Alastair stands in front of his ‘Sure Store’ shipping containers in Colnbrook.
Alastair stands in front of his ‘Sure Store’ shipping containers in Colnbrook.

Some days you’d be there and the builders’ van would turn up with six guys in the back and they all jumped out with their work clothes while the van does a U-turn outside and they’d jump back in and drove to their job.

1982 Signing on

Alastair has to sign on to the dole in order become eligible for a grant to help with his business.

I was signed on! In 1982 I was signing on the dole. The Government had a grant for people who were on the dole to get them back into work: £40 a week. So I went down to the unemployment office in Maidenhead and said: ‘Right I want my £40 a week,’ and they said: ‘You have to be unemployed.’ I said: ‘I am unemployed,’ and they said: ‘No, you have to be signed on and unemployed for 8 weeks,’ and I said: ‘Show me where to sign.’

Signing on was an adventure in itself. You had to go and queue every fortnight get your money. The whole place would be full with 200 people at 8 o’clock in the morning when they opened. The staff would all be talking about what they saw on Eastenders the night before ignoring us completely so I would say: ‘Excuse me it’s 8:05,’ and then ‘it’s 8:07, are you guys going to open up or not?’ One morning I said: ‘Look you’re going to make all these people late for work.’ It was funny because of course they all had jobs. Some days you’d be there and the builders’ van would turn up with six guys in the back and they all jumped out with their work clothes on while the van did a U-turn outside, and they’d jump back in and drove to their job.

Starting the Self-storage business took me a year; I’d been spoiled by growing up in the world of Grand Prix racing. When I worked for a Grand Prix team everybody wanted to help me. It didn’t matter who it was, you rang them up and said: ‘This is the McLaren Grand Prix team,’ and they’d do anything you wanted. But now when I rang up and said: ‘This is Alastair Caldwell,’ they’d say: ‘Yeah, who, and?’ I didn’t realise what the real world was like. 

Previous story | next story | back to timeline