Rose Neville, manageress of the Margate branch of Lyon’s teashops smiled as she listened to the carol singers from a local school. As the children sang their hearts out to Hark the Herald Angels Sing, she noticed the busy Nippies joining in, as were some of the customers. Christmas was a time to forget about our troubles and be happy she thought to herself as she dropped a few coins into a collection box. Rose never stopped feeling proud of the Nippies – waitresses who worked for the chain of famous Joe Lyon’s teashops. Dressed in their recognisable black uniforms, white aprons and caps, they stood out from others in the same business.
‘There is something wrong with that woman,’ Anya, who served behind the counter said, nodding towards a Nippy who looked rather glum. ‘She should be joyous as it will soon be Christmas’.
Rose was used to Anya’s sharp words as she knew deep down the Polish woman had a generous heart. She often thought it was Anya’s use of English that made her words appear a little harsh.
‘Oh dear, she does look rather sad,’ Rose said quietly. ‘I’ll have a quiet word with her, thank you Anya. How are you coping on the counter? Even with rationing, it seemed all the inhabitants of Margate wished to purchase bread and cakes from the teashop counter.
‘We could do with more staff.’
‘I’ll send one of the Nippies to lend a hand.’
‘As long as it isn’t that miserable one,’ Anya sniffed.
‘Joan, would you come to my office when you’ve finished serving your customer?’ Rose said with a smile as the young woman passed by with a tray of hot food. ‘There’s no need to rush,’ she added seeing her worried look.
Rose had hardly reached her small office when there was a knock at the door and the Nippy appeared. ‘You wanted to see me, Miss Neville?’
‘Take a seat, Joan. I usually have a chat with our new Nippies after they’ve worked here a few weeks. Are you enjoying your work?’
A smile brightened Joan’s face. ‘Oh yes! Everyone is so nice and I’m grateful to be taking home a wage every week now my… now my husband’s no longer with us.’
Rose knew Joan’s husband had died at Dunkirk and she had two young daughters. ‘If there’s anything I can do to help, please come and see me.’
‘Thank you, Miss Neville. I have a good neighbour who takes in my children when I work late. All the same, I do worry.’
Rose thought for a moment. ‘I can look at your hours and try not to have you working too late if that would help?’
Her eyes lit up. ‘Thank you, but I don’t want anyone to think I need help. We can manage,’ she insisted.
‘I know you can, otherwise I’d not have hired you,’ Rose said. ‘But I like to look after my girls, and then they will have a ready smile on their faces for our customers.’
Joan grinned. ‘I’ll do my best to remember to smile,’ she assured Rose.
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