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


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

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

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

Anyway back to my odd jobs and my role at the Dental Surgery was over and I had moved on to a local department store.

The Shoe Department – Cheating and surprises

I loved working in the dental surgery, but I felt that I would like to take the medical side of my training further. I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and join the Royal Navy as a nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Service. I applied and was accepted for an interview which I attended at Haslar Naval Hospital. It was a bit of an ordeal as it involved a written exam, physical exam and an interview with senior nursing and naval officers. I returned home and waited for the outcome. A letter arrived a week later, to say that I had been accepted, but not for another eighteen months.

This left me in a quandary, and being the age I was, I felt that before I joined up I should see a little more of life. I handed in my notice at the dental surgery, applying to the local department store for a temporary job whilst I decided on my strategy for the next year or so.

I have to point out that I am one of three sisters, with a mother who loved shoes and handbags, and it appeared that she had passed those particular genes onto us. I can remember at a very early age spending many happy hours in the bottom of my mother’s wardrobe, rummaging through her high heeled dancing shoes and trying them out for size. Not very elegant at five years old, but habit forming.

When I was offered a temporary post over Christmas, in the shoe department of Handley’s Department store in Southsea, I was obviously more than excited. Little did I know that I would experience petty theft, a rather revealing encounter and potentially dangerous equipment!

The shoe department was staffed by a manager and a number of assistants, one of which had been there for donkey’s years. She was a spinster lady, who seemed ancient to me at the time, but was probably only in her fifties. She was designated to show me the ropes and duly took me under her wing. One of the bonuses of working in the shoe department was that you received commission on every pair of shoes you sold. You would cut out the front of the shoe box and write your name on it, saving these up until the Thursday and handing them to the manager to be sent up to the accounts department. It didn’t add a fortune to your weekly pay, but a few extra shillings a week was not to be sniffed at.

My mentor told me not to worry the first week, as she would make sure that the box ends were collected and handed to the manager. I kept a record of my sales and was surprised to find that I was missing half my commission on the Friday. I was new and didn’t want to rock the boat, but I obviously looked after my own box ends after that. I later found out that one of the other girls had encountered the same problem when she started. We had a couple more assistants arrive to help over the Christmas rush and we made sure took them under our wings!

Come the sales in January and we were rushed off our feet with high end shoes reduced considerably. I also got staff discount and was in seventh heaven, spending my lunch hours in the stock room trying on everything in my size. One day a very smart middle-aged customer arrived and pointed out several pairs of shoes that she wished to try on. Delighted by my luck in finding a big spender, I set about gathering my wares.

We had short-legged stools with a sloping rubber covered surface on which a foot was guided into shoes with a shoe horn, and if needed a gentle shove. As I helped madam into her first shoe, I looked up to see if she approved, to find her skirt had slid upward to above the knee. She was wearing no knickers, and I have to say that for a moment I had no idea where to look. The customer was completely unconcerned and not wishing to cause embarrassment, I tried to keep my focus on the number of box ends I would be submitting at the end of the week.

This brings me to the piece of equipment that was in my opinion highly unsuitable for use in a department store. Particularly as it was primarily used to identify if a child had sufficient room in their new shoes for their feet to grow. You placed the customer’s feet on a platform underneath the housing of the machine, looking through a viewfinder to see the x-ray. Having worked in a dental surgery with stringent precautions when using an x-ray machine, I was astonished to find one in use in public. I am afraid that after my introduction to this equipment I relied on the safer, tried and tested method of determining fit, by pressing my thumb all around the child’s foot in the new shoe to check for the necessary growing room. These shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were subsequently banned in the mid-1970s in the USA and Europe, and thankfully I only had minimal exposure. There were however grave concerns over the long-term effects on sales personnel who had used the machines over many years.

However, I did enjoy my time in the shoe department and also being in a sales environment. I had made friends amongst the staff (except for one) and asked if I could stay on. They no longer needed me in the shoe department, but I was asked if I would like to be a powder blender and roving consultant in the cosmetic department. My favourite items after shoes…

More adventures on the horizon.

©sallycronin 1999

On Wednesday – The Cosmetic  Department – and some powder blending.

About the book

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

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odd Jobs and Characters – Hotel in Wales – Senior Receptionist – A Ghostly Arrival


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

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

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

Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about those adventures please on Lyn Horner’s blog next week.

Thank you for joining me on my journey.  I met so many fascinating people that they have been had starring roles in my stories every since. The reason for this blog tour is to promote my new short story collection… now in print as a combined Volume One and Two, and available very shortly on Amazon.

All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blog https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-odd-jobs-and-characters/

 

About Sally Cronin

My name is Sally Cronin and 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 18 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. 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. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.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.

My other books

All books are available Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

You can connect to Sally

Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin