When I first left school I went to work in a tailors shop. It was a lovely shop very similar to the photograph I've posted above. Two walls were covered by these darkwood cases with brass rails for the ready made stuff. The third wall was rack after rack of lengths of material for bespoke suits. The fouth wall had the cashiers office, the door to our pokey little staff room and a couple of changing rooms.
About ten feet behind the double doors (which always had to be open) was a radiator with a wooden covering on front, top and sides. You'd stand there in the winter to try to get warm.
I was the lowest of the low salesman and I'd be sent off to take and bring back alterations from our local master tailor who lived about two miles away no matter what the weather. If it was rainiing my pants would be soaked and I'd hang them over the radiator in the staff room to dry. I know what you're thinking. Why couldn't I just iron them to dry them? I couldn't just walk across the shop in my underpants with an ironing board under my arm though could I? Decorum must be maintained at all costs.
Now I've been elevated to First Sales and I was allowed to stand at the radiator with the assistant manager. All the staff used to play a game where we'd try to get the other staff to laugh and get them a telling off. "Good moaning" I'd say to some customers. Or "Good afternoon sir. May I whelp you?" They must have thought I had some sort of speech impediment. This one bloke comes in twirling his car keys around his finger. Showing off because he had a motor car. Wife trailng behind him with downcast eyes. He looks down his nose at me and asks "What do you do in lightweight sports jackets?". I shrugged "Play golf I suppose" I ventured. He turned 'round and walked out. If the manager had seen me I would have been sacked on the spot. The assistant manager didn't give me away. He was doubled up behind the radiator laughing his head off.
There's only five staff and they made me assistant manager. Not a grand thing in the scheme of things but I liked it. On Saturdays things would get a little busy though. There'd be about thirty customers and we'd all be running around like wild things.
I had this customer in his late fifties. Him and his mum because he needed a suit for some forthcoming wedding. Very much under his mothers' wing. We picked a material and style for him and I began to measure him. I knelt down to measure his inside leg and he just keels over.
Dead as a doornail before he even hits the floor. CPR did no good. "I'm sorry madame" I says to his mum "But I seem to have killed your son". Since we wouldn't be needing the material to make a suit I covered the body with it. "Would you like a cup of tea while we wait for the ambulance?" I asked her. Everything's better with a cup of tea isn't it.
Then I spent four years in the army getting shot, stabbed and blown up. It changes the way you look at things. After that I went back to tailoring.
They made me a manager and gave me this three floor shop in the middle of a shopping mall. Staff of about twenty. It was absolutely dreadful. Polished steel rails bolted to the wall for the ready made stuff on the top floor and the bespoke floor below. The ground floor was the stock room and a staff room. There were hideously large photographs of blokes who looked like they'd been stitched into their suits all over the place. And there was orange everywhere. We even had orange topped bar stools for the customers to sit on although the staff still weren't allowed to sit down at work. On a weekend when we didn't close until 8pm you could be on your feet for twelve hours not counting your thirty minute lunch break.
Every Monday morning we'd do a stock count so we could match what we had with the receipts in the cash book. Then one Monday all my leather coats and sheepskins had gone. They'd been right there in the corner on the top floor as far away from the front doors as I could get them and now they were missing. I didn't see how somebody could walk out of a crowded shop with forty coats under their arm. I had to get the area manager to bring replacements in the boot of his car and he wasn't happy. Well, neither was I. I nipped over the road to Woolworths and bought a long piece of chain and put it through the coat hangers and the loops of the coats and fastened it with a padlock. If anybody wanted to try a coat on now they'd have to come to me for the key.
The following Monday when we did our stock count the coats and the chain had all gone.
There was a motion sensor in the corner pointing at the room although it was turned off when the shop was open. I was standing there thinking when I looked at the ceiling. It was one of those things made of big squares of polystyrene on an aluminium framework. I got one of the staff to nip across the mall to the florists and bring me back the longest piece of bamboo they had. Then I climbed up on top of the empty rail, poked a piece of polystyrene away and stuck my head up. There was a service tunnel up there about three feet high and the dust had been disturbed.
Much to the amusement of my staff I took my suit off and went up the mystery tunnel in my underwear. Eventually I came out in the main mall loading bay. Nothing was locked. Anybody could shuffle along there. I took a short cut back through the fire exits. Staff looked a bit surprised to see me walk back through the front door in my underpants. I got another piece of chain and looped it through our new replacement coats but this time I chained them to the steel rail too.
Saturday night and after we'd cashed up the staff went home. It'd be about 9pm. The lights were out and the only illumination was coming through the glass front doors from the mall. I sat on one of those ghastly orange bar stools and poured myself a brandy.
About two in the morning one of the ceiling tiles moved aside and this bloke stepped in carefully keeping out of range of the movement sensor. He didn't need to have bothered. I hadn't turned them on. I put my cigarette out, finished my latest brandy and strolled up behind him. He was struggling with the chain and somebody dropped a pair of bolt cutters down to him.
"Hello" I said "Can I help you?". He jumped about six inches into the air and spun around. I didn't like the look of those bolt cutters so I bounced him off the rail and took them away from him. "Who's your mate upstairs?" I asked him. He said there wasn't anybody up there so I turned him around and bounced his face off the metal rail. "Come on" I says "Where'd you get your bolt cutters from then?"
He still denied it so I bounced his face off the rail one more time. "Now look what you've done" I said "You've slipped again and now you've broken your nose and you're bleeding all over my wooden floor". He gave me the name.
I put him on his face and tied his wrists behind his back with a sleeve of a cream Arran sweater from our Autumn Collection. Then I tied his wrists to his ankles with the other sleeve. I poured myself a brandy, lit another cigarette and called the police. They arrived in short order and dragged him away.
Another day over and deeper in debt. I had to slip the cleaner a fiver to get all the dried blood off the floor.