Chapter 1:

the worst week of my life

a day i'll never forget

Friday the 28th of June 2019; without doubt the worst day of my 15 years on the planet. And as bad days go it had some some pretty stiff competition, here's a list of my personal highlights lowlights just from the first six months of 2019... in no particular order:

Yep, it had been a crappy year, but...

just when you think life can't get any worse...

I woke up that day actually feeling pretty good- for a change.

It was the first day of summer holidays, which meant NO SCHOOL for six weeks... YAY!!!

And then at precisely 11:45, with a very loud banging on our front door, life got a whole lot worse.

I thought it was the new game I had ordered for my PlayStation, but instead of being met by an envelope and the friendly face of a delivery man, every millimeter of the front doorway was filled by three menacing looking big-beefy-bodybuilder-bouncer types.

'Hmmm, this doesn't look good', I thought.

I was right.

"Muuuum, Daaaad", I turned my head slightly to shout but my eyes wouldn't let go of the three mountains of muscle in front of me. 

My parents, no doubt sensing that something was up, rushed to the front door. 

What happened next was a bit of a blur, but it turns out, the big burly beefcakes were something called Bailiffs and they were here to take away our car- my Dad's pride and joy.

Apparently, so the beefcakes said, my parents were 6-months behind with the payments and the Bank had decided to repossess it.

My parents kicked up a bit of a fuss, but eventually realising that their protests were futile, they caved in.

We must have looked quite the picture, all huddled up watching powerless from the front window, unable to do anything to stop our fancy family car being loaded onto a pick-up truck and then whisked away.

It was the first time in my life that I'd actually seen my Dad cry.

my parents

As you can probably tell by now it wasn't just me; my mum and dad were having a pretty crappy year too.

And to think that 2019 was supposed to be a 'fresh start' for us.

In January we moved from London to Hastings, a smallish town on the south coast of England. But the move hadn't really worked out as planned, I was struggling in my new school and mum and dad's business was doing badly, and with the car disappearing I realised just how badly.

I guess moving your business isn't easy, and most nights my parents argued about it, they didn't know but I could hear them through my bedroom floor.

And that Friday night was no different, but as I lay in my bed trying to get to sleep, for the first time I could sense real panic in their voices. 

Losing the car like that must have really spooked them.

When I heard my Mum sobbing I decided to creep downstairs to make sure they were ok: both parents crying on the same day is not great news.

I peered through the crack in the slightly open kitchen door and saw my parents sitting at the table with papers, bills and folders scattered everywhere. My Dad looked up from the spreadsheet he had open on his laptop and pronounced gloomily that they needed to find £15,000 in the next 4 weeks or we were in going to losing our home too.

Oh c**p!

This was too much, I turned around and practicaly sprinted back up the stairs, I didn't want to hear any more... what on earth were we going to do?

FIFTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS sounded like an awful lot of money to me, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I made it a hattrick of family members who cried that day.

the darkest hour

Yep things were pretty bad, but they say that the darkest hour is just before dawn, and little did I realise as I eventually drifted off to sleep that night, that the very next day would be the start of a journey that  would change my life completely.

And it all started with a visit from my Aunt and Uncle.

the next day

I got up late, as per usual... well it was a Saturday, and I didn't really feel like getting up, my mind was still thinking about the awful events of yesterday.

I headed downstairs to make myself some breakfast my parents were once again seated around the now tidied dinner table.

After a few spoonfulls of Branflakes I plucked up the courage to break the stony silence, "I'm really sorry about the car Dad, I know how much you loved it".

"Don't you worry, it will all be fine... we'll get it back, you'll see".

As he said this my Mum got up and started to clear the dishes from the table.

"Are those horrible men going to kick us out of our house as well?", I said.

"Of course not silly, why?"

"Don't be mad, please, it's just that I heard you talking last night."

"Oh", he said.

By the sink, with her back turned to us Mum said,

"We shouldn't keep it a secret, Brian, anyway, it looks like the cat is out of the bag".

"Well, errr we might, there's a possibility, we errr could, but we won't, we will be just fine, won't we darling?", his hesitant tone and the look my Mum gave him suggested otherwise...

"I wish you would stop putting your bloody head in the sand Brian."

"I don't mean to pry, but I heard you guys say something about £15K... and I've been thinking, you can have my savings, it's not much, around £500 or £600, but it will help."

Mum smiled, "No don't be daft, that is a really lovely thing for you to do but you keep that, you are saving for that gaming PC."

"We might have to you know Barbara."

"No." came the forceful reply. "Yes it's true, your father did some calculations and we do need to find £15,000, but we do have some work in the pipeline, a few client proposals to follow up on, and two clients who owe us money for work we've already done, so I'm sure we'll be fine".

"Ok, well the offer is there, you can have the money if you need it."

"Thank you, honey that's very kind of you."

I carried on eating my breakfast, I felt really sorry for my parents, they seemed different today, for the first time I could sense defeat and despair. They didn't sound particularly confident and both seemed to have aged about 10 years since yesterday.

I vowed there and then to do everything in my power to help. Beyond giving them my savings, I had no idea how, but I knew that I had to try.

Then my train of thought was broken by my Mum.

"Now why don't you go and get dressed darling, your Aunt and Uncle will be here shortly."

I'd almost forgotten, my Aunt and Uncle were coming for lunch.

They were great fun, plus Dad was an absolute whizz in the kitchen, there was nothing more he liked than whipping up a fancy meal for friends and family.

Just the thing we needed to cheer us all up a bit!

lunch

My Aunt and Uncle had just returned from an amazing (by the sounds of it), trip to Argentina, so in honour of this my Dad cooked an argentinian feast: empanadas and a grilled Provolone cheese to start, followed by a juicy entrana steak (an argentinian cut he'd got from the specialist butchers) with triple fried chips, and a Dulce de Leche cheesecake for dessert: he surpassed himself, it was all delicious.

The adults washed all this down with a very special bottle of Argentinian Malbec wine that my Aunt and Uncle had brought back.

Apparently they had stayed at a swanky hotel where the wine was made, which was some incredible vinyard nestled at the foot of the Andes mountain range. 

During lunch they entertained us with stories of horse riding through mountain valleys, sleeping beneath the stars, sharing steaming cups of coffee each morning with a herd of noisy llamas. 

They showed us photos of gigantic glaciers, humungous waterfalls, and salt plains that stretched as far as the eye could see.

my aunt and uncle

My Uncle Steve, was my Dad's elder brother, he and my Aunt Jemima lived in London and ran a very successful business.

My Dad said they were rich, and they certainly seemed to enjoy the finer things in life, they were always jetting off on some adventure or other.

Aside from their Argentinian escapade, this year they'd already been on Safari and Hot Air Ballooning in Botswana, as well as white water rafting in the Himalayas, with a visit to Everest Base Camp.

Not bad eh!

My Dad was always a little bit rude about them, he called them 'the weird Jedi', behind their backs of course!

Weird because they were different to everyone else in the family, and Jedi because they bore more than a striking resemblence to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, from the Star Wars films.

Plus he said that they must be Jedi because they seem to 'use the force' because they were so successful in their business.

Thinking about it now, my Dad was probably a teeny bit jealous of them, although he was right in one way, my Aunt and Uncle certainly were different, they had this aura about them.

They seemed unlike most adults in that they had fun and enjoyed life, which was in stark contrast to my parents, who just seemed to just work, worry, complain and argue.

My Aunt and Uncle were my favourites, at family gatherings they always spent a lot of time with me, they didn't have any kids of their own, so they always took a very keen interest in me and what I was doing, just being in their company always made me feel good.

the decision...

After dinner we all sat round the table talking, everyone drinking coffee, me zoning out a little bored. 

My Aunt and Uncle had asked how I was, as usual my Mum answered for me.

I was bored of hearing about how terrible my year had been, but my Aunt and Uncle appeared genuinely shocked by everything that had happened. 

  • hormones and mood swings
  • must do better in school
  • I spend too much time on screens

My Mum said it was all down to my hormones and my mood swings, and that I spent too much time on screens, and that next school year everything would be fine.

I wished that I shared their optimism.

Then they moved on to talk about the economy, business and the recession. All I could hear was my folks moaning and complaining.

Then as my parents were droning on... my Aunt leaned over and said to me.

"What are your plans for this summer, sweetie?"

I was about to reply, when my Mum stopped what she was saying and swooped in and answered for me, she had a habit of doing that, it was as if she didn't trust what I would say.

"Lots of studying, plus helping us out in the office."

"I bet you are looking forward to that", said my Aunt with a cheeky twinkle in her eye.

My Mum answered for me again.

"Well someone (I could almost feel the heat of her gaze) needs to pull their finger out if  they want to get into University."

My Mum was uber keen that I go to Uni and was less than impressed with my recent exam performance. She had always wanted to go but didn't and she could see her dream of being a proud mum at my graduation slowly disappearing with each 'F' that I received.

"And besides, we could do with some help in the office at the moment".

By 'help' of course, she meant free labour; their plan was for me to do lots of boring filing as well as answer the phone. But the best bit was that when it was quiet (which was most of the time), I would have 'plenty of time to study for the big exams next year'.

Oh joy!

But at least it would allow them to concentrate 100% on their clients and new business, which in light of recent events, probably wasn't a bad idea.

"Oh that's a shame", my Aunt said, we were rather hoping to invite you over to stay and work with us for the summer, weren't we Steve?", my Uncle nodded." 

My ears pricked up.

"Yes, that's right we were hoping to spend some time with you so we can pass on the secrets to our success."

"Oh not these bloody famous secrets of yours... again" harrumphed Dad. "I'm bloody sick of bloody hearing about them!"

"Well, yes, we'd love to pass on what we know, we think you'd be great, what do you think?"

I looked at my Mum and Dad, my eyes pleaded with them.

"Well, I guess you are old enough to make your own decisions, what would you prefer to do?

Do I have to choose now?

"Well... that would be good because we'll take you home with us this evening and you can start on Monday."

Will I get paid?"

"Of course."

Hmm this was sounding promising.

"What sort of work will I be doing?"

"You will be following us as we work, it will be fun. "

the dilema

Do I need a better hook into the secrets here?

My mind was racing, my chest felt tight and I could feel myself starting to sweat.

Don't you just hate difficult decisions? 

I was completely torn:

  • Mum and dad really needed the help, but it didn't sound like I would be helping much, I wasn't sure if I would be getting in their way and what they had in store for me was deathly boring.
  • Getting away would do me good, Mum and Dad could get on with things without having to worry about me. My Aunt and Uncle were great fun, plus there was the chance to earn some actual money so I could help out financially, plus they would teach me their secrets... whatever they were, they would probably be useful.

what would you do?

Something inside of me was telling me that I should go and work with my Aunt and Uncle.
But a little voice inside my head was saying that I should do the 'right' thing and help Mum and Dad.
What you would do in this situation.

work for mum and dad