Smoking reflections

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Retail manager (1989-1991) aka ‘Saturday girl’

This job helped to top-up my PhD grant while I was studying full time. I was the only employee of an antiques clothes shop. Having a Saturday girl meant that Val, the owner, could have a day off.

My Saturdays were spent ironing, mending and making adjustments to antique clothes, then doing the weekly accounts at the end of the day. We didn’t have a till. We had a metal box with a key. I used a paper pad with a pen and a ruler to list items sold and write and sign receipts.  Despite the overhead of all this writing at the point of sale, cashing up didn’t take long. There weren’t many sales. Look how neat the shop rails are – a sure sign of very few customers!:

MerchandiseIt was fun when we had a customer!

They would see my genuine joy when they came into the tiny shop.  I’d look up from the sewing machine or ironing board, welcome them, offer them a cup of tea, then go back to whatever I was doing – if they clearly wanted to browse alone.

Some people would happily chat about the styles and period clothes they liked, asking questions about the clothes and the business. Some customers asked for jobs – as I had once done. All our few customers stayed a long time browsing. Some customers would travel long distances, over 50 miles, to visit us because of our unique and interesting stock. I like to think our friendly style also helped.

If customers were actually thinking of buying something, and it didn’t fit, I’d fit them for adjustments – pin the clothes – agree a price. I could make the changes on the spot in the shop while they browsed further and drank tea. Lovely. I loved the shop and the job. We had some customers that came in every Saturday, they were more like friends. I’d been a Saturday customer before I got the job.  It was having tea with Val and talking to her about her stock and business that had lead to my getting the job, I’d persuaded Val to employ me.

Cashing upAt 5.15pm Val would roll in to cash up for the week and get the weeks takings to the bank. She’d pour two large glasses of white wine, bring out an ash tray, and light a  cigarette. That’s Val sat infront of the sewing machine waving her fag at me.

With the shop closed I’d do the paper accounts for the weeks takings in the notebook. Not part of my job, but Val said she wasn’t very good at adding-up numbers which was all that I had to do. Easy.

As I counted the cash and checked it against the notes for the week Val would enlighten a 26 year old me with her 36 years of life wisdom. This wisdom mainly involved different ways of taking revenge against the married men she’d had affairs with. They were juicey stories and quite shocking to think she actually did those things. She explained that these men were responsible for ruining her life by lying to her about their intentions to leave their wives, that kind of behaviour needed severe punishment and she delivered it.

I made a couple of mental notes:

  1. Know lovers for who they are, rather than what I want them to be….
  2. Don’t upset Val, she’s capable of pure evil
Smoking reflections
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