Monday, May 03, 2010

My Saturday Job

When I was a teenager I sometimes worked in the Communist's chemist shop on a Saturday.

I didn't usually serve, because the Communist had two assistants. I did all the jobs that nobody else had time to do. Counting tablets. Cleaning the stockroom in the back. Stacking the shelves.

I quite liked counting the tablets. This was done - in those Ancient Times - by the simple method of picking them up one by one and putting them in a bottle, counting as I went. Later, there was a kind of frame into which I poured them and it would count, say, fifty at once, in a miracle of technology.

For many girls, the idea of a Saturday job in a chemist shop would have been quite appealing. Lots of cosmetics to try.

But even in those days I wasn't really interested in make-up and the Communist was no help with any explanations about any such things.

"Dad, what's this for?"

"It's for selling. I don't know anything else about it."

The Communist worked very hard, I remember, and hardly ever stopped for a break. The shop was always busy and he always insisted that, whatever the assistants were doing, if a customer came in they should stop it and serve them. I liked that and I have often wished that our local chemist would abide by the same principle.

One of the things I most enjoyed was working in the garden. The shop had a flat above it, and a fair-sized garden which nobody ever seemed to tend except me. There was a Victoria plum tree and I used to pick the plums. There was a border at the front, too, and I used to weed it and plant bulbs, looking at the view of distant York Minster.

The Communist and his assistants all wore white coats and I wore one too sometimes when working in the shop. I can still feel their white stiff-cotton texture and can still smell that chemist-shop smell that lingered on the coats. I felt very grown up. I remember once a customer, whom the Communist knew well, came in when I was working there.

"This is Daphne," said the Communist, "my sixteen-year old daughter." I could tell he was proud and I was so proud that he was proud. A customer who was a dentist once came in and commented that the Communist and I had exactly the same teeth. I wasn't sure how to take that one.

The shop next door was - blissfully! - a fish and chip shop. Delicious smells wafted from it every lunchtime. Sometimes, if it wasn't too busy, the Communist would buy us both fish and chips and we would go and sit by the river and eat them.

Of course, I am sure I never told him, because teenagers don't. But eating fish and chips by the river with my Dad was one of the best things of all my teenage years.


Blogger Jennyta said...

What a lovely picture you paint, Daphne. Happy days!

9:51 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Another language divide. When you say "chemist" to someone across the pond, we picture the laboratory of Dr. Jekyll. We call where you worked a "pharmacy" (from the Greek, pharmakeia, mixer of potions, also translated as "sorcerer" in the King James Version of the Bible).

But it sounds like you had a wonderful time.

12:28 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

...and for The Communist, I am sure that sitting by the river eating fish and chips with his daughter was one of his best memories of being a middleager.

6:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with YP.
And as a parent myself, just sharing something simple with either of my teenage sons was enough. No thanks required.
I'm sure The Communist felt the same.

6:58 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

I don't remember ever spending one on one time with my dad which isn't a reflection on his parenting but simply that he worked so much....2 or more jobs a day.
On rare days off (Sundays) we did things as a family so again, no opportunity for a time for just us.
Glad you had such moments and, more to the point, can remember them !

6:59 pm  

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