I’m not one to complain, but I do seem to be getting more than my fair share of misfortune. Just last week, I thought I had a cold coming on and my assistant Norman broke his leg.
That really was the last straw. When other men of his age, painfully aware of their mortality, content themselves with a short walk with an elderly whippet, Norman insists on behaving like Bear Grylls.
It’s hardly surprising that when abseiling down a church tower for charity he fell 20 feet onto a gravestone and is now tottering about on crutches trying to give the impression that he has been hard done by.
He is even asking people to write sympathetically on his plaster cast, but the only person to oblige so far has been a young nephew who drew a large explicit representation of two skeletons doing what they shouldn’t, with the caption “Love Never Dies”.
To his credit, Norman did get his wife to get rid of it by giving the cast a coat of magnolia emulsion paint.
Obviously I can’t run a busy independent retailers by myself, particularly if there’s snooker on TV in the afternoons, so there was only one thing for it: I’ve had to advertise for part-time help.
A postcard in the corner shop brought in a chap in an archery club tie and brogues who said his wife wanted him to take a parttime job to get him out of the house when she was supervising the window-cleaner doing the bedroom windows.
“My experience is in middle management,” the man said. “In my last job I had 500 men under me.” When I found out later he had cut the grass in the local cemetery I sent him a text saying I thought he was over-qualified.
The card also brought in a youth heavily tattooed and clanking with ironmongery hanging from numerous body-piercings, who took a particular interest in our baseball bats and lacrosse sticks and said he would have to fit the job in with his community service and tai chi classes.
He said his whole family were on ASBOs, including his granny, had had their pictures in the Daily Mail and were short-listed for the Jeremy Kyle Show.
I have to say that an ad in the local weekly paper did bring in a slightly better class of applicant including a lad in a college blazer who said he came from a long line of successful businessmen, and was looking for work during the college holidays.
“We’ve never been afraid of hard graft,” he said. “My grandfather had a stall in the market and got up at 4 am to go to Covent Garden. He was driving a Rolls-Royce when he died.
“Did he get that selling potatoes?”I asked. “Of course not,” the youth said. “He won half a million quid on the lottery. On second thoughts, perhaps I’ll pass on your job. Can you sell me a decent cricket bat?”
A lad with a lisp and acne who came in mainly to use the lavatory said he was looking for something to tide him over before his case came up and had had experience in offices and factories.
“Can you drive a fork-lift truck and make tea?” I asked for want of something better to say. “Bloody ‘ell,” the young man said. “How big are yer teabags?”
By the time a girl wearing a Harry Styles T-shirt and purple wellies asked how long the holidays were and would she have to work Saturdays I was starting to get a little terse.
The following day the only applicant was a middle-aged man with a sniff and a cardigan. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “I was trying to buy some camouflage trousers but I couldn’t find any.”
When I asked about previous experience, he replied: “I wanted to be a milkman but I hadn’t got the bottle. Then I tried selling Velcro, but that was a rip-off.”
“You probably wanted to be a clairvoyant but couldn’t see a future in it,” I said, edging him towards the door.
“You’re wrong there, squire,” the man said. “But I did work in a bank until I lost interest. Good morning.”
So today, after having a nightmare about employing someone who turned out to be Jack the Ripper in drag who didn’t have a P45, I woke up with raging indigestion and decided that I wasn’t cut out for job interviewing.
I’ve just rung Norman and said if I give him a chair with a cushion and pick him up in the car, could he manage a few hours on time-anda- half this week? I’ve also agreed, against all my better judgement, to write: “Norman’s not always this plastered” on his leg.