Simon Macbeth Roundhay had £100 to my name at the time. I went to MacDonald’s and bought a Big Mac Meal, sat down with my £97.20, change and pondered the future. I remember talking on the phone to my sister, panicking about what I would do if loads of people phoned me up the next day asking me to work. I didn’t want to turn anyone away and I wasn’t sure how I was going to choose which job to take.
If people were prepared to pay £11.50 an hour to an agency for me, then people would surely pay £8 an hour directly to me. That was a couple of quid more than I was already getting. I got some flyers made up, drew them all out myself by hand, made up a fantastic logo (which I was so proud of), and called my business Georgia Catering. I got the flyers printed up properly, along with some business cards. I stuck a flyer, a price list, and a business card in each envelope and wrote the addresses out by hand. It was early in January 1999 when the envelopes that contained my future landed on the welcome mats of all 148 Leeds nursing and residential homes I found listed in the Yellow Pages.
I was really worried that all 148 homes were going to phone me over the next two or three days and ask me to work for them. Two and a half months later, the phone finally rang. I should have been more worried about how I was going to survive the next three months, with just short of 100 quid in my pocket.
I remember really clearly how my living room was set out at this point. I had one of those old wooden writing bureau type desks you see in your Grandma’s house, which I used as an office. I kept everything in that bureau including the phone, which was connected to the business line that I’d had installed 10 weeks earlier. In that time, I’d forgotten the phone was there because it hadn’t rung once. I froze in the living room thinking, “Bloody hell the phones ringing. What do I do? Do I need to answer this phone?” I’d prepared myself 10 weeks earlier and had known exactly what I was going to say. I certainly wasn’t ready for the phone ringing now.
I opened the bureau, grabbed an old brown envelope and pen, brushed the dusty cobwebs off the receiver, and took the call from St Joseph’s Convalescent Home in Leeds, which was an old people’s home run by convent nuns. I answered the phone in a broken voice and barely heard a quiet female telling me that she had received my flyer. St Joseph’s required a chef to cook meals for a few days and that became my first booking.
I spent the few days at St Josephs before the phone rang again. This time, it was St Luke’s Nursing Home in Wakefield. I worked there about two months later, and a little later I got the third call.
I was in London when the third job came in. I was staying with my elder sister, Helen. I’d got my office landline diverted onto my mobile number and the caller wanted a chef on an ongoing basis, starting in a couple of day’s time. The phrase ongoing basis made my heart leap, as this would provide me with a steady income and an element of security, even if for a short time. I cut my stay with Helen short to take up the five day a week, 10.30 to 6.30 shifts at Elmwood, determined not to screw up the chance.
The first day I got there, I realised that I’d be working alongside someone else and my heart sank. In the two other homes I’d worked at, I’d been the only chef there and I could get on with it in my way. I didn’t want to work with someone else, as I knew they’d start to throw the orders around assuming that they were in charge because they’d been there longer. By this time, I knew what to do and what to expect when I walked into a nursing home. I knew I could cook the food and organise myself. I remember getting changed in the little room near the kitchen and I can’t describe how close I was to picking up my bag and walking out of there. There was something inside me that stopped me from walking away.
The other lad was also called Jonathan. He was around my age and it soon became apparent that I’d had nothing to worry about and he was a thoroughly decent bloke. He finished his shift at around three o’clock so I did the last three and a half hours on my own. There were plenty of breaks, nicely organised and it wasn’t difficult to come to terms with what was required. I enjoyed the work there immensely.
You can read chapter 12 here: http://www.simonmacbeth.co
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You can find out more about Simon Macbeths life, from being a child and growing up in Leeds, to where he is now. A successful, award winning, business owner and web designer that owns high ranking websites. He is active on Google+ and Facebook where he creates interesting content.
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