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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Mary Portas : stirring up those Saturday Girl memories

I`m glued to the new Mary Portas `Secret Shopper` series on Channel 4. She descends on shops which, frankly, `could do better`...and sorts them all out. Last series it was the turn of the Godfrey`s department store in Lowestoft . Toe-curlingly tricky to watch at the start-- but till-ringingly good after Mary`s makeover. The show got Twitter buzzing, too, with some of us recalling our teen days as Saturday girls--Michelle at Marks; resplendant in her crimplene uniform, and me and my friend Carol at Bourne and Hollingsworth in London. This series hasn`t disappointed, either...from the wedding shop where customers said :"I don`t....think so..." to the hardware store with chaotic stock and an offensive turn of phrase at every turn.

We'd started our lives in `retail` at the local florist's shop. Carol was OK, but I kept crashing into the big fat, crysanths. The pay was paltry anyway; even with the odd bunch of blooms to take home to our mums-- so we decided to jump ship and head up to Oxford Street.

 Bourne and Hollingsworth isn't there any more. But as Saturday jobs went, it was quite a coup for Carol and me-- a couple of sixteen year olds from Orpington. We'd meet at the station on a Saturday morning, jump on a fast train to Charing Cross and then leg it through Soho just in time to clock in. With a card machine thing.

We'd clinched the jobs together. I was appointed as a 'Mobile'. Moving to a different department every week suited my restless, curious and persuasive nature. I spent a good ten minutes guiding one Russian customer round our vast seletion of curling tongs and Carmens in `Electrical Beauty` one week, before realising he was after 'egg coddlers', not 'hair curlers'.

Being sent to 'wedding gowns' was quite a prestigious posting. You had to be a bit diplomatic, because this was the place where mothers and daughters could arrive as a team, and leave in tears. You had the challenge of finding 'just the right thing' for two bridesmaids, six dress sizes apart. And the biggest eye opener for a young teen from the Home Counties, the tall, rather muscular `bride` who turned out to have a few surprises  once he'd stripped down to his bra and pants. Never have changing room curtains been swished back into position so swiftly. Never has a Saturday girl blushed more deeply.

No sale that time, but when you clinched one, the possibilities for fun were endless.There were huge cash registers. And when they were full to bursting, you filled out a form and stuffed a wodge of notes in a brass tube, which then got shoved up a pipe; round the building a few times, powered by some mysterious suction device, to the cash office. Sometimes, the empty tube would return with a cheeky note from Barry in accounts, asking me for a night out in somewhere exotic, like Enfield. I never went, because Carol and me usually had other plans. A dark and sweaty disco floor in darkest Chislehurst, usually. Which was why it was always so useful having Carol as a permanent Saturday fixture in `Perfumery`.

This was the pick of all placements .She'd spend eight hours of every Saturday demonstrating the most expensive scents the store had to offer to her potential client base, many of them on the move and not in the least bit interested. They all got a good dousing, regardless, along with most of the staff and stock in the neighbouring `Wallets and Leather Goods`.

Carol had it down to a fine art.As the clock approached 5.30, her spraying aim would become far less random; and more targeted, hitting herself, remarkably, behind the ear; on the back of her wrist, and if brave enough, right down into her delicate teenage decolletage-- with military precision. Mine, too if I rushed past her at exactly the right time with an important message for her department head, and a knowing wink.

Then, reeking of undertones of ylang ylang and heady top notes of freesia, we'd belt back down through the now packed London streets to Charing Cross, ever hopeful that with the most careful of baths, the perfume would sustain us through hours on the Saturday night dance floor. It never did, and so we'd have to top it up with a wildly clashing overlay of Charlie, or Obsession. Not surprisingly, we had plenty of dance floor space at all times. And at least seven quid Saturday girl cash  in our purses for the odd (under age) Martini or two.

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 Me and my best buddy Clare used to cycle to the local nursery and dis-bud carnations.Those flowers saw a lot of tears 

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