TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING

When I first joined JS, we had a cashier trainer, one of the staff who trained the new starts. The job was then made in to a store trainer who had a supervisory postion and trained the staff with multi skills, as till operation was now a requirement of the job, whichever department you had been taken on for.

 

Each department had a senior assistant under the manager of the department.

 

A few years later, the decision was made for these members of staff to   become section managers and given management status. This was also because, new staff could come in at management level.

 

I never did think this was a good idea, as a lot of the newly promoted section managers were really good workers and senior staff, but didn’t really want to be managers. However, this continued quite well and as the older members retired, newer section managers were brought in.

 

One day, we were given the information that role of section manager, was being dissolved and they would have the choice to become supervisors again, or take severance. This was so frustrating as they should have been left alone in the first place.

 

On top of this, all management in the Area were going on to a kind of “team building course” for a couple of days and although the senior managers knew what was planned at the end of it, the section managers hadn’t been told, but believe me, they had heard something. I felt rather awkward being on the course, knowing what I knew, while interacting on the with them.

 

As I ran the social side at the branch, I was the booker of theatre trips, outings etc. I received an invitation to go and visit Eurodisney which was in its early stages. It was purely a business trip and I couldn’t take my daughter, so I took my Saturday assistant who was 18.

 

The coach company picked us up from the bottom of my road and took us to Dover. We got the ferry which had complimentary smorgasbord during the trip. We were met at the other end by a representative of Eurodisney and and shown a video. When we got off, we were taken to absolutely beautiful hotel which was the next one down from the Disney Hotel. It was based on a New England early 20th Century Yacht Club. The keys were handed to us and we were told that we only had to attend the breakfast meeting for a briefing in the morning and the rest of the times was ours.

 

 

We were given passes to the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and given meal vouchers for the duration. We were also advised to go anti clockwise around the park to avoid the queues which would be building up.

 

It was an absolutely brilliant day, but exhausting and my poor little companion was exhausted but I had to wake her up for the Wild West Show.

Having had such a wonderful time, we decided to take our little daughter later in the year.  Well welcome to the real world.  We had to pick up a coach from the services.  Crowd on to a ferry.  Get another coach and were dropped off at Eurodisney, on the outskirts of the park at the cheapest hotel.  We waited ages for the keys and eventually got in to the room.  We had a lovely time there, but then it was back on the coach, ferry, coach, car and home.  I hate to think what it would have cost if we had purchased the same 2 days that I had attended by invitation, a couple of months before. 

Anyway the journey home from my business trip was the reverse of the first journey out and just as good. I arrived back at the bottom of my road ready to tell my family what the holiday had been like. As soon as I stepped in the door, my husband told me that my store manager had been on the phone and I was to contact him asap. Also my store instructor had asked me to ring her. It turned out that before the section managers would be replaced, the role of the personnel manager (me) in the branches would be cut down.

 

I spoke to my manager and he told me not to worry about it. Eventually a decision was made and it was decided that Chatham didn’t need a personnel manager all the time, so I was to go to Sittingbourne, oversee the closure of the little store in the arcade and then take over the running of the new superstore up the road when recruiting was finished. I ran along side another personnel manager who worked at the job centre and I stayed at the old store. I was only part time anyway.

 

Also we had to inform the section managers of their fate and they all took the redundancy package. One evening after this, I was told there was no one on the deli from 4 pm. Unfortunately, the section managers took their job seriously and would stay if there was a staff shortage, alas there was no-one there anymore.

 

Eventually the new store was up and running. Again, the old staff didn’t feel at home there as there were more staff needed to run it so it took time for them to mingle in.

 

Before the actual official opening day, I arranged for the Air Ambulance, Police and Fire Brigade to be in the car park. This was a great success. The only problem was, the fireman were wolf whistled and called out to by passing female drivers for the whole day!

 

On the weekend after it actually opened, I was advised that we would we be having a horse and carriage to give people rides around the car park. I delegated my clerk to look after the driver and the horse. Eventually a massive all singing and dancing state of the art horse transporter turned up.

It had security cameras all around it.

 

The driver explained that his horses and carriage were used in a lot of the TV shows that used horse drawn vehicles. The carriage was lovely, it was more of a taxi cab style, as opposed to a fancy carriage.

THE STYLE OF CARRIAGE KINDLY IDENTIFIED FOR ME BY THE HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE COMPANY. OBVIOUSLY THE ACTUAL ONE WAS IN MINT CONDITION.

 

My clerk duly looked after him and rode around the car park, helping passengers in to the cab. A little while later, she came to the staff restaurant for a cup of tea and I asked her how she was doing. She was crying with laughter. When she finally could speak, she told me she had gone to the fresh veg store in the warehouse and pick out rejected carrots and apples (very slight bruising, they weren’t rotten), and took them out the the carriage driver for his horse, feeling really pleased with herself. He took one look at them and said “my horse can’t possibly eat them, he only has the best”.

 

She said she felt a right idiot, but also found it funny. She took out fresh apples and carrots, but I think the rest of the day may have been a bit strained!

 

As the store led on to the high street, I often used to pop out in my lunch hour, or just to post a letter during the day. A couple of months earlier, I had booked a party for my daughter with some of her school friends in a local pub restaurant with a soft play area. However, when it came to finalise the booking, I was told I couldn’t have more than 10 children. I was horrified, I couldn’t tell her to uninvite people so I had to cancel the party.

 

I wrote a strong letter of complaint to the company and said that they   should have informed me of this when I booked.  They were owned by Threshers and they sent me a £40 voucher to be spent at any of their outlets.

 

As there was a Threshers in the high street, I decided to call in on my way back and see what was on offer. The sky was black outside and it looked stormy, so I had a very large umbrella with me, one of which was left at the store for customers to use when it was raining. The bell on the door rung and I walked in. A man came to the door leading into the shop, which had 3 stairs down from it. He started to walk towards me and slipped, sliding down the three steps and landed on his back behind the counter, moaning and groaning. The counter was quite high so I heaved myself up on to it with my hands, leaving my legs dangling down the front of it. “Are you OK”, I said, looking down on him. “Yes”, he said moaning and groaning. He managed to turn himself round on to his hands and knees. “Should I get someone”, I asked. “No”, he said and asked me what I wanted. I told him I had a voucher and had come in to see what I could get.  He told me in between his moaning and groaning in pain. I didn’t want to prolong his agony, but he reached under the counter in great pain and brought out a leaflet that I might be interested in with a special promotion in it. By now, I couldn’t believe the customer service I was getting, but didn’t want him to suffer any longer. I thanked him for the leaflet and again asked him if I should get someone for him.

 

“No thank you”, he groaned, “I am always doing this!”

 

I got back to the store and told my clerk, we nearly needed to have medical treatment for helpless laughter.

 

I passed Threshers the next day and saw him standing putting some stock out, so I knew he was OK. If I hadn’t seen him in there, no way would I gone in to check, I could risk an other falling down the stairs episode, even if, according to him, he was always doing!

 

People always amazed me as to what they did. I was in my office one day and I heard the tannoy ask for the owner of a car and said the registration. About 15 minutes later, I head the same message. I didn’t think much of it. A little while later I was called down to the shop floor and there was the security guard with an irate customer. It turned out another customer had hit his car in the car park and came in to the store to report it. She waited for 15 minutes and they put out another tannoy call. Eventually, fed up of waiting she left, but hadn’t given any details. The driver was telling the security guard he should have got information from her, but he explained he wasn’t allowed to do that. The driver said he had been in the store and hadn’t heard the two tannoy calls.

 

The moral of the story is don’t park your car for free in a supermarket car park, when you go shopping in the high street!

 

In another incident, when I was at the old store, I heard a tannoy call for the parents of a little lost boy to come to the customer services desk. This was not unusual. Again, 15 minutes later the call was made again, now that was. Also this was the at the time of the Jamie Bulger incident.

 

I came downstairs and there was a little boy sitting quite happily near the checkouts. I asked if thet had found the parents and they said they hadn’t. I realised that there must a frantic parent somewhere. I phoned the police and they said they had the parents at the police station. We had tried to speak to the boy but it turned out he was Austrian.

 

The parents duly arrived, but didn’t have the same reaction as usual, ie, hugging the child and telling him off at the same time for getting lost.

 

Off they went, quite unperturbed, saying thank you for looking after him, as he had wandered off by himself down the high street. They had obviously not heard of the terrible event in the UK, in Austria.

 

We had a big charity event to raise money which entailed taking an item from one branch to another by a different type of transport, which we had to come up with the idea for. I contacted husky and sledge owner, but he told me that dogs couldn’t run that far, which was quite understandable. Eventually I settled on the idea of a digger that had made the news.

 

 

 It duly arrived in the car park and carried  the item to Chatham, where a red double decker bus carrying staff took it onwards. 

There was a lot involved with regard top making sure we had public liability etc. However, the event itself  wasn’t publicised, so only the branches involved with it knew what was going on so it was a bit of a shame really that not many people saw it.

 

I was quite happy with my job and one weekend my husband had taken his brother and his friend back to Durham. I got a phone call from his mother saying he was in hospital. I managed to speak to him and he was breathless. He said I didn’t need to come up. I left it at that.

 

The next morning, I got up early and for some reason turned on the TV. Princess Diana had died. That date, not for just that reason, would be imprinted in my mind for ever.

 

HOLIDAYS

HOLIDAYS

The first proper holiday that my mum could afford was for me and her to go to Pontins for a week.

There was so much to do and so many competitions to enter. Someone persuaded me to enter the lovely legs competion, but when it came to it, we had to stand behind a large sheet with our shoes off. That is definitely the best way to lose a competion!

 

We met a couple on holiday with their 13 year old son and my mum entered him in the Donkey Derby to ride her donkey. Unfortunately, he was disqualified as we had warned her he was overage and so tall that he stood astride the donkey and it walked along with him not even touching the saddle.

 

The odds against winning any competition were stacked against us. My mum played the piano excellently but a certain family won and  this was how it went all week.

 

I entered a Cowboys and Indians' Fancy Dress Competition, making myself rather a fancy crepe paper and wool head dress and skirt. The father of the family won it with a tea towel around his head with a feather feather stuck in it.

 

It was a lovely week away, but when I came back, It took a while for me to settle after such an action  packed week.

 

18 months later, I toyed with the idea of working at a holiday camp and applied to Butlins in Filey. They must have been quite desperate for staff, because they offered me a job in PR whithout even meeting me.

 

I was very tempted, but I just couldn’t take the plunge and leave my job for seasonal work, so never took them up on the offer.

 

There was also the disasterous hliday on the Norfolk Broads, which I spoken about in the section on my mum. 

Amonst the other things, my mum’s chin seemed to develop a giant cold sore in the summer and we had to visit the GP and have cream and a big plaster put across her chin.

 

Now cold sores erupt through the herpes virus and armed with this diagnosis, she went in to a cafe for a cup of tea. The waitress sympathised with her plastered face and asked what was wrong. “Oh that”, my mum replied, “I’ve got HERPES”! With that the waitress mumbled something and rushed off. At the time, Herpes was getting a lot of press, for the wrong reasons.

 

The year before my daughter was born we went on holiday with a couple of friends to Marazion in Cornwall. The weather was beautiful and the breakfasts at the Guest House were to die for. I still haven’t tasted scrambled eggs like it.

 

I had lost a lot of weight just before that and had gone on the Cambridge Diet. It think it is known as Lighter Life now. The fact that you weren't consuming many calories made the weight drop off quickly.  It was the first and last time that I ever wore a bikini and it was probably the best holiday that I ever had. 

We had a lovely holiday in Bournemouth next. We originally planned to go with a couple of friends and they had to drop out at the last minute. 

My husband had the impression that Bournemouth was full of elderly people.  However, he went down to the beach before me as he liked to sunbathe and then I came down later when I had got my daughter ready.

Looking down on the beach I could see him lying face down sunbathing on a large towel.  Around him were topless young women with beautiful figures soaking up the sun. 

"Well", I told him, "I hope I look like they do when I reach pension age". 

The next year we hired a beach hut. It was a good job too, as it would be cold and damp for the whole week. When I got home the neighbours said how lucky we were to have such a lovely week. I looked quizzical. The tarmac was melting on the pavements here, they informed me. 

Oh well, you win some, you lose some!

When my daughter was 4 we bought a static carvan near the beach and we used to go there during the weekends and some of the holiday. When I say weekends, we went on the Friday night, stayed Saturday night and then, just when everyone was sitting outside at lunch time on a nice day, we had to go back home so my husband could get his clothes ready for work the next day.

This stemmed from when he was in the Army and was always smart. One good thing was that he ironed his army uniform in case I made tramlines in the sleeves and trousers! I can still remember the day vividly when in Germany, I saw he had not taken in the boots he had “bulled” the night before. Bulling entailed heating shoe polish to melt it under the tin and rubbing and polishing until there was a thick layer of shiney boot pollish on on each toecap.

 

I dropped them in to his squadron on my way to work, thinking I had save him from a serve reperimand. Oh no, I got in to deep trouble with him because carrying them in the bag had knocked the crust of shiny shoe polish off and they now needed doing all over again.  

 

Apparently, he didn’t want them until the next day, that is why he hadn’t taken them before!

You may have noticed that I have sometimes found myself in funny situations, well I think I inherited this from my late mother.

For instance, sheY was a brilliant pianist, classic to pub songs, the latter kept us going when money was scarce.  After she retired, she used to play for various organisations. One of these was a pub, where the landlord and landlady were going through a very messy divorce. Now my mum never took a break and as she was asked to play, that’s what she did.

 

In this case the landlord decided he was going to cut everything in half literally and came out with a small axe and starting hacking a way at a table. My mum carried on playing regardless and only stopped when he came over to start on the piano!   

 

She used to play for a senior citizen day care centre. She was sitting on the stage at the piano and there was an elderly man in a wheel chair on there too, as he loved to listen to her and she had her back to him. She started playing her repertoire of pub songs and again didn’t stop until she had finished all of them. She looked round and noticed that the man in the wheel chair wasn’t there any more.

 

She looked down and saw him on the floor with the wheel chair on top of him and staff giving him first aid. She asked what happened and they said, “Well he was OK until you played Doing the Lambeth Walk. He got so excited that he tried to do it himself and fell off the stage”. Considering the Lambeth Walk was quite near the beginning of her play list, he had been down there for quite a while!

By the way the pianist in the video clip is MRS MILLS, not my mum!

I went to Jersey with her and my daughter as it was somewhere she wanted to go. Whilst there, we went to the Jersey Experience, which was very interesting and the exit was a darkish tunnel, in which there were holes every now and then with something displayed behind a glass panel.

 

I had come outside with my daughter and was waiting for my mum. Next minute, a man came tearing out with my mum chasing him asking if he was alright. He seemed to be in a state of shock.

 

“What on earth happened”, I asked her. “Well, I was standing behind him while he was looking at the Ghostly Bride”, she said. Just to put you in the picture, the Ghostly Bride was a skull with deep round eye holes, with a white veil around it. My mum had thick white hair, white jacket and big round glasses. He turned to leave and saw my mum, just after the seeing Ghostly Bride, screamed and fled! He must have been terrified!

 MUM!

 THE GHOSTLY BRIDE

My mum loved boats and we went the Norfolk Broads on a boat trip with her and her husband. My late husband drove assault boats when he was in the army. She was desperate to have a go at driving the boat, but my husband said it would be too difficult as it was so big. This was unbeknown to me, as I was sitting in the bedroom. Yarmouth Harbour was looming up ahead. The boats, berthed side to side, were 5 deep both sides of the water. I suddenly realised that my husband had come in to the room. “Whose driving”, I asked. “Your mother”, he replied. The boat was swaying from side to side, narrowly missing a River Police Control Boat. I was petrified and begged him to go back and take over. Unfortunately, she had nagged him to have a go until he lost his cool and said to her, “Okay you win” and left her too it. 

 

Eventually, I persuaded him to take over again, hopefully preventing a collision!

On the first night, my mum decided that we should moor up somewhere quiet along the river bank, which we duly did. We had all just gone off to sleep when we were woken up by flashing lights, loud music and people drinking and dancing. 

 

The quiet place turned out to be the turn around spot for the large disco party boat!

 

 

  •  

    My mum never learned to drive but she had a moped, but never took a test. The furthest she went on it was along the army road to the barracks where she worked, over the footpath in the field to the hairdressers.  After she had had her hair done, she had to push the moped back as she couldn't put her crash helmet on as it would ruin her hair.

    I think she thought rules of the road didn’t apply to her and one day my late husband was a passenger in a very large army truck, when she seemed to appear from nowhere on her trusty moped, on the roundabout. The driver put on his brakes, and my mum carried on, oblivious to all.

    @@#@# yelled the driver, “who was that silly old bat?”. “My mother-in-law”, replied my husband, sinking down lower in to his seat.

     

     

    Someone started a hovercraft service which ran from Hoo to Chatham, along the River Medway, which is at the bottom of the road in the village where she lived. I was working at JS in Chatham at the time and she was coming to meet me one lunch time. The hovercraft would make a stop at the fore shore, where she oived, if someone was waiting there.

    When she arrived and met me, she had on a grey plastic patterned long coat, one side of which was covered in sand and mud, continuing up the side of her hair and face and down along her legs. She looked like one of those people who have different clothes and hair etc, on one side of their body, so they are two different people when they turn round.

    “What on earth has happened to you?”, I asked her. “Well, she said, when I saw the hovercraft arriving, I thought I would save him the trouble of coming all the way up the beach and walked down to meet him!"

THE COUGH (And Princess Diana)

One of the perks of working for JS was a discounted membership of private healthcare, which I joined. My husband had, had a cough for a while and we couldn’t get to the bottom of it. We went privately to the specialist and left the insurance claim forms with him and he told us he would let us know the outcome of the examination in 2 weeks.

 

A few days later, we received a letter from the healthcare company asking when Alveolitis was first diagnosed. As we hadn’t got a clue what it meant, we contacted the consultant. He was furious that we had been given a diagnosis from someone else, when he hadn’t told us himself. Obviously the insurance company was checking to see if it was pre existing.

 

The consultant dealt with the company and we never heard anything more about it.

 

The diagnosis was Cryptogenic Fibrosing Alveolitis, (Pigeon Fanciers’ Lung or Farmers’ Lung). Cryptogenic (of uncertain origin), Fibrosing Alveolitis (the lung tissues thicken and harden).

 

He carried on working with it, but there wasn’t much that could be given to control it, only the usual steroids. There were 6 monthly check ups and obviously the disease was progressing. Eventually, after a few years he gave up work as he was an engineer and it was getting harder for him as he was getting exhausted. He still didn’t use oxygen.

 

We had to claim sickness allowance for him and before we could get it, he had to be assessed. A doctor called on him when I was at work and made him walk to the end of the road and back which was impossible for him. He got back and collapsed, breathless, in the chair. The doctor was a bit worried, left and said we would hear something.

 

Our GP was shocked when we told him we weren’t going to be given any benefit and he wrote to them and we were awarded the smallest amount that could be given. Not even the higher rate. As it transpired, he should have been on a Special Rules payment which is for terminally ill people, but I think the doctor’s were being kind by stating that wasn’t the case.

 

He went up to the Royal Brompton to be measured up for a lung transplant. Considering he was stocky, tanned and looked well, it was no surprise when the consultant didn’t realised he was the patient. Everyone around him was pale, thin and obviously very ill.

 

To have a transplant, your body must not be prone to any infection, so he was examined, X rayed etc, even having to have teeth out. He went through all this. I remember sitting waiting for him and

noticed that one of the patients was staring at me. I couldn’t think why until I got up and noticed that I had some toilet paper in my tights.

 

He went for one of his check ups and when he got back he told me that the nutritionist had told him he would have to lose weight for the operation. Now, he was a healthy size as I explained and he had no surplus weight. From that day he stopped eating, just picking. He got thinner and thinner and people would tell me he wasn’t looking well with the illness. I had to tell them that it wasn’t the illness, but that he was not eating to lose weight. Eventually he was very thin all over.

 

His brother and a friend came down to visit him and to build me a patio. He set off to drive them home to the North East. That is when I got the call to say that he was in hospital. As I said, I woke up the next day to the news that Princess Diana had died, the same day that he was admitted to hospital, never to come home again.

 

Although I was told not to worry, I had to go to see for myself. JS were marvellous and I took time off. He was now permanently on oxygen. I made sure he was OK and then came back home to sort things out at home. Before I left, he asked me to let him know that I had arrived back home, which I duly did via the nurse on duty. I then popped over to my brother’s house, but made sure any calls to me were redirected there. I hadn’t been there long when I got a phone call telling me that he was worried because I hadn’t let him know I had arrived home. I was livid as that was the first thing that I had done.

 

I couldn’t rest, so drove all the way back the next day. By then he was on 100 % oxygen and didn’t want me to make a fuss about the phone call with the nurses.

 

As each day wore on, he was not improving and so I dreaded anyone asking me how he was. If it was a broken leg, I could say he was one the mend.

 

One day I went in and his mother and sister were with him and he told me the consultant wanted to see me. In I went and then she told me that there was a chance he was not going to come through this and to let his family know.

 

I just couldn’t do that and walked out with a smile on my face and told them it was about the ambulance that we would need to get him back to Kent.

 

Eventually an ambulance was provided with 8 bottles on oxygen on board and the instruction that it should be blue lights and sirens all the way.

 

He went in to our local hospital where his specialist consultant looked after him. He wanted him to have the transplant so arrange for him to be transferred to the Royal Brompton Hospital where he was registered. A nurse who looked after him, arranged to travel, on her day off, with him and settle him in.

 

He was in a 3 bed room on his own. While they were getting him ready they removed the oxygen and he turned black with cyanosis. There was panic stations as they couldn’t he believe that he could go like that and survive. The sats (measured on the fingertips were 50, 99 -100 being the norm).

 

The consultant said if he could have one lung transplant, he would have 50 percent better breathing than he had now. Then he examined and told him that he was so thin he would need to build himself up. He was now unable to eat because he couldn’t take the mask off to eat.

 

It was then my husband said to him “but I was advised to lose weight for the operation”. That was it, I was so upset and crying because I had told him all along he was the right weight before.

 

It goes to say that from that day I have no time for nutritionists. We know our own bodies.

 

I had gone home and brought my friend up to visit him the next day. Before I went in, the nurse told me it wasn’t advisable to me to go home again. I walked my friend to the station and then rung him family when I got back to the hospital. They all travelled down from the north east and I asked my brother to bring my daughter up the next morning.

 

He had no will, but the hospital administrator gave me a book which had a section on writing wills. It was straightforward in our case. I copied down every word, which he signed, and then she had it witnessed by two the admin staff.

 

His family arrived that evening and they bunked down in the relatives room, while his mum and I had the other two beds in his room. By now he was on a ventilator, a tube across his face which was forcing the oxygen down in to his hardening lungs.

 

In the morning, his mum told me and his brother to go down to the canteen and she would stay with him. While I was drinking my tea, the phone kept ringing there and they were too busy to answer it. I did feel uneasy though. Eventually they asked if I was in there and to go straight back to the ward.

 

I arrived too late, and his mum was upset that she had sent me to the restaurant. I told her not to be.

She was with him and he was her son.

 

My brother and I went to register him at Kensington and Chelsea Registery Office and then came home.

 

I was actually happy that he was now at peace and all the suffering had gone. Now I could talk to people when they asked about him. I made a point of approaching them myself because I didn’t want people to be embarrassed or gushing with sympathy. You will only understand what I mean if you have had a loved one who is suffering and in pain.

 

There is one thing that I thought of afterwards. He couldn’t stand Princess Diana, I know not why, but the poor chap was going to see a lot of her from now on!

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING - YET AGAIN1

In my previous chapter, I mentioned that I always remember the date Princess Diana died, well, I also remember the date of the great hurricane that hit England on the 15th October, as it was the day I came home with my baby daughter.

 

I got up to feed her and there was a power cut, so Iit a candle to see what I was doing and then went back to bed to sleep. My mother in law was staying with us. The next morning, she was really shaken. I asked her why. “Didn’t you hear the storm last night?” she said. “There were electric cables lashing about and everything was blowing everywhere, and I was terrified”.

 

We never heard a thing!

 

As I said previously, JS was very good to me in letting me have leave, but I thought I should really get back to work. The girl who was covering in for me was the one who was my Saturday student at Chatham, a few years back. I also knew that she was excellent and was going to go places and she was settled and fitted in well, as I had been away for 6 months and also my priorities in life had changed.

 

I have always believed in fate, ie, what is meant to be is meant to be so I went to see my Store Manager. I asked him if would like to keep her there. “What about you”, he said. I told him I really didn’t mind. He then told me that there were two part time stores, which she would be taking over. He said I could choose one or both if I wanted. “Where are they”, I asked. “Chatham and Ashford”, he said. “Right, I’ll do both”, I replied.

 

I didn’t want part time as I knew that any future redundancy package would be based on my full time hours. Chatham was my second home. I had only left it to take on Sittingbourne. I decided to do 2 days at Ashford and 3 at Chatham. It couldn’t have worked out better.

 

It was as if I had never been away from Chatham.

 

Ashford was the store where I told you about the two job applicants who were sent there for medicals and put their backless gowns on and then played pool in the staff restaurant.

 

Well, I had only been there a couple of weeks and when I arrived for one of my days, the deputy manager, told me what had occurred the day before. Apparently a group of people from a day centre had come in to town for a trip. The mini bus dropped them off and was coming back for them later. They included people in wheelchairs and people who were partially sighted, etc.

 

Now anyone who knows where the Sainsbury’s at Ashford is knows that the car park has a travelator (ie flat moving staircase) which leads up to the top storey of the car park. You put your trolley on to it and wheel it off at the end.

 

Apparently, the party of people wanted to go up the travelator and their escort seemed think it was OK. So on they got, unfortunately, a partially sighted person in a wheel chair got on first and they all followed Unfortunately, the person in the wheelchair didn’t see it was coming to an end and didn’t go forward. He tipped over and the person behind him shot over him and the rest all ended up in a big pile at the top of the travelator, rather like when a production line gets jammed and it all piles up.

 

The Deputy Manager went to see what the problem was with the travelator and came across a scene of upturned wheel chairs, and people everywhere. There were 3 ambulance crews with lots of oxygen bottles. Luckily no one was badly hurt thank goodness, mainly in shock.

 

The upshot of it was that the deputy manager had had to ring the care home to tell them not to send the minibus to the town centre, but to collect them from the William Harvey Hospital instead!

 

After a few months at Ashford, they asked me to go to another part time store. I won’t mention it’s name, but I had never liked it since I joined JS. That combined with everything being target orientated etc, made me not like the way everything was changing.

 

I received an email from my District Personnel Manager asking for me and another experienced personnel manager in our district to attend a briefing. It turned out that they were going to combine the head offices of the Savacentre and Sainsbury’s. They both belonged to Sainsbury’s but were two separate entities and obviously this meant the jobs could not be duplicated. We were to go to the Madjeski Stadium in Reading where we would be allocated the staff we would be giving the outlay of the redundancy packages they would be receiving. It was obviously a secret we had to keep until we got there on the Monday, but the SC Head Office staff knew something was up.

It was horrible sitting at the back of the room while they heard what was going to happen.

 

I had all the formula of how the packages were worked and obviously knew what I would get if it every happened to me. In fact, I was quite jealous of the fact that they could take one. In my group, one of the ladies was a secretary nearing retirement. She was devastated, she loved her job. I forgot that it was a different, easier life in Head Office. This was brought home to me a few years back whenever we had snow. If you couldn’t get to London where you were based, you had to come in to your nearest JS store. We had a couple in to help us. They came up to our general office and obviously it was all hands on deck due to the weather and no one had time for anything. They were shell shocked!!

 

Four weeks later, it was a lovely sunny morning and I was travelling in to Chatham and then had a disciplinary to do in the other store. I couldn’t help thinking that the redundance SC staff would be starting their first day of freedom!

 

I also knew that in the next few weeks I would be dealing with redundancies amongst the store managers and deputies which they didn’t know about.

 

I was in my office with my clerk and we were sorting out some tickets for a trip I had arranged. As the tickets were in strips with varying seats and rows, we were working out who could sit together and who could sit behind their friends etc. My manager came into my office and told me that my District Personnel Manager had come to see me.

 

I went in he started talking about the changing role of the Personnel Manager and gave options.

 

“Is there a redundancy option?” I asked. “Yes”, he said. “OK thanks, I’ll take it, I replied. He was taken about but told me due to my service and recogniton of the work I had done over the years, I could leave that day, as I would have been involved with the other managers who were going and it wouldn’t be fair on me.

 

I got outside the office, clenched my fists, bent my arms and pulled them back, hissing “YESSSSSSS”.

 

When I got home and turned on the television news, Jill Dando had been shot and killed.

 

 

MY LOVELY MOTHER- IN-LAW

My late mother-in- law was a lovely person and I was lucky to have her.

 

The weekend before I left my job, I had been to my brother-in-law’s second wedding in the North East. He had rather a knack of picking unsuitable woman, his first wife though,  is not included in these choices.

 

On the way up the A1, I nearly collided with a lorry and then left my purse in some toilets when I stopped for a break.

 

On arriving at my mother in law’s house, I found she had her penfriend from America staying with her. She had been writing to her and visited her in Minnesota where she moved to after marrying her American husband.

 

My MIL was in her late 70's at this time and worked tirelesslyfor the Oldies as she called them,running clubs, outings and meals etc.

She would never join in herself as she felt she wasn’t old enough yet.

 

She had always looked ageless and this was evident when she went for a heart check up which included a walk on a treadmill. She was called in and stood on the treadmill, it started picking up speed and she was trying to keep up begging them to stop.

 

“But Mrs X”, they said, “you are only 54”. “I am not Mrs X, I am Mrs Y and I am 78”, she gasped.

The treadmill ground to a hold. She was laid on a couch and given cups of tea and cooled down. She never did find out where Mrs X was.

 

After that I would assume that they always checked name and date of birth, no matter how youthful the person was.

 

For many years she used to catch the coach down to London where we would pick her up. On one of her journeys, whilst waiting for her coach, she asked a man if he had the time as she didn't want to miss her connection.

 

The man grabbed his belongs and started to move away saying “No, I have not, I am married and am waiting for my wife”.

 

Anyway it transpired that this 70+ pen friend had been sent to England by her family to stay with a relative on a long holiday. She arrived at the relative’s house and was immediately told by them, that wife had just developed a bad heart and she couldn’t possibly let her stay there.

 

Hence my MIL stepping to save the day FOR THE NEXT 3 MONTHS!

 

Well her penfriend turned out to be a bit of a jinx, as my MIL’s house had nearly caught on fire and a few other things had happened. Also my MIL was running out of ways to occupy her. No one in her family thought of getting her back to Minnesota.

 

MY BIL’s wedding was in the local registry office and then back at the pub in the village. Whilst I waited in the ante room with my MIL, the bridesmaids (her daughters) came in wearing short, thin strapless topped dresses, as did the bride. My MIL had already made her feelings clear about the wedding when the registrar came in to the ante room and asked if she was a witness.

She said in no uncertain terms, I'm not witnessing that bloody caper!

As predicted, the marriage didn’t last and he was again penniless and in debt to loan companies that she had been dealing with.

 

After the wedding, my MIL asked if she could bring her pen friend to stay with me for a while, so she could take her out and keep her occupied. I agreed, and surely enough on the way home, someone bumped in to the back of my car coming out of a service station. No harm done though.

 

The next day, I went in to work, and the rest is history as described in my last chapter. They came in from shopping and were surprised to see me as I should have been at work. My MIL was quite surprised to hear I had left after 20 years.

 

However the penfriend jinx didn’t end there. The next day I took them out for a run to the seaside to buy me a terracotta urn that I had admired. MIL had the money in a purse that she hung round her neck.

 

We went to see a very old church and left the car outside. Through the windows of the church you could hear the sheep baaing loudly. When it was time to go, we went outside and found that the window on my car had been smashed and our bags been taken. At least my MIL had her purse round her neck? Oh no she didn’t she had left it in the car with £1000 in it her son had given her.

 

When we got home, she reported the loss of her pension book to the Pensions people, but there nothing should could do about the money. Her pen friend's handbag contained her passport and also her spare set of false teeth, which she said she would have no hesitation in identifying because they had their name imprinted in them. I had not heard of this before, but I would suppose it would come in useful in a household who all wore false teeth, for ease of identification.

 

I tried cheer my mother in law up but she was stuck with me, no money and her penfriend. I took them up to the American embassy to get her a new passport. The security was daunting and only I was allowed in with her. She was a tiny little person and the officials sat up higher than the counter, her head was level with it. When he started talking to me, I had to explain he should be talking to penfriend. After leaning over the counter and finding her, he suggested she stood on a box, which she duly did.

 

When he found out she was from Minnesota, it transpired that he was as well and they had a good old chin wag.

 

We collected her passport and went home. My MIL and she travelled back to her home, the next day to get her pension as they didn't have a penny between them.

 

Eventually Penfriend went back to Minnesota, telling everyone what a lovely time she had regardless of the chaos she left behind.

 

A little while later, my MIL was contacted by the police to say they had been given handbags left in a bin in the town. I went to collect them. My leather bag obviously wasn’t there, but my MIL’s bag, (no neck purse) and Penfriends bag containing her passport and her TEETH, marked with her name as she described. I could certainly identify them!

 

My MIL was a psychiatric nurse all of her working life, bringing up 5 children on her own. She had a wicked sense of humour, as have all the females on her side of the family. So combined with mine, my daughter and grandaughter are cheerfully funny as well.

 

When she retired at 60, she never stopped doing things for others and remained fit for many years. As she was in her late 80’s she told me that if ever she was very ill and incapacitated, she didn’t want to be resuscitated, as she had had a full, not necessarily happy, life.

 

“If anyone does”, she said, “I’ll bloody well come back and haunt the buggers”!

 

She eventually started succumbed to vascular dementia, going from the happy, funny and caring person she was to a shadow of her self, there was no light in her eyes.

 

When she went in to hospital for the last time and I got the phone call that she had died, I was glad that she had got her wish to go peacefully.

 

She truly was a remarkable woman.

 

MY BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER

After the trauma of her birth, I loved her dearly and. She was very quick picking things up and learning. She started to talk in her own little way before her words could be understood. As her mother I realised that I knew what she was trying to say and when my mum talked over her, I told that she was saying to something to her and what it was.

If I said I needed to brush my hair, she would pick up the hair

brush and bring it to me and various other things that I mentioned. She soon learned to speak, and was very humorous as well. She called me in to see a volcano having an eruption.

When she was abut 8 months old, I took her in to work to show my ladies in the staff restaurant. I had my lovely little twin nephews with me who were 3 years older. I left her in her push chair for the ladies to come over and see her. Immediately my two nephews turned the pushchair to face the wall and then both stood guard over here. They weren’t going to let anyone get a look at her!   

 

 

When she was about 3, I was trying to screw back the handle on the bath that controlled the plug. She asked me what I was trying to do and I showed. She took the screwdriver and tightened up the screw for me.

There were no nursery schemes then, so she went to a little play school, but didn’t like that very much. As I went back to work for a couple of week days when she was 3 months old, she stayed with a lady who had borought up 3 boys, was a brilliant cook and as far as I was concerned, an expert mother.

 

She had them wrapped around her fingers and the whole family used to made a great fuss of her. As she constantly slept for the first 2 years of her life, she used to have her afternoon nap in the cot next to their bed. One her childminder head a voice calling her on the landing. She had jumped out of her cot on to the bed and gone to the top of the stairs, so it had to be moved further over.

 

I bought a kind of hard biscuit called Toothy Pegs when she was teething and that ended when she actually bit it in half with her gums.

I arranged for her to go to a little private school, which was quite reasonable in price then (I couldn’t afford it now}and she started their at 4 and a half.I was first looking around the school, I was waiting to be seen, when a lady started showing me around the cloakroom.

It ain’t bad ‘ere”, she said, “your daughter will be OK”. I first assumed that she worked there in some capacity, but thought I would be polite. “Is your daughter here”, I asked. “Yeh”, she said, “I’ve got two of them, twins and they are both here”.

It certainly taught me to not judge a book by it’s cover. It turned out that here husband was a demolition contractor and they lived in a huge detached house with electronic gates.

I went to visit once with my daughter. They had an indoor swimming pool in a conservatory on the side of the house. She had just got off the phone to her husband, as she kept mucking up the heating controls and the water was now bubbling with the heat and he had to come back to turn it down.

 

Her children and my daughter were in the po ol and came in to the kitchen with their towels to get dry. She said “don’t you just hate it when you haven’t got changing rooms attached to your pool?” As I didn’t have a pool, but realised that it would be a bit of a bind finding wet towels all over the kitchen and house and puddles of water., made a mental note that should I ever contemplate having an indoor pool made, I would certainly not forget to insist on adjoining changing room.

 

When I was being shown around, it was mentioned what options there were that could be paid extra for. Ballet was one of them. We looked at the ballet class and the teacher was a roundly built woman with huge great legs. I could not envisage her ever being a ballerina. I assumed that was a general class in the school.

 

“Is this the ballet class we pay extra for”, I asked. “Oh yes”, was the reply. Book, cover, judging comes back in to mind.

 

 

 

 

When she first started at the school, I used to drop her off in her class and she would start to cry. I would stand in the car park, wondering what on earth I had done and another parent would come along and tell me that my daughter was laughing and playing just after I had gone. It was also a chance to brush her long hair, in the classroom, without her making too much of a fuss.

 

One particular day, I brought a long a half a hair brush, ie, the handle was missing. “Mummy”, she said, at the top of her voice in the classroom, “that’s the brush you broke when you hit me with it”.

I hurriedly explained that I was chasing her with the brush in my hand and I tried and caught her with the brush, causing the handle to break off. Broken fingers

I quickly explained what had really had happen ed.

“Don’t worry”, said her teacher, “ I hear so many things and take them with a pinch of salt, except possibly when they tell me that their daddy is away working and mummy’s “friend” comes and stays with her”.

 

When she was about 6, she came home one night and said she was going upstairs to do a project for school. A little while later, she came downstairs and asked us what “vagina” meant. My husband sort of coughed and looked at me as if to say “over to you”.

I assumed that she was completing some kind of biology project. I had always decided to discuss things openly with her and not be like my mother was with me.

Off I went, explaining that vagina was the proper name for whatever pet name we called it. Every family has a different one, but you get the general idea. Not content to stop there, I tackled the subject of puberty, and what it would start to look like when she became a teenager. Now I was really on a roll and decided to go in with the piece de resistance, - the male equivalent.

 

Off I spouted, explaining the proper term for “willy” ie, penis. boys became teenagers and then with a flourish, I ended with the fact that some time later in life they are used to produce babies when male and females get together.

When I finished, she look at me and asked “Why is the Queen called one then”.

The look of horror on my face when the realisation dawned weas apparently, according to my husband, was priceless. Especially as he was prostrate on the settee crying with laughter.

 

“Oh”, I said. “You mean Regina”. “Yes mummy”, I am doing a history project.

 

I think the going rate at the time was 50 p for a tooth under the pillow for the fires. One morning she was quite upset. It transpired that she had had a tooth come out just as she was going to sleep and she put it under her pillow and there was nothing left for her. I had to gently explain that she must tell mummy and daddy and show them the tooth, so we could tell the faires!

 

My mum used to love seeing her. When I was going to give blood one day, I took her with us so she could look after my daughter while I was in there. She was taking her along to the cafe and asked what she ate. I told, sausage, spaghetti bolognaise, etc.

 

When I met them in there afterwards, the poor child was practically hidden behind a giant mound of spag bol and a very large sausage. My mum said that she hadn’t eaten much. I replied that I expect it was because I meant one or the other, as a child’s portion!

 

She got a long rally well at school and was put a class ahead for her year. She also took exams in LAMDA, learning poetry and prose and explaining the meaning of terms used.

She never wanted to go on trips away with the school and got so upset nearer the time that she made herself unwell and couldn’t go. Later on when she was at the Grammar school, I was talking to the mother of one of her classmates who asked if she was all ready to China next week. My face must have been a picture as I had a clue what she was talking about.

 

When I got home and asked my daughter she said that were offered the trip when she first started there with the option of saving up for it over 4 years to go. I didn't want to go so I told them you were too poor to send me and I knew they wouldn’t argue with that.

It was a shame as I had said before that she should take any opportunity to go on trips and those of you who have read previous chapters of m y autobiography will know how poor we were and there was no chance of me going on a school trip abroad.

 

As she was a year ahead at school, she was too young to take her 11+ with the other girls in the class, so had to do the whole year again. This actually worked in her favour as when her father was seriously ill, she came up to the north-east with me for a couple of weeks.

 

She passed her 11+. She was good at English (hopefully inherited from me and maths (not from me as again you may have read that I have never taken a maths exam in my life) but from her father, who also gave her her good looks. Her verbal reasoning was excellent and had been from a little child. As she had passed the 3 parts she could go to a certain grammar school, which I couldn't go to as I only passed English and Arithmetic (fluke????) and wasn’t eligible so I went to went to another one.

She really wasn’t happy to go to this Grammar school, but I don’t think she wanted to go to any big school. To bribe her, I signed her up for riding lessons, which she took to like a duck to water.

 

Her father died before he knew she had passed, but he had wanted her to go.

She never wanted to go on trips away with the school and got so upset nearer the time that she made herself unwell and couldn’t go. Later on when she was at the Grammar school, I was talking to the mother of one of her classmates who asked if she was all ready to China next week. My face must have been a picture as I had a clue what she was talking about.

When I got home and asked my daughter she said that were offered the trip when she first started there with the option of saving up for it over 4 years to go. I didn't want to go so I told them you were too poor to send me and I knew they wouldn’t argue with that.

It was a shame as I had said before that she should take any opportunity to go on trips and those of you who have read previous chapters of m y autobiography will know how poor we were and there was no chance of me going on a school trip abroad.

 

 

After he passed away, I took her to Lapland that Christmas. We went for a weekend, but it was a trip of a life time. We flew over first class on Air Maersk. I must explain to those of you who have ready about my fear of flying, the return journey was going to be on Concorde and my theory was that if anything happened to that it would be so quick, there wouldn’t be time to worry.

 

On the trip over with Air Maersk we were sitting on big leather seats with our food on porcelain plates etc. There were miniature bottles of wine which were given out freely. I started to wonder why people said there was no room to sit properly or stretch on a plane until I looked round and saw the people at the back in tiny seats with plastic trays on their laps. Then I remembered I was in first class.

 

Father Christmas came and saw us off the plain and we got in to a an executive coach. It was early afternoon and already dark. There were no problems with the road which were covered in snow. The hotel room was warm and the quilts were out of this world, thin but warm. There was a television in the room and the first thing children do, is put the TV on. As she was flicking through the channels, I looked and to my horror she had found a porn channel which was showing, what I can describe as very rough porn. I snatched the remote control out of her her hand and tried to turn it off. I felt sick in side and she was in tears wondering what was happening. I had brought her to see Father Christmas in Lapland and that was on TV.

 

Outside the window the street looked lovely with little glowing braziers intermittently placed. I wanted to walk and see the beautiful street lights etc, very understated and not like ours.

 

She didn’t want to come, but I I couldn’t leave her on her own as she was likely to put the TV on and look for the channel I had made such a fuss about. She was also too young to leave on her own.

 

Apart from that we had a lovely time. We went out on skidoos to the Artic Circle. The skidoos were two seaters and I found myself with the only option but to to get on the back of one with a man I didn’t know. My daughter had been put in the sleigh with the other children.

Suddenly I saw an empty skidoo and tried my best to climb on but it seemed huge. A voice behind me said that it was his but to get on anyway. Apparently, I was trying to climb on to the one belonging to the guide. This was like a massive motorbike on skis, not the little fiddly things the others were on which also had speed limiters.

 

It was brilliant. We shot off ahead, with him standing up and turning around to see behind him and we moved at a very fast pace. When I got off, my daughter’s face was bright red and not with the cold. “ I wondered who that silly person was trying to climb on to the bike and then you took your hat off and I realised that it was you!

 

We went to an adventure playground in the snow, slid down snow hills on plastic pads and travelled around the trees in a circle on a flat sledge pulled by a reindeer who knew the route and went round by itself.

There was a log cabin where we had food and then found out that it was mashed potato and reindeer! Reindeer skins were on the chairs. It certainly was a self sufficient business.

That evening we had a wonderful buffet with every conceivable kind of food on it. Then we looked out the window and saw Father Christmas and his reindeer walked through the snow and trees. It was magical.

We all got a gift from him. He seemed to like the mothers sitting on his knee.

 

When it was time to go we were taken to the airfield in a coach and driven up to Concorde. Around the whole perimeter wire of the airfield, must have been the population of Lapland who had come to see it take off. It arrived and departed twice a year, the two weekends before Christmas.

I had requested and got Seat A and B which the Queen or various celebrities always had. The mach counter was in front of me. Our stewards were three ringed pilots and explained the workings to us every step of the way. The cock pit was tiny. The nose was down and only lifted when we took off.

 

They asked us if we wanted to go supersonic and of course we all yelled “YES PLEASE”. We had to wait until we were 8 miles above the ground, away from land mass as the boom would break windows. When we were ready, they explained ned that the fuel rolled along the pipes under the floor to the front of the plane to boost it. It was a very audible when this happened. You didn’t feel you were travelling a great speed. It was also a quite noisy plane. The seats were leather and huge,.

 

Again we had a meal on best china, but they weren’t so generous with the wine. The champagne was poured out in to little glasses. Air Maersk won hands down with their alcohol serving.

We were coming in to land at Heathrow which is the only British airfield that is long enough to take it, other planes must give it priority, ie , if they are coming in to land and Concorde was coming in, they had to fly back up again.

There was no circling and dropping down gradually, the altimeter would read 10.000, 9,000 etc in quick succession then the wheels hit the runway. We had to sit in the brace position, ie, bending forward with our heads in our hands. It then sped along at 200 miles for ages until it came to a half.

It was an amazing experience. When I got off, I forgot Christmas wasn’t here yet, as I felt as if I had really experienced it properly. My daughter had had a bit of a snuffly cold when we left for Lapland and it had completely gone when we got back. I think it mustshave been the fresh air and the pine forests.

 

There was no passport control as we were from Concorde, but we had to wait over an hour for our baggage, which put a bit of a dampener on it.

 

When I got back I sent a letter to the company thanking them and telling them how wonderful it had been. In a separate one attached to it, I put in my complaint about the extreme porn on the TV there.

They investigated and sent me a reply. Apparently, as I had gone first class, it was part of the package and free of charge. They also sent me a copy of the Finnish instructions which apparently were by the TV with the tiny English translation which was on them.

Apparently as I was a First Class customer, it was part of the package and complimentary. If I wanted to stop it I needed to inform reception.

 

Silly me, I should have read the notice thoroughly before my daughter put the TV on to check for my complimentary porn and get it turned off! I think the hotel was actually looking in to their policy after this, especially when it was full of children meeting Father Christmas.

As she got older, I could obviously be an embarrassed t to her, such as the time we were in a department store and she was in another aisle, when she heard stuff crashing to the ground. Apparently I had swung round with hand bag. She was off like a flash, waiting outside for me.

 

Another time I was pushing a laden trolley at the Savacentre. I don’t know how I did it but somehow I manager to slip down under the trolley with my hands clinging on the handle.

 

“Get up”, she hissed at me. Unfortunately, I could do not such thing as I was helpless with laughter, still clinging on to the handles., but she didn’t see the funny side, just an embarrassing mother!

She went in to the 6th form at the Grammar school, but didn’t want top go to university. Instead when she left she went to a local accountancy firm who paid for her training and has been there ever.

I know have two lovely grandchildren. My granddaughter looks and acts like her mother and my grandson is a miniature version of his father.

 

I love them all very much.

 

 

 

 

!