Published by Zaffre
Available in ebook and paperback (23 August 2018)
My thanks to Imogen of Bonnier for the invitation to feature a guest post from Elizabeth Woodcraft to celebrate the publication of The Saturday Girls. With the Essex setting and the fact that I used to be a Saturday girl in Woolworths (I still remember the glamorous uniform, not!), how could I resist! I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth talking about her own experiences.
When I was a ‘Saturday Girl’
by Elizabeth Woodcraft
Being a Saturday Girl was a great thing on many levels. I was still at school and I knew I wanted to stay on and pass exams but it was always embarrassing having to tell people that I was a schoolgirl, when I desperately wanted to be seen as mature and independent. I had no money.
So to join the world of work, even for one day a week was fantastic. Now I could talk about ‘work’ and ‘my boss’ and what a hard day it had been. On top of that I had money to spend. Fashion was so important to mods, to be able to afford fashionable clothes was a wonderful thing.
I had a friend who was a Saturday girl in Marks and Spencer’s which seemed the dream place because she got a discount on anything she bought. And we were all buying M&S twinsets (a cardigan and a matching short-sleeved jumper) at the time so that was a very nice job. Another friend was a Saturday girl in Boots so she got the first go at the make-up and perfume. Also good.
But Wainwright’s Milk Bar, where I was working, was the best. We served milk, milkshakes, pie and beans, sandwiches, tea, coffee, and apple pie and ice cream. All different sorts of people came in, young people, families, working people, even mods, because we also served espresso coffee. This was made at the far end of the counter, where we Saturday girls weren’t allowed to go. A large, shiny, modern espresso machine with great stiff handles created the frothy coffee, which was served in modern glass cups. Everyone else got boring white china.
And we got to wear a lovely outfit – a crisp, starched white cotton overall, under a red and black check pinafore. I had to wear a uniform at school, but this uniform was pretty and efficient. The Saturday boys’ uniform consisted of a boring white cotton jacket.
Even if people didn’t come in for a drink, they all had to pass by because the Milk Bar was in the middle of town. This was particularly great during my breaks because Sue (the other Saturday girl) and I would sit at a window table on the first floor as we drank our raspberry milkshakes and nibbled our egg sandwiches, and look down on the High Street and watch the world go by, particularly mods walking past or riding by on their scooters, their Vespas or Lambrettas, and we would pass comments on the cut of their hair, or the colour of their suede coats.
The first day I was there I got a tip – sixpence ( 2½p in today’s money – but pretty good in those days when you were lucky if you earned 75p for a day’s work). After that one glorious event, and I worked there for two years, including weekdays in the school holidays, I never got another tip.
But it was hard working in the Milk Bar – I’d never done anything like it. Not only did we have to serve people with cups of tea, and glasses of milk, along with a delicate egg sandwich or two, as I had imagined, but we had to clean. We had to clean the shelves, wipe down the tables and also, I had to sweep the floor, ducking the broom under the tables and the chairs and the high stools at the counter. I was hopeless. Although we didn’t have much in our house, we did have a vacuum cleaner so I’d never needed to practise using a broom. I’m still quite hopeless at sweeping, in fact. I’ve never worked out which way I should move the broom. Should I push it forward or pull it towards me? Still, I have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure, laughing, as they watched me struggle with dust.
And for that, I suppose, I should be grateful.
| About the Book |
Perfect for fans of Daisy Styles and Rosie Clarke. If you loved An Education, Good Girls Revolt and Made in Dagenham then this is for you.
It’s 1964. England has shaken off its post-war gloom and the world is full of possibilities.
Best friends Sandra and Linda live on a housing estate in Essex. They are aspiring mods: they have the music, the coffee bar and Ready Steady Go! on a Friday night.
Having landed their first jobs, Linda and Sandra look set. But the world is changing rapidly, and both girls have difficult choices to make. As Sandra blindly pursues a proposal, Linda finds herself drawn to causes she knows are worth fighting for.
But when Sandra’s quest leads her to local bad boy Danny, she lands both her and Linda in more trouble than they bargained for . . .
| Author Bio |
Elizabeth Woodcraft grew up on a working class housing estate in Essex. She was a mod and worked in the local milk bar. She became a barrister, practising from the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, representing Greenham Common peace campaigners, striking miners, and anti-apartheid campaigners, as well as domestic violence survivors and children who suffered abuse in and out of the home. Now she is a full time writer. She spends time in Paris, where she writes but also drinks a lot of coffee. The rest of the time she sits in her kitchen in London drinking coffee and writing.
Her most recent books are set in the Sixties – mods and rockers, the music of Motown, milk bars and ban-the-bomb marches. With memories of the war and the effects of rationing still being felt, young people are tasting the freedom a little money can bring. The Saturday Girls (formerly Beyond the Beehive) was published in August 2018 by Bonnier Zaffre.
Talking about A Sense of Occasion, Elizabeth’s collection of interlinked short stories, also set in 60s Essex, writer and social commentator Beatrix Campbell said:
‘Woodcraft has a light, lovely and loving touch. Her Chelmsford stories are intense, easy, evocative of times, places and passions.’
Her crime novel Good Bad Woman (HarperCollins) the first in a series featuring barrister Frankie Richmond, was short listed for a CWA prize for best first crime novel, and won a Lambda award in the US. A third Frankie Richmond novel – Crazy Arms – is on the way.