Verite Reily Collins
Not having a vocation, I picked up jobs through friends of friends, so started out helping run fund-raising events for charities like the Red Cross, Lifeboats, etc. Eventually I realised I wouldn’t have any friends left if I continued; they would run a mile if they saw me coming as they knew I would be selling tickets, so I drifted into working on Exhibition stands – initially selling Optimist dinghies (that was a lovely start). Exhibitions took place from Baltimore to Birmingham, and I got used to meeting people like Chancellor Kohl, The Queen Mum, film stars and others.
I ended up helping organise international conferences for up to 5,000 people. One achievement was moving thousands of delegates by coach from London to Hever Castle in Kent. The Chief Constable looked at me and said. “I suppose you would like me to make north Kent a one-way system for the morning?” I nodded, and he did.
Travelling took its toll. Waking up in yet another hotel I phoned Reception to ask where I was. I had worked all over Europe, touched North America and even the Middle East, and had enough of living out of a suitcase. So I settled in London, to run a group of multi-lingual exhibition staff called Union Jills. Our brief from the Government was to promote British exports, from forklift trucks to containers. I had just enough travelling to keep me on my toes, and we had a whale of a time. Working 12-hour days took its toll, so I thought it would be easier to set up my own company, Dundas International Conferences and Promotions, with the help of my brother.
Needing trained staff, we set up training courses. These were bought by the United Nations and eventually Oxford came hunting for an exam in ‘Tourism’ English, as spoken by hotel staff, airline pilots etc. The first exam was so successful they asked for my CV to promote it abroad. I sent them one, they phoned to say “you’ve left out your Degrees”. ‘But I left school when I was 15’. Stunned silence – until they decided not to mention this.
Since then I sold my company and became a journalist writing about everything from Skincare to Dogs.
Learning how to cope when trains and planes were delayed, floods swept away roads and sorting out problems with Border officials gave me the training to ‘handle’ the NHS, and languages enabled me to get cancer care in the best country. So it was easy to set up my website and help lend a helping hand through the minefield of cancer treatment.