It was in the 1960’s that Elsie found her first job with Bailey’s Coatings. She started as the office junior, filing, doing the post and making the tea. Next, she was promoted to purchase ledger clerk where she learned basic accounts. Her records were accurate and entries very neat. By the 1970s Elsie had become PA to Mr Bailey senior. He was a boss who believed the odd bottom slap or loaded sexist comment was acceptable. Elsie thought he was a prat, but just smiled, moved sideways past his desk, worked hard and looked forward to the pay cheque every month.
By the 1980’s, Mr Bailey senior had died and been replaced by his son who was a whizz at pretty much everything. Elsie was encouraged to learn new skills and to grow with the business. She really felt important in this place and was sure that they couldn’t manage without her. Elsie was totally dedicated to Bailey’s Coatings. She would arrive at the office early and often stayed late. Occasionally she would go in on a Saturday if it was particularly busy and had even been known to take work home to finish on a Sunday. Elsie socialised with the Bailey’s team, at lunchtime over a sandwich, straight from work for drinks on a Friday and the usual corporate functions. Bailey’s Coatings was her life blood.
Today was her last day and she had been secretly dreading it. This was the day when the familiar routine at the same location with the same people for the last 50 years, was to end. There was a special lunch in the canteen, a few words from Mr Bailey, a glass was raised and a carriage clock, Made in China and purchased at Argos, was presented. That was it! 50 years for a cheap carriage clock!
A month later, Elsie was feeling strangely resentful. She was adrift with nothing to do and no real friends. It was tough. Now no longer a part of the Bailey’s team, she started to question why she had been so blinkered. There was no contact from Bailey’s. There wouldn't be. She didn’t belong there now. It had just been business, only ever business. Elsie could see that now. Outside friendships had fallen by the way side, family had been neglected. She had given the best years of her life to Bailey’s Coatings to the exclusion of everything else! For forty years she had been effectively wearing a cornflake box on her head. There was no view to the left or right, up or down. The cornflake box had gone now and Elsie was starting to see a whole new world – a lonely, daunting world. She had one huge mountain to climb and was beginning to realise that an awful lot of effort would be needed to make new friends and adjust to her retirement years.
Elsie’s advice to anyone living the life she did, with a cornflake box on their head would be this: Take it off! Be a great employee but be happy, healthy, and fulfilled in all areas of life and that fundamentally will make you a better employee!
Sally Roberts, FTFR copyright 2017