Book Review

Extract – Wedding Bells for Woolworths by Elaine Everest

Today I have another exciting extract for you from Elaine Everest’s latest release Wedding Bells for Woolworths, the fifth installment in Elaine Everest’s much-loved Woolworths series! Wedding Bells for Woolworths by Elaine Everst is out now, published by Pan Macmillan, priced £6.99 as papaerback orginal and eBook.

Synopsis:

July 1947. Britain is still gripped by rationing, even as the excitement of Princess Elizabeth’s engagement sweeps the nation. In the Woolworths’ canteen, Freda is still dreaming of meeting her own Prince Charming. So far she’s been unlucky in love. When she has an accident on her motorbike, knocking a cyclist off his bicycle, it seems bad luck is still following her around. Anthony is not only a fellow Woolworths employee but was an Olympic hopeful. Will his injured leg heal in time for him to compete? Can he ever forgive Freda?

Sarah’s idyllic family life is under threat with worries about her husband, Alan. Does he still love her?

The friends must rally round to face some of the toughest challenges of their lives together. And although they experience loss, hardship and shocks along the way, love is on the horizon for the Woolworths girls . . .

Extract:

YESTER ME, YESTER YOU, YESTER DAY

What happened to the world we knew?

Time has flown by so quickly. Whenever I hear Stevie Wonder’s song, ‘Yester Me, Yester You, Yester Day’ I’m immediately taken back to 1969 and my Saturday job in the Dartford branch of Woolworths. I was approaching my sixteenth birthday, I earned one pound a week (minus thruppence for my National Insurance stamp) and had my life in front of me.

The trip to Dartford started early each Saturday when I met my schoolfriends on Slades Green station. We had to be on the shop floor by half past eight so there was no time to window shop or dawdle once the train drew in at Dartford. Once we were inside the large store, we headed upstairs to leave our coats and bags in a locker, clock in, and pull on our overalls. These were nothing like the burgundy outfits worn by the Woolies workers in my books but were a sludgy green heavy nylon fabric that flared from the waist with a belt. The belt was important as we had to attach a notebook and pencil to the garment with a length of string. We used these to add up customers’ purchases before writing them up on large mechanical tills. A staff manager would assign up our duties for the day before we headed downstairs to our designated counters as a bell rang to inform staff they should be ready for the doors to open to the waiting customers. My working day was usually spent in the windowless basement level on the toilet roll counter. Now that makes me smile in light of recent panic buying…

When we could feel the wheel of life turn our way…

Our days were governed by bells informing us to take our breaks, end our breaks, and to cover our counters when it was time to close. Lunch was a hot meal proved by canteen staff. My friend’s mother worked there so it was a friendly face for this shy young thing if she wasn’t on the same break as her mates. When I came to write The Woolworths Girls I recalled with fondness that staff canteen and it became a focal point of my stories.

There was always time after lunch to pop out to a little boutique around the corner and gaze at the latest fashions. I was an avid dressmaker so would study the styles them pop into the large Co-op store to browse the dressmaking patterns for something similar. Within days I’d have run up an outfit to wear out on Friday evening. Back at the boutique I had my eye on a maxi coat – all the rage back then. Each week after we collected our pay packets I’d pop into the boutique and pay off five shillings. Once paid for I could take the coat home. My mum did help me out allowing me to dip into my post office savings book for the balance on the strict understanding I replaced the money as soon as possible. In the few weeks it took to collect my beautiful coat I knitted a long scarf to match the outfit – long enough to make Doctor Who aka Tom Baker proud. With my purple floppy brimmed hat and lace up boots I was the bee’s knees!

I had a dream so did you, life was warm and love was true…   

We would always stop off at the best record shop in town, Challenger and Hicks, as we headed back to the station. It wasn’t often we’d leave that shop empty handed. Motown was big at that time and I loved Stevie Wonder, but so was reggae music and that shop held the best reggae music there was. But my most music at that time favourite was blues and the memory of one record will live with me forever. At school we could take in records to play during the lunch break in our form room. It was a mixed sex school and us girls were judged by the lads for our taste in music. One of the coolest boys (who wore the coolest smelly Afghan coat) raised his eyes in appreciation when I handed over my copy of Chicken Shack’s, I’d rather go blind. Hey, for those few moments I was in with the in crowd!

A steaming bag of chips were always collected and eaten before we caught the train home each Saturday. For some reason one of our group, Amanda always say in the string luggage rack. I had no idea why, but it was hilarious at the time. Yes, life was warm and for most of us we had no need to worry about health, losing parents too early, or future relationships…

And now it seems those yester dreams were just a cruel and foolish game we had to play…

But were they? Catching up with some of those friends on Facebook fifty years later – my goodness was it that long ago? – those girls had done such wonderful things with their lives.

What was it we had in common, apart from being kids who went to the same secondary modern school in Kent? It was Woolworths – the constant in our lives and such wonderful memories of growing up, being treated like adults for the day while working work hard and having great fun along the way.

No wonder Woolworths stayed in my mind waiting for the day it would step into my writing…

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