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


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

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

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.

My last job as housekeeper/caterer at a boarding school finished when the school broke up for the Easter holidays.

Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph taken on a return visit in 2000

 

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin – 1999

On Wednesday I share more of my adventures at the hotel…  

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 about life in the hotel on Wednesday and I hope you will join me then.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord – Odd Jobs and Characters – Car Crash and Crystal and meeting Sherlock Holmes by Sally Cronin


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

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

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

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

This episode was kindly hosted last year by Olga Nunez Miret who is the author of several novels in both English and Spanish.. she is also a translator who did an amazing job for me when she translated Tales from the Garden into Spanish.

Odd Jobs and Characters – Car Crash and Crystal and meeting Sherlock Holmes by Sally Cronin

After I left the department store in the middle of Liverpool, I was appointed manager of a crystal and gift shop in Lord Street, Southport, which is where we had bought our first home.

It was at the north end of this mile long main street, and we sold high end gift items such as Moorcroft pottery, and our own cut glass crystal glassware from the factory in the Lake District. All the glass was classified as ‘seconds’, even though there would only perhaps be a small bubble in the glass, or the cut might not be completely standard. However, the prices were terrific, with at least 40% of the normal retail price. I still have some of the glasses that I bought 34 years ago, and I was lucky enough to get another 10% discount making them very affordable.

Going to work was very easy. I walked out of our gate, then a brisk five minutes down the road, and unlocked the shop door. I really enjoyed the next 18 months, but was then offered the opportunity to manage the three shops that had now been opened, with the other two being in York and Norwich. I would also spend time in the Lake District as marketing manager to oversee the running of the factory shop, and to develop a tour around the glass works for visitors. This meant that I was away most of the week in one capacity or another, and I was given a large estate car to carry stock between the various shops.

On one occasion I had brought down a consignment of crystal to the Southport shop, picking up David from home, with the intention of delivering stock to the York shop; then spending the weekend exploring that very old and lovely city. We had set off down the motorway, which was busy with a Friday getaway. Because there was a great deal of commercial traffic, I was in the centre lane doing a steady 60 miles an hour and overtaking the trucks. I was just in the process of passing a large articulated lorry, when it suddenly veered out into the middle lane without signalling, and hit my car.

I was being pushed out into the fast lane, where traffic was moving considerably faster and there was nowhere for me to go but forward. I hit the accelerator and managed to disconnect from cab of the truck and pull in front of it; then on to the hard shoulder, where I came to rest in a state of shock. It was only then that the driver realised what he had done, and he too pulled onto the shoulder behind me. Thankfully David was not hurt despite the passenger side door being badly damaged. Once I had established that, I was out of the car and heading back to the lorry where the driver was hanging onto his wheel, waiting equally white-faced for one very angry woman charging up the hard shoulder towards him.

It was probably just as well, the police arrived shortly afterwards to make sure none of us needed treatment, or that other road users were impacted. David by this time had managed to open his passenger door and join the discussion.

The car was still driveable, although only having had it a couple of weeks; I was not looking forward to having the upcoming telephone conversation with my boss. After we had exchanged insurance details, and given our statement, which to be fair the lorry driver corroborated, we continued on our journey. However, we could hear the tinkle of broken glass from the back of the car.  I knew it was going to be interesting unpacking several boxes of expensive glassware and removing it from its tissue paper wrapping. Thankfully it was insured, and we were unhurt, but it made me paranoid about overtaking trucks for a very long time.

I loved the job, especially in the summer months in the Lake District when I would tour most of the other tourist sites to deliver leaflets and take theirs to display in our own factory. The tour was now set up, and we were about to begin accepting visitors, when I got a phone call from a gentleman who requested a private tour of the factory. It was unusual, but since we were not officially open for a few days, I agreed, and he made an appointment the next day.

It was 1984 and a new series of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes had been recently released on Granada Television, but I had not seen any of the episodes. However, I immediately recognised the man who arrived for the guided tour as the actor Jeremy Brett, because he had played Freddie in one of my favourite musicals… My Fair Lady.

We spent an hour watching glassware being blown, cut and put through the acid baths, before ending up in the crystal shop attached to the factory where he purchased one or two items. I could understand now why he wanted a private tour, as he was very well known and unlike today, stars tended to be a lot less keen to be photographed and approached by fans.

It was one of those encounters that you always remember, and I went on to watch several episodes of the series before we left to spend two years in Houston, Texas…Where I am ashamed to say I name-dropped shamelessly.

I have not as yet used Jeremy Brett as a character in one of my stories, but he is tucked away for a rainy day. As for the car crash… some events are better forgotten.

©SallyCronin 2016

About Olga Nunez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a student (of American Literature, with a Doctorate and all to prove the point, of Criminology, and of books and people in general), she writes, translates (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and although born in Barcelona, Spain, has lived in the UK for many years. She’s always loved books and is thrilled at the prospect of helping good stories reach more readers all around the world. She publishes a bilingual blog (http://www.authortranslatorolga.com ) where she shares book reviews, advice, talks about books (hers and others) and about things she discovers and enjoys.

Olga has translated her own books into Spanish of course and she has also translated some excellent Spanish books into English and you can find out more here.

I can highly recommend Olga as she translated Tales from the Garden into Spanish...http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/translationstraducciones/

Books in Spanish or English by Olga Nunez Miret

A review for Escaping Psychiatry 2: The Case of the Swapped Bodies.

A Jolly Good Read on March 22, 2017

As a doctor and a psychiatrist, the author knows well the workings of the human mind, and she brings this knowledge to the table in ‘The Case of the Swapped Bodies’.
When consulting psychiatrist Mary Miller receives an unusual document from an FBI contact, it sets in chain a puzzling series of events. As with all mystery novels, it is difficult to give a flavour of the story without spoilers. Suffice to say this is a complex, carefully structured tale involving an unusual murder, FBI-police rivalry, buried secrets, small-town gossip and innuendo, an on-off love affair, and a character who may be insane – or worse.

Olga Nunez Miret steers a careful line around the different narrative threads, and strews just enough red herrings in your path to keep you weaving back and forth between possible ‘solutions’ until the book’s closing stages. Logic and emotion interweave to keep the reader off-balance and anxious to see how resolution(s) will be achieved. You may never view American small-town life in quite the same way again.A jolly good read.

Read the reviews and buy the books Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/author/olganm

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Olga-Núñez-Miret/e/B009UC58G0

Read more reviews and follow Olga on Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6562510.Olga_N_ez_Miret

Audio bookshttp://authortranslatorolga.com/my-audiobooks/

Connect to Olga on social Media

Website –http://www.olganm.com/
Blog- http://authortranslatorolga.com/
Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/OlgaNunezMiret
Twitter- https://twitter.com/OlgaNM7

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Odd Jobs and Characters – The Steak House


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

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

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

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

This episode was kindly hosted by John W. Howell and you can find out more about John and his books later in the post.

I began my training as an assistant manager in a steak house in Kent in 1974. For the six months, I would rotate around through the two bars and two restaurants that served a simple menu of steak, chicken, and fish. Most dishes came with either French fries (chips) and peas. For the more health conscious there was a jacket potato option, but by the time several pats of butter had been added, it was as fattening as the fries. Dessert options were ice cream with chocolate sauce and sprinkled nuts, or apple pie and cream. The wine menu was short and featured the German white wines so popular at the time, with much touting of the young French red wines with alleged body and clarity.

However, despite not being a Michelin starred establishment, the training was considered to be one of the best in that particular area of the hospitality industry. It was certainly intensive, and when you consider the hours we worked daily, six days a week, the six months training was actually something you would normally complete in twelve months.

The building itself had been built in 1812 and sported the red flocked wallpaper so fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s. Smoking was still in its hey day and the ceiling was a curious shade of tobacco after 150 years of nicotine exhalation. The smell that greeted you in the morning was ‘eau de tabac’ laced with beer overtones. When you had been working until after midnight, had barely six hours sleep, you found yourself declining anything but black coffee until lunchtime.

I have to say that I loved it, despite the hard work and long hours. We had some very interesting regulars, and the locals embraced the concept of the steak house with gusto. It was cheap and cheerful, and as music blared out on a Friday and Saturday night, both downstairs and upstairs bars and restaurants were packed. The waiting list for a table could be an hour or more, but beer and schooners of sherry (lethal), dulled the senses sufficiently for the wait to be quite jovial.

During the day, only the downstairs restaurant was in use and was consistently busy. This offered the assistant managers time to do the usual administrative work needed to run the steak house, such as ordering food and spirits and cleaning the bars after the night before.

In the evenings it was my job to run the upstairs restaurant, with a team of waitresses waiting on the tables, and two bar staff, who alternated between serving pre-dinner drinks and after dinner liqueur coffees with assorted spirits (this is pre-drink-driving laws!).

The waitresses were rushed off their feet as they juggled three or four large plates laden with steak, chicken, and sides. My job to help in reducing the waiting list was to clear the tables as soon as the diners had paid, and re-equip with cutlery, glasses, and napkins as rapidly as possible. I would then dash back to the bar and announce the name of the lucky party over the tannoy system, who could now stagger after me into the restaurant.

One Saturday night in the middle of a very busy service, I had to handle a potentially difficult situation that could have ended up in the papers (thank goodness there were no mobile phones in those days). As you will remember this building was old, and there were dark recesses within the walls and ceilings, that you would have been wise to avoid for what might reside there.

I was checking the state of play on progress at a number of tables where the patrons were wiping away the evidence of their chocolate sundae. I noticed a man at a table with a party of six, bend down to retrieve his napkin. Instead, he came up with something smaller and definitely furrier than the paper serviette. I suspect that as a natural reflex, he stood with his arm held straight out from his body, clearly amazed at his catch. From my vantage point at the entrance to the restaurant, I identified the rotating body of a dead mouse.

There is a split second between shocked discovery and the public announcement of the find. Although never great at school at the 100 metre dash, I now excelled myself. Dropping the waiting list on the bar, I rushed through the restaurant and snatched the unfortunate deceased rodent from its captor, continuing on to the kitchen at warp speed. I deposited the mouse in the bin and turned and raced back the other way to find the patron staring at his hand and looking around in confusion.

Lighting in the restaurants was provided by dim wall lights in order to provide a romantic and intimate feel to the experience. It also served to conceal the tobacco infused ceiling and rather dodgy carpet. It also thankfully managed to befuddle the diner, who thankfully had not only consumed four pints of beer in the bar beforehand, but also a bottle of our best Liebfraumilch. I added to the befuddlement, by handing him his fallen napkin, and asking if the party would be interested in some liqueur coffees on the house, to compensate them for their long wait before dining.

An exterminator was called the next day and traps were hidden in all the usual haunts. But there was a postscript to this story.

One of the waitresses was a bit of a madam and was always giving the chef grief. As part of the staff’s pay, supper was included before the restaurants opened in the evening. The day after the incident, this particular waitress retrieved her indicated supper from the hot plate, and on sitting down, removed the cover. She issued a piercing scream that probably cleared the rodents from the building far more effectively than the traps. I came over to find out what the problem was, to discover her staring at her plate of battered mouse, French fries, and peas.

©Sally Cronin – 2017

 Next week – The Steak House Part Two – originally hosted by Sue Vincent.

Short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

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

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

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

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

About John Howell

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Books by John W. Howell.

One of the recent reviews for the first book in the series – My GRL.

My GRL pulled me in from abrupt murder at the start of the story and didn’t let go until the spectacular unexpected ending.

I enjoyed the writing style and humor. The plot had enough twists to keep me guessing and engaged in the story.

If you are looking for an unpredictable thriller to get lost in for a day or two, I’d recommend you giving this book a try. I’ll be picking up the other books in the series

You can read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

Read more reviews and follow John on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Connect to John.

Blog: http://www.johnhowell.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HowellWave
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed finding out about the background to some of my characters.

Smorgasbord Invitation Review 2017 – Top Personal Post 2017 – Behind the scenes of Just an Odd Job Girl


Back in the summer I asked for volunteers to host a series of posts on the background to the jobs I featured in Just an Odd Job Girl which was the first novel I wrote.

12 Bloggers very kindly invited me over and I was delighted with the response. This was the first post that I featured on my blog.. and later in 2018 I will feature the other 12 again as well in case you missed.

Writing Short Stories – Odd Jobs and Characters by Sally Cronin Series.

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

Luckily, I have a retentive memory stretching back to around the age of three, of the people, places and events in my life. Thankfully the majority of those memories are happy, but there have also been one or two life threatening occasions as well as times when the world seemed very dark. Although over time they were resolved, they too have become very useful for creating plots in stories and providing emotional context.

I was always imaginative as a child… my mother I seem to remember, called it ‘telling fibs’. For me as we travelled around to various countries, my imaginary friends were a comfort and helped me gain confidence as I made real friends. They were eventually replaced with the real life counterparts and very precious they are too.

Fifty years ago I started work on a part-time basis as soon as it was legally possible. I was fourteen years old, and even though I have had periods when not officially employed, I have been working ever since. My intention is to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next world with my keyboard in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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

Souvenir and ice-cream seller along the seafront 1967 – 1971

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 understandably 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 50 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.

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 in this series will appear on author D.G. Kaye’s blog on August 18th and follows my efforts in my first full time job working in a private dental practice at the age of seventeen (part one).

Several bloggers have invited me to guest on their blogs in coming weeks but I have one or two weeks left if you feel you would be happy to participate. I will send everything over that you need in a word document with any images attached.

 

About Sally Cronin.

After working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 19 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition. I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company, Moyhill. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.

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

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

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

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

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

My other books

I hope you enjoyed this chapter in my varied career and as I mentioned earlier I will be featuring the other jobs again. Thanks Sally

The purpose behind the serialisation of Just an Odd Job Girl – your opinion would be valued.


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I decided to serialise Just an Odd Job Girl for a couple of reasons. When I wrote the book in 2001 it was because friends felt it would make a good screenplay. As you all know things happen and life tends to get its own way, and with one thing and another, the project was put on the back burner.

Two years ago we formatted for Eversions and whilst those have sold copies; I wanted more direct feedback.Reviews are the icing on the cake, but you have to amass a great many to get a consensus on a book.  By serialising the book here on the blog I have been able to obtain a wider spread of opinions.

It has been very valuable to get the feedback from an audience of fellow writers and bloggers and I am so pleased that Imogen’s exploits are being enjoyed. Over the next three weeks or so the book will be finished; but I would like to ask a favour of those of you who have been following all the chapters as they are posted.

Can you make a note of any chapter that stood out for you in particular and that you feel would make a great sample to turn into a script format to send to agents and production companies.

At the end of the serialisation I will post all the links to the chapters in one post and ask you to select your favourite.. Based on that feedback I will select the chapter to reformat.

I really do value the tremendous support and comments to date and would love to have you along for the ride to take this book to the next stage if possible.

If you have missed any chapters so far you can find them here. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/just-an-odd-job-girl-serialisation/

Just an Odd Job Girl – serialisation – Chapter Four – At the Dentist


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Imogen is enjoying relating her experiences along the seafront as a sales assistant and is further taken aback when Andrew Jenkins asks her to tell him more about her next job which was a little more complex than serving souvenirs to tourists.

Chapter Four

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

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

I had earned two and six an hour along the seafront and at sixteen worked a forty-hour week. This gave me five pounds a week, plus tips, which were divided between all the staff. Because I was a student I did not pay tax and so I usually had at least seven pounds a week in my hand. I soon discovered that office juniors were lucky to get six pounds a week and that would be taxed. I horrified my mother by suggesting that I make the seafront my career instead, and she patiently pointed out that things would get better as I gained experience.

I wondered how I would ever gain that experience. I went for about five interviews that, frankly, put me off the idea of working in an office, for life. All the women who conducted the interviews seemed dried up and humourless. I was used to the informality of the seafront, and the thought of sitting at a desk staring, at a wall, typing-up dictation all day terrified me. But then I saw the advert in the local evening paper.

RECEPTIONIST/SECRETARY REQUIRED
PRIVATE DENTAL PRACTICE
Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Seven pounds per week.

This was more like it! I rang the number and spoke to a very friendly girl who took some details and slotted me in for an interview the next day.

I sat in the waiting room with two or three nervous looking people whom I assumed were patients. There were three dentists in the practice judging by the signs on the door, and I was to be interviewed by Mr. Forsythe-Brown. I felt as if I was about to have an extraction and wondered if I was doing the right thing.

I was ushered into the ground floor surgery and found myself sitting opposite a large, leather covered desk. On the other side was a man in his sixties. Hair slicked back, little half glasses perched on a large, beaky nose and hands crossed in front of him. His hands caught my attention immediately. They had a dry, scrubbed look with very white nails. He cleared his throat.

‘Miss Baxter. I am Mr. Forsythe-Brown the senior partner in this practice. You would be working solely for myself as my other partners have their own receptionists and dental nurses. Perhaps I can ask you some questions?’

The interview passed in a blur. Mr. Forsythe-Brown fired questions at me so rapidly that I only had time to tell the truth.

‘You are very young.’ He observed.

‘However, that means you may not have had time to learn shoddy habits, and I will have an opportunity to show you the correct manner of conducting yourself.’

Oops!

‘You can start on Monday. You will be paid seven pounds per week and be provided with two white coats to be worn at all times.’

Sounded familiar: I hoped that there would be no unidentifiable stains on these overalls, as I thought that this time, they were unlikely to be ketchup.

I found myself uttering my acceptance, and before I could change my mind, the pleasant girl, whose name was Sandra, was showing me out of the door.

‘Are you leaving the job?’ I asked, hoping to establish if there had been any unsavoury behaviour on the part of my new employer.

‘No, I’m his dental nurse but we are so busy that I cannot cope anymore with the reception duties and the paperwork so we needed someone else.’ She smiled.

‘Don’t worry. His bark is worse than his bite. I’ll fill you in on him on Monday when you start, but do be on time, he hates people turning up late for appointments.’

With that, I returned home with the joyful news that I was in gainful employment and would be starting Monday. My parents were relieved that yet another daughter was successfully launched into the big bad world, and I enjoyed my last three days of freedom.

Monday morning arrived far too soon. Although I had worked for three years, this was my first full time job. I arrived fifteen minutes early and found Sandra in the small office off the hall.

‘Oh good you’re early.’ She smiled and sat me down in front of the typewriter.

‘We have this month’s accounts to prepare. As we deal with the private patients, we bill them after their appointments. The other dentists in the practice deal with all the National Health patients and they pay at the time.’

So started my introduction, and I have to say that I didn’t see Mr. Forsythe-Brown, or FB as he became known, until the end of the day.

‘Miss Baxter, could you come into the surgery please.’ He called through on the intercom on the desk.

Nervously, I entered the inner sanctum and found FB at the sink ferociously scrubbing his hands. He turned and nodded for me to sit at the desk. After a few more minutes of concentrated washing and drying he came and sat down.

‘Miss Smith tells me you are doing well for your first day. Tomorrow you will begin to make appointments under her guidance. I want you to go through all the patient files and familiarise yourself with their names and treatments so that when they ring for an appointment you know who you are talking to.’

Oh my God! I knew that there were at least four hundred patients. I was never going to learn all their names, let alone their treatments.

‘I expect you to have done this within the next month, by which time you will no longer require Mrs. Smith’s attention and she can spend more time in the surgery with me doing the job she is supposed to be doing.’

He looked at me for some acknowledgement that I concurred with this ultimatum. What else could I do but nod and say ‘Yes Sir.’

That set the tone for the first three months of my employment. I was learning so much that the time went very quickly, and I took pride in the fact that I did learn all the patients’ names, and in addition I produced all the monthly accounts on time and scheduled patients’ appointments correctly. After three months, FB gave me a pay rise of another ten shillings a week and I bought the whole family a take-away to celebrate.

Then disaster struck, or so it seemed at the time. I had very little contact with FB himself. Sandra was the bearer of messages, and instructions, and apart from the occasional greeting, or request for a patient file, my dealings with him were limited.

I was completing that month’s accounts when I heard a thud from the surgery. Immediately, the door opened and FB stuck his head out.

‘Get in here quickly Miss Baxter’

I rushed in, and found Sandra lying on the floor, a patient in the chair and FB standing with an instrument in one hand and a piece of plastic tubing in the other. I of course ran over to Sandra and began to kneel down.

‘No, no,’ he shouted. ‘She’ll be alright, get over here and hold this tube in the patient’s mouth immediately.’

I was too shocked to do anything but obey. I really had not come close to blood before, but there was no time to be squeamish. I placed the hooked tube back in the patient’s mouth, and started sucking up the saliva and water that was pooled under his tongue. I could see that a back tooth was exposed, and FB set to with his instruments and proceeded to extract it. It was a lengthy process as the root was curved. I was fascinated, and tried to follow FB’s instructions as promptly as possible. The job was finished and the patient gratefully leaving the chair when we both remembered poor Sandra.

She had revived and was sitting with her head between her knees on the chair in the corner. I ushered the patient out of the door, made a follow up appointment, and carried on with my accounts.

Luckily, we had no more patients that day and Sandra went home to make an appointment with her doctor. In seventeen years of working as a dental nurse, she had never fainted at the sight of blood before.

The next morning, when I arrived for work FB called me straight into the surgery, where I found Sandra sitting white-faced at the desk.

‘Sit down Miss Baxter.’ FB invited.

Oh dear. What was coming now? Was it somehow my fault, had I made a mess up of things when I stepped into the breach yesterday? I waited nervously.

It was Sandra who spoke first.

‘Imogen, I have been married for twenty years and we unfortunately have not had any children. We had given up hope but it turns out that I’m three months pregnant and that’s why I fainted yesterday.’

Although she was white-faced, I could see that she was radiant too.

FB took over.

‘Miss Baxter. I don’t like change. Mrs Smith has been with me for seventeen years and I am used to her ways. She was the one who persuaded me to take on extra assistance, and I must say you have been most helpful.’

He paused, and I waited for the axe to fall.

‘Mrs. Smith can no longer work in the surgery and so she will take over your duties outside until she leaves to have her baby and you will take her place in the surgery and I will train you as my dental nurse.’

I sat there in stunned silence.

The very next day, I found myself standing at the doorway of the surgery about to embark on a completely unexpected career move. FB was not an easy man to please. He was a perfectionist, and young as I was, he gave me no leeway. I had to learn, and learn fast, and it was exciting and nerve-wracking. But, by the time Sandra left, three months later, I loved it. In fact, we decided that, with some juggling of appointments, we could leave Wednesday afternoons free for my paperwork and FB could go and play golf. This way we did not have to take anybody else on to act as receptionist. It was hectic but we managed and there were times when it was not necessary for me to be in attendance in the surgery and I could get on with the administration work.

*   *   *

I paused and looked over at Andrew.

‘Go on. Tell me about some of the highlights during those two years. It sounds fascinating.’

There he went again. Fascinating was not a word I had associated with myself for years.

‘Andrew. I don’t mean to question your judgement. I love talking about myself, but is it usual to spend so much time with an applicant?’

‘No, it isn’t.’ He studied his hands for a moment. ‘You remind me of my wife. She died three years ago, and although you look nothing like her, you have the same spark, and I suppose I am being purely selfish by wanting to know more about you.’

He smiled, and I could tell he was a little embarrassed.

‘I had left today clear for paperwork, so you are in fact doing me a favour, but if you need to be somewhere else, then please tell me and we will cut this short.’

It was a long time since a man had paid me so much attention, and had listened to every word I said. What girl in her right mind was going to pass that up?

‘I have all the time in the world.’ I assured him. ‘But please let me know if it starts to get boring.’

*   *   *

Right. Highlights of my job with FB.

One of the problems we had to overcome was the age difference. FB was a retired Army Colonel who had served in the desert in the Second World War. On retirement from the Army, at fifty, he had gone into private practice. He was fifty years older than I was.

It was the sixties, and FB found the whole scene far too much. He did not approve of either the dress of the day, or the behaviour of the young. He would not tolerate lateness or any evidence of nights on the town, and it was hard for a seventeen-year-old to be in such a controlled environment. The up-side was that I learnt a great deal about self-discipline and work ethics, which stayed with me for the rest of my life.

I had much to learn. In those days, although dentistry was not as sophisticated as today it was still complicated enough.

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. This of course meant that the electric, high-speed drill was non-operational. So, out would come the ‘squeeze-box’. This powered a drill attached to a pulley. I would pump up and down on a pedal and this provided enough energy to operate the drill at a painfully slow speed. Painful enough just watching, so I can only imagine what it was like for the patient.

On one occasion we had no electricity for two days and I developed cramp in my calf muscles from too much pumping. If you have ever tried to rub your head in one direction and your stomach in the other then you can imagine what it was like to be pumping away with your leg while handing over instruments, operating the sucker, also pump operated, and mixing amalgam.

Our other piece of outdated machinery was our X-ray unit. Definitely at least ten years old, if not more. It was huge and resided in one corner of the surgery. It had a flexible arm with a large wedge shaped unit on the end. There was a nozzle attached to it and this was placed against the patient’s cheek, the button pushed and the picture taken. We used to leave the room during the procedure but I was never convinced that the machine wasn’t leaking radiation all over the place.

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 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 FB was taking impressions for some dentures when I got the call.

‘Miss Baxter, could you come in here a moment?’

I recognised that oily, smooth tone of voice. I had done something wrong.

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 FB who was holding an X-ray up to the window and examining it closely.

‘Miss Baxter, we appear to have a bit of a miracle on our hands. Perhaps you could shed some light on it?’

I had already learnt that FB could be quite sarcastic when the mood took him and he was in full flood now.

‘Mrs James as you are aware requires new dentures. On her last visit, I took an X-ray – as she was experiencing some pain beneath the gum – and I suspected that a root might have been left behind during her extractions several years ago.’

He paused for effect.

‘Imagine my extreme surprise to discover, on removing Mrs. James 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.’

Oh dear!

‘From this X-ray I would determine Mrs. James to be about eight years old.’

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.

It was generally interesting work, and although FB was a tough boss he was also fair. I now earned eleven pounds a week for the two roles I was performing, which was a lot of money for someone of my age. I had recently turned eighteen and life was good. 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.

Like the time we were removing an upper molar from a rather large man. I would place my hands, laced across the top of a patient’s head during an upper extraction. This would hold the patient steady and apply pressure downwards when FB was pushing upwards. Not very elegant but it worked. In this case, I discovered that the patient was wearing a hairpiece. I had just placed my hands on his head when his hair started moving alarmingly around his scalp.

‘Miss Baxter, would you hold the patient’s head steady.’ He hissed at me, between clenched teeth.

As FB was so close to the patient, he couldn’t really shout at me.

‘I am trying to.’

Obviously I sounded a little stressed, and FB raised his eyes to my level and stopped what he was doing.

I lifted my hand, and pointed downwards at the offending article now perched precariously over the patient’s right eyebrow.

A look of irritation crossed FB’s face. We were half way through the extraction and there was no going back. He jerked his head at me to replace my hands on the man’s head, which I did with some trepidation. I found that, if I applied a great deal of pressure, I could just about hold the toupee in place and provide the leverage necessary for FB to complete the procedure.

Thankfully the tooth was extracted and the patient sent on his way a relieved man. This probably lasted until he caught sight of his reflection somewhere on his journey home which would have revealed a rather large gap at the back of his head and a lot of hair lying low over his eyebrows.

I believe that was the first time I ever heard FB laugh out loud. He waited, of course, until I had left the surgery. My hand was on the doorknob, and I was just about to return to collect a file when I heard the peals of laughter from inside.

Unfortunately, FB’s wife, who had been ill for some time, died, and he decided, at the age of sixty-nine to retire to the country. He was very generous to me, giving me a lump sum and a very good reference. I felt that I would like to take dental nursing further, and considered training as a State Registered Nurse. The Queen Alexandra Nursing Service was advertising for recruits at the time and the uniform was very attractive.

*   *   *

Andrew looked down at the C.V.

‘I can’t see anything here about you becoming a nurse, what happened?’

‘That is a whole different story, which has nothing to do with my employment history.’ It was also one of the more embarrassing episodes of my life and one that I had chosen to forget until now.

‘It sounds intriguing! Come on, spill the beans.’ I was obviously not going to get away with keeping this to myself. But, I was enjoying myself for the first time in ages and even if I didn’t get a job out of this, my self-esteem was getting a terrific boost.

©sallygeorginacronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001

Next time embarrassing episodes and time for Imogen to smarten herself up a bit if she is to get another job.