On the way home I stopped off in Ilford and bought myself a new suit from Next. Expensive, but it fitted well and looked the bollocks. Once home I quickly packed an overnight bag, kissed the wife and headed off to Rugby.
Gary had given me the address on a small scrap of paper. “Coton House, Rugby. Come off at Junction 1 of the M6 and it’s on your right hand side. It’s signposted!”
Not much to go on, but after travelling for the best part of two hours I found it easily.
Coton House was impressive. A Grade 11 listed Country Manor House with hundreds of acres of grounds. The Post Office had purchased it back in 1970 and it was used as their Management Training College.
I parked the Chevette in one of the large car parks within the grounds, it looked out of place among the BMW’s and Mercedes. I gathered up my things and walked into the building. There was a small reception area and a smiling middle aged woman greeted me.
“Hello Sir, what’s the name?”
I wasn’t used to being called Sir. I liked it.
I gave her my name and said I was from London Sales. She ran her finger down a piece of paper and found me.
“Ahh yes. Here we are. You’re in Room 17 on the first floor. Have you been to Coton House before?”
“No. It’s my first time.”
“No problem Sir. Dinner is served in the restaurant just along the corridor in the restaurant from 7.00pm – 9.00pm. The small bar in the lounge opens at 5.00pm but the main bar in the games room doesn’t open until 7.00pm.”
She’d said the magic words. “Bar and Games Room” I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I thanked her and made my way up two flights of stairs and found my room. It was small but cosy, just a desk, a table and chair, a single bed and an en-suite toilet and shower. It was 5.30 so I thought it was about time I went and found the lounge and more importantly…the bar.
The main lounge was enormous. Full of large armchairs, leather sofas and coffee tables. There were about twenty or thirty well dressed people sitting around drinking coffee and chatting. I spotted the bar, walked up and ordered a pint. Of course it was subsidised and cost next to nothing.
Garry had said there would be about a dozen of us on the course, I was assuming we’d all be around the same age so started looking for people of my own age who were on their own. I spotted a guy about twenty five sitting on a sofa with a cup of coffee. He looked out of place so I approached him.
“Hi mate. Sorry to bother you but are you here for the PSA course?”
He looked relieved.
“Yeh, came up early this afternoon. This place is amazing!”
The ice was broken and we started talking. He was from Croydon and new to the job and like me had no idea what to expect. It turned out we were the only two that had come up the night before. Everyone else was coming up in the morning.
We had a couple of pints then headed to the restaurant for dinner. It was like a five star hotel. We were escorted to a table and given a menu. This was no carvery, no self service, no buffet…this was silver service. A young waitress handed us a menu and we both played it safe by ordering the steak. Twenty minutes later our food arrived and we were tucking into our steak and chips, washed down with a good bottle of red. We had to pay for the wine but once again it was subsidised. We were just two young lads from London enjoying the high life.
After dinner we headed for the games room. It was an additional building built in the grounds of the manor house. There was a long bar, a pool table, a dart board and table tennis.
At 10.30 we were both a bit wobbly. Time for bed. Big day tomorrow.
I slept well and was up and back in the restaurant at 7.30. This time it was buffet. I had everything. Eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and something called hash browns. I’d never heard of them before, but boy did they hit the spot.
My new mate Steve came down at 8.00am. He looked a bit worse for wear. But a good breakfast soon sorted him out. Our course was to start at 9.00am prompt.
The lovely receptionist told us that our course was in Room D. On the ground floor. I had on my new suit, blue shirt and yellow silk tie. Yep, I looked like a Sales Rep.
There were only eight of us on the course. Six guys and two girls. The ages ranged from twenty three to thirty five. Our trainer was a bulldog of a man called Graham. He was short, stocky and seemed to have no neck whatsoever. He wouldn’t have looked out of place in the front row of the England Rugby team. But he was a gentle giant.
We started by standing up one at a time and introducing ourselves. When my turn came I simply said. “My names Joe. I’m a Butcher from East London who’s somehow found himself working for the Post Office, staying in a luxury hotel and learning how to sell parcels.”
The entire room laughed and I felt instantly at ease.
Graham was a brilliant tutor. He told us what was expected of us and how it was down to US to transform the old style Sales Force. We were the future. At the end of the day we were visited by the smartest man I’d ever seen. He looked like a film star. His navy blue double breasted suit was immaculate and was obviously made to measure. He was over six feet tall, jet black hair with a small black manicured moustache. He oozed confidence and charm. His voice was deep and warm.
“Good afternoon everyone. My name is John Fowler and I’m head of Sales and Marketing training here at Coton House. Some of you in this room will go on to become Sales Reps and even Sales Managers so you might be seeing a lot of me in the future. I’ve been recruited to transform this business, modernise it and take it forward into the twentieth century. Some people won’t want to be part of it and they’ll fall by the wayside. But for those of you who do want to be a part of it, I can promise you one thing. You’re in for the ride of your life!”
After that short, motivational speech, he left the room.
I drove home pumped up and ready to go. Stan and Bill were in for a rude awakening…