I didn’t blame the hat
by Lin Whitehouse

An interview invitation in response to
my letter was the prompt to
purchase a hat, even though they don’t
suit me, and I haven’t worn one since.

Summer work experience, assisting the
window dressers in a high class Regent Street
fashion shop, had made the decision a
Careers Advisor did not offer. The workshop,
in a side street, was where the backdrops
were made, scenes painted and mannequins
stored. Creating the shopper’s dream was
what I enjoyed most.

I posed often for tourist’s photos,
half a naked fiberglass torso tucked under my
arm, or other sundries in my hands that I had to
take to the shop through the staff and trades
entrance, never the front door.
Sometimes I wore the wigs rather than carry
them, the synthetic hair always kept its style.

Aiming high, I’d typed my letter, the golf-ball
rotated with each key depression, leaving an
inked impression on the Conqueror prestige
paper. A signature I wasn’t used to signing was
added with a flourish, and a first class stamp
stuck on the envelope addressed to:
The Personnel Officer, Harrods, Knightsbridge.

My mother accompanied me. It was my first
interview. The train rattled and shrugged
us to London, shaking nerves into a squirming
snake-like pit in my stomach. My dusky pink
wool coat with Mandarin collar almost
matched the felt hat with ribbon trim.
Under the six inch brim I resembled Marlene Dietrich,
or so I fancied, and neither hat nor coat were
removed for the interview
on an upper floor of the store,
conducted by a semi-wizened man
in a dark suit, starched white shirt and tie.
I felt like a Caribbean cocktail against the
sobriety of his suit: a Flamboyant
tree to his charcoal stick.

Questions were asked and answered and my
Mother’s head nodded as if on a spring. It went well,
so it seemed, the man smiled frequently until,
rather pompously, he announced:
Harrods don’t employ women in their windows.

A letter would have sufficed and no
offer to reimburse expenses was made.
They wouldn’t get away with it now.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Hat like the one I didn’t blame.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I will never forget that interview. I thought I had done so well only to have my hopes of a career as a window dresser dashed by that single phrase. I could have gone elsewhere but decided to take a completely different route.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse writes as often as life allows, juggling a day job working for a children’s charity, looking after her family, and networking. Published twice in Silver Birch Press anthologies, her poems have also appeared in Turbulence and Writers News.