Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ciao, Baby - Unless You Have An NVQ in Retail Skills. Or In Working For An MP.

If Greg says, "Ciao" to any more constituents, I may have to see if the local Mafia can spare a horse's head.

Constituents keep phoning back after they've spoken to him, to ask me if we have a new member of staff.

"Your boss employing even more bloody foreigners now, is he?" says Mr Beales. "Keeping British jobs for British people, that's what he should be doing."

"No, he isn't," I say, which is a neatly dual-purpose answer. "And, anyway, we are part of the EU, don't forget."

"There you go," says Mr Beales. "Exactly what I'm talking about.  Isn't that where those girls in your London office are from?"

"Well, yes," I say. "France and Spain. Though let's not forget that you and I are also from the EU. Technically."

This leads to Mr Beales indulging in a long rant about how he's not prepared to be grouped in with "all those frogs and Romanian gypsies" while I inspect my tan in my handbag mirror. It looks even worse in the magnifying side.

"So, the short and long of it is that our MP - here in Northwick - doesn't think a Brit's up to the job, then?" he says. "Even though they can at least speak the bloody lingo?"

"I think you'll find that Mr Sinclair's Westminster staff speak perfect English," I say.

I'm tempted to add, "unlike you," but decide I'd probably better not.

"It's the accent, though, ain't it?" says Mr B. "That's the real problem."

Indisputably, on the basis of his.

When he finally gets to the point of his original phone call, it turns out that he wants to discuss something he's read in today's Daily Telegraph. My workload would be halved if its journalists went on strike.

"Sick of these buggers moaning about tax breaks for married couples," he says.

"Because?" I say.

You have to pretend to take an interest, after all. It's part of demonstrating listening skills.

"Well, if they want to be treated the same as the rest of us who are married, then there's a simple answer, isn't there?"

Mr B pauses, presumably to allow me to guess, but I've just taken a mouthful of my sandwich, so I just grunt in a vaguely encouraging tone.

"Get - bloody - married. Simple as that, seeing as anyone can do it these days."

It's so unnerving whenever Mr Beales seems to have a point.

Having made this one, he finally rings off; and it's a relief when the rest of the day's calls prove to be about nothing more contentious than metal thefts.

"I should do that for a living," says Max, when I mention it while he's cooking tea. "It's more of a growth area than bloody retail, isn't it? Thornton's closing branches, and then there's Jane Norman, and Habitat, too. I'll never get another job in a shop."

I'm starting to think he'd be more cheerful if he spent his days watching Jeremy Kyle, rather than rolling news.

"Oh, don't be silly," I say. "With all your years of experience, of course you will."

"Not without a stupid NVQ," says Max. "Turns out that's what the bloke who got my job had. He'd only worked in a shop for a few months, but the boss was so impressed with him having a qualification in retail skills, I didn't stand a chance."

"What, even though you've got other, higher professional qualifications, and more than twenty years in the game?"

I am starting to feel a bit sick now.

"Yes," says Max. "So I'm on the bloody scrap heap, seeing as I didn't keep notes of what I did while I was at work every day, and no-one gave me any marks for them. I thought it was better to concentrate on actually doing the job."

"Ah," I say.

So did I.

Now I'd better go and check if they're offering an NVQ in working for an MP. I might mention it to Greg, too. It's bound to be more useful than conversational Italian - unless he met any Mafioso while he was in Venice. I bet they could guarantee our jobs.

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