I could spend yonks detailing my Customs and Excise years. Instead I'll compress it into this one posting.
OK, OK, don't overdo the cheering and applause! I'm still bound by the Official Secrets Act of 1911, as amended, which prevents me from spilling the beans about my work in HM Customs & Excise.
What I can say is that it taught me a lot about accounting, programming (in COBOL), management (of time and staff), and human nature.
After a year working on the remnants of the old purchase tax I moved into Value Added Tax which went "live" on April Fools Day, 1973. I was involved initially in educating "traders" in the ins and outs of VAT. A "trader" being anybody running a business that was subject to the new tax.
I moved about the country during those fifteen years. Sometimes as a VAT control officer, or as a trainer, or as a programmer. I worked in London, Southend on Sea, Ipswich, Norwich, Derby, Liverpool, Swansea, and various places in between.
At times it was hectic and frequently stressful. By 1985 I was feeling the strain more and more. I did not realise how hard I pushed myself. I gained promotion to Higher Executive Officer. This was, I suppose, a reward for hard work. I must have achieved some pretty good annual reports from my superiors.
This "success" came at a cost. By 1987 I was dreading going to work. Anxiety and depression were my constant companions. Little blue pills were prescribed. They seemed to give me nightmares. I would wake up in the dead of night flailing my arms to shoo the huge black moth that was zooming down on me.
Sweat on my forehead and in the palms of my hands. I had to get out of bed and sit downstairs with a glass of water to calm down. It had to end. At times I hoped that tomorrow would never come.
For the sake of my sanity and my family I had to "retire hurt" from this mad world I'd made for myself.
When this decision was reached a glimmer of light and a touch of serenity eased mental pain. Soon I was feeling relaxed and in control again. How many of us go through such crises in life? Far more than is ever admitted, of that I'm sure.
There is a stigma, a taboo about mental breakdown. I think it can be seen more clearly by those around us than by the one who is so afflicted.
If you have experienced such suffering then I hope you came through it as I did. You have my understanding and sympathy. If your work is causing you too much stress then you have to ask is it worth it? In my case the answer was a definite NO. Life does not end if you ditch a job that has become unbearable. Life may end if you don't change course.
I know we have to work; we are not owed a living. But we are entitled to life - and if work is killing you then change your work. You know it makes sense!
Until next time, take care - and let the sunshine in.