MILESTONES OF MISERY

 

It all started several years ago now when I had money siphoned out of a business bank account and have never fully recovered from that. It followed hard on the heels of a period where I was forced to give my home away to an ex - because she kept our children and I had to provide a home for them! I was left with nothing - except bruises from a beating up her 'lover' gave me (in front of my kids).

Add to this a couple of major bad debts from 'clients' (ex-clients!) and a major client who conspired with another magician (and ex associate) to do me out of around 20K a year, all added to the escalation of a major financial problem and me becoming totally out of control. I battled and battled and put on a brave (false) face. I blatantly asked  colleagues for help, but there was no follow through. I was sinking fast.

I had to move, so in February 2005 I uprooted myself from London (where I had been since 1967) ... to reduce outgoings and to get a fresh outlook. Little did I realize that this would be the start of even more problems!

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What appeared to be a short term ankle injury (probably caused by the move) has turned out to be something longer term and a major problem that I am still under treatment for and that I may have to cope with to some degree for the rest of my life. For over 18 months the pain and incapacity was so severe it affected all I did. I continued to work where possible, but some gigs were just impossible, and there was no way I wanted to ever be less than perfect for my clients (or myself).

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You see, I had moved to decrease my overheads. I hadn't moved to also decrease my income! And that's what happened. My incapacity created a new situation where there were lengthy periods where I was unable to take on a lot of the kind of work I had been doing. Those particularly affected were those that brought in the biggest income: product launches and trade shows. The need to spend several consecutive entire days on my feet just made much of this impossible, and worsened my condition.

This lack of work caused me to tighten my belt further ... and for a while all was fine. I had been also enjoying a growing reputation as a coach. Over many years I had private and corporate clients who consulted me for coaching on magic but also on life coaching, branding, marketing and other small business issues. In the lull of live performance work, I used the opportunity to continue writing up numerous workshops, coaching programs and courses I had developed and delivered live.

But there was another surprise in store:

A Disaster Waiting In The Wings

January 2006 presented me with a major computing disaster. I lost my hard drive AND my back up on the same day. One morning a blank screen ... and everything I had created and stored over 15 years (plus a lot more produced before that and transferred to digital) ... GONE!

Many will not be able to imagine the volume of work I had. It is a bit like an author of perhaps 30 books suddenly losing all the research, drafts and finished works, including all the references, illustrations etc etc. I lost all my job history files, and accounts, my lectures, workshop trainer structures and notes, workshop materials, coaching programs, eCourses, about 14 websites I was creating, my entire database .... I could go on. It was devastating.

The work was so valuable I spent every penny I had then on attempted recovery. One specialist (who builds computers for Coventry University) saves about 2% but that was mostly corrupt and worthless. Another contact took the drives away for over a month and had people connected with the Government and intelligence work take a look. They found about 2% more ...but it was of little value and incomplete files etc. Bottom line is ... all gone!

I have managed to make contact with some previous clients and generate some work. I certainly needed more and am actively marketing to achieve that. Over several years I helped many many magicians earn a very good living. They earned thousands and thousands from the work I gave, not to mention the exposure and experience the quality gigs provided. Now I need the work, I never hear from them. Such is life!

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Communication Disasters

So ... in May 2006 I moved again, to a cheaper rental, to retrench and get a new start. But that wasn't all roses either. I had massive problems with TalkTalk who I foolishly went with as they were offering free BroadBand with their telephone deal. Firstly, it took them 3 months to deal with BT and take over the line, so I was on good old pay as you go dial-up initially. From August 2006 until I moved again (see below) I did not have a day (actually an hour) online without problems. My case was escalated several times and I have a file several inches thick on the case history. It was written about on a complaints forum. Long story I won't go into here, but suffice it to say that it again crippled any attempts to rebuild. I've had to rely upon my partner, leaning on her heavily for almost everything, and it pretty much wrecked our relationship.

So here I am ... finding it difficult to walk, little or no work, and hampered with attempts to redesign and rewrite my books, training and course materials. What was that they say about being vulnerable when you are down? Summer 2006 also was a Summer of great loss. Due to our similarity I was very close to my father in many way, but distant too. I hadn't seen him face to face for some time but he passed away unexpectedly in July. On a different scale, but another passing, also early July, had a dramatic effect on me was the loss of my great school and college friend, Syd Barrett. Following a barrage of media interviews and lonely drives to Cambridge and funerals I did some more soul searching.

Lost? I Can't Believe It!

Yes, 2006 was difficult - to say the least. I'd been having acupuncture courtesy of the NHS and in February 2007 I was signed off by my physiotherapist and sent to a new consultant. I waited ... and I waited. I then heard that July that they could not find the application that the hospital had sent back in February so I needed to get them to reapply!

That November (nine months of waiting) I managed to get an appointment ... and the  specialist
said that the earlier treatment was totally inappropriate and that he'd essentially need to start again, first undoing the 'correction' imposed already! Bad news but I was at last with someone who had the problem under some control!

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Back To Problems

That November I was at Earls Court for an International Conference and fell over (because of my ankle injury) and aggravated my back injury. I was in some agony during the Conference and it persisted afterwards for a while.

Also that November I had to move to a smaller, cheaper small flat. I had no funds to pay for a removal company so started a long process of doing it piecemeal myself. Not good with back problems, but I had no choice. At least this move to a tiny flat meant that I had decent internet connection again and was able to work properly in all areas the first times for ages.

The other good news was that the new ankle treatment was a reasonable success and by Spring 2008, whilst my ankles were painful, they no longer dominated my every day or my decisions and I was able to work again.

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So ... a new address, a new computer, now online 24/7 and a massive sigh of relief. I started to get some coaching and training materials together again and also building the websites to deliver them. It was at last coming together now but I was paying the price. I limping badly (pun intended), suffering severe anxiety problems, verging on a total nervous breakdown together with the chronic reoccurrence of my slipped disc. I had chronic sciatic referred pain in my right leg and could not stand upright without excruciating pain. Whereas previously I have been able to shed such pain in a couple of weeks, perhaps understandably in the circumstances, this time it had stayed with me for 8 months! The impact of it was was clearly always having an internal effect but now it was beginning to show!
 

Hiss? Boo!

I didn't yet mention that sometime during all the above I started to get strange noise sensations inside my head. Long story short ... I also have tinnitus! I have a management program to deal with it but another sign of just how vulnerable we all are and how health deteriorates and the necessity to keep in some shape as best we can. That's tough when there is so much stress around!

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December 2008 should have been key in my revival. Following a few months of getting on top of my health and my losses I was able to and beginning to work again. December is always a great season when work is in abundance and generates enough income to last through the lean January and February which follow. That is until this year. Not only did it herald the arrival of the credit crunch, but two clients saw fit to screw me too.

Recovery Cancelled!

One client (who I had previously regarded as a trustworthy, professional friend with whom I had worked on hundreds of occasions over many years) decided that when they cancelled a large gig where I had booked (and confirmed) a team of entertainers, they would not have to adhere to my 'terms of cancellation' and pay us anything. Not only did this represent a major loss of income on two prime December dates, but I had several other performers who I was liable to all expecting payment in full from me. This story is not yet resolved, and as it represents a 8000 loss I am having to pursue in any way I am able.

My New Year's Eve booking is a similar story where an agreed contracted booking for myself and one other entertainer was cancelled with no notice resulting in a loss of over 1500. The work was to be for a well known media personality who has refused to answer any communication since. Sadly funds don't allow for me to take the action I would wish but I am pursuing it as best as I can.

The result of the above of course is that my income for that period, and my vital cash flow for the first quarter of this year was decimated. I'm sure I needn't say any more.

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Just To Keep Me On My Toes!

One final episode: February 2009 I suffered another computer problem. One day I was presented with a 'blue screen'. Another long story involving PC World who said they'd need to reinstall Windows XP but would first save ALL my data, no problem. When I went to collect it .... there was only about 5% of it saved onto a drive I provided. Days of frustration later it transpired that they had made an error ... and then needed to do a recovery to restore as much as possible.

I should say that my primary material, which I had been rewriting, designing etc was not on here. That is all on two separate external drives. Never the less, it was a loss and added a further period of trauma and inability to work properly.

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One additional problem the last move created was that I no longer have room for all my belongings. Those close to me will know that I have a massive library but also a huge collection of props, illusions, ephemera and other items. The overflow has been housed in two garages, one which I rent and the other is on loan. As I write this in May 2009 I have got to vacate the garage that has been on loan. I don't have anywhere to move the contents to and I have just over a week to resolve that!

But all this drama has made me think! Actually that's a gross understatement ... it's made me think and rethink, to soul search, ask important questions and come up with more important answers.

I haven't solved everything yes (by any means) but I do know that the bulk of the 'stuff' I am carrying and no longer 'need' has to go! Stuffing these 'belongings' away so they are hidden in garages is no way to live. What's the point?

Also I urgently need to raise funds to keep going until work has rebuilt sufficiently to generate a basic income so I can focus more on my online coaching and consulting activities.

One of the tools I use in my coaching toolkit is that if what you are doing isn't working ... do something different. Anything!

I've tried .... and now I'm doing something else. Help me make it work!

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And that takes me back to this sale ... [close window and read on] ...

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