Smorgasbord Short Stories – On the Run by Sally Cronin

On the Run by Sally Cronin

Jenny Smith packed the last of the frozen food orders into the cooler boxes filled with ice in the back of her van, and, having waved goodbye to her boss Alex, climbed into the driving seat and checked her list of delivery addresses.

It was going to be a busy morning, but that was just how she liked it. The frozen food centre she worked in was popular and she enjoyed working on the tills, or stacking the freezers each day, as well as chatting to the customers. She was thankful to have been offered this job three years ago, in 1977, as it came with a flat above the shop, with all services included and a heavily discounted food shopping bill.

The live-in arrangement meant that, apart from the tax office, no-one could trace her through rental offices or utility companies, and it meant she could use a fictitious name when meeting strangers. Alex was the only person in this busy town in the Lake District who knew her real name and the reasons for making sure that it would remain a secret.

The local hotels were busy with the summer trade, and traffic could be quite slow on the narrow roads winding through the hills and lakes, especially if you got behind a few caravans in convoy. Jenny made good time however, as most tourists were still enjoying their substantial breakfasts in the bed & breakfasts and the hotels around the town. She was always welcomed into the kitchens with an offer of a tea or coffee or something more substantial, but with a heavy schedule she always declined. Jenny was also reticent about talking about herself, as she knew that more than a few of the customers she saw on a regular basis enjoyed a good gossip.

By lunchtime she was back at the freezer centre and took the signed delivery notes to the back of the shop to leave on Alex’s desk. He was out for the day, with plans to visit some suppliers in Carlisle, and was not expected back until after closing time this evening. There were two part-timers, Jacquie and Mary, serving customers and after checking they didn’t need any help, she headed up to her flat to grab a quick sandwich and cup of tea before they left to pick up their young children from the local primary school mid-afternoon.

Alex lived in a house further down the lake from the town, a family home he had inherited from his parents, and as Jenny lived above the shop, one of her duties, along with serving customers, was locking up at night and opening in the morning for deliveries. Because of this she had a telephone on a table in the hall of her flat, so she could be contacted if there were problems or a lorry driver needed to confirm times of arrival outside of the freezer centre’s opening hours.

She rarely used the telephone for outgoing calls except once a week to her parents, who were the only people, apart from her brother, Tommy, that she kept in contact with. They didn’t know the number and since there was no way to trace the call, they believed she was living and working in a bed and breakfast in Wales. It was something they never questioned, and it was a fact they could disclose comfortably to anyone who might ask.

Only her older brother Tommy knew where she was really living and working because he was the one who had driven her up from Brighton in his van with her few belongings to this town, where his best friend from his army days was running a freezer centre. Jenny was absolutely sure this knowledge was safe with him. She kept in touch with regular letters which he responded to with an occasional Sunday night phone call to her flat, keeping her updated on his growing family.

Jenny made herself a cheese and tomato sandwich and carried the plate and her cup of tea through to the bright sunny living room, with windows looking out over the lake. With a sigh she kicked off her shoes and switched on the radio for company as she ate her solitary lunch.

Sandwich finished, she was about to pick up her cup of cooling tea, when the loud insistent ring of the telephone in the hall interrupted her. She assumed there was a delay to one of the deliveries due in this afternoon, and Jacquie and Mary were too busy with customers to get to the office to answer the call. She padded across the carpet and picked up the receiver.

‘Hello, Alex’s Freezer Centre, how may I help you?’

‘Did you really think you could hide from me forever Maggie?’

Hearing her real name spoken with such venom, by a voice she had hoped never to hear again, caused her to drop the receiver and slide to the floor, shivering as she cowered against the wall.

‘Maggie, Maggie, can you hear me?’

Laughter spilled down the telephone line and into the hall making her skin crawl and she reached out with trembling hands to replace the receiver in the cradle.

As she did so she heard her husband’s final words.

‘Don’t think your friend Alex will help you… his car is in a ditch far away from here.’

For what seemed like an hour, but in reality was only a few minutes, Maggie’s mind was blank with fear. All she could focus on was the controlling threat of violence that had paralysed her for three long years before she had finally taken her brother into her confidence. The threats had escalated into actual physical assaults on a more frequent basis. Blamed on her clumsiness, backed up by the charm offensive her husband unleashed on those close to them, including hospital staff who might question her frequent visits to the emergency department.

Maggie hadn’t wanted to involve her parents ,who had retired to live in Spain, but had to convince them that she was leaving the marriage because she was no longer in love with James and it was her decision to divorce him. She knew they were very disappointed in her, but she suspected Tommy might have dropped some hints about the real situation and that they respected her decision.

Despite her brother’s insistence on going to the police to report James for domestic violence, she begged him to help her get as far away as possible. She knew her husband might telephone and charm her parents in to disclosing where she was, convincing them that he could repair the rift in their relationship, so it was decided to create the story about working in the remote fictional bed & breakfast in Wales.

It was an insistent knocking on the flat door which made her scramble to her feet, casting desperately around for some kind of weapon to protect herself.

‘Jennie, it’s me Alex, open up please.’

With a gasp of relief she opened the door to find her boss holding a bloody cloth to his forehead and a determined look on his face.

‘The police are on the way, I recognised the bastard who drove me off the road from a photograph that Tommy gave me when you arrived here, just in case he appeared in the area.’ He reached out and pulled her in close to his body desperately concerned about her pallor and trembling.

‘I’ve sent the girls home, locked up the shop, pulled down the shutters and the alarm is set.’ He smiled at her reassuringly. ‘I thumbed a lift from a family with a caravan and I thought we would never get here. I got them to drop me off in the square and I rang Sergeant Thompson from a call box and gave him the details of the hit and run and the risk of your husband coming here to hurt you.’

He could feel that the woman in his arms was calmer, and he relaxed his hold so he could look down into her ashen face. Finally after three years he could revert to using her real name. They had been so careful to create the new identity that he had made sure never to let it slip unintentionally.

‘Maggie, don’t you know I would never let anyone hurt you again?’ He gently stroked her hair back from her face and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. Maggie felt suddenly stronger as she looked up into his craggy face. She had never even considered having another relationship, but over the last three years she had become to rely on this man and the safety he provided; only now appreciating how much he felt for her.

Content to be in his arms, the minutes passed and sirens announced the arrival of a number of police cars, summoned no doubt from Carlisle to back up the local officers. They heard sounds of a loud altercation going on in the street below the flat windows and Alex led her across the lounge. He sat her in an armchair and went across to open one of the sash windows leaning out to get a better view.

A man was lying in the road with his hands cuffed behind his back. He was shouting obscenities and one of the six policemen in attendance was sitting in the front seat of a police car nursing a bloody nose.

‘Maggie, come over and take a look please; it’s okay, you’re safe now.’

She stood up shakily and went to stand beside him. He pointed over to the man on the ground.

‘Is that your husband Maggie?’ Tears rolled down her cheeks but she nodded in response.

‘With my evidence about his forcing me off the road this morning and his assault on that police officer, he is going away for a very long time.’

They stood and watched as James was loaded into a van and the vehicles drive off to the station.

‘How did he find me Alex, only Tommy knows where I am and he would never tell anyone?’

‘He rang me after you left on your deliveries, he thought it was not likely to be a problem, but they had a break-in a couple of days ago. He assumed because of the selection of items taken, it was likely to be kids looking for pieces to sell. However, he got the impression that someone had been through his desk drawers, especially as your letters had been disturbed and his address book was missing… and it had the freezer centre’s telephone number. He had thrown away the envelopes with their postmark, but he said you sometimes mentioned hotels you delivered to in the letters, and other landmarks that could give away your whereabouts.’

Pulling Maggie back into his arms he carried on with the events of the morning.

‘I rang round the first hotels on your delivery route to get an idea of where you had reached in your round. I was hoping to intercept you the other side of the lake when you got to The Glassblower pub, but I was overtaken on a bend by this maniac who then cut across me forcing me off the road and into a ditch, but not before I got a good look at his face as he was driving beside me.’

Maggie’s heart had stopped thudding in her chest but she was still shaking badly in reaction to both the threat and the danger Alex had faced because of their closeness. She didn’t want to ever leave the safety of his strong arms again.

‘I promised Sergeant Thompson that we would go the station and make our statements, and with his attempted murder of me, he wanted to know if you would reconsider your decision not to bring charges against him for his assaults when you were together.’

The colour had returned to Maggie’s face and she had stopped shaking, but she stiffened as she contemplated Alex’s suggestion.

She had refused to bring charges when questioned by police the last time she had been admitted to hospital following a severe beating. James had warned her that however long it took he would find her and kill her if she said a word to implicate him.

‘I am so scared Alex, I had almost managed to stop looking over my shoulder, to believe that he would never find me, but if I give evidence and even if he goes away for several years, he will still come after me wherever I am.’

He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms tightly around her.

After a minute she pulled back and looked into the face of this gentle man and there was no way she could pull him into her turmoil. She couldn’t bear it if anything more happened to him.’

‘Alex I am very sorry to have brought so much trouble to your doorstep, but I don’t want to put you in any more danger, as it would devastate me. I will make a statement, but then leave as soon as I can pack my things.’

‘I don’t want you to go anywhere Maggie, ever.’ He smiled down at her upturned face. ‘I know what you went through, and I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, but if you will give me time, I would like to prove to you that not all men are the same.’

She smiled shyly at him and gathered up her coat and bag, and slipped back into her shoes. She placed her hand into his, holding on tightly and absorbing the strength she needed to put her past behind her for good.

‘I would like that very much.’

© Sally Cronin 2022

One of the latest reviews for What’s in a Name?

I really enjoyed this short story collection. it’s different from others taking a person’s name as the starting point for creating a story. There is a wide range of variety in this collection but all share one thing in common: these are about life, love and humanity. The range of topics in the stories will appeal to all from amusing, sad, emotional to happy stories. There is even a story about a nun, Celia, leaving her calling which remained with me a long time after reading. The twists at the end of the stories were entertaining too, especially loved the one in ‘George!’ and ‘Isobel.’

Another favourite of mine was ‘Clive,’ about a boy taking a walk in the tropics and walking into a whole lot of trouble – the little ‘un meets a cobra! But, the moment when the boy and cobra look into each others’ eyes is just priceless. Loved it. Cobras are not that uncommon a sight in the tropics, my mum’s step mum came face-to-face with one too! And, in ‘Eric,’ you’ll smile at the tale of a widower who learns to live again through his cat, Doris. in ‘Grace,’ the moving yarn of a young girl in an orphanage ticked all the boxes for me. And the tale of the drunk driver and ‘Hannah,’ was fantastic.

Highly recommended to short story enthusiasts and to all who enjoy well written tales. 

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022


Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Five – Hair Pieces and The Shoe Department 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

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.

Last time Imogen finds her job as a dental nurse has some interesting adventures involving missing teeth in x-rays.

Chapter Five – Hair Pieces and The Shoe Department by Sally Cronin

I lived in a naval town and it was inevitable that socially I would meet and go out with young naval officers. I was at a party one Saturday, when I was introduced to this very tall, good-looking guy. I was now nineteen and felt I looked stunning, in a new outfit that I had just bought. This included a false half-wig on a black velvet band. It was ash blonde, and if you pulled the band far enough forward it hid the true colour of your hair. It hung seductively down my back and swung with a very satisfying swish when I walked or danced. Combined with a short black velvet dress and knee-high black boots, I was ready to rock and roll.

He was a wonderful dancer. He threw me around the floor to the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart and held me close when slow music was playing. He was gorgeous and I could see all my girlfriends looking on in envy as I strutted my stuff. This was living! My fertile imagination went into overtime. I had just got to the bit where I stunned my parents by taking this Adonis home to meet them when my favourite Rolling Stones song blared out from the speakers. Brown Sugar. If ever there was a song to dance to this was it. I was flying, and it took several minutes for it to register that not only my partner but also several people around us had stopped dancing. Assuming that they were so stunned by my gyrations and flexible interpretations of the music that they had stopped to watch, I carried on playing up to my audience.

There were a number of poles supporting the roof of the dance floor. One was quite close by, and I avoided hitting it as I twirled on the spangled floor. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something hanging halfway up the pole, but I was busy and didn’t take much notice of it. By now about two dozen people were watching the performance and I was too intent on keeping them entertained. I whirled faster, got closer to the pole, and only then realised that the object hanging limply from a hook was my ash-blonde hairpiece.

I stood there, with my own hair pinned on top of my head covered by a stocking that held it firmly in place. I looked over at my Adonis to find a look of horrified fascination on his face. I grabbed the hair and dashed for the stairs, and the ladies.

I was wearing a little shoulder bag and had no coat, so a speedy retreat was possible. I ripped the stocking and pins from my own hair and legged it out the door and into a taxi home. I have never been so mortified in my life. Today I would have laughed it off and carried on, but at nineteen it was the end of my world and the stunning future I had envisioned for myself with Mr. Fantastic. I hadn’t even got his name, but thankfully he hadn’t got mine either.

Two days later, still squirming from my ordeal, I attended my interview for acceptance into the Queen Alexandra Nursing Service. It was held over in Gosport, at the naval hospital, and along with twenty other hopefuls, I undertook a day of testing and medical examinations.

Eye tests, weight, blood pressure, heart and lungs all checked out. This was conducted by a very severe looking nursing sister and then we were passed on to a doctor for a full medical.

At nineteen, I was not sure what this entailed, and was rather concerned to be asked to remove all my clothing and don a backless hospital gown.

Holding this gown in place with one hand behind my back, I was led, nervously, into the examining room. A head was bent over some notes and I was escorted behind a screen and told to hop up on the examining couch. The nurse loosened the ties behind the neck of the gown and stood at the head of the couch. The curtains parted and the doctor entered. Now I know what a rabbit feels like, paralysed in the glare of the headlights. There before me in a white coat with stethoscope at the ready was my Adonis.

I seem to have blocked out much of the next twenty minutes. The experience was so traumatic that I can only barely remember being escorted out of the door and being told to get dressed. I have no doubt that the examination had been carried out very professionally and in accordance with medical guidelines, but to this day, when I am faced with the same situation, I need a stiff drink to get me into the surgery.

Despite my trauma, I was accepted for training. Unfortunately, the next intake was not for eighteen months, so in the meantime I had to find a job to earn my living.

Huntley’s Department Store, in the next town was looking for staff for Christmas and I decided that I would do some temporary work until it was time to enrol for training. Looking back, I think that perhaps I was actually looking for an excuse not to go ahead with the nursing, certainly with the Navy. The whole experience had been so humiliating that I kept re-playing it in my mind, over and over again. It did not improve with time.

Then fate took a hand, and three months later I met Peter and plans changed. I fell in love and he persuaded me not to tie myself down to three years training, as we would not be able to see each other very often.

Despite my feelings of utter humiliation at the time, I have often regretted not going ahead with my nursing. It was not the first, nor the last time that I allowed Peter to take control of my life and perhaps if I had stuck to my guns then, I would not now be in this situation.

* * *

I think that Andrew could sense that I was about to get maudlin and he got up and went to the door of the office.

‘Elizabeth, can you organise another pot of tea for us please, and give me a shout when you are going for lunch?’

He came back and sat down opposite me.

‘Look, Imogen, I think that this exercise is very valuable and that we should talk about your time at Huntley’s and then call it a day.’

He smiled at me reassuringly.

‘I have a fair idea, after spending the last couple of hours with you, what kind of person you are. I have a few options that I would like to explore, but I need a couple of days to sort them out. How about we finish up in half an hour or so and get together on Friday morning.’

Of course, I said yes. In the space of two hours, this man had made me look at myself in a new way. For far too long, I had allowed Peter and the children, to take over my life, and I had forgotten who I was. Talking about the past brought back memories which had been buried under the day-to-day demands of family and house. I was excited, for first time in years, about what prospects lay ahead.

The tea arrived and we sipped it in companionable silence for a few moments, while I collected my thoughts. I had served in three departments in the nine months that I had been at Huntley’s.

When I completed my initial two-day training course – learning about cash handling, and the store rules, I was sent straight to the Shoe department. Later I moved on to Ladies Clothing and then to Cosmetics, and I can tell you that if anyone assumes that serving in a department store is boring, they need to think again.

As I thought back, incidents long buried came to the surface.

When I arrived in large shoe department on the top floor I met the manageress and three other staff. The staff had been Huntley employees for at least a hundred years by the look of them. Thankfully, I had the experience of working with FB, who was fifty years older than me, but that still did not prepare me for my initiation.

One particular lady was a spinster. From my nineteen-year-old perspective, she looked ancient. On reflection, she was probably only about fifty, but had not worn well. I remember her hair especially, as the poor woman suffered from hair loss – and, like many men with the same problem, combed some long strands across the top of her head. She was very unfortunate in being very tall, almost my height, and rather bird like. I don’t mean sparrow; more ostrich-like with a slightly bulgy-eyed, startled, look. When I was introduced to her, she sniffed and said begrudgingly.

‘Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.’ Not in the most sincere tones.

My worst fears were realised when the manageress teamed me up with ostrich for my further training in shoe salesmanship. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of technical knowledge required to sell shoes effectively. Apart from the adult sizes with their different width fittings, we also sold a brand of children’s shoes that came with its own X-ray machine. I kid you not; we must have irradiated half the child population of the town. The machine stood waist high and you placed your feet in a slot set into the metal casing. You then looked into an eyepiece and you could see the bones in your feet. This enabled you to check that the child was not squeezed into their new shoes and that there was plenty of room for growth. I assume that these machines were checked for safety, but it is funny how you don’t see them around anymore.

Apart from the technical aspects of the job, Ostrich was also instructed to introduce me to the commission system. She did this with far more glee than she approached other aspects of my training, which should have made me suspicious.

Apparently, when you sold a pair of shoes, you cut out the front of the box they came in, put your initials on the front and gave it in at the end of the week to the wages department.

My sales training from the seafront came in very handy and I was delighted to sell six pairs of shoes my first week. Ostrich kindly offered to hand my box ends on the Saturday, along with her own. This would have meant two shillings a pair, which would have given me twelve shillings extra on top of my eight-pound basic wage. The commission did not appear but ostrich assured me that this was because it was paid a week in arrears.

The second week, I sold twelve pairs of shoes and so earned a commission of twenty-four shillings. Again Ostrich handed over our box ends and when I checked my pay slip, I saw that I had the twelve shillings from the last week. The next week the Ostrich was off sick and surprise, surprise when I checked my pay slip, I saw that in fact I was paid commission for that week, not in arrears at all.

I worked out that the Ostrich had changed the initials on the first week’s sales and on six of the second. If she had not been sick, I would never have noticed the deception until my last pay packet when it would have been too late to do anything about it.

The Ostrich had been there in the shoe department for sixteen years. Who was going to believe a junior assistant who had only been there two weeks? When she returned to work, I said nothing, but from then on, I handed my own box ends into the manageress on Saturdays.

I wondered how many other juniors had been caught by that little scam and decided that on my last day, whenever that might be, I would put things right. Fortunately, before I had to take action, the Ostrich left for some ‘undisclosed’ reason!

Apart from the Ostrich, I enjoyed my job. I liked meeting different people every day, and selling them shoes that made them feel good.

Most customers were pleasant and polite. The odd one who was grumpy was a challenge, firstly to cheer up and then to send away with the most expensive pair of shoes I could get away with.

There was one customer, in particular, however, who was in a league of her own. Very elegant, beautifully dressed, hair immaculate and already wearing very expensive shoes. She indicated two or three pairs of shoes that she wished to try on and sat down and removed one of her own shoes. She lifted one slim stockinged leg onto the sloped footstool and then lifted her foot into the first shoe I had brought out. I carefully shoehorned her foot into the shoe. I glanced up and noticed that her skirt had ridden up over her knees and that she was rather exposed. And I do mean exposed; she was wearing no knickers. I was totally shocked.

How could anyone go out without any knickers, had she forgotten? She lifted the other foot, placed it in the matching shoe, and stood up. I prayed that she would choose them and not want to try anymore on, but no, she tried on five more pairs before choosing three of them. I kept a smile plastered in place but knew that I was bright red with embarrassment. How she didn’t notice I have no idea. Perhaps she did, and enjoyed it immensely, and I wonder now if, in her seventies, she still goes knickerless to embarrass shoe shop assistants.

At the end of three months, I was asked if I would like to stay on for an extra six months, and work in the ladies fashion department. I was still in two minds about going into nursing as planned, so I decided that this was as good as any place to work in the meantime.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter six next time with Ladies Fashions and shop lifters

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Three: The Interview – 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

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.

Yesterday the number of jobs that Imogen had undertaken back in her twenties is unveiled with some interesting twists to her first job at age 14.

Chapter Three: The Interview

For a moment, there was an uneasy silence.

Mr. Jenkins smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew laughed.

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

‘You could say that.’ I admitted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook my mother’s hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An auspicious start to my first job!

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

It was beginning to sound a bit like school.

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

She smiled maliciously.

‘You work a week in hand here.’

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

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

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

‘I am giving you to Betty.’

The manageress turned and walked through the door.

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

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

‘Hello. She smiled at me. I’m Betty.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Good. Wear them tomorrow, with trousers.’

The plot thickened!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, I have.’ I replied, mystified.

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

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

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

I arrived back at the kiosk to find a beaming Betty, accompanied by the manageress of the café standing with her arms crossed and with a grim expression on her maternal face.

Apparently, she had been serving a customer, with a whipped ice-cream cone, at the outside window when she had seen me streaking past, yelling mild obscenities, after the three robbers.

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

The Rottweiler nodded at Betty.

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

‘Well done ducks.’ Betty patted my arm.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

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

‘Absolutely, you have my undivided attention.’

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


©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter four next Saturday Imogen’s first full time job in a private dental practice with a surprising outcome

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter Two – The Curriculum Vitae 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 the semi-autobiographical Just an Odd Job Girl.

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.

Last time we met Imogen and discovered the reasons behind her need to get a job.

Chapter Two – The Curriculum Vitae

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.
Duties: Varied.

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

1977 – 2001 Housewife and mother.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Chapter three tomorrow, and Imogen begins to relate the stories associated with all the jobs that she had undertaken and also more about her life and marriage.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read!

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – #Romance, #Humour – Chapter One- Reflections on the Past – 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 the semi-autobiographical  Just an Odd Job Girl.

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.

Chapter One – Reflections on the Past

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who is the daftest of them all?
Imogen is!’

I’m nearly fifty years old and suddenly alone. I’d often sympathised with others, over the state of newly divorced forty and fifty-something’s, never really believing that it could ever happen to me. One never does. I was sideswiped by what I call a ‘Fast Tracker’ and never knew what hit me.

My husband Peter is a banker, that’s banker with a B! We had been married for just over twenty-five years when he suddenly announced that he had met someone else.

We had actually been together from the age of twenty and had shared so much over the years that I genuinely thought he was my best friend. We’d met when Peter was at college and we were broke for much of the first ten years. It didn’t seem to matter. We were in love and even when the children came along, Elizabeth, Andrew and Kate, we still managed to have fun with the little money we had to spare. Peter worked long hours to provide for us and I felt we were a team. He was now a highly successful merchant banker and we had been enjoying the good life for the last fifteen years.

Then one day, suddenly, out of the blue, it was over. I’ll spare you the hours, days, weeks of recriminations, crying, begging and generally demeaning behaviour that accompanies such an announcement since I’ve already been through the process and have no wish to repeat it. But I will share with you my definition of a Fast Tracker.

A Fast Tracker is a girl in her late twenties or early thirties, who is on the lookout for a middle-aged, successful, wealthy, powerful man. This girl has no interest in going through the early years of poverty, screaming babies, mortgages and doing without. She has no desire to train a man into being the perfect husband; she wants one that someone prepared earlier. My husband was ripe for the picking. He was all that a Fast Tracker could desire, and being of an age that is easily flattered by a younger, toned, available female, he fell – hook, line and sinker. Incidentally, something he swore would never happen to him.

He was most generous, as he kept reminding me. Although I hadn’t worked during our married life, he conceded graciously that I’d brought up the three children more or less single-handedly and had done a fair job of it. He also appreciated my efforts around the home and the fact that his shirts had always been ironed, his cleaning collected and his meals cooked.

The subject of sex was not mentioned, although I was tempted to point out that it was usually he who suffered the headaches after a long difficult day at the office. By the time he had outlined my leaving package, I felt like a redundant executive who, whilst applauded for past efforts, should really throw himself on his sword for the good of the company.

It all came as rather a surprise to me, which made me feel exceedingly stupid. How could I have missed the signs? Basically, there were none. He had been getting his cake and eating it too. Life at home had been no different including our Saturday night lovemaking. He’d been as ardent as ever. How could I have been married to someone for twenty-five years and not known him at all. Apparently, he had been seeing this girl for over a year. I suppose, in hindsight, that it could have gone on for years, except that she had got pregnant. Completely by accident, of course.

Would I be cynical in suggesting that it was all part of the grand design, and a determination to get her man won the day? She should have been a Mountie. She wanted the house, of course. It was beautiful and I had spent the fifteen years since we’d moved in, making it the house of my dreams. It became a nightmare instead. I had no independent means of support. Peter agreed to pay me a one-off sum to enable me to buy a home and still have an adequate income.

The children had left home, and were now independent, so it left just me. He said that if I were difficult that he would simply sell the house and give me half the proceeds, so I would lose it anyway. In the end, for a quiet life, I agreed. It broke my heart, but I did manage to negotiate for most of the furniture and household appliances, as the Fast Tracker had decided that she wanted all new accessories for her recently acquired home. She didn’t mind a used husband but she was not into second hand furniture.

I managed to find a very pleasant little house, backing onto Epping Forest, in a suburb of Northwest London. The central line station was only a few minutes walk away and I was half an hour from my old neighbourhood and friends.

For the first six months though, I filled my days with decorating and transforming my new home into a haven. I had no wish to see anyone from the past as it reminded me so much of what I’d lost, but gradually, I began to pick up the pieces and face life as a middle-aged single woman.

The children were angry, confused, bitter and then resentful in turn. Much of their negative feelings were directed at me. Why had I driven him away? What had I done to upset him? It must be my fault that he turned to another woman. After a few months of recriminations, I snapped and told them that they could think what they liked. This surprised them as I had followed a very conciliatory line of parenting with them. Always reasoning problems out and hopefully dealing with them fairly when they went through the inevitable stages of teens and early adulthood.

They were as shocked as I was, and after a few months of spending time with both their father and Stephanie (the Fast Tracker), and myself in my new home, I believe that they began to appreciate that there had been an external, unstoppable force at work that had simply cast aside the complacency that accompanies all those years together. This was combined with the fact that when they did visit their father he was usually busy changing nappies and feeding their new half-brother called Adam.

I must say that, not having received any help in that department during our own children’s infancy, I was very surprised to hear of his current involvement. Stephanie obviously possessed far stronger powers of persuasion than I did, and in more departments than I had thought. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the first nappy sessions; I sincerely hope that he did not come out of the experience unstained.

Thankfully, my children are sensible, bright individuals and have their own lives to lead. They rang me and visited me in my new home frequently, and I was thankful that our love survived. Peter tended to throw money at them, in an effort to overcome the guilt he felt, and being practical they took it, but with a knowing smile.

After six months of decorating and curtain making and now being well ensconced in my bright little haven, I started to get bored. With only myself to look after, there were long hours to fill. This is where the comfort eating comes in!

I had satellite television installed and sat in front of the movie channels for several, unhealthy hours a day. I worked my way through multi-packs of chocolate bars and the large tubs of rich ice cream that tasted sinful. As this was the nearest I was ever likely to get to sin again in my life I decided to take it to extremes, with devastating effects on my body and morale. The forest beckoned, offering long walks through its leafy paths but it was ignored. My hips spread and gravity began to pull my body down along with my spirits. Eventually when the last of my skirts failed to fasten, and not wanting to spend my limited capital on completely replenishing my wardrobe, I decided that action was required. I would get a job.

I had avoided the thought like the plague. The main reason that I had not worked for the past twenty-five years was because Peter felt that I should be at home with the children. A pity he had not been quite so conservative when it came to infidelity.

I had no idea where to start, so I rang my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was a legal secretary in the centre of London. She suggested that I go to the local temp agency and see if I could find something that did not require modern technology, just plain old-fashioned common sense – such as filing.

The whole prospect was terrifying, after all this time; I wasn’t even sure if I even had any common sense. It was certainly something Peter always assumed I was lacking. I went back to my daily movies and popcorn and put the whole subject ‘on the long finger’, as my Irish friend Mollie says.

A few weeks later and I was down to the last two items in my wardrobe. I was going to have to find some common sense from somewhere and pretty quick. Thankfully some arrived in the form of the local free newspaper, and instead of throwing it straight in the bin, and not having visited the video shop that afternoon, I sat down and read it from cover to cover.
There, in the appointments section, was a small advertisement:

Specialising in the mature applicant.
Call for an appointment today.
Free consultation and no fees.

I called the number listed and got a very nice woman who told me to put a C.V. together, and to come in on Thursday for an appointment with Mr. Jenkins himself.

The next day, I let out the waistband of my last remaining decent skirt, unearthed a jacket that only just met across my middle, and forced myself into a body shaping girdle – their words, not mine! Unfortunately, the body shape it achieved was not quite what was on the packet, it pushed most of the problem areas upward into the bra cups, and I had difficulty breathing.

However, it was the first time in my life that I actually had a cleavage. At least I could button my blouse without leaving gaps, and popping the buttons. With any luck, Mr. Jenkins would be so entranced with my new womanly shape that he would not notice the rest of the outfit.

Wednesday evening was spent writing out my record of previous work. I had never sat down and really thought about all the jobs that I had undertaken before the children came along, and I was honestly surprised to see how many different positions I had held. I included the weekend and holiday jobs that I had when at school, and college, because they were all experience. Right?

My parents had insisted that I go to secretarial college, so that I would always have something to fall back on. I obtained my typing and shorthand qualifications at the end of the year – although in those days we only had manual typewriters, so our speeds were not great.
After college, I really was not sure what I wanted to do. I had applied for a number of positions in offices, and remembering those early interviews made me smile for the first time in ages. I seemed to have had a new job every nine months or so. It might not look too good to a prospective employer, but I reasoned that the temp agency would want to know everything I had ever done, so that they could accurately assess where to place me. So, I wrote down everything, even the jobs I had been fired from. With any luck, if they did take up references, there would not be anyone there who remembered me.

Thursday morning arrived. I dressed, applied my make-up and practiced smiling in front of the mirror. I looked like a cornered rabbit, with a nervous tick, rather than the sophisticated mature woman looking to return to useful employment. I just hoped that Mr. Jenkins would see the raw potential underneath.

©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

Next Saturday the appointment at the Temp agency and the Curriculum Vitae…

One of the recent reviews for the book

Jacquie Biggar January 4th 2022

After devoting her life to her family, Imogen is replaced by a younger woman (a fast-tracker) after twenty years of marriage and must overcome her self-doubt to move on to the next stage of her life.

Just an Odd Job Girl is a highly entertaining story of a fifty-year-old’s voyage into a working world she thought herself ill-equipped to handle until a new friend shows her just how much she truly has to offer.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments as Imogen relives her past vocations, everything from a nebulous job on the docks to a dentist’s assistant, a job in a funeral home, a restaurant manager, and more. It soon becomes obvious that Imogen is a Jack of all Trades and an asset to any employer.

Many wives and mothers of the era were stay-at-home caretakers for their families. They set aside career aspirations to make a safe and loving home for their children- often at the price of their own sense of value. Then the kids leave home, husbands become restless, and suddenly, the wife is left to absorb the loss and find her way to a new beginning. Not easy for anyone.

This is a highly entertaining read told by a wonderful storyteller. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor and the delightful ending- a well-deserved 5 star read! 

You can find my other books and their recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2022

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Christmas #Romance – Love, Me by Jacquie Biggar

I caught up over Christmas with some reading and selected books that were likely to be heartwarming and in the festive spirit.. and Love Me by Jacquie Biggar ticked all the boxes.

About the book

Will a Christmas wish bring two lonely hearts together and give a little girl the family she’s always wanted?

Single parent, Grace Donovan arrives in the small town of Emerson with the hope a trial program at the local cancer clinic will be the answer to prolonging her young daughter’s life. She doesn’t expect to fall for her handsome boss.

As principal of Emerson Elementary, Kyle Roberts is aware of the students’ medical issues and his heart goes out to little Cassie Donovan and her mother. When he learns Grace needs a job, he fabricates a childcare program, and is pleasantly surprised by its success. Now, if only he could help Cassie’s recovery and get Grace to give him a chance before she learns of his duplicity.

Cassie Donovan barely remembers the father who died when she was just a toddler, but she does know her mother is sad. Even though Cassie wants a puppy more than anything, she gives up her wish to ask for a daddy from Santa Claus, that way if she gets sick again, Mommy won’t be alone.

This Christmas, two families are brought together by a Christmas wish and a child’s need for a miracle.

My review for the book January 22nd 2022

Having read other books by the author I fully expected that this story would be heartwarming and in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. The characters are always relateable and being a romance they also tend to have attractive personalities which makes them likeable too.

The interactions between those falling for each other are subtle, and much is left to your imagination, which is something I prefer when reading about love. In this particular case you are left with the wonderful feeling that love is alive and well despite the global troubles impacting us all at this time.

At the heart of this story is also the issue of childhood leukemia which the author adds details of at the end of the book. A difficult subject to cover, particularly in a feel good romance novel, but Jacquie Biggar handles it very sensitively.

A book to curl up in front of a roaring fire, with a large mug of hot chocolate and a couple of hours free for some lovely escapism. Recommended for lovers of romance and those who enjoy a heartwarming reminder that there are good things in the world.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon USand: Amazon UK

A small selection of Jacquie’s books

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow Jacquie : Goodreads – website: Jacquie Biggar – Twitter: @jacqbiggar

About Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!

Thanks for visiting today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New book on the Shelves #Pre-order #Romance – The Gambling Hearts Series Book Three: My Girl by Jacquie Biggar

USA Today Bestselling author Jacquie Biggar has a new release on Pre-order 99c/99p until October 21st for book three in the Gambling Hearts Series: My Girl.

About the book

Sometimes, the right decision isn’t the easiest one to make

Trish Sylvester knows her family and when they accept a week long stay at a rustic dude ranch, she is concerned- especially since it’s at her ex’s home.

Aaron is overjoyed at the opening of his family’s guest ranch, until he learns their first guest is his ex-girlfriend, her parents–and a fiancé.

And that isn’t the only surprise.

Head over and buy the book at 99c until October 21st:

And on Amazon UK at 99p:

A selection of of other books by Jacquie Biggar

One of the recent reviews for Book Two – The Gambling Hearts: Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

A high powered New York publicity expert comes home to help her family save their ranch, and to finally resolve her lingering feelings for the handsome ranch hand she left behind but both her brothers and her crush seem to think they can do just fine without her. The thing is, she’s all grown up now, and she’s not willing to take no for an answer.

I loved Sophia’s determination, her spunk and her vulnerability, and it was hard not to feel for the strong and silent Tony with all his conflicted feelings – besides who doesn’t love a cowboy. Their romance made for a great way to spend an afternoon.

Read all the reviews and buy the books including great deals on book sets:

And at Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Jacquie Biggar on Goodreads:

About Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar is a USA TODAY bestselling author of Romantic Suspense who loves to write about tough, alpha males who know what they want. That is until they’re gob-smacked by heroines who are strong, contemporary women willing to show them what they really need is love. She is the author of the popular Wounded Hearts series and has just started a new series in paranormal suspense, Mended Souls. She has also contributed to several successful anthologies.

She has been blessed with a long, happy marriage and enjoys writing romance novels that end with happily-ever-afters.

Jacquie lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her family and loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. She swears she can’t function without coffee, preferably at the beach with her sweetheart. 🙂

Free reads, excerpts, author news, and contests can be found on her web site:

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Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will head over and explore other books by Jacquie Biggar. We all need a little romance in our lives….. thanks Sally

Just an Odd Job Girl – Serialisation – Chapter Ten – Cat Burglars and Insurance Fraud! 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 ends up running a pub on the Isle of Wight and ends up enforcing the rules with a pick axe handle.

Chapter Ten – Cat Burglars and Insurance Fraud! by Sally Cronin

We found a lovely small flat in Southsea, a few roads back from the sea. It had a bedroom, bathroom, separate kitchen, and a combined living and dining room. It was nicely furnished and felt like our first real home. The only drawback was the three Spanish students who lived above us. They were used to staying out late and would arrive home about three in the morning and proceed to indulge in a spot of Flamenco dancing, or so it sounded. The tap of three pairs of high heels on wooden floors had a rhythm to it that was a little like a dripping tap. We would bury our heads under our pillows, but eventually we learnt to live with this minor inconvenience.

Not so their cat, a black and white tom with a distinct lack of regard for other people’s property, particularly of the edible kind. Over a period of some weeks, I became increasingly alarmed by the amount that Peter was eating. I got into the habit of cooking two meals at a time. This worked very well for stews, roasts, and pasta dishes. We would take one day’s portion and I would leave the remainder to cool on the kitchen table before putting in the refrigerator for the next day.

The one thing that Peter would do about the house, was to clear the empty plates away and wash up while he made us a cup of tea. We would then settle down on the sofa and watch our tiny television until it was time for us go to bed. I would take the empty cups out to the kitchen and put the next day’s dinner away. I began to notice a marked difference in the original amount and the quantity that I was putting in the refrigerator. At first, it was only a slight difference and I assumed that Peter was helping himself to an extra spoonful or two when he was making the tea.

After two or three weeks, it became more than a spoonful and in fact there was barely enough to feed one person the next night, let alone two. I decided to tackle the problem discreetly, as I knew what Peter could be like when he was criticised. He did not take kindly to having his actions questioned, which was another little sign I managed to ignore for twenty-five years.

‘Darling, you seem very hungry in the evenings, would you like me to do a few more potatoes and vegetables’ I thought that was diplomatic enough.

‘What do you mean, hungry.’ A belligerent look swept over his face.

‘There’s too much on the plate as it is, I am putting on weight and I have been meaning to talk to you about it.’

Was this self-denial? Here he was, helping himself to our next day’s dinner and having a go at me for feeding him too much and causing a weight problem.

Of course, a full-scale argument ensued and everything that had been stored and filed for future use came out into the open. I slept on the sofa that night, and Peter slammed around the flat until midnight. It did have an upside however, in the form of verbal abuse, hurled upwards to the occupants of the upstairs flat who unfortunately chose this night to hold a fiesta with much heel tapping and laughter at four in the morning. There was a deathly silence then giggling. We could hear bare feet slapping across the floors, as beds were sought and then quiet, which was to thankfully last until the girls moved out a month later. However, all hell was to break loose in our apartment before they left.

After the argument, we made up and I started making one meal at a time and cooking every day. We did have fish and chips on Saturday, after the pub and peace reigned in our little palace for a while.

I was doing temp work at the time and was moving around the place quite a lot. I was asked to work late one night, with an insurance company that was behind in paying its claims. The day before, I had made two dinners, as before, and put the half dish of lasagne on the table to cool. I had forgotten to put salt on the table and returned to the kitchen to get it – much to the surprise of the cat with it’s head buried in the béchamel and cheese sauce. It was so enraptured with my cooking that it did not even look up. I was so startled; I just stood at the kitchen door and screamed my head off. The cat leapt up with arched back and hissed at me. It looked pretty ridiculous really, with a ring of white sauce clinging to its whiskers and a piece of tomato hanging from his mouth.

Peter shot into the kitchen and the three of us stood in a frozen tableau. Peter was the first to move, grabbing a tea towel from the back of the door, he flung it at the cat. Obviously, my lasagne was a prize to hang on to. The cat actually grabbed another bite before leaping nimbly onto the sink and onto the windowsill. We rushed to the open window just in time to see the cat climbing up the ivy that covered the front of the house. With an arrogant backward glance, he gracefully slid into Spanish territory and we were left hanging out of our window, powerless to catch the cat burglar.

This solved the mystery of the missing food. The cat had looked very much at home, and it was obvious that this was not the first time it had helped itself to dinner at our expense. Short of causing an international incident, especially after we had introduced our neighbours to Anglo Saxon vocabulary, we decided to keep the window closed – to a level that allowed air, but not feline, entry.

I thought it was all very funny, but Peter was not amused. He was all for going down to the surgery immediately and having all sorts of tests conducted to find out if he had been infected with cat flu or similar. Of course, it was entirely my fault, for leaving food uncovered, and for not closing the window. I did point out that I had not expected to be burgled on the third floor of a building, but apparently this was not a permissible excuse.

Despite the increasingly volatile relationship between us, we stayed there for nearly a year. In that time I worked for a Temp agency and found myself using my rusty secretarial skills around the city. Most of the jobs were boring and repetitive but of course, being me, there were one or two incidents of note, even among the mundane tasks allotted to the transient temp.

I worked for two insurance companies in my first few weeks with the agency. My first assignment was in the typing pool, where I was expected to spend the entire day typing claim cheques. These were usually payments as a result of motor accidents, and some of the cheques were for several thousand pounds. You had to pay strict attention. I had an electronic typewriter that I was unused to, and in fact, looked on in envy by the girls pecking away on their manual versions. I learnt to master the beast that seemed to have a mind of its own. Keep your finger too long on a particular key and you ended up with a cheque for a million pounds instead of a hundred. All the cheques were numbered and any ruined ones had to be logged and given in at the end of the day to the accounts department. I did not get off to an auspicious start.

The cheques came in packs of fifty. They were joined together and had perforations between each cheque. On my first day, I managed to produce seventy acceptable cheques and thirty cancelled ones. The supervisor glared at me from behind her glasses and muttered something about temps and waste of time, I didn’t quite catch it all. I sidled out of the door vowing never to return. I half expected a call from the agency telling me that I was not welcome back anyway, but the reprieve never arrived.

The next day I found myself, once again, back in front of the gleaming monster. The curved keyboard reminded me of rows of teeth, determined to bite my fingers off at the first touch. However, for some reason, I started to get my eye in, and on the second day I produced ninety-five perfect specimens and only five rejects. By the fourth day, I was producing one hundred and fifty cheques a day with barely an error. The supervisor had thawed somewhat and the muttering under her breath had been silenced. This silence did not extend to the other temps that had been drafted in to clear this backlog of insurance claims.

Three of them cornered me in the ladies at coffee break, standing with arms crossed and grim expressions; I wondered what I had done to incur their displeasure and smiled sweetly in an effort to lighten the atmosphere.

A blonde, with deceptive baby blue eyes, leaned closer to me after assuring herself that the toilet stalls were empty.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ she hissed at me between clenched teeth.

‘We have been here for six weeks and they’ve been very pleased with our work.’ She continued, glancing at her companions for moral support.

‘We only produce seventy-five cheques a day. What are you trying to do, talk yourself out of a job, and ours along with it. The backlog should have kept us all here for the next six weeks until Christmas.’
She took a breath and imparted the final shot.

‘The supervisor has told us all to increase our cheques per day or she will have us replaced, you have to slow down now or there will be trouble.’

Right! Here I am, so desperate to get out of this place that I have perfected the art of cheque production, and these three bimbos want me to slow down so that they can stay here forever.

The problem with me is that I have never been much of a sheep and although I did not feel that a temporary job was worth getting into a fight over, I did have a problem with dishonesty.

Both the insurance company and the temp agency were getting fiddled here. These three girls were deliberately working slowly, taking three times as long to do the job as was necessary, and therefore taking three times more money than they should.

I pushed past them and returned to my desk. I carried on working at my normal speed and produced my one hundred and fifty cheques as usual. I also a produced a couple of other things. I earned glares and ostracism from my three temporary colleagues and my first genuine smile from the supervisor at the end of the day. I don’t think she missed much at all and I was proved correct when three replacement staff were drafted in to the department the following Monday.

I was given the task of bringing them up to speed and ensuring that an acceptable number of cheques were produced each day. The job was completed in three weeks and as my three erstwhile colleagues had predicted, we only had three weeks left until Christmas. Most offices did not take on temps at this time of year, and I was told by the agency that there would be some vacancies in department stores for the sales in January and that they might not be able to find me anything until then.

I adjusted my Christmas present list, which left Peter with a pair of socks, and my parents with a bottle of wine and a bunch of flowers. My responsibility was to pay for the food each week, so I hurriedly rang around both sets of parents and siblings to wangle an invitation for Christmas lunch and Boxing Day. I was marginally successful, but it looked like fish and chips for New Year. Then I received a call from the Agency.

With just two weeks to go before Christmas, an unusual vacancy had come up. A receptionist–secretary for a ‘Funeral Director and Chauffeur Driven Limousine Service’. Not the most cheerful of occupations at Christmas time. But, beggars can’t be choosers. The thought of Peter’s face, when he opened his solitary Christmas gift, convinced me, and I duly arrived at Flanagan’s Funeral Directors on December 15th.
©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl

One of the reviews for the book

Dec 04, 2015 Jo Robinson rated it it was amazing

Just an Odd Job Girl is the uplifting story of Imogen. Cast aside aged almost fifty by her husband who chooses a younger wife to replace her she faces beginning life all over again. A new and most cool phrase totally to me in this book – the fast tracker – a great name for those gorgeous young women who forego the whole long term working to succeed in life together as a couple in favour of swiping an already successful older man from the woman who has put in all the years to gain the success. Imogen’s self-confidence is low as it can be, but she heads off to a personnel agency that specializes in placing the more mature job seeker to see if they can help her find work in spite of her not obviously stellar curriculum vitae. Twenty four years of “only” housewife and mother. There she is interviewed by Andrew Jenkins, who rather than dismisses her on the basis of her tiny CV, encourages her to tell him what she liked or didn’t like about the few jobs she did have many years back before she stopped working in exchange for being a stay at home wife and mother. And then the fun begins!

I laughed so hard I almost cried a few times reading Imogen’s memories of former jobs and employers. She’s crazy in the most wonderfully inspiring way. Chasing thieves and fabulousness in a funeral parlour and dentists office to name only two of the places she showed her wonderful character and savvy in on her Odd Job Girl trip. The apprehending of the shoplifter just has to be read! In the telling of her own life, Imogen realizes her value though. While this book is a really fun romp, it’s also very poignant and touching. So many women around the globe really do get kicked to the kerb after years of thinking that they married their true love, and would be together forever. Generally they feel old and ugly, all used up and not much use for anyone or anything, let alone a meaningful career and life.

This is a book with a happy ending, and an inspirational happy ending at that. It shows that all is never lost until the very last breath that you take. It shows that everyone has fabulousness within us, and all it takes is to recognize it, grab it, and have a ball with the amazingly wonderful person that you are. It’s not all about age, it’s all about feisty and real. Five out of five stars and a very hearty one hundred percent recommendation. A nice one for the guys out there too – especially if you have ever been a target for a fast tracker. There’s a whole lot more to life than a little bit of nubile.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews


Amazon UK:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

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.