Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – 20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs – Hotel Senior Receptionist – by Sally Cronin


It is 20 years since I put pen to paper.. of fingers to the keyboard and wrote my novel Just an Odd Job Girl. I am delighted that it still gets the odd recent review, but I thought to celebrate the anniversary I would offer it FREE for the next few weeks.

As an indie author on Amazon I don’t get to do free giveaways, so I would ask you to email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and let me know if you would like a Mobi for Kindle or an Epub version of the book for other devices. I promise I won’t share your email with anyone else. You can find out more about the book and its most recent review at the end of the post.

To set the scene I am going to repeat my series from early 2018 which shared the background to the stories in the book that I elaborated on and fictionalised. As a bonus I will also be including some other jobs that were not in the book that might also be considered a bit different. For example, flogging bull semen at agricultural shows to selling ‘similar’ top end perfumes in the East End of London. I think you get the idea about how odd some of these jobs might have been.

My last job as housekeeper/caterer at a boarding school finished when the school broke up for the Easter holidays.

Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!

I received a phone call from some old friends on the Isle of Wight that gave me cause for concern. You have probably gathered by now that my separation and divorce proceedings were not always amicable and in fact they now became downright hostile. My friends ran a pub on the island, and my former husband had been in, having had rather a lot to drink, had demanded they tell him where I was. He told the assembled company that he was planning on tracking me down and having a confrontation. I was not unduly concerned and  my friends assured me that they had not revealed my whereabouts. However, I was in a school with 140 children and staff and lived in the grounds, and had no desire to involve them in my personal circumstances. I gave my notice that day; grabbed the nearest copy of The Lady Magazine, and looked for a job as far away from the south of England as I could get.

I found an advertisement for a senior receptionist for a seasonal hotel in Wales that was just about to open for Easter. I sent my details, and the requested photograph, and waited to see if I would get an interview. Instead, within a week, I had a letter offering me the position with a start date three days after the end of term. I packed up my belongings into a couple of suitcases and got rid of anything that I couldn’t carry. I then prepared to go up to London by train and head off across the country for nearly 300 miles.

In those days of no Internet, and a long haul by road, I reckoned that I was probably going to be fairly safe from repercussions, especially as only my family and solicitor knew where I was.

I had been given a timetable for the trains showing the changes I would have to make in order to reach my destination, and I was glad that my two bags were not too heavy. Four trains later, I sat on the platform of a country station, waiting for my last connection. The train was late, and it was already dark before it shunted alongside the platform. I struggled into a carriage that I presume had been in service since the war, possibly not the last one, and sat on the worn, velvet covered seat waiting for departure. I waited and waited, and was about to stick my head out of the carriage door, when we chugged into motion. It was now ten at night and I was concerned that the promised taxi that was supposed to collect me at Barmouth, and take me to the hotel, would not be waiting for me.

Half an hour later we pulled into what can only be described as a halt. It consisted of a wooden platform about ten inches off the ground and a leap of faith was required to exit the carriage with two suitcases, and no injuries. I must have been the only passenger for Barmouth, for no sooner had I slammed the door of the train behind me, than it was off, lurching into the darkness.  I had apparently arrived at my destination, but was alone, and in the dark, with absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going too.

Those were the days before mobile telephones, and to be honest, from what little I could see around me, there was little evidence that even the telegraph had reached this remote spot. I sat down on the sturdier of my two cases and ran through some basic Girl Guide survival tactics. As I had been drummed out of the brownies at the age of seven (for jumping out at boy cubs from behind gravestones) my knowledge of field crafts was sadly lacking, so I decided to stay in place for a while and see what transpired. After all where else was I going to go? I shivered despite the warm overcoat I was wearing. The night was cold, and a thin mist was swirling around the end of the platform. All the books I had read about North Wales had been based on the 5th century with tribal raiding parties and witchcraft. All the tales now came back to me; I clasped my arms around my body anxiously; on the verge of panic.

This feeling of impending doom was given a boost when suddenly out of the mist an apparition appeared. At least seven feet tall, and dressed in a black cloak, it swirled towards me rapidly. I shot up and backed behind my cases; despite the fact they would have been of little protection against a werewolf. A deep voice suddenly cut through my fanciful imagination.

‘You’re late girl, I’ve been waiting hours, where have you been for goodness sake?’

I could not tell if the booming voice was male or female. On closer examination, I realised that my original estimate of the figure being seven foot high was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. A scarf was unwound from around the throat of my new acquaintance, and I saw that it was indeed a woman; with very stern looking features.

Before I could utter a word my suitcases were whipped up, one in each of her hands, and she set of marching into the darkness. I had very little choice but to follow as I watched my worldly possessions disappearing into the night.

I found myself in a car park next to a taxi, and my bags were thrown unceremoniously into the back; my companion disappearing around to the driver’s side. I gingerly opened the passenger door, wondering what I had let myself in for. At least the interior of the vehicle was warm, and I was grateful when the engine started first time. My driver announced that it would take about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, and with that, we were off, quite smoothly too, much to my pleasant surprise.

Our journey was silent. I did make an attempt at small talk but only received grunts in reply. Eventually, I gave up and concentrated instead on hanging onto both dashboard and armrests as we careered around narrow country lanes. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later the taxi drove through two large pillars and up a slope. In the dim glow of the headlights, I could just make out a building looming out of the mist, and we came to a stop outside what appeared to be the main entrance. I let out my breath, which it seemed I had been holding since we left the railway station, and hurriedly opened the door, before we could take off again.

My driver got out and deposited my two suitcases by the door and then left me standing in the mist as she drove off into the night.

Photograph taken on a return visit in 2000

 

There were some lights either side of the entrance, and by their dim glow, I could make out double wooden doors. By now I was three hours late, and it looked like everyone had gone to bed. I had little choice. It was either stay out here in the freezing cold or ring the bell that hung on the wall at the side of the doors. I crunched across the gravel and up the stone steps, summoning what little courage I had left. I pulled the rope hanging beneath the bell and swung it from side to side. I nearly jumped out of my skin as a loud clanging rang through the night. It was loud enough to waken the dead! Sure enough, within seconds, lights went on in the hall. They reflected through the glass at the top of the door and, if anything, added even more gloom to the atmosphere.

The door creaked open slowly and my mouth went dry. By this time, I was fully convinced that Frankenstein’s monster was going to loom into view and carry me off to some attic, never to be seen again.

In fact I was greeted by the warm smile of the manager of the hotel who had kindly stayed behind to make sure that I arrived safely. He carried my suitcase down the side of the hotel to a small flat that was already occupied the new assistant manager who had come down from the Lake District a couple of days earlier. With arrangements to meet in the morning to go over my duties, the manager left and I sat down with a welcome cup of tea and made my first friend in the new job.

Sadly, after a few weeks, she felt that the job and the location were not for her and she returned to the Lake District where she opened a very successful B&B. Whilst I was very sad to see her go, I found myself promoted to Assistant Manager and so began my adventures in the depths of one of the most stunning national parks in the UK. It was hard work, but great fun, and I have never been so skinny with the long hours and my new pursuit of hiking on my days off (perhaps I should apply for a similar job again!).

And, down the road, my work would lead to me meeting a very special man who swept me off my feet.

©Sally Cronin – 1999

On Wednesday I share more of my adventures at the hotel…  

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.
Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

Feb 08, 2020 Pete Springer rated it Five stars it was amazing

Sally Cronin has written a delightful book with Just an Odd Job Girl. The central character, Imogen, is most likable and must return to the workforce after her husband, Peter, falls for a much younger woman. At age fifty, Imogen has not only lost her husband but faces the reality that she must find a job after more than two decades. What Imogen has going for her is a rich and varied employment history from when she first became employed at age fourteen.

What follows is extreme hilarity as Cronin skillfully recaps all of Imogen’s unexpected employment adventures. From chasing after shoplifters to unexpectedly filling in as a dental assistant when the regular hygenist faints, there are plenty of laughs. Every employment opportunity forces Imogen to acquire new skills with the most entertaining stint as a hotel assistant manager. Along the way, Imogen realizes that she can tackle any problem or situation that life throws her way. The ending is most satisfying, but I don’t want to spoil that for you.

To get your FREE copy of Just An Odd Job Girl for Kindle or in Epub please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com – your email will not be shared and whilst a review would be most welcome it is not expected.

Sally Cronin, Buy: :Amazon US – and:Amazon UK  –  Follow:Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58

Thanks for dropping in and more about life in the hotel on Wednesday and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.

Music that Means Something Challenge – Day 3 – A Woman in Love – Barbra Streisand


Sue Vincent kindly nominated me for this challenge.  Music that Means Something to You which entails posting a song a day with the reasons behind your choice… this might include the lyrics or the style of music or perhaps an event that this piece reminds you of.

To read how it should be done here is Sue’s Day 1 – with the music and profound lyrics of Leonard Cohen.  https://scvincent.com/2017/04/08/music-that-means-something-day-1-leonard-cohen/

The rules of the challenge are simple:
Post a song a day for five consecutive days.
Post what the lyrics mean to you. (Optional)
Post the name of the song and a video.
Nominate 1 or 2 bloggers each day of the challenge.

Today I nominate D.G Kaye (Debby Gies) who I hope might be able to find time to share at least one or two posts on music that means a great deal to her. We share similar tastes across a number of areas and I suspect that we also share some tunes too. Here is one of Debby’s latest blog posts https://dgkayewriter.com/guest-author-feature-uvi-poznansky-dancing-with-air/

The twist in the challenge is that the lyrics should mean something….

Luckily for me I had actually posted a musical memory every week for a year which means that I have 52 of my favourite tracks and artists to choose from for this five day challenge.

As Frank Sinatra would say, 1980 for me was a very good year… I was happy in my job, had a whole bunch of new friends in the area, loved my job as the assistant manager Bontddu Hall near Dolgellau in Wales and on April 1st my divorce was finalised.  An auspicious day if ever there was one.

It had taken me three years and my savings to get over this time in my life but it had been worth it. I was now 27 years old and as I held that precious piece of paper with the words Decree Absolute in bold print emblazoned across it; I vowed that I would never marry again! You know what they say about famous last words don’t you?

Anyway the second great event was that I took and passed my driving test. I had begun driving at age 17 and had several lessons but then ran out of money.

After living midway between Barmouth and Dolgellau for over a year and having walked myself down to a size 10; I decided that I should book some more lessons and take the test. I signed up with Mr. Evans in Dolgellau who would pick me up in his mini in the middle of the afternoon during my couple of hours off.

I have never regretted those lessons on narrow Welsh roads as they have stood me in good stead when driving in various countries and terrains around the world. However, there was one slight problem at that time in my local area…No traffic lights and no roundabouts. Road works were useful for practice but we had to drive 30 miles north of Dolgellau to find a roundabout. We would go around and around this damn thing for about ten minutes before heading back before the lesson finished.

I was very lucky to have met a wonderful friend called Joan who was a district nurse and used her own car for work. On my day off she would let me drive and we travelled the length and breadth of North Wales, up and down mountains to give me as much practice as possible. That August I passed my test in Machynlleth despite stalling at … You guessed it… Traffic lights.

sally wedding day 1980Rightly chuffed with my achievement I set about putting away a little each week towards a car… But of course fate was about to take a hand in my life yet again.

In the first week in September I took a call in reception for a booking for two single rooms with arrival on September 16th for two weeks. I thought at the time that the caller, a Mr. David Cronin, had a lovely Irish accent and when I had booked the rooms and put the telephone down, I turned to one of the receptionists on duty and said jokingly; ‘What a lovely voice, I think I will marry him.’

On the day that Mr. Cronin was due to arrive I had a few extra hours off as I had been filling in for the said receptionist who was off for a week at a family wedding. I came on duty at 6.30 p.m. in my long dress to carry out my evening duties, which were to accompany our guests to their table in the dining-room, and then ensure that they were happy with their meals etc throughout the evening.

Put it this way; I was not disappointed when I met the owner of the voice on the end of the phone for the first time and escorted him to the best table!

For the next two weeks our paths crossed several times and I arranged some business meetings and meals for Mr. Cronin. His room, Number 40, was at the top of the flight of stairs on the first landing and as I checked the hotel before locking up for the night, I would pass by and see a light under the door and wonder about this very nice man.

On the night before he was due to check out, he approached me and asked if, when I finished for the evening, I could meet him for a drink in the Blue Lounge, which intrigued I did. We chatted and completed the Telegraph cryptic crossword whilst enjoying an excellent whisky and water before he handed me a small packet. He said it was a thank you for arranging his meetings so efficiently.

It was a Celtic pendant on a silver chain with a small note in the box… For going beyond the call of duty. Best wishes David Cronin.

I obviously thanked him and was very sad that he would be leaving the next day and  that I would be unlikely to see him again. But he continued to surprise me by asking me out for lunch the following day; when I would be off duty until the evening. Of course I accepted and he booked himself in for a further night rather than travel back to Liverpool. It was at this point that I began calling him David rather than Mr. Cronin.

We had lunch and walked along Harlech beach where they were making a film at the time. As we chatted, stuntmen thundered past dressed in Arab costumes on fiery stallions, kicking up the sand. Talk about romantic.

After work that evening we met up again and talked for a long time. The next morning as we prepared to say goodbye, David simply said… I think there is only one thing for us… Will you marry me?

That was September 29th and we moved in to a small holiday flat together when the hotel closed on October 5th and we were married in Dolgellau registry office five weeks later on November 15th 1980.

sally wedding day 1980

See what I mean about famous last words!!

Of all the songs that year I know that the song that held the most significance for me was Woman in Love by Barbra Streisand. For me love had been very challenging and I had no idea that day in September in 1980 that a voice at the end of the telephone would change my world forever.

Buy A Woman in Love: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Love-Greatest-Barbra-Streisand/dp/B007M09SQI

Thank you for dropping in to share this challenge with me.  Here are the previous days.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-1-younger-than-springtime-south-pacific/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/music-that-means-something-challenge-day-2-brown-sugar-the-rolling-stones/