Saturday, April 06, 2013

Linked to Sunday Scribblings

Previously in A Chequered Career …… We plastered a Citroen DS Estate with mud, then filled its luggage area with straw and bottles of Beaujolais Noveau …… that episode with food and wine produced within me a niggling feeling that my true calling was back where I started, in the grocery business …… And there it was. A little shop with a short name. I called it simply The Deli.

The Deli was an instant success. At peak periods the queue invariably snaked out of the door, past the window and down the street. My main problem however was the size of the shop; it was way too small. I could only get two customers in at a time or three at a squeeze.  Most of our clients needed something prepared to order, whether it be ham cut from the bone with my razor sharp blade, rashers of green streaky bacon  from my magnificent red Berkel slicer or wedges of cheddar cut by a cheese wire. This meant that each transaction took some considerable time.  The space on my side of the counter was somewhat restricted meaning I was unable to accommodate an additional server to speed things along, so as a result the amount of money dropping into the till was nowhere as much as it could have been, or needed to be to make the enterprise viable.

I decided to take on an assistant thinking that we could take turns at serving and performing backroom duties such as cooking the gammons in my washing boiler, removing the bones from sides of bacon and skinning cheeses. I had envisioned a young lady who would be slim enough to make passing each other possible; une femme élégante possessing a certain French flare in keeping with the image I wished the shop to portray. I stuck an advert in the window and within minutes an elderly lady waddled in asking about the position. She looked like everyone’s idea of the perfect Granny! Short and stout with her arms folded beneath her ample bosoms. She wore a floral apron, slippers on her feet and her blue hair was in curlers under a patterned headscarf. With the broadest grin I’ve ever seen and the broadest Sussex accent I’d heard since my grandfather died, she introduced herself as ‘Mrs W from the ‘ouse a few daws dewn’. What the hell, I took her on then and there! Sadly though, The Deli was never going to make me my fortune so a year after Mrs W joining me I reluctantly decided to throw in the towel. I found a buyer quite quickly. But what to do next?

It was about that time that my marriage to Sarah came to an abrupt end.

It was the spring of 1982 and I was scouring the Eastbourne Herald ‘situations vacant’ section when lo and behold, I spotted a vacancy for a salesman. Not any old salesman, a Citroen salesman! And so it was I started working for Eastbourne Citroen in a tiny two car showroom off Seaside Road. The boss, George something or other, was a quiet and insignificant man who spent most of the day in his office rarely speaking to my colleague and me. My partner on the shop floor was a flamboyant character also called Keith. Keith liked a drink or three, especially at lunch times at The Marine over the road. I often think back to the afternoon when he took an elderly couple out for a test drive in a new car. When it pulled back onto the forecourt, the prospective customer was at the wheel with his wife beside him and Keith fast asleep in the back seat! Sadly though he overdid it one day and ended up with a driving ban; something of a disadvantage to car salesman! He lived close to me, so I used to transport him home and back each day. There was something singularly uninspiring about that job, so strangely it came as quite a relief when we were told the showroom was to be sold off, demolished and replaced with a block of flats. That was the nudge I needed to move on to pastures new and more fulfilling.

It was not just my career that was going through changes, I got married again! Denyse and I tied the knot in a little village church, and then settled in a house, one of several arranged in a semi-circle at the end of a cul-de-sac. We and our neighbours were a pretty close group in every sense of the word so no excuse was ever needed for an impromptu party!

By coincidence, a few weeks prior to the announcement about the impending closure of the Citropen dealership, a chap had come in looking at cars and it turned out to be someone I had sold Miele domestic appliances to, Roy Rigby. He had two kitchen showrooms, one in
Eastbourne and the other back in the village where I’d had the coffee and craft shop, Horam. He needed someone to run the Horam branch because his partner was about to leave the business. I was a bit luke-warm about the proposition at the time, but as I was about to be unemployed I contacted him in the hope that the opportunity still existed. It did and so in 1984 I was back selling kitchens and appliances, but this time to the public rather than the trade. I hadn’t been there long before he asked me straight out if I’d like to buy the business from him. Needless to say, it came as quite a surprise! I had a friend from my Lamson Paragon days who had also taken the domestic appliance route. Chris worked for Neff, another German appliance manufacturer which specialised in ovens, hobs and other cooking paraphernalia. I got talking to him about the proposition, and between us, we made Roy an offer for his firm based on just the Eastbourne showroom. And so it was Chris and I became partners in the Kitchen Design Studio situated in the up-market area of Eastbourne known as The Meads

And that wasn't the only change in my life. My daughter Penelope was born and we moved to a beautiful old house on the outskirts of the town.

To be continued

 Chapters  1     3   4   5   6   7    8  >  10


  1. life goes on and I enjoy reading about yours. You have the ability to write about you life and make it interesting. To many people just make it a chronological event.

  2. As your years roll by it gives me the opportunity to recall what I was doing at that time. Each one of us has our story to tell and it is good to hear that you have yours to pass on.

  3. Ah you had quite a divers live with lots of different exoeriences love to read it Cute photo of you and the baby

  4. How open of you to share..and what a gorgeous conclusion to this episode..what a lovely photo..

  5. I'd be willing to bet that Penelope was the best part of this chapter in your life. The photo of dad and daughter is nice, too. Pardon my ignorance, but what is a hob?