Friday, 17 March 2017


Nearly 10 years ago, I worked in a watch repair shop.
Someone I thought was a friend ran the place, and because
she had no option but to employ an idiot when I declined her
offer of a job, I felt a little guilty and subsequently agreed to
take the position when she eventually decided to dispense
with his utterly superfluous 'services'.

The girl I worked with was lazy and uncommitted to
the business, but as it was the sort of commercial enterprise
that almost ran itself, it still managed to turn a profit, though
obviously not as good a one had she deigned to apply herself in
the way she ought to have.  She'd arrive late, then take time to
apply lipstick and make-up and have her brekkie, things she
should've done before coming into work.  There were
even times when she turned up reeking of booze.

She'd close the place to go and do shopping, or buy
clothes for her idiot boyfriend, while potential customers,
finding the shutter down, would simply go along to her rivals
a couple of units away.  She ran the place for her own conveni-
ence rather than her employers, and whenever I made any sug-
gestions about attracting more business, her reply was always
"If they don't bother, why should I?", in reference to the two
blokes who paid her.  Even her mutant boyfriend called
her "a lazy cow" - and I can't say he was wrong.

She often took advantage of my good nature by going
out for a drink with one or two of her motley assortment of
'pals' (on unscheduled breaks), leaving me to cope with long
queues by myself - even on a Saturday, the busiest day of the
week.  That said, I never enjoyed myself more than when she
dropped a sprog and took 6 months maternity leave, and
I worked alone for the entire duration she was off.

Being conscientious, I ran the business as if it were my
own, occasionally working past closing time to make sure
any small repairs not handled by the workshop in Newcastle
were completed in a timely (pun intended) fashion.  And guess
what?  In the six months she was away, I increased the takings
over the previous year for the same period by a whopping 10
grand.  Not a myth, not a hoax, not an imaginary story -
a full 10 thousand quid!  That's a lotta dosh!

When I left, after handing in a week's notice because
the bosses wouldn't confront the shopping centre owners
over the issue of 'hawkers' outside the shop doorway scaring
away casual browsers and distracting me from intricate pro-
cedures, the shop's takings immediately plummeted.  (Even
with the complement of staff now being back to two - her-
self and my replacement.)  How do I know?

Because I was in secret negotiations with the shop
owners about buying the business, along with a friend who
saw the potential of the place when he learned of how much
I'd increased takings during my former colleague's absence.
We'd therefore been supplied with figures of the business's
performance from the last year up to the present one.
The facts (and figures) spoke for themselves.

It seems unlikely that one person could increase
takings by such a huge sum, so there must've been other
factors at work which accounted for at least part of it.  Some-
times, before her absence, she'd 'phone on her days off to say
not to bother doing the 'banking' at closing time, as she'd do it
when she came in the next day.  Occasionally I'd do it though,
and there were instances when the cash in the safe didn't cor-
respond to what should've been there.  "Don't worry about
it," she'd say when I mentioned it, "it always balances up
in the end."  (I'm merely relating factual events - any
conclusions you draw are your own.)

The shopping centre owners were in some kind of
difficulty and weren't renewing leases on premises, so we
were told that we'd have to wait until this was sorted before
ownership of the lease could be transferred to us.  The sellers
advised us to get a lawyer, which we did, though when he con-
tacted their lawyer, his 'counterpart' told him that he hadn't
been informed of the intended sale, nor yet received any in-
structions to proceed on the matter.  The money was all
ready and waiting, but nothing was happening.

'Negotiations' wore on for a year and a half, during
which time I lost interest and realised that the prospect of
working again with my former colleague didn't at all appeal to
me.  I'd let myself be influenced by my friend and would-be co-
investor, who secured my participation with visions of immense
riches and becoming 'captain of my fate'.  I 'phoned the New-
castle boys and told them that, as far as I was concerned, the
deal was off, and followed that up with a letter telling them
in no uncertain terms what I thought of them for com-
placently dragging their heels for 18 months.

Anyway, her bosses eventually sold the business to
her (at a much higher price), which is probably a good
thing, because doubtless I'd have ended up sacking her.  I
couldn't say whether it's doing well or not, but as it makes no
difference to my life either way, it hasn't really occurred to
me to wonder about it.  Obviously, it won't ever do as well as
it would under my stewardship, but money couldn't buy the
sense of relief (and release) I felt the moment I made
up my mind to simply walk away from it all.

Sometimes, "Never go back" can be a very smart
decision - even though it's not one you'll often hear
nostalgists such as myself admit to.

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