I told myself every day that, in these difficult times of high unemployment and, as a recently made redundant man of 55; with no recognized trade or skills, and with no other vocational qualifications, as such, I was lucky, very lucky, to have found another job at all...
Even this one...
Well, I had to tell myself something! I mean, you have to try and stay positive, in the face of adversity. Right?
Well, I was facing adversity...
When it came to reminding myself, though, as to just how very lucky I had been in finding another job in these tough times of such high unemployment, my new employer, Mrs Hilary Harper, won the metaphorical 'cigar', hands down. And, Mrs Hilary Harper, ever since having won the 'cigar'; not only, did she have me light it for her, but, she had me kneeling at her feet, and holding the ashtray for her, as she puffed away in cool contentment and smug satisfaction, and blew the smoke in my face...
My new employer - 40-something, spiky blonde haired, short and plump, acerbic-tongued, Mrs Hilary Harper - was always 'harping on' at me, about just how lucky I was. About just how grateful I should be, to her, for my "Brand new start."
So, at a time when literally dozens of other unemployed men; many of whom, were younger, fitter, abler, and had better qualifications than myself, had come knocking on her door asking for a job, why had Mrs Hilary Harper chosen me? The answer, I thought (though my employer said different...), was because I must have been the only job applicant who was desperate enough - daft - enough...
... Desperate enough and daft enough, to accept the condition - the 'Special Clause' - as stipulated in the Job Description of my Contract of Employment...
'Harper's Conference Catering' (Mrs Hilary Harper, informed me during my job interview), catered (primarily) to small and medium size businesses and other organizations. Providing them with morning and afternoon refreshments at their venues: during their meetings; social gatherings; conferences; conventions, etc...
And so it was, that; on the basis of the satisfactory completion of a 1 Month Trial Period, I started my new job - my "Brand new start" - working for Mrs Hilary Harper, at Harper's Conference Catering.
That was 6 months ago, now.
6 months, of... well, suffice it to say, that I fervently wished that I had never met Mrs Hilary Harper, and that I had never even heard of Harper's Conference Catering.
Every day, I scanned the local newspapers, looking at the latest job advertisements. But, invariably, and seemingly inevitably, there were never any job vacancies that I could apply for with any real hopes of success.
At least 3 times a week, I visited the local Job Centre. To plead, to pester, to harass and cajole the Job Centre Staff into helping me to find another job -- any job! I was prepared to accept any position, I assured them, to escape from my present, unspeakable - hideous - employment. But, as always, their answer was the same -- they were "Very sorry, but&nbssp;we have no suitable jobs to offer you, at the moment..." And, always, at seeing my obvious desperation to leave my present job, they issued their standard warning; that, due to the Government's latest crackdown on Social Security Payments, I could expect to receive no Unemployment Benefit, or any other Welfare Benefit Payments, if I was to simply leave my job of my own accord.
So, I was stuck. But, to say that I was stuck in a rut, doesn't come close...
Harper's Conference Catering, were nearing the end of a 1-week contract, at the City-Break Hotel and Spa, in Liverpool.
It was 2:50 p.m. on Friday, and the final day of the 'SPOILT!' Company's Annual Convention.
'SPOILT!', are a Ladies Fashion and Cosmetics Company, specializing in (from what I have seen and heard during the past week) just about anything and everything, for 'discerning' females wishing to be fashionably caparisoned; and otherwise pleased, prettified, and pampered - essentially, spoilt - with a myriad, mind-boggling array of latest fashion outfits and accoutrements.
Attending this year's 'SPOILT!' Annual Convention, at the Liverpool City-Break Hotel and Spa, was a 30-strong contingent of exclusively female 'SPOILT!' Boutique Managers, headed by the Convention organizer, Miss Hazel Morgan.
And, I mused absent-mindedly, that; from all that I had seen, heard, and experienced during the past week, the 30-strong contingent of exclusively female Representatives of 'SPOILT!', were nothing but a bunch of supercilious, haughty, insufferable - maddening! - arrogant spoilt brats, themselves...
I jumped, at the sudden, harsh and authoritative voice of my employer, Mrs Hilary Harper, interrupting my sad and sorry, and decidedly resentful musings...
"David. Stop your daydreaming! I can finish off in here, now," she said, finishing the arrangement of crockery and cutlery, etc, on the 4 Serving Tables. "Go and help Petra and Claire to bring in the trolleys with the afternoon refreshments. Our lady clients will be here now, at any moment... Go on, David! Hurry up!" she hustled and harried me, shrewishly.
I could have assured my employer, that; based upon my experiences of the past week, there was not much likelihood of any "lady" clients showing up any time soon... but I knew when to keep my mouth shut. "Yes, Mrs Harper," I replied compliantly, and I hastened from the Hotel Lounge that had been specially set aside for the week's duration by the Hotel Management, for the exclusive use and convenience of the Representatives of 'SPOILT!', while they attended their Annual Convention.
"Ah! There you are, David... We've been waiting for you," said Petra, one of Mrs Hilary Harper's two young female assistants, as I entered the Still Room in the Hotel's kitchen. "Where have you been, you idle sod... skiving again?"
"Here, David, make yourself useful," instructed Claire, Mrs Hilary Harper's other young female assistant, indicating the very heavy tea urn and 2 large coffee pots. "Come on, stop fiddling and farting about, you useless lump - we haven't got all day!" she adjured waspishly. "Our clients are going to be standing around, waiting for us... Load these heavy things onto the trolleys for us," ordered Claire bossily. Without demur, I did as I was told -- where Petra and Claire were conncerned, I had soon learned that it was best to obey them at once. I knew just how snappy and uppity - bitchy - that bratty pair could get, for no apparent reason at all.
Mrs Hilary Harper's two young female assistants (who I knew were still in their early 20's as, on numerous occasions I had heard them both peevishly complaining to our employer that; as they had proved themselves to be very valuable assets to her Company, they shouldn't have to wait until they were 25, to be earning full wages), loved, and never tired of bossing me -- their middle-aged, male underling -- about. Petra and Clailaire absolutely revelled and gloated in the total, unquestioned authority that Mrs Hilary Harper had invested in them, over me.
And this: the blatant, patently obvious fact, of Petra and Claire's bossy, bratty, dominant and domineering superiority over me, was - to my great shame and humiliation - plainly evident, and there for all to see.
Upon returning to the Hotel Lounge, with our 3 refreshment trolleys heavily laden with tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits, and a selection of dainty (or, 'fussy', as I thought of them) sandwiches; with the crusts removed, and cut into triangles, we saw that the first members of the 30-strong, exclusively female Representatives of 'SPOILT!' Ladies Fashion and Cosmetics Company (spoilt brats, more like!), were indeed already gathering in the Hotel Lounge, with a view to partaking of their afternoon refreshments (don't you know!).
Afternoon refreshments, lasted from -- sorry, I beg your pardon: 'were served' (don't you know!) - from 3:00 - 3:30 p.m.
At first; in the initial, frantic rush of service, it was 'all hands to the pumps'. All 4 of us: Mrs Hilary Harper, Petra, Claire, and; last, but not least - yeah, right! - myself, poured cups of tea and coffee for the 'SPOILT!' Representatives, as and when they proffered their cups to us to be filled.
On either side of me, I saw that Petra and Claire were smirking their silly, immature faces off, as they gazed at the faces of the 'SPOILT!' Representatives, who took dainty little bites from the dainty little triangular sandwiches that they held in their perfectly manicured fingers, as they waited to have their cups filled.
But, Petra and Claire smirked even more; giggled, even, as they studied the various expressions on the faces of the 'SPOILT!' Representatives, as they - every single one of them - looked down their noses at me...
Some; regarded me with mild, sparkle-eyed amusement; some, eyed me with utter, sneering contempt; and some, with expressions of vast, withering disdain, upon their faces... Faces; that even I was forced to begrudgingly admit to myself, were a walking, talking, glowing testament, as to just what could be done with a bit of 'lippy' and 'slappy'... Faces; that were an effective advertisement and an alluring demonstration, of the expertly applied skills of their cosmetic trade.
Convention dress, for the 'SPOILT!' Representatives was relaxed and informal; with the only stipulation being that they all wear the 'SPOILT!' Company T-shirts that were provided for them. Their T-shirts, came in a wide variety of pastel shades and bright colours and, with multi-coloured lettering, they were emblazoned with this year's Annual Convention Theme Logo: 'SPOILT!' -- FOR CHOICE!!<
The 'SPOILT!' Company's Convention organizer, Miss Hazel Morgan, was brazenly looking at me - openly appraising me - as she waited to be served her cup of tea. Miss Hazel Morgan, was an attractive, blonde-haired woman of about 25 and, to who; with her charming, bubbly, engaging personality, organizing and motivating her 'SPOILT!' colleagues came quite naturally. She was about 5 feet 8 tall, and she had a full, curvaceous figure, with legs 'to die for'. Miss Hazel Morgan: stylishly and elegantly dressed and caparisoned from head to toe in the very best that 'SPOILT!' had to offer, she was the perfect advertisement for promoting 'SPOILT!'s exclusive range of finery and frippery.
Presenting her tea cup to my employer, to be filled, Miss Hazel Morgan gushed effusively, in her plummy, posh accentented voice. "I absolutely must congratulate you, Mrs Harper! You really have looked after us all so marvellously well, all week. And, I can promise you, Mrs Harper, that we shall certainly be availing ourselves of your rather splendid..." after glancing over at me, again, Miss Hazel Morgan continued "... your... 'facilities', in the future..."
Just as soon as the busy, initial rush for afternoon refreshments was under control, and when most of the 30-strong contingent of 'SPOILT!' Representatives were milling about the Hotel Lounge area with their chosen refreshments -- eitheer sitting down at the Lounge tables, or standing and chatting amongst themselves in small groups -- I saw Petra and Claire's amuseed smirks widen, to undisguised, malicious, gleeful grins, when my employer, Mrs Hilary Harper, said, "I think the girls and I can manage here now, David... Well, off you go, then, David! You know what to do!"
"Yes, Mrs Harper," I replied, dejectedly and disconsolately, but obediently and compliantly... And, in strict adherence, to the terms of the 'Special Clause', as stipulated in the Job Description of my Contract of Employment...
At hearing the familiar, despondent tones of abject misery; all too evident in my dispirited, doleful voice, the silly, smirking, cruel grins of Petra and Claire widened even further, in proportion with their escalating malicious merriment... And, with their sense of wicked anticipation - as they waited for 'the fun' to start...
"OH! This, is so much better than a pay rise, isn't it, my dears!" I overheard Mrs Hilary Harper, inquire of her 2 young, gleefully grinning female assistants, Petra and Claire, in a rather squealing and girlish-sounding voice, that seemed to take 30 years off her.
This, was the part of my job - my "Brand new start" - that I hated and detested... Was the reason why I tirelessly and desperately searched for another job -- any job Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬" that would be my ticket out of my present, unspeakable - hideous - employment, at Harper's Conference Catering.
What had I been thinking? What had possessed me?
Why did I, so unnecessarily - needlessly - land myself in this awful mess? Why did I trap myself, in this horrible, unspeakable - hideous - predicament?
What had I been thinking? What had possessed me?
Why, within just a few days of having been made redundant, had I gratefully grabbed with both hands, the very first job that was offered to me? Yes; I believed that beggars couldn't be choosers, and that jobs would be scarce -- as my dismaal failure to find alternative employment since, has clearly proved... But, why, oh why did I not take advantage of the Statutory 6 months of Unemployment Benefit that I was entitled to claim, and take the time to find a better job? Hell! Any job would have been better than this!
What had I been thinking? What had possessed me?
Above all: why had I been so quick to agree, to Mrs Hilary Harper's Terms and Conditions of Employment - or, more specifically - to the 'Special Clause', as stipulated in the Job Description of my Contract of Employment?
I mean... it was one thing, to agree to obediently submit to the unquestioned superiority: the dominant and domineering - tyrannical - total authority, of Mrs Hilary Harper's 2 bratty female assistants, Petra and Claire... But, it was quite another thing - quite another thing, altogether - to agree to... to agree to submit myself, to... Oh! What had I been thinking? What had possessed me?
I had acted in haste. Now, I repented at leisure...
I had no sooner stepped from behind our Serving Tables and into the Lounge, amidst the 30-strong contingent of the 'SPOILT!' Company's exclusively female Representatives, when one of their sharp-eyed party became aware that I was now 'available'...
Immediately - and with the most galling, infuriating, exquisite arrogance; that really got under my skin, and that made my blood boil with bitter, bubbling, seething resentment - in that universally understood gesture of beckoning, the 'SPOILT!' Representative derisively double-clicked her fingers at me... And, she made sure to speak to me - before any of her 'SPOILT!' colleagues also became aware that I was now 'available' - to secure my 'services' first... "Footboy!"
Oh! Those women - those 'SPOILT!' Brats! They were insufferable - maddening!
'Footboy'!! 'Footboy'? I was old enough to be her Dad!... Footboy!
How disrespectful. How demeaning. How belittling. How... humiliating! Gillian -- I knew that to bbe her name; and I also knew the names of all of the other, exclusively female, 30-strong contingent of 'SPOILT! Representatives, from listening to their incessant, mind-numbing, shop-talk conversations, for all of this past week -- was standing in the middle of the Lounge, wwith a cup of tea in one hand, and a chocolate eclair cake in the other. Gillian was, as usual, in the company of the same 2 'SPOILT!' colleagues whom, apparently, she already knew, and with whom she usually chatted to during their morning and afternoon refreshment breaks. Their names were Phyllis, and Julie.
With a perfectly manicured, clear varnish-painted forefinger, Gillian arrogantly beckoned me to approach her -- or, perhaps a better and a more accurate way of putting it, would be that she summoned me to report -- to herself, andd to her 2 'SPOILT!' colleagues, Phyllis and Julie. "Come here, footboy..."
"Yes, Miss Gillian," I responded, obediently and respectfully... And, in strict adherence, to the terms of the 'Special Clause', as stipulated in the Job Description of my Contract of Employment...
I told myself: in my clutching at flimsy straws of scant consolation; in my looking for the elusive silver lining of the low, dull grey miserable cloud that I lived under, that, at least it was Friday... At least, the 'SPOILT!' Annual Convention would break up, later on today... And, at least, this would be the last that I would see, of Miss Hazel Morgan, Gillian, Phyllis, Julie, and all the rest of the 30-strong contingent of 'SPOILT!' Representatives -- or, as I always thought of them -- â‚¬" the 'SPOILT!' Brats... Unless, of course (and -- Heaven forfend!) I was so unfortunate, as to be still working forr Harper's Conference Catering this time next year, when the 'SPOILT!' Ladies Fashion and Cosmetics Company's Representatives would (according to Miss Hazel Morgan) return to the Liverpool City-Break Hotel and Spa, to attend next year's Annual Convention.
Gillian - I beg your pardon: 'Miss' Gillian (don't you know!). 'Miss', was the polite and respectful prefix, that Mrs Hilary Harper had instructed me to use, when addressing her lady clients - was not actually fat, as such, but she was, nevertheless, a quite 'substantially-built' woman. Big boned and big breasted, I suppose I might describe her... without being over-indelicate, in my description of her rather full figure. I'd say she was about 30, and she was about 5 feet 9 tall, with long, glossy, reddish-brown or chestnut hair, that she wore tidily plaited behind her back, hanging in thick ropes. In normal circumstances, I might have found Gillian quite attractive. But these, were not normal circumstances...
Phyllis, was aged about 40, with neck-length, dark brown hair and, at about 5 feet 6, she was not as tall as Gillian. And her physical build, too, was near the other end of the spectrum; being almost pixie-like. Although Phylis did carry a little extra plumpness around her bottom and her tummy, this was certainly not to her detriment; it only seemed to enhance her physical attractiveness, and to accentuate her mature, womanly allure - her sex-appeal - in general.
Julie, I thought, was possibly the youngest woman of the 'SPOILT!' party. She was also, I thought: by far, and without a shadow of a doubt, easily the most beautiful of all of the 30-strong contingent of the 'SPOILT!' Company Representatives - of whom, it had been my great misfortune to have been made 'acquainted' with, over the past week, as they took their morning and afternoon refreshment breaks.
Julie, I thought, was sylph-like, in her flawless beauty... Olive-complexioned, of slim build, and slightly shorter than Phyllis.
Julie, had dark-brown eyes, and very dark - almost black, lustrous, slightly longer than shoulder-length hair. Julie had worn her hair, this past week; either parted to one side of her head, and held in place with a matching pair of hair-stays; or, as she wore it today, with her hair-stays employed differently, in holding her hair in place on top of her head, in what I thought was an extremely attractive, elegant, chignon style, that served to endow her with an aura of youthful, feminine sophistication... Which, sadly, only lasted for as long as she remained silent - for, this aura of sophistication was instantly dispelled, and the admirer tragically disillusioned, when Julie spoke; in her native, broad scouse (Liverpool) accent... Julie was on her home turf, here, and she was Manager of the 'SPOILT!' Ladies Fashion and Cosmetics Boutique, in Liverpool City Centre's 'Shankly' Shopping Arcade. Just as soon as I was in the immediate presence of Gillian, Phyllis and Julie, Gillian ceased beckoning me, and, by way of her exquisitely arrogant command, she simply pointed her perfectly manicured forefinger, downwards, at the Lounge carpet of the Liverpool City-Break Hotel and Spa. "Footboy, assume your 'service' position. You know, how we want you... How you are to serve us..."