Here’s some Monday afternoon memories for you from my first gift shop of many…
In my time at Setting Sun I had to make 3 police reports: two for shop lifters and
one for a fraudulent manager. Exciting stuff for a shop that essentially sold nick
knacks like mirrors and incense, that sort of thing. At this point I was doing my
A levels, had a wonderful group of creative friends and there was nothing we all
liked to do more than go out clubbing on a Friday night in our UV cyber-hippy get
ups and stay out til 6 in the morning, then we’d all go to work. How we did it I just
don’t know now. Maybe it was because other than college, which was social and
fun and informative, we had no responsibility and no fear of coming down, we
didn’t have to worry about paying the rent and our jobs just earned us the pocket
money that paid for the next weekend’s shenanigans.
This was the place I first had to work with a broken heart, crying into a bucket,
mop in hand; the first place of work I had to keep running to the toilet to be sick
after a hard night and the first place I had to make a police report.
So it turned out that the assistant manager was a right piece of work. Highly
confident and uber friendly, tall, dark and handsome. I already new of him by
reputation before I worked there. The area C and I grew up in was a strange
borderland of Hampstead bourgeois and Cricklewood drunks, where old school
council families and estate gang fights are literally across the road from the gated
mansions of the Heath. It had it’s folk law, all based around the local pub, which
in any of it’s incarnations was not a nice place to hang out. The mainstay of this
area was the —– family, the stuff of legend, six brothers, 2 sisters and loads of
aunties and uncles. Darren, the assistant manager at Setting Sun, was a ——.
Unlike his shaven headed, tough guy brothers, Darren was gay and flamboyant.
Always with a story to tell, he was certainly charming. Both the manager and
the other assistant manager adopted him immediately as their gay best friend,
giggling and gossiping. It was a good six maybe eight months later when the
feisty, little boss realised that the till was always down by at least £20. How
it got to that level with out her being suspicious I’ll never know. Shocked and
betrayed, everyone who worked there was a suspect. She and Darren would
hole up in her flat upstairs with a bottle of wine, scrupulously going through all
the CCTV footage. After a while a suspect started to emerge, the other assistant
manager started to receive the cold shoulder, no evidence had arisen but guilty
until proven innocent. Of course as time went by it came to light that golden boy
Darren had been slipping his hand in the till. When making my report, the police
told me he’d been sending me into the window to clean, switching off the CCTV
and taking out as much as he liked, right under my nose. The CCTV footage had
caught him reaching up to turn off the camera; hence the cosy wine and CCTV
sessions. He would distract the owner every time. Over six months he’d stolen
thousands. When the police came to arrest him he didn’t apologise or deny it, just
demanded that he be taken out the back so the locals didn’t see him being carted
away in handcuffs.
I bumped into him a few years later and after a short stint in jail he’d got out and
released a club track that had made it into the charts! Justice? What Justice!
My favourite story from the Setting Sun days was one of those particular
occasions when, with no sleep and pupils like saucers, I stumbled into work.
Standing for 8 hours was by far the most difficult part of the job. After a few hours
of listlessly wiping a cloth across some surfaces, the boss, a tiny Mediterranean
lady, feisty and sharp, swooped in. Giving my best attempt at straightening up
and looking ‘on it’, I nodded my way through a conversation about her on again
off again boyfriend before she briskly informed me that it was vital that we stock
take the cushions today and sent me to the cushion room, yes, the cushion
ROOM. Having not slept in 24 hours, my weary limbs, shaky through hours of
dancing and a lack of food, I opened the door of the cushion room and was
confronted with what can only be described as pillow mountain. Shutting myself
in, all alone with the cushions, I began to count. That day I experienced the kind
of torture that only an insomniac shepherd could ever imagine. Reclining on the
soft, plump mountain I set about my task of counting. I’m not sure how many
cushions there was in that room, I found it very hard to count more than 6 before
my eyelids drooped and my head nodded. Shaking myself awake I would start
again only to feel the heaviness wash over me again. Who knows how long I was
in that room, did I sleep? Did I nap? When I finally decided enough was enough
and dragged myself out of that gift shop purgatory, neither boss nor manager
batted an eyelid, I felt like I’d been in there a lifetime.