Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Twelve – Advertising Sales 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 undertakes a temporary position as a receptionist for a funeral home that had her leaving with mixed emotions.

Chapter Twelve – Advertising Sales

Telephone canvassing was a whole new world. One populated by eager young men and women, seemingly with a death-wish, and who appear to be completely impervious to rejection. I was one of a number of agency temps who had been recruited into the job for a six week promotion on Cars and Property. It was obviously felt that two days training was quite sufficient to enable you to sell the set spaces for these two items, as the wording was fairly standard. The abbreviations were the most confusing aspect of the advertisement and I never did work out what some of them meant. I would write my advertisements down in plain English and find that on publication they contained gibberish, having passed through the hands of the layout department.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a rainy, blustery Monday morning when I presented myself, suited and professional, at the offices of the newspaper. On the reception desk was a woman of indeterminate age with the brightest orange hair I have ever seen. It stood up on end as if she had recently been plugged into a light socket and the ends were so split they formed little bushes at the end of each hair. I was mesmerised, but managed to stutter out who I was and what I was there for.

Six of us were ushered upstairs to a small, airless room containing a large table, seven chairs and an easel with a flip-chart pad. There were four girls and two boys, and all of them looked about sixteen, and very nervous. We made idle chat about the weather, Christmas and the latest football scores, another complete mystery to me.

At nine thirty sharp, the largest woman I had ever seen swept sideways into the room. She danced lightly around the table, navigating the narrow gap with perfect aplomb. She turned to face us and beamed radiantly at us. I was dazzled, not only by the performance but also by the rich emerald green of her jacket over the orange and black dress. An unusual combination to say the least, and I was somewhat distressed not to have bought my sunglasses with me.

‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Marigold Chambers. I am your trainer and the Advertising Sales Manager of the paper.’

She had a very soft voice but it rang through the room clearly. We were riveted. She had certainly got our attention. We stared at her as she appraised each one of us for a few moments.

She began to laugh, and then sat down on the seventh chair, which I might add appeared to buckle slightly as she descended delicately upon it.


She paused for effect.

‘This is your first lesson in selling advertising. Get their attention!’

She stood up and did a twirl.

‘It certainly got your attention, didn’t it?

This was to set the tone for our training over the next two days. The focus was on getting the person on the other end of the phone to listen long enough to buy the advertisement. This was no easy task. Telephone calls, in the evening, just as you are in the middle of dinner, or your favourite television programme are unwelcome, especially if they are asking you to buy an advert in a little known free newspaper. It ranks right up there with double glazing sales-people.

Marigold spent much of the first day giving us various ‘openings’ as they were called. These were, literally, door openers. They got the advertiser’s attention, and persuaded them to continue listening to you. For example, you never gave your name and the reason for your call immediately they picked up the phone. You first established if the car or property was for sale, and as soon as you received the hopeful response on the other end of the phone, you launched into your prepared script. The key to success was to get the opening few lines in very quickly before they slammed the phone down on you.

If you could get to the part, which offered them three weeks for the price of two, you had a fair chance of hooking them. It took practice, I can tell you. The first week was the toughest I had ever faced in a job. I was still feeling very vulnerable after my split with Peter and now I was faced with rejection on a continuous basis.

The best time to get car, and property, sellers at home was after school hours, and in the evening. We therefore worked a three until ten shift every weekday and two until seven on Saturdays. This maximised the number of people you were likely to find in at that time of day.

The two days training had prepared us for the sort of abuse we might encounter but had not mentioned that we would benefit from learning such a colourful new vocabulary. It certainly opened my eyes to a level of English language that had not been included in my O’Levels.

Nevertheless, by the end of the first week, much to my surprise, I had actually sold two car ads. and one property ad.

One of the motivating forces that kept me there was Marigold. She ran the busy sales room like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. She sat at one end of the room looking down the two rows of back-to-back desks. There were sixty telephone sales people of all ages and races. The paper had a ‘Commercial and Appointments’ section as well as ‘Lonely Hearts’ and ‘Items for Sale’. Most of the staff were full time and on a low basic with commission. Our paths crossed for three hours a day, as the full-time staff finished at six. It was a tough job and I had no doubt in my mind that I would not want to do it on a permanent basis. But here I was and, I believe in doing what I was paid for. So, I persevered, and was rewarded by the odd pat on the back as Marigold glided around the room on her small feet

After the first day, Marigold appeared in a somewhat more normal mode of dress. Being a very large lady this tended towards large baggy black trousers and a grey, black or blue flowing top. I never could quite understand how she managed to balance on her two tiny feet; it was an amazing sight and quite cheering. Just when you thought you could not take another rejection, Marigold would pull one of her motivators out of the bag.

Each day, a target was placed on a white-board on the wall. This related to the amount of advertising revenue required for that day and it was important that it was achieved, as an accumulative shortfall at the end of the week would mean substantial losses for the paper.

Marigold would announce some financial incentives at the beginning of the day. Although we were being paid by the agency, we also were given the opportunity to earn these little cash bonuses which made life a little more interesting. There were prizes for most adverts sold, most advertising revenue, full-page advertisements, half pages and so on. Marigold did a special for us temps, on the same basis, and it certainly took the edge off the rejection we faced every time we picked up the phone.

By the second week, I had got into the swing of it, and perhaps because I was female, and sounded slightly older than my age, I seemed to get the attention of the men selling their cars.

That became my forte and I applied myself diligently. I earned an extra ten pounds in bonuses that second week and I treated myself to a new dress on the Saturday morning. On Monday however, I was called into the editor’s office and found Marigold perched on a stool in the corner. This was a scene that had been played out before in my career history, and my first thought was that I was being fired!

‘Miss Baxter, please sit down.’

The bald and bespectacled editor gestured to a chair opposite him. I sat and calmly awaited my fate and hoped the ten pounds worth of dress was not about to be yanked off my back. I glanced over at Marigold and was relieved to receive an encouraging smile back.

‘Marigold tells me that you have done very well in your first two weeks and I wondered if you would like to help us out with a bit of a problem that we have?’

He paused and looked down at some papers on his desk.

‘As you know, we have a section of the paper which advertises escort agencies and other select services.’

Select is not exactly the word I would have used myself. I was not sure how the paper got away with some of the adverts in this section as they were definitely a little on the risqué side.

They were not quite as blatant as ‘ring three times and ask for Josephine’ but were pretty close. I nodded anyway, fascinated by what was to come.

‘Our girl, who normally looks after this section has taken ill and is in hospital. They have removed her appendix and it looks like it will be at least four weeks before she can return. We wondered if you would like to take over the section for the remainder of your contract and help us out?’

I must have looked a little hesitant as he immediately continued.

‘We will of course increase your hourly rate by two pounds with the agency, and you will be eligible for all the bonuses that our regular staff enjoy.’

That clinched it, I would push aside my mild moral objections for the sake of money. What sort of thing does that say about me? Well, that I am living in a bedsit with hardly any money coming in, and that my mother brought me up to be practical.

What an eye opener the next four weeks were. Because of the nature of this particular section, all advertisements had to be paid for in cash. The good side was that there was very little canvassing and most of the advertisers were regulars. They would appear, either every week or every two weeks, with a fistful of money that they would hand personally to me in the reception area of the newspaper. I met some extraordinary people, from sharply dressed men, with two-tone shoes and rings on every finger, to middle-aged well-dressed housewives with pale pink nail varnish.

One of my favourites was Lil. She wore what I associated with entertainers in the sixties. A mini-skirt, revealing fishnet stockings, high heeled black patent shoes and a white, tight fitting, flouncy blouse. She was great, and always had a joke to tell me as she handed over her five pounds for two weeks advertising. Her speciality apparently was Swedish massage, in your own home or in hers. Looking at the three-inch bright red talons on the end of her fingers, I found it hard to imagine that there would not be some serious injury to anyone on the receiving end of a massage from Lil. But who was I to judge?

I did have to do some canvassing for new business and was delighted to discover that the rejection rate actually went down. In fact, I received more courtesy while canvassing for this section than I ever did trying to sell cars and property to the general public. Strange, isn’t it, how one’s perceptions about people can be changed. I had been brought up with a strict moral code – one that I had broken by moving in with Peter without being married. Now I had been introduced to members of society who I had been brought up to believe were not acceptable in my world. I was really growing up, at last – away from the influence of my upbringing, and Peter – and I began to enjoy the freedom this allowed me.

During my four weeks on this section, I became one of the team, not just a temp in for a short time. Apart from the competition for money bonuses, there was also the anticipation of what Marigold would dream up as an extra incentive to achieve the daily revenue target. One Friday, we were below our weekly revenues. We were all tired and lacking in energy so were not delighted when a huge number was written on the white board and underlined heavily.

Marigold stood in front of us and grinned like a Cheshire cat.

‘Right you lot! I have a special treat for you today.’ She paused dramatically.

‘If you get this target by the end of the day I will do the splits.’

I could not have heard right, there was no way that this twenty stone woman could do the splits and survive. We were all agog and looked at each other in disbelief. The girl next to me who had been working on the paper for two years whispered in my ear.

‘She will too you know, she used to be a ballet dancer.’

Now I really was in denial, and as images of Marigold in leotard and pink tights filled my mind, I prepared to outsell myself. The rest of the team was of like mind, and we were justifiably proud of ourselves when we achieved both the day’s target and the weekly target. It was such an impressive day that even the editor came up to the sales room to congratulate us. Of course he could not let the opportunity for a pep-talk pass, and wondered why we could not perform this way everyday. No pleasing people, is there? We, however, were more interested in the prospect of receiving our promised acrobatic display.

With a great deal of theatrical presence, Marigold proceeded to a clear space on the wooden floor. She was wearing long, baggy black trousers and a pink top that came down to her knees. She lifted this to waist level, I say this merely to demonstrate how far she lifted it, as, bless her, she had no waist at all. Holding the top bunched in one hand, she raised her other arm and curved it over her head. Her second finger and thumb met in a classic ballet pose and she then slowly and majestically sank into the most perfect splits with toes pointed and an angelic expression on her face. There was much cheering and clapping and stamping of feet as we waited with even more expectancy for her to get up off the floor again.

‘Don’t just stand there.’ She ordered. ‘Come on lads, get me back up. I said I would do the splits not the impossible.’

With that, six of the lads dashed forward and with much tugging and laughter Marigold was hoisted to her feet. It was worth all the money bonuses to see that, and the memory of it is still fresh in my mind.

Soon it was time for me to leave. The girl who had been off sick was due back on the Monday, and I said a fond farewell to some of my regular clients that last week. I was given boxes of chocolates, and a plant, and the sales team threw an impromptu party at the pub on the Friday night.

The agency had promised a new job for me on the Monday. With my catering background, and cooking experience, I was asked to stand in as assistant cook in a private school in Southsea for six weeks. I was certainly getting plenty of variety in my jobs, and despite my reluctance to leave my new-found friends, I knew that I was not quite ready to settle for a full time job just yet.

©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 next week for the next chapter in Imogen’s colourful work history.

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.