At the end of the war I wanted to get into business on my own again, and decided to become a maker of air games and toys. I visualised toy jets. I dare say 10 per cent of the RAF had a similar idea. I also wanted to get into the air travel business. When on leave I marked off an area in the West End of London where I thought the air travel business would be centred after the war. This was a rectangle, with Piccadilly in the centre. I hired a taxi and drove through every street in the area noting down all the houses for sale. In the end we bought one in St. James’s Place where my business now is. My forecast of air travel has turned out to be right, because nearly every airline and major air travel firm has an office in this area now. But it was all wasted for me, because I never got into that business.
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The first thing I found on being demobilised was that I could not get any materials to make my toys. A friend – or was it an enemy? – suggested that I should make jigsaw puzzles. There were 15,000 maps left over from my ‘Pinpoint the Bomber’ game. I bought a ton or so of cardboard, designed some cutters, and turned these maps into map jigsaws. I set off on a sales campaign and sold the first 5,000 to big stores and other shops. I came back elated thinking, ‘Hurrah! I’m in business,’ and promptly made 10,000 more. On my next sales round the buyers told me that the puzzles had not sold as well as they had hoped. I decided that this was due to using an old map, so I designed a new one. Several times when the sales lagged I produced a better map to help to sell the old ones. Then one day a man walked into my office and said, ‘This picture map of London is the best I’ve seen; if you will take it off this lousy piece of cardboard I’ll order 5,000.’ And so I became a map publisher by accident.
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At this time, besides being the designer, producer and salesman, I typed all the letters, did the book-keeping, invoiced the goods, parcelled them up and delivered them – it was very much a one-man firm. I think map publishing was the right business for me, for I had been involved with maps ever since I made my first chart for my Tasman flight. My adventures with faulty maps when flying, the game ‘Pinpoint the Bomber’ which I had devised for teaching map reading, and my search for methods of teaching fighter pilots how to map read at nought feet without using a map, had left me with strong views on what should be put into a map and, equally important, what should be left out of it. My map of the heart of London was different from a flying map, but I worked in a number of my ideas. For example I pictured prominent buildings; the eye would go straight to one of these, which would make it easier to find a near-by street; and I tried to keep the map clear, by not overcrowding it, and by keeping out unnecessary features.
Gradually I made bigger and better maps, but it was a struggle for financial survival. At one time we kept only one room of our house in St. James’s Place, and I not only worked in it, but slept and lived there as well. Sheila was living in a weekend cottage on the banks of the Kennet in Wiltshire with our young son Giles, and I joined them at weekends.
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