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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh thank you, thank you.’ I gushed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s what I call ‘Showping’!

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Chapter Twelve – Advertising Sales

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

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Well!’

She paused for effect.

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

She stood up and did a twirl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Miss Baxter, please sit down.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Chapter Eleven – The Funeral Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay! Think fast about this one.

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

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

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

Nobby? Who was he?

Paddy could see my obvious confusion.

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

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

‘That’s grand love.’

Paddy turned to go back down the hall.

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

He looked over his shoulder with a slightly wicked grin.

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

I shook my head in disbelief, and went white.

‘You’ll get used to it.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

He looked in my direction.

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

And with that, he was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Eight – The Steak House by Sally Cronin


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

Previously  Working in the Cosmetic Department of Huntleys was not all about nail varnish and lipsticks, there were also fascinating social issues to be discovered and embraced.

Chapter Eight – The Steakhouse

My girdle was killing me and as soon as I arrived home I raced upstairs and removed the offending undergarment. My body did not return to its customary shape for about five minutes, which caused me some concern. However, I was soon sitting down to lunch and for some reason I was motivated to by-pass the French bread, mayonnaise and pate, and indulge in a wholemeal, tomato sandwich and a piece of fruit.

It was a while since I had felt attracted to another man but I recognised the signs. Incentive to lose weight had been sadly lacking of late, and had been the reason behind my constant failure to stick to a healthy lifestyle. I wasn’t sure where my relationship with Andrew was going to lead, perhaps nowhere, but if I could lose a stone in the process it would be a bonus.

After lunch, I looked out of the kitchen window to the back of the garden. The green gate that opened onto the forest had not been unlocked since my arrival in the house six months ago an I had to root around in the drawers in the dresser to unearth the key tag marked ‘G-gate’.

I put on a pair of sensible shoes and headed out of the back door, with my rolled-up CV in my pocket for reference. The key fitted, and although rusted, the gate opened with a protesting groan. The paths in the forest had been beckoning since I arrived, and for the first time, I succumbed to their invitation and set off through an avenue of trees.

Once I was into my stride, and my heart and breathing had slowed down a little, I reached back through the years to 1972.

* * *

There had been almighty ructions in the house over my decision to leave home and go to Eastbourne, although I imagine that the problem was more about my being with Peter than about my leaving home. Even the fact that I would be living-in at a job I had obtained through a catering magazine, and not with Peter, in digs, did nothing to persuade my parents that I was doing the right thing.

They were very disappointed that I had dropped the idea of nursing, and felt that I was taking a backward step by becoming a catering assistant. But I was in love, and nothing was going to stand in my way, not even my parent’s disapproval. With all my clothes jammed into two suitcases, I packed myself into Peter’s small car and off we headed into the wide blue yonder.

Peter was in his last year of study, so I was not looking for a career. However, I did need a job that would also gave me a roof over my head. When I saw my drab little home, in the attic of the steak house, for the first time, I realised that I was not going to be enjoying the home comforts that I was used to.

About ten feet square, the room arched into the roof space, where cobwebs had been gathering since the building was erected in 1812. A single bed was pressed against the wall and dingy blue curtains flapped at the small grimy window. I thought for a minute that the window was open but on investigation discovered that it was the draft around the badly fitting glass that was the source of the wind tunnel effect in the room. There was an old, oak wardrobe and dresser and a chair in the corner.

Down the hall was the bathroom – shared by the five staff who lived in. Strangely, none of them seemed to be able find the cleaning products under the sink, left there for the purpose of removing stains from toilets and baths. I thought longingly of my room at home and the pristine bathroom next to it. Oh well, there was always love – wasn’t there?

I unpacked my two cases and changed into the uniform that had been provided.

My training was to take four weeks in total, with a week in each of the four departments in the steak house: Bar, Restaurant, Kitchen and Stock Control.

Because of my previous experience with accounts and retail, I was classified as ‘Assistant to the Assistant Manager’. What this really meant was ‘General Dogsbody’. If anybody was off sick anywhere in the establishment, I got to fill in for them. Actually, I rather enjoyed the variety that this offered and I soon made friends with the other live-in staff and managed to get myself into and out of some trouble along the way.

Peter was studying hard, and working a part-time job too. We only really saw each other on my evening off, and one other day a week. If I had stayed at home we would not have seen each other more than a couple times during term, so we counted ourselves lucky to have that.

The departments that I spent most time in were the bar and restaurant. The building, as I have mentioned, was built in 1812, and had some additions to the rear of the property where the kitchen was housed. The downstairs bar and restaurant were decorated in red flock wallpaper with red velvet seats and brown carpet. The ceiling was an interesting, mottled, tan and yellow colour. I thought it rather unusual and mentioned it to my boss. He laughed and said it was ‘tint de nicotine’, which also explained the smell that pervaded the place, masked by some kind of antiseptic smelling deodoriser. At the end of each day, my clothes and hair would reek of tobacco smoke, that lay like a layer of smog about six feet off the ground in the bar. Being so tall had its disadvantages, and I began to walk with a stoop to keep below the contamination layer.

The bar work was hectic and wet. The steak house was busy, particularly at the weekends. Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday lunchtimes, were manic. We would sometimes have a waiting list of up to two hours on a Saturday night, and of course, this meant that every table in the bar was packed. Most of the men drank beer and the women wine or lager. We were not into designer cocktails, at the time, so life behind the bar consisted mainly of pulling pints and making liqueur coffees for the after dinner crowd. The floor used to become slick with overflow from the pumps. Add spilt cream, peanuts and bottle tops and you have a skating rink. I once ended up sliding from one end of the bar to the other on my backside and still managed not to spill the Irish coffee that I had just made. Apart from being dog-tired at the end of each shift, nothing spectacular ever happened in the bar. That was reserved for the restaurant and kitchen.

After eight weeks, and on the resignation of the deputy restaurant manager, I was promoted. I have no idea why; except that I always accepted whatever job I was given and got on with it, generally without complaining. I was given a pay rise of two pounds a week, which was most welcome, and was also given two long black skirts for evening wear in the restaurant.

My first week went smoothly enough. Lunchtimes and evenings were busy, but nice and steady. Then Friday night arrived. We were booked solid – three sittings, from six in the evening through to last orders, at ten. What I had failed to realise, when I accepted this new position, was the amount of juggling one had to do.

The menu was simple enough, with a choice of only three starters, soup, pate or juice. The main courses were steak (in various disguises), chicken in red wine or fish and chips. You could have an ice cream or sorbet for dessert and this was included in your meal. The wine list was short and young, and so were the waitresses. The grill chef was experienced and could rattle out the orders like a conveyor belt, at least when he could read the waitresses writing.

The customers had to be in and out in just over an hour to enable us to lay the table up again for the next booking. Everything had to be timed to perfection. But not, I’m afraid, on my first Friday.

As a perfect recipe for disaster, you need to take: an inexperienced assistant restaurant manager; three sick waitresses, leaving five disgruntled ones; a grill chef with a hangover from lunchtime; two hundred hungry customers; and a dead mouse!

We suffered an evening of overbooking, wrong orders, meals taking twice as long to get to the customers, and a broken dish-washer that ate the cutlery.

By ten o’clock that night, I was running on adrenaline. I was clearing tables, and laying them up again, serving wine, replacing undercooked steaks, and seeing customers to their tables. I was perspiring. My feet hurt, and I thought that the evening would never end. The eating was at its peak – a frenzy of steak, fish, chips and ice cream. I paused by the entrance before using the microphone to call the next group of diners forward. I glanced down the aisle of tables and noticed that a customer was bent over retrieving his serviette from under the table.

His hand re-appeared not holding the red paper napkin as expected but a mouse, by its tail.
I do not remember consciously thinking about my next move. I dashed down the aisle with my hand outstretched. Just as the man went to stand up and wave his unexpected find around the room for all to see, and just before he opened his mouth to shout the news, I grabbed the mouse in mid stride and shot into the kitchen. I threw the offending creature into the nearest bin and shot back out again. The customer was still staring at his hand in mystification. The light had been dim, and my reaction fast. Could I get away with it? Adrenaline still pumping I walked calmly over to him.

‘Oh thank you so much for finding that stuffed mouse. The manager’s daughter was playing in here today, and would not go to sleep until we found Mickey.’

I could see that there was some slight hesitancy about accepting my fulsome approach.
‘Please have a liqueur coffee on the house as a thank you.’

That clinched it. He sat down, looked up and smiled.

‘That’s one for me and the rest of my party isn’t it?’ At least we had an understanding.

At the end of the night I collapsed in a heap, into a bath of lukewarm water, and wished myself a thousand miles away. No other night would be as bad, but I have never worked so hard as I did in that restaurant.

The mouse, unfortunately, had more work to do. The next day a waitress, who had spurned the attentions of the under chef, found Mickey served up, with chips and peas, on a plate in the warmer. The under chef was sporting a black eye for dinner that night.

We had fun too. Most of the customers just wanted a night out, with good food at a reasonable price. They were not looking for a posh restaurant, with fancy wine and snooty waiters. They enjoyed the bustle, and cracked jokes with the staff as they downed their steak and ice cream, and very few gave us trouble. Sometimes they got a little loud, especially if there was a delay in getting to their table. We did not give specific times at the weekend, we used a first-come-first-served basis. So they could be waiting for up to three hours for their turn. This could mean several pints and glasses of wine, and trouble. Most of it was easy to diffuse but we occasionally had to call to the kitchen for assistance. There is not much to match the sight of the large Irish chef, Paddy, and his two kitchen porters, Dave and Pete, in full riot gear charging up the restaurant rolling up their sleeves. One sight of the rescue team and peace was normally restored. I got quite philosophical about it in the end and little did I realise how this would stand me in good stead in my next job.

In my time at O’Ryan’s, there was only one job that I really did not like. On Sunday nights we did a stock take of the food. The business was successful because it provided good quality food at a very reasonable cost. This meant very strict portion control, down to the last pea. My job was to count everything that was left, on Sunday night, taking into account deliveries during the week, and then work out what had been sold, and how much wastage there had been. That was straightforward enough, but it was the physical counting of every item including the weighing of the bags of frozen peas that I found tedious.

What I found terrifying was the two hours at the end of the stock-take, where I sat in the office in the furthest end of the attic. I was not terrified because of the task in hand, but because for some strange reason, I would be covered in goose-bumps, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I kept on thinking that there was someone in the room with me and I would look over my shoulder, constantly, at the blank wall behind me.

This went on for several weeks, until one day I happened to be talking to an old boy that came in every day for his schooner of sherry. He was about ninety, and loved to spend a few minutes chatting with the girls. My break coincided with his second glass of sherry, and I would often sit with him and listen to his tales of his time up the Kyber Pass on his motorbike.

I asked him one day if he knew the history of the building. He smiled, and looked up at me from under bushy eyebrows.

‘Seen her have you?’ He whispered.

‘Seen who.’ I whispered back.

‘His wife, she haunts the place you know.’ He looked around him to ensure that no one else was within earshot.

‘Don’t want to scare the customers away do we?’ He cackled away into his sherry while I tried to decide if he was having a joke at my expense.

‘The man who built this place was a rich merchant.’ He continued swiftly.
‘After a few years he fell in love with a widow and tried to get his wife to leave him.’
He paused for effect.‘When she refused, he locked into the room at the end of the attic and starved her to death, then married the other one.’

Looking across the bar he swayed slightly in his seat and went quiet. I checked to see if he was still breathing. ‘Never forgave him, she didn’t, and has been haunting upstairs ever since. Must have annoyed her something rotten having starved to death and then them turn it into a bleeding steak house.’

He was laughing his head off and kept patting my hand as he rocked back and forth.

I still don’t know all the truth, but from that time on I would never sit in the office on my own at night, and bribed one of the other assistants to always sit with me.

Peter was not helpful, and thought that the whole thing was an elaborate story that the old boy made up to frighten us young girls in the restaurant. I should have realised at that point what a miserable imagination he had. But then he asked me to marry him – out of the blue – and all notions of ghosts and starvation were banished to the back of my mind.

He was coming to the end of his studies in Eastbourne, and had been offered a job, for six months, in a bank on the Isle of Wight. He wanted us to get engaged, and for us to live together before getting married, in a year or so. More disapproval on the horizon from certain parental quarters, of that I was sure. It would mean another job change, but that was okay. I had ceased to find the adrenaline rush at the weekends exciting and quite looked forward to a change of pace. What I did not expect was for it to get faster.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Aug 02, 2018 Carol Taylor rated it Five Stars

Imogen was traded in at the age of 50 for a younger model or Fast Tracker in her words. I smiled and laughed out loud throughout as I could relate to much except my dress was made of tin foil and not red. Occupied at first by getting her new home in order Imogen then found herself eating and watching movies and of course piling on the pounds. Determined to make a change after seeing an advert in a local paper she took the plunge and went for an interview.

Andrew Jenkins was like no one Imogen had met and once he had put Imogen at her ease invited her to start at the beginning of her work history to put Imogen at her ease he explained that this would help him build a picture and enable him to find the perfect job for her. What followed was a joy to read and anyone who reads this is very likely to discover that they are not so very different to Imogen and the discoveries she made about herself and how it truly reflects the life story of so many women of a certain age.

The author has an easy going style which makes this story hard to put down as she goes through the many jobs she had Sally Cronin tells the tale of many and varied positions some being just downright funny. A story of a life before children and after they had flown the nest and Imogen had been discarded but how she rose like a phoenix from the flames a new woman. If you want a light-hearted read with a moral attached then this book is recommended and I will definitely be reading more from this author I loved it.
A light entertaining read with a powerful message.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Seven – The Cosmetic Department – Sally Cronin


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

Previously Imogen had regaled Andrew with her antics as one of the team in the Ladies Fashion department at Huntleys, and her run in with shoplifters.

Chapter Seven – The Cosmetic Department.

The time I enjoyed most during my days at Huntley’s was my time in the cosmetic department.

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

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

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

The three months I spent there were very happy, and relatively uneventful except for one rather unexpected development.

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

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

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

‘I think that we might have a foundation that would tone down the redness,’ I offered.
‘I can then blend you a powder to ensure that it lasts all day if that would help?’

She smiled at me and perched on the little round stool the other side of the counter. The following half-hour was both informative and enjoyable. My new customer was funny and totally unconcerned by her strange appearance. She introduced herself as Dolly and regaled me with her recent escapades.

One of these escapades involved total hair removal from most parts of her anatomy. I had just seen her hands, which were red, and raw looking, from the treatment. I hazarded a guess as to the painful nature of the removal from the rest of her body. She was very frank about the five o’clock shadow and we discussed various methods of concealing this. As I came to the end of her particular powder blend, she leant across the counter and motioned for me to come closer.

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

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

He moved back and looked at me expectantly. Looking back, he was obviously looking for the usual distaste and rejection of his circumstances, but I was too young and naïve to even understand what he meant by operation. At the time, I just felt sorry for him and he looked so pleased when we applied the new foundation and powder that I only felt satisfaction.

He paid his bill and left, and when I turned back from the counter, I found five or six other consultants looking on with bemused expressions. Some were shaking their heads and muttering something about ‘they won’t like that upstairs.’ I was pleased with a very good sale and really did not think too much more about it, until the next day that is.

I was stocking a shelf at the back of the department when one of the women came racing around the corner.

‘Imogen, Imogen, come quickly you’re wanted at the counter.’

I hurried across to where the manageress of the department was standing with arms crossed and a severe look on her face.

‘Deal with it Miss Baxter and get rid of them before our other clients see them.’ She hissed at me as I arrived panting at her side.

I glanced around her shoulder at the powder blending section and caught my breath. Standing tall and proud were too extremely elegantly dressed ladies. Unlike my previous customer, these two ladies were really only remarkable in their height and breadth of shoulder. On closer inspection, I could see that their legs, finely covered in sheer nylon, were rather on the chunky side. Large hands with long, lacquered fingernails were clasped in front of them as they waited patiently for attention.

The manageress was still glaring at me, and I realised that it was all down to me. I moved behind the counter and approached the expectant pair who smiled warmly at me.

‘Are you Imogen?’ the younger of the two asked. I nodded my head.

‘Our friend Dolly recommended you for all our cosmetic requirements and told us that you were very kind and helpful yesterday.’

I could feel a distinct coolness behind me, and guessed that my every move was being watched. It was decision time. I could either be rude, and turn these customers away, or do my job, which was to sell cosmetics. I chose to do my job, and fifty pounds later had reached my weekly target in just half an hour.

As I had started to serve my new customers, I had heard the sharp intake of breath behind me. There was a further gasp, as the two ‘ladies’ departed, vowing to tell everyone to come and see me, and that they would be back every month for their own requirements.

An hour later and I was upstairs in the General Manager’s office. My manageress had already been ensconced with Mr. Baxter for some time and she sat smugly in the corner as I stood before the desk.

‘Ah, Miss Baxter. We meet again.’ Mr. Dempsey looked up from some figures on his desk.’

‘I understand from Miss Fraser that you have been cultivating a rather interesting new clientele recently.’

I wasn’t sure if this was a question or a statement so waited to see what would come next.

‘Miss Fraser is concerned that it may affect our figures, as other clients may not feel comfortable being served in the same department as these, how shall I put it,’ he paused, ‘unusual customers.’

He looked directly at me.

‘What is your opinion Miss Baxter?’

I must be a magnet for trouble. There were staff in Huntley’s who had been there for thirty years and never even met the General Manager let alone been reprimanded twice in as many months.

What did I have to lose? I only had two months left; I could always go temping if necessary. I had never actually been fired before and I was always open to new experiences.

‘Mr Dempsey,’ I began my unprepared speech. ‘These customers are spending a great deal of money, it would not be good business to turn them away.’

I looked across the table to determine the reaction so far. Mr. Dempsey nodded slightly, and waited for me to continue. I thought quickly before opening my mouth again.

‘How about we set up the counter at the back of the department, near the side entrance, with all the usual products that these customers require. Then I could tell them that Huntley’s has done this so that we can provide a discreet service for them, offering a private consultation area.’

I waited while my proposal sank in. I could see, out of the corner of my eye that Miss Fraser was not exactly enamoured of the idea. If looks could kill, I would have been dead and gone.

‘Interesting Miss Baxter.’ Mr. Dempsey looked back down at the figures in front of him.

‘I would certainly be reluctant to turn away such good business, but at the same time it should not be at the expense of our regular customers.’

He continued, smiling slightly. ‘Very well, we will adopt your idea for a month and review the situation at that time. I will leave it to you to persuade these customers to be discreet and I will be keeping a close eye on the department on a regular basis.’

Further sharp intake of breath from the corner.

‘That is alright with you isn’t it Miss Fraser?’ Mr. Dempsey looked over at the rigid form to his left. Somehow, his tone brooked no argument, and I knew that the prospect of my new customers and constant surveillance by the General Manager was not the outcome Miss Fraser had hoped for. That stress was no doubt going to be passed onto me, in spades, during my remaining two months, but somehow, I didn’t care. Perhaps this stuffy environment could be changed after all, which would make the store a much more enjoyable place to work.

I was right, Miss Fraser took delight in criticising me on a constant basis. Tapping her watch if I arrived thirty seconds late, insisting on counter signing any cheques I took, implying to customers that I was very much the junior, and generally making my life as difficult as possible.

On the plus side, my little department did roaring business. My ‘ladies’ used the side entrance and would perch on the three bar stools on the other side of the counter while I concocted and experimented with various products to enhance their complexions. They completed my education in the ways of their alternate lifestyle.

* * *

Two months later and my appointment with nursing was just around the corner. I have mentioned that I had met Peter during the nine months I was at Huntley’s, and he was constantly nagging me to give up the idea of nursing, as he did not want me to go away for the next three years.

He was moving to Sussex to finish his studies and wanted me to go with him. I wavered, and in the end love won out. I had to figure a way of telling my parents of my decision. They would not be happy, but at nineteen you know it all and dive straight in where angels fear to tread.

Before I left Huntley’s I had one more brush with Mr. Dempsey. He had got into the habit of visiting the department two or three times a week. But once he was satisfied that our new programme was working, and that our other business was not being effected, he cut down his visits. Friday afternoon was his walkabout day and he usually ended up in our department around three in the afternoon.

On my last day, the girls, who had become friendlier over the last couple of months, took me out at lunchtime and plied me with drinks – perhaps they we hoping to be chosen to take over my lucrative business empire when I left?

I have never been able to drink at lunchtime and was well and truly under the weather by the time I returned to work. Miss Fraser was on holiday and her deputy, a decidedly warmer individual, decided that I perhaps should be occupied away from customers. She suggested that I might dress the three glass counters that contained our perfume and cosmetic displays. I was thrilled at the prospect of showing off my artistic ability and headed off downstairs to the basement where our window dressers lived.

I was left to my own devices and by three, I was finished. Mr. Dempsey entered the department and began his tour of inspection. He ended up standing next to me as I surveyed my handiwork.

In each of the three glass counters lay a solitary, replica, tree branch. Scattered across the bottom of the counter were handfuls of artificial rose petals. There was only one cosmetic item per display. A lipstick in one, open and on its side, a bottle of perfume with the cap off and a glass bottle of hand cream leaking its contents over the felt lining of the counter. But this wasn’t the best bit. Under each tree branch lay a stuffed dove, toes up and lifeless. I thought it was hysterical and tried vainly to keep this under control.

Mr Dempsey took in the three artistic offerings and finally turned to me.

‘I understand that you are leaving us today Miss Baxter.’

Looking up at his unsmiling face, I nodded, trying hard not to breathe alcoholic fumes directly into his face.

‘I extend my heartfelt good wishes to your next employer.’ He shook his head slightly.

‘We shall certainly miss your presence at Huntley’s.’ With that he turned and left the department and I had the distinct feeling that a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

* * *

Andrew was laughing, and so was I. I had forgotten about the doves, and my efforts to interpret the atmosphere of that stuffy place, but looking back I also felt pride that I had stood up to the establishment and won some small victories.

‘It’s time for lunch and I have to get on with this damn paperwork or Elizabeth will want my hide.’ Andrew stood up.

‘I have some ideas about the sort of position that would be interesting for you and would offer you the opportunity to slip back into the work environment.’ He paused for a moment.
‘How about we get together on Friday, at midday to discuss the options?’

I was thrilled. Not only was there the prospect of a job, but I would get to see this man again. I wasn’t sure what was making my heart beat a little faster but I suspect it was not the thought of going back out to work.

He helped me on with my coat.

‘This has been a valuable exercise and I would like you to continue with the process over the next couple of days. Go through all the jobs that you held and look at them closely.’

He looked at me intently.
‘You need to understand both your abilities, and what you achieved because of them. You did a great thing for those transvestites at a time when public opinion was much more unforgiving.’

He smiled and took my hand.

‘I wish I had known that nineteen year old, she sounded like fun.’

Did that mean that he did not think that I was fun now? Somehow, the thought made me realise that it was stupid of me to think of him in any other way than as a person who would find me a job. After all, what an earth would an attractive man like him see in this middle-aged, overweight and frumpy person?

I turned towards the door.

‘I’ll look forward to seeing you on Friday.’ He opened the door and touched me gently on the shoulder.

‘Don’t forget be kind to yourself.’

Had he been reading my thoughts?

I smiled and headed out, past Elizabeth, and into the bustling high street.

I was hungry, but with new-found determination, I passed by the tantalising aroma of fish and chips wafting from the shop on the corner, and headed straight home. I was actually excited about this project and I couldn’t wait to re-live more good memories

The next position after Huntley’s beckoned. Catering Assistant at O’Ryan’s Steak House, near Peter’s college, in Sussex. First, however, there was something I needed to do.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Aug 02, 2018 Carol Taylor rated it Five Stars

Imogen was traded in at the age of 50 for a younger model or Fast Tracker in her words. I smiled and laughed out loud throughout as I could relate to much except my dress was made of tin foil and not red. Occupied at first by getting her new home in order Imogen then found herself eating and watching movies and of course piling on the pounds. Determined to make a change after seeing an advert in a local paper she took the plunge and went for an interview.

Andrew Jenkins was like no one Imogen had met and once he had put Imogen at her ease invited her to start at the beginning of her work history to put Imogen at her ease he explained that this would help him build a picture and enable him to find the perfect job for her. What followed was a joy to read and anyone who reads this is very likely to discover that they are not so very different to Imogen and the discoveries she made about herself and how it truly reflects the life story of so many women of a certain age.

The author has an easy going style which makes this story hard to put down as she goes through the many jobs she had Sally Cronin tells the tale of many and varied positions some being just downright funny. A story of a life before children and after they had flown the nest and Imogen had been discarded but how she rose like a phoenix from the flames a new woman. If you want a light-hearted read with a moral attached then this book is recommended and I will definitely be reading more from this author I loved it.
A light entertaining read with a powerful message.

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

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

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

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

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

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