Amesbury High Street

The Co op Amesbury, Check Out Girl

I thought it might be interesting to visit my work places. I’ve had many and they all add to who I became and who I am now. I was asked what I would write about myself for the promotion of my book. Finding it impossible to start so I’m breaking it down for myself, if as a reader you get something from this, that is a bonus.

My first job was on the check out at the co op store in a village called Amesbury. The village is not too far away from the world famous Stone Henge and has it’s own henge, not so well known, called Wood Henge.

The store I worked in was on the main High Street, and had been refurbished with five new checkouts when I asked for a job. The manager, Mr Shoemark, gave me a job on the spot and I started working 8.30 – 5.30 Monday to Saturday for £41 a week. It was 1985 and the eighties were in full swing.

There were numerous remembered characters. My favourite name, although not my favourite character, was Vanessa Dennison – only because her initials were VD. That still amuses my childish sense of humour now. Vanessa was like VD – dry and could be rubbed up the wrong way without too much effort.

Amesbury co op was a supermarket. It was the only supermarket for miles and as such it had it’s own butchers, deli, fruit & vegetable section and alcohol aisle. Each had it’s own department manager. When I first started at the store, I had to work on each department in order to know how the separate sections ran – although I did barely nothing in the deli or butchery as I wasn’t trained.

I did a lot of shelf stacking but then was trained up and placed on the check out. There I found my element. Good with people and money, I became the cash office supervisor and at under 18 years old I handled the responsibility very well. Perhaps too well, meaning I took it for granted I always would have that confidence.

Now, when I look back on my year or so at my first job, I do so with fondness. I used to hate the cold little cigarette kiosk where I cursed every customer who came in for opening the doors. Now I know that was a great job with some great opportunities and a good time was had by us on a daily basis but we worked damn hard. Well, I did.

I laugh now, but back then I didn’t know why customers would come in a buy cigarettes and rolling papers – at the same time. It baffled me and no one would tell me why. They’d tell me how they remove tobacco from the cigarettes and put it in the papers…what a waste of paper I’d say.

I was ‘right on’ and being environmentally friendly. Yes, even in the 1980s we were trying to save the planet. Those of us inclined were against aerosol cans for ruining the ozone with their gases and wasting paper which came from trees.

It would be fair to say that in 1985 I thought we’d be living in a paperless world now.

There were the two Pats who worked on the deli counter. These were two local ladies who happened to both be called Patricia. Thankfully they couldn’t have looked much different. One being blonde and vivacious and the other being dark haired, thin and crabby.

Dark haired Pat was a bit of a rebel in that she would smoke in the toilets and wear stockings and court shoes without shaving. Like spiders caught underneath night, the hairs would move around inside the nylon as she walked. Once seen, the image cannot be forgotten and I have a Gillet Mach III to ensure the same never happens to me.

In the butchery department there was an assistant manager called Robin. He had curly blonde hair and kept wiping his hand across his nose when it ran. Put me off fresh meat for quite some time I can tell you . Didn’t stop me from dating him once though. Yep, I really was not to choosy.

The Butchery manager Chris, I think, was grumpy but his manly essence huge. An honest, brash kind of man who you knew where you stood with. If he barked an order it was done, there and then. His department was kept spotless and he despaired at Robin’s hygiene.

Amesbury seems a long way off now a days. When I left the co-op it was supposedly to better my options. I was offered a job at the Lloyds Bank across the road. However, within a year I’d left Amesbury and moved to Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire.

The co-op became a distance memory. The red and white uniform, which we, the staff, hated but gave us a sense of identity and covered my unfashionable clothes, is now something I laugh fondly over. Back then, the chequered tabard would be thrown mercilessly into my locker and I couldn’t wait to get it locked up.

It seems as I get older the past seems clearer than yesterday does. I regret nothing in my life, all experiences make a person who they are but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss the warmth and simplicity I found in that little village, in Amesbury.