Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Final Chapter – A new life by Sally Cronin


I had a senior moment and scheduled the final part of Just an Odd Job Girl a day early….so hope you don’t mind a double dose…

Just an Odd Job Girl was a novel that I wrote in 2001 and is loosely based on the many jobs I enjoyed between the ages of 14 and 28. It is a work of fiction and thankfully my personal life was not quite so chaotic as Imogen’s.. She narrates her own story and I hope you enjoy the last two chapters this weekend.

Previously  Imogen connects with Peter again and he persuades her that he is a changed man asks her to marry him…

The Final Chapter – A New Life.

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. She 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

©Sally Cronin

One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads.

Mar 03, 2016 Christina Steiner rated it it was amazing

Just an Odd Girl Job by Sally Georgina Cronin is a delightful book. Imogen at 50 and after a 25 year marriage is replaced by a younger model, what she calls a Fast Tracker. Depression follows and is nurtured by an abundance of food and an ever expanding waist line until one day Imogen decided to take her life back. After 25 years of absence in the job market, she’s unsure of her qualification. At the request of a temporary job agency she list the job of her youth.

The interview at the agency is a new beginning for her. With a lot of humor she retells her experience as a young, entrepreneurial Imogen and the variety of sometimes odd jobs she mastered.

Cronin writes the character of Imogen with humor. The book is a quick read. It shows that self esteem can be recaptured even if it was put on hold for 25 years.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Nineteen – Full Circle by Sally Cronin


Just an Odd Job Girl was a novel that I wrote in 2001 and is loosely based on the many jobs I enjoyed between the ages of 14 and 28. It is a work of fiction and thankfully my personal life was not quite so chaotic as Imogen’s.. She narrates her own story and I hope you enjoy the last two chapters this weekend.

previously  Imogen was forced to take drastic measures when mayflies caused a problem with two guests in the hotel. Imogen continues to tell her story.. and shares the events of the next two years.

Chapter Nineteen – Full Circle

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 couldn’t 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 review 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, number forty. I saw he still had his light on at midnight 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 forty.’ 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.

©Sally Cronin

One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads.

Mar 03, 2016 Christina Steiner rated it it was amazing

Just an Odd Girl Job by Sally Georgina Cronin is a delightful book. Imogen at 50 and after a 25 year marriage is replaced by a younger model, what she calls a Fast Tracker. Depression follows and is nurtured by an abundance of food and an ever expanding waist line until one day Imogen decided to take her life back. After 25 years of absence in the job market, she’s unsure of her qualification. At the request of a temporary job agency she list the job of her youth.

The interview at the agency is a new beginning for her. With a lot of humor she retells her experience as a young, entrepreneurial Imogen and the variety of sometimes odd jobs she mastered.

Cronin writes the character of Imogen with humor. The book is a quick read. It shows that self esteem can be recaptured even if it was put on hold for 25 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Eighteen – Some guests and their Foibles by Sally Cronin


This was my first novel written in 2001 and is loosely based on my various jobs. It is however the story of Imogen and her bounce back after her divorce and so is a mainly a work of fiction!

Previously Imogen is surprised by the initiative shown by two of her staff at the opening weekend party, but has to draw the line somewhere….

Chapter Eighteen – Some guests and their Foibles

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. And I have to say that everyone was a pleasure to serve as they were charming, polite and grateful for the old style service that we offered, even if it was delivered with an Australian accent. However, one particular American couple  were clearly used to a slightly different level of accommodation. Air conditioning, ice in the rooms and twenty-four-hour food service.

They were looking for something to criticise 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 here 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.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Sep 13, 2016 Teresa Karlinski rated it Five Stars
At almost fifty, Imogen is shocked when her husband announces he’s met someone else. She gives up the marvelous home she’s lovingly made for her and her husband. The new wife loves love it. A deal is made, a sum paid to Imogen and she buys her own little house. After spending months sprucing up her new nest, she’s bored and decides she needs something to occupy her days. Her children have grown up and have lives of their own. Nobody and nothing needs her.
She finds a job ad in the newspaper for an agency which places mature candidates. Perfect. She’s given an unusual interview during which her story unfolds, from her first job as a teen through the various and many positions she holds during her youth. Imogen is a gutsy, entertaining personality, who though younger than some of the people she’s worked with and for, was not only a clear thinker with a good head on her shoulders, and fleet of foot but wise beyond her years. This is a rollicking read you won’t want to put down. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I promise Imogen is the type of character you cannot help but admire and enjoy. If you want a light, heartwarming read, this is for you.

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you will join me again next weekend for the final two chapters about Imogen’s colourful work history.

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Seventeen – The Opening Weekend Party by Sally Cronin


This was my first novel written in 2001 and is loosely based on my various jobs. It is however the story of Imogen and her bounce back after her divorce and so is a mainly a work of fiction!

Previously Imogen gets settled in to her new job at Killbilly Hotel certain that with her Aussie staff, there will be some adventures ahead..

Chapter Seventeen – The Opening Weekend Party

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. 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 seven 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.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Sep 13, 2016 Teresa Karlinski rated it Five Stars
At almost fifty, Imogen is shocked when her husband announces he’s met someone else. She gives up the marvelous home she’s lovingly made for her and her husband. The new wife loves love it. A deal is made, a sum paid to Imogen and she buys her own little house. After spending months sprucing up her new nest, she’s bored and decides she needs something to occupy her days. Her children have grown up and have lives of their own. Nobody and nothing needs her.
She finds a job ad in the newspaper for an agency which places mature candidates. Perfect. She’s given an unusual interview during which her story unfolds, from her first job as a teen through the various and many positions she holds during her youth. Imogen is a gutsy, entertaining personality, who though younger than some of the people she’s worked with and for, was not only a clear thinker with a good head on her shoulders, and fleet of foot but wise beyond her years. This is a rollicking read you won’t want to put down. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I promise Imogen is the type of character you cannot help but admire and enjoy. If you want a light, heartwarming read, this is for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Sixteen – The new job begins at the Killbilly Hotel – Sally Cronin


Previously  Imogen arrives at Killbilly Hotel in the dead of night to be greeted by an Australian surfer and a great deal of uncertainty…

Chapter Sixteen – The new job begins at the Killbilly Hotel

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. Whilst the guests had always enjoyed 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.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Apr 10, 2018 Elizabeth Lloyd rated it Four Stars

Imogen has reached the milestone of 50, but her world has fallen apart. After over 20 years of marriage to Peter, he has abandoned her for a younger model. Thrown out of her lovely home, she has downsized and is hibernating. After turning to comfort eating, she has gained several pounds so has decided to make a new start by looking for a job. She hasn’t worked since marrying Peter, so she approaches an agency. There she meets Andrew who listens to her; something Peter never did.Talking to him about her work experiences unleashes a multitude of memories and we as readers are able to share in the variety of occupations of her youth. This isn’t a depressing story about loss or wasted years, it is a lively, amusing account of work in a hotel, funeral directors and the catering world. It shows a woman’s worth, gained from all the challenges of life experiences. By going back through her memories, Imogen rediscovers her confidence and is ready to face the world anew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Fifteen – Killbilly Hotel in Cornwall and a Gothic welcome – Sally Cronin


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

Previously Imogen finds herself in a private school cooking for a few weeks, and meeting some interesting characters.

Chapter Fifteen – Killbilly Hotel, Cornwall and a Gothic Welcome.

The light, streaming through a crack in the curtains, woke me early the next morning. I felt refreshed, and excited about what the day would bring. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so full of anticipation and energy.

Peter and I had travelled all over the world during the last ten years, visiting exotic destinations and staying at the very best resorts and hotels. But, as I looked around my small, brightly decorated kitchen, I would not have swapped it for all the five star hotels I had ever stayed in. This was my home, my future, and both looked a great deal brighter than they had a few days ago.

With at least four hours to go before I had to leave for my long awaited appointment with Andrew, I decided to be very resourceful with the time. I sat and had a bowl of cereal and fruit juice, and dressing warmly, for the cold morning air, I took to the forest path and let my mind travel back to my first full time job in several months.

* * *

I had never heard of Killbilly in Cornwall before, and assumed that it was probably a small village or hamlet. I was more than a little apprehensive about taking the position at the hotel, not because I did not feel that I was more than capable of doing a good job, but because my new employers and myself were taking each other on trust.

I went to lunch with my parents on the last Sunday before my departure and discovered that Peter had been in the habit of telephoning my mother and eliciting information regarding my whereabouts and activities. I was furious with both Peter and my mother. She assured me that she had informed him quite categorically that I had met no one else and missed him dreadfully. That was the last thing I wanted Peter to know. Much better that he should think that I was out every night with a string of wealthy and attentive admirers, rather than stuck in my bed-sit every night. Thank goodness, I was going to be far enough away from both of them to be able to invent any story about my personal life that I liked. In fact, the thought of passing on details of some lurid, imaginary love life to my mother, and therefore to Peter, was suddenly very appealing.

My father pressed me for details of my new job, and was dutifully persistent in his belief that no good could come of a position offered without the benefit of an interview. He felt that, as it was based on the photograph I had sent, that my future employers might have something to do with the white slave trade. On that cheerful note I left, promising to call on my arrival, every Sunday, and to make sure I ate properly. As I had been living away from home for some time now, without too many ill effects, I was slightly puzzled by all the parental concern.

Nevertheless, I felt heartened by their uncharacteristic reaction to my departure and vowed to keep in better contact than I had recently.

With my two bags packed, and having made the final reading of the electricity meter in my bed-sit, I headed out for Portsmouth Station and my journey westward. 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 neither overlarge nor 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 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 sending me backwards onto my seat. It was now ten at night and I was concerned that the promised taxi that was supposed to collect me at Killbilly, 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 Killbilly, for no sooner had I slammed the door of the train behind me, than it was off, lurching into the darkness. Which is where I now found myself. Alone and in the dark with absolutely no idea, where I was going or who I was going too.

These 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 decide to stay in place for a while, at least. 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 Cornwall, about strange animals, and people, out on the moors, came back to me and I clasped my arms around myself anxiously, on the verge of panic.

This feeling of panic 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 couldn’t 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. Despite a virtual crew cut hairstyle and rather masculine features, the lips were cherry red. You have to remember that I had considerable experience with men dressed as women and I was quite confident in my snap judgement as to the gender of this strange person. 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. So, with fingers crossed, I followed the dim retreating figure.

I found myself in a car park, next to a rather battered Land Rover, which was covered in mud and other farmyard debris. My bags were thrown unceremoniously into the back and my companion disappeared around to the driver’s side. I gingerly opened the passenger door, careful to avoid getting my clothes too close to the paintwork. At least the interior of the vehicle was warm and I was grateful when the engine started first time. Before we pulled out of the station, my driver turned to me.

‘My name is Milly Barrow and I run the local taxi service.’ She announced firmly.

‘It will take half an hour to get to the hotel so you better make yourself comfortable.’

With that, we were off, quite smoothly too, much to my pleasant surprise. This was somewhat tempered by the farmyard aroma that filled the now warm cab of the Land Rover and I hoped that my new employers were used to their staff arriving slightly more fragrant than might be expected.

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. Speed restrictions did not seem to be in force in this area and a Land Rover is not built for rally driving, but Milly Barrow obviously had not been informed of that particular design characteristic.

Finally, with a squeal of protest from the tyres, we tore around a bend, through an ornate gate, and onto a gravel drive. In the dim glow of the headlights, I could just make out a building looming out of the mist as we slammed to a stop in a spray of stones 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.

Milly Barrow moved quickly for her size, and had my bags on the drive and was in the car again before I could say a word. Spraying me with sharp little stones, she took off into the night without a backward glance.

There were some lamps either side of the entrance, and by their dim light 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 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.

‘G’day, you must be the Sheila whose going to be the new assistant manager.’

In front of me stood a tall, blonde surfer complete with knee length shorts and little else, except for what appeared to be a shark’s tooth on a leather thong around his neck.

Open mouthed I stood freezing on the doorstep while this antipodean looked me over, from top to toe.

‘Don’t stand there all night girl, come on in I’m freezing my ass off here.’

Obviously there was going to be little in the way of assistance with my luggage, so I turned and collected the suitcases, dragging them back across the gravel. I hoisted them up the steps and through the door, which slammed behind me.

‘My name’s Skip, and I’m the hall porter. Don’t say much, do you?’

I stared at his tanned, hairy, chest and clearing my throat, I attempted to get my voice back.

‘Yes I am Imogen. Sorry I was so late, I hope I didn’t keep you up.’

‘No worries. Me and the girlfriend were watching a horror movie. Kept us busy, if you know what I mean.’

I could only imagine! Never having watched a movie, let alone a horror film, whilst dressed for a day at the beach.

‘Come on, I’ll show you your pit and you can meet the boss in the morning.’

He led the way across the carpeted hall and up the imposing stairs that occupied much of the centre of the reception area.

‘You hungry?’ My guide enquired, as we hauled my cases up the stairs. Thankfully, he had taken possession of one of them at least.

‘We had a barbie tonight and there is some left over steak if you’re interested.’

I murmured that I just wanted to go to bed and he shrugged.

‘No worries, you could do with losing a pound or two anyway.’

I could see that we were going to get on very well. My mind was reeling. There had been far too much, in the way of adrenaline pumping events, in the last few hours. And now to have to deal with an Australian surfer masquerading as a hall porter in a Cornish hotel? I know that staff for these out of the way places must be hard to find but advertising in the Woolagong Advertiser seemed a little over the top. I was sure, however, that all would be revealed in the morning. All that I wanted to do right then was to crawl into a warm bed, and sleep.

We had now climbed three flights of stairs and I wondered if there was a lift for the more infirm guest. I mentioned this fact to Skip who was not even out of breath.

‘Yeah, there’s a lift but I’m claustrophobic, won’t go in the buggers.’

Oh, great! I thought, as I puffed my way up the final flight of stairs behind him, a mountain climber too!

He pushed open a door in a dimly lit corridor and switched on an overhead light. The room was not bad. It had high ceilings and was furnished with a wardrobe, a double bed, a dresser and a sofa. A small television perched on a footstool in one corner, and there was a washbasin on the wall.

‘The bathroom is down the hall, third door on the right. Lock doesn’t work right now; it’s on me list. Get round to it before we open.’ (Right! Chair jammed under the doorknob for the time being.)

He turned to leave, and just before he closed the door, he grinned, showing large, even white teeth.

‘Do you surf at all?’

I shook my head wearily, and smiled somewhat thinly in his direction.

‘Pity. Never mind. Sleep well, breakfast at seven a.m.’

With that, I was alone in my new home. At least it was clean and the bed had been made up. I found a glass on the washbasin and drank a large glass of water before remembering I would have to traipse down the hall to go to the bathroom in the night. Oh well, worry about that later. I hastily unpacked the top of one of my suitcases and found my warmest pair of pyjamas. I checked the radiator under the window and found that it was cold. I bet you anything you like that the heating was off now, until the guests started arriving for Easter. I put on a jumper over my night attire and crawled beneath the sheets. At least there were several blankets and curling into a ball, I was instantly asleep.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Apr 10, 2018 Elizabeth Lloyd rated it Four Stars

Imogen has reached the milestone of 50, but her world has fallen apart. After over 20 years of marriage to Peter, he has abandoned her for a younger model. Thrown out of her lovely home, she has downsized and is hibernating. After turning to comfort eating, she has gained several pounds so has decided to make a new start by looking for a job. She hasn’t worked since marrying Peter, so she approaches an agency. There she meets Andrew who listens to her; something Peter never did.Talking to him about her work experiences unleashes a multitude of memories and we as readers are able to share in the variety of occupations of her youth. This isn’t a depressing story about loss or wasted years, it is a lively, amusing account of work in a hotel, funeral directors and the catering world. It shows a woman’s worth, gained from all the challenges of life experiences. By going back through her memories, Imogen rediscovers her confidence and is ready to face the world anew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Fourteen – Mayhew School for Boys and Girls.


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

Previously  Imogen went into Central London for a much needed makeover and shopping trip, which brought to mind her friends escapades when buying a new car.

Chapter Fourteen – Mayhew School for Boys and Girls.

Miss Mayhew was a rather tall, angular, woman of indeterminate age. Her grey hair was pulled into a bun at the back of her head and metal rimmed glasses perched on the end of a beaky nose. For the entire six weeks that I worked at the school, I racked my brains to discover whom it was she reminded me of. It actually came to me some years later when I was on holiday in Malta and toured the film village where they had made Popeye. I was suddenly confronted with large, cardboard cut-out of Miss Mayhew in the disguise of Olive Oyl.

The school catered to boys and girls between the ages of five and eleven. There were fifty of these children and five teachers, which I suppose, gave a really good teacher to student ratio.

All the children appeared to have double-barrelled names, and a problem with their nasal passages. Their accents even at five years old had been cultivated in a greenhouse without the benefit of any contamination by your ‘common types’ and all of them could easily have become television newsreaders. The children were weekly boarders, and my job was to cook breakfast for them each morning and assist the head cook with lunches. She would then prepare their high tea and the teachers’ suppers.

I arrived at the school on my first morning at ten o’clock, as instructed. From the next day, I would be working from six in the morning until two in the afternoon. This suited me as it gave me an opportunity to spend the rest of the day in other pursuits. As my social life at the time was absolutely dead and buried, I was not bothered about getting into bed at nine each night and catching up with my reading.

On this first morning, the school secretary, a plump, motherly woman who introduced herself as Angela, took me upstairs to the Headmistress’s study. She in no way prepared me for Miss Mayhew or her uncanny resemblance to Olive Oyl. I passed through a dark passage with low lighting, and two benches, either side of a wooden door. Angela indicated that I take a seat on one of the seats, knocked, and entered the study. I heard murmured voices and after a couple of minutes Angela reappeared and opened the door wide.

‘Miss Mayhew will see you now dear.’

She slipped past me and returned down the corridor. I entered and found myself standing on a dark red carpet in front of a very large and imposing desk. The thin figure uncoiled itself from behind this monstrosity, and I can only imagine the terror she would have inspired in a five-year-old summoned to this dark and forbidding lair.

‘Good morning, I am Imogen Baxter your temporary cook.’

I stretched out my hand politely. Miss Mayhew looked at it as if it contained enough germs to start an epidemic and made no effort to shake it. Don’t you feel stupid when people do that to you? I withdrew my hand and stood with it firmly by my side.

‘I am well aware of who you are Miss Baxter and please note that we do not use first names at the school. The staff and all the children are referred to by their surnames.’

This was a good start! Six weeks was beginning to look like a lifetime. What about the poor little souls who arrived here at five years of age, and had to stay for six years?

‘We do not normally employ temporary staff but our assistant cook had to go and look after her mother, who has had an operation.’ She continued, without any hint of sympathy in her voice. It obviously had been most inconvenient.

‘I am assured by your agency that you are punctual, neat and conscientious. so in this instance I have relented, but I want you to know that I will be monitoring you very closely.’

With that, she rang a hand bell on her desk and went back to her paperwork. I stood there feeling a complete idiot and was about to say something when the door opened and Angela bustled in. Gratefully, I turned around and followed her back downstairs. I didn’t like to say anything too derogatory on my first day and I bit my tongue as we crossed a windy courtyard and entered a large hall.

At the back of the hall were two doors. Angela held open the right hand one and waved me through. I entered a gleaming, stainless steel, kitchen filled with the sound of clanging pots and the rumble of a food processor.

‘Cook will be here in a moment she is just in the store room I expect.’ With that Angela bustled back through the door and I was left standing in the middle of the kitchen.

I didn’t have long to wait, as a swing door banged against the back wall and a round little figure appeared. Dressed in white from top to toe, with a hat perched on the back of her head, stood the cook. She was puffing and red faced and obviously in a state about something.

‘Are you my assistant?’ she demanded in a shrill voice.

I nodded hurriedly not wishing to incur her wrath on my first day.

‘Good! Get the bloody kettle on. I’m parched.’

She grinned from ear to ear. ‘Bet you could use something a bit stronger having met the boss, but tea it will have to be.’

What a relief, I smiled weakly and looked around for the kettle. Within minutes, we were sitting in the little staff room at the back of the kitchen and I was filled in on the ins and outs of the school, Miss Mayhew and the staff. Jessie Brown had been cook at the school for ten years and said in that time Miss Mayhew had never called her anything but Brown. She thought we sounded a bit like a double-act – ‘Baxter and Brown’ – and she said that she was looking forward to working with an outsider for a few weeks.

We returned to the kitchen and Jessie handed me a set of whites that had to be worn at all times. I went back into the staff room and changed into my new attire. My hair was tied back and tucked into my round white cap. Catching sight of myself in the mirror, I decided that it was definitely not the most flattering outfit I had ever owned. I went back into the kitchen, rolled up my sleeves and asked Jessie for my instructions.

She took me through the week’s menus for the children and staff, and the first thing I noticed was that there was no meat on the menu. When I questioned Jessie about this she shrugged her shoulders and told me that Miss Mayhew had been a vegetarian all her life and insisted that the children were too. Jessie was in no doubt that the children all indulged in carnivorous activities during the weekends at home with their parents, who apparently made no objection to their offspring’s Monday to Friday eating habits.

Personally, I did not think that it was particularly healthy for children of this age to be deprived of a complete food group but Jessie, sensing my unease, assured me that she made sure that they all had a balanced diet.

She winked.

‘Don’t worry love. They get plenty of good food, and they love my sauces and the special cakes I make for their tea.’

Somewhat reassured, I began to help prepare lunch. On the menu today was vegetable pie, mashed potatoes and peas, with treacle sponge and custard for dessert. I have to admit that Jessie was a very good cook, and soon appetising smells were filling the kitchen. Before I knew it, it was time for the children to come in for lunch. Jessie went and pinned back the two doors into the kitchen against the wall and came and joined me behind the serving counter.

‘I like to make sure that children get a plate of food, so we serve each of them from behind here.’ She explained.

‘When I first came here ten years ago, portions were put on each table of ten. But I discovered that the older children were taking the best bits, and leaving the younger children with very little.’

I realised that this little woman was very much in charge of her kitchen, and I bet even old Mayhew thought twice about crossing her. There was no more time for reflection as the thunder of a hundred feet pounded across the dining room floor. A line of children appeared in the doorway, held back by an older boy of about eleven.

‘Okay wait your turn there, Brown will give the word when she’s ready.’

Every word clearly enunciated and definitely delivered with a stiff upper lip. I am sure that is where the expression comes from. Have you ever tried to talk and keep your top lip completely still? You too can sound like a 1960s radio announcer, or a member of the aristocracy.

Anyway, there is this line of fifty children and fifteen staff. Ten teachers and five matrons who looked after the children after school hours. They stood patiently and I have never seen so many children so well behaved, it simply didn’t seem natural. It lasted for about five seconds.

‘Come and get it!’

I nearly jumped out of my skin as Jessie roared into life beside me. There was a stampede as the children rushed in, grabbed a plate and held it up to have their lunch served. There was no nonsense about not eating vegetables or anything else on offer. Everyone got a healthy portion on his or her plates and they trotted off to sit at one of the ten tables laid out in the dining room. I had expected that the children would have to eat in silence, but it was mayhem, with laughter and talking, and I could see through one of the doors that plates were being cleaned enthusiastically.

‘Where is Miss Mayhew?’ I asked, puzzled that the austere woman was not in the dining-room keeping control.

‘She always has a tray in her study with a salad at lunchtime.’ Jessie smiled smugly.

‘We came to an agreement, when I said I would take care of the cooking, that this dining room and kitchen would be my responsibility, and provided I don’t serve meat, she leaves me alone.’

I quite frankly found it difficult to believe, and it was obvious to Jessie.

‘You won’t have found out yet, but Mary Mayhew is my daughter.’

I gaped at Jessie, and she laughed.

‘I was married in the war to a young pilot. He was killed just before I had Mary. I remarried twenty years ago to my Bill, but I like to keep close to Mary and this works very well.’

So that was how Jessie got away with so much. It just goes to show that you can easily misread situations, and I wondered what else I would discover in the next few weeks.

We had no more time for idle chatter, as the monitor for each table was bringing back the empty plates, and sliding them through a special hatch in the wall onto a counter next to a large dish-washing machine. They then came into the kitchen and collected pudding. They each brought with them the youngest member of their table who proudly carried back the china jug of custard. There were oohs… and aahs… as the treacle pudding, already sliced, was placed on the table. The monitors had the job of serving up this course and I could see from where I was standing that they were scrupulously fair.

By two, I had finished my clearing up duties and I left for home. Jessie was going to cook breakfasts with me for the first few days and I was glad of her help. On the menu the next morning was porridge and beans on toast. If there is one thing I have never been able to cook it is porridge and I was going to have to produce it for sixty people tomorrow morning.

Funnily enough, I was quite looking forward to it.

Apart from a couple of mishaps over the next six weeks, I learnt some valuable life lessons.

For one thing, I can now cook sixty fried eggs at a time, along with sixty pieces of toast. I can cook porridge without burning it, and I can scramble a hundred eggs at a time. Jessie was a good teacher, and endlessly patient with the children. After a time I forgot their accents and rather mature ways and realised that they were still children. The youngest of them were only five, and homesick for their mothers. Sometimes I stayed behind to help with the teas and often two or three young assistants would be helping Jessie make scones, cake or flapjacks.

Not once did I see Miss Mayhew in the dining room or the kitchen, but I know that Jessie went up to her study each afternoon with a plate of cakes and a pot of tea. I never got to know Miss Mayhew, and to this day, I cannot see any resemblance between her and Jessie. It’s a strange world.

One thing that did make me chuckle was the spaghetti incident. We were having pasta and tomato sauce for lunch, and an enormous pot of water was duly brought to the boil and ten packets of spaghetti emptied into it. When the spaghetti was cooked, it took two of us to lift the pot and take it over to the draining board. A catering sized colander was placed into the sink and the pot tipped over carefully until the spaghetti had drained out with the water.

On this particular occasion, Jessie had been called out to the dining room to sort out a dispute between the two boys putting water jugs around the tables. It was my first week and my first pasta lunch but Jessie had gone over the process with me and I was ready. Being a strong girl, I thought that I could manage to get the pot over to the sink by myself and drain off the spaghetti into the colander.

I struggled gingerly across the floor with my scalding burden and laid it on the drainer. Grabbing both handles I tipped it carefully, and watched the boiling water and the spaghetti slide into the sink and into the waiting colander. By the time that I had established that I had forgotten to put the colander in the sink, most of the pot of pasta had disappeared down the large plug-hole. There was no way that I could prevent the slippery mass from gushing out of the pot as it hung suspended over the sink and I watched in growing horror as lunch went down the drain.

Jessie came back into the kitchen just as I managed to right the pot and turn towards her. I put my hands up to my mouth and stared at her. She walked up to the sink and looked down at the one or two strands of spaghetti that lingered arrogantly on the lip of the plug-hole.

‘Looks like instant mash potato for lunch then.’ With a pat on my arm, she hurried off to the storeroom and appeared with a large tin of potato powder.

‘Don’t like the stuff, but it’s great for emergencies.’ She put the tin down and began to boil some water in two large saucepans.

‘Hope you have a good strong arm,’ she said, as she reached to a rack of utensils on the wall and handed me a giant whisk.

‘You get to make it, not me.’

That was all she said, and over the next six weeks, I never saw her lose her temper with the children or me. She did sometimes get a little hot under the collar and flushed, like the first day I saw her, but usually it was because she spent her entire time rushing around making sure that everyone was fed well.

At the end of my six weeks, I again felt sorry to be moving on. On the last day I was summoned to Miss Mayhew’s study and uninviting though the prospect seemed, I went upstairs and through the gloomy corridor. I knocked on the door and was told to enter. Miss Mayhew seemed to be wearing the exact same outfit that she had worn six weeks ago and again she greeted me from behind her large desk. This time she invited me to sit down, which I did slightly nervously. She had said at the beginning she would be keeping an eye on me and I wondered if there was any other misdemeanour other than losing all the spaghetti that she had discovered.

‘I understand from Brown that you have been very helpful and I wanted you to know that I have reported that fact to your agency.’

Surprise, surprise, but why could she not have referred to Jessie as her mother. A thin hand stretched across the table and I saw a bar of chocolate being pushed towards me.

‘It’s my favourite.’ I swear that she almost smiled.

‘Mine too,’ I uttered, astonished that we actually had something in common.

‘Well I won’t keep you. I am sure that you wish to get on.’

So, I was dismissed. I muttered my thanks and left the office, clasping my bar of chocolate in my hand. Well it takes all sorts as they say.

During the previous couple of weeks, I had been checking out the advertisements in the some of the catering magazines. I felt like a change, and perhaps this time I would look at something a little more permanent. Peter had tried to contact me twice, recently, and although I still thought about him a great deal, I felt that perhaps some distance between us would be a good idea. One advertisement in particular had caught my eye. It was for an assistant manager in a Victorian hotel in Cornwall. They had asked for details of past experience and a current photograph, and I had sent a letter containing these, just last week.

When I got back to my digs that afternoon a reply was waiting for me. Without even an interview they had accepted me for the season, beginning at Easter, and included travel instructions for my journey. They told me that the cost of this would be reimbursed on my arrival, and they expected a letter, by return, confirming my acceptance.

Here we go again.

* * *

However, before reminiscing further, it was time for bed in the here and now.

I was due to see Andrew tomorrow, at midday, and I planned my outfit in my head as I drifted off to sleep. I wondered what his reaction would be to the make-over that I had treated myself to. With that happy thought, I slept, dreaming of spaghetti and treacle pudding.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Jul 17, 2017 Judy Martin rated it it was amazing  · A Real Tonic!

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. Imogen feels betrayed, fat and useless when her husband leaves her. She has to find herself a new job after being out of the workforce for twenty odd years whilst bringing up her children and being a dutiful housewife.
Imogen has an opportunity to reflect on the jobs that she had before her marriage and this is where the fun starts.
Sally is such a wonderful story teller who had me spluttering with laughter and cringing with embarrassment at some of the situations that Imogen finds herself in. The characters in the story are some that you would love to meet or love to hate, so realisticlally are they portrayed.i enjoyed this book immensely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Thirteen – Makeover and the art of buying a car.


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

Previously  Imogen takes a temporary job selling advertising for a local paper and ends up running a very interesting section … selling personal services!

Chapter Thirteen – Makeover and the art of buying a car.

It was time to prepare for my shopping trip into central London. I planned to hit the shops and enjoy a bit of a spending spree. I took a shower and decided, for some obscure reason, to put my reading glasses on to apply my makeup. Big mistake!

My hair at one time had been auburn and had flowed down my back in a heavy wave. Over the years, I had my cut shorter and shorter, but it was still shoulder length. Unfortunately, that is where the good news ended. On the advice of contemporaries and most women’s magazines, I had resorted to colouring my hair at the first indication of grey hair, and because they advise you to go lighter as you get older, I went blonde. I am not sure what you would call the colour of my hair now, as it had not received any attention whatsoever for the last six months. It was a sort of muddy blonde colour at the split ends, moving up through various shades of grey, white and reddish roots.

Not a pretty sight, and it was compounded by the bristling caterpillars that seemed to have taken root where my eyebrows used to be. This, combined with several rather long hairs that were growing luxuriously on my chin, caused me to leap backwards from the mirror and whip the glasses from my head.

Drastic measures were called for immediately. I had to revise my shopping schedule to include a lengthy appointment at a hairdressers and beauticians. It would be difficult to find a central London salon at such short notice, but I grabbed the telephone directory and desperately scoured the hairdresser section and started ringing around.

Thankfully, on my third attempt, I found a salon in Knightsbridge that had a cancellation for mid-day. I didn’t dare ask the price, it would have been very impolite. Well, the money was sitting in the bank earning very little interest and I had to consider that any self improvements that helped me get a job would be a much more worthwhile investment.

I hurriedly dressed in what I hoped was appropriate attire for Knightsbridge. This necessitated wriggling into yesterday’s panty girdle, which felt a little looser, (one can dream), but it was more likely it had been stretched by the previous days wear. My expensive skirt was held together with a large safety pin and I wore a long top over the skirt to hide the improvisation. With a jacket, the ensemble did not look too bad, but I did not make the mistake of wearing my reading glasses to view the result.

Within twenty minutes, I had walked to the tube station and was on a train rattling its way into central London. Dead on the dot of twelve I opened the door to the hair salon where I was divested of my jacket, and horror of horrors my top as well, exposing both my girdle, straining at the seams, and my safety pin. The girl who was helping me graciously looked the other way, but I am sure I did not imagine the look of amusement on her face. Of course, she was far too well trained to allow this to show too visibly. With a gleam in her eye, she calculated the great deal of money that was about to be spent by ‘Madam’ before she would be allowed to leave the salon.

I was escorted to a chair in front of a mirror that can only have come from one of those funfair side-shows. You know – the ones that make you fat, thin or distorted. This mirror was both fattening and distorting especially for the person sitting down at the time. Not only that, but it showed every blemish on my face, and each grey and white hair on my head. I assume that they wanted you to feel as bad as possible about your current appearance so that the change they were about to perform would look more stunning. They certainly had their work cut out in my case.

As if I did not feel bad enough, my stylist arrived. Why is it that the mirror managed to make me look like a vision from hell, but make her, this stick thin woman behind me, look stunning? Every blonde hair was in immaculate place. The makeup was obvious but subtle and her hands, resting gently on my shoulders, were soft and beautifully manicured. I hid my bitten fingernails beneath my gown hurriedly, and looked up into the mirror and her face.

‘My name is Monique and I will be your stylist today.’ She said in soft, encouraging tones.
If she felt intimidated by the task ahead of her, she was gracious enough not to show it.

‘What may we do for you today?’ she continued, running her fingers lightly through my mop of hair.

Was she blind? I decided that if I was going to be spending a fortune for her expertise, I might as well take full advantage.

‘I leave that entirely in your expert hands.’ I replied trying not to sound too desperate.

‘I have been on an extensive trip abroad and I am afraid everything has been dreadfully neglected, so please feel free to do what is necessary to enable me to feel less travelled.’

One has to have a cover story, and must never admit to voluntary neglect on such a grand scale as now appeared in the mirror in front of her.

‘Leave it to me.’ She announced understandingly and turned to two assistants who were standing behind her.

‘Bring the colour chart! Book the beautician for an eyebrow wax and manicure in twenty minutes, and bring a selection of magazines and a glass of Champagne for Madam immediately!’

Ah. A woman after my own heart. Confident that I was in capable hands, I relaxed into my chair and avoided looking into the mirror.

Within minutes, I was bustled about, fussed over and manipulated into several different positions. A colour was decided upon without any consultation with me. After all, I had handed over full responsibility for my transformation. Hadn’t I?

I banished any mild misgivings to the back of my mind. Whatever they did to me, I could look no worse than I did now.

Two hours later, I was ready for the unveiling. I had sneaked an occasional glimpse in the mirror during the process but had been unable to determine exactly what was happening.
I opened my eyes slowly and lifted them to the mirror. Oh my God! He did exist after all. It was me, but not me – if you know what I mean. My hair was a lovely warm shade of beige blonde, with highlights. It had been cut into a bob and lay smooth and sleek against my head, falling gently to my shoulders where it sat, plump and gleaming. My eyebrows were almost non-existent, but as I peered closer, I could see they arched delicately over my eyes. To say I was stunned was putting it mildly, and I looked up at the stylist as she stood behind me.

‘Oh thank you, thank you.’ I gushed.

She smiled knowingly at me and I suspected that she knew exactly which journey I had been on for the last few months and that it had not involved air travel.

‘Don’t leave it quite so long next time Madam. You have lovely hair and skin and it is a shame not to treat both with care.’

I took her admonishment to heart and staring down at my soft, manicured hands, I nodded a little emotionally.

I followed her to the reception desk and was whisked behind a curtain to retrieve my clothing. I came out and gave what I hoped was a generous tip to my saviour and watched her make way across the salon to her next customer. I turned to the receptionist who had my bill prepared in its own leather folder. I was beaming from ear to ear and it says a great deal for my acting ability that I managed to keep that going as I viewed the cost of my reformation. I could have restored a three-storey building for the cost. But, who’s counting? I felt on top of the world.

I found myself outside the salon amongst the bustling crowd. They milled around me, rushing to and fro between appointments and shopping. I beamed at each and every one of them. They skirted my small spot of pavement, assuming I was a mad woman, not an uncommon sight on the streets of London in this day and age.

I dragged my thoughts back to reality and was lucky enough to hail a cab that was just dropping off his previous fare the other side of the street. Time to get on with the rest of today’s project, and go and spend further money on self-improvement at the shops. My original idea, to be honest, was to hit Oxford Street with all it’s moderately priced high-street shops, but my ‘new look’ inspired me with a desire for a more exclusive choice of clothing.

Although we were only a few streets away from my destination, I was in a hurry to get there, so I stuck my head through the cab’s front window and uttered the immortal cry of serious shoppers everywhere. ‘Harrods, please.’ I leapt in the back and sat back for the short ride.

This was not a shopping trip but a ‘Showping’ expedition.’ Let me explain the difference.
Shopping is what you do in the supermarket, high street and on a weekly or daily basis.

‘Showping’ is an entirely different kettle of fish. I can best describe it by relating a story about a friend of mine called Stephanie.

One Saturday afternoon she went off to do the weekly shopping at the supermarket. She had one of those nippy little two-seater sports cars that would have needed a shoehorn and a crane for me to get in and out of. She loved her car, but was frustrated by the lack of boot space. It only had room for half the number of carrier bags of groceries that she needed for her weekly food shopping. This meant that the other half had to be crammed into the little passenger seat and in the foot well.

Stephanie worked as a successful independent business consultant and was therefore in possession of her own money; she had also recently come into a rather large inheritance. So, on this particular Saturday, she decided to make some changes. She reasoned that it was a bit daft for a woman her age to be driving around in a little sports car and that it was time to get a more suitable vehicle for her needs. It just so happened that on the way back from the supermarket, there was a car salesroom that was open on a Saturday afternoon.

Stephanie parked in the forecourt and pushed open the heavy, glass door. She glanced around the showroom and immediately saw the very car that fitted her requirements. A young salesman sauntered across arrogantly, introduced himself as Nigel, and nasally asked if he could be of any assistance. She explained that she wanted to test drive the black car in the corner and he obligingly went and collected the keys. He said he would drive, condescendingly pointing out that traffic was very heavy and that she might like a quieter road to try the vehicle out, once she had seen how the car handled with him behind the wheel.

While he had been at the desk, she had noticed him whisper something in the ear of an older man sat at a desk. They had both sniggered and she had the distinct impression that she had been labelled both middle-aged and on a thrill seeking exercise. She decided to indulge this little misconception of theirs and demurely sat in the passenger seat of her chosen car.

Nigel decided that he would give her the thrill of her life, and shot out of the showroom, across the forecourt and into the late Saturday rush hour. Holding the wheel with one hand and caressing the gear stick with the other; he dodged through the traffic. He kept glancing across at her and smiling as if expecting gasps and exclamations of horror from his companion and whistled to himself as he approached the entrance to the motorway. He shot down the ramp and joined the stream of cars heading home, manoeuvred into the outside lane and really put his foot down. He glanced across to my friend, and if he was hoping to see white knuckles and clenched teeth, he was disappointed. She just turned to him and smiled sweetly as he continued his childish little game. As they approached the next exit he indicated and cut across two lanes of traffic. He sped up the ramp onto the roundabout and was just about to cross the motorway for the return trip when my friend laid her hand on his arm.

‘My turn I think, don’t you?’ She said demurely. She fixed him with a very determined gaze and he shrugged and pulled into a convenient lay-by. My friend went around to the driver’s side and they swapped places. Nigel fastened his seat-belt and sat back prepared for what he obviously considered to be a sedate ride back to the garage. Ten minutes later, my friend pulled into the forecourt and went around to the passenger side of the car. She opened the door and Nigel unpeeled himself from the black leather seat and unclenched his white knuckled hands from the dashboard. She viewed his ashen face with some satisfaction and proceeded him to the desk at the back of the showroom where the older man sat looking somewhat puzzled at his younger colleague.

Stephanie looked down at the man and said quite simply. ‘I’ll take it.’

With that she wrote out a deposit cheque and told them to have it ready by Tuesday when she would be back with the balance in the form of a banker’s draft. With that she exited the showroom with a flourish and roared off in her little white sports car.

When she returned home, she informed her husband that she had bought a new, larger car that provided her with adequate space for shopping. He was quite frankly delighted, as he had thought it was a little inappropriate for her to be driving around in a sports car at her time of life. He naturally enquired as to what make of car she had bought, not too bothered as she was using her own money. ‘Oh!’ she said, without emotion, ‘It’s a three–door Japanese hatchback.’

Sure enough on his return from work on the following Tuesday there it was in the driveway, a three-door hatchback, masquerading as a nearly new Nissan 350 Z!

Now that’s what I call ‘Showping’!

Stephanie’s lifelong little hobby of rally driving had proved to be rather useful on this occasion, and we, as her friends, felt that she had struck a blow at the establishment for all of us.

I doubted that my next few hours were going to be quite as exciting as Stephanie’s had been, but I viewed them with as much excitement.

When I arrived home, in the early evening, and paraded up and down in front of my bedroom mirror, I was as proud of my purchases as she had been of her’s. I was due to see Andrew in the morning, and hopefully, he was going to be suitably impressed by my transformation. As I prepared a steak and salad for my dinner, I decided to leave the television switched off and continue my exploration of my past, and my talents, for the rest of the evening. I did feel rather guilty as I tucked into my rather large steak, and virtuous greenery, as meat was the worst thing I could be eating while reminiscing about the Mayhew School for Boys and Girls.

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Jul 17, 2017 Judy Martin rated it it was amazing  · A Real Tonic!

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. Imogen feels betrayed, fat and useless when her husband leaves her. She has to find herself a new job after being out of the workforce for twenty odd years whilst bringing up her children and being a dutiful housewife.
Imogen has an opportunity to reflect on the jobs that she had before her marriage and this is where the fun starts.
Sally is such a wonderful story teller who had me spluttering with laughter and cringing with embarrassment at some of the situations that Imogen finds herself in. The characters in the story are some that you would love to meet or love to hate, so realisticlally are they portrayed.i enjoyed this book immensely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Twelve – Advertising Sales by Sally Cronin


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

Previously Imogen undertakes a temporary position as a receptionist for a funeral home that had her leaving with mixed emotions.

Chapter Twelve – Advertising Sales

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

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Well!’

She paused for effect.

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

She stood up and did a twirl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Miss Baxter, please sit down.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Chapter Eleven – The Funeral Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay! Think fast about this one.

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

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

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

Nobby? Who was he?

Paddy could see my obvious confusion.

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

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

‘That’s grand love.’

Paddy turned to go back down the hall.

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

He looked over his shoulder with a slightly wicked grin.

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

I shook my head in disbelief, and went white.

‘You’ll get used to it.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

He looked in my direction.

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

And with that, he was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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