Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Odd Jobs and Characters – Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!


This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over the years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  From those experiences, I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories.

If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next few weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.

Last week  I shared stories about my job in the boarding school as housekeeper/caterer and how I cooked over 3000 meals a week during term time.

You can find all the previous posts to date in this directory.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

The story continues as I move across the country to take up the role of senior receptionist at a gothic hotel in the middle of the Snowdonia national park.

 

Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2017

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed my adventure. As always your feedback is much appreciated.

You can find all of my books at these links:

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

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

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

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

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Smorgasbord Short Stories -Posts from my Archives – Odd Jobs and Characters – Boarding School Housekeeping and Caterer


This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over the years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  From those experiences, I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories.

If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next few weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.

This episode was kindly hosted by Robbie and Michael Cheadle and you can find Robbie’s latest post here: Robbie’s Inspiration

You can find the previous odd jobs here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

After two years in Cowes, we moved off the island to see if we could save our relationship, but it was not to be.

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.

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, 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.

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books

Books by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

One of the recent reviews for Sir Chocolate and the Baby Cookie Monster

Apr 25, 2018 Carolien rated it really liked it Shelves: 2018, children-5-7

In this installment, Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet must find the culprit who had caused damage in the town. They set off to in their chocolate cake car to track the baby cookie monster. This book contains more of the innovative fondant icing figurines instead of illustrations which I love and there are some yummy recipes which the young readers can try.

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Read more reviews and follow Robbie on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Connect to Robbie and Michael

Blog: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle
Plus.googlehttps://plus.google.com/105609586198905397891
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SirChocolateBooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bakeandwrite

You can find the previous odd jobs here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Odd Jobs and Characters – Odd Jobs and Characters – The Steak House – Counting Peas and a Ghost Story by Sally Cronin


This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories.

If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next few weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.

You can find the previous odd jobs here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

This week’s episode was kindly hosted by Sue Vincent on her fantastic blog and more about Sue’s books later in the post.

Odd Jobs and Characters – The Steak House – Counting Peas and a Ghost Story by Sally Cronin

The steak house I was working in, as I pointed out in my previous post, was cheap and cheerful. You could go out as a family on a Saturday night, and if I remember correctly you would get a prawn cocktail, steak, chips and peas and an ice-cream for under £5.00.

Portion control was ferociously maintained with specifically sized scoops for the chips and peas, ensuring that every portion that went out was identical. This was the only way to protect the slender profit margins, although because we made guests wait for an hour at least, during peak times, we made it up on sherry and beer sales.

As a trainee manager, one of my jobs was the weekly stock take. I would begin after the last orders had been served from the kitchens at 9.30pm, heading into the large walk in coolers that held the fresh produce before checking the upright freezers. Every steak was exactly the same weight, as were the chicken halves. Large bags of prawns, frozen chips and peas that had already been opened, had to be weighed and noted in my large A3 stocktaking book. I also had to count the number of sauce bottles, salt and other condiments, as well as noting rejected food that had been returned.

After stock checking in the kitchens, I would head down to the cellars, where our back up stocks were kept in freezers and shelves, and count every packet and box.

I would then climb up three flights of stairs to the office in the attic of this 1820’s building; leaving the other staff to clear up the bars and restaurants, I would gather all the collected food receipts from the week and tally the number of meals for each course we had served. For example: the most popular meal of rump steak, chips and peas.

I would use the stock take totals from the week before, adding in deliveries of the various ingredients during the week; giving me a starting balance. I would then deduct the number of steaks, chicken or fish meals that had been served, which should leave me with same amount I had just counted.

If that figure was out by even one steak, half a chicken or piece of battered cod, I would need to go back downstairs and check.

That in itself was not such a problem, but the same applied to the chips and the peas. Each scoop of peas served to a customer weighed 2 ounces. I would calculate the number of meals served (virtually all of them), multiplying that number by 2 ounces to reach the total weight of peas used during the week. Being peas rather than the more expensive main ingredient options, there was a little more latitude in the discrepancy, but more than 16 ounces, and I would have to go and investigate further.

As you can imagine, doing all this manually was a mammoth task. It was a Sunday night getting on for midnight, after a very long week of fourteen to sixteen hour days. I was already tired and it was easy to miss a handful of peas or chips!

The office in the attic was not very welcoming; being rather grim and chilly. After a few weeks, I began to notice that about an hour into my calculations, I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise. Even more disconcerting was that I felt I was being watched.

I tried not to be a baby about it and put it down to draughts in the roof and through old windows. But I really began to dread that Sunday night chore that left me alone in the office.

One of our regular customers at lunchtime was an old soldier of ninety, who interestingly, had been one of the first men up the Khyber Pass on a motorbike. (As you can guess he has featured as a character in one of my stories). He used to potter in around mid-day and have a large schooner of medium sherry. I was due my break around that time, and I would often join him with my coffee and listen to his war stories. He had some fabulous tales to tell, and one day I asked him if he knew the history of the house as he had been living in the area most of his life. The conversation went something like this.

‘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 her 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 if this was the truth, but from that time on I would never sit in the office on my own on a Sunday night, bribing one of the other assistants to sit with me. Interestingly, after a couple of weeks they said the place must be very draughty as they got the shivers, and the hair stood up on the back of their neck!
©Sallycronin 2015

My short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

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

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

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

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

About Sue Vincent

Sue has an eclectic blog that covers a wide range of subjects, but has a focus on Ancient Britain and poetry. She is ably assisted by her second-in-command Ani.

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Sue is a prolific author and has co-written a substantial number with Stuart France.  Here is a small selection.

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Find out more about their work together: http://www.franceandvincent.com/

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer currently living in the south of England, largely due to an unfortunate incident with a map, a pin and a blindfold. Raised in a spiritually eclectic family she has always had an unorthodox view on life, particularly the inner life, which is often reflected in her writing, poetry and paintings.

Sue lived in France for several years, sharing a Bohemian lifestyle and writing songs before returning to England where the youngest of her two sons was born. She began writing and teaching online several years ago, and was invited to collaborate with Dr G Michael Vasey on their book, “The Mystical Hexagram: The Seven Inner Stars of Power” (Datura Press).51sl-a2xhyl-_uy250_Sue, along with Steve Tanham and Stuart France, is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, an international modern Mystery School that seeks to allow its students to find the inherent magic in living and being. http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk

Discover all of Sue Vincent’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W

Connect to Sue Vincent

Blog: http://scvincent.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scvincent
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/S-C-Vincent/17967259931?ref=hl
Silent Eye Website: http://thesilenteye.co.uk/
Website (books) : http://www.franceandvincent.com/
Silent Eye Authors FB: https://www.facebook.com/silenteyeauthors?ref=hl
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6551588.Sue_Vincent#

Thank you very much for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the background to some of my characters in Just an Odd Job Girl.

Smorgasbord – Posts from My Archives – Odd Jobs and Characters – The Department Store – Part Two – The Cosmetic Department.


This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories. If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next twelve weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. If that is the case of course I will include their books and links.

You can find the previous odd jobs here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-2018/

This post in the series was kindly hosted by author  D.Wallace Peach  and you can find out more about her books at the end of the post…

The Department Store – Part Two – The Cosmetic Department.

I had been working in one of our large local department stores as I waited to begin my training in the Royal Alexandra Nursing Service.

Following on from my six weeks over Christmas and New Year in the shoe department of the store, I moved downstairs to the cosmetic department.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I think that we might have a foundation that would tone down the redness,’ I offered.

‘I can then blend you a powder to ensure that it lasts all day if that would help?’

She smiled at me and perched on the little round stool the other side of the counter. The following half-hour was both informative and enjoyable. My new customer was funny and totally unconcerned by her strange appearance. She introduced herself as Dolly and regaled me with her recent escapades on her path to becoming the woman she wished to be. One of these being the removal of hair on the backs of her hands and lower arms. Hence the reddened skin on show.

As I came to the end of her particular powder blend, she leant across the counter and motioned for me to come closer.

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

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

This encounter was to lead to a rise in takings for the cosmetic department, as we became the best place to go for advice and products to enhance feminine beauty, for anyone who needed it.

Dolly became our unofficial PR agent, and I was invited to a party in a pub one night, where I was delighted to see all our advice and products being used to their full advantage.

What a lovely bunch of ladies and they taught a young woman much with their bravery and support for one another.

Dolly went on to star in my book Just an Odd Job Girl with some creative embellishments.

©Sally Cronin – 2017

Next week the Steak House originally hosted by John W. Howell.

Short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

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

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

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

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

My thanks to Diana Peach for hosting me last year and whilst I am sure you are familiar with her fantastic books here is a reminder.

About D. Wallace Peach

I didn’t care for reading as a child – I preferred Bonanza and Beverly Hillbillies reruns, Saturday morning cartoons and the Ed Sullivan show. Then one day, I opened a book titled The Hobbit. Tolkien … literally changed my life.

I love writing, and have the privilege to pursue my passion full time. I’m still exploring the fantasy genre, trying out new points of view, creating optimistic works with light-hearted endings, and delving into the grim and gritty what-ifs of a post-apocalyptic world. Forgive me if I seem untethered in my offering of reads. Perhaps one day, I’ll settle into something more reliable. For now, it’s simply an uncharted journey, and I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I.

D.Wallace Peach has just released her first children’s book, Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters. Not only written by Diana but illustrated by her too. An amazing amount of work but as you will see from the cover it is fantastic. Available in print only in US, UK and Canada.

A selection of books by D. Wallace Peach

A recent review for Myths of the Mirror.

on April 4, 2018

After I finished reading D. Wallace Peach’s The Rose Shield Series, I found myself bereft, desiring more of her storying. A visit to her Amazon Author page gave me everything I needed. I was thrilled to find her first series, Dragon Soul Quartet and couldn’t wait to dive right in.

The Myths of the Mirror, Book One, is a haunting tale of resplendent dragons, exhilarating magic, and how the myths of the people from Taran Leigh and the Mirror intertwine and intersect. Their myths become the allegory from where ancient enlightenment springs.

Far from the village of Taran Leigh is a spot in the wilderness where a bowl-shaped lake, called the Mirror, hosts a civilization of people who ride the bejeweled dragons in the Old Way communicating with their souls as they become one with the dragon’s spirit. This merging of man and dragon comes by invitation from the dragon, signifying a magical union like no other.

In comparison, the dragons of Taran Leigh are imprisoned, forced to live in a stone lair, and brutalized by their captors, all the while compelled to perform for “coin.” Years ago, the greedy governors tricked the skyriders into believing their lies, looking only for ways to line their own pockets. The people of Taran Leigh have lost their connection to the old ways.

It takes a calamity greater than Terasa and Conall have ever known to teach them the myths of their people. Conall faces his demons while Terasa learns the myths of her father and those of the magical dragons who teach the lessons of “the tie” and of “the belonging.”

I know I’ve written before how I feel like a silly fan gushing over Diana Peach’s work. But, I must share with you that this book touched me in ways I have never experienced before. It was as if I had my own epiphany, at one with the divine truths the author penned in this tome. I can only say that my reading was akin to a spiritual encounter. The entire reason I read is for that magical connection, and The Myths of the Mirror delivers that and more.

I loved this first book so much, I’ve bought the entire series! ❤ Myths of the Mirror (Dragon Soul Quartet Book 1)

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5  Flow and Pace: 5  Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5  Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

To discover all the books and read the reviews and buy: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Read more reviews and follow Diana on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7068749.D_Wallace_Peach

Connect to D. Wallace Peach 

Website/Blog: http://www.mythsofthemirror.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dwallacepeach
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/dianapeach33/pins/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/activities/d-wallace-peach+0_2F1UmSg–qRIqYJlk2W1Q_?trk=nav_responsive_sub_nav_yourupdates
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101899993447765818692/posts

Thank you for dropping in and look forward to seeing you again soon. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Short Stories – Odd Jobs and Characters – The Dental Assistant


So far I have published over 60 short stories in collections and the one drawback to this is the amount of diverse characters required to star in a wide variety of situations.

Fifty-one years ago I started work on a part-time basis as soon as it was legally possible. I was fourteen years old, and even though I have had periods when not officially employed, I have been working ever since.

This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories. If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next twelve weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. Where this is the case I will of course provide you with the links to their post.

The Dental Surgery Part One

Following a year at secretarial college, and having gained my passes in shorthand and typing, I entered the full-time job market.

My experience along the seafront had at least prepared me for working life. I was usually punctual and didn’t take liberties with my lunch hour. I had even had my first managerial position, you could say, as I had been left in charge of my kiosk during Betty’s days off and holidays. Unfortunately this had not prepared me for the interviews that I attended and I was sorely disappointed to discover that the only job that was open, to a newly qualified secretary, was that of the lowly office junior.

I had earned two and six an hour along the seafront and at sixteen worked a forty-hour week. This gave me five pounds a week, plus tips, which were divided between all the staff. Because I was a student I did not pay tax and so I usually had at least seven pounds a week in my hand. I soon discovered that office juniors were lucky to get six pounds a week and that would be taxed.

Then fate took a hand. Smack bang in the middle of the job section of the local newspaper was an advertisement for a Dental Receptionist for a local private practice in Southsea. I will admit that the starting salary at £7 a week was an improvement on the other jobs I had chased, and the thought of a crisp white overall rather than the blue nylon one at the cafe on the seafront also appealed.

I went for the interview with Roland Phillips who at 67 was 50 years older than me. He wore half glasses and his hair was slicked back from rather an austere face. He sat behind his desk with his hands clasped in front of them and I remember thinking how dry they looked with very white nails. (I later discovered that my boss was fanatical about cleanliness which he needed to be with his hands in mouths all day.

It transpired that his dental nurse also doubled as his secretary and receptionist but the practice was far too busy for her to cope. My secretarial qualifications were acceptable but apparently I also got the job because of my accent on the phone… go with the flow I say.

I arrived on my first Monday and in between patients the very patient chair-side assistant took me through my duties. My new boss expected me to read every file for the over 400 patients; acquainting myself with their previous treatments and also upcoming appointments. I would answer the phone and make appointments. I had to prepare daily lists of patients, extract their files and greet them when they arrived and show them to the waiting room. Following their appointment I would collect their file, decipher Roland’s summary and charges and prepare a bill to be sent out at the end of each month. I was also expected to manage the inventory of all equipment, drugs and other supplies and order as necessary, which proved to be very useful later on in the job.

I was expected to learn very quickly so that Miss Smith could return to her chairside duties full time, and it was quite a tough assignment. However, I did enjoy the job very much and looked forward to 9.00 each morning.

As I became more proficient, so my duties increased in responsibility, and when busy, I would be drafted in to help in the surgery with tasks such as mixing amalgam for fillings and developing x-rays. I was given the dental nurse training course to follow at home and I found myself spending my spare time on the project. Things were going along swimmingly for the first three months when an incident occured that was to bring about huge changes.

I was preparing the end of month accounts when I heard a heavy thud from the surgery. Thinking that a patient or even Mr. Phillips might have fallen I rushed in to find Miss Smith had collapsed. They had been in the middle of a delicate operation to remove a remaining root from a tooth that had just been extracted. This was a two-person job and one of those was now sitting shakily on one of the surgery chairs. Before I knew it I was wearing surgical gloves, keeping the patient’s mouth clear of fluids and handing the correct instruments to my boss.

After many years of not being able to have a baby… Miss Smith was pregnant and could not stand the sight of blood! So began a very intensive training course and my career took a very different path.

Mr. Roland Phillips was the inspiration for the dentist in Just an Odd Job Girl… a character I will never forget.

Next week – Xray mix ups – toupees and the miners strike.
 

About Sally Cronin.

I have lived a fairly nomadic existence living in eight countries including the Sri Lanka, South Africa and USA before settling back here in Ireland. My work in a number of industries, and a desire to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world in the last forty years, has taken me to many more incredible destinations around Europe and Canada, and across the oceans to New Zealand and Hawaii. All those experiences and the people that I have met, provide a rich source of inspiration for my stories.

I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another ten books since then on health and also fiction including three collections of short stories. I am an indie author and proud to be one.

My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

My most recent book – What’s in a Name – Volume Two.

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

There is also a bonus story introducing a new collection The Village Square to be published in 2018.

One of the recent reviews for the book

A brief romance that lasts a life time and longer, a poignant story of Easter eggs and then we meet Martha, a colleague we would all love to have… Three stories in and I was already enjoying the deliciously different tales in this collection. Cheer on Norman, admire Patrick and have the last laugh with Rosemary. Dip into this these easy to read short tales any time, but expect some to have dark twists.

You can buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Name-Stories-Life-Romance-ebook/dp/B0748MLZ1W

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

My other books

Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Everything you need to know about how to buy my books and connect to me on social media is here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Thank you for dropping by and your ongoing support.. It means a great deal to me..

Here is the link to last week’s posthttps://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-short-stories-odd-jobs-and-characters-by-sally-cronin/

Thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl Serialisation – Chapter Twenty – Alls Well that Ends Well.


Just an odd job girl sgc

Last time Imogen is surprised by a visitor to the hotel that was about to change her life forever.

Chapter Twenty – Alls Well That Ends Well!

I arrived punctually for my appointment with Andrew, and was shown straight in by Elizabeth. She gave me a great boost by complimenting me on my hair and clothes and I was visibly preening as I entered Andrew’s office. I found him with another man in deep conversation, which came to an abrupt halt as I entered.

‘Imogen, good to see you again and may I say how wonderful you are looking.’

You may, I thought smugly, carefully putting the cost of the transformation to the back of my mind.

‘I would like to introduce you to a very good friend of mine. Jack Doyle, meet Imogen Smythe.’

I wasn’t sure if I was interrupting something, but Andrew invited me to sit down.

‘Well Imogen, after we spoke the other day, I passed your C.V. on to Jack. He runs a counselling service for young men and women who are having problems finding jobs – or keeping them – and is looking for an assistant for both the office and ‘after training’ to help with the interviewing. I thought that, with all your varied work experience, and being a mother as well, you could be of great benefit to Jack’s organisation.’

I couldn’t believe it. There was I thinking that my work track record indicated a fly-by-night approach to earning a living, and it was now being turned into an asset. I turned to Jack who smiled encouragingly at me.

He then began to tell me about his organisation, and its aims, and how they needed someone who was efficient, flexible and adaptable to keep him and two other counsellors in order. The pay was not marvellous and I would need to do a training course one day a week for the next six months to enable me to assist in the interviews. But, if I was interested, he was happy to take Andrew’s recommendation and offer me the position.

Would I be interested? Of course I would, I was thrilled and accepted delightedly.

‘I think that calls for a celebration.’ Andrew got up and shook my hand.

‘Let’s all go up to Pings in the high-street for some Sake and crispy duck.’

Oh good! My favourite. I happily left the office between Jack and Andrew and over some grilled dumplings and crispy duck, I regaled them with some of the highlights of my reminiscences. I haven’t laughed as much for a long time and as we parted company with Jack on the pavement outside the restaurant, I knew that there were some great times ahead.

I was right. Six months later found me fully trained, and an official member of Jack’s team.

I was also going out with Andrew, who had rung me the week I started work and asked me out for dinner on the Friday. We began seeing each other two or three times a week, going to the theatre, dinner and the movies. After a couple of weeks he came to dinner one Friday night and didn’t leave until Sunday. It was lovely, and I felt young and sexy, and desired.

We are getting married next month in a small ceremony, with just my children and Jack. We have booked our honeymoon hotel in Killbilly! I found out that Patrick is still running the place, and was absolutely thrilled that I was coming to stay.

Finally, the icing on the cake. One Friday night, just as I was getting into bed I received a frantic call from Peter.

‘Imogen, please, you have to come over, we are at the end of our tether, the baby won’t stop crying, the doctor has said that there is nothing he can do. You were so good with the children, please we are desperate.’

‘How could I refuse? I dressed got in my car and drove down familiar roads until I reached my old home. The gates swung open, and as I made my way up the drive, the front door was flung open. There was my ex husband and the ‘fast tracker’ looking dishevelled, worn and rather grubby. The fast tracker was awkwardly holding a squalling baby, as it squirmed in her arms. Peter grabbed me gratefully, and rescuing the child from its mother’s arms, he thrust it at me.

The baby looked up at me tearfully as I gently rocked it back and forth. I smiled down at him and saw a likeness to my children. The tears stopped and he gurgled up at me, smiling and chortling. Peter and the fast tracker stared at one another and then at the baby and me. I looked up to see Peter eyeing me from top to toe and I was delighted that despite having thrown everything on in a hurry I still looked pretty good. Was that a hint of regret that I saw on his face, I did hope so? Oh sweet revenge!

I left them an hour later with my mother’s recipe for teething babies and some advice to Peter on where to find a good nanny. I think outside help was the kindest thing for the baby, and I think Peter realised it would be best for the health of his new marriage too.

I drove home, thinking about Andrew, the wedding and my children, realising just how great life can be – certainly not too bad for just an odd job girl!

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed Imogen’s story. You will find previous chapters in the directory in the menu. If you have been along for the whole story and have a favourite chapter that you consider visually interesting please let me know.

I have serialised this first fiction book of mine so that I can decide which chapter to reformat into a script to send to agents. Your opinions would be very gratefully received. Thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl serialisation – Chapter Nineteen – Dodgy Car Dealers and a Proposal


Just an odd job girl sgc

Last time Imogen was settling into life as assistant manager of Killbilly Hotel and dealing with customer complaints.

Chapter Nineteen – Dodgy car dealers and a proposal

I can honestly say that during the next two years, there really was nobody to compare with Elmer and his wife. Sure, there was the odd hiccup, but on the whole, guests always left vowing to return, which is always a good sign. We had the occasional guests who were not quite as they seemed, and they provided some variety in our day-to-day routine.

There was the middle-aged man who arrived one afternoon with a much younger, blonde wife. His booking had been made about six weeks earlier and he signed the register while keeping one arm around his lovely companion. I don’t mean to be cynical, but in the hotel business you accept that sometimes things are not as they appear to be. The couple were shown to their room and appeared for dinner, late, just as we were about to take last orders. The next day they did not come down for breakfast and it was nearly one o’clock before they left for the day.

When they returned, at about five in the afternoon, the woman went upstairs to the room. All bedrooms had their own direct dial telephones but we did have a booth in the hall, which housed a public pay phone. The man entered the booth and dialled a number. He left the door open and stood half in and half out as he waited for the phone to be answered.

‘Hello darling, sorry about this, but my bloody plane’s been delayed and I’m still in Munich. What? I can’t hear you, too much noise here. Looks like I won’t get off tonight, so see you tomorrow darling. Sorry, have to go. Running out of change. Love you. Bye.’

With that he replaced the receiver and turned towards the stairs. Just as he passed reception he turned and winked at me and continued on. Unbelievable!

The next day the couple departed and he left a hefty tip for the staff. You could not have wished for a more pleasant pair and yet I found it incredible that someone so pleasant could be so deceitful. What a pity that it didn’t teach me anything! It might have buffered me from the shock I received when I discovered Peter’s ability to deceive, many years later. However, that was in the future.

One other incident, which really sticks in my memory, involved me and a red Chinese dress. One of our Australians, Mick, had a sister who was coming to visit for a few days. She was coming through Hong Kong and Mick asked everybody if there was anything that we would like brought over. I had always loved the idea of owning a red silk, high collared Chinese style dress, as I thought they looked stunning. I asked if perhaps Mick’s sister might be able to find me one in my size and not expecting much success thought nothing more of it. Much to my delight, when she arrived she had found just what I was looking for, and very inexpensively.

I had long dark hair at the time, and when I put this dress on for the first time, I thought I looked amazing. I wanted to wear the outfit immediately and decided that dinner that night offered the ideal opportunity. There was a fairly revealing slit down the side of the dress, just below where the little silk buttons finished. I wore high-heeled black shoes and I practised walking, up and down my room, trying not to expose too much thigh.

In my several months at the hotel, we had not seen a solitary Chinese guest. From what I could gather, oriental visitors to England preferred to stay in London, for the shopping and nightlife. I was fairly confident that my outfit was both elegant and attractive and I much appreciated the comments I received from staff and guests alike.

Half way through dinner, I was standing in the hall waiting for a large party of non-residents who had booked a table for ten people at nine o’clock. I saw a mini-bus pull up to the front door and several people head for the steps. The doors swung open and there stood nine rather startled Chinese gentlemen and a rather flabbergasted tour guide. To say my smile was sickly was putting it mildly. I had nowhere to go but forward, in full greeting mode. I gestured the party through to the dining room as speedily as possible, desperately racking my brains to remember what the colour red signified in China, was it mourning, or wedding or what. The tour operator was the last through the door and he reached out and touched my arm.

‘Thanks for going to all that trouble, but my clients are actually Japanese.’

Oh well, next time I will ask anyone passing through Tokyo to pick me up a Geisha outfit.

For the rest of the evening I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible but it is rather difficult when one is wearing a very tight, high cut, bright red, inappropriate outfit. Patrick thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen and never let me forget it. From that day on I always wore black or blue outfits that, whilst boring and professional looking, were not in the slightest bit embarrassing.

While we are on the subject of Patrick, I should point out that though he was extremely attractive, there had never been any hint of romance between us. I liked and respected him and we became firm friends. Anyway, he had a steady girlfriend who worked as a solicitor in London and came down every other weekend. They had been together for ten years and seemed happy not to make it any more permanent than it already was.

I had managed to relegate Peter to the back of my mind and I was so busy, six days a week, that I had little time for romance. I tried not to go out with guests as I felt that it was unprofessional, but I had little opportunity to meet anyone outside of work. Once or twice, I dated a guest. But, after a couple of glasses of wine I would analyse my choice in men and I was slightly disturbed to discover that I seemed to be terminally attracted to rather dodgy characters.

There was Tom who came down with a group of golfing buddies, crammed into a Rolls Royce. They had a good time, flirted harmlessly and left on the Sunday. Tom pecked me on the cheek before leaving and booked three rooms for two weekends ahead. Sure enough, he duly arrived with different friends in a different car, a Bentley this time. I asked him where he got the cars from and he told me that he was a prestige car dealer in London and that he had a whole forecourt of this type of car. He asked me out for lunch on the Sunday, which was my day off, and we had a very pleasant time. He made me laugh, which was lovely.

Over the next two months, Tom appeared every other weekend, usually with some friends but often, when he was on his own, he stayed over for a few extra days and we went out on more dates. I was just starting to feel quite fond of him and thought what a nice man he was when he failed to appear one week. I got a cryptic message through one of the receptionists to say that he had been unavoidably detained. I heard nothing else until the following weekend when one of his mates came down on his own to play golf. I asked him if he knew if Tom was all right or not.

‘Yeah, he’s banged up in the nick, got caught flogging those rented Rolls Royces and Bentleys, looks like he’ll be down for about three years.’

I really did seem to have a problem identifying character flaws in the men I went out with. Scratch one prestige car dealer.

That was the extent of my love life for over a year. We were halfway through my second season at the hotel when I noticed that there was a booking for a P. Smythe. I assumed that it was a coincidence, and because we were very busy that week, gave it little thought. Imagine my surprise when I looked up from some paperwork to find Peter standing in front of me.

‘Hi Imogen, I expect you’re a little surprised to see me?’  Rather an understatement I thought.

‘What on earth are you doing here?’ Not my usual greeting to hotel guests, but surprise had robbed me of my customer service hat.

‘I wanted to see you and thought that if I booked in for a couple of nights we might get a chance to chat.’

I have to admit that my heart was pumping and I felt flushed as I looked at this older and softer version of the Peter I had known. I was also intrigued as to why he wanted to see me.

‘I am off tomorrow,’ I said. ‘Perhaps we can talk then?’

I knew that we would see each other throughout the day and I was grateful that we would be too busy to spend any time talking. I wanted to gather my own thoughts first, before being subjected to Peter’s persuasive manner.

I caught glimpses of him as he came in from a walk in the grounds, and as he had a pre-dinner drink in the bar. I showed him to his table, blushing and stammering like a schoolgirl. What was I doing? For goodness sake! This was the bastard who had made me feel so worthless. I was not going to be suckered into that one again.

He went to bed early. He was in a room at the top of the house and during my final walk through at midnight; I saw he still had his light on so perhaps he was as unsettled as I was.

The next day was beautiful, a really clear sparkling morning. My night’s sleep had been restless and I was apprehensive as to the day’s outcome.

After breakfast, Peter appeared in reception and we went out to the car park. He was obviously doing quite well as he was now driving a convertible sports car. He opened the passenger door for me, which was a lot more consideration than he had shown in the past, and I climbed into the little bucket seat as he slid in beside me.

‘It’s such a lovely day, I thought we would head for the coast, would that be okay with you?’

More consideration, goodness me, where would it all end? I nodded my agreement and we spent the next hour negotiating the winding country roads that led to the coast. It was time for coffee by the time we arrived and we parked outside a pub perched on a cliff above the sea. We sat outside in the sunshine and Peter went in and ordered our coffees and some biscuits. He sat on the bench opposite me when he returned and reached across the wooden table. He took my hand in his own and I tried to pull away.

‘Please Imogen, give me a chance, I want to make it up to you.’

I looked at him and was persuaded by his contrite expression to give him at least five minutes.

It was an interesting few minutes, filled with apologies and declarations. He told me that he had gone out with several girls since we split up, but he had always found there was something missing. He found that he was comparing everyone to me and realised that he missed me, and loved me. Well, there’s a turn up for the book. I admit to rather enjoying all these revelations, and I could feel myself being drawn into the warm and cosy picture that was being painted for me. Eventually, five minutes became three hours, lunch, a walk on the beach and a rather pleasant interlude in the dunes.

We got back to the hotel at about eight that evening. On special occasions, Patrick was happy for me to eat in the dining room on nights off and I went and found him in his study.

‘Do you mind if I eat with a guest in the dining room tonight Patrick, and perhaps you would like to join us.’

Patrick who was ploughing through some tax forms was relieved to be let off the hook.
‘What’s the occasion Imogen?’ He knew that I would only ask to eat with the guests if it was a special event.

‘I’m getting married.’ I replied succinctly. Patrick shot up from his chair.

‘Who the hell to? You haven’t had a date in ages.’ So, he had been counting too.

‘Room Twenty Eight.’ I replied and laughing I turned on my heel leaving Patrick speechless behind me.

The rest as they say is history. I finished off the season and then went home to be married in our local church. Peter had come down to see me several times in that last three months, and we were very happy.

I thought we had been very happy until the end. So how much of it had been an illusion? I hoped that it really had been only the last year, I could live with that, and maybe it was time for me to accept what had happened and be thankful for all the good years we had enjoyed rather than dwelling on the misery of recent times.

* * *

I had loved my journey back to the past and it had revitalised me and shown me what fun I used to be and how much I had loved life. It had also reminded me just how capable, adaptable and efficient I could be. I still felt the same inside as I did in my early twenties.

Forget the sagging body, wrinkles, and grey hairs. The inside is what counts.

In a short while I would be seeing Andrew again, and with my new image and attitude, I hoped that perhaps one thing might lead to another with him. Who knows what the future might hold? I put on one of my new outfits, makeup and fluffed my hair. Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

©sallygeorgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you will join me again on Monday for the final chapter of Imogen’s story.. Delighted to receive your feedback. thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl Serialisation – Chapter Eighteen – Pesky May Flies!


Just an odd job girl sgc

Last time we left Imogen coping with a drama at the hotel on the first weekend. Not an auspicious start but there were more incidents to come during the season.

Chapter Eighteen – Pesky May Flies

A number of guests stand out in my memories of the two seasons that I stayed at Killbilly. We had many Americans staying with us, generally for one or two nights, during their tours of the West Country. They loved the faded charm of the hotel and took copious pictures of the high ceilinged rooms and the delightful grounds. For the most part, they were charming themselves. Polite, and grateful for the old style service that we offered, even if it was delivered with an Australian accent. A very small minority of our American guests however were used to a slightly different level of accommodation. Air conditioning, ice in the rooms and twenty-four-hour food service.

One couple in particular was looking for trouble, right from the moment they walked through the large wooden doors and into the reception area. They had probably had a miserable journey on a hot day in a car too small, with no air conditioning, and had no doubt got lost several times. That however was no excuse for the way they spoke to the receptionist when they arrived and so I decided to step in and ease them upstairs to their room. Michael took their bags, all ten of them, and I led the way to the guest elevator.

I have to say that they were both rather large, and it was a very tight squeeze for the three of us in the small lift. We were all a little hot and bothered by the time we arrived at their room and I stood aside as first the man and then the woman entered. It was one of our larger rooms with two double beds and a lovely view over the front garden. It was a very warm day and the window was open to allow a gentle breeze to waft through the room.

‘Oh my god, Elmer look at the bugs, there’s bugs in the room, I can’t stay here.’

Startled, I desperately tried to find these bugs that Madam was referring to. By the open window, I caught a quick glimpse of a couple of mayflies that had drifted in from the garden.

‘It’s okay, those are just little mayflies, they are completely harmless.’ I tried to reassure the hysterical woman.

Elmer glared at me. ‘Where’s the screens for the windows, get them fitted immediately.’

Screens? I can only assume that he was referring to mosquito netting, which would have been totally redundant in the depths of the Cornish countryside. I apologised, and explained that we did not get much call for them even in the height of summer. Elmer crossed to the window and slammed it shut, rattling the glass. He returned to his distraught wife and elbowed her out into the hall.

‘Get us a room without bugs! Otherwise, we will be leaving immediately.’

Tempting though this thought was, I felt I should make some effort to accommodate our two disgruntled guests, as they were booked for three nights and we really could not afford to lose the revenue.

‘Please wait here while I check to see if we have another superior room available, I won’t be long.’

With that I dashed downstairs to the reception area and checked our reservations. We were fully booked from tomorrow for several days, but by moving some guests around, I managed to free up another room for three nights.

I shot back up the stairs and showed the bristling couple into a room on the other side of the hotel. Luckily, because this one was not being used until the next day, the chambermaid had not opened the window, and as far as I could tell, without the aid of a microscope, it was relatively bug free. I was sorely tempted to mention mites that were probably infesting the room in their millions, but held my tongue. Thankfully, Elmer and his lovely bride deemed this room just about acceptable and I went in search of Michael and the luggage.

That evening, as was my practice, I stood at the entrance of the dining room and showed the guests to their designated table for the duration of their stay. During the meal I would circulate through the dining room, making sure that everything was in order and assisting the waiting staff if things got a little backed-up.

I had returned to the door, having just shown a particularly lovely couple to their table and happened to glance up the wide flight of stairs that led to the first floor rooms. I caught my breath! Coming down the stairs were Elmer and Mrs. Elmer. The two of them, side by side, completely filled the stairway. However, this was not what grabbed my immediate attention. It was rather the attire that they had chosen for the evening. They must have read a book on country house etiquette and dress code and had gone all out to comply with ‘regulations’. He was wearing full evening dress with a bright scarlet cummerbund and matching bow tie. Compared to his lovely wife he was relatively subdued. She was wearing a full length taffeta evening dress in bright green, it had a wide flowing skirt that accentuated the width of her generous hips and had a very low cleavage that showed an ample bosom bedecked with every single piece of jewellery she owned.

The sight was breathtaking and I tried hard to keep a professional smile on my face as they glided towards me. Up close, I was almost blinded by the sparkling gems, including a tiara that perched precariously on top of her pink-blonde bouffant hairstyle. Behind me, in the dining room, were about forty people who were wearing smart casual clothing and who were going to be totally unprepared for the sight of their dinner companions. I had managed to restrain myself but could not guarantee the reaction of the assembled diners, or for that matter the Australian waiting staff.

I smiled and bade them good evening. They swept imperiously past me and entered the dining room. I managed to steer them across the room towards their table by the window. Of course, it had to be the table furthest from the door.

As we manoeuvred our way across the floor, all sound ceased. I could feel forty pairs of eyes tracking our progress, and prayed that there would be no snigger, or gasp, from the crowd. My two guests however, took this silence as astounded appreciation of their turnout and actually turned to tables on their way to the window and gave little regal waves. I thought the room was going to explode any minute and desperately tried to seat Mr. and Mrs. Elmer and quickly as possible. I hurriedly put their menus in front of them and backed away as if in the presence of royalty.

The room let out a collective sigh and conversation resumed, although in hushed tones and whispers. I saw that many guests were smothering hysteria with a great deal of British backbone and thanked goodness that the Australians had held themselves in check. As I looked around, I realised that this was because there was not one member of the Australian waiting staff in the dining room. I went through to the kitchen, and the chef gestured with his knife towards the back door into the garden. There I found eight members of the down-under contingent in convulsions. Their laughter was infectious but I felt I ought to remind them that they had to get back to work and continue serving our dinner guests. I made them promise to behave themselves when serving Elmer and his wife and decided that perhaps one of the local girls would be a more reliable waitress. That settled we went about the evening’s business.

After eating their way through six instead of four courses, the couple squeezed into the lift and disappeared up to their room. I wondered what other outfits the ten pieces of luggage might hold. I was beginning to have serious doubts as to whether I would be able to keep a lid on things for two more nights.

I need not have worried. The next morning, Elmer ordered breakfast in their room. We normally only served a full cooked breakfast in the dining room, but Elmer insisted that they wanted the whole works delivered in ten minutes and we could keep that continental rubbish. Anything for a quiet life!

Eventually, around midday, the couple appeared downstairs, ordered a packed lunch and disappeared in their car for an excursion. The chambermaid managed to get into their room and when I saw her half an hour later, she commented on how disgustingly the room had been left. I sympathised and said it was only for a couple of more days and returned to the office.

The excursion seemed to last only as long as it took to eat the packed lunch and then they were back. They went up to the room and within seconds the phone on my desk rang.
‘There’s bugs in the room again girlie. Whoever cleaned this room has left the window open. And another thing.’ He paused for breath and I wondered what was coming next.
‘My wife has a head cold and your maid put her toothbrush in the same glass as mine and I’m going to catch her germs. I want a rebate on the room rate.’

So, there we have it. Crunch time. Now, I firmly believe that the customer is always right, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. I knew that whatever we did in the next three days it would never be good enough for this demanding and unreasonable couple.

Assuring Elmer that I would be upstairs within a few minutes with a solution to his problem, I replaced the receiver and got out my address book.

We had an ongoing rivalry with a hotel about five miles away. Patrick had taken me there for dinner shortly after my arrival to show me what the competition was like. An ex catering-corps major, who always referred to himself by rank, ran the hotel and I have never been in such a pretentious establishment in all my life. The staff were clearly terrified and we heard them being roared at, in the distance, as we ate a fairly mediocre but incredibly expensive meal.

Patrick confided that, for several years, Major Scott had been in the habit of ridiculing Killbilly and the way that both Patrick’s parents, and then he, had run the hotel. He was particularly scathing about the Australian staff and the relaxed way the establishment was run. It was time for pay-back and it was with this in mind that I rang the number of the Major’s hotel and got through to reception.

‘Good afternoon, this is Killbilly hotel here, I wonder if you could help us?’ There was a stunned silence on the other end.

‘Uh, yes, certainly, what can we do for you?’ I could sense a certain amount of suspicion in the hesitant voice on the end of the phone.

‘We are fully booked and we have an extremely wealthy American couple who require a superior room for the next two nights. Do you have one available at all?’ I could hear rustling in the background and whispered conversation. The one thing that Major Scott could not do was whisper.

I smiled in anticipation, having set the bait.

‘Yes that will be absolutely fine, we have one of our best rooms available and if you can give us the name of the party we will expect them in the next hour or so.’

Perfect! Armed with this information I sped upstairs and knocked on Elmer’s door. He opened it and stood in the doorway quite clearly spoiling for a fight. I smiled sweetly and pushed past him into the room.

‘It is quite clear that we are unable to match your extremely high standards and so I am delighted to tell you that I have booked you a superior room at a very prestigious hotel in the next village.’ I paused for effect.

‘I will only charge you for dinner last night, which I noticed you both enjoyed immensely. In this case, I will not charge you for your room for the night. I trust that is acceptable? The hall porter will be here in half an hour to collect your luggage.’ With that, I swept out of the door and into the corridor.

Elmer was out after me like a shot, visions of very expensive hotel rooms looming in his mind.

‘There’s no need for that, just get rid of the bugs and tell that maid of yours to leave our toothbrushes alone in future. I’m sure we can work something out.’

‘Absolutely not.’ I insisted, shaking my head. ‘If we can’t supply the service that you expect then of course we must make every effort to find you somewhere that can. Michael will be with you shortly, may I respectfully suggest that you begin packing so that we can get you on your way.’

I’m afraid he did not stand a chance, and it was with much satisfaction that I deducted the hefty dinner bill from his credit card and waved the two of them off an hour later.

One of our local chambermaids had a cousin who worked for Major Scott, and a week later she regaled us with the details of the confrontation between Elmer and the Major. Apparently, there was a certain amount of property damage and a number of other guests left the establishment never to return again. When I told Patrick the story he was delighted and thought that after all these years of being put down by the Major it was worth losing a nights room-rate.

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

I hope you have enjoyed the latest chapter and just two more to go.. delighted to receive your feedback. thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl Serialisation – Chapter Seventeen – Party Guests Checking Out


Just an odd job girl sgc

We left Imogen on her first morning at the Killbilly Hotel in Cornwall being introduced to the team that she was going to be managing for the season.. If she thought that things were going to be interesting with her Australian staff, things were about to get a whole lot more complicated!!

Chapter Seventeen – Party Guests Checking Out!

As predicted, the next week was extremely busy with last minute cleaning, deliveries and smoothing off my Australian staffs’ rough edges. There was no problem with their attitude, to either work or to serving guests, but sometimes their language and standard of dress left something to be desired. For example, all the girls took the hems up on their uniform skirts, leaving vast expanses of exposed, tanned thighs. I have no doubt that our male guests might have appreciated the sight, especially when said females bent over to place trays on coffee tables, but I was sure that the females guests might not be so appreciative. Luckily, they had only tacked the hems up. This was fairly obvious as the large, red cotton stitches stood out from the black material of the skirts. After some persuasion, the hems came down but I dreaded to think about what other ‘enhancements’ would be made to the rest of the uniform over the season. I would have to deal with that when it happened.

The boys said that they were most uncomfortable in their uniforms of black trousers, white shirts and black bow ties. They were more at home in surfing shorts and T-shirts. Their regulation black lace-up shoes were a major problem. They were used to wearing sandals or going barefoot, and I winced in sympathy as I watched them breaking the shoes in over the first couple of weeks. Thankfully they were all good-natured and I did not anticipate too many problems with them. However, there were a number of occasions during that first season when I would have quite happily locked them in the attic and thrown away the key.

I did not have long to wait for the first major incident, and in fact, it was not the staff that caused the original problem but they certainly added their own unique touch to it.

The first weekend of every season, a large insurance company took over the entire thirty bedrooms, from the Friday night to the Sunday morning. They were very easy going, wanted to show a good time to some of their major clients, and overlooked the fact that many of our staff were inexperienced; to say the least. It was an excellent opportunity to put the long hours of training into practice and with fingers crossed both Patrick and I greeted the guests who arrived by coach on Friday afternoon.

The new chef had settled in very quickly, but kept himself to himself. The kitchen was his domain, and his staff said that he seemed to be tough but fair when dealing with them. His name was Donal Flaherty and he and I were to have a meeting each week to discuss his daily menus and ordering requirements. Unlike other chefs that I have known, he did not seem temperamental, and having tasted some of his cooking in the week before we opened, I knew that the guests were going to eat extremely well during their visits. I popped my head around the kitchen door about 7pm to check all was well and was pleased to see that everything was busy, but calm. At least that was one department I didn’t need to worry about.

Michael was looking very smart, despite his protestations that his shoes were killing him. We had devised a system whereby he would put guests’ luggage into the service lift in the back hall, walk quickly up the stairs and collect the bags and take them to the allocated room. Nothing would persuade him to get in the lift himself, but we reasoned that as long as the luggage arrived promptly we would let him continue with this system. Of course, tonight was unusual because everyone arrived together, so we enlisted the assistance of two other lads to help him out. Thankfully that part went well and everyone retired to their rooms to dress for drinks before their special four-course dinner.

I changed into a long black dress for the evening, taking on the role of hostess and dining room manager. The tables looked wonderful, with crisp white table cloths and fine bone china. I had inspected the silverware earlier but made one last check before joining Patrick in greeting the guests in the bar. So far, things were going very smoothly and I turned and crossed the hall with my most warming smile in place, ready to be the gracious hostess. This was fun.

The evening was a resounding success, the dinner spectacular, with the staff on their best behaviour and fifty very happy guests. When they reached their brandies and speeches, I took the chance to slip out and make sure that the clearing up process, in the lounge and bar, was taking place.

I was no sooner out of the door when Michael appeared, walking backwards through the lounge door with two feet sticking out from under his armpits! For a moment I was taken aback and watched with fascination as Steven, another Australian, appeared, with his hands under the man’s shoulders. I shot across the hall and put my hand on Michael’s arm.

I looked down at the person they were carrying and recognised one of the more elderly of the insurance company’s guests. I had noticed that he had drunk quite a bit of sherry before dinner and had enjoyed several glasses of wine during the meal. I assumed that he was a little worse for wear but still could not work out why the boys were carrying him and where too.

‘What are you doing?’ I hissed at them.

Michael hefted his end up to stop the man touching the floor.

‘He’s dead.’ He whispered back.

‘We’re taking him up to his room so that he doesn’t spoil the party for the others. Nothing they can do for him now. Let the chambermaids find him in the morning.’

The two of them continued to struggle to the bottom of the stairs.

‘How do you know he’s dead and not drunk?’ I managed to splutter.

Michael looked at me as if I was some retarded child.

‘I’m a second year veterinary student I know how to tell the difference between dead and dead drunk.’ He was now slightly out of breath.

‘I gave him CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation but he’s definitely pegged it.’

I was not sure how much experience he had with intoxicated animals, but I was prepared to take his word for it, not having any medical experience, apart from my two years of dental nursing.

‘You still have to put him back, Michael. It’s a criminal offence to move a dead body.’

I was practically sure I was right on that one. He shrugged, and the two lads turned around and lugged the body back into the lounge. I rushed off to the office and called an ambulance, asking them to come as quickly as possible just in case Michael’s diagnosis was not correct. I was dreading a post-mortem indicating that the man had died from the revival attempts, and not before.

I dashed back to the lounge and got them to show me which chair the man had been sitting in and we placed him back in approximately the same position. Satisfied that he looked undisturbed, I told the boys to stay there, so that they could answer the inevitable official questions.

I returned to the dining room and found Patrick and the organiser of the weekend party enjoying a lively conversation at one of the tables. I motioned them both to come with me and with puzzled expressions, they followed me back into the hall.

‘I am afraid that one of your guests appears to have passed away in the lounge.’ I tried to be as gentle as possible with this traumatic news.

‘Passed out more like it.’ The organiser, a cheerful red head, laughed.

I didn’t respond to his hilarity and he realised by my expression that it was perhaps more serious than he thought.

‘Who the hell is it?’ he demanded, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.

I had no idea who it was, and suggested that we go and find out. We tiptoed for some reason, into the lounge, as if we might disturb the corpse collapsed in one of the easy chairs. The two boys were still standing guard and were looking suitably sombre.

‘Jesus Christ! It’s old Jarvis, our Chairman.’ Now he really did look worried.

‘His wife will kill me. He has a weak heart and I promised I wouldn’t let him drink too much, or get over excited.’

He looked at me pleadingly. ‘Are you sure he’s dead and not just drunk?’

I assured him that Michael, who in fact was a trained lifeguard as well as being a partly trained vet, had administered CPR to Mr. Jarvis and that he was more than capable to determining whether the person was dead or alive.

I asked if there was a doctor with the party, but our insurance friend said there was nobody with medical training with them. I made a mental note to make sure that more of our own staff were trained in resuscitation methods over the coming weeks. Patrick put an arm around the man’s shoulders. They had known each other for several years and they were obviously friends.

‘Come on Daniel, we need to get somebody official here to sort this out. I think it will probably be an end to the party for the weekend, so we need to let everyone know. You also need to contact his wife and let her know the score.’

‘Perhaps we could move him up to his bedroom and pretend we didn’t find him until the morning, that way his wife will never know he’s been drinking again?’ Daniel appealed to us all as we stood around the body.

Michael looked over at me and gave a wink and a shrug of his shoulders. I couldn’t believe it, here was this poor man, dead in a strange hotel lounge and all everyone wanted to do was put him out of the way and let some poor chambermaid find him stone cold in bed in the morning. Men!

At least Patrick was having none of it and asked me to call an ambulance. I assured him that one was already on its way, so that put paid to any idea of putting Mr. Jarvis to bed for another night’s sleep. Sure enough, on cue, we heard a siren coming up the driveway and we all went into the hall to wait for the ambulance crew to confirm the sorry state of Mr. Jarvis’ health.

I showed them into the lounge and we looked on as they made their examination.

‘I am afraid the gentleman is dead.’ One of the attendants announced redundantly.

‘We’ll take it from here, but we will need some details from you first.’

We all sighed with relief, and handed over the responsibility for the deceased to the professionals. Daniel meanwhile knocked back a large brandy before telephoning Mrs. Jarvis with the bad news. I hope he had plenty of insurance.

The next morning the party of fifty departed a day early. Not a terrific start to the season, but a dramatic one.

I had made no mention to anyone about Michael and his assistant’s efforts to remove the body, only that they had made heroic attempts to revive him. While they publicly polished their halos, I had strong words with them about the rights and wrongs of dealing with guests, dead or alive. I wondered if this event was going to set the scene for the rest of the season but, thankfully, on the whole, the next few months passed without losing any more guests in this way. That is not to say that we did not have the odd moment when death was too good for some guests who seemed to think that paying for a room entitled them to attention far above and beyond the call of duty.

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed the latest escapade.. just three more chapters to go.  You feedback as always is highly valued.. thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl – Chapter Sixteen – Meeting the new Killbilly Team


Just an odd job girl sgc

We left Imogen settling in for her first night at the hotel in Cornwall after a fairly traumatic journey in the middle of the night….

Chapter Sixteen – Meeting the new Killbilly Team

I was awakened the next morning, before my alarm, by slamming doors and raised voices. I had set my clock for six thirty and had planned to spend some time in the bathroom before breakfast. I threw on my dressing gown and poked my head out of the door and into the corridor. I could see a line of about five people outside what must have been the bathroom and the person at the head of the queue was banging on the door.

‘Come on Charlie, get a move on, we’re all desperate out here.’

This did not bode well for a leisurely bath before breakfast. I decided to give myself a sponge bath at the sink and hope that the water at least was hot. I was thankful that I had got up in the night to visit the facilities and was not as desperate as my co-workers seemed to be. There was a cheer from the hall. Charlie had obviously appeared, relinquishing possession of the bathroom. I washed and dressed and by the time I left my room the hall was deserted.

I decided to retrace my steps of the night before, and failing to find a lift anywhere in evidence on this floor, took the stairs. As I neared the reception area, I could hear voices coming from a door set into the panelling. I crossed the hall and pushed the door open, fascinated to see what the rest of the staff of this hotel looked like. Would I find everyone dressed for the beach and in my blue suit and white blouse, would I be very overdressed?

Inside what appeared to be a staff dining room were about ten people, some sitting at a large table and some helping themselves from a buffet on a sideboard against the wall. Everybody stopped talking at once and stared in my direction. Oh well, in for a penny… as they say. I had dealt with the tartan army, and fifty school kids, and was not about to be intimidated by this little lot. I cleared my throat and entered the room.

‘Hi, I’m Imogen, nice to meet you.’

I waited expectantly, and looked from face to face. I saw Skip, now dressed in T-shirt and jeans, at the end of the table. He got up and came around to stand next to me.

‘Okay gang, this is the new under boss, just remember she will be doing the wages every Friday so you better be nice to the Sheila.’

Suddenly, people were standing and offering me their seats, someone offered to get me a bowl of cereal and Skip resumed his seat with a grin of satisfaction. He winked at me and I nodded my thanks. The ice was broken.

I spent the next fifteen minutes being introduced to everyone and, fielding questions about what I had done before, and how much experience I had in hotels. A couple of the males were more direct in their approach and wanted to know if I was single and available.

Most of the staff were Australian and not shy in coming forward. I wondered if the remoteness of this hotel, and their enforced stay for the whole season, had been explained to them when they took the job. I was evasive about my personal life too. I had never been one to talk about it much, not with strangers anyway, and I found it slightly uncomfortable to be under the microscope. I ate my cereal and drank a cup of tea that had been placed in front of me. I was just trying to decide how to answer a particularly personal question about how old I was, when the door opened and a tall man filled the doorway.

He was about forty, with greying wavy hair, slightly longer than one would expect for someone his age. He was at least six foot four and held himself very straight. I noticed a scar on his left cheek that he fingered as he surveyed the room.

‘Okay everyone, we open in one week! Let’s get cracking I want all the windows done today, not tomorrow.’

He had a very commanding air about him and I wondered if he was an ex-serviceman. There was some good natured grumbling from my breakfast companions, but they all stood up and filed past him at the doorway. I rose to follow, unsure of my role in the day’s activities.

‘Not you Miss Baxter.’

He extended his hand. He had a warm, firm grip and he smiled at me.

‘Welcome to Killbilly, I am Patrick Walsh. I hope that I can call you Imogen, we are rather informal here as you have probably noticed.’  I nodded.

‘Everybody seems very pleasant, but I was surprised to find so many Australians in such an isolated part of Cornwall.’

He laughed and ushered me out into the hall.

‘My brother has a sheep farm in Australia and he advertises for me every year.’

He led me across the hall and through another door in the panelling.

‘I find that they are cheerful and very good with the guests who seem to enjoy their relaxed attitude,’ he continued, indicating that I take an armchair in what was plainly his study.

‘The agreement is that they work for me for the season. I pay them well, and provided they stay until October, they get a very good bonus which enables them to travel through Europe for the remainder of their year away from Australia. It works for all of us.’

I hesitated to ask, but I was interested to find out why he had opted for an English assistant rather than an Australian one.

‘Very simple, I want some continuity from year to year. We are only shut now for two months of the year, and this year I plan to completely redecorate the hotel: This means that I need someone here to manage the project. I go to Australia every year, to my brother’s, so I am hoping that the person that I leave in charge will be you.’

I was quite frankly amazed. I had never met this man before, not had an interview and yet he was planning to leave me in charge of his hotel for two months this winter and give me the responsibility for the renovating work. He could see that I looked a little sceptical.

‘Does Dermot Flanagan ring a bell?’ I looked at him in amazement. ‘When I received your application, I noticed that you had worked for Dermot before Christmas so I gave him a ring. He was very flattering about you and said that you were extremely efficient and hard working. He was only sorry that you had not chosen to stay with them. He grinned at me.

‘Paddy sends his regards, by the way, I bet knowing my cousin as I do that he probably managed to grab a kiss under the mistletoe.’

So that was it. The Irish connection! I was delighted and so thankful that my misgivings of the night before were meaningless. As I looked across at Patrick Walsh, I already knew that my time at Killbilly would be special.

We then got down to the basics. My duties and responsibilities and the roles that Patrick wanted me to play, with both the staff, and the guests who would be arriving next week.

The staff were willing, and all had catering experience, but Patrick felt that some of the rough edges needed to be smoothed off a little. Despite the guests enjoying the relaxed welcome and attitude they got from these friendly youngsters. Both of us were in agreement about surfing shorts and calling the female guests Sheila.

I made notes, and we continued throughout the morning, enjoying a cup of coffee together. Patrick showed me over the hotel, and because there were no guests for the present, I was able to take a look at all the bedrooms, each of which was individually furnished.

There was an air of faded elegance about the whole building and I could understand why Patrick was keen to refurbish and bring it up to date. All the same, I could see why overseas visitors would find it charming, and put up with some of its less than modern facilities. Each bedroom, at least, had its own bathroom, and most had a stunning view across the grounds.

After lunch, Patrick suggested that I take a wander in the gardens and familiarise myself with the layout and the recreational areas. The hotel had a tennis court, croquet lawn and a nature trail that skirted the boundary of the property. This was before the days of spas and fitness centres but at least there was plenty of opportunity for a little healthy exercise to work off the generous meals available from breakfast time to late at night.

That evening at supper, I met the local staff who had come up to the hotel to meet their Australian co-workers. The housekeeper, head barmaid and the bookkeeper lived in the village of Killbilly and had worked at the hotel for the last twenty years. They looked at their brightly dressed colleagues with resigned tolerance and I guessed that, over the seasons, they had perhaps had reason to be a little cynical.

Three of the chambermaids, two waitresses and a barman were from the next village and together with their supervisors formed the year round staff of the hotel. The chef was new and would be arriving the next day. The previous chef, who had won the hotel many awards, had left at the end of the last season to open his own restaurant. The new man was Irish, especially recruited from a top hotel in Dublin, eager, apparently, for a quieter life in the country with an opportunity to run his own kitchen.

So that was the team. I felt a little uncomfortable at first; being in my early twenties, but Patrick stood up, introduced me with a glowing reference, and explained to the assembled company that I had his full authority. That reassured me a little, and I looked forward to working with this lively bunch of people. It had been a tiring day and, after supper, I took the opportunity to grab the bathroom for a long soak and an early night. The next week was going to be hectic; getting ready for the opening weekend and my mind was buzzing as I lay in bed listening to sounds of laughter drifting along the hall.

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Thanks for dropping by and next time Imogen gets into the swing on life at Killbilly which proves to be anything but dull……