Episode 16: The Establishment Written by Ryder Smith
It was just another day at Bloomin’ Lovely, and Gita was absent-mindedly watering the plants in the window. She’d managed to spill half the water onto the floor, her mind having drifted elsewhere. The house was surprisingly quiet with Rani gone. The loud music, the early hours Gita endured to make breakfast for her so they could get to school on time. She never thought she’d miss it, but she did.
Her mind was thrown from this when about four workmen went past the shop, swiftly followed by a man in a sharp suit and a young woman in purple. They must be the owners of that florist chain, probably starting work on their new shop which would be opening around the corner from Gita’s. In fact, she wondered whether it was the same lady that was at the flower convention in Scotland.
Gita wasn’t normally one for being nosey, in fact she was completely the opposite, but she couldn’t resist going to have a look at the new place. She grabbed her coat, as it was a cold winter’s day, and trotted out the door. Being as stealthy as she could, which was basically her doing her best impression of a spy, she made her way up the road. The newly-leased shop was on the other side of the road, so Gita did the only sensible thing, and rolled across a car bonnet to avoid suspicion.
She then proceeded to hide behind a shrub, as if it somehow concealed her presence, not that she even needed to hide. Still, it made her feel like a special agent person, she could be great at that. Ooh, I wonder if I can apply to MI5, she thought, maybe they could use a flower expert. From where she was hiding, she could neither see inside the shop nor hear any conversation that may have been going on. Her phone suddenly went off in her pocket, making her jump, causing her to collide with the bush and flatten it. Fumbling, she pulled her phone out, and answered it. “Hello?” she said in a tone as close to a hostage negotiator she could get.
“Gita,” came Haresh’s voice. “You okay? You sound a little...strange.”
“Shush, I’m on a secret mission. I’ll call you back in a bit,” she announced, hanging up before he could retort.
Having wasted about an hour hiding behind the bush, Gita headed back to the shop, having gained absolutely no gossip. Maybe Mrs Hatran would come in later and tell her all about it, that woman seemed to know everything. Just the other day, she’d come into the shop, laden with shopping bags, to tell her that Haresh was at home...on a school day. She was shocked at this fact, after all she payed the taxes. Gita had pointed out she actually didn’t as she was an OAP, but she was still annoyed.
Turning the corner, she noticed a council van parked up outside the shop, with a smartly-dressed-man stood next to it. Maybe she’d won an award, she thought, finally some recognition for the shop. She dusted her jacket down, having taken half the bush with her, before giddily walking to the shop. This was her moment, her chance to shine. She’d never dreamt of this happening, well, she actually had dreamt of this, but that was by-the-by.
“Hello, my darling,” Gita said, reaching a hand to shake the smartly-dressed-man’s hand. “Gita Chandra. I own Bloomin’ Lovely. What reward have I won? Best kept shop, or maybe, best shop owner - ooh, or best flowers?”
“Ah, Mrs Chandra,” the smartly-dressed-man exclaimed sternly. “I’m afraid that you’re not the owner of Bloomin’ Lovely any more. As of today, it’s council property again.”
“What? Is-is this a joke? I bet it’s Haresh isn’t it? Hmm, or maybe it’s that Mrs Hatran, she does like a joke.”
“No, no. This is not a joke Mrs Chandra,” the smartly-dressed-man explained. “You have repeatedly failed to pay the rent on the shop.”
“What?” Gita questioned, shocked at this.
“We have given you plenty of warning Mrs Chandra, there have been several letters sent out to you. Sadly, your time is up, and the council has to act. Your stock within the shop will be seized as recompense, along with any items within.”
“I-I-I-” she attempted to say but, for once, she was lost for words.
“Gita, what’s wrong?” Haresh asked her, after Gita had phoned him speaking gibberish nonsense.
“They’ve...taken...my...shop,” she sobbed.
“What do you mean taken?”
“They’ve what?!” Haresh exclaimed, shocked by this. Now, he may get frustrated with her at times, but he hated it when she was upset. Especially if someone had made her upset.
“Right, okay. I’m coming home now. Try and find all the paperwork you’ve got, and we’ll go through it.”
“Gita. Why didn’t you tell me about all these letters?”
“Well, the bank deal with these things don’t they? That is where the money goes from, my darling.”
Haresh sighed. “That’s not how it works. You, as the business owner, have to deal with these things. How did you manage to keep the Ealing shop open?”
“Oh, Elise handled all that. At least, before Bannerman Road blew up, now she takes care of the one in White Cross, or did...”
“You should probably have gotten someone to take over with the finances.”
“Hmm, I didn’t think of that.”
“Have you spoken to Valerie or Elise?”
“Valerie is away, my darling, I don’t want to go spoiling her trip. And I emailed Elise earlier.”
“I really don’t know what to suggest Gita. I’m not sure they’ll be any way to appeal this, they’ve sent twelve letters in warning.”
“What do I do then?”
“I...don’t know,” he replied hesitantly. “I wish I did.”
“I’ll think of something, there’s bound to be something else I could do. Like...hmm, teaching, or knitting, or gardening.”
“Well, sleep on it first.”
A few days later, Gita had arranged a series of interviews for a variety of different jobs, she wasn’t sure what area to go into. Having dressed herself all smartly or, as she called it, posh, she headed off to her first interview. Leaving the house, she walked down the garden path, before crossing over the road.
Her first port of call was...Sarah Jane’s house. She rapped on the door, before smoothing her skirt a little.
“Oh, hello Gita,” said Sarah Jane, bemused by her sudden arrival. “What can I be doing for you?”
“Ooh, the questions do start early these days. I’m here to be interviewed for the role of your assistant Sarah. If Rani can do it, so can I.”
“My assistant? Erm, well I’m flattered Gita, really I am, but I’m not really in need of an assistant. Besides, it wouldn’t even be a paying role.”
“Oh, well, I’ve left myself an hour for this. Ooh, maybe we could go for coffee together - that sounds fun - we could be like two businesswomen out to discuss business stuff and all that. If Melody isn’t in that is, wouldn’t want to pull you away, my darling.”
“No, no. Melody is at school today,” Sarah Jane told her. “Let me just get my coat.”
“I’m sorry Mrs Chandra, but I don’t think the role of receptionist is for you,” the young-ish woman stated firmly.
“Are you sure you won’t reconsider? I could do some flower arranging around the place, it could do with a little sprucing up here and there- ooh, and I’m very good at making coffee, which I’m sure is a plus.”
“Here at Future Technologies, we expect a certain standard, a certain quality. While I’m sure you’d be capable, I just don’t feel you’d fit in here. Our clients are highly exclusive, and demand certain things. On that note, good day, Mrs Chandra.”
“Well, if you change your mind, here’s my card. And I’d be more than happy to get some flowers for this place, they’d make it look much nicer- add a bit of vibrance to the place.”
“Thank you for your time. Goodbye.”
“I can make loads of coffee- my husband often says it’s the best he’s ever had, so do my neighbours - that’s something, and I bet all the others struggle with coffee making. Ooh, and I have a talent for flower arranging, I could go round doing up the place- that would make it bright and cheery, lift everyone’s spirits throughout the day.”
“Well, I’m afraid that neither of those skills are required. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure why you applied to be a Dental Assistant,” the dentist told her. “Maybe you’d be more suited for another career, say, floristry.”
“I can bring in lots of flowers though, put them all in the waiting room - keep the patients relaxed before their appointments.”
“I’m sorry Mrs - erm - Chandra, but I can’t give you this role. I hope you find a job more suited to you.”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t think you’ll make a very good exam invigilator. It requires a certain skill which you seem to lack,” the stern-faced man said, smirking a little. “Thanks for your time Mrs Chandra. Next!”
Haresh returned home from work to find Gita hunched up on the sofa, with a few packets of his “secret” biscuits scattered about. He sighed, having only bought the biscuits the day before. Gita, upon hearing him sigh, immediately awoke from her slumber, her hair all messy and scraggly.
“Oh, hello Haresh, my darling. I was just doing a spot of cleaning, and I found these packets everywhere - ooh, maybe it was the neighbor's cat, I hear they love biscuits.”
“Gita, I know it was you. There’s no way a cat could have found them, let alone scattered the packets on the floor,” he said in his teacher-voice, before softening back to his usual tone. “Anyway, that’s hardly important right now. How did your interviews go?”
“Ooh, well, I handed out loads of my business cards to everyone - offering my flower arranging services at a discount - so, it’s possible that I’ll get some luck.”
“That’s all well and good Gita, but how did the actual - you know - interviews go?”
“They went really well, I think, but they couldn’t appreciate my unique talents or my charming personality - though I think that one interviewer, hmm, can’t remember which one, was starting to come round. And, do you not what, I bet they’ll all be on the phone soon, asking about flowers and stuff- they could really use them to spruce the places up.”
“Well, that’s the spirit. No point letting it get you down. Although, the last time you tried to offer flower arrangement to businesses we ended up surrounded by rhino men, so maybe avoid all that.”
“Ooh yeah, those rhino men. They were fun, and all stompy too, maybe they just wanted flowers, maybe that would make them happy.”
Haresh just laughed, she wasn’t half mad. Well, more like a truckload of madness. “I’ll get started with our tea then, it’s leftover casserole night!”
“Haresh, wait! Stick the kettle on, all this cleaning is thirsty work you know.”
Gita was tired; it was too early in the morning. She checked her watch. It was 10am, which, in actual fact wasn’t that early, but it was for her. She was sat in the lounge, her bowl of cornflakes starting to get soggy, as she was pondering over the newspaper. None of the jobs she’d seen so far had been catching her eye, so she’d flicked to the next page, where she had stumbled across an advert for the new flower shop.
Hocus Crocus, the florists chain, will be opening their new Foxgrove store in the New Year. Work is currently ongoing at the new store, in preparation for its opening.
She considered this for a moment, when the idea struck her like lightning. Throwing down the paper, and hastily putting her bowl down on the table, she shot upstairs. And, after what seemed like mere seconds, she charged back down again, now fully dressed, and flew out the door.
“Hello?” Gita said, unsure if the buzzer on the gate was working. “I’m here to talk to the council.”
“Hello. I’ll just let you through,” came a voice at the other end.
The gates swung open, allowing Gita to drive up into the car park. The council building was a dull, oppressive looking thing. She couldn’t help but think that they could do with some flowers, maybe she could offer a discount, though Haresh would likely tell her that was a bad idea. Perhaps she was listening to him, or perhaps she’d just ignore him.
She quickly pulled herself away from these thoughts, she needed to focus for once. There was no time to park up properly, instead she just abandoned her van right by the building’s entrance. Before she went inside, she put her chin up and shoulders back, ready for anything. With that, she strode into the council building.
There was a young-looking woman on reception. She looked up as soon as Gita entered the foyer. “Hello there. Are you here for a meeting?”
“Yes, my darling,” Gita replied. She was indeed here for a meeting, not that she’d bothered arranging one beforehand.
“Take a seat, and I’ll ring through,” she said, gesturing to a chair.
Gita sat herself down, picking up a magazine off the side. It detailed all the goings on in Foxgrove throughout December, including a Winter market. Ooh, maybe I could do that, she thought to herself, christmas AND flowers.
“They’re ready for you,” the woman called over. “Straight up the stairs to the second floor, take a right and follow the corridor to the end. The meeting room is straight through the double doors.”
“Thank you, my darling,” replied Gita, instinctively giving the woman her card, before marching up the stairs.
Gita burst into the room, looking as though she’d just run a marathon. “Sorry...it...took me...so long...to...get here,” she panted. “I...got...a bit...lost.”
“Oh, it's you,” a man exclaimed. It was the same smartly-dressed man who’d come to shut Bloomin’ Lovely. “What exactly are you doing here Mrs Chandra?”
“Ooh, hello again- oops, can’t remember your name sorry. Anyway, not important right now, I’m here to get my shop back.”
“I hate to say this, but that’s not going to happen,” he responded solemnly, although Gita sensed that he didn’t really care.
“Now, now Jonathan,” an older man interjected. “Let’s at least hear her out, there’s no harm in that.” The others around the table nodded in agreement, and Jonathan sat back down in his seat, frowning.
“Right then, prepare to be amazed,” Gita chuckled, before focusing on what she was going to say to them. “Well, first- ooh, wait, yes- firstly, Bloomin’ Lovely is my life and joy you know, it’s a big part of who I am. And it’s a nice, village-friendly shop, erm, and it’s become a big part of Foxgrove. That new place opening, it will be all posh and stuff yes, but they won’t be thinking about the village. Ooh, or the fete. Let me prove I can do this, my darlings, I could even throw in a discount.”
“Well, I must say, you’ve peaked my curiousity Mrs Chandra. You’re clearly very passionate about this,” the older man professed as the others, save Jonathan, quietly clapped. “But, I think before we can go anywhere with this, we’ll need to go over the case. Though, perhaps you could show how much the place means to the village, go round getting signatures in support. That’ll speed things up no end.”
“Thank you so much, my darlings!” she expressed loudly.
“Well, we’ll go over the case file asap. And if you could bring us those signatures in, that would be grand, say on Friday?”
“Yes, I’ll be here. Ooh, this is so exciting!"
“Ooh, Sarah, could you sign this?” Gita asked, having encountered a hurried looking Sarah Jane.
“Yes, just make it quick,” she noted quickly, signing the paper without a second look. “Sorry, Gita, I’m in a bit of a rush. Bye!”
“Ah, hello there, would you mind signing this?” Gita asked the man she only knew as Zoe’s uncle.
“Yes, of course,” he replied, scribbling on the paper. “You’re Gita right? Zoe mentioned what happened with you shop, that’s a real shame. I hope you get to reopen.”
“Thank you, my darling. Got to dash now, lots of signatures to get.”
“Oh, hello Mrs Chandra, and what can I be doing for you today?” asked Mr Baker the baker.
“I’m getting signatures in support for my shop. Would you be able to sign, my darling?”
“Yes, I’d be glad to. I so hope you get your shop back!”
“Ah, hello Gita. What brings you here?” Haresh asked, Gita having arrived in his office.
“Haresh, you’ll never guess what?”
“You found some biscuits? You got a job?”
“No, no. I went to the council, and I wowed them. I just need to get loads of signatures and I’ll get the shop back!”
“Oh, that’s brilliant!” exclaimed Haresh. “I take it you want me to see whether anyone here will sign it?”
“Ooh, yes, that would be marvellous.”
A few days later, Gita returned to the council. She’d run round the entire village getting people to sign, and had even got Valerie and Elise to go out and get some to cover the other shops. There must have been a few hundred signatures.
“Good morning Mrs Chandra,” the older man said smiling. “Let’s go through to my office.”
“I’ve got a load of signatures here,” Gita noted, as she followed him into his office.
“I’ll take a quick look at them all,” the man told her. He flicked through the pages of signatures, a smile appearing on his face when he saw certain signatures. “Well, you have been very busy.”
“So, what do you say, my darling?”
“Having looked through the case file, and seen this impressive list of signatures, I don’t see how I could say anything else. You’ve got the council's support,” he responded, happy to share this news. “Just remember, this is your chance. Don’t mess it up.”
“Ooh, well, I don’t know what to say. Thank you so, so much- you’re a saint, I hope you know that. I won’t let you down. Bloomin’ Lovely is going to be a huge success!”
“I wish you all the best with it. And, I’ll be sure to pop in one of the days.”
Both Gita and Haresh stood inside Bloomin’ Lovely. The plants had all started to die, as the council hadn’t bothered removing them.
“Haresh, I was thinking, maybe we should give it a bit of a touch up in here. You know, a lick of paint would be good- ooh, and perhaps I should change the layout- this is a fresh start after all.”
“Hmm, might be best not to get too carried away Gita,” Haresh pointed out. “Still, I’m sure a bit of paint would be fine.”
“Ooh, my laptop!” Gita shouted, rushing off to the back room. “Aha, it’s still here!”
“That’s wonderful, but shouldn’t we be heading home? We can sort all this out tomorrow!”
“Yes, erm, that’ll be a good idea. See, what do I always say, you’re an ideas man.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever said-” he started, before deciding not to go into it. “I tell you what, as it’s a Friday, let’s get some fish and chips!”
“Ooh, yes my darling. That would be bloomin’ lovely!”
Bloomin' Lovely will return for a Christmas special...