This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over the years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen! From those experiences, I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories.
If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next few weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.
Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.
Last week I shared stories about my job in the boarding school as housekeeper/caterer and how I cooked over 3000 meals a week during term time.
You can find all the previous posts to date in this directory. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/
The story continues as I move across the country to take up the role of senior receptionist at a gothic hotel in the middle of the Snowdonia national park.
Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!
I received a phone call from some old friends on the Isle of Wight that gave me cause for concern. You have probably gathered by now that my separation and divorce proceedings were not always amicable and in fact they now became downright hostile. My friends ran a pub on the island, and my former husband had been in, having had rather a lot to drink, had demanded they tell him where I was. He told the assembled company that he was planning on tracking me down and having a confrontation. I was not unduly concerned and my friends assured me that they had not revealed my whereabouts. However, I was in a school with 140 children and staff and lived in the grounds, and had no desire to involve them in my personal circumstances. I gave my notice that day; grabbed the nearest copy of The Lady Magazine, and looked for a job as far away from the south of England as I could get.
I found an advertisement for a senior receptionist for a seasonal hotel in Wales that was just about to open for Easter. I sent my details, and the requested photograph, and waited to see if I would get an interview. Instead, within a week, I had a letter offering me the position with a start date three days after the end of term. I packed up my belongings into a couple of suitcases and got rid of anything that I couldn’t carry. I then prepared to go up to London by train and head off across the country for nearly 300 miles.
In those days of no Internet, and a long haul by road, I reckoned that I was probably going to be fairly safe from repercussions, especially as only my family and solicitor knew where I was.
I had been given a timetable for the trains showing the changes I would have to make in order to reach my destination, and I was glad that my two bags were not too heavy. Four trains later, I sat on the platform of a country station, waiting for my last connection. The train was late, and it was already dark before it shunted alongside the platform. I struggled into a carriage that I presume had been in service since the war, possibly not the last one, and sat on the worn, velvet covered seat waiting for departure. I waited and waited, and was about to stick my head out of the carriage door, when we chugged into motion. It was now ten at night and I was concerned that the promised taxi that was supposed to collect me at Barmouth, and take me to the hotel, would not be waiting for me.
Half an hour later we pulled into what can only be described as a halt. It consisted of a wooden platform about ten inches off the ground and a leap of faith was required to exit the carriage with two suitcases, and no injuries. I must have been the only passenger for Barmouth, for no sooner had I slammed the door of the train behind me, than it was off, lurching into the darkness. I had apparently arrived at my destination, but was alone, and in the dark, with absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going too.
Those were the days before mobile telephones, and to be honest, from what little I could see around me, there was little evidence that even the telegraph had reached this remote spot. I sat down on the sturdier of my two cases and ran through some basic Girl Guide survival tactics. As I had been drummed out of the brownies at the age of seven (for jumping out at boy cubs from behind gravestones) my knowledge of field crafts was sadly lacking, so I decided to stay in place for a while and see what transpired. After all where else was I going to go? I shivered despite the warm overcoat I was wearing. The night was cold, and a thin mist was swirling around the end of the platform. All the books I had read about North Wales had been based on the 5th century with tribal raiding parties and witchcraft. All the tales now came back to me; I clasped my arms around my body anxiously; on the verge of panic.
This feeling of impending doom was given a boost when suddenly out of the mist an apparition appeared. At least seven feet tall, and dressed in a black cloak, it swirled towards me rapidly. I shot up and backed behind my cases; despite the fact they would have been of little protection against a werewolf. A deep voice suddenly cut through my fanciful imagination.
‘You’re late girl, I’ve been waiting hours, where have you been for goodness sake?’
I could not tell if the booming voice was male or female. On closer examination, I realised that my original estimate of the figure being seven foot high was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. A scarf was unwound from around the throat of my new acquaintance, and I saw that it was indeed a woman; with very stern looking features.
Before I could utter a word my suitcases were whipped up, one in each of her hands, and she set of marching into the darkness. I had very little choice but to follow as I watched my worldly possessions disappearing into the night.
I found myself in a car park next to a taxi, and my bags were thrown unceremoniously into the back; my companion disappearing around to the driver’s side. I gingerly opened the passenger door, wondering what I had let myself in for. At least the interior of the vehicle was warm, and I was grateful when the engine started first time. My driver announced that it would take about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, and with that, we were off, quite smoothly too, much to my pleasant surprise.
Our journey was silent. I did make an attempt at small talk but only received grunts in reply. Eventually, I gave up and concentrated instead on hanging onto both dashboard and armrests as we careered around narrow country lanes. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later the taxi drove through two large pillars and up a slope. In the dim glow of the headlights, I could just make out a building looming out of the mist, and we came to a stop outside what appeared to be the main entrance. I let out my breath, which it seemed I had been holding since we left the railway station, and hurriedly opened the door, before we could take off again.
My driver got out and deposited my two suitcases by the door and then left me standing in the mist as she drove off into the night.
There were some lights either side of the entrance, and by their dim glow, I could make out double wooden doors. By now I was three hours late, and it looked like everyone had gone to bed. I had little choice. It was either stay out here in the freezing cold or ring the bell that hung on the wall at the side of the doors. I crunched across the gravel and up the stone steps, summoning what little courage I had left. I pulled the rope hanging beneath the bell and swung it from side to side. I nearly jumped out of my skin as a loud clanging rang through the night. It was loud enough to waken the dead! Sure enough, within seconds, lights went on in the hall. They reflected through the glass at the top of the door and, if anything, added even more gloom to the atmosphere.
The door creaked open slowly and my mouth went dry. By this time, I was fully convinced that Frankenstein’s monster was going to loom into view and carry me off to some attic, never to be seen again.
In fact I was greeted by the warm smile of the manager of the hotel who had kindly stayed behind to make sure that I arrived safely. He carried my suitcase down the side of the hotel to a small flat that was already occupied the new assistant manager who had come down from the Lake District a couple of days earlier. With arrangements to meet in the morning to go over my duties, the manager left and I sat down with a welcome cup of tea and made my first friend in the new job.
Sadly, after a few weeks, she felt that the job and the location were not for her and she returned to the Lake District where she opened a very successful B&B. Whilst I was very sad to see her go, I found myself promoted to Assistant Manager and so began my adventures in the depths of one of the most stunning national parks in the UK. It was hard work, but great fun, and I have never been so skinny with the long hours and my new pursuit of hiking on my days off (perhaps I should apply for a similar job again!).
And, down the road, my work would lead to me meeting a very special man who swept me off my feet.
©Sally Cronin 2017
Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed my adventure. As always your feedback is much appreciated.