You may find this hard to believe, but at one time in my career I was 3 weeks away from leaving publishing. It was February 1991 and I was employed at then Random Century (soon to be renamed Random House) as Group Permissions Controller. I’d been there for 5 months after being made redundant from Andre Deutsch. I took the job in the belief that Random House had at least 6 sales teams and that a vacancy would come up soon that I could apply for, but within that 5 month period RH had halved their number of sales forces, along with most of the other newly formed conglomerates or buy ins or reshuffles (Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Paul Hamlyn’s Octopus) and all I could see was a shrinking industry. It was hard to believe that 14 months earlier I was Chairman of the Society of Young Publishers, then the youngest person ever to hold the chairmanship (a record I understand I still hold today) and had been tipped for a huge bright career within the industry. So I had been looking elsewhere at expanding markets rather than the diminishing one of traditional book publishing, and I had decided to train as a fitness instructor.
At the time, I was going to aerobics 4 times a week and playing football (well, attempting to kick a ball around with Leyton Orient Ladies Reserves) on Thursdays, so I already had the fitness and the interest. I’d sought out the best course – a full time course at the North East London Poly (Now UEL) which lasted 7 weeks and I had engaged the support of both my parents, who had pledged to provide for me until I was back on my feet, so to speak. The date had been set for my interview for the course and assessment and I was so excited as I went off to football training that night.
It was such a fabulous kick-around, even though I was playing out of position in defence. My favourite position is always playing wide on the right – my football skills are non-existant, but my fitness has always been there. On a one-on-one, when chasing an opponent for a ball, I will always get there first. I won’t know what to do with the ball when I get it, but I will always get there first! So there I was in defence, I look over, no one else is back, ball is crossed to the other side of the field, I run over to chase it, go to clear it and mis-kick, swinging around on one leg. Instant sharp pain, which I didn’t think much of at the time. The whistle blew shortly after and we all went home.
24 hours later I couldn’t walk on my left leg and I was on the phone to the physio at Dagenham FC (pre-merger) asking if he could see me in his sports injury clinic. The news wasn’t good. I’d sprained my lateral ligament and was told to lay off everything for 6 weeks… including the physical part of my assessment at NELP. ouch. OUCH.
I went to the interview, passed the written exam and the interview, but they wouldn’t agree to take me until I had passed the physical and advised me to reapply when I was fit enough to take the course.
The most painful thing was that a week later I was picked to play for Leyton Orient Ladies Reserves in a 5-a-side game. My mum took the call and it took her 2 days to tell me that they had phoned and that she had told them I wasn’t going to be playing for a few weeks.
By the time the injury had healed I had got a fab new job with Bill McCreadie at Aurum Press and had decided that doing Fitness full time was very risky. I did go on to train to be an Aerobics teacher at a part time course whilst I was at Aurum and for a few months ran my own classes at Dagenham & Redbridge FC (where else?!).