This will be a difficult letter to write but I wanted to get this in here.
Talking about this fills me with a deep sense of disappointment about my first years with Daniela and how I let her and myself down.
When we met – I was living at my mum’s place in West Drayton in October of 2011.
At that point, I had the ‘promise of ambition’ – that with the startup Studiobookers maybe I could make something work.
For my actual income, I had my recording studio Deep Impakt Recordings – total cash in hand business.
And when you’re living rent-free at your mum’s place and maybe make £30-150+ per day (so £600 – £2k a month) 5 to 6 days a week – it’s easy enough to live on
I was definitely a spoiled kid – my parents supported my career decisions and ultimately wanted me to be happy and to support myself.
Or maybe that’s what a normal family looks like…
But, when you have a beautiful, 5ft 8inch strawberry blonde-haired woman who chooses to leave her country to be with you..it’s time to level up.
My income wouldn’t cut it, and living at my parents wouldn’t cut it.
So Daniela was later to move from Italy and her amazing hometown on the outskirts of Turin – to London in an attempt for us to build a life together.
This would be a journey that would ultimately span 5+ years of turbulence involving 3 countries, 2 breakups and 6 homes before we found stability.
And so it’s In Northolt – with my cousins – where the journey begins.
She’d been in London for just over three months prior to our move-in from September to December 2011 – and it was during that time we fell in love and our lives would change forever.
But not before I made some absolutely stupid decisions.
I had this grand vision that I would build a great life for us…and because I was a cheapskate (and it was all I could afford and I didn’t know any better) the first place Daniela and I lived was Makepeace Road, Northolt.
We were going to stay in a houseshare and initially occupy a single room with a single bed (this was similar to the bed that Daniela and I would sometimes sleep on when she rented in Camden and we’d stay overnight there)
The rent for this room was £300.
Makepeace Road on Google Streetview – next to Rectory Park (where a former rapping studio client of mine lived)
Furthermore, from Northolt station (the closest tube to our new home), it’s a long (and depressing) 15-minute walk to my cousin Ajay’s place (where I later managed to wangle paying £400 a month rent for the double room we later moved into – well under market value).
To get to Ajay’s place you need to go via an underpass (i.e a path underneath the main road).
Vijay (Ajay’s twin brother – also living with us) had been mugged on this same underpass, and Ajay had been a victim of an attempted mugging shortly after there as well.
In fact on the very day, they moved in…the ground floor of Ajay’s house had been burgled….whilst they were sleeping upstairs!
And for convenience, and my fearfulness of moving out – I chose this to be the place I would find fame and fortune in my path to ‘success’.
There had been a consideration that Daniela would find her own place, but it seemed to make sense that we moved in together so her savings would last a little longer whilst she looked for work.
And furthermore, Northolt wasn’t so far away from my parent’s place that I could continue running the recording studio – which was beginning to wind down now.
And so our life began.
I remember meeting Daniela at the airport – getting a bus to Liverpool street, the central line to Northolt and then waiting 10 minutes for a bus from the station.
I still (up until the moment she arrived) couldn’t quite believe that Daniela was actually coming.
Her life was in limbo in Italy, and she had come out mid-way through a degree course in Linguistics, had come out of an unhappy relationship and was (I guess) in search of a new experience as well.
So as we got off the bus at the top of Makepeace road, and then pulled her two suitcases down the winding street towards Ajay’s house – this is what she would certainly get.
A new experience.
As we stepped into my cousin’s home – I still wonder what she thought.
This wasn’t the tiny room with the tiny window that she lived in Camden,
This was Northolt.
This was much worse.
One day, I remember going to my mum’s place to work and talking to Daniela on Skype.
She sat there crying into the screen.
“I don’t want to be here without you. ‘Please come back.”
It’s difficult to explain how terrible this makes me feel that that happened.
It’s also difficult to explain the fire that roars within me as a consequence of that happening.
Tears were pouring from Daniela’s eyes as she was alone, in London, by herself, for me…
And I’d brought her to an absolute dump.
The walls in that house in Northolt likely felt very claustrophobic.
Daniela came from a city where she’d wander anytime she chose and would wander around on a bicycle to travel – and lived in an actual city centre.
There just isn’t anything in Northolt by way of a high street or things to do.
It was filled with council housing and estates and was not a safe place for Daniela to walk around in any time of the day.
She was effectively trapped.
Daniela would ultimately get a job in Harte Hanks in Uxbridge cold calling Italian hotels for Trip Advisor.
With her degree in the History of Art in Turin and good family and education, Daniela is very well-spoken in Italian.
So as it turned out she was pretty damn good at her job.
(A job that she absolutely hated)
Meanwhile, in parallel – my recording studio (Deep Impakt Recordings) which was going to at one stage be a whole career for me was something I left behind (more on that in another email).
Instead, it was my uncle Murly, who I guess gave me a job that he didn’t really need to hire for at his growing ad-agency Indoor Media where I earned £800 a month working 3 days a week in their office.
Even then, whilst I was sat there I didn’t work the whole 8 hours, I would often be trying to work on Studiobookers (which I was still trying to make work), in parallel with trying to pick up tutoring clients.
But things weren’t really working and I felt that Indoor Media was coming in the way of growing my tutoring agency Gobsmackers.
A large proportion of my time working on Studiobookers was waiting for my co-founder Hovik Melikyan to build out the application.
In this downtime, I needed to make money. And I didn’t want to work for my uncle forever. It simply wasn’t an option in my head.
Each day Daniela and I would get the 195 and then 427 bus from Northolt to Uxbridge at around 7 am.
She was in the process of falling deeply into depression. And I didn’t have the wherewithal to anticipate it, see it or deal with it.
In fact, in trying to help, I almost certainly made it worse.
At one point things came to a head and I quit Indoor Media to pursue the growth of Gobsmackers more aggressively.
Daniela would soon quit her job at Harte Hanks as it was a role she simply hated.
I’d made a promise I’d make Gobsmackers work.
But the reality was; it wasn’t working.
Certainly nowhere near fast enough.
I’d ordered 25,000 flyers advertising Gobsmackers and looked up the best local carparks on Parkopedia to identify where I could flyer in a bid to pick up more tutoring clients.
This would be parents who needed tuition for their children (amongst other students who directly contacted me).
I’ll run through how the numbers worked:
- Tuition would be £25-35 per hour
- I’d advertise via flyering outside schools, train stations and car parks
- I’d find a tutor and pay them £14-18 per hour and keep the difference
- I’d encourage parents to pay for blocks of sessions
- So if I generated 2 new clients per month at 8 hours each a month – it’d be an extra £72 – £168 per client. Or £144/£336 in additional income per month
Daniela was no longer working as I’d promised I’d take away the crushing pain of coming to Northolt to then become a cold caller…and the reality was, was that for all of my efforts…I could barely cover rent.
So it is with tears in my eyes right now I still remember us holding hands and sitting on the bus in the dark of the winter as we’d make our way to the job centre in Ealing.
It was a direct bus from where we lived in Northolt and it was the only viable means of us surviving – getting our extra £68 per week each to ensure I had the time to make the tutoring agency work…and Daniela could look for work she actually loved.
It was a really dark time in our lives…
And when I realised that between us we still weren’t making things work.
I had to make some important decisions and to make some terrible choices that I regret to this day….
Which I’ll tell you all about soon 🙂
In all of this – a couple of things did stand me in good stead though that stem from my upbringing which I’ll tell you about in the next email –
See you then!