'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Menoportable [men-oh-port-able]; the condition of adaptability; the Independent Scot

For the first time in my life I was living alone, being solely responsible for day-to-day decisions and actions, looking after a property, paying bills.  Turned out I had been trained well.

The work at the hardware shop proved to be another character-building time in this life.

A family-run business, Robertson's was the 'flag-ship' of the four outlets.  The other two decorators' supply shops were within five minutes walk of each other (crazy but true!) and each held slightly different lines of wall-paper and paint. Above the street loomed Edinburgh Castle and round one corner was the Usher Hall. Round the other corner was the fine-wares shop (mostly china and ornaments) where the old boss's wife Mrs R held court. A dragon of a woman, the staff would hold their breath when she called to have one or other of us go take a shift at her shop. Handling paint and wallpaper is a whole different business to wrapping Lladro...

More daunting than that, however, was dealing with the smothering attention of Mrs R.  It was a Dickensian scenario; any of the juniors might be called to work and part of that shift involved keeping the kettle hot and the teapot filled.  It also required that one drank the multiple cups of tea offered when no customers were present.  On top of which one was forced to consume 'the best treat since Victoria gave us sponge'; the chocolate butty.  A Scottish bap roll, opened and layered with a slab of pure butter then two tabs of Fry's chocolate cream bar.

I am nearly gagging at the thought of this as I recall it.  Only five such 'delights' were consumed by myself, but I know others endured many more and were, perhaps, converts.

There are strong memories of Baker Street and canned tomato soup.  The first was played endlessly at the cafe where I would get my daily lunch of the second.  It was cheap and as it came with a cheese roll, was also adequately filling. The song spoke of the endless traveler finally getting to settle.

At the shop I had a wonderful boss (now deceased) with the fulsome name of Frances Isabella Wolfmeier.  She had married a German prisoner of war.  Now a widow, she was quite the character.  She always insisted that the middle name be pronounced the Edinburgh way...EYE-SA-bella. Not averse to a brandy or three, she loved ballroom dancing and had great creative flair. Once I had proved myself, I was let loose on the window dressing.  It was a full 13 months before I could move from calling her Mrs Wolfmeier to  'Frances'. Another step upward was getting to mix paints. We had one of the early Berger colour mixers and Frances and I both had 'rainbow eye'; we could look at something and match the colours really well. Then I got keys to the shop and when Sunday opening was brought in, was given the very grand title of deputy manager!  

From forty pounds a week I moved up to forty three pounds and fifty pence (after tax).  I added a piece of shortbread to my lunches.

Then there was Alfred... but before I tell you about him, enjoy this...

Addendum... I was again prompted by yet another comment on a photo from earlier this week; you can see the results over here!


  1. Aw, those early jobs that helped to make us who we are. Great stories of some interesting characters. I love that song.

  2. My weirdest boss wasn't really my boss, but one of the sons of the boss and a bit strange at that. He insisted on kissing every single female employee every single morning! Three times!! It wouldn't have been so bad had he been a nice guy, but he was a bit on the creepy and definitely on the 'blonde on the inside' side! Hm, might do a post on that job...

  3. In Nottingham we used to do chip butties, which actually sound quite healthy compared to the chocolate buttie you describe...
    Cheers, Gail (catching up).


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