This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved here to Spain to live. I had written short stories before and non-fiction health books, but felt the need to bring a little romance and humour into my writing.. the result was Just an Odd Job Girl.
In chapter one we met Imogen whose husband has left her for what she calls a ‘Fast Tracker’ a young ambitious woman who prefers a man who is well established and has already been trained. Imogen is finding it rather difficult to adjust to the new situation, relying heavily on films and ice-cream to relieve the stress. Just an Odd Job Girl – Chapter One
Over the last few months, I had begun to amuse myself by imagining people that I met as animals. Not very kind perhaps, but it gave me a sort of perverse pleasure and satisfaction to match the person to the animal as closely as possible. It had almost become a fixation. For example, my husband’s features morphed into those of a mangy, flea ridden alley cat whilst the Fast Tracker had assumed the features of a sharp-snouted rat, scavenging around for other’s leavings. My feelings, as a cornered rabbit, were probably a reflection of the current low esteem these two predators had forced on me, and was something else that had to be dealt with, along with my expanding waistline.
‘Good morning, how may I help you?’ The lady behind the desk had the look of a well fed Cheshire cat. Wide smile and fluffy hair.
‘Good morning. My name is Imogen Smythe. I am here to see Mr. Jenkins.’
‘Of course, we’re expecting you, do take a seat and he won’t keep you a moment.’
I settled down into a comfortable chair and was pleasantly surprised to see that the magazine was this month’s edition. I read my horoscope with some relief, as it said that I was about to be pleasantly surprised by a new acquaintance and that I should grab that romantic opportunity with both hands. I was a little dubious about that last one, as I was not sure what I should grab with both hands. I was relieved because, in the dentist’s last week, I had picked up a magazine which had a disastrous prediction for me, only to discover the magazine was two year’s old. Perhaps if I had read that issue then, I would have had some warning about Peter and the fast tracker, as I seem to remember it mentioned rats deserting a sinking ship.
I was nervously reading the horoscopes for everyone else in the family, when the door to the inner office opened and a giant of a man stood in the doorway.
‘Mrs. Smythe, won’t you come in.’ A deep voice echoed around the small reception area.
If I were to label Mr. Jenkins as an animal, I would have to liken him to a grizzly bear with kind eyes. As I rose to walk towards him, I had little time for reflection but I was struck by a comfortable feeling of security, which was reinforced by the huge hand that came out to clasp mine. The dark, slightly rumpled suit and the greying brown hair, just touching the collar of his cream shirt, completed the picture.
‘Take a seat, won’t you.’ He said in his deep brown voice.
I sat in the chair that he indicated, and rather than go around the large desk to take a seat, he instead sat opposite me and crossed his long legs.
‘I understand that you are looking to go back to work after a bit of a break, is that correct?’
‘Well, I had hoped that perhaps I could find something. It isn’t the money, but I am getting rather bored now that the family has grown up and left home.’ He looked at me for a moment, and I could feel his eyes sweeping up from the floor, pausing briefly at my cleavage (possibly wishful thinking) and then moving on to meet my hesitant gaze.
‘It can be a little daunting, returning to work after such a long time, and it is important that we spend time now to understand your skills and preferences. We don’t want to place you in a position where you are not suited. It would only disappoint you, and our client. Both the client and our staff are very important to us and I have to tell you that we will only place people in positions if we feel that they are capable of the tasks necessary. Does that sound fair enough to you?’
‘Oh yes.’ I uttered quietly. Thinking to myself; chance will be a fine thing. Even this nice man is never going to find something I can do.
‘Perhaps you could let me have your C.V. so that I can get some idea of your work experience in the past?’
I handed the slightly rumpled piece of paper across to him and he glanced down. His index finger tapped gently on his upper lip and I nervously watched his eyes running down the two pages of type-written script.
He smiled and then called through the open door to the receptionist.
‘Elizabeth, would you kindly bring in a pot of tea and some biscuits for myself and Mrs. Smythe? I think we might be here for a while.’
That was encouraging, at least he wasn’t throwing me straight out of the door.
‘You have had rather a lot of jobs in the past haven’t you Mrs. Smythe?’ He glanced up from the paper and looked directly at me.
‘A lot of variety too. Catering, retail, advertising, hotels, but quite a bit of movement. I see that some of these were temporary.’
I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
‘Absolutely, I moved around quite a bit with my future husband – which accounts for many of the changes.
I tried to look at Mr. Jenkins confidently, but felt somehow that he had not been fooled at all.
‘Well, I think the best thing to do is to talk about all your jobs, including the ones when you were at school and college. This will give me a much better feel for your abilities and the sort of positions that you would enjoy, as well as being suited for.
‘All of them?’ I looked at my watch, not that I had anywhere other than a sofa to go to. ‘Won’t that take up far too much of your time?’
‘No, absolutely not’, he smiled encouragingly. ‘I spend as much time as necessary with every new applicant and I have nothing else scheduled for this morning.’
This was it then. I knew that close scrutiny of some of the positions I had listed would reveal flaws of a very personal nature and that if I were to come out of this positively, it would be necessary to stretch my acting abilities to the limit. I called upon every ounce of backbone I possessed, and sipping the piping hot tea that had arrived I marshalled my thoughts.
Mr. Jenkins left the room and appeared a few minutes later with my original C.V. and a photocopy.
‘Perhaps it might help if you have the C.V. in front of you to jog your memory?’ He smiled and handed me back the instrument of my downfall.
‘In your own time’ he prompted me.
Okay here goes.
NAME: Imogen Smythe D.O.B.: 10th January 1953 ADDRESS: 65 Blackrock Road, South Woodford, London E18
History, Mathematics, English Language,
English Literature and Biology.
One-year secretarial course Bankhurst Secretarial College. Shorthand 100 w.p.m. and RSA Stage II typewriting.
1967 – 1969
Seafront restaurant and giftware complex. Weekends/holidays.
Duties: Varied. Souvenir kiosk, ice-cream machine, table clearing, waitress.
1969 – 1971 Dental nurse/Receptionist/Secretary.
Mr. Forsythe-Brown – 13 Broadstairs Street. Portsmouth.
Duties: Chairside assistant, X-ray technician, reception, accounts, secretarial.
1971 – 1972 Shop assistant
Huntley’s Department Store.
Duties: Sales assistant: Shoes, Ladies clothing, Cosmetics.
1972 – 1973 Catering assistant
O’Ryan’s Steak House – Eastbourne, Sussex.
Duties: Bar, Restaurant management, waitressing, stock control, security.
1973 – 1974 Public House assistant manager
The Quayside Public House, Isle of Wight.
Duties: Bar meals, bar, cleaning, stock control, security.
1974 – 1975 Temporary Positions
Two insurance companies; Funeral Directors; Boy’s School; Free Newspaper.
1975 – 1977 Hotel Assistant Manager.
Killbilly Country House hotel. Killbilly, cornwall.
General duties:- Including reservations, restaurant and bar management, training, Public Relations, stock control and accounts.
1977 – 2001 Housewife and mother.
I hope you are enjoying the book.. Chapter three on Wednesday, and Imogen begins to relate the stories associated with all the jobs that she had undertaken and also more about her life and marriage.
©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl 2001