Chilled lamb, market stalls, WHSmith and a very unusual request

Our guest contributors are handpicked to provide positive, interesting, uplifting articles that appeal to women over fifty. So why not take five and enjoy another story from author Sue Andrews…

Running a small farm and raising a family can be quite a challenge.  When we started, my husband had a full-time job in agriculture, which not only gave him a wage, but allowed him to have fun playing on frighteningly expensive machinery we’d never be able to afford. We also had the security of a tied house, but as our young family grew, money could be tight, our sheep often an additional expense at that stage while building up our flock, rather than any financial benefit.

When the children progressed to secondary school, I tentatively looked for alternative ways to boost our income.  By now we were producing top quality lamb and an outlet for this would be great.  Farmers Markets had just started up, with our local ones in Cirencester and Stroud really leading the way, so I decided to give this a try. 

I opted to help a friend who sold pork, bacon and a wonderful array of flavoured sausages, before branching out on my own.  It started off as fun, and we had a great time doing it together, but by the end of the day, especially when the weather was bad, my enthusiasm was waning. 

I soon decided if I’d wanted to be a shopkeeper I’d have done so in a warm and dry environment.  I’d already discovered what a nightmare manoeuvring a chilled display unit could be, but it was necessary to show off our produce. We seemed to spend as much time struggling to get it out, then back into my friend’s trailer as we did selling the meat. There were also so many hoops to be jumped through to take a stall at the local markets, and I’d have to be prepared to be there every week or fortnight depending on the regularity of that market, whatever the weather. 

Luckily the shop attached to our local garage said they’d be delighted to sell our lamb, which seemed much more suitable.

Then, as Christmas approached and cash was tight, I applied for a part time job in the magazine department of WHSmith in Cheltenham.  Interviewed by a Robert Smith, I asked “was he one of the Smiths?’ which he laughingly regretted he wasn’t.  We got on really well and it didn’t seem like a job interview at all.  I was amazed to discover later that there had been over 100 applicants for four jobs, one of which I got. 

This all involved far more organisation than I’d previously employed.  Preparation for supper had to be done the night before or rapidly after morning feeding, and my husband had to check the sheep in the evenings.  My afternoon shift was from 12 noon to 5.30pm, but an extra hour was needed to secure a parking space.  Being so close to Christmas this usually meant at least a ten-minute walk to the shop, but it was great fun for a few weeks.  A completely different world from the farm. 

Bomb scares were quite prominent at the time, and we had a code name to call out if we thought anyone was acting suspiciously. It felt like a great adventure, a long time since I’d done anything like this.  We also had some very dodgy magazines on the shelves, as we catered for all interests.  One afternoon the head of department gathered us together to point out some new magazines for those with ‘non-heterosexual inclinations’ that were new in. We all thought we might get the giggles if we had to run one through the till, but I never did. 

But with this still echoing in my brain, I was taken aback some days later when a young man asked me when ‘Eunuch’s Monthly’ would be in.  Everyone was busy, the store full of people in this run up to Christmas.  There was no senior member of staff available to ask what my next move should be.  Slightly embarrassed, not aware we stocked this, I rapidly thought on my feet.  Getting the manual of titles we stocked from the back room I flicked though the pages.  With nothing showing under E, I carried on through the alphabet, the man looking over my shoulder.

“Oh, there it is.  Should be in next week.  I’ll call back in,” and off went a happy customer, who was waiting for Unix Monthly, a computer magazine!

Why not read the other stories Sue Andrews has written for Annabel & Grace Magazine or one of her charming books?

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