Kathy Martin’s life story (11)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues
In time, Viv Bannister’s business grew enough for us to stop working out of her garage in Fairlight and we moved into premises in Stone Street, Hastings. By this time her sweaters range had increased to include mohair lined and quilted jackets, so we had several members of staff, whom I managed for Viv, in her absences at the various shows around the world.One of the people who worked with us, became a longer term friend, Jane Harrison, who was our sewing machinist and when Viv’s business folded, got her a job at Philips as the staff shop manageress. Over the years we got to know her and Roy, her husband, they were never great friends, but certainly good acquaintances.
As time went by, Viv asked me to accompany her to the trade shows; so went to Harrogate with her and really enjoyed the whole experience, selling our sweaters/jackets to the buyers etc. In time, also went to Dusseldorf, Milan, Osaka, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
All these trips were great fun, although very tiring and, unfortunately, we did not really get time to see very much, if anything, of the places.
However, on the first trip I made to Japan with Viv, we had a weekend between the two shows in Tokyo and Osaka and some of the members of the BKCEC (British Knitting and Clothing Export Council) were going to visit a pearl diving centre.
Viv and I always made these trips on the VERY cheap, often living on cup-a-soups etc in our rooms, however, one of the members, had a ticket and did not want to go, offered it to us. Viv had visited on a previous visit, so declined the offer, leaving it to me to go; really enjoyed the train journey through Japan to the pearl diving centre and found it very interesting to see the huge variety and colours of the pearls available.
The occasion I went to Dusseldorf, Germany, was whilst Viv and Andy were at a show in Milan. Went with Lynette, an attractive girl, who was to act as a model for the jackets etc.
When we arrived at our hotel, we were astounded to find that it was very plush, we had booked it through a travel agent in Hastings and had asked for a cheap B&B. I had to get in touch with Viv, as we did not have enough money to pay. We decided the best and only way out was to say that the travel agent in England was paying the bill.
One evening, after the show, we wanted a burger type meal and found a café with pictures of burgers etc in the window, however, upon entering we found all the food was in fact ice-cream shaped food (sausages, chips etc) but all made from ice-cream. We did not eat there!
Once, when we were in Hong Kong, one evening, left Viv alone in the hotel and went for a wander around Hong Kong. Went on the ferry between Hong Kong and the mainland, which was very cheap, and had a look around, saw several cheap restaurants etc, as a female on my own did not feel threatened or in any danger. Also, we went up the Hong Kong peak little railway; the view from the top was spectacular.
One evening we were asked to represent the BKCEC at a cocktail party at the High Commissioner’s flat (very sumptuous flat up on the peak) with incredible views across the harbour.
Talking of this, touching down at Hong Kong airport was quite amazing, as the airport was in the harbour and the plane flew level with flats on either side of the bay, very hair-raising!
On one of our trips, around the time of the Falklands war (end of the1980s), Viv and I were returning from a very disappointing sales trip to Japan, basically no one was ordering anything, when we touched down in Anchorage, Alaska. It was a brilliantly clear sky and the sky was an incredible shade of blue, having been cooped up in the plane, several passengers, like Viv and me, decided to go outside onto the balcony, WOW, the cold air was painful to breathe, we only stayed out there a very short time, apart from anything else, our coats were on the plane!
Something remembered very clearly was the first fax machine we got in the office. Saw it being demonstrated on Tomorrow’s World (BBC programme about new inventions) and found ours fascinating the fact that we could “have a conversation” (on paper) with Mr Ito, one of our buyers, in Japan. It enabled us to fax drawings of sweaters etc for him to see and order.
Also, during my time with Viv, became more proficient with computers. In fact we had a programme designed for us to keep track of a sweater/jacket whilst it went through the production process. By mid 1989 it was apparent that we could no longer stay in business, as the market for expensive knitwear had died.
Via a secretarial agency went to work at a solicitor’s (Durnford Ford) office, as a temporary secretary. My boss, Anna, was a lovely lady and we (Alistair and I) got quite friendly with her and her husband. After they left Hastings and went to live in the Midlands (can’t remember exactly where), went to see them for a BBQ one summer and they had adopted a baby girl from China.
In late 1989, Viv was honoured, due to her being awarded a prize for small businesses by the BKCEC, by a visit from Princess Anne, so we all got back together in the ex-premises in Cornwallis Gardens (we had moved there from Stone Street in 1988). We pretended that the business was still running! Luckily the premises where empty and the landlord was very accommodating! I was a bit nervous before she arrived, but she was a lovely lady, down to earth, and had obviously done her homework, as she asked very appropriate questions.
Left Durnford Ford, late 1989, and after a short temporary placement at another company, was sent as a temp to Philips Domestic Appliances factory, in the development department, as a secretary, and really enjoyed the whole place. So, when I had the chance to apply for the job on a full-time basis, leapt at it, even though it meant working mornings for development and afternoons for personnel.
Loved my job, which developed over the years to include organising a variety of projects and events for 600 employees. Arranged and organised various VIP visits, conferences and audits, both at the factory and sites across Europe.