Monday, April 07, 2008

Misgivings and loss

Story contd.

Mary and I considered ourselves very fortunate to have created a business which fulfilled a service to mothers, many of whom were spending over the odds on their children’s education. It gave us an absorbing interest and a healthy financial return. We both officially worked in the shop two days a week, and put in as many extra hours as our various responsibilities required. On the whole our staff were excellent and seemed to enjoy working with us.

Mary and I had very different working backgrounds. She came from a well –off family, married and settled down to be a good housewife and mother. She had lots of hobbies, learning Italian, travelling, painting and photography – and was very talented at each of them. I felt the shop was one of her many interests and not necessarily a passion as it certainly was for me. I had been reared with a strong work ethic and the nursing training had imbued strict codes of behaviour.

For example: staff were staff and though we were friendly with them and took an interest in their lives and families, with a big get together once a year, there was a limit to how familiar one could be. In nursing it was frowned upon if we were friendly with any nurse in the sets above or below us. So when Mary started going on foreign holidays with Maud, a new member of staff and the only one I didn’t take to, I was a bit concerned. Maud herself had a sort of antique shop and at one time suggested she should use a corner of our shop to display some of her items. When Mary consulted me I gave a resounding ‘Not bloody likely!’ but of course, I had no say in choosing her holiday companions.

Sometimes it seemed there was a conspiracy to make life difficult: when we changed to decimalisation every garment in the shop (thousands and thousands) had to be re-labelled and our whole pricing system re- organised. Then Edward Heath brought in a 3- day week; we weren’t allowed to use electricity and sat at the desk in the freezing cold with just a candle for comfort. We were not allowed to work more that 3 days a week in our own shop. I came close to being a red hot anarchist.

Mary’s husband had retired and - at a loose end - offered to take over doing the books for us. But for me this was a labour of love, and also it was very much a time of women’s lib so I told Mary it was very kind of him to offer, but I preferred to continue doing it myself. I perfectly understood Mary’s wish to get her husband out of her hair (we married them for better or for worse – but not for lunch) but I didn’t want him in mine. Oh dear, I couldn’t help remembering Ellie’s words when she told us about the rift she had with her partner.

‘It works very well as long as you both want the same things but when you get successful and your ideas differ – that’s when the trouble starts.’

At the end of the summer # 1 son left for University and although I was proud and happy I also felt completely bereft and every time I went into his bedroom had a little weep. # 2 son was not academically inclined but was mad keen on music - guitars in particular. He valued his independence and planned to get a job and have his own place as soon as possible. The nest was getting emptier and William and I talked once more about having separate establishments.

17 comments:

R. Sherman said...

So, he's off to school in the mid to late 70's then? I seem to recall Edward Heath -- he was the first British PM I paid attention to.

Cheers.

sablonneuse said...

Another gripping episode - with a bit of foreboding written in.
My parents ran a shop at the time of decimilisation and I remember the dual pricing with both currencies running side by side. You could accept old or new but had to give change in new, so that meant lots of explanations to the customers at first.

PI said...

Randall: 1975 he left for University - right at the other end of the country.
I preferred Maggie Thatcher to Ted Heath. He was a bit of a prima donna and sulked when he didn't get his own way.

Sablonneuse: it was a complication we really didn't need.

Z said...

I met someone who lived near EH recently - prima donna is a good description.

We moved house about that time. Vast queues for ordering anything, a new fridge took about 3 months to arrive and then, as like as not, they said it was discontinued and you had to start again.

PI said...

Z: I remember my anger and frustration.

kenju said...

I am enjoying the story, Pat. Good for you for standing your ground with the problems in the shop.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

I too dread the day my girls leave home. I'm glad you had the business to keep you busy but it sounds like that was beginning to become a mixed blessing too.

PI said...

Sam: those years when they become delightful to have around, and they appreciate one's company before they fall in lurve, are very precious and I'm glad I made the most of them. Also I had some good friends who were fun to meet up with.

PI said...

Judy: the shop was half my baby and anyone trying to mess with it had better look out.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I fear great trouble in Paradise...Oh I am sorry that it all began to fall apart Pat...(Or maybe I'm wrong...I hope I am, but....
It has to be very very hard when the kids take off on their own....Painful, yet also the upside is you are proud of how they have grown up. Sweet sweet pictures, Pat!

Guyana-Gyal said...

I admire the way you stood your ground about Maud's antiques in your shop, some people would say 'yes' then be really unhappy because they didn't want to say 'yes' in the first place. It's a difficult thing to do, saying no.

rosneath said...

Well done for saying all those 'nos' - very brave!

I remember the 3 day week - I had just left art school and was sharing a bedsit in Earl's Court with a college pal. Oooh, we were cold! And, can you believe, we used to spend 64p EACH a week on food (we did go home for the weekends so it was for Monday to Friday, really!)

'separate establishments'- that sounds scary

belle

PI said...

GG: I always find it difficult to understand why people don't say no when they want to. Saves time and trouble in the long run. I can be quite cowardly in other respects.

Belle: I'm just a girl who CAN say no:) Heath had a lot to answer for. We had quite a long time to get used to the idea of separate establishments.

PI said...

sam: don't worry - a son is a son till he gets him a wife, a daughter's a daughter the rest of your life.

PI said...

Naomi: it's funny but until I wrote this I hadn't realised which way the wind was blowing. It certainly makes things clearer looking back and writing about it.

Nea said...

I remember power cuts and sugar rationing. The power cuts were fun, candles and roasting chestnuts by the fire. I don't know if the sugar rationing was serious or if it was just mum's way of getting us to cut down on our sugar intake. I haven't had sugar in my tea since then, around the year 1973.

PI said...

Nea: I suspect it was your Mum thinking of your teeth and general health.