In the spring my wife was told she needed a small operation on her ankle. Apparently the tendons are shot – must be all that shopping! The downside of this is that she will be in plaster for six weeks, then a solid ‘boot’ for another six weeks. In other words she will be out of action for three months at least. Like most husband and wife partnerships we both play an equal part in the business. I look after the shop and the books; she does the livestock, which includes the breeding animals and any boarding pets. On top of that I will also be left with the cooking and cleaning at home! In order to get through this as painlessly as possible we sat down with our two shop girls and talked through the various ways we could work through it. After some discussion we all agreed that if the operation could be after the summer holidays we should be able to cope fine. Both the girls would have had their summer holiday, especially the older one who has two school-age children. Also the rush of summer tourists would have died down once the schools had gone back and the shop quietens down in the lull before Christmas. I would do more in the shop and the girls would cover the livestock between them and it would be all hands on deck when a delivery turns up. Over the summer we constantly said to them both, please do not let us down on this because once the operation is done there is no going back. You just cannot say, “Stop, I’ve changed my mind.” The operation was due on a Friday so we spent Thursday morning at the hospital going through the pre-op stuff, blood pressure checks, etc, etc. We were running a bit late on the way back so we phoned the shop and asked our older member of staff if she could hold on for about 20 minutes as we had been held up. No problem, it was raining and the shop was not that busy anyway. When we got back she said she had news for us that she was leaving her boyfriend and going to stay with her sister-in-law. Sensing there was more to come, I asked exactly what she meant. Apparently, there had been a serious ‘domestic’ outside the shop while we were out. It now turns out that this was not an isolated incident at all and was in fact the last straw. As this tale was being told someone came into the shop and introduced herself as the sister-in-law. “That’s me off then,” says our loyal employee. “Don’t know when I will see you again, if ever. Best of luck.” With that she walked out the door never to be seen again. That leaves me to run the shop with the help of a 19-year-old part-time assistant and a wife who is hopping about on one leg! Still, I put a stool behind the counter so she can serve and another stool by the cooker so she can cook my tea so I am surviving! As I write this, the six weeks of her leg in plaster is coming to an end so at least I will get more help about the shop. And the bit about the shop quietening down after the summer rush, no chance. Trade is holding up. Still, best not complain, money coming in keeps the bank happy.