I’m writing this on Friday instead of Saturday because unusually I’m working tomorrow. I have a week’s holiday booked from next Monday, so my kind boss swapped my days around at the weekend so I could start my holiday a day earlier. He also set my working days as Thursday, Friday, Saturday the following week so I get a total of eleven days off in all – which is lovely.
It’s sure been a hectic week! I worked Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Smashed my week’s target out of the park on Sunday, which was great. It’s always nice to finish the first week of a new month ahead of target – it gives me some breathing space. Anyway, Monday and Tuesday were also good sales days, and I am already through my target for the week so anything I sell tomorrow will be a big, fat cherry on top.
A weird thing happened on Monday though. My boss had gone for his lunch hour and had left the premises. Lone working happens quite a lot, especially when a staff member is on holiday, but usually, it’s fine and I can cope. However, I was dealing with a lovely customer when a pair of young girls came into the shop and asked if I were alone. I didn’t think anything of it and replied that my colleague was on lunch break. They said, no problem, they’d go and look upstairs and call me if they needed help and I continued helping my customer.
Ten minutes later, one of them called down asking for assistance and my customer told me to go and see to them – she wanted to lie for a bit longer on the mattress she had potentially chosen – so I went upstairs. One of the girls exclaimed how hot she was and that she needed to get out of the shop for some air and that she’d meet her friend outside when she was finished. She stomped off downstairs and I didn’t think anything of it. I talked to the other young girl about mattresses, and she laid on a few. I didn’t think she was serious about buying even though she seemed interested in one.
As she was laying on one of the mattresses, I moved to the balcony to check my lady downstairs was still there and still happy and saw the other young girl about to leave the shop with armfuls of pillows!
Shocked, I shouted out – “Excuse me! What do you think you’re doing? You can’t take things out of the shop without paying for them!”
She jumped about a foot in the air and looked up at me. Her friend leapt off the mattress and rushed to the balcony beside me, crying out – “Oh, have you picked those out for me to look at?”
“Yes,” replied her friend. “I thought you might be interested in them, so I picked them up for you to take a look at.”
“Well, she can’t look at them in the car park, can she?” I replied and hurried downstairs. “Take them to the till,” I ordered. Flustered, the young girl staggered back to the till with them and dropped them down. I glanced over them – there was about £300 worth of product there.
“You made me jump!” the girl said. “Shouting at me like that. I was only bringing them upstairs for my friend to look at.”
“You were heading out the door with them,” I snapped.
“No, no, I wasn’t,” she tried to convince me.
“You were nowhere near the stairs; you were at the door!” I wasn’t having any of it.
“I’m sorry,” the other girl said. “She’s a bit, a bit…” she never finished the sentence and shrugged sheepishly, so I’m not sure what she thought her friend was a bit of. A bit of a thief?
Now, wouldn’t you think because their distract and steal plan hadn’t worked that they would have got out of the shop as quickly as possible before I changed my mind and called the police? They didn’t and this is where it gets weird. The second girl bought the mattress she’d lain on, so gave me her name, address, and mobile phone number!
Then they left.
Remember my original customer? Well, once the girls left, she sat up on the bed and told me that she thought my instincts had been spot on. She had watched the young girl look at the pillows, then pick up four and go around the back wall to get to the door – not going anywhere near the stairs – and that if I hadn’t seen her and shouted out, she would have been out into the car park leaving her friend to take the rap if I noticed the pillows were gone – which, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have done until later.
The lady then purchased her mattress and said if I needed a witness statement, she would be quite happy to supply me with one.
When my boss came back, I told him what had happened, and we talked about it. We were both stunned that the girl had bought the mattress. Surely, if it had been a simple distraction robbery then why didn’t they both leave as quickly as possible when I caught them? It makes no sense to go through with buying it and leave full contact details.
My thoughts were that they hadn’t come into the shop planning on stealing anything – after all, a bed shop is not your first thought of somewhere that has small, easily shoplifted items – that they came in because one of them genuinely wanted a mattress. Then her friend came downstairs, spotted the pillows, and didn’t see my customer lying on the bed – or forgot she was there – and snatched them up on the spur of the moment.
It shook me up a little – it could have turned nasty, after all – but I’ve been working there four years and this is the first time anything like this has happened and when it was happening, I didn’t feel threatened by these girls in any way. In fact, I think there were a little bit scared of me.
Wednesday I was up bright and early packing for our road trip oop North to visit Miss F’s university. The weather forecast said heavy rain and I was hoping it was wrong. I hate motorway driving in the rain. The roads are slippery, and vision is impaired – especially as my windscreen wipers probably need replacing – and there are always idiots still driving way too fast despite the fact they can’t actually, you know, see!
I’d wanted us to be on the road no later than 10-ish and it was five to ten when we put the bags in the car and set off to get petrol on the way. The heavy rain held off, and although we did drive through a few downpours, it certainly wasn’t the monsoon we’d been promised. The roads were reasonably clear, and we made good time. We stopped at midday for lunch at one of those services they have on every motorway. This was a complex containing a Burger King, Subway, KFC, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Waitrose, Starbucks, and bizarrely a WH Smiths – I suppose for any stationery emergency you might have.
Right up until we got there, Miss F had stated her desire for a Subway, then at the last minute changed her mind to a Burger King. I ordered a cheeseburger with bacon, but when it came it was minus the bacon despite the fact, I’d been charged 70p extra for it. Of course, Miss F wouldn’t let me say or do anything about that – what is it with teenagers and complaining about bad service? Will they grow out of it or are we raising a generation so afraid of being considered a “Karen” that they let everything go so good customer service will soon be a thing of the past?
Lunch was okay – it was a Burger King, there’s not a lot else to say about it – and 45 minutes later were back on the road.
The last time we took the M6 toll road there was a big accident up ahead causing three-hour delays so we’d had to get off early and try and make our way cross country, and I was hoping that wouldn’t happen again. But no, clear road and plain sailing all the way, and it was just gone 2:30pm when we pulled up outside the pub where we had booked to stay the night.
We checked in, booked our breakfast, and were given the key to our room. There were seven rooms in all, in what I think might have previously been a stable block. The room was lovely, cosy, and quirky, with a king-size bed in the main room, a nice size shower room, and a single bed in a nook for Miss F. We quickly unpacked, then drove to the local town of Nantwich to have a look around.
Like most very small towns, there wasn’t a lot to look at. We did pay a visit to the museum of local interest – and spent twenty minutes in there – it was a very small town, so not a lot of interest had ever happened. We wandered about a bit, then because we were both tired, we drove back to the pub, parked the car, and wandered down to the local shop to see if they sold any playing cards.
They didn’t, so we bought a soft drink each and returned to the pub and sat in their gorgeous garden. The sun was shining, and the bees were having a wonderful time in all the lavender and rose bushes that ringed the garden. Our dinner was booked for 6:30pm, so we killed an hour sitting in the sun, talking, and playing silly quiz games on Miss F’s phone before going back to our room and getting ready for dinner.
The pub we were staying in is over 250 years old and the restaurant was fabulous. All low wooden beams, tiny leaded windows, quirky tables with bookshelves built into them, and everywhere you looked a plethora of curiosities, knickknacks, and other oddities. It was wonderful, very atmospheric.
Miss F was still full of lunch so decided to just have a bowl of nachos and cheese. I chose the duck served in a wild cherry jus, with summer vegetables and sweet potato rosti. Then we both had dessert. I went for the raspberry and rhubarb crème Brulee and Miss F had raspberry and passionfruit cheesecake and ice cream – she went through about four lactase pills on that meal so she could digest the dairy.
Bizarrely, we had to vacate the restaurant at eight. I have no idea why, maybe it was because of the football or something, as England were playing Denmark that evening, but I took my second glass of wine back to the room and we sat on my bed and watched mindless TV for a while before going to bed.
So far, the mini-break had been fab, but then it all went wrong because my mattress was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever slept on! Seriously, extra firm doesn’t begin to cover it. The damn thing was solid, it was like sleeping on a slab of concrete. As someone who sells mattresses for a living, I know what I’m talking about, and this mattress was firmer than any we sell in our shop. I tossed and turned, but no matter which position I lay in my back was in serious pain. I tried lying on my side, but because there was absolutely no give in the mattress, I trapped nerves in my shoulders and hips and all my limbs were a painful mess of pins and needles.
It was a long and terrible night. There was a church clock tower next to the pub and every quarter-hour it would ding a little tune. On the actual hour, it would dong out the time with all the solemnity of Big Ben. I heard every single one of those dongs and would lay there counting them praying for it to be further through the night than I thought, and that maybe, just maybe, I’d slept through one. But no, midnight, one, two, three, four, and five … I heard them all.
Miss F was also very restless, tossing and turning, I don’t think her mattress was much better than mine but with the resilience of youth, she at least was managing to sleep. I didn’t want to sit up and read in case I disturbed her, so there I lay, blinking in the gloom and so tired – so very, very tired – but unable to sleep and wondering if the night would ever end.
Of course, eventually, it did. At 6am, Miss F got up and disappeared into the shower. Her hair must dry naturally otherwise it frizzes so she took the first turn, and I went in after her. We had to take Covid tests so got them out of the way early. I don’t like doing them, but they’re not as bad as I thought they were going to be and ten minutes after submitting our results on the NHS website we had our texts proving that we were bug-free, and I was able to have a cup of tea.
Our breakfast wasn’t booked until 9:30am so we had plenty of time to leisurely get ready and pack before wandering back to the quirky restaurant.
Breakfast was HOOGE!! There was a selection of cereals if you wanted them, toast with choices of jams, marmalades, and honey, and, of course, a full English breakfast. We didn’t know when we were going to eat again so both chose the full English, and it was very full. A giant sausage, two rashers of bacon, black pudding, baked beans, fried potatoes, mushrooms, grilled tomato, and a fried egg. Yum. It certainly stuck to the ribs and everywhere else it touched. Plus, fresh orange juice and all the tea and coffee you could drink.
Afterwards, we staggered back to our room to clean our teeth and finish loading up the car, Miss F’s tour of the university was at midday, and it was still only a little after ten, so we went and sat in the garden again enjoying the morning sunshine – it was blazing hot by this time despite all the weather warnings that Thursday was going to be chilly with torrential downpours – and the bees were once again busy.
It was only a ten-minute drive to the university, but Miss F was understandably keen not to be late so, at eleven, we got in the car and drove to it. By the time we’d found it, found the car park, parked, and made our way to the reception, we were in time to sit in the sun for a bit and have a drink before being collected by our tour guide and taken around the campus.
It’s wonderful there. We went all around the mini zoo they have and saw lots of animals. We were even able to view the accommodation and see the exact type of house Miss F will be living in. It’s very modern and clean and spacious. The mattress is a bit thin and I’m not sure how she’s going to like it after the very deep, luxurious, and expensive mattress she’s used to sleeping on – there are some perks to your mum working in a bed shop and getting excellent staff discount. I have bought her a thick quilted mattress topper but I’m now not sure it will be thick enough. Oh well, if she’s not comfortable I’ll have to see about buying her a proper thick memory foam topper.
After that we had a tour of the library and lecture rooms and then it was time to come home.
Because we’d had such a good run-up, I was hoping we’d be so lucky on the way back. I was aware of how very tired I was after my sleepless night, and when Miss F said she wanted to play her music I agreed, hoping it would keep me awake. We had no plans to stop on the way back – we had bottles of water in the car, we’d both used the ladies before leaving the university, and if it was only going to be three hours again, I said I’d much rather push for home and have a nice evening meal than another indifferent junk food pit stop. After all, that breakfast was still sticking and neither of us was hungry.
Luckily, the weather held for the most part and the roads were reasonably clear. We made excellent timing and three hours later we made a brief stop at my parents’ house to pick up Miss F’s new TV which she’d bought for her university room but had delivered to my parents as we were away.
Then we drove to Waitrose and basically bought whatever we fancied for dinner and then home!
Again, the trip back took three hours.
I put together a sharing platter for dinner as neither of us wanted a big, stodgy meal and we ate that at about seven. I had a couple of glasses of wine and Miss F had a bottle of sweet cider. And although it was very nice to go away, and we’d had a great time – it was oh so nice to be home – and it was wonderful to be back in my bed. Happiness is definitely a comfortable bed.
Today, Friday, is my day off and I must confess other than laundry and chat with you, I haven’t done a lot. Tomorrow it’s work, but only 10:30-4:30 so a reasonably short day, and then I have eleven whole days off. They are going to be days crammed with seeing friends and family to celebrate my birthday, reading, and hopefully lots of writing.
But of course, I will tell you all about it next week.