Sunday, 18 May 2014

I'm not a racist, I hate my neighbours far too much...

A late night conversation at the 'come down' point after a night's partying and drinking blurted out the title of this post to a group of five or six people sitting around an open fire in a living room, somewhere in the back streets of Hull.

The actual sentence was "English people aren't racists, they are far to busy hating their neighbours for that!". It made us all laugh at the time, and was then much quoted amongst our group of friends, particularly when any conversation about "'forners" came up; having become a staple anecdote of those university years.

Until now, I had thought that this could only be a joke, and that it would have no practical application to my life at any one point in time. Then the idea for a business came up.

I promised that I would clarify a few of the things that happened to me earlier this year through a blog post, and have taken some time to do it. I'm aware that the internet is a very public medium, and so perhaps isn't the best place to wash my smalls, I'll try to be as succinct as possible.

This year I started a language academy with a neighbour and it was going to be the best thing ever. We were going to take over the world, everything was marvellous, God was in his heaven, flowers, bunnies, rainbows and so on. So things grumbled to a start, and all seemed well, we had students, we had schools and things were non stop the whole time. From the beginning though I had made more than a few mistakes, one of which was to trust everything into my partner, and another was to bimble along at my own pace, not making my opinion heard from the outset. I found myself letting life take me along, and not worrying about asking for copies of things, checking what was going on, or even seeing the contracts we had with the school we were working for.

My family, already knowing what I can be like told me to be careful, to ask for copies of things, to make sure I had a backup plan, to say no when I needed to, but I didn't. I just left everything to my partner and tried to get on with my job. I had so much faith in our work that I recommended him for jobs, made sure he had access to all of my contacts and generally made sure that the business was shored up for both of us on the 'publicity' side of things.

Then it came to the time to sort out the papers for trimestral payments, and I was asked by family members where certain papers were, why I didn't have them, hadn't even seen them or done anything about it. I just shrugged them off and told them to mind their own business, and argued that the business was going well, money was coming in and that was that. Until a money matter came up.

Most people that know me at all will be able to tell any other reader that I have no problem with giving people whatever they need or ask for, I'm not tight and have gone without so that others didn't have to, but when there was a difference in my favour I was very surprised to be schmoozed. Words were exchanged, and I left surprised that when things are written in black and white that there could be any sort of discussion about what to do. So I started to investigate. I discovered that my name didn't really figure in a lot of places and that were there to be a any problem then I couldn't legally prove my existence as a part of the company in a lot of things. So I argued that perhaps the done thing would be to change that, and that's where the real problems started.

All of a sudden I start hearing from my business partner that there are a lot of complaints about me, that I'm an awful teacher, that parents are really unhappy with me and that I was apparently terrifying the children with my evil disciplinarian way and hitting them to boot. There were some pretty awful accusations flying around at one point and I was walking into work with daily arguments and people screaming and shouting at me. It even got to the point where I was stood in front of one of the PTA members stupefied as my business partner and his wife screamed blue murder at me in front of this poor woman. So when the call came to end the business I wasn't surprised, but thought that at least things could be divided and we would be out of each other's hair fairly quickly. I was wrong.

I agreed to end the business but wanted everything to be divided between us, as I thought that would be the most logical and fair option. To my immense surprise I discovered that the schools I had been working for didn't have my name anywhere on any of the contracts. They had all been signed before the business papers were given in and before we existed as a company, so I couldn't prove that I had a share of more than eighty percent of the business. This left me in March with nothing, out on the street in my shirtsleeves. We then entered a small legal battle which culminated in my business partner's lawyer saying 'Actually this guy is being quite reasonable, why don't you just go for the compensation he's asking for and leave it at that'. I was (eventually) minimally compensated for the lost work, but have been quite badly burnt by the whole experience. 

Finally that night in Hull all came back to me, but proves that it is not just the English that really feel like being awful to their neighbours at times...