I worked for Deborah Meaden’s company for about a year.
I moved to the offices in Exeter, having convinced my manager at the holiday camp at Brixham that I needed some experience in how the company operated for a university project. It was nonsense; there was no project, but I was tired of cleaning chalets, and saw no harm in pretending.
People believed that I was on a placement, and it was interesting to experience the freedom that brought. There was no job interview, I got to choose my wage – no-one really knew what I was doing. I could get away with walking around the office with a clipboard, nodding at people.
When I did work, I was effective, and I sold a reasonable amount of holidays. It was sometimes a tad disheartening, when I had encouraged an elderly couple to upgrade to the “deluxe” cabins, and in turn pay the company an extra thousand pounds.
Having cleaned those cabins myself, I knew the only differences was wooden floors instead of stained carpets, there was a bowl of pot pourri, and some plastic fruit. Oh and a sea view, and not the back of another chalet. But really, the sea is just a bit of blue. It soon loses any meaning.
I was driving a metro, and was keen to upgrade to a Rover 25. I just needed a few sales that would cause a spike to be seen in the stats that pointed to my chair. I would take as many customer complaints as I could, I would bring in donuts, make people coffee. I knew how to manipulate people. I wasn’t prepared for Meaden though.
When I first met her, she had a banarama bob. She told me that I looked dashing, which was impossible to believe, because I had recently got my hair straightened, and looked like Chesney Hawkes.
Every week, she called someone different into her office for a chat. Often they would leave crying. It must have been the fifth or sixth week I was buzzed in. She had recently renovated the space – at some considerable cost, to make her office 60 cm higher than the rest of the floor.
She told me that she had noticed my biting determination, and that I was young – unnecessarily subdued. There was something in me – she said, something that could be harnessed.
She closed the blinds in her office, and locked the door. I bit my lip as she ran her fingers over the top of a cabinet. She opened it and took out a book.
“Can I trust you?” she said.
I nodded as she placed the book in front of me.
She sat back down, gesturing for me to open it.
I opened the first page. It was a picture of Fiona Bruce in the bath.
I was confused.
The second page, Fiona Bruce – again, this time riding a horse.
Sweat began to drip down my forehead. Every page, Fiona Bruce in a different pose.
I was dizzy.
This was too much, I wasn’t ready.
Meaden’s tone changed as she saw my anxiety grow. She slammed the book shut.
A week later, my employment was terminated.