Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – 20th Anniversary #Free Book and Some of my Very Odd Jobs – Dental Surgery Part Two by Sally Cronin


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

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

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

Anyway back to my odd jobs and my role at the Dental Surgery changes to a more hands on approach

The Dental Surgery Part Two

Previously…..

After many years of not being able to have a baby… Miss Smith (who had married several years before but was still called Miss Smith by my boss) was pregnant and could not stand the sight of blood! So began a very intensive training course and my career took a very different path.

I was now 18 years old and have been studying the dental nurse course at home and in quiet periods in the surgery. I had also been getting practical experience on the basic tasks required by a chairside assistant, and having done a first aid course, I found that I slipped into this role quite quickly. In those days ‘on job training’

was common, and because there was not such a wide range of procedures carried out, it was intensive but thorough. Also in those days there were not the technical aspects to the profession to contend with. Poor patients were lucky to get an anaesthetic for minor fillings!

By this time Roland was 68 and he was a tough boss. He had been in the army during the second world war and after retiring at 50 had gone into private practice. He did rather treat me as a ‘squaddie’ and this extended to the daily deep cleaning of the surgery. Apart from washing down all the surfaces with antiseptic wash, including chair and its attachments, I was expected to sterilise all instruments after each patient in a temperamental boiler. I was also equipped with a toothbrush, and all cracks and seams on the chair and the cabinet that contained the instruments and drugs had to be cleaned with hot water and soap each Wednesday afternoon when Roland went out sailing.

Our equipment was not exactly state-of-the-art, and some of it actually had done service in the desert. For example, at that time, in the sixties, we had frequent power cuts during the miners strikes. This of course meant that the electric, high-speed drill was non-operational.  Out came a manual drill which had terrorised hundreds of soldiers no doubt during the war. Roland would pump up and down on a pedal and this provided enough energy to operate the drill at a painfully slow speed. I operated a wheeled squeeze box that powered the suction pipe, also a relic from 1939 -1945.. Painful enough just watching, so I can only imagine what it was like for the patient.

Another of my jobs was to develop the X-rays, and on one occasion this led to a bit of a ‘miracle’. The developing was done in a small broom cupboard at the top of the stairs. It contained two tall, narrow, tanks, one for developing and one for fixing, and I had to wear elbow length rubber gloves to handle the chemicals.

For processing, the X-rays were clipped into a metal holder which had four metal clips each side of the main central shaft. A sticker was put on this shaft showing which patient each X-ray belonged to. On this particular occasion, when I was in a hurry, I inadvertently opened the central clip at the top of the holder and released all eight X-rays into the fixer tank. You have to remember that I was operating in very subdued lighting and I had to fish around in the tank with my gloved hand to find these slippery little bits of film.

At last, I got them all out and because they were now developed and fixed, I could switch the main light on. But, whose X-ray was which? I did my best, and put all eight films back in the holder to dry.

Nothing happened for about two weeks. I was doing the accounts while Roland was taking impressions for some dentures when I got the call. I entered the surgery to find a lovely lady in her seventies in the chair. She smiled at me revealing her pink gums and nothing else. I turned to my boss who was holding an X-ray up to the window and examining it closely.

‘Imagine my extreme surprise to discover, on removing this patient’s X-ray from her notes, that she has grown a complete set of new teeth and indeed has a whole jaw of second teeth to follow.’ Thankfully, the correct X-ray was located in one of our younger patient’s notes, but from then on, I always checked the X-rays in the notes before handing them over for the appointment.

There were still the odd times when I wished I was anywhere else but in that surgery, but looking back, even those times were amusing.

During an upper tooth extraction I would place two clasped hands over the patient’s head to keep it nice and steady whilst Roland applied pressure to the tooth before removing. On one occasion as I applied the necessary force, I felt the patient’s hair begin to move. I was terrified that I had scalped him but then realised it was a toupee. It slipped back and forth during the procedure and unfortunately the patient left with it askew as I was unable to get it back in its proper position. Do you know how hard it is for an 19 year old not to giggle in that situation!

After two years I felt that I would like to take my training further, and considered training as a State Registered Nurse. The Queen Alexandra Nursing Service was advertising for recruits at the time and the uniform and the thought of traveling the world was very attractive. However, fate was to take yet another hand in my destiny!

Some of the more memorable patients have appeared in my short stories..

Next Monday – The Shoe Department – Cheating and surprises

About the book

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

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for dropping in and more odd jobs next Monday and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.

 

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


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

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

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

Anyway… let’s start at the beginning of my diverse career.. at age 14 years and 3 months in 1967.

Souvenir and ice-cream seller along the seafront 1967

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

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

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

My mother had to accompany me to the interview and she made me wear my school uniform to encourage a belief that I might be a worthy candidate! The interviewer was a nice man and I remember that he had a deep voice and seemed genuinely interested in what this fourteen year old had to say… which was pretty rare!

Three days later a letter arrived stating that I would be employed for the summer season, and weekends once I was back at school, at a cafe and souvenir kiosk by South Parade Pier. I would work for a maximum of six hours a day, at an hourly rate of two shillings an hour. I was rich.

I arrived excited, but understandibly nervous, and was greeted by a rather austere cafe manageress. She issued me a nylon overall and so many rules and regulations that I forgot them immediately.. Thankfully she then uttered the words…..‘I am giving you to Betty.’

I was pleasantly surprised to be handed over to a tiny, beaming woman who had been waiting for me outside the back door of the café.

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

About twenty feet from the restaurant there was a small round building. Little did I know at the time, but apart from occasional relief duties in the main café, this was going to be my work place for the next three seasons. Betty opened a door at the back of the structure.
I stepped through into the dark and stood for a moment on the threshold of a new life. The lights snapped on and I looked around me. It was filled to bursting with leather and plastic souvenirs and beach games, and stored for security reasons, a large double-sided postcard stand that needed to be taken outside to make room for the occupants.

After carrying that outside between us, Betty busied herself at the old fashioned till perched on the wooden shelf. No mean feat as it stood four feet off the ground and she could barely see over the top of the counter. I could now see the reasoning behind the three-inch heels.

Betty then proceeded to introduce me to the world of selling souvenirs which ranged from combs, purses, heart shaped badges and other small items. They either bore the coat of arms for Portsmouth and Southsea or with a male of female name. Good luck if you had been called something exotic!

She was a very patient and lovely woman, who not only showed me a management style that became a benchmark for me in my later career, but also became my friend. Her on job training was second to none, and by the second weekend she pronounced me Assistant Manager of the kiosk. I was solely responsible for stocking, selling to our many customers and cash management when she took her lunch breaks and for her days off.

Betty has featured in several of my stories in one disguise or another and even after 53 years, her influence on my work ethic, management style and sense of responsibility makes me grateful for having her in my life.

As well as providing me with some wonderful characters in addition to Betty, my time along the seafront provided me with plenty of material for future stories. These included her request for me to wear sneakers one weekend so that I could chase down and capture a couple of lads who had been pinching the saucy postcards on a regular basis; a mission that I completed to her satisfaction if not to the suitably berated offenders. I had fun with that in the book.

In my third year at the cafe, I was promoted to the front of house where whipped ice-cream was dispensed. I eventually got the knack of creating perfect whirls topped with a chocolate flake, but I am afraid that I consumed the evidence of my early failures which resulted in a need for a larger overall.

The next post follows my efforts in my first full time job working in a private dental practice at the age of seventeen.

About the book

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

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for dropping in and more odd jobs on Wednesday and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.

Just an Odd Job Girl Serialisation – Chapter Fifteen – A Cornish Getaway


Just an odd job girl sgc

Where we left off.. Imogen has spent six weeks working as a school cook and is now heading off to Cornwall to work in a hotel for the season…..

Chapter Fifteen – A Cornish Getaway

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 the railway 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 and see what transpired. After all where else was I going to go! I shivered despite the warm overcoat I was wearing. The night was cold and a thin mist was swirling around the end of the platform. All the books I had read about 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 could not tell if the booming voice was male or female. On closer examination, I realised that my original estimate of the figure being seven foot high was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. A scarf was unwound from around the throat of my new acquaintance and I saw that it was indeed a woman. 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 lights 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’m 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 pyjamas and crawled beneath the sheets. At least there were several blankets and curling into a ball, I was instantly asleep.

©sallygeorginacronin- Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Hope you enjoyed today’s chapter and next time, Imogen will be finding she needs nerves of steel as she takes on the job of assistant manager of the hotel.

Just an Odd Job Girl serialisation – Chapter Three – The Seafront


We had left Imogen at the employment agency going over her C.V with the owner Mr. Jenkins who was a little taken aback by the number of jobs that she had been employed in and also the variety. He now wants to get down to brass tacks and establish just how much actual experience she has. The chapters will get a little longer now as we get into Imogen’s story; so you better make a cup of coffee and put your feet up! You can find the previous two chapters here Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter Three

For a moment, there was an uneasy silence.

Mr. Jenkins smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew laughed.

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

‘You could say that.’ I admitted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook my mother’s hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An auspicious start to my first job!

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

It was beginning to sound a bit like school.

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

She smiled maliciously.

‘You work a week in hand here.’

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

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

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

‘I am giving you to Betty.’

The manageress turned and walked through the door.

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

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

‘Hello. She smiled at me. I’m Betty.’

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Good. Wear them tomorrow, with trousers.’

The plot thickened!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, I have.’ I replied, mystified.

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

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

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

I arrived back at the kiosk to find a beaming Betty, accompanied by the manageress of the café standing with her arms crossed and with a grim expression on her maternal face. Apparently, she had been serving a customer, with a whipped ice-cream cone, at the outside window when she had seen me streaking past, yelling mild obscenities, after the three robbers.

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

The Rottweiler nodded at Betty.

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

‘Well done ducks.’ Betty patted my arm.

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

He smiled reassuringly.

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

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

‘Absolutely, you have my undivided attention.’

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

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Chapter four coming up on Friday… of course your feedback is welcomed. If I don’t respond to comments for a little while it is because the removers are in and the next couple of days are likely to be a little chaotic.

 

Just an Odd Job Girl – Chapter Two – The curriculum Vitae


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This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved here 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.

In chapter one we met Imogen whose husband has left her for what she calls a ‘Fast Tracker’ a young ambitious woman who prefers a man who is well established and has already been trained.  Imogen is finding it rather difficult to adjust to the new situation, relying heavily on films and ice-cream to relieve the stress. Just an Odd Job Girl – Chapter One

Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘In your own time’ he prompted me.

Okay here goes.

CURRICULUM VITAE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1977 – 2001                       Housewife and mother.

I hope you are enjoying the book.. Chapter three on Wednesday, and Imogen begins to relate the stories associated with all the jobs that she had undertaken and also more about her life and marriage.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001