Just an Odd Job – Serialisation – Chapter Eleven – The Funeral Home by Sally Cronin

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 Just an Odd Job Girl.

Previously  Imogen has to tackle a cat burglar and insurance fraud!

Chapter Eleven – The Funeral Home

I found myself at the gate at the back of my garden. I had been walking for over two hours. Probably the longest walk I had completed for many years. I felt surprisingly refreshed and excited. Suddenly, life did not seem quite so bleak and as I walked through my garden, I visualised how it could look next spring, if I paid some serious attention to it now.

I had spent the last six months decorating the house and making curtains, and I have to say it was looking lovely. Perhaps it was time to ask some of my friends from my previous neighbourhood for lunch.

There were about half a dozen girlfriends who had taken the trouble to call me after Peter and I split up, and although I felt that some of them were after the dirt, I should maybe give them the benefit of the doubt. I now had something to look forward to, and of course, there was my meeting with Andrew on Friday. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, but it was so long since I had ever considered another man, that the feelings I was experiencing felt slightly uncomfortable. Almost guilty. Stupid really! After all, I was not the one who had committed adultery for the last year of my marriage.

I did not really want to visit that old baggage again and I tried to regain my newly found anticipation instead. I went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard. Managing to ignore the packet of biscuits and the large bar of chocolate, I settled for the chicken and vegetables that I knew were in the refrigerator. If I was going to change some aspects in my life, I might as well have a good crack at my body while I was at it. I was only fifty years old and I could live for another thirty or even forty years. Did I really want to live it like this, alone and depressed with an ever decreasing wardrobe. Absolutely not! Time to show Peter that life did not end when our marriage did, and that I could rise from the ashes.

First, I would have to finish my journey into the past. Already some of the old Imogen, that had been buried under the weight of duty and responsibility, was beginning to surface. But I had to find all of her – even the less than desirable bits – if I was to go forward, strong in mind and spirit.

I put my chicken into the pre-heated oven and smiled to myself. Anymore of this and I would be sounding like one of those self-help books. One of my friends had been on a weekend seminar a couple of years back and had walked across burning coals without a single singe to the soles of her feet. She said that it was all about your state of mind, and that once you had accomplished this, nothing would ever seem impossible. Yes, well I think that I had dealt with enough hazards in the last year to qualify for that one.

I sat down on the sofa, with a glass of whisky and water, closed my eyes and took myself back in time.

* * *

Although our relationship was okay after the cat incident, things were not as good as they might have been. More often than not, we would both turn away from each other in bed at night and Peter was staying out later and later with the lads from the bank on a Friday night.

The last thing I needed, just before Christmas, was to work in an undertakers. But, as I have already stressed, it was that or socks for Peter and beans on toast for New Year.

So, there I was, outside Flanagan’s Funeral Directors, looking at their bright green door, which looked slightly out of place for an undertaker. I rang the bell and waited in the cold sleet that had started earlier in the day. After a couple of minutes, the door opened, and there stood a leprechaun. At least I think it must have been as it was the tiniest man that I think I have ever seen.

‘Hello, and what may I do for you my dear?’

His accent was hard to place; it seemed to be a mixture of Irish with a tinge of Welsh lilt. He smiled, showing little white teeth and a great deal of gum.

‘May we be of assistance in a bereavement?’ He opened the door wide, enabling me to see a dark and sombre hall inside.

‘No. I am Imogen, the temp you asked for until Christmas.’

I felt like slouching, as it seemed that I was a good two feet taller than my new acquaintance. If anything, he exposed even more gum and ushered me through the door.

He scurried in front of me, waving me forward with his tiny arm. I followed with a certain amount of trepidation, unsure if I was about to be faced with a line of corpses ready for embalming. Instead, he showed me into a bright waiting room.

There were chairs lined up against two of the walls, a large table in the middle of the room, with magazines on it, and a coffee machine in the corner. We crossed the room and through a door marked Private, and I found myself in a light and airy office with three desks: one with a typewriter and switchboard, obviously for receptionist duties. My guide held back the chair at this desk and indicated that I should sit down. We were now the same height and I found myself looking into his startlingly blue eyes. He winked at me, patted my shoulder and moved away, saying over his shoulder.

‘The boss will be with you in a minute dear, I have to go now as I am in the middle of Mrs. Jenkins.’

That was a little more information than I required, and I waited with macabre fascination for the appearance of the boss.

I sat there for five minutes with my imagination running riot. However vivid my fantasies might have been, it certainly did not prepare me for the vision that appeared at the door of the office. I caught my breath and stared in wonder. Before me stood a six-foot, blonde, good-looking, young man in a dark suit.

‘Hi.’ He said cheerily. ‘I am Dermot Flanagan, welcome to the business, I understand that you are going to be helping us out for a couple of weeks.’

I managed to close my mouth and resume a semi-professional air as I stared at the apparition before me.

‘Yes,’ I stuttered. ‘My name is Imogen and I am very pleased to meet you.’ That was a slight understatement as all thoughts of Peter had flown out the window and I blushed madly and visibly.

He smiled, showing a lot more teeth and a lot less gum than the leprechaun, and pulled up a chair beside me. He then proceeded to run through my duties. I listened with one ear while I sat mesmerised with infatuation. After about twenty minutes he stood up and left the room, on his way to the first funeral of the day. He also mentioned something about me being in charge, and not to mix up the mourners in the waiting room. As if I would – how could one possibly do that?

The work itself was pretty much routine. I found a Dictaphone and listened happily to Dermot’s voice in my ear, as it rattled off a number of letters for typing. He had a slight lilt, which was hardly an accent, yet sounded mysterious and romantic. I dreamily worked through the entire tape before returning to the first letter and beginning typing. I was determined that each letter would be perfect and I applied myself with a great deal more enthusiasm than I had exhibited when entering this establishment.

About an hour later, the doorbell rang and I went into the hall and answered the door. What appeared to be a mob crowded onto the doorstep. Headed by a portly, florid man in a check suit, the entire group filed into the hall.

‘Mr. Jenkins, love. Come to see me wife. Brought the family to say goodbye. Where is she then.’

Okay! Think fast about this one.

I knew that the leprechaun was in the middle of Mrs. Jenkins an hour ago but was unsure about his whereabouts at this exact moment. The waiting room seemed a good option and I ushered the tribe through with what I hoped was a dutifully sombre air.

I was now stuck. I was not sure where I might find Mrs. Jenkins. I cast about the room and saw a bell on the wall next to the door marked private. I rang it and hoped that I was not summoning myself. I poked my head around the door and was very relieved to see a man coming down the passage. He was dressed in a white coat and rubber boots and had carrot red hair standing up on top of his head. He grinned at me as he reached the door.

‘Hi I’m Paddy Flanagan, you must be the Imogen that Nobby has been so excited about.’

Nobby? Who was he?

Paddy could see my obvious confusion.

‘He’s my uncle. Little chap. Looks like a leprechaun.’

Oh that Nobby! I smiled with relief, now that help was at hand, and explained about Mr. Jenkins.

‘That’s grand love.’

Paddy turned to go back down the hall.

‘I’ll just get out of this gear and come back and take them down to the viewing room, you better come too, so that you can do this in the future.’

He looked over his shoulder with a slightly wicked grin.

‘Have you ever seen a dead person before then?’

I shook my head in disbelief, and went white.

‘You’ll get used to it.’

With that, he was gone into the bowels of the building, leaving me in a state of shock and horror.

A few minutes later, Paddy was back and entered the waiting room. He was smartly dressed in a black suit and his hair had been slicked down, giving him a very professional, and suitably subdued look.

He gently took the arm of Mr. Jenkins and with the entire family, and me trailing hesitantly at the back, we proceeded down the corridor to an open door.

The room was large and windowless. Dim lighting, and the sound of choral music increased the air of solemnity. I stood to one side with my eyes shut as the family filed past an open coffin.

Eventually, I had to look up and I caught a glimpse of the deceased Mrs. Jenkins face. I have never seen anything so serene; it was as though she was sleeping. There was nothing macabre or distressing about it, although there were a great many tears from Mr. Jenkins and his family. It was clear that they took a lot of comfort from this last goodbye. I was moved, and quite tearful myself, as we filed out of the room and back to the waiting room.

I heard Paddy telling the family about the arrangements and then ushered them all into the hall and out of the front door. As Mr. Jenkins went past me, he suddenly grabbed me in a huge hug.

‘Thank you so much for taking such good care of my Dolly, love, you’ve made her look so pretty.’

With that, he was gone, leaving me feeling humble and even more tearful.

I returned to my desk in the office and dried my eyes. These next few weeks were going to be emotionally challenging, that was certain. On one hand, I had to deal with grieving relatives and on the other the heart thumping attraction to the boss. I would be a wreck before Christmas.

* * *

Suddenly, I smelt roast chicken and realised how hungry I was. As I sat, with my dinner in front of me on the kitchen table and one glass of white wine, I realised how lonely this was. I had been so immersed in my misery for the last few months that I had not noticed the solitude. I had just wanted time to lick my wounds, and had shut everyone out except for the children. I could see now, that the only loser in this was myself. No! That wasn’t right.

Thinking back over the last twenty-four hours, and the recollections of twenty-five years ago, reminded me of what a huge amount I had done and seen in a very short space of time. I was very capable, adaptable and efficient. I had never been afraid of anything new – only apprehensive. It had never stopped me from trying. What had happened to me? Where did I go? Some alien planet where all self will was abandoned and subjected to the whims of some dominant ruler. No! I had done this to myself. The first time I decided to keep silent for the sake of a quiet life, I had handed over control.

Well, the time for recriminations was over. What is past is past and I can do nothing about it, but I can change the present and the future and that is exactly what I was going to do.

First a bath, a little more pleasant recollection, an early night and then tomorrow I was going out to buy some decent, bright clothes, that fitted. If I was clever, I could get outfits that would still fit when I lost the rest of my excess weight. Shopping had always lifted my mood, and a little retail therapy was exactly what was needed.

Satisfied with my decisions, I ran a hot, scented, bath and relaxed into it. Thinking about the lovely Dermot Flanagan felt deliciously sinful and I was quite embarrassed at the fact that I was lying naked in the bath while indulging in this particular fantasy. Unfortunately, fantasy was all it was.

* * *

I behaved like a star struck teenager for the first week of the job. I made every effort to be noticed. Make-up, new outfits, and efficiency in everything I was asked to do. By Friday I was in agony, the thought of not seeing him for an entire weekend filled me with despair. Forget Peter, who would probably not be home until the early hours of Saturday morning, or the fact that I was even living with someone else, I was besotted!

However, I had a rude awakening on the Friday evening. There was a tradition in the firm, where all the staff came into the office and each was given a shot of Irish Whisky along with their pay packets. The agency would post my cheque to me the following week, but I was handed a glass of the amber coloured liquor and told to get it down me. I was desperate to receive some acknowledgement that I would be required the following week, and waited to have a quiet word with Dermot. I plucked up my courage eventually and sidled up to him.

Before I could say a word, he put his empty glass down and moved towards the door.

‘Night everyone. Just off to pick Jenny up, I’m taking her to Paris as an early Christmas present’.

He looked in my direction.

‘Well done Imogen, you are doing a good job, see you next week.’

And with that, he was gone.

I stood, staring at the door, as it swung shut behind him. I felt an arm around my shoulders and turned to see Paddy smiling at me gently.
‘Jenny is his wife, they have been married two years and are expecting their first baby in six months’ time.’

It could not get any worse. He squeezed my shoulder and topped up my glass with whisky. I knocked it back, and not being accustomed to drinking spirits, either straight or in that quantity, was immediately legless. I barely remember Paddy giving me a lift home or falling into bed and crying myself to sleep. I did stir when Peter came home, smelling of beer at two in the morning, and cried some more, quietly into my pillow. I was so embarrassed. Paddy was obviously aware of my infatuation, so I had to assume that Dermot was too. How could I go back next week and face them all? The answer is money. I knew that the agency would not be able to find someone for the four days left before Christmas and would probably not employ me again if I let them down.

Thankfully, Dermot was on a long weekend and did not appear until my last day. By this time I was accustomed to showing families into the viewing room, and although not as affected as the first time, I still found it very moving. Paddy was a great help and I liked his open, cheery nature. While not as devastatingly good looking as his brother, he had a great deal of charm, which I am sure he used to great advantage with the girls.

On my final day, it snowed. It was Christmas Eve, and although I felt very uncertain about many things, including my relationship with Peter, I loved this time of year.

At five o’clock we all gathered in the office and a number of bottles of whisky were in evidence, along with the more traditional mince pies and sausage rolls. All six of the staff were there, and I felt relaxed and festive. Having learnt my lesson with the whisky on the last occasion, I had a sherry and then a soft drink. Carols were playing on the old radio in the corner and we were all laughing and joking with one another. The doorbell rang and I put down my sherry glass and went to the front door.

On the doorstep stood an elderly man. Stooped, and rail thin, he shivered in the cold evening air. I gestured for him to come inside into the warm hall and he slowly and painfully edged over the doorstep. A gnarled hand, blue with cold, closed over mine. I looked into a pair of faded rheumy eyes and saw the tears pouring down his face.

‘Could you bury my wife love? She just died, in the hospital, and they told me to come here. Is it too late? I don’t want to leave her there you see.’

I laid my hand over his cold one and led him gently into the waiting room. I really did not want to leave him alone, but assuring him that I would be right back, I left and went to get Paddy.

I pulled him away from the party, into the relative quiet of the hall, and explained the situation to him. He immediately stuck his head around the office door and it went quiet. He patted my arm and headed off to the waiting room and I heard murmured voices as he introduced himself. Dermot came out along with Nobby and the rest of the staff. They all headed off back into the preparation rooms at the rear of the building and Dermot picked up the keys to the hearse that were lying on the hall table.

A few minutes later he and the elderly gentlemen left to return to the hospital and Paddy drew me into the office.

‘We’ll deal with this Imogen, you get yourself home. But before you do, we wondered if you would like to work for us permanently in the New Year? You are one of the best receptionists we have ever had.’

I was stunned, and very flattered, and promised to think about it over Christmas. I think I knew in my heart that the answer would be negative. They were great people, doing a wonderful job. Look how they immediately switched from party mood to sympathetic and helpful. The problem was, it broke my heart every-time someone like the old man came to the door.

Helping was not sufficient, I am afraid I felt too much emotion to ever become detached enough. Combined with my general uncertainty about my future with Peter, it made me hesitant to accept any permanent position at the moment.

Paddy must have sensed my hesitancy, but smiled and led me down the hall. He had his hand behind his back and just before he opened the door he whipped it around and held it above my head.

He had an enormous bunch of mistletoe. Putting his hand around my shoulders he pulled me into him and gave me a five-minute introduction to the art of Irish kissing. It was both thorough and intense with more than a slight hint of smoky Irish whisky. When I eventually came up for air, he grinned wickedly at me and said.

‘Just wanted you to know that redheads are better than blondes for some things.’

I blushed at the reference to my crush on his brother, but acknowledged that, comparisons not withstanding, Paddy certainly had kissing down to a fine art. Slightly dazed I exited into the dark and snowy evening.

As I headed down the street toward the bus stop, I turned back and saw Paddy standing on the doorstep. He raised his hand and waved somewhat sadly, and I knew that he realised that I would not be back after Christmas.

* * *

Shivering, I became aware that the bath water had gone cold and I climbed out and wrapped myself in a large warm towel. I got into bed, and no sooner had my head touched the pillow than I was asleep. My dreams were vivid, filled with people I had known all those years ago. They were still young and so was I.

I remember feeling light and happy, a feeling that persisted when I woke in the morning to sunlight shining through the open curtains. Today was truly the first day of the rest of my life. I had a few hours before the shops opened and decided to finish off this chapter in my life.

* * *

Christmas had not been a happy time that year and I plucked up the courage to do something about it in the New Year. I moved out of the flat and into a tiny bed-sit across town.

The agency promised me that, based on my performance in the last six weeks, they would have no problem placing me as long as I was prepared to be flexible about both the type of work and its location. I assured them that I would be happy to accept anything on their books.

I was lucky; they found me two longer-term positions for six weeks each that gave me some comfort that I could pay my bills. Peter tried to contact me several times in the first days of the New Year, but as there was only a pay phone in my building, it was easy to avoid him. I missed him dreadfully. We had been together for nearly two years and there was a giant hole in my life. I avoided telling my parents; reluctant to let them know that they had been right all the time. Still, with contact between us restricted to a weekly telephone call, this was not too difficult.

The first position that the agency found for me was with a local free newspaper that needed telephone sales assistants, for a six-week promotion, on the Cars and Property section. I duly presented myself, in the first week of January, for a two-day training course on selling advertising. Oh yeah!

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

This book is a light, easy read following the story of a young girl coping with a wide range of temporary jobs with lots of humorous moments. It was an especially heart warming tale – told in retrospect when in middle age her husband of many years, walks out on her supplanting her with a Fast Tracker (loved that). She has subjugated her desires for a husband who took her for granted and it’s only when she reflects on her past achievements that she realises that she is indeed a very capable and resourceful person. A book with a hopeful message from a very talented author.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.

I hope you will join me again tomorrow for the next chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round-Up – 9th-15th September 2019 –

Welcome to the weekly round up of posts that you might have missed this week on Smorgasbord.

Things have been relatively quiet around here which I am grateful for. We have had some lovey sunny days and I have taken advantage of those. We both have some projects that are nearing completion so that has taken up a fair amount of time.

Coming up next week

  • Robbie Cheadle with the second part of The York Chocolate Story on Monday
  • Tuesday William Price King shares the life and music of Mary Lou Williams – American Jazz pianists, arranger and composer.
  • Carol Taylor’s food and cookery Column on Wednesday
  • The regulars will be here with book reviews and new releases for authors in the Cafe and Bookstore, The health column, funnies and afternoon video..
  • The health column continues with the major organs and systems in the body with the start of a series on the female reproductive system.
  • Some new bloggers who have been writing for under a year start their new series from the archives and some great posts to showcase.
  • The book marketing series on Saturday covers more of the online watering holes that are useful elements in promoting your work.
  • Just an Odd Job Girl with two more chapters Saturday and Sunday.
  • My guest next Sunday in the author interview is Darlene Foster.
  • And through the week the Blogger Daily will share some exceptional posts from the blogging community
  • And there will be some responses to poetry and flash challenges.

Just a reminder if you are in the Cafe and Bookstore and are planning to put any of your books on offer in coming weeks to let me know so that I can include in the updates. You can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com or leave a message on Facebook.

On with the posts this week

As always a huge thanks to those who contribute with guest posts and columns…. as well as to you for dropping to read them.

My guest this week is author and proofreader Jo Elizabeth Pinto who has recently released her latest book Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark. Jo Elizabeth shares the inspiration behind her love of books and her own writing and lets us peek into her latest book with a humour filled extract that definitely entices you to read more.


Jessica Norrie explores the legendary first lines of books we have read….Authors need a rocket, or at least a hook, right at the start. Dickens has the best opening line ever: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” (A Tale of Two Cities). What scope he gives himself, with that, for anything at all to happen, in any possible way


Delighted that over the next five weeks, author Robbie Cheadle will be sharing the The York Chocolate story with us, following her recent trip to the UK..


Chapter Nine – The Isle of Wight pub life and Skinheads prove to be both interesting and at times dangerous…Imogen recalls her adventures..


Chapter Ten – Imogen and Peter’s relationship hits a bad patch and a cat burglar does not help matters.. and then there is the matter of the insurances cheques.


A new series of the top songs from the movies in my book at least…..and the first song is Shaft by Isaac Hayes.. a blast from the past.


This week the importance your blog has as part of your book marketing strategy. And a checklist to make sure you have certain elements in place to be effective.


I was born on Friday 13th (February) and it has always been lucky for me… there are a number of variations, including Tuesday 13th and Thursday 13th, on the theme around the world and for various reasons..


This week, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to create a story in 99 words not more, no less about the greatest gift of some kind… here is my response.. Life’s Greatest Gift….


This week’s prompt words for Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 144 were ‘Enchant and Fly and I have used the synonyms Charm and Soar for my double etheree


This is the third post from the archives of author and poet, Patricia Furstenberg . I love medical conditions.. not necessarily when afflicting me personally, but the causes, symptoms and treatments.. I know I need to get a life. However, some conditions have a literary origin…. 5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters (2017) by Patricia Furstenberg

Sleeping Beauty painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert


This is the third post from the archives of author, fitness advocate and photographer Terri Webster Schrandt. I could not share some of Terri’s posts without including a photograph…. so whilst short this is also sweet, particularly as that is the favourite taste sensation of the subjects of the photograph. Photography – Never Ending Quest for Food (2016) by Terri Webster Schrandt

Male hummer finding food


This is the third post from the archives of Jim Borden who blogs on ‘Borden’s Blather across a variety of topics. This post from Jim reminds us all of what there is to life we might be missing out on. The Benefits of Having a Purpose in Life (2017) by Jim Borden

(copyright World Economic Forum),


This is the final post from the archives of the eclectic blog of writer Marilyn Armstrong and I have selected this one from a series of posts in 2015 – Sharing my World..Hugging the Dogs: Sharing My World 2015- Week 2 by Marilyn Armstrong



This is the final post of author Antoinette Truglio Martin who began blogging in 2018.. I am going to share four posts from her archives that were part of her A-Z challenge last year.  Pasta is a favourite in our household.. and Antoinette has a story about Pastina…


This is the final post from the archives of Anne Copeland, writer of nonfiction articles, books, and poetry, as well as a mixed media and fiber artist. This post is a poem that sums up how I feel about the world at times. Weltschmerz (2018)

pexels-Statue of Liberty


This is the final post from author and designer, Valentina Cirasola I have chosen this post because my mother was a Libra born on October 5th and I am sure several of you will have your birthdays in the coming month. #Astrology Born A Libra Under Venus (2018)

(Photo: https://www.123rf.com/clipart – Artist: Kisslilly)


This is the final post of author Ellen Hawley who has enjoyed a wonderfully varied career before leaving the United States to settle in Cornwall. The opioid crisis in the USA and increasingly in the UK and other countries is not the first time in history that an addictive substance has become concerning. In this post Ellen explores Tea and opium.. care of The East India Company. History – Tea, opium, and the East India Company (2018)


This is the second post from educator and author Pete Springer who began blogging in April this year. I am sure you will agree that he has made a fantastic start to his new project. I know how many of you are dog lovers, and this one is for you… My Buddies by Pete Springer

Jake and Lulu



New Books on the shelves




Author update – Reviews and books on offer



I wanted to describe the passage of a very common and tasty snack that many of us enjoy. Usually with only one thing in mind. The taste.. However, perhaps after following this chicken sandwich through your digestive tract you might think about it in a different way.





Thank you for all your support this week and look forward to seeing you soon. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Carrot Ranch #Flash Fiction Challenge – Life’s Greatest Gift by Sally Cronin

This week, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to create a story in 99 words not more, no less about The Greatest Gift….

Life’s Greatest Gift

Thomas prowled the corridors of the care home as its residents slept. During the day he would jump from lap to lap, rubbing gnarled hands with his head, accepting tender touches and morsels of food, hoarded and saved for his visit. For many he became the family they no longer knew, and was adored.

The cat slipped through a door left ajar, and approaching the bed, he leapt onto the pillow. Thomas purred gently into the old woman’s ear. She sighed and gave one last gentle breath, accepting the greatest gift in life of being loved until its end.

©Sally Cronin 2019

If you would like to participate you have until September 17th: https://carrotranch.com/2019/09/13/september-12-flash-fiction-challenge/

I have a number of short story collections and you can find my books and their reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

I hope you enjoyed my bit of flash and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.


Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Ten – Cat Burglars and Insurance Fraud! by Sally Cronin

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 Just an Odd Job Girl.

Previously Imogen ends up running a pub on the Isle of Wight and ends up enforcing the rules with a pick axe handle.

Chapter Ten – Cat Burglars and Insurance Fraud! by Sally Cronin

We found a lovely small flat in Southsea, a few roads back from the sea. It had a bedroom, bathroom, separate kitchen, and a combined living and dining room. It was nicely furnished and felt like our first real home. The only drawback was the three Spanish students who lived above us. They were used to staying out late and would arrive home about three in the morning and proceed to indulge in a spot of Flamenco dancing, or so it sounded. The tap of three pairs of high heels on wooden floors had a rhythm to it that was a little like a dripping tap. We would bury our heads under our pillows, but eventually we learnt to live with this minor inconvenience.

Not so their cat, a black and white tom with a distinct lack of regard for other people’s property, particularly of the edible kind. Over a period of some weeks, I became increasingly alarmed by the amount that Peter was eating. I got into the habit of cooking two meals at a time. This worked very well for stews, roasts, and pasta dishes. We would take one day’s portion and I would leave the remainder to cool on the kitchen table before putting in the refrigerator for the next day.

The one thing that Peter would do about the house, was to clear the empty plates away and wash up while he made us a cup of tea. We would then settle down on the sofa and watch our tiny television until it was time for us go to bed. I would take the empty cups out to the kitchen and put the next day’s dinner away. I began to notice a marked difference in the original amount and the quantity that I was putting in the refrigerator. At first, it was only a slight difference and I assumed that Peter was helping himself to an extra spoonful or two when he was making the tea.

After two or three weeks, it became more than a spoonful and in fact there was barely enough to feed one person the next night, let alone two. I decided to tackle the problem discreetly, as I knew what Peter could be like when he was criticised. He did not take kindly to having his actions questioned, which was another little sign I managed to ignore for twenty-five years.

‘Darling, you seem very hungry in the evenings, would you like me to do a few more potatoes and vegetables’ I thought that was diplomatic enough.

‘What do you mean, hungry.’ A belligerent look swept over his face.

‘There’s too much on the plate as it is, I am putting on weight and I have been meaning to talk to you about it.’

Was this self-denial? Here he was, helping himself to our next day’s dinner and having a go at me for feeding him too much and causing a weight problem.

Of course, a full-scale argument ensued and everything that had been stored and filed for future use came out into the open. I slept on the sofa that night, and Peter slammed around the flat until midnight. It did have an upside however, in the form of verbal abuse, hurled upwards to the occupants of the upstairs flat who unfortunately chose this night to hold a fiesta with much heel tapping and laughter at four in the morning. There was a deathly silence then giggling. We could hear bare feet slapping across the floors, as beds were sought and then quiet, which was to thankfully last until the girls moved out a month later. However, all hell was to break loose in our apartment before they left.

After the argument, we made up and I started making one meal at a time and cooking every day. We did have fish and chips on Saturday, after the pub and peace reigned in our little palace for a while.

I was doing temp work at the time and was moving around the place quite a lot. I was asked to work late one night, with an insurance company that was behind in paying its claims. The day before, I had made two dinners, as before, and put the half dish of lasagne on the table to cool. I had forgotten to put salt on the table and returned to the kitchen to get it – much to the surprise of the cat with it’s head buried in the béchamel and cheese sauce. It was so enraptured with my cooking that it did not even look up. I was so startled; I just stood at the kitchen door and screamed my head off. The cat leapt up with arched back and hissed at me. It looked pretty ridiculous really, with a ring of white sauce clinging to its whiskers and a piece of tomato hanging from his mouth.

Peter shot into the kitchen and the three of us stood in a frozen tableau. Peter was the first to move, grabbing a tea towel from the back of the door, he flung it at the cat. Obviously, my lasagne was a prize to hang on to. The cat actually grabbed another bite before leaping nimbly onto the sink and onto the windowsill. We rushed to the open window just in time to see the cat climbing up the ivy that covered the front of the house. With an arrogant backward glance, he gracefully slid into Spanish territory and we were left hanging out of our window, powerless to catch the cat burglar.

This solved the mystery of the missing food. The cat had looked very much at home, and it was obvious that this was not the first time it had helped itself to dinner at our expense. Short of causing an international incident, especially after we had introduced our neighbours to Anglo Saxon vocabulary, we decided to keep the window closed – to a level that allowed air, but not feline, entry.

I thought it was all very funny, but Peter was not amused. He was all for going down to the surgery immediately and having all sorts of tests conducted to find out if he had been infected with cat flu or similar. Of course, it was entirely my fault, for leaving food uncovered, and for not closing the window. I did point out that I had not expected to be burgled on the third floor of a building, but apparently this was not a permissible excuse.

Despite the increasingly volatile relationship between us, we stayed there for nearly a year. In that time I worked for a Temp agency and found myself using my rusty secretarial skills around the city. Most of the jobs were boring and repetitive but of course, being me, there were one or two incidents of note, even among the mundane tasks allotted to the transient temp.

I worked for two insurance companies in my first few weeks with the agency. My first assignment was in the typing pool, where I was expected to spend the entire day typing claim cheques. These were usually payments as a result of motor accidents, and some of the cheques were for several thousand pounds. You had to pay strict attention. I had an electronic typewriter that I was unused to, and in fact, looked on in envy by the girls pecking away on their manual versions. I learnt to master the beast that seemed to have a mind of its own. Keep your finger too long on a particular key and you ended up with a cheque for a million pounds instead of a hundred. All the cheques were numbered and any ruined ones had to be logged and given in at the end of the day to the accounts department. I did not get off to an auspicious start.

The cheques came in packs of fifty. They were joined together and had perforations between each cheque. On my first day, I managed to produce seventy acceptable cheques and thirty cancelled ones. The supervisor glared at me from behind her glasses and muttered something about temps and waste of time, I didn’t quite catch it all. I sidled out of the door vowing never to return. I half expected a call from the agency telling me that I was not welcome back anyway, but the reprieve never arrived.

The next day I found myself, once again, back in front of the gleaming monster. The curved keyboard reminded me of rows of teeth, determined to bite my fingers off at the first touch. However, for some reason, I started to get my eye in, and on the second day I produced ninety-five perfect specimens and only five rejects. By the fourth day, I was producing one hundred and fifty cheques a day with barely an error. The supervisor had thawed somewhat and the muttering under her breath had been silenced. This silence did not extend to the other temps that had been drafted in to clear this backlog of insurance claims.

Three of them cornered me in the ladies at coffee break, standing with arms crossed and grim expressions; I wondered what I had done to incur their displeasure and smiled sweetly in an effort to lighten the atmosphere.

A blonde, with deceptive baby blue eyes, leaned closer to me after assuring herself that the toilet stalls were empty.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ she hissed at me between clenched teeth.

‘We have been here for six weeks and they’ve been very pleased with our work.’ She continued, glancing at her companions for moral support.

‘We only produce seventy-five cheques a day. What are you trying to do, talk yourself out of a job, and ours along with it. The backlog should have kept us all here for the next six weeks until Christmas.’
She took a breath and imparted the final shot.

‘The supervisor has told us all to increase our cheques per day or she will have us replaced, you have to slow down now or there will be trouble.’

Right! Here I am, so desperate to get out of this place that I have perfected the art of cheque production, and these three bimbos want me to slow down so that they can stay here forever.

The problem with me is that I have never been much of a sheep and although I did not feel that a temporary job was worth getting into a fight over, I did have a problem with dishonesty.

Both the insurance company and the temp agency were getting fiddled here. These three girls were deliberately working slowly, taking three times as long to do the job as was necessary, and therefore taking three times more money than they should.

I pushed past them and returned to my desk. I carried on working at my normal speed and produced my one hundred and fifty cheques as usual. I also a produced a couple of other things. I earned glares and ostracism from my three temporary colleagues and my first genuine smile from the supervisor at the end of the day. I don’t think she missed much at all and I was proved correct when three replacement staff were drafted in to the department the following Monday.

I was given the task of bringing them up to speed and ensuring that an acceptable number of cheques were produced each day. The job was completed in three weeks and as my three erstwhile colleagues had predicted, we only had three weeks left until Christmas. Most offices did not take on temps at this time of year, and I was told by the agency that there would be some vacancies in department stores for the sales in January and that they might not be able to find me anything until then.

I adjusted my Christmas present list, which left Peter with a pair of socks, and my parents with a bottle of wine and a bunch of flowers. My responsibility was to pay for the food each week, so I hurriedly rang around both sets of parents and siblings to wangle an invitation for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day. I was marginally successful, but it looked like fish and chips for New Year. Then I received a call from the Agency.

With just two weeks to go before Christmas, an unusual vacancy had come up. A receptionist–secretary for a ‘Funeral Director and Chauffeur Driven Limousine Service’. Not the most cheerful of occupations at Christmas time. But, beggars can’t be choosers. The thought of Peter’s face, when he opened his solitary Christmas gift, convinced me, and I duly arrived at Flanagan’s Funeral Directors on December 15th.
©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Dec 04, 2015 Jo Robinson rated it it was amazing

Just an Odd Job Girl is the uplifting story of Imogen. Cast aside aged almost fifty by her husband who chooses a younger wife to replace her she faces beginning life all over again. A new and most cool phrase totally to me in this book – the fast tracker – a great name for those gorgeous young women who forego the whole long term working to succeed in life together as a couple in favour of swiping an already successful older man from the woman who has put in all the years to gain the success. Imogen’s self-confidence is low as it can be, but she heads off to a personnel agency that specializes in placing the more mature job seeker to see if they can help her find work in spite of her not obviously stellar curriculum vitae. Twenty four years of “only” housewife and mother. There she is interviewed by Andrew Jenkins, who rather than dismisses her on the basis of her tiny CV, encourages her to tell him what she liked or didn’t like about the few jobs she did have many years back before she stopped working in exchange for being a stay at home wife and mother. And then the fun begins!

I laughed so hard I almost cried a few times reading Imogen’s memories of former jobs and employers. She’s crazy in the most wonderfully inspiring way. Chasing thieves and fabulousness in a funeral parlour and dentists office to name only two of the places she showed her wonderful character and savvy in on her Odd Job Girl trip. The apprehending of the shoplifter just has to be read! In the telling of her own life, Imogen realizes her value though. While this book is a really fun romp, it’s also very poignant and touching. So many women around the globe really do get kicked to the kerb after years of thinking that they married their true love, and would be together forever. Generally they feel old and ugly, all used up and not much use for anyone or anything, let alone a meaningful career and life.

This is a book with a happy ending, and an inspirational happy ending at that. It shows that all is never lost until the very last breath that you take. It shows that everyone has fabulousness within us, and all it takes is to recognize it, grab it, and have a ball with the amazingly wonderful person that you are. It’s not all about age, it’s all about feisty and real. Five out of five stars and a very hearty one hundred percent recommendation. A nice one for the guys out there too – especially if you have ever been a target for a fast tracker. There’s a whole lot more to life than a little bit of nubile.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.

I hope you will join me again next week for the next chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Book Marketing – Online Watering Holes for Authors – Part One – Is your Blog book marketing ready? – Sally Cronin

So far in this series I have focused on Amazon Author pages, Goodreads and the book marketing potential of your covers, titles, tag lines and key words: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-marketing-series-2019/

In the next three posts I am going to look at the online social media platforms that are helpful in your efforts to market your books. None of them are perfect, not least of all because of the amount of personal data that is collected, but you are in business as an author and advertising is a key element of your strategy.

This week I am going to focus on blogging which in my experience over the last seven years is the one that offers the most options when it comes to book marketing, as it is combined with another crucial element… the marketing of you the author.

Blogworld is probably the most effective watering hole for writers.

There are an estimated 60 million bloggers on WordPress alone, and I recognise that it can take time to establish your own community of writers and readers. I started my own blog in 2012 but it was not until September 2013 that I really began building my brand consistently.

I wanted to promote my previous books which were just converted to Ebooks, and this gave them a new lease of life. New covers, updated and previously only sold in print at local outlets, I was finally after 14 years able to take advantage of the global  Kindle and Epub market.

Seven years later, this platform and my social media, not only offer me an opportunity to promote my own books but also to promote other authors. Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore has 150 + active authors (recent reviews and releases) at any given time and passed its third year anniversary in June this year.


A blog also offers you an amazing opportunity to show off your writing skills. If a reader likes your post, or short story, they are more inclined to buy your books.

I would like to ask you a series of questions about your blog and if you answer NO to a number of them, you might think about making some adjustments.

  1. Do you have an ‘About Me’ page with a good quality photograph, enough background to engage the reader (people buy people first) a brief but comprehensive guide to your books as well as what the readers will find on your blog?
  2.  Have you included a link to your Amazon Author Page and social media (the other watering holes) where you would like to connect with your readers?
  3. Have you included your Goodreads Author Page where readers from all over the world can leave their reviews and read all of your reviews from different countries in one place?
  4. Do you have a separate ‘My Books’ Page with each book, a blurb or recent review and the links to buy?
  5. Are your books also available to buy in other formats than Kindle, such as Epub or Audio on another site such as Smashwords?
  6. Do you have an archive search option in your side bar which allows readers to search by month?
  7. Do you have a Categories menu in your side bar?
  8. Do you have directories for regular features in your header menu?
  9. Do you have all available share icons featured beneath your post such as the Like button, Press This button, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc? You may not have an account on social media (more next week on why you should).
  10. How easy is it for your readers to comment?
  11. Do you have an invitation to your readers to comment and share at the end of each post?
  12. Do you have a link to your books page at the bottom of each post that you write?
  13. Do you have a blog identifier in the title line that builds on your brand? (Smorgasbord Health Column etc)

If you have not answered yes to all those questions about you blog set up, here is the link to my recent post on setting up your blog to be reader friendly with a step by step guide: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/new-series-smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-new-blogger-promotionand-setting-up-your-blog-for-accessibility-readability-and-sharing/

Branding your blog to carve out a niche amongst the 60 million other bloggers!

My blog is Smorgasbord Invitation although the primary brand name is Smorgasbord Blog Magazine. I nearly always put Smorgasbord and my full name in the title unless it is the secondary brand name, Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore.  When the posts go into the WordPress reader, anyone who follows the blog can immediately see that it is a new post from my blog.

Originally I set up my blog to be a magazine style watering hole, covering a number of subjects such as health, humour, music and posts on general interest, hence the name Smorgasbord. I then began to post book and author promotions and in addition to the Smorgasbord brand, in mid 2016, I added Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore as my second level branding.

And if you would like to see how that works then put Smorgasbord Blog Magazine or Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore into your search engine.

And here are some established blogs that carry a distinctive brand, either for their blogger, a regular series or both, that illustrate how important it is when optimizing your blog visibility.

The Story Reading Ape

D.G. Kaye

Tanka Tuesday poetry challenge (even when you don’t add in Colleen)

If you do not have a consistent name in your post titles such as your blog name or your own name then you will find it hard to establish your brand.

This is important for any blogger, but for an author it is essential if you wish to bring in new and existing readers to your blog and to view your books.

This is your place of business – put a sign over the door – your name or the brand name you have chosen and use it for all your posts – Smorgasbord Health Column, Smorgasbord Music Column, Smorgasbord Laughter Lines, Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore New on the Shelves etc, etc. Keep those readers coming through the doors and once in you must have your mechandise on display My books and Reviews 2019

Self Promotion on your blog.

It is true what they say about readers not liking persistent self promotion on a blog. On an author’s website you can get away with more, as it is expected and you can have a combined Author Website with a Blog attached. The way to encourage readers to buy your books is by letting them get to know you better, engage with you and find out what makes you tick and inspires you. It is equally true what they say ‘People buy People First’.

I have trained hundreds of sales and front of house staff in my career in retail, advertising,hospitality industry and in telecommunications. One of the elements that makes a customer facing staff member excellent, is their interpersonal skills and knowledge of the product. Making that connection with existing and potential customers is crucial during the first few minutes of their interaction.

First impressions do count, so when a new reader hits your home page where all the summaries of your posts are found, and they see post after post about my books, my latest book, my book in progress, my new review, buy my books… they will be off like a shot.

But if they pop in and they see My childhood memories of my Grandmother, My inspiration behind my writing, Guest post by Author Sarah Smith – Editing Your Book, The Story Reading Ape – Monday Funnies, My review of the Jungle Book.…they are more likely to read all the posts that interest them… and at the end of the post take up your invitation to visit your books…..

On some posts that I have written myself, such as in the Smorgasbord Health Column or Smorgasbord Short Stories, I will also had a short biography and the link to my books.


What about the numbers of followers of your blog?

Some people say that you should not worry about how many followers you have for your blog. However, if you are an author, in the business of selling books, then you do need followers, otherwise all the effort you are putting into writing posts that are not read, is a waste of your time and writing skill. Effectively you are talking to yourself.

Certainly I don’t believe you need hundreds of thousands of followers to be successful, because it is about quality not quantity. However, what you do want to attract is readers who buy books and I think we would be all happy to have 1000, 2000, 3,000 followers of our blog who also buy our books!

Not everyone who does visit will buy a book, especially if you don’t write in their genre, but they are likely to click one of the share buttons and send your post to their social media platforms, and that is just as important as it widens your marketing reach.

You need to go out and gather new readers for your blog, and that is accomplished by gathering around one or two of those other watering holes online, and getting to know the readers first in that environment.

And that is where we are going to go next, now that you have checked that your storefront has a book marketing focus, with easy access to your books and the buy links.

Thank you for dropping in and if you are a new visitor you can find out more about the blog, me and my books: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-smorgasbord-blog-magazine-and-sally-cronin/



Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and systems of the body – The digestive system, the Immune System and a Chicken Sandwich.

The immune system- The Digestive process.

There is an old saying ‘You are what you eat‘ which came originally from the French Anthelme Brillat-Savarin author wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.) A time when gout was a huge problem for those who indulged in rich foods….thanks to Phrases.org.uk

I thought I would take this concept a little further by demonstrating the actions that take place following the consumption of food… and since most of us who eat meat, will indulge in a chicken sandwich regularly, I have selected this to be the test subject.

I wanted to describe the passage of a very common and tasty snack that many of us enjoy. Usually with only one thing in mind. The taste.. However, perhaps after following this chicken sandwich through your digestive tract you might think about it in a different way.

As a starter – a bit about Antibiotics.

Firstly, though a little about antibiotics. Most of the stories in the media are about the concerns of scientists and doctors that we are fast running out of effective antibiotics to kill the many strains of bacteria that threaten our health.

If human DNA only mutates every 10,000 years or so, they are outstripped by ‘Formula 1‘ bacteria. They are mutating in a heartbeat to survive and this is where the problem lies with antibiotics. We have over prescribed them in the last 50 years or so, pumped them through the food chain resulting in damage to our immune systems and we have created a group of superbugs that don’t care what you throw at them.

Our immune system is our own personal health insurance and we need to make sure that it is boosted so that it can handle the minor bacterial infections we will all have from time to time and only have antibiotics if our system cannot overcome the problem itself.

The purpose of this post is to illustrate how the food that we put in our mouths is critical to the efficiency of our Immune System. Without the right ingredients that have to be processed at every stage of digestion, there would be no defense mechanism in place and we would die. Therefore you really need to think of these two major operating systems of the body as working in tandem.

Our body is pretty amazing but it is not a magician. You do not eat a meal and are suddenly flooded with vitamins and minerals. It is necessary for the food to go through a complex process before its nutrients can be utilised to combat bacteria and provide us with energy.

For that task we need enzymes and other ingredients produced by our organs. For the purpose of this post I am going to use a sandwich that many of us might eat and then forget about. What happens to it after the juicy chicken and tangy mayo has left our mouth is not our concern surely?  But it is!

One of the most complex systems in our body is already at work having begun the process the moment you started to chew the first mouthful of the sandwich.

The journey of the chicken sandwich from first bite to fuelling your immune system.

chicken sandwichYou take your first bite of a wholegrain sandwich with chicken and salad, a bit of butter and a smidgen salt and mayonnaise (lovely)- in the meantime your teeth, tongue and salivary glands that produce the first phase of enzymes begin the digestive process before passing the food (properly chewed is helpful) into the pharynx at the back of the throat. For example amylase produced by the salivary glands converts the bread in the sandwich into pairs of sugars, or dissacharides.

Salivary GlandsThe food then passes into the oesophagus through to the stomach where hydrochloric acid modifies pepsinogen, secreted by the stomach lining to form an enzyme called pepsin. Pepsin breaks down the chicken into smaller units called polypeptides and lipase will break down any fatty globules into glycerol and fatty acids. The acid in the stomach will also kill as much harmful bacteria as possible (not only in the food itself but passed on from the hands that made it and the board it was made on). The end result is a highly acidic liquid that is passed into the duodenum.

Stomach and PancreasThe duodenum will secrete a mucus in response to two hormones (secretin and pancreozymin) that are released to neutralise the acidic liquid that was your chicken sandwich. Bile is also passed into the duodenum either directly from the liver or from the gallbladder where it has been stored.

Acid Alkali scale-01Bile is a complex fluid containing water, electrolytes and organic molecules including bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids and bilirubin essential for the digestion of fats and their absorption along with fat-soluble vitamins as they pass through the small intestine. The bile has also picked up the waste products that have been accumulating in the liver so that they can be passed through the colon for elimination.

Referring back to my cholesterol blogs –Health Column Directory  this is when total levels are affected by the efficiency of the bile process. Cholesterol not only comes from food but is also manufactured in the liver. It is virtually insoluble in most fluids except for bile where the acids and fats such as lecithin do the job. If this process is not effective cholesterol can collect into stones that block the ducts and cause problems with the digestion of fat. Bile levels in the body are lowest after fasting which is why you have a cholesterol test at least 12 hours after your last meal.

IntestinesBy the time the liquid sandwich reaches the duodenum the particles within it are already very small, however they need to be smaller still before they pass into the ileum, where the final chemical processing will take place. The enzymes that have joined the mix from the pancreas and amylase will break down the food even further into peptides and maltose which is a disaccharide sugar.7. The small intestine is lined by millions of villi, tiny hair like projections which each contain a capillary and a tiny branch of the lymphatic system called a lacteal. More enzymes maltase, sucrase and lactase are produced to facilitate the absorption of the smaller particles through the villi – including breaking down the sugar pairs into single sugars called monosaccharides which pass through easily.

The glycerol, fatty acids and the now dissolved vitamins are sucked up into the lymphatic system through the lacteal and into the bloodstream. Other nutrients such as amino acids, sugars and minerals are absorbed into the capillary in the villi which connects directly to the hepatic portal vein and the liver. It is here, in the liver that certain nutrients will be extracted and stored for later use whilst others are passed onto the body.

The carbohydrate in the sandwich we have eaten has been broken down into first pairs of sugars and then into single sugar molecules and have passed through the villi into the liver. Glucose provides our energy and the liver will determine current levels in our system, how much glucose to convert to glycogen to store and how much to release directly into the bloodstream, as long term imbalance can cause diabetes.

Once all the nutrients have been extracted and passed into the bloodstream, lymphatic system or liver, any insoluble and undigested food moves into the large intestine. Any water and salt remaining in the mixture is absorbed into the lining of the intestine and the remainder mixes with all the other waste products produced by the body such as bacteria and dead cells – it is then pack and pressed and stored for excretion.

So there goes the last of your chicken sandwich. I hope it puts a different perspective on the food that you are putting into your mouth – it also is important to remember that if you have a white diet, white grains, fats and sugars lacking in sufficient healthy fats, vegetables and fruits, you are giving your body a great deal less to work with, and your body and immune system will struggle to get what it needs to be healthy.

The only foods that provide our digestive system with the raw ingredients to maintain and boost our immune systems are natural, unprocessed vegetables, fruit, protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and healthy fats. This does not mean that you cannot eat white flour products, for example sourdough bread because of the live nature of the fermentation process is a healthier alternative to store bought plastic cheap white bread.

If 80% of the time you are consuming these foods cooked from scratch then 20% of the time eating foods that have are not as healthy is not a problem.

Most of us have access to an amazing variety of fresh foods but stay firmly fixed on a handful. We need a really wide variety of food to obtain all the nutrients we need for our immune system and this shopping list might help you out.


©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

I hope you have found useful and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – New Author Interview, Music, Travel, Seasoning, Apple Coffee Cake and lots of other stuff

Welcome to the weekly round up of posts that you might have missed on Smorgasbord this week.

It is a time of great suffering and challenges for the thousands who have been devastated in the Bahamas and also those caught up in the hurricane as it moves up the Eastern coast of the USA. Whilst the majority of us are just spectators as these tragedies unfold, they do touch us and make us realise how lucky we are not to be in the path of the destructive force of nature so regularly. Especially when so many of those impacted had little to begin with.

I know that I bang on about the Irish weather from time to time, but it is still a moderate climate without the extremes normally, and we are very lucky.

This coming week sees a new feature for those authors in the Cafe and Bookstore, in line with my renewed focus on promoting this group of writers.

If you have a book that you are going to be offering free or for a reduced price, usually 99p/99c then please let me know a week in advance if you can, by email sally.cronin@moyhill.com…or if you are on Facebook you can send me a message. I will add in its own section at the end of one of the Cafe Updates.. all it costs you is a few seconds of your time to let me know.

Also I don’t want to come across as a nag, but please remember to respond to comments individually, as it will encourage more sales, for your books and also for your blog to be remembered with more shares across social media.  Thank you for listening to this service message!!!

As always a huge thanks to the contributors to the blog, my aim to have a magazine approach originally has been fulfilled by their wonderful posts, offering a diverse range of subjects that I could not provide myself. Their knowledge and effort are very much appreciated. Also thank you for your support for their work and for my own posts, it helps motivate and inspire me.

Time to get on with the show…..

A welcome return to our musical columnist William Price King with a new series of posts on influential musicians.. this week American jazz-rock guitarist and composer John Scofield


The week D.G. Kaye takes us to one of the lovely islands in the Caribbean and provides us with all the information we need to visit...I’ve written about a few islands in the Caribbean so far, and today I want to continue the Caribbean theme and take us all to Saint Barthelemy, or the often abbreviated, St. Barths, the French prefer to call it, and, St. Barts in English.


This week Carol Taylor shows us How to add fuss free flavor to your food. To make delicious family food you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy ingredients which cost a fortune. Most of us have access to a whole range of simple herbs, spices and aromatics which we can use to accentuate and bring maximum flavor to food.


This month a cake that will tempt you beyond all self-control from Silvia Todesco – a step by step guide to Italian deliciousness.  Fluffy apple coffee cake: irresistible!


D.G. Kaye, Debby Gies, kicks off the new author interview series in great style sharing the inspiration for her writing, the editing process and software, and books on our craft that she considers are must reads. I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did. You can also enjoy an excerpt from her memoir Twenty Years After “I Do”.


My review for The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie.. a lovely book and highly recommended.


Previously Imogen had regaled Andrew with her antics as one of the team in the Ladies Fashion department at Huntleys, and her run in with shoplifters. Chapter Seven – The Cosmetic Department.


Previously  Working in the Cosmetic Department of Huntleys was not all about nail varnish and lipsticks, there were also fascinating social issues to be discovered and embraced. Chapter Eight – The Steakhouse


Being the first Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 142 of the month, Colleen allows us the freedom to choose our own words…Double Etheree – The Summer Bids Farewell 


This week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to use the title of one of the greatest western’s of all time True Grit in one form or another.. Since is was my father’s favourite film (along with any John Wayne Western) I have responded with this.


Attracting your readers, Covers, Book Titles, Tag Lines and Key Words Authors are small businesses with a product that needs marketing to obtain sales. Once you start thinking of yourself as a business it tends to focus your mind differently. One of the key elements of marketing and selling is to attract the right customer for your product and in book marketing this is your readers.


New books on the shelves.




Author Updates



Kicking off the new series of posts from the archives of bloggers who have been blogging for under a year, is Pete Springer, sharing his story of getting fitter and healthier after retirement. Making Healthy Changes by Pete Springer


The current series of potluck posts continues for a couple of weeks and in this post Terri Webster Schrandt underlines the need to make sure that children and adults are safe in the water. Don’t Become a Memory: Three Easy Ways to Be Safe in the Water (2015) by Terri Webster Schrandt



This is the second post from the archives of author and poet, Patricia Furstenberg who as you can tell from some of her books is a dog lover. In this post Patricia shares the steps to igniting the love of reading in boys. Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps (2017) by Patricia Furstenberg

Image courtesy Unsplash

Image courtesy Unsplash


This is the second post from the archives of Jim Borden. One of the areas I think we do not do well here is with a Community Alert System should there be a potential disaster.. along the lines of this post.  #Community First Night of CERT Training (2016) by Jim Borden – No, this post is not about how to properly take a breath mint, although I know many of us who could benefit from such training.


This is the third post from the archives of the eclectic blog of writer Marilyn Armstrong and I have selected this one because despite being written seven years ago…our lives are still run by batteries and power boards.Charge (Batteries) 2012 by Marilyn Armstrong


This is the third post of author Antoinette Truglio Martin who began blogging in 2018.. I am going to share four posts from her archives that were part of her A-Z challenge last year.  Since my downfall is and has always been food….I enjoyed browsing Antoinette’s challenge. This week, a food that immediately brings back memories of New England… Lobster.


This is the third post from the archives of Anne Copeland, writer of nonfiction articles, books, and poetry, as well as a mixed media and fiber artist. This post is heartrending and inspiring. As someone who has lost a late-term baby, I  found this very touching and it is a beautiful undertaking by an extraordinary woman. An Angel Among Us (2018) Anne Copeland

Garden of Angels Cemetery at Desert Lawn in Calimesa


This is the third post from author and designer, Valentina Cirasola. I have chosen this post from the Home Designs Blog and as I have always painted by kitchens Yellow… I thought you might get some inspiration from Valentina from September 2018 Yellow For Manifesting – Valentina Cirasola – Interior Designer


This is the third post from the archives of Lee who writes for her blog Woeful to Froful, where she shares about hair and skincare, beauty, positive thinking and music. This is from Lee’s second blog and I thought it was a lovely way to express a mother’s body….



This is the third post of author Ellen Hawley who has enjoyed a wonderfully varied career before leaving the United States to settle in Cornwall.  Here Ellen shares a recipe for another family favourite. Recipe – Peach or blackberry cobbler: an American recipe

cobbler, eddie 006


The new series of the blogger daily where I showcase some of our brilliant bloggers in the community.



Last week I began a series on The Immune System and how it works. This week I would like to show you how your role in your immune system’s efficiency is critical and possibly life saving.





Thank you for dropping by and for all your amazing support it is much appreciated. It would be lovely if we could connect on the following sites too. Thanks Sally.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
MeWe: https://mewe.com/i/sallycronin

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – True Grit by Sally Cronin

This week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to use the title of one of the greatest western’s of all time True Grit in one form or another.. Since is was my father’s favourite film (along with any John Wayne Western) I have responded with this.

True Grit

Each year on her late father’s birthday, Molly would watch True Grit, his favourite western. This year she was nine months pregnant and hoping after three boys it might be a girl. Her husband rubbed her ankles, passing her tissues as she wept at the end of the movie. The baby kicked and Molly felt a sharp pain.

‘It’s on the way love.’ She smiled at him. ‘I am going to call the baby Mattie, boy or girl.’

‘Thank God, I thought you were going to say Rooster for a minute.’ Laughing and excited they headed out the door.

©Sally Cronin 2019

If you would like to participate you have until September 10th: https://carrotranch.com/2019/09/06/september-5-flash-fiction-challenge/

I have a number of short story collections and you can find my books and their reviews: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

I hope you enjoyed my bit of flash and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Eight – The Steak House by Sally Cronin

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 Just an Odd Job Girl.

Previously  Working in the Cosmetic Department of Huntleys was not all about nail varnish and lipsticks, there were also fascinating social issues to be discovered and embraced.

Chapter Eight – The Steakhouse

My girdle was killing me and as soon as I arrived home I raced upstairs and removed the offending undergarment. My body did not return to its customary shape for about five minutes, which caused me some concern. However, I was soon sitting down to lunch and for some reason I was motivated to by-pass the French bread, mayonnaise and pate, and indulge in a wholemeal, tomato sandwich and a piece of fruit.

It was a while since I had felt attracted to another man but I recognised the signs. Incentive to lose weight had been sadly lacking of late, and had been the reason behind my constant failure to stick to a healthy lifestyle. I wasn’t sure where my relationship with Andrew was going to lead, perhaps nowhere, but if I could lose a stone in the process it would be a bonus.

After lunch, I looked out of the kitchen window to the back of the garden. The green gate that opened onto the forest had not been unlocked since my arrival in the house six months ago an I had to root around in the drawers in the dresser to unearth the key tag marked ‘G-gate’.

I put on a pair of sensible shoes and headed out of the back door, with my rolled-up CV in my pocket for reference. The key fitted, and although rusted, the gate opened with a protesting groan. The paths in the forest had been beckoning since I arrived, and for the first time, I succumbed to their invitation and set off through an avenue of trees.

Once I was into my stride, and my heart and breathing had slowed down a little, I reached back through the years to 1972.

* * *

There had been almighty ructions in the house over my decision to leave home and go to Eastbourne, although I imagine that the problem was more about my being with Peter than about my leaving home. Even the fact that I would be living-in at a job I had obtained through a catering magazine, and not with Peter, in digs, did nothing to persuade my parents that I was doing the right thing.

They were very disappointed that I had dropped the idea of nursing, and felt that I was taking a backward step by becoming a catering assistant. But I was in love, and nothing was going to stand in my way, not even my parent’s disapproval. With all my clothes jammed into two suitcases, I packed myself into Peter’s small car and off we headed into the wide blue yonder.

Peter was in his last year of study, so I was not looking for a career. However, I did need a job that would also gave me a roof over my head. When I saw my drab little home, in the attic of the steak house, for the first time, I realised that I was not going to be enjoying the home comforts that I was used to.

About ten feet square, the room arched into the roof space, where cobwebs had been gathering since the building was erected in 1812. A single bed was pressed against the wall and dingy blue curtains flapped at the small grimy window. I thought for a minute that the window was open but on investigation discovered that it was the draft around the badly fitting glass that was the source of the wind tunnel effect in the room. There was an old, oak wardrobe and dresser and a chair in the corner.

Down the hall was the bathroom – shared by the five staff who lived in. Strangely, none of them seemed to be able find the cleaning products under the sink, left there for the purpose of removing stains from toilets and baths. I thought longingly of my room at home and the pristine bathroom next to it. Oh well, there was always love – wasn’t there?

I unpacked my two cases and changed into the uniform that had been provided.

My training was to take four weeks in total, with a week in each of the four departments in the steak house: Bar, Restaurant, Kitchen and Stock Control.

Because of my previous experience with accounts and retail, I was classified as ‘Assistant to the Assistant Manager’. What this really meant was ‘General Dogsbody’. If anybody was off sick anywhere in the establishment, I got to fill in for them. Actually, I rather enjoyed the variety that this offered and I soon made friends with the other live-in staff and managed to get myself into and out of some trouble along the way.

Peter was studying hard, and working a part-time job too. We only really saw each other on my evening off, and one other day a week. If I had stayed at home we would not have seen each other more than a couple times during term, so we counted ourselves lucky to have that.

The departments that I spent most time in were the bar and restaurant. The building, as I have mentioned, was built in 1812, and had some additions to the rear of the property where the kitchen was housed. The downstairs bar and restaurant were decorated in red flock wallpaper with red velvet seats and brown carpet. The ceiling was an interesting, mottled, tan and yellow colour. I thought it rather unusual and mentioned it to my boss. He laughed and said it was ‘tint de nicotine’, which also explained the smell that pervaded the place, masked by some kind of antiseptic smelling deodoriser. At the end of each day, my clothes and hair would reek of tobacco smoke, that lay like a layer of smog about six feet off the ground in the bar. Being so tall had its disadvantages, and I began to walk with a stoop to keep below the contamination layer.

The bar work was hectic and wet. The steak house was busy, particularly at the weekends. Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday lunchtimes, were manic. We would sometimes have a waiting list of up to two hours on a Saturday night, and of course, this meant that every table in the bar was packed. Most of the men drank beer and the women wine or lager. We were not into designer cocktails, at the time, so life behind the bar consisted mainly of pulling pints and making liqueur coffees for the after dinner crowd. The floor used to become slick with overflow from the pumps. Add spilt cream, peanuts and bottle tops and you have a skating rink. I once ended up sliding from one end of the bar to the other on my backside and still managed not to spill the Irish coffee that I had just made. Apart from being dog-tired at the end of each shift, nothing spectacular ever happened in the bar. That was reserved for the restaurant and kitchen.

After eight weeks, and on the resignation of the deputy restaurant manager, I was promoted. I have no idea why; except that I always accepted whatever job I was given and got on with it, generally without complaining. I was given a pay rise of two pounds a week, which was most welcome, and was also given two long black skirts for evening wear in the restaurant.

My first week went smoothly enough. Lunchtimes and evenings were busy, but nice and steady. Then Friday night arrived. We were booked solid – three sittings, from six in the evening through to last orders, at ten. What I had failed to realise, when I accepted this new position, was the amount of juggling one had to do.

The menu was simple enough, with a choice of only three starters, soup, pate or juice. The main courses were steak (in various disguises), chicken in red wine or fish and chips. You could have an ice cream or sorbet for dessert and this was included in your meal. The wine list was short and young, and so were the waitresses. The grill chef was experienced and could rattle out the orders like a conveyor belt, at least when he could read the waitresses writing.

The customers had to be in and out in just over an hour to enable us to lay the table up again for the next booking. Everything had to be timed to perfection. But not, I’m afraid, on my first Friday.

As a perfect recipe for disaster, you need to take: an inexperienced assistant restaurant manager; three sick waitresses, leaving five disgruntled ones; a grill chef with a hangover from lunchtime; two hundred hungry customers; and a dead mouse!

We suffered an evening of overbooking, wrong orders, meals taking twice as long to get to the customers, and a broken dish-washer that ate the cutlery.

By ten o’clock that night, I was running on adrenaline. I was clearing tables, and laying them up again, serving wine, replacing undercooked steaks, and seeing customers to their tables. I was perspiring. My feet hurt, and I thought that the evening would never end. The eating was at its peak – a frenzy of steak, fish, chips and ice cream. I paused by the entrance before using the microphone to call the next group of diners forward. I glanced down the aisle of tables and noticed that a customer was bent over retrieving his serviette from under the table.

His hand re-appeared not holding the red paper napkin as expected but a mouse, by its tail.
I do not remember consciously thinking about my next move. I dashed down the aisle with my hand outstretched. Just as the man went to stand up and wave his unexpected find around the room for all to see, and just before he opened his mouth to shout the news, I grabbed the mouse in mid stride and shot into the kitchen. I threw the offending creature into the nearest bin and shot back out again. The customer was still staring at his hand in mystification. The light had been dim, and my reaction fast. Could I get away with it? Adrenaline still pumping I walked calmly over to him.

‘Oh thank you so much for finding that stuffed mouse. The manager’s daughter was playing in here today, and would not go to sleep until we found Mickey.’

I could see that there was some slight hesitancy about accepting my fulsome approach.
‘Please have a liqueur coffee on the house as a thank you.’

That clinched it. He sat down, looked up and smiled.

‘That’s one for me and the rest of my party isn’t it?’ At least we had an understanding.

At the end of the night I collapsed in a heap, into a bath of lukewarm water, and wished myself a thousand miles away. No other night would be as bad, but I have never worked so hard as I did in that restaurant.

The mouse, unfortunately, had more work to do. The next day a waitress, who had spurned the attentions of the under chef, found Mickey served up, with chips and peas, on a plate in the warmer. The under chef was sporting a black eye for dinner that night.

We had fun too. Most of the customers just wanted a night out, with good food at a reasonable price. They were not looking for a posh restaurant, with fancy wine and snooty waiters. They enjoyed the bustle, and cracked jokes with the staff as they downed their steak and ice cream, and very few gave us trouble. Sometimes they got a little loud, especially if there was a delay in getting to their table. We did not give specific times at the weekend, we used a first-come-first-served basis. So they could be waiting for up to three hours for their turn. This could mean several pints and glasses of wine, and trouble. Most of it was easy to diffuse but we occasionally had to call to the kitchen for assistance. There is not much to match the sight of the large Irish chef, Paddy, and his two kitchen porters, Dave and Pete, in full riot gear charging up the restaurant rolling up their sleeves. One sight of the rescue team and peace was normally restored. I got quite philosophical about it in the end and little did I realise how this would stand me in good stead in my next job.

In my time at O’Ryan’s, there was only one job that I really did not like. On Sunday nights we did a stock take of the food. The business was successful because it provided good quality food at a very reasonable cost. This meant very strict portion control, down to the last pea. My job was to count everything that was left, on Sunday night, taking into account deliveries during the week, and then work out what had been sold, and how much wastage there had been. That was straightforward enough, but it was the physical counting of every item including the weighing of the bags of frozen peas that I found tedious.

What I found terrifying was the two hours at the end of the stock-take, where I sat in the office in the furthest end of the attic. I was not terrified because of the task in hand, but because for some strange reason, I would be covered in goose-bumps, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I kept on thinking that there was someone in the room with me and I would look over my shoulder, constantly, at the blank wall behind me.

This went on for several weeks, until one day I happened to be talking to an old boy that came in every day for his schooner of sherry. He was about ninety, and loved to spend a few minutes chatting with the girls. My break coincided with his second glass of sherry, and I would often sit with him and listen to his tales of his time up the Kyber Pass on his motorbike.

I asked him one day if he knew the history of the building. He smiled, and looked up at me from under bushy eyebrows.

‘Seen her have you?’ He whispered.

‘Seen who.’ I whispered back.

‘His wife, she haunts the place you know.’ He looked around him to ensure that no one else was within earshot.

‘Don’t want to scare the customers away do we?’ He cackled away into his sherry while I tried to decide if he was having a joke at my expense.

‘The man who built this place was a rich merchant.’ He continued swiftly.
‘After a few years he fell in love with a widow and tried to get his wife to leave him.’
He paused for effect.‘When she refused, he locked into the room at the end of the attic and starved her to death, then married the other one.’

Looking across the bar he swayed slightly in his seat and went quiet. I checked to see if he was still breathing. ‘Never forgave him, she didn’t, and has been haunting upstairs ever since. Must have annoyed her something rotten having starved to death and then them turn it into a bleeding steak house.’

He was laughing his head off and kept patting my hand as he rocked back and forth.

I still don’t know all the truth, but from that time on I would never sit in the office on my own at night, and bribed one of the other assistants to always sit with me.

Peter was not helpful, and thought that the whole thing was an elaborate story that the old boy made up to frighten us young girls in the restaurant. I should have realised at that point what a miserable imagination he had. But then he asked me to marry him – out of the blue – and all notions of ghosts and starvation were banished to the back of my mind.

He was coming to the end of his studies in Eastbourne, and had been offered a job, for six months, in a bank on the Isle of Wight. He wanted us to get engaged, and for us to live together before getting married, in a year or so. More disapproval on the horizon from certain parental quarters, of that I was sure. It would mean another job change, but that was okay. I had ceased to find the adrenaline rush at the weekends exciting and quite looked forward to a change of pace. What I did not expect was for it to get faster.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Aug 02, 2018 Carol Taylor rated it Five Stars

Imogen was traded in at the age of 50 for a younger model or Fast Tracker in her words. I smiled and laughed out loud throughout as I could relate to much except my dress was made of tin foil and not red. Occupied at first by getting her new home in order Imogen then found herself eating and watching movies and of course piling on the pounds. Determined to make a change after seeing an advert in a local paper she took the plunge and went for an interview.

Andrew Jenkins was like no one Imogen had met and once he had put Imogen at her ease invited her to start at the beginning of her work history to put Imogen at her ease he explained that this would help him build a picture and enable him to find the perfect job for her. What followed was a joy to read and anyone who reads this is very likely to discover that they are not so very different to Imogen and the discoveries she made about herself and how it truly reflects the life story of so many women of a certain age.

The author has an easy going style which makes this story hard to put down as she goes through the many jobs she had Sally Cronin tells the tale of many and varied positions some being just downright funny. A story of a life before children and after they had flown the nest and Imogen had been discarded but how she rose like a phoenix from the flames a new woman. If you want a light-hearted read with a moral attached then this book is recommended and I will definitely be reading more from this author I loved it.
A light entertaining read with a powerful message.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.

I hope you will join me again next week for the next chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Seven – The Cosmetic Department – Sally Cronin

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 Just an Odd Job Girl.

Previously Imogen had regaled Andrew with her antics as one of the team in the Ladies Fashion department at Huntleys, and her run in with shoplifters.

Chapter Seven – The Cosmetic Department.

The time I enjoyed most during my days at Huntley’s was my time in the cosmetic department.

I was nineteen, and into make-up, as most of my generation was at the time. This offered me the opportunity to sample anything that I wanted, within reason, as I was appointed ‘roving consultant’. This meant that I would be trained by the different cosmetic houses in their individual products, and on their regular consultant’s day off, I would take her place.

For example, one of the cosmetic firms offered a powder blending service to its customers. This involved checking the skin tones of the client and then mixing a specific blend of powders for their complexion. There was a base powder and about twelve different shades that could be added. We used a giant spatula to whisk the powder over the tissue paper with little pinches of the different shades added until the perfect blend had been achieved.

The combination was noted on the client card, and would then be made up to that recipe each time the customer needed it. The variety in my new position made my life much more interesting and I loved working with cosmetics and perfume.

The three months I spent there were very happy, and relatively uneventful except for one rather unexpected development.

I had been in the position about four weeks, and was practising my powder blending technique when a rather large, red, hand stretched across the counter towards me.

‘Have you something that might tone this down a little please?’ said a rather deep voice.

I looked up, a little startled by the depth of this female voice, to be confronted with rather a bizarre sight. She was very tall with broad shoulders that were draped with long blonde hair. She also sported a five o’clock shadow. I was rather taken aback, as this anomaly was something I had not previously encountered. My upbringing took, over and I stopped staring directly at her face and concentrated on the hand still being proffered to me.

‘I think that we might have a foundation that would tone down the redness,’ I offered.
‘I can then blend you a powder to ensure that it lasts all day if that would help?’

She smiled at me and perched on the little round stool the other side of the counter. The following half-hour was both informative and enjoyable. My new customer was funny and totally unconcerned by her strange appearance. She introduced herself as Dolly and regaled me with her recent escapades.

One of these escapades involved total hair removal from most parts of her anatomy. I had just seen her hands, which were red, and raw looking, from the treatment. I hazarded a guess as to the painful nature of the removal from the rest of her body. She was very frank about the five o’clock shadow and we discussed various methods of concealing this. As I came to the end of her particular powder blend, she leant across the counter and motioned for me to come closer.

Slightly reluctantly, I leant forward until I was staring at large eyes, below rather bushy eyebrows that were considerably darker than the cascade of blonde hair.

‘My real name is Arthur’ she whispered quietly. ‘I have to dress and live like this for a year before my operation.’

He moved back and looked at me expectantly. Looking back, he was obviously looking for the usual distaste and rejection of his circumstances, but I was too young and naïve to even understand what he meant by operation. At the time, I just felt sorry for him and he looked so pleased when we applied the new foundation and powder that I only felt satisfaction.

He paid his bill and left, and when I turned back from the counter, I found five or six other consultants looking on with bemused expressions. Some were shaking their heads and muttering something about ‘they won’t like that upstairs.’ I was pleased with a very good sale and really did not think too much more about it, until the next day that is.

I was stocking a shelf at the back of the department when one of the women came racing around the corner.

‘Imogen, Imogen, come quickly you’re wanted at the counter.’

I hurried across to where the manageress of the department was standing with arms crossed and a severe look on her face.

‘Deal with it Miss Baxter and get rid of them before our other clients see them.’ She hissed at me as I arrived panting at her side.

I glanced around her shoulder at the powder blending section and caught my breath. Standing tall and proud were too extremely elegantly dressed ladies. Unlike my previous customer, these two ladies were really only remarkable in their height and breadth of shoulder. On closer inspection, I could see that their legs, finely covered in sheer nylon, were rather on the chunky side. Large hands with long, lacquered fingernails were clasped in front of them as they waited patiently for attention.

The manageress was still glaring at me, and I realised that it was all down to me. I moved behind the counter and approached the expectant pair who smiled warmly at me.

‘Are you Imogen?’ the younger of the two asked. I nodded my head.

‘Our friend Dolly recommended you for all our cosmetic requirements and told us that you were very kind and helpful yesterday.’

I could feel a distinct coolness behind me, and guessed that my every move was being watched. It was decision time. I could either be rude, and turn these customers away, or do my job, which was to sell cosmetics. I chose to do my job, and fifty pounds later had reached my weekly target in just half an hour.

As I had started to serve my new customers, I had heard the sharp intake of breath behind me. There was a further gasp, as the two ‘ladies’ departed, vowing to tell everyone to come and see me, and that they would be back every month for their own requirements.

An hour later and I was upstairs in the General Manager’s office. My manageress had already been ensconced with Mr. Baxter for some time and she sat smugly in the corner as I stood before the desk.

‘Ah, Miss Baxter. We meet again.’ Mr. Dempsey looked up from some figures on his desk.’

‘I understand from Miss Fraser that you have been cultivating a rather interesting new clientele recently.’

I wasn’t sure if this was a question or a statement so waited to see what would come next.

‘Miss Fraser is concerned that it may affect our figures, as other clients may not feel comfortable being served in the same department as these, how shall I put it,’ he paused, ‘unusual customers.’

He looked directly at me.

‘What is your opinion Miss Baxter?’

I must be a magnet for trouble. There were staff in Huntley’s who had been there for thirty years and never even met the General Manager let alone been reprimanded twice in as many months.

What did I have to lose? I only had two months left; I could always go temping if necessary. I had never actually been fired before and I was always open to new experiences.

‘Mr Dempsey,’ I began my unprepared speech. ‘These customers are spending a great deal of money, it would not be good business to turn them away.’

I looked across the table to determine the reaction so far. Mr. Dempsey nodded slightly, and waited for me to continue. I thought quickly before opening my mouth again.

‘How about we set up the counter at the back of the department, near the side entrance, with all the usual products that these customers require. Then I could tell them that Huntley’s has done this so that we can provide a discreet service for them, offering a private consultation area.’

I waited while my proposal sank in. I could see, out of the corner of my eye that Miss Fraser was not exactly enamoured of the idea. If looks could kill, I would have been dead and gone.

‘Interesting Miss Baxter.’ Mr. Dempsey looked back down at the figures in front of him.

‘I would certainly be reluctant to turn away such good business, but at the same time it should not be at the expense of our regular customers.’

He continued, smiling slightly. ‘Very well, we will adopt your idea for a month and review the situation at that time. I will leave it to you to persuade these customers to be discreet and I will be keeping a close eye on the department on a regular basis.’

Further sharp intake of breath from the corner.

‘That is alright with you isn’t it Miss Fraser?’ Mr. Dempsey looked over at the rigid form to his left. Somehow, his tone brooked no argument, and I knew that the prospect of my new customers and constant surveillance by the General Manager was not the outcome Miss Fraser had hoped for. That stress was no doubt going to be passed onto me, in spades, during my remaining two months, but somehow, I didn’t care. Perhaps this stuffy environment could be changed after all, which would make the store a much more enjoyable place to work.

I was right, Miss Fraser took delight in criticising me on a constant basis. Tapping her watch if I arrived thirty seconds late, insisting on counter signing any cheques I took, implying to customers that I was very much the junior, and generally making my life as difficult as possible.

On the plus side, my little department did roaring business. My ‘ladies’ used the side entrance and would perch on the three bar stools on the other side of the counter while I concocted and experimented with various products to enhance their complexions. They completed my education in the ways of their alternate lifestyle.

* * *

Two months later and my appointment with nursing was just around the corner. I have mentioned that I had met Peter during the nine months I was at Huntley’s, and he was constantly nagging me to give up the idea of nursing, as he did not want me to go away for the next three years.

He was moving to Sussex to finish his studies and wanted me to go with him. I wavered, and in the end love won out. I had to figure a way of telling my parents of my decision. They would not be happy, but at nineteen you know it all and dive straight in where angels fear to tread.

Before I left Huntley’s I had one more brush with Mr. Dempsey. He had got into the habit of visiting the department two or three times a week. But once he was satisfied that our new programme was working, and that our other business was not being effected, he cut down his visits. Friday afternoon was his walkabout day and he usually ended up in our department around three in the afternoon.

On my last day, the girls, who had become friendlier over the last couple of months, took me out at lunchtime and plied me with drinks – perhaps they we hoping to be chosen to take over my lucrative business empire when I left?

I have never been able to drink at lunchtime and was well and truly under the weather by the time I returned to work. Miss Fraser was on holiday and her deputy, a decidedly warmer individual, decided that I perhaps should be occupied away from customers. She suggested that I might dress the three glass counters that contained our perfume and cosmetic displays. I was thrilled at the prospect of showing off my artistic ability and headed off downstairs to the basement where our window dressers lived.

I was left to my own devices and by three, I was finished. Mr. Dempsey entered the department and began his tour of inspection. He ended up standing next to me as I surveyed my handiwork.

In each of the three glass counters lay a solitary, replica, tree branch. Scattered across the bottom of the counter were handfuls of artificial rose petals. There was only one cosmetic item per display. A lipstick in one, open and on its side, a bottle of perfume with the cap off and a glass bottle of hand cream leaking its contents over the felt lining of the counter. But this wasn’t the best bit. Under each tree branch lay a stuffed dove, toes up and lifeless. I thought it was hysterical and tried vainly to keep this under control.

Mr Dempsey took in the three artistic offerings and finally turned to me.

‘I understand that you are leaving us today Miss Baxter.’

Looking up at his unsmiling face, I nodded, trying hard not to breathe alcoholic fumes directly into his face.

‘I extend my heartfelt good wishes to your next employer.’ He shook his head slightly.

‘We shall certainly miss your presence at Huntley’s.’ With that he turned and left the department and I had the distinct feeling that a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

* * *

Andrew was laughing, and so was I. I had forgotten about the doves, and my efforts to interpret the atmosphere of that stuffy place, but looking back I also felt pride that I had stood up to the establishment and won some small victories.

‘It’s time for lunch and I have to get on with this damn paperwork or Elizabeth will want my hide.’ Andrew stood up.

‘I have some ideas about the sort of position that would be interesting for you and would offer you the opportunity to slip back into the work environment.’ He paused for a moment.
‘How about we get together on Friday, at midday to discuss the options?’

I was thrilled. Not only was there the prospect of a job, but I would get to see this man again. I wasn’t sure what was making my heart beat a little faster but I suspect it was not the thought of going back out to work.

He helped me on with my coat.

‘This has been a valuable exercise and I would like you to continue with the process over the next couple of days. Go through all the jobs that you held and look at them closely.’

He looked at me intently.
‘You need to understand both your abilities, and what you achieved because of them. You did a great thing for those transvestites at a time when public opinion was much more unforgiving.’

He smiled and took my hand.

‘I wish I had known that nineteen year old, she sounded like fun.’

Did that mean that he did not think that I was fun now? Somehow, the thought made me realise that it was stupid of me to think of him in any other way than as a person who would find me a job. After all, what an earth would an attractive man like him see in this middle-aged, overweight and frumpy person?

I turned towards the door.

‘I’ll look forward to seeing you on Friday.’ He opened the door and touched me gently on the shoulder.

‘Don’t forget be kind to yourself.’

Had he been reading my thoughts?

I smiled and headed out, past Elizabeth, and into the bustling high street.

I was hungry, but with new-found determination, I passed by the tantalising aroma of fish and chips wafting from the shop on the corner, and headed straight home. I was actually excited about this project and I couldn’t wait to re-live more good memories

The next position after Huntley’s beckoned. Catering Assistant at O’Ryan’s Steak House, near Peter’s college, in Sussex. First, however, there was something I needed to do.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Aug 02, 2018 Carol Taylor rated it Five Stars

Imogen was traded in at the age of 50 for a younger model or Fast Tracker in her words. I smiled and laughed out loud throughout as I could relate to much except my dress was made of tin foil and not red. Occupied at first by getting her new home in order Imogen then found herself eating and watching movies and of course piling on the pounds. Determined to make a change after seeing an advert in a local paper she took the plunge and went for an interview.

Andrew Jenkins was like no one Imogen had met and once he had put Imogen at her ease invited her to start at the beginning of her work history to put Imogen at her ease he explained that this would help him build a picture and enable him to find the perfect job for her. What followed was a joy to read and anyone who reads this is very likely to discover that they are not so very different to Imogen and the discoveries she made about herself and how it truly reflects the life story of so many women of a certain age.

The author has an easy going style which makes this story hard to put down as she goes through the many jobs she had Sally Cronin tells the tale of many and varied positions some being just downright funny. A story of a life before children and after they had flown the nest and Imogen had been discarded but how she rose like a phoenix from the flames a new woman. If you want a light-hearted read with a moral attached then this book is recommended and I will definitely be reading more from this author I loved it.
A light entertaining read with a powerful message.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.

I hope you will join me again tomorrow for the next chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.