them.

Maybe what has inspired me has been observing the GB Olympians on television and learning what they have had to do to achieve a place on the team – let alone ensuring they reach an optimum pitch of fitness at exactly the right time.

Or maybe, closer to home and more in line with my own state of unfitness, it has been my diving deeper again into mental stimulation. This is something I have missed during recent years since ‘retiring’ and though I have continued to write and to paint I have missed the giving and taking, the exchanging of ideas, even the conflicts which sometimes arise when working in a group.

Since returning to the UK some five years ago, after 21 years in France, I at first found myself friendless and with most of the contacts in my address book either emigrated, dead or at best moved on to new locations. Research located a painting group with which I joyfully made contact and in which it is my pleasure to participate. For a couple of years this has satisfied my artistic needs.

  But still something was missing. To a certain extent I found stimulation in reading – literature, management development, psychology, personal development and so on. I looked at Facebook, Twitter, Streetwise and various other media sites all to no avail. Most of the writing contact groups left me feeling dis-satisfied until I came across that organised by John Yoeman whose personal unbiased criticisms, delivered in a chatty and amusing manner, turned out to be exactly what I needed. Sadly a few weeks ago John died suddenly. Again I lost a mentor and a good friend.

  Three days ago I fell by accident on a book written by Cal Newport entitled Deep Work. This I have almost read and its somewhat academic style turns out to be the thing I most need right now. The book provides comment on the manner in which many people across the whole spectrum of occupations, and life in general, have succeeded in achieving their dreams – on a personal front as well as in their career.

The book provides a blueprint which helps anyone, at whatever stage in life and with whatever dreams, to develop their own manner of achieving objectives.

Setting up a realistic plan is a starting point followed by such strategies as adopted by successful Olympians, Writers, Artists, Business People, Entrepreneurs, Gardeners – in fact almost anyone who has a dream. It suggests we consider the tools we use in our search in the same manner as did the craftsmen and women of earlier times. A master builder would use only the best equipment he could afford. Likewise someone designing a text written on parchment would ensure the quill used was superior.

Since reading the book my dreams have been revised. My plan is on paper though I still need to address some of the suggested rules, and to implement the tips. My mental muscles are being challenged once more.

This is not something to take up for the faint hearted, but if somebody is really committed it is not to be ignored. I truly believe the book could change lives.

Will it change mine? So far I have arrived at this. Objective number one….stay alive. And below this main objective.

a. Make sure I take my medicines regularly – arteries, heart, thyroid etc

b. Ensure I attend all my medical appointments – blood tests,  dressings, clinics and consultants, diabetics, eye checks.

 c. Eat healthily- low carbohydrates because of diabetes.d. Move as much as possible without chair and scooter.

d.  Sleep when I can  and …….

In the meantime I will continue following the advice of Cal Newport and try to take charge of the remaining hours in my days.

Good luck. Let me know how you go on.

WE CAN MAKE OUR DREAMS COME TRUE.

Here we go, better late than never. Happy 2015 to everyone. I have not been idle since the 1st of January but have been taking time out to learn a new computer programme to aid my writing – Scripter – which I feel sure will prove tremendously useful once I have mastered it. At the moment it is still something of a mystery and taking up too much of my time. 

 Additionally I have spent time in dreaming about what I would like to achieve during this coming twelve months, something I have enjoyed doing at the start of every new year since my early days. I write these objectives down and whilst I say dreaming I actually mean meditating because these objectives have to match what I really want from the rest of my life however long or short this may be.

Many moons ago, when I managed my own consultancy, Kay Smith Associates, and at the same time setting up Women in Enterprise a charitable organisation, I worked with large and small companies and those just hoping to set out. All had similar dreams. How could they achieve success? All set out business plans in writing and many which could be further expressed passionately in words. But those who succeeded in the end were those who TURNED WORDS INTO ACTIONS.

Okay we are probably not setting up a new business though we may be attempting to run one. Nevertheless we can still set out objectives because in many ways life is very much akin to a business.

We need to passionately desire to succeed in something – even if it is to merely live life to the full as much as we are able whilst taking account of our mental and physical abilities. Maybe we need to make contact with other people rather than waiting for them to come to us. Maybe we need to take up a new hobby rather than sitting at home counting the tiles on the kitchen wall. Maybe …….it will be different for everyone.

During those years when I was running courses in Management Development I quickly began to realise many of the changes my trainees needed to make were, in fact, based in personal development rather than management techniques. What I am saying here is that they needed to learn how to manage themselves as well as the business. They needed to realise that the uppermost challenge in their lives was to take responsibility for themselves.

Even after all these years – at the age of eighty-two – I am still searching for means to improve myself and in doing so to improve my life. I am registered disabled but this does not prevent me from making the most of every hour in every day. I don’t believe I am exceptional in this as I see excellent role models around me every where I look. I would advise others who are taking the path of personal responsibility to similarly become more aware of the lessons others can teach them.

I have had many people whose advise has helped me along the way even though sometimes they had not realised they were doing so.

At school my biology teacher whose calm and un-flustered approach to dealing with a group of unruly students ensured they achieved top marks in her subject. She did not try to control even the most difficult but sought to understand what made them behave in such a manner by letting them know she understood their frustrations. When she left she was replaced by a teacher who sought to dominate everyone by seeming to accept it was sufficient to utilise what power she felt her status bestowed upon her. Marks dropped

I have met managers in many companies who use this approach; trying to intimidate their juniors and then wondering why they do not work as hard as they felt they should.

I learned from Stan Lloyd and Stan Dollimore, both artists, that to succeed you do not have to consider what other people think about you even when your dreams might seem to others to be unachievable. If you aim for the mountain top and get only half way you will at least have a better view than if you had stayed in the valley below. And just think of all lessons you will have learned on the way.

My advice to anyone seeing to achieve anything in their life is to study the methods and beliefs of people they admire. Look at their personalities and the way in which they treat others. I doubt any of us would wish to succeed at a cost to others.

At least I would hope so. What is that ancient saying? Do as you would be done by. It is still relevant today.

Even though I am no longer running courses aimed at personal development I still try to keep up to date with new ideas and developments and constantly try to utilise these in my own development. In earlier years it was Dale Carnegie and Tony Buzan whose books stimulated my thoughts. Then came Cary Cooper who seemed to hit the nail on the head. He once gave me good advice though he was talking about how he went about publicising a new book. It seemed to me that the idea could equally apply to how to we approach any project in life. First dream, then tell someone else of what you are going to do to achieve it. Later tell them how you are getting on with it and keep them updated on your progress. Eventually, when you achieve that dream tell the world – but not in a boastful way – and do not rest on your laurels. Dreams we share with others are more likely to be achieved than those we keep locked away as ‘maybe I could’ in our own minds.

So what are my major dreams this year? I will finish the book I am currently writing and it will be printed. Also I will a complete a couple of short stories I have been dreaming about.  And I will paint a masterpiece either in oils or in watercolours – a new medium which I am taking lessons in at the moment. And I will finalise our family tree a project which I have been working on for several years and which has progressed during last year.

What do I need to do to achieve this? I need to be more focussed, less lazy and easily diverted, and to carry on reading texts aimed at self improvement.

I would love to hear ideas from anyone who reads this about their dreams and ambitions.