Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Eleven – Christmas in 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time  Imogen had to contend with cat burglars and a work to rule in and insurance company.

Chapter Eleven – Christmas in 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 Georgina Cronin – Just an Odd Job Girl

Next time – Advertising telesales

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time Being a pub landlady and catering for hundreds came with some interesting customers at the weekend….

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

Next time – a memorable Christmas in the funeral home

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Nine – Pub Landlady and Skinhead invasions


This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved to Spain to live. I had written short stories before and non-fiction health books, but felt the need to bring a little romance and humour into my writing.. the result was the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time  Life in a busy steakhouse comes with some ghostly interference on Sunday nights.

Chapter Nine – The Isle of Wight Pub Life and Skinheads

I realised that I had reached the end of the particular path I had taken through the woods when I was faced with the main road. I had a choice, either go back the way I had come, or skirt the edge of the forest and return by another route. I wasn’t quite sure where I would end up. It was certainly going to be longer, but as I looked behind me, at the path I had already walked, I decided to continue on the new route. Perhaps it was symbolic of what was happening to me in my life. New paths, taking risks, uncertainty, were perhaps the way forward.

I continued on my journey, and my mind moved on to my next job.

* * *

Peter was going to be working in a bank in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, and as we were just coming into the Easter season, I thought that jobs should be easy enough to get hold of.

We found a small flat, some streets back from the harbour. Compact! That was how it was described to us by the letting agent. Quite! It was actually two rooms and a bathroom, with a separate entrance, in a house owned by two solicitors. The bedroom was small, just big enough for a double bed, wardrobe and a chair. Luckily we had very little in the way of personal belongings; I certainly would not have had room for my current wardrobe of clothes, despite the fact that most of them were too small to be of any use to me.

The other room was a lounge, dining room and kitchenette. However, you could only use it for one purpose at a time. The two armchairs had to be pushed under the window to enable the hinged table, which was attached to the wall, to be extended. With the table out you could not get into the kitchen area. We learnt to compromise and ate most of our meals off trays on our laps.

The bathroom was an altogether different kettle of fish. I use the word ‘fish’ for a specific reason, as there was so much damp on the walls that fish would have been quite at home there. When I pointed this out to the landlords, they shrugged, smiled and gave me a pot of magnolia paint and a brush and suggested that I paint the walls every few weeks. This meant that lying in the narrow bath one either suffocated from the smell of mildew or paint fumes.

What do we do in the name of love? This was our first home together, and with some posters covering the dampest patches on the walls, and a little imagination, it was a palace – and cheap with it.

After two weeks, I applied for, and was offered the position of assistant manager at a local harbour side pub. The owner, Tom, was a rather round man with a moustache that gave him the appearance of a walrus. He did have kind eyes though, with a twinkle in them, and told me that he expected his assistant managers to get on with their jobs and not bother him too much. When I began work, I soon realised that, from his almost permanent position at the end of the bar, he had a three hundred and sixty-degree view of the entire establishment and missed nothing.

The downside to the job was the hours. I would be expected to work until three in the afternoon, five days a week, and from six until eleven at night for five evenings. The bar work was no more than I expected, but I was warned that it would get very hectic once sailing, Cowes’ main claim-to-fame, got started.

I had plenty of experience of bar work, and had no problem adjusting to my duties. I wondered if I might get a little bored, but there were some interesting customers, and enough activity to keep me busy when on duty. As usual, I then got myself dropped into a different situation. The owner, Tom, had taken on a cook to run the snack bar for the season. After two weeks the cook was found pilfering the cigarette machine behind the bar, and was fired on the spot. It was very late to find a replacement, and before I could say fish and chips, I was dressed in check trousers, with a cap on my head and draped in an apron bearing the slogan ‘Sailors do it tied up’

Luckily, the menu was straightforward. Fish, chicken, and sausages, all with chips, and in wicker baskets. Sandwiches had to be prepared in advance, and were stacked neatly in two glass cabinets on either side of the snack bar. I had a very nice assistant called Daphne who had worked there every summer for the last ten years. She proved to be an invaluable guide to local gossip and the horrors of the summer season to come.

It was a slow start, but it gave me time to get to grips with the two temperamental deep-fat fryers, which had a tendency to switch themselves off, right in the middle of serving lunch. As everything was fried, with chips, it made life a little difficult on occasion, and my ability to use expletives improved rapidly in the first few weeks.

By the time the season really got under way, I had developed a routine that enabled me to cook over a hundred lunches, and twice that many dinners in the evenings. I now worked Monday to Saturday with Sunday off. A girl came in on Sunday and made toasted sandwiches and rolls, giving me a well-earned day of rest. The good thing was that, in my new job, I made an extra five pounds a week, which Peter and I badly needed.

We wanted to save enough to rent a larger flat when we moved from Cowes, and we hoarded every penny we could. Peter got a part-time bar job, to supplement his meagre pay from the bank, and we saw very little of each other. This was hard, but we reckoned that six months here would make life a lot easier for us in the future. I was so busy that I really didn’t have much time to think about our time apart, and when we were together, it was hard to stay awake. I am not sure how young love survives under those circumstances, but I suppose it was a test of our feelings for each other. I often think that we were at our happiest in that damp small bed-sit with so little time together.

My morning consisted of two hours of preparation and two hours of manic activity. I barely stopped to take a breath as I worked my way through the stack of orders. The majority of our customers were not from the island. Boats plied back and forth from Southampton to Cowes depositing several hundred people at a time. The day-trippers were happy to be on holiday and were easy to please. We had a large balcony in the front of the pub, which looked out onto the harbour entrance. It was a huge attraction in the summer and was usually packed. I, of course, saw very little of it, as I was either preparing food or cooking it. But there came a time, a couple of weeks into the season, when I began to see more of the bar area than I wished.

Tom had already suffered one heart attack, and started to feel ill about two months after Easter. We were already busy, and it was just the start of the summer season. He took me to one side at the start of my evening shift and told me that his doctor insisted that he take things easier. I was not sure how much easier Tom could actually take it. I don’t mean to be unkind, but apart from the occasional trip to the whisky optic, I had rarely seen him move from his corner of the bar. However, I nodded sympathetically and waited for the other shoe to drop.

I suddenly found that I was the Deputy Manager, with full responsibility for the bar, food stock ordering, the cleaning staff, and security. I wondered how I was going to fit all this into my already crowded day, when he introduced me to my new hours. I would now work eight until four, and then six to eleven thirty, Monday to Saturday. A pay rise of five pounds a week was considered adequate compensation for this and I found it quite acceptable, until I experienced the security aspect of the job. It was then that I realised that I should have asked for hazard pay as well. I also revised my impression of Tom’s previously unappreciated stress levels. This revolved around closing time.

Until now, I had finished serving food before closing time in the afternoon and at least an hour before we closed at night. I had often heard rowdy laughter in the bar and had gone home, blissfully unaware of the complexities surrounding ‘drinking-up time’. This was the ten minutes allowed, after official closing time, for everyone to finish their drinks and be off the premises. The problem was that the bell for last orders rang ten minutes before closing, and there was a mad dash for the bar to get the drinks in. The staff was frantically trying to serve everyone before the last bell. This meant that a large number of customers were left holding full pints of booze and only had ten minutes to drink it. Multiply that by a hundred and you have a recipe for disaster. The local police were very keen, and quick to jump in if they thought after-hours drinking was going on. And guess what my security job entailed? That’s right, I had to get everyone off the premises and the doors locked by a quarter past eleven at the very latest.

By ten I was already tired, having produced over a hundred basket meals. Now, I had to divest myself of my apron and check trousers, and assume the role of authority.
On the dot of eleven, I would move through the bar smiling and calling out in as pleasant a tone as possible.

‘Time ladies and gentlemen, please finish your drinks as quickly as possible, thank you.’

That would be the first pass through the main bar area. This would generally eliminate about half the drinkers. The rest would hold fast, clasping half finished pints possessively against their chests. Time for the second pass, this time with a little more attitude.

‘Come along ladies and gentlemen! We are past closing time, finish your drinks if you please and make your way to the exit. Thank you.’

Another wave of customers would wend their way across the greasy carpet to the exit. Obviously, the thought of returning to their bed-and-breakfasts was not as appealing as incurring my displeasure. This would continue for the ten minutes allotted drinking up time.

Finally, I would be left with about ten die-hard drinkers determined to push the system to the limits. My instructions were very clear. Remove the glasses forcibly if necessary and escort the offenders to the door myself. I must have been so naïve. I did this without any back up at all. Thankfully, I am a big girl and there were occasions when I had to resort to physical manipulation to assist some of the more stubborn customers to the door. After a week, I was quite practised in this role and Tom announced his satisfaction, and faith in my abilities to deal with my next challenge. This came under the heading of ‘Skinheads’.

At the height of the summer the ferry companies ran night-time excursions from Southampton to Cowes. Alcohol was served on the crossings and both ships and passengers steamed into the harbour at about eight each night. There would then be a torrent of shaven-headed, tartan clad, booted and spurred youths pouring down the high street. They would fall into the nearest pubs en-route, packing them within minutes. Those who were left out on the street continued their quest for the next pint until they reached us, at the end of the street. By this time alcohol deprivation must have set in, and their frustration levels reached new peaks. This wave of red and green plaid washed through the bar to the counter, and the staff hurried to fill their drink orders.

There is a law about serving both minors and those who have already consumed so much alcohol that they are legless. You try telling a five-foot skinhead, halfway across the bar, that you are not going to serve them. I think not. The one saving grace was that the boats returned by ten each night, so there would be a reverse flood back up the high street to catch the steamer before it left. It was not a wise move to be out on the streets at that time and the locals stayed safely out of the way.

After a few Friday and Saturday nights, I devised a plan of action. I invested in a pick axe handle and hung it over the food counter with a sign swinging beneath it which read ‘Attitude Adjuster’. Between cooking meals and leaving my assistant to cope as best she could, I would make frequent forays into the bar dressed in my cooking gear. With my sleeves rolled up and as mean an expression on my face as possible, I then exhibited a side of my nature never previously revealed. That of a protective Rottweiler.

Control was maintained, not through customer service, but by fear. I would walk with authority through the crowded bar and stare down anybody who got in my way. My calf length apron hid the fact that I was quaking in my shoes. This was not to say that I got away with just non-verbal communication. There were times when a show of force was essential to prevent a fight between rival factions of this tartan army, and I physically threw out a number of potential combatants by hand. This was not without danger, and on more than one occasion I was threatened with broken pint glasses and other veiled threats of violence.

I don’t know where I found the courage. It was certainly a far cry from chasing shoplifters through a department store, but the principal was the same. I objected to the few troublemakers who made life difficult for everyone else. To be fair, apart from the sheer mass of bodies that these excursions produced, and despite their ferocious looks, most of the skinheads just wanted to get as many pints in as possible before the ship sailed. It was a small minority that considered it his or her right to a punch up, as part of the evening’s entertainment, that spoilt it for everyone.

Thankfully, after about eight weekends of this, the excursions came to an end. The only other extraordinary event was Cowes week, which was frantically busy for the whole seven days. Culminating with Firework night. Tom had to partake on this occasion, as there were certain steps that had to be taken in preparation for this night. The first thing that happened was the removal of all furniture into storage, just for the day. This increased our capacity by about a hundred bodies. Then there was the employment of six burly bouncers. And where had they been when I needed them I asked? No food was to be served, except rolls and sandwiches, and all cutlery was removed and locked in the store cupboard for the night. Pictures were removed from the walls and all booze was served in plastic pint and half-pint glasses. This was all based on experience, so what does that tell you? It was a night to remember, or forget, whichever you prefer.

I have never seen the pub so full and the atmosphere was charged with energy and anticipation. Extra bar staff had been enlisted to assist, some of them booked since the previous year. Everyone was paid a premium rate, except for me, as I was management. Even I was behind the bar – the floor of which was soon running with beer slop and broken ice cubes.

As soon as the fireworks began there was a rush for the balcony. I am truly surprised that the whole building didn’t topple straight into the harbour. And then it was over. Four hours of non-stop serving passed in a blur and then they were gone, the whole thing over for another year. It was only the next morning, when clearing up the debris that we found plastic glasses in the most inaccessible places, including the roof.

So that was my season in Cowes, I have never worked so hard or been pushed into so many different situations. But I coped. My relationship survived and we planned to move on to Peter’s next job, which was back in the head office of his bank, in Portsmouth. I had no doubt after my experiences this summer that I would find something to keep me occupied for a few months and I decided that perhaps something non alcoholic and unrelated to food would be a good move.

What I had not bargained for was the change in my relationship with Peter. We began to argue, he felt that my summer in Cowes had hardened me and made me aggressive. I thought that I had just learnt to be more assertive. Dealing with the day to day situations that I had, had made me more confident in myself, and I had matured over the last few months. I think that Peter was worried that I no longer needed him. Well, that was the spin I put on it. In fact now I realise that it was a matter of control. Until now, I had always followed his lead, giving up family and jobs to move with him wherever he needed to go. I ignored the warning signals and settled for a quiet life.

©Sally Georgina Cronin – Just an Odd Job Girl

Next time cat burglars and insurance fraud

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time  Imogen causes ructions in the cosmetic department as she meets a wonderful group of new clients looking for beauty enhancements.

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

Chapter Nine next time….a move to the Isle of Wight and the skinhead invasions.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Five – Hair Pieces and The Shoe Department 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time Imogen finds her job as a dental nurse has some interesting adventures involving missing teeth in x-rays.

Chapter Five – Hair Pieces and The Shoe Department by Sally Cronin

I lived in a naval town and it was inevitable that socially I would meet and go out with young naval officers. I was at a party one Saturday, when I was introduced to this very tall, good-looking guy. I was now nineteen and felt I looked stunning, in a new outfit that I had just bought. This included a false half-wig on a black velvet band. It was ash blonde, and if you pulled the band far enough forward it hid the true colour of your hair. It hung seductively down my back and swung with a very satisfying swish when I walked or danced. Combined with a short black velvet dress and knee-high black boots, I was ready to rock and roll.

He was a wonderful dancer. He threw me around the floor to the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart and held me close when slow music was playing. He was gorgeous and I could see all my girlfriends looking on in envy as I strutted my stuff. This was living! My fertile imagination went into overtime. I had just got to the bit where I stunned my parents by taking this Adonis home to meet them when my favourite Rolling Stones song blared out from the speakers. Brown Sugar. If ever there was a song to dance to this was it. I was flying, and it took several minutes for it to register that not only my partner but also several people around us had stopped dancing. Assuming that they were so stunned by my gyrations and flexible interpretations of the music that they had stopped to watch, I carried on playing up to my audience.

There were a number of poles supporting the roof of the dance floor. One was quite close by, and I avoided hitting it as I twirled on the spangled floor. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something hanging halfway up the pole, but I was busy and didn’t take much notice of it. By now about two dozen people were watching the performance and I was too intent on keeping them entertained. I whirled faster, got closer to the pole, and only then realised that the object hanging limply from a hook was my ash-blonde hairpiece.

I stood there, with my own hair pinned on top of my head covered by a stocking that held it firmly in place. I looked over at my Adonis to find a look of horrified fascination on his face. I grabbed the hair and dashed for the stairs, and the ladies.

I was wearing a little shoulder bag and had no coat, so a speedy retreat was possible. I ripped the stocking and pins from my own hair and legged it out the door and into a taxi home. I have never been so mortified in my life. Today I would have laughed it off and carried on, but at nineteen it was the end of my world and the stunning future I had envisioned for myself with Mr. Fantastic. I hadn’t even got his name, but thankfully he hadn’t got mine either.

Two days later, still squirming from my ordeal, I attended my interview for acceptance into the Queen Alexandra Nursing Service. It was held over in Gosport, at the naval hospital, and along with twenty other hopefuls, I undertook a day of testing and medical examinations.

Eye tests, weight, blood pressure, heart and lungs all checked out. This was conducted by a very severe looking nursing sister and then we were passed on to a doctor for a full medical.

At nineteen, I was not sure what this entailed, and was rather concerned to be asked to remove all my clothing and don a backless hospital gown.

Holding this gown in place with one hand behind my back, I was led, nervously, into the examining room. A head was bent over some notes and I was escorted behind a screen and told to hop up on the examining couch. The nurse loosened the ties behind the neck of the gown and stood at the head of the couch. The curtains parted and the doctor entered. Now I know what a rabbit feels like, paralysed in the glare of the headlights. There before me in a white coat with stethoscope at the ready was my Adonis.

I seem to have blocked out much of the next twenty minutes. The experience was so traumatic that I can only barely remember being escorted out of the door and being told to get dressed. I have no doubt that the examination had been carried out very professionally and in accordance with medical guidelines, but to this day, when I am faced with the same situation, I need a stiff drink to get me into the surgery.

Despite my trauma, I was accepted for training. Unfortunately, the next intake was not for eighteen months, so in the meantime I had to find a job to earn my living.

Huntley’s Department Store, in the next town was looking for staff for Christmas and I decided that I would do some temporary work until it was time to enrol for training. Looking back, I think that perhaps I was actually looking for an excuse not to go ahead with the nursing, certainly with the Navy. The whole experience had been so humiliating that I kept re-playing it in my mind, over and over again. It did not improve with time.

Then fate took a hand, and three months later I met Peter and plans changed. I fell in love and he persuaded me not to tie myself down to three years training, as we would not be able to see each other very often.

Despite my feelings of utter humiliation at the time, I have often regretted not going ahead with my nursing. It was not the first, nor the last time that I allowed Peter to take control of my life and perhaps if I had stuck to my guns then, I would not now be in this situation.

* * *

I think that Andrew could sense that I was about to get maudlin and he got up and went to the door of the office.

‘Elizabeth, can you organise another pot of tea for us please, and give me a shout when you are going for lunch?’

He came back and sat down opposite me.

‘Look, Imogen, I think that this exercise is very valuable and that we should talk about your time at Huntley’s and then call it a day.’

He smiled at me reassuringly.

‘I have a fair idea, after spending the last couple of hours with you, what kind of person you are. I have a few options that I would like to explore, but I need a couple of days to sort them out. How about we finish up in half an hour or so and get together on Friday morning.’

Of course, I said yes. In the space of two hours, this man had made me look at myself in a new way. For far too long, I had allowed Peter and the children, to take over my life, and I had forgotten who I was. Talking about the past brought back memories which had been buried under the day-to-day demands of family and house. I was excited, for first time in years, about what prospects lay ahead.

The tea arrived and we sipped it in companionable silence for a few moments, while I collected my thoughts. I had served in three departments in the nine months that I had been at Huntley’s.

When I completed my initial two-day training course – learning about cash handling, and the store rules, I was sent straight to the Shoe department. Later I moved on to Ladies Clothing and then to Cosmetics, and I can tell you that if anyone assumes that serving in a department store is boring, they need to think again.

As I thought back, incidents long buried came to the surface.

When I arrived in large shoe department on the top floor I met the manageress and three other staff. The staff had been Huntley employees for at least a hundred years by the look of them. Thankfully, I had the experience of working with FB, who was fifty years older than me, but that still did not prepare me for my initiation.

One particular lady was a spinster. From my nineteen-year-old perspective, she looked ancient. On reflection, she was probably only about fifty, but had not worn well. I remember her hair especially, as the poor woman suffered from hair loss – and, like many men with the same problem, combed some long strands across the top of her head. She was very unfortunate in being very tall, almost my height, and rather bird like. I don’t mean sparrow; more ostrich-like with a slightly bulgy-eyed, startled, look. When I was introduced to her, she sniffed and said begrudgingly.

‘Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.’ Not in the most sincere tones.

My worst fears were realised when the manageress teamed me up with ostrich for my further training in shoe salesmanship. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of technical knowledge required to sell shoes effectively. Apart from the adult sizes with their different width fittings, we also sold a brand of children’s shoes that came with its own X-ray machine. I kid you not; we must have irradiated half the child population of the town. The machine stood waist high and you placed your feet in a slot set into the metal casing. You then looked into an eyepiece and you could see the bones in your feet. This enabled you to check that the child was not squeezed into their new shoes and that there was plenty of room for growth. I assume that these machines were checked for safety, but it is funny how you don’t see them around anymore.

Apart from the technical aspects of the job, Ostrich was also instructed to introduce me to the commission system. She did this with far more glee than she approached other aspects of my training, which should have made me suspicious.

Apparently, when you sold a pair of shoes, you cut out the front of the box they came in, put your initials on the front and gave it in at the end of the week to the wages department.

My sales training from the seafront came in very handy and I was delighted to sell six pairs of shoes my first week. Ostrich kindly offered to hand my box ends on the Saturday, along with her own. This would have meant two shillings a pair, which would have given me twelve shillings extra on top of my eight-pound basic wage. The commission did not appear but ostrich assured me that this was because it was paid a week in arrears.

The second week, I sold twelve pairs of shoes and so earned a commission of twenty-four shillings. Again Ostrich handed over our box ends and when I checked my pay slip, I saw that I had the twelve shillings from the last week. The next week the Ostrich was off sick and surprise, surprise when I checked my pay slip, I saw that in fact I was paid commission for that week, not in arrears at all.

I worked out that the Ostrich had changed the initials on the first week’s sales and on six of the second. If she had not been sick, I would never have noticed the deception until my last pay packet when it would have been too late to do anything about it.

The Ostrich had been there in the shoe department for sixteen years. Who was going to believe a junior assistant who had only been there two weeks? When she returned to work, I said nothing, but from then on, I handed my own box ends into the manageress on Saturdays.

I wondered how many other juniors had been caught by that little scam and decided that on my last day, whenever that might be, I would put things right. Fortunately, before I had to take action, the Ostrich left for some ‘undisclosed’ reason!

Apart from the Ostrich, I enjoyed my job. I liked meeting different people every day, and selling them shoes that made them feel good.

Most customers were pleasant and polite. The odd one who was grumpy was a challenge, firstly to cheer up and then to send away with the most expensive pair of shoes I could get away with.

There was one customer, in particular, however, who was in a league of her own. Very elegant, beautifully dressed, hair immaculate and already wearing very expensive shoes. She indicated two or three pairs of shoes that she wished to try on and sat down and removed one of her own shoes. She lifted one slim stockinged leg onto the sloped footstool and then lifted her foot into the first shoe I had brought out. I carefully shoehorned her foot into the shoe. I glanced up and noticed that her skirt had ridden up over her knees and that she was rather exposed. And I do mean exposed; she was wearing no knickers. I was totally shocked.

How could anyone go out without any knickers, had she forgotten? She lifted the other foot, placed it in the matching shoe, and stood up. I prayed that she would choose them and not want to try anymore on, but no, she tried on five more pairs before choosing three of them. I kept a smile plastered in place but knew that I was bright red with embarrassment. How she didn’t notice I have no idea. Perhaps she did, and enjoyed it immensely, and I wonder now if, in her seventies, she still goes knickerless to embarrass shoe shop assistants.

At the end of three months, I was asked if I would like to stay on for an extra six months, and work in the ladies fashion department. I was still in two minds about going into nursing as planned, so I decided that this was as good as any place to work in the meantime.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter six next time with Ladies Fashions and shop lifters

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Three: The Interview – 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Yesterday the number of jobs that Imogen had undertaken back in her twenties is unveiled with some interesting twists to her first job at age 14.

Chapter Three: The Interview

For a moment, there was an uneasy silence.

Mr. Jenkins smiled.

‘Why don’t you call me Andrew’ he said, quietly? ‘I know that it can be a little intimidating at first, but you strike me as being a smart, interesting woman who just needs a little encouragement to get back out into the working environment. Just relax and tell me in your own words about the jobs, and the things you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about each one.’

‘This process will help us decide what it is that you want and where it best fits into our client requirements.’

I took a deep breath and settled back into the chair.

‘Well, I had better start at the beginning then, although the fourteen year old who started work along the seafront seems like a completely different person to who I am today.’

Just thinking back to those early spring months of 1967 made me smile. I had pestered my mother and father for months to let me get a part-time job. I didn’t want a paper round as getting up at an ungodly hour before school every morning, including Sunday, held little appeal. Also, my parents were concerned that my schoolwork would suffer so we compromised on a weekend and holiday job.

Just before Easter, I saw an advertisement in the local evening paper for staff for the council run operations along the seafront. The minimum age was fourteen years and three months, which I had just passed, and there was an address to apply for an application form.

Without telling my mother, I sent off for the form, which duly arrived. Being a council application form it covered three pages and virtually asked for weight and number of teeth. I was proud of my efforts, and presented the completed and signed form to my mother who also had to sign the form because of my age.

My mother’s idea of employment for me was slightly different to mine. I think that she saw me serving tea to ‘hatted ladies’ in some up-market restaurant in one of the big department stores. Working along the seafront seemed to conjure up horrendous pictures of loutish behaviour and dirty postcards. She was actually not far off the mark there, and she was very resistant to the idea in the beginning.

One of the genetic traits that I have inherited from my mother is the ability to nag successfully. One must be neither too forceful, nor direct. It requires subtle insinuations into conversation, usually at crucial times, such as when someone is lifting a fork of food to their mouths or is in the middle of a television programme that requires absolute attention. It is a little like drops of water on stone, gradually it is worn down to the desired path. My mother was very good at getting her own way and always one to emulate success I used her own methods against her.

My mother used to wear a foundation garment that was the forerunner of my own current all-in-one girdle. My mother’s girdle had bones in strategic places throughout the garment that not only lifted but held the body in much the same way as scaffolding around a building. The timing of the nag was critical. Just as my mother had struggled, naked, into the legs of the girdle and was inching it painfully over her hips with everything hanging over the top, I would poke my head around the bedroom door.

‘Mummy, would you believe that the job on the seafront pays two shillings an hour and that means you wouldn’t have to pay me any more pocket money?’

My mother never had a chance. After a campaign which only lasted two weeks, my form was signed, returned and a call received from the council asking both my mother and I to attend for an interview at the main café on the front.

This was my first job interview, and I illustrated another genetic trait I had inherited from my mother. This is the gene which governs what you wear and how many times you will change your outfit before an important event. You have to remember that this was the sixties and I was fourteen, going on thirty. I had two older sisters and their wardrobes were rummaged through until I had assembled what I considered to be suitable attire for the all-important first impression.

It was a campaign that I lost. No amount of nagging was going to allow my mother to be seen dead accompanying me in my chosen outfit. I, of course, thought it looked sophisticated, professional and very adult. The make-up that I had applied gave me a certain ‘gothic’ air, and on my arrival in the kitchen, ten minutes before we were due to leave for the interview, I was mortified to be met with laughter from my younger brother and horrified glares from my mother. Ten minutes later, with face scrubbed, and in my school uniform, we left.

Andrew laughed.

‘You got the job, so perhaps your mother was right about the outfit’

‘You could say that.’ I admitted.

‘When we got to the café, there were about ten other girls of my age, with their mothers, waiting in the serving area.’

The moment came back to me as if it was yesterday. The place was not due to open for another two weeks so we all sat around the tables and tried not to stare at each other. There was only one other girl in school uniform and we looked at each other in sympathy, while the two mothers smiled smugly at each other. All the other girls were wearing much the same as my original outfit and they in turn smiled smugly at the two of us in our basic grey and navy blue.

‘I can’t remember what the interviewer was like, my mother answered questions about my school work and home environment and then the man asked me why I wanted to go to work.’

At fourteen, you have not perfected the art of lying in interviews and you certainly do not prepare stock answers in advance. The man got an honest answer.

‘My friend Mary gets two pounds a week pocket money and I only get five shillings. My parents say that they cannot afford to give me any more.’

I looked across to my mother’s horrified face. I could see that she was about to interrupt.

‘I am going to give my parents some of my earnings to help them out.’

The man looked sympathetically at my mother, assuming that we were near the poverty line. I had a nasty feeling that once out of the safety of the interview room, I was going to be in trouble. Luckily, before she could refute this silent allegation, the man had risen and was ushering us out of the door.

‘We will be in touch in a few days Mrs. Baxter.’

He shook my mother’s hand.

We walked past the remaining applicants, who searched our faces for some clues to the ordeal ahead. My mother marched straight past with a firm grip on my elbow and I resigned myself to a long, ‘verbal’ walk home.

Three days later a letter arrived stating that I would be employed for the summer season. I would work for a maximum of six hours a day, at an hourly rate of two shillings an hour. I was rich and my mother was vindicated. I later found out that the only applicants to be offered a job were the two in school uniforms. Confirming the age-old belief that mothers are always right.

‘So, you got the job and you’re in the money, what did you have to do for it?’ Andrew poured himself another cup of tea and settled back in his chair.

It is amazing how many events and people you can remember after thirty-five years. I suppose the memories are stored away in a filing cabinet, and are kept as fresh as the day they were made. My first day on the job came back as clear as if it were yesterday.

I arrived in my school uniform and black lace-up shoes. I was greeted by the manageress. She was a plump, motherly looking woman, who later revealed the temperament of a Rottweiler. She led me into the staff room and indicated a locker against the wall.

‘This is yours. Remember the number, thirteen. No-one else wants it for obvious reasons, but, since you are the newest member of staff, you get it.’

An auspicious start to my first job!

‘These two overalls are to be washed by you and you will be charged five shillings if you lose one.’

It was beginning to sound a bit like school.

‘You will clock-in with this card and clock-out at the end of each shift, and the card will be sent to the council who will send down your wages each Friday.’

She smiled maliciously.

‘You work a week in hand here.’

I had no idea what that meant and clearly my face reflected my confusion.

‘That means you won’t get paid until the second week, and you will get two weeks money at the end of the season.’

Great! Now I was going to be working for nothing for my first week, or so it seemed. I looked at the two grey nylon overalls with faded, unidentified stains down the front of them. Not exactly the height of sixties fashion! Now I dreaded the prospect that some of my school friends might come upon me in this garb.

‘I am giving you to Betty.’

The manageress turned and walked through the door.

‘Hurry up girl, you’ve got a lot to learn and we haven’t got all day.’

A paper round, even with early mornings, began to look rather more attractive as I anticipated what was to come. I assumed that all the women in this place were of the same type as the battle-axe walking in front of me and I was pleasantly surprised to be handed over to a tiny, round, beaming woman who had been waiting for me outside the back door of the café.

‘Hello. She smiled at me. I’m Betty.’

She was wearing the highest pair of stiletto shoes I had ever seen. She must have been under five-foot in height and quite plump, and I had no idea how she managed to stay upright on these thin, three-inch heels. I am nearly six foot and I looked down on my diminutive new companion, wondering how she was going to boss me around. I was soon to find out that looks could be deceiving!

Where were we going? I had thought that I was going to be working in the café. Had I been fired already? About twenty feet from the restaurant there was a small round building. Little did I know at the time, but apart from occasional relief duties in the main café, this was going to be my work place for the next three seasons. Betty opened a door at the back of the structure.

‘In you go youngster’ she said, holding the door for me.

I stepped through into the dark and stood for a moment on the threshold of a new life. The lights snapped on and I looked around me.

‘Now.’ She said firmly. ‘I don’t stand any nonsense, we can have a good time in here away from everyone else but you have to follow the rules, okay.’
I nodded my head.

‘What’s your name and how old are you?’

She busied herself around the old fashioned till perched on the wooden shelf. No mean feat as it stood four feet off the ground and she could barely see over the top of the counter. Obviously, I could now see the reasoning behind the three-inch heels.

‘My name is Imogen and I am fourteen and three months old.’ I replied.

‘Good for you.’ She said, with her head buried under the counter. ‘You sound a bit like a light bulb, bless you.’

You know, I had always thought that about my name too.

Betty stood up and looked me up and down. Being a large girl, the overall was a bit of a tight fit and my black lace up shoes did nothing for my image as a swinging sixties chick.

‘Got any plimsolls that you can run in?’ she asked.

‘Yes I have my school gym shoes at home.’ I replied, slightly bemused as to why I would need running shoes in this tiny round building.

‘Good. Wear them tomorrow, with trousers.’

The plot thickened!

With that, my training began. I discovered that I was going to be assistant manager of the souvenir kiosk. A very important job, she said. I would be left in charge during lunch times and during the holidays when I would be working longer hours. And, I would be entrusted with the kiosk on her day off. A far cry from clearing tables in the café, but an unexpected pleasant surprise. I would be out in the fresh air everyday and I had already taken a liking to Betty.

First, we went back outside and opened the metal shutters. As they opened, the souvenirs were revealed in tidy rows on the downward sloping wooden counter. There were leather goods; purses, wallets, comb holders and manicure sets, all of which had the city crest, emblazoned in bright colours on the front. There was a whole section of different coloured sticks of rock, with the lettering running through it, and heart-shaped lollipops proudly bearing our town’s name.

Around the inside of the kiosk hung cards with little ivory name badges, hair slides and combs. For the life of me, I cannot imagine wanting to receive a pair of hair slides with Portsmouth & Southsea engraved on them, let alone wear them. However, I was to discover that they were a popular item for our holidaymakers.

‘Right dear, grab the end of this stand will you ducks.’

Betty had already decided that she was not going to call me by my given name, and did not until the day I left three years later. Can’t say I blame her.

Against the counter, at the back, was a large wooden easel. We dragged it through the back door and out to the front of the kiosk. When we got it into the sunlight, I saw that it held row upon row of postcards, all neatly stacked in their own wooden slots, on both sides of the stand. There were views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Pictures of the hovercraft that went between the island and us, and of course, on the top three rows, the obligatory dirty postcards. I knew they were dirty because my mother always grabbed me away whenever she caught me eyeing them during walks along the seafront. Betty, also, was not allowing time for viewing, and taking my elbow pulled me back into the kiosk.

My training began. It was completed on the job because as soon as we got back inside we had our first customer and we were busy all day. It was great fun and I discovered a flair for selling, that must have been hidden in my genes along with my nagging skills. Same sort of idea really. Betty was very proud of the fact that I could persuade people that they really needed a comb to go with the purse, and that two sticks of rock would be better than one.

The one job that I really enjoyed, however, involved the gym shoes. I wore them, as instructed, on my second day. Betty explained that there were three boys of about ten or eleven who were coming along each day and stealing handfuls of dirty postcards. She couldn’t leave the kiosk and chase them, and anyway her stilettos would never have allowed her to catch up with them.

My job was to conceal myself behind the postcard stand, when Betty spotted them coming, and to give chase.

‘What do I do with them when I catch up with them?’ I asked innocently.

‘Got a younger brother have you?’ She asked.

‘Yes, I have.’ I replied, mystified.

‘Well, if he took something of yours without asking and you caught him at it, what would you do?’ She smiled grimly.

I waited patiently behind the postcard stand, just out of sight at the allotted time. Sure enough, as predicted, the three boys ran up, grabbed a handful of cards and raced off down the promenade.

They never knew what hit them. They were not aware that I was sprint champion at school, or had dealings with a younger brother. You have to remember that these were the days before ‘Positive Parenting’. So the slaps I administered to these three shoplifter’s behinds, while regaining possession of the stolen articles, were both legal and satisfying.

I arrived back at the kiosk to find a beaming Betty, accompanied by the manageress of the café standing with her arms crossed and with a grim expression on her maternal face.

Apparently, she had been serving a customer, with a whipped ice-cream cone, at the outside window when she had seen me streaking past, yelling mild obscenities, after the three robbers.

I thought I was just about to be fired from my first job on my second day.

The Rottweiler nodded at Betty.

‘She’ll do,’ and with that she turned on her heel and went back to her domain.

‘Well done ducks.’ Betty patted my arm.

‘That’s the last we’ll see of those little buggers.’

I realised that my education over the next few years was probably going to be broadened in ways my mother would possibly not approve of. But I was here to stay, and I was now, officially, part of the team.

In time, I did clear tables, serve behind the hot counter and sample the whipped ice-cream between customers. Mostly, though, I stayed in the kiosk and learnt about life and the art of ‘selling-up’ from the first really committed teacher I had ever known.

* * *

I looked nervously across at Andrew. ‘Was that too much information? I’m not sure what exactly you’re looking for.’

He smiled reassuringly.
‘I know that it was your first job but it covered three years, and it indicated a few interesting things to me.’ He paused for a moment.

‘You obviously have an excellent memory. I can’t remember much of what happened last week, and you are adaptable to different situations, enjoy meeting people and you can sell both yourself and your products.’

He laughed.

‘You would also appear to be quick off the mark if the occasion calls for it.’

I looked at my watch and was amazed to find that I had only been in the office for half an hour.

‘Are you sure that you want me to go through all my jobs,’ I asked, secretly hoping that he did want to spend more time with me.

‘Absolutely, you have my undivided attention.’

Well that was something I had not been given for a while, so I might as well make the most of it.

***

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter four next Saturday Imogen’s first full time job in a private dental practice with a surprising outcome

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Two – The Curriculum Vitae 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

About the book

At 50 Imogen had been married for over 20 years, and was living in a big house, with money to spare. Suddenly she is traded-in for a younger model, a Fast-Tracker.

Devastated, she hides away and indulges in binge eating. But then, when hope is almost gone, she meets a new friend and makes a journey to her past that helps her move on to her future.

Last time we met Imogen and discovered the reasons behind her need to get a job.

Chapter Two – The Curriculum Vitae

Over the last few months, I had begun to amuse myself by imagining people that I met as animals. Not very kind perhaps, but it gave me a sort of perverse pleasure and satisfaction to match the person to the animal as closely as possible. It had almost become a fixation. For example, my husband’s features morphed into those of a mangy, flea ridden alley cat whilst the Fast Tracker had assumed the features of a sharp-snouted rat, scavenging around for other’s leavings. My feelings, as a cornered rabbit, were probably a reflection of the current low esteem these two predators had forced on me, and was something else that had to be dealt with, along with my expanding waistline.

‘Good morning, how may I help you?’ The lady behind the desk had the look of a well fed Cheshire cat. Wide smile and fluffy hair.

‘Good morning. My name is Imogen Smythe. I am here to see Mr. Jenkins.’

‘Of course, we’re expecting you, do take a seat and he won’t keep you a moment.’

I settled down into a comfortable chair and was pleasantly surprised to see that the magazine was this month’s edition. I read my horoscope with some relief, as it said that I was about to be pleasantly surprised by a new acquaintance and that I should grab that romantic opportunity with both hands. I was a little dubious about that last one, as I was not sure what I should grab with both hands. I was relieved because, in the dentist’s last week, I had picked up a magazine which had a disastrous prediction for me, only to discover the magazine was two year’s old. Perhaps if I had read that issue then, I would have had some warning about Peter and the fast tracker, as I seem to remember it mentioned rats deserting a sinking ship.

I was nervously reading the horoscopes for everyone else in the family, when the door to the inner office opened and a giant of a man stood in the doorway.

‘Mrs. Smythe, won’t you come in.’ A deep voice echoed around the small reception area.

If I were to label Mr. Jenkins as an animal, I would have to liken him to a grizzly bear with kind eyes. As I rose to walk towards him, I had little time for reflection but I was struck by a comfortable feeling of security, which was reinforced by the huge hand that came out to clasp mine. The dark, slightly rumpled suit and the greying brown hair, just touching the collar of his cream shirt, completed the picture.

‘Take a seat, won’t you.’ He said in his deep brown voice.

I sat in the chair that he indicated, and rather than go around the large desk to take a seat, he instead sat opposite me and crossed his long legs.

‘I understand that you are looking to go back to work after a bit of a break, is that correct?’

‘Well, I had hoped that perhaps I could find something. It isn’t the money, but I am getting rather bored now that the family has grown up and left home.’ He looked at me for a moment, and I could feel his eyes sweeping up from the floor, pausing briefly at my cleavage (possibly wishful thinking) and then moving on to meet my hesitant gaze.

‘It can be a little daunting, returning to work after such a long time, and it is important that we spend time now to understand your skills and preferences. We don’t want to place you in a position where you are not suited. It would only disappoint you, and our client. Both the client and our staff are very important to us and I have to tell you that we will only place people in positions if we feel that they are capable of the tasks necessary. Does that sound fair enough to you?’

‘Oh yes.’ I uttered quietly. Thinking to myself; chance will be a fine thing. Even this nice man is never going to find something I can do.

‘Perhaps you could let me have your C.V. so that I can get some idea of your work experience in the past?’

I handed the slightly rumpled piece of paper across to him and he glanced down. His index finger tapped gently on his upper lip and I nervously watched his eyes running down the two pages of type-written script.

He smiled and then called through the open door to the receptionist.

‘Elizabeth, would you kindly bring in a pot of tea and some biscuits for myself and Mrs. Smythe? I think we might be here for a while.’

That was encouraging, at least he wasn’t throwing me straight out of the door.

‘You have had rather a lot of jobs in the past haven’t you Mrs. Smythe?’ He glanced up from the paper and looked directly at me.

‘A lot of variety too. Catering, retail, advertising, hotels, but quite a bit of movement. I see that some of these were temporary.’

I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

‘Absolutely, I moved around quite a bit with my future husband – which accounts for many of the changes.

I tried to look at Mr. Jenkins confidently, but felt somehow that he had not been fooled at all.

‘Well, I think the best thing to do is to talk about all your jobs, including the ones when you were at school and college. This will give me a much better feel for your abilities and the sort of positions that you would enjoy, as well as being suited for.

‘All of them?’ I looked at my watch, not that I had anywhere other than a sofa to go to. ‘Won’t that take up far too much of your time?’

‘No, absolutely not’, he smiled encouragingly. ‘I spend as much time as necessary with every new applicant and I have nothing else scheduled for this morning.’

This was it then. I knew that close scrutiny of some of the positions I had listed would reveal flaws of a very personal nature and that if I were to come out of this positively, it would be necessary to stretch my acting abilities to the limit. I called upon every ounce of backbone I possessed, and sipping the piping hot tea that had arrived I marshalled my thoughts.

Mr. Jenkins left the room and appeared a few minutes later with my original C.V. and a photocopy.

‘Perhaps it might help if you have the C.V. in front of you to jog your memory?’ He smiled and handed me back the instrument of my downfall.

‘In your own time’ he prompted me.

Okay here goes.

CURRICULUM VITAE

NAME: Imogen Smythe D.O.B.: 10th January 1953 ADDRESS: 65 Blackrock Road, South Woodford, London E18

O’LEVEL PASSES:
History, Mathematics, English Language,
English Literature and Biology.

COLLEGE EDUCATION:
One-year secretarial course Bankhurst Secretarial College. Shorthand 100 w.p.m. and RSA Stage II typewriting.

WORK EXPERIENCE
1967 – 1969
Seafront restaurant and giftware complex. Weekends/holidays.
Duties: Varied. Souvenir kiosk, ice-cream machine, table clearing, waitress.

1969 – 1971 Dental nurse/Receptionist/Secretary.
Mr. Forsythe-Brown – 13 Broadstairs Street. Portsmouth.
Duties: Chairside assistant, X-ray technician, reception, accounts, secretarial.

1971 – 1972 Shop assistant
Huntley’s Department Store.
Duties: Sales assistant: Shoes, Ladies clothing, Cosmetics.

1972 – 1973 Catering assistant
O’Ryan’s Steak House – Eastbourne, Sussex.
Duties: Bar, Restaurant management, waitressing, stock control, security.

1973 – 1974 Public House assistant manager
The Quayside Public House, Isle of Wight.
Duties: Bar meals, bar, cleaning, stock control, security.

1974 – 1975 Temporary Positions
Two insurance companies; Funeral Directors; Boy’s School; Free Newspaper.
Duties: Varied.

1975 – 1977 Hotel Assistant Manager.
Killbilly Country House hotel. Killbilly, cornwall.
General duties:- Including reservations, restaurant and bar management, training, Public Relations, stock control and accounts.

1977 – 2001 Housewife and mother.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter three tomorrow, and Imogen begins to relate the stories associated with all the jobs that she had undertaken and also more about her life and marriage.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – 20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs – Fashion Department and Shoplifters 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.

Odd Jobs and Characters – Fashion Department Manager and Shop Lifters by Sally Cronin

After six months of sheep farming in Dolgellau, we returned to Liverpool to live. I needed to get back into full time employment if we were to save our deposit for our own home. David continued to go back and forth to Wales a couple of days a week, but we were now officially city dwellers.

David already had a flat that he rented, but his landlady told us that we would have to leave as it was single occupancy only. What she really meant was single sex occupancy, as she didn’t have a problem with the two girls living together in the top flat. But she assumed no doubt that the first thing we would do is to have a baby. Anyway, we were not going to argue, although there was nothing in the lease to indicate this condition of tenancy.

We found a flat in Tuebrook, which is a suburb of Liverpool, and closer to the city centre where I was applying for jobs. At this time we were pretty broke and the flat had seen better days. The fact that the corner shop protected its assistants behind security bars, should have been an indication of what we might expect. However, we reckoned that with me working we could be out of there in a year. Our lady was Chinese and charming, collecting the rent each Friday and also emptying the electric meter that we were convinced was rigged. It ate two shilling pieces as though they were chocolate buttons, and I was paranoid about running out of coins with us being plunged into darkness. Anyway, I always knew when she was coming up the bare uncarpeted stairs, as she had a wooden leg which was a bit of a giveaway.

I attended a couple of interviews and was offered the position of manager for an expensive women’s fashion brand, which rented space in a large department store in the city centre. I was only 27 and found myself responsible for a team that had been holding the fort for longer than I have been alive. Still they were very welcoming and happy to show me the ropes, although one aspect of the job I had not expected, was to be the only one young enough to chase shop lifters. If you have read my story of my first job along the seafront, you will know that this was actually listed as one of my skills!

Every three months we would receive the new season’s clothing range. This included skirts, tops, jackets, suits, dresses and coats that were the favourites of the shorter, middle-aged woman. They were classy, and we sold many outfits for the mothers of both bride and groom, and for the 1980s, they were quite expensive. This made them very popular with another kind of customer; the ones who were more interested in not paying anything for them.

There were a number of ways that our clothes were liberated from their hangers without detection. For example, a young mother with a child in a pushchair, would wend her way through the rails and then walk away seemingly empty handed. Except that the child in the push chair would somehow be now hanging over the front bars with its bum in the air. You have to be quick to grab a jacket off a hanger, fold it and tuck it under your baby or behind it.

Another way to shoplift merchandise required the assistance of the escalator up to the next floor. In their wisdom, the shop fitters had placed two rails along the wall beneath the escalator to hold jackets and suits. Three young males would get on the escalator with a couple of steps between them. The middle one would duck down, as the one at the back would grab a hanger with a suit on, throwing it to him to stuff in a black bin bag; the one in front acted as look out. Give them their due, they were well practiced at the manoeuvre; blink and you missed it.

Every morning the team and I would conduct a stock take of the garments on the racks and shelves, and again at the end of the day. We would then compare this against incoming stock and items sold. If there was a discrepancy, we would double check, but it usually meant we had been robbed.

You only lost so many items before head office was on your case, so we had to become smarter that the thieves, as we were sustaining quite big losses. The team would split up in the department; only one person would take payment for sold items at the cash desk, leaving as many staff on the floor as possible at all times. Women with babies in pushchairs were greeted and escorted until they left the department. Despite this increased vigilance we were still losing more items than we should. Until one day, when I was helping a lady on with a spring coat, and happened to look up to see three stooges on the escalator, helping themselves to one of the new suits.

With a rapid ‘excuse me’ to my customer; leaving her in the capable hands of one of my team. I legged it over to the escalator, running up the steps behind the thieves, who were busily stuffing my expensive suit into their bin bag. I think possibly it was my colourful language that alerted them to their pursuer, and they all turned to stare down at me as they reached the top of the moving staircase. By this time I was almost upon them, and as a distraction they threw the bag with its stolen suit at me. I caught it deftly, throwing it in turn to a member of store staff, approaching to see what the kerfuffle was about.

The lads rushed over and leapt onto the descending escalator, taking the steps two at a time. They were daft if they thought I was giving up. I shot after them and down the next escalator to the ground floor. They had to cross the expanse of the cosmetic department to make it to the outside and safety, but looking around, I couldn’t see any of the security staff to call on for assistance.

The customers who were busy shopping, looked up to see these three itinerants making their escape, pushing through the crowd, and also at an obviously irritated woman giving chase. I decided to make best use of the audience, and proceeded to announce in a loud voice that I was chasing shoplifters. The crowd began to laugh as the boys finally reached the exit, pushing through the swing doors with much blasphemy and red faces. What was quite interesting, was with my announcement, several other customers also made for the exits hastily!

I turned to find three store detectives standing behind me; arms crossed and disapproving looks on their faces. Apparently they wouldn’t apprehend groups of thieves, as they were usually armed with knives. My adrenaline was still up and I gave them a piece of my mind; after all it was not their jobs on the line when stock went missing. I approached the escalator to head up to the first floor and my department, only to find the general manager of the store at the top, waiting for me; also with his arms crossed.

Anyway, I of course was told off, mainly because for fears for my safety, but also for telling the customers we had a shop lifting problem. However, I did get the fixture changed next to the escalator by getting rid of the top rail, and word must have got around about the mad woman, as thefts from our department dropped dramatically.

©Sally Cronin

On Wednesday I swap fashion for cut glass crystal and nearly get a smashing start to the job……… and I meet Sherlock Holmes.

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 .. and I hope you will join me on Wednesday for the next episode.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – 20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs -The Sheep Farm 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.

 The Sheep Farm – Indignant Rams and Black Sheep by Sally Cronin.

When my husband and I were first married, we had to stay in Wales for another six months, whilst he completed a research project in the mountains. We needed somewhere to live and being November and out of season, he managed to find us a flat to move into on the hillside above Dolgellau. The flat was part of an old farmhouse owned by a couple who I knew as regular dinner guests to the hotel, and it was a great arrangement.

After a few weeks of idleness and enjoying being a new wife, I decided that perhaps there might be a way to pay our rent and get some exercise. The rent we saved would be put towards a deposit of our own home; very high on our priority list. I approached my friend and landlady, asking if I might help out on their hill farm, where they kept a flock of several hundred sheep. She was more accustomed to seeing me in long dresses and heels, showing guests to their tables in the hotel, than walking up Cader Idris, but after she stopped laughing, she agreed to give me a trial run.

I went out and bought suitable clothing, which bearing in mind the time of year, involved waterproof boots and fleeced wet weather gear. It was early December and snow was not unexpected, and you did not want to be caught up at altitude inadequately dressed. I will admit that the first two or three days left me breathless, resulting in me giving up cigarettes (no bad thing). It also served to remind me how unfit I was. However, by the second week, I was hitting my stride.

We could take the Land Rover almost as far as the sheep who had moved down from the top grazing to avoid the worst of the weather. By this time, and with some snow on the ground, they needed some additional feed, and we would carry the bales of hay from the vehicle up to them, spreading it out on the frozen ground. It was time nearly time to bring the flock down for a very important event.

Not the sheep of my day.. but you get the idea..

The rams in the flock were fitted with a special device that marked the backs of the female sheep as they impregnated them, each with its own specific colour. This told you which sheep had been covered and was likely to be pregnant, and also if a ram was disinclined to breed and therefore needed replacing (mutton). But now it was time to separate the rams from the flock as their job was done. To do this the entire herd was brought down the mountain with the help of one sheepdog, to a large barn which was separated into two areas. A large one and then a smaller part that was fenced off where the rams would be penned away from the rest of the flock. They having done sterling service they would be taken to another part of the farm, to a field where they would have to amuse themselves for the next six months.

My boss said she would head back to the main farm to collect the two other sheepdogs so they could help separating the rams from the flock, which numbered a couple of hundred sheep. I was left to twiddle my thumbs, but being keen to help and save time, I spotted the rams as they jostled amongst the ewes, and decided that I might as well get started. I did have the benefit of watching some Australian sheep shearing documentaries and using a technique I had observed, I managed to manhandle the rams out of the flock using their horns and a helping hand up their backsides (I was wearing gloves). In about an hour, rather sweaty and not a little exhausted, I had the rams safely barricaded in their own bachelor quarters.

A little while later my boss arrived with two very eager sheepdogs that stood with their owner, completely bemused by the fact that they were now redundant. Apparently, this was not the traditional way to split the rams from the flock, but by the look on the faces of the watching ewes, they found the spectacle more than satisfying.

I discovered a great deal more about sheep during the winter months and their tough lives on the Welsh mountainsides. With the snow down even on the lower slopes where the sheep remained, it was difficult to find them against the white ground covering. This is where the black sheep of the flock comes in handy. Not only is she an older and wiser matriarch who knows where the best grazing is to be found, she is also a beacon to locate her flock who always stayed close to her.

In the spring came the life-affirming task of lambing, and it certainly is a miracle of nature. To protect the newborn lambs from crows and foxes, we would mark their foreheads with a smear of tar; hoping its offensive smell would deter predators. This odd job of mine created some lovely memories and I used my experience in one of my short stories in my first collection.

©Sally Cronin 1999

On Monday I swap wellington boots for stilettos as I take on the job of running a women’s fashion department in Liverpool.

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

Oct 12, 2020 Gwendolyn Plano rated it it was amazing

Just An Odd Job Girl is an entrancing read. The spirited writing of Sally Cronin quickly captures readers and draws them to the utterly delightful character of Imogen. One challenge after another emerges, only to be surmounted by Imogen’s ingenuity and good luck.

I laughed through much of the book, shed a few tears, and otherwise enjoyed the literary ride. This is an inspirational novel, one that will warm your heart, resonate with past experiences, and bring you to the realization that all is possible, and all is purposeful.

At a time when chaos appears to rule our lives, this book shows us otherwise. I strongly recommend it

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 on onday I swap country life for the city back in Liverpool… and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – 20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs – Boarding School Housekeeper/Caterer 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. Particularly as I am in the middle of editing my next collection due out in November.

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.

Last time I shared the adventures running a pub on the Isle of Wight for two years with skinheads enjoying their booze cruises…

Boarding School Housekeeper/Caterer

After a few unsuccessful attempts to keep our marriage together, my first husband and I finally split up. All our furniture and belongings were in storage, as our accommodation at the pub we ran was fully equipped. I headed off with two suitcases into a B&B for a few weeks and took some temporary jobs, as I looked for something more permanent. At the beginning of December, and now almost broke, I applied for the position of Housekeeper/Caterer at a public school in Sussex.

I went for the interview and my experience in steak house management, and also mass catering in the pub were very useful. Two days before Christmas I received a telegram asking me to report to the school on the 6th of January. My new living quarters were the ground floor of one of the farm cottages attached to the school, right opposite the pig sheds which infused my new home with an alluring aroma. The children were expected back on January 11th and my first job was to buy in the supplies to feed 120 children and 30 school and domestic staff.

I was lucky to walk into a brand new and purpose built dining hall and kitchen, which was a real bonus. I had one permanent assistant, and the housekeeping staff would also help at meal times. I spent the next few days ordering from the main dry goods supplier and local butcher and fish merchant. I also had to work out staffing rotas for the cleaning and maintenance of the residential areas of the main house and classrooms, which were my responsibility too. I planned the menus for the next four weeks so that I could buy certain foods in bulk which saved money. I also need to organise my own timetable, as I would be cooking four meals a day, seven days a week as well as checking on the housekeeping side twice a day. On Fridays one of my staff who had some cooking experience, would cook lunch, which to the delight of the children was always superb fish, chips and peas. That gave me some time to explore the local area and take a breather.

The children started the day with juice, cereal or porridge, and a cooked breakfast with a piece of toast with tea or milk. Let me tell you how daunting it is on your first day in the job to fry 150 eggs rotating through six large frying pans, watch flats with bacon in three ovens whilst toasting 150 slices of bread both sides, without burning, on two large wall-mounted grills which took 30 slices at a time. All dished up by 8.15 when juice, porridge or cereal was finished.

Table prefects would come and collect the serving platters and toast racks, allowing me to start my rounds of the dining-hall to make sure that each child ate all their breakfast. Twice a week, I would start half an hour earlier at 6a.m, so that I could crack 140 eggs into a giant Bain Marie to gently scramble. I would say the overall favourite breakfast was sausages and beans and fried bread, which disappeared in a heartbeat.

No sooner had the kitchen been cleaned and the crockery and cutlery sent through the washer, and it was time to do the lunch preparation. Even back then, I cooked food from scratch, instead of relying on the frozen entrees that were available for mass catering. The boys and handful of girls at the school soon became accustomed to eating Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Lasagne as well as roast dinners with all the trimmings. There was always rice, potatoes or pasta and at least two vegetables. Dessert might be Apple Charlotte, Cherry Pie, Rhubarb Crumble, Spotted Dick all served with custard.

I did use frozen vegetables at times, but I did a deal with local farmers to take their odd shaped vegetables and fruit, and found a free range egg farmer who delivered stacks of eggs at the beginning of the week. Fresh fish was delivered every Friday to be coated in crispy batter with home-made chips.

Before I arrived all the main meals would be delivered to the tables in serving dishes and the table prefect would dish up. I was not sure that every child was eating a balanced diet so I changed the process. All the children would line up with a plate, and three of us would fill the plate with a portion of every item. Once they were all seated I would walk around the dining-room chatting to them and making sure that it was all being eaten.

There was short break in the afternoon as High Tea was served at 6pm, which might be beans on toast, egg or cheese and tomato sandwiches, homemade beef burgers, cake and a piece of fruit, with tea or a glass of milk.

Wednesday and Saturdays when we have visiting teams from neighbouring schools for cricket in the summer and rugby in the winter, there would be a games tea at 4.00pm. A variety of sandwiches and cake with milk or squash would keep them going until the official tea time.

My last cooking for the day was for the teaching staff which usually involved preparing a quiche and salad, risotto or chicken pie and potatoes and vegetables with fresh fruit salad. My working day finished at around 9.00p.m as the last plate went into the dishwasher.

Although during term time that was a heavy workload, over half-term and holidays I usually stayed in my cottage, and apart from making sure the housekeeping and grounds were maintained, I had plenty of time off. Most half-terms, a handful of children, whose parents lived abroad, stayed at school and we would go on outings and have picnics in the grounds. Meal times were much more relaxed and we would eat together with treats such as ice-cream.

I also had the company of Erin the goat, the school mascot who had the freedom of my garden every day. I would sit on a bench reading a book and he would pop over from time to time for a treat. On one occasion I had gone in to make a cup of tea and came back to find he had eaten half my book. The half I had not read yet!

There was not much time for a social life outside of school, but at the time, it was just what I needed to get back on my feet again. I became close friends with some of the live-in teaching staff and the matrons, and that too was something that eased the heartbreak I had been through.

It was a different time forty years ago in the public school system and despite some of the evidence that has come to light of ill-treatment or abuse I did not witness any of that. I have to say that every effort was made to feel that the children were living in a homely and warm environment. Most of the children thrived and for those who had just arrived and were feeling homesick, there were pancake making classes and they were appointed as pea and vegetables dispensers at lunchtime.

My time in the school and some of the characters I met there have been included in one of my books.

I might have exaggerated when I said it felt like feeding the 5,000… But I did cook over 3,000 meals a week, which in a school year amounts to 120,000 plates of food.

After 18 months, things were not going well on the divorce front, with some disturbing threats  being made, I decided to get as far away as possible. I applied for the job of senior receptionist in a luxury hotel in Mid-Wales in the Snowdonia National Park.

©Sally Cronin 2020

On Monday after 18 months in the Sussex countryside I travel to the far side of the UK to a hotel in Wales.

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 odd jobs on Monday and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.