Helen was late. She said that the Christmas queues had been crazy and her boss had pleaded with her to stay for a bit so that she could keep as many tills open as possible. She said that her Mum had texted her to say how great it had been to see Paul in his school play. After tea, once Paul was in bed, we sat and talked for a while. I told her about the phone call I’d received that morning from the Printing Company. Helen said that, since the three month’s lieu pay and the redundancy pay were guaranteed, it might be worth while taking the risk. She argued that, even if I were only to stay in the job for one month, if nothing else, that month’s extra income would put the cost of the Playstation back in our bank. She went on to point out that, if we went ahead with the cooperative scheme, it would, in any case, be unlikely to bring in any real cash for a few months at best. From that point of view, it would help to fund our scheme if I didn’t need to worry about our mortgage and living costs while we established ourselves. The third point she made was that any prospective employers would be able to see that I hadn’t just sat on my backside waiting for State benefits.
I saw no reason to argue, so if I did get the letter offering me the post in writing, and if the salary and conditions looked okay, I’d accept the offer.
C HAPTER TWELVE
The week before Christmas
The following Monday I received the offer letter together with the information I’d asked for when Mrs Wilson had phoned last Friday. The starting date would be Tuesday 4th January. They were offering £2,000 a year more than I’d been earning in my old post. The notice conditions were interesting – one week either side for the first month, one month for the next five months, then three months. Those terms suited me down to the ground. The four weeks annual holiday would apply only after six month’s service, but would be plus bank and statutory holidays applied from Day One; so I’d get the coming Easter weekend and the May holidays. I texted Helen to let her know. During her lunchbreak she answered, and agreed that I should go ahead. Paul was playing a game on his tablet computer, so I replied to accept the offer.
During the week, Christmas cards continued to arrive – including one from my fellow members of the group. I’d spoken to Helen about her suggestion that I host a meeting with them in the first week of January to give everyone time to recover from Christmas. I sent a round-robin text inviting everyone to come on the afternoon of Tuesday the 5th.
The other postal arrival was Paul’s Playstation and accessories. He’d been in his bedroom when the courier rang the bell – playing on his tablet again – but he poked his head around the staircase newel post on the landing upstairs to see what had come. I told him that the parcels were for his Mum. He went back to his room. I decided to get the wrapping of all our Christmas gifts completed after he’d gone to bed. For the time being, the latest arrivals would go in the boot of the car to keep them hidden from his curious eyes. Having done that, I called him downstairs to take him to the park for some exercise and fresh air.
Helen didn’t get home until turned ten o’clock. She had warned me over the weekend that she’d be late every night until Christmas Eve. She was exhausted. Customers were stripping the shelves before there was time to re-stock them fully. Fresh supplies from the storage area – ‘backstage’ as they called it – were almost impossible to get through the crowds of customers jostling to fill their trolleys. When, on the Wednesday night we had a major row, about not being able to have a holiday abroad until July at the earliest, I put it down to her being stressed-out because of the built-up exhaustion.
On Christmas Eve, getting Paul to go to sleep was murder. He was so excited, wanting to know whether Santa had been able to get enough money out of his magic money tree to pay for a PlayStation. Other than that, there was the routine of leaving a glass of wine for Santa, plus reindeer food for Rudolph and his team. It was lovely to see that he was still so innocent but we still felt guilty at caving into societal pressure to conform by telling lies to him.
Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today was taken in Williamson Square, one of two Christmas Tree shots I took that evening. I’ll post the other nearer Christmas – but I may break with the black and white theme on Christmas Day to post it then.
The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2.4 lens at 35 mm and f/4. The shutter speed was 1/200 secs and the ISO was 1600. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.