This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved to Spain to live. I had written short stories before and non-fiction health books, but felt the need to bring a little romance and humour into my writing.. the result was the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.
About the book
At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.
Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.
Last time Imogen’s experiment with wigs goes interestingly and there were adventures in the shoe department.
Chapter Six – Ladies Fashions and shop lifters
I was invited to join the team working for a brand of ladies clothing, specifically made for petite, rounder women. I was a little out of place, being nearly six-foot tall, and rather younger than both the staff and the clientele. But, I had my uses. My experiences in chasing small boys with their stolen dirty postcards came in very handy.
Although we were a very upmarket department store, we still had our share of shoplifters. Unfortunately, the better quality, seasonal fashion clothing was a target, and we suffered quite significant losses as the beginning of each season. There was a wine-bar around the corner from the store. The unscrupulous would come in, view the new styles, and then go into the wine bar, locate the team leader of the gang of thieves, and put an order through for the size and colour required. I discovered all of this from one of the security guys who rather fancied me.
I did ask the obvious question. ‘Why doesn’t someone do something about it?’
My understanding was that the gang moved around a great deal, that there were too many of them and as one group were caught another took over and that it was an ongoing process.
The manager of the department used to tear her hair out when we did the weekly stock-take. However vigilant we were, there was always some stock missing and Head Office was beginning to be very difficult about the situation.
We followed people around, as they browsed the clothes racks, constantly shadowing their every move. This, of course, annoyed many totally innocent shoppers, so much so that they went elsewhere for their new spring outfits and so takings were down as well.
One of the shoplifter’s favoured techniques used young women with pushchairs. They would slip a skirt or blouse under their toddler, or down the back of the pram and then walk out. This was before the days of security tagging, and short of stopping every woman with a buggy, catching them was very difficult.
Another method of ‘stock removal’ was used by a group of young men who would go up the escalator in threes. The one in the middle would lift two or three items off the rails by the side of the escalator and drop them into a black plastic bag while the boys in front and at the rear kept look out.
Then came the breakthrough. I was just assisting a rather large lady into a new spring coat, when I saw three lads get on the escalator. Sure enough, the middle one put his hand down and lifted three jackets off the rail and over the side quick as a flash. That was it, as far as I was concerned.
I shouted for the manager to call security, I dropped the coat on the floor, shouted ‘sorry’ to the startled lady, and set off in pursuit. I dashed up the escalator and the lads saw me coming and that I was big and mean. They dropped the black plastic bag, which held our stock, on the next floor up, and turned around empty handed to give me a victory sign – back to front.
They got on the down escalator, thinking that I would give up, now that I had recovered our jackets. Not a bit of it, my blood was up and several weeks of frustration brought me to the boil. I flung the bag with our garments at the nearest person who looked like a member of staff, who later turned out to be the General Manager, and hot-footed it down the escalator in pursuit.
The boys reached the ground floor, with me only a few feet behind them. They kept looking over their shoulders at me in disbelief. They had a good two hundred feet to go before they got to the safety of the exit onto the road and I decided that, as these guys were considerably larger than postcard thieves, a good slapping was probably out of the question. So, I improvised.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen.’ I shouted at the top of my voice. ‘This is what a thief looks like, and why your goods get more and more expensive!’
The culprits began to run, their faces red with anger and embarrassment. I followed them to the door, repeating my chant as we went. The funny thing was that, along with the three in front of me, several other shoppers made a dash for various exits.
Customers stood stock still in amazement, and then most of them started to laugh. One boy tripped over his shoelace that had come undone and he fell through the door into the street. All signs of dignity and bravado were now completely demolished. Satisfied that they were now off the premises, and unlikely to return in the short-term, I about-faced and headed back to my department.
Shoppers returned to their task and I received smiles and nods from most of the staff that I passed on the way to the escalator. At the bottom of the moving staircase stood the man that I had thrown the stolen stock to. My manager was with him clenching her hands nervously.
‘Miss Baxter’ the man said ominously. ‘My office immediately.’
I received a verbal warning; more for my own safety than anything, as I believe Mr. Dempsey was concerned about possible repercussions.
In the following weeks our stock levels remained stable and although other departments were hit we were left alone.
After two months on the department, it became my job on a Saturday to parade through Mr. Dempsey’s office with the weekly figures. He used to give me a wry smile and always asked if I had managed to stay out of trouble this week. I know that, following the incident, the security department was given a shake up and the guy who fancied me left within a couple of weeks. Things definitely got a little tighter after that and it made our jobs much easier.
* * *
I looked at my watch and saw that it was nearly one o’clock.
‘Do you want me to go or shall we finish now’ I asked Andrew, who did not appear to be in any hurry to go anywhere.
‘Why don’t you finish off your time at Huntley’s, I’m quite frankly fascinated to find out what mayhem you managed to cause in the cosmetic department.’
He did smile as he said this and I knew that rather than the put-down I was used to, I was actually being teased.
©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl
Chapter Seven tomorrow in the Cosmetic department
One of the recent reviews for the book
After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.
Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.
There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.
Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.
This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!
You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022