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Tuesday, 2 September 2014


British Homes Stores, Belfast, circa 1974.  Belfast was a troubled city and most businesses had strict security procedures for opening and locking buildings.  But, despite fears and worries about bomb scares and bombs, we had our fun......

One of our department managers’ pranks involved a mannequin’s hand.  Each afternoon, about an hour before the shop closed, our key holder would come in and tour the building to start locking windows and doors, ensuring a fully secure shut down when we all left for the evening.  One part of his tour took him down some stairs, around a corner and down a further flight to a door at the back of the store.  

One day, a couple of us disconnected a hand from one of the fashion department’s mannequins and placed it on the handrail just around the corner of the stairwell.  The key holder, observed in advance by us as a handrail holder as he descended the stairs, almost jumped out of his skin when he touched the cold extremity.  He was normally a gentle plodder as he did his rounds, but on that day, he bounded up the stairs and shot out on to the shop floor like a banshee with its tail on fire. 

In our privacy, we screamed with laughter for ages and he developed a suspicious eye in our company from that day on.  It is shameful, of course in retrospect, but I include it as an illustration that we were prone to a little childish fun from time to time in those days to counteract the seriousness of the business we were in.  If we had been identified as the culprits, we reckoned that our defence rested on us arguing that we were only giving him a hand.

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