When I first saw Mrs Fever’s prompt I began to think of what the word green reminded me of, in my life.
Immediately I remembered falling into a stinging nettle bush, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, while playing at being Tarzan. I was eight.
Then I thought, well, when you are young, you are green, metaphorically – new and learning. Then I remember a time when I was a little envious of a friend – showing my green eyed monster. Now, I would not want to exchange places with her for all the tea (green of course) in china! Hmm, where did that saying come from I wonder?
I must say I thought about green without any resolution for quite a few days. Then, suddenly it came to me. In my most formative years of growing up – so turning less green – I worked in a green grocers!
Not only that it was one of my most memorable jobs to this day. So here we have the Green Grocer Shuffle…
Best to start at the beginning.
Green Grocer Shuffle
When I was fourteen my Mum put a word in for me and I ended up with a Saturday job in the local hairdressers. I hated washing peoples hair. But enjoyed the extra money.
At that age I went to youth club with one of my my best childhood friends, Jane. She is till a friend to this day. Big John ran the YC and was also joint owner of the village green grocers. In those days they were quite open to the elements. Cold in the winter! He’d given Jane a job there.
I had just turned 15 and often would sit out side the green grocers on one of those green cabinets that house electrical cables waiting for her. Trouble was so many of the local youngsters – including Vic – worked there. Every time one of them would come out side to pick some veg from the stands they would get distracted by me and shirk their duties. Big John got fed up with this so told me I’d have to start working there too. Seemed like an excellent solution so I happily gave up sweeping clients hair and became a green, green grocer.
Working with my pals
But I was not green for long as I had a natural flair for learning about all the different types of fruit and veg and for adding up the cost in my head as I served the customers. I also proved quite popular and some of the local young men attempted to woo me from across the red potato counter!
Working there also started a life long passion of mine – the connection between good food and nutrition.
There were often six youngsters working at one time. A couple behind the scenes and the serving girls like me, out front. We all loved it. And so did our parents as we got hugely discounted food to take home every Saturday evening. I felt I was earning my keep.
We had music on all the time and Jane would get told off by one of the Johns for singing too loud while she served. But the customers never seemed to mind. I worked there for 4 years and on Christmas eve, or birthdays, when the shop closed we would all sit on the potato sacks in the back room drinking cider – yes even at 15 – and eating hot beetroot fresh from the oven. What not to like?
But there is more to this story. I learned a lot about life while working there. As I mentioned Big John owned the store along side – yes you guessed it – Little John. Both were married and what became quickly apparent to anyone working there was Big John’s wife was having an affair with Little John.
Every one seemed to know and simply accept the situation as they didn’t hide it well. It was easy to walk in on an embarrassing interlude between the illicit couple.
A few of us, including me, felt sorry for Big John. He had given most of us our jobs and was a really genuinely nice guy. However, what happened next became a little uncomfortable for me. As I said Big John ran the youth club and often when if finished in the winter and a few of us us – me, Jane, Vic and Ant – were still hanging around when he locked up he would give us a lift home in his van. Trouble was I’d always be last out as he lived round the corner from me. This also meant I had to sit in the front seat beside him.
Lessons in life
I can see where many of your minds will be going now. An adult man, running a youth club full of kids and making sure an attractive 15 year old blond – eh that would be me 😉 – would be dropped off last. The thing is, with my history, I would have recognised any paedo perviness immediately. And I already explained he was a good guy, he never laid a finger on me. But, he did keep me talking in the van an awful long time about the affair his wife was having with little John.
Big John didn’t really have any friends apart from those connected to his family. I was mentally mature for my age and been through a few family ups and downs so he seemed to find it easy to tell me all about the details. Apparently I was the only one from the shop/youth-club that he poured his heart out to. The strange thing was he very much treated me as an adult and would ask for my advice. I would tell him that he needed to confront them, but he was concerned about breaking up his young family.
After a while I simply felt awkward and would think of other ways to get my self home of an evening. I still valued him as an adult friend but really did not feel I was qualified to offer him counselling.
I can’t say I recall whet happened between him and his wife. I think maybe they split when the kids got older.
The green grocer shuffle
But I will end this tale on a happy note. Often, when we had a celebration out the back we would turn the music up and all dance. Picture a room full of potato sacks and a group of several young green grocers making up a dance we called – the green grocer shuffle.
Those were some of the happiest days of my life.
Image from Pixabay