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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Sunday, March 09, 2008

All for charidee

There is only one bus an hour from home to the acupuncture clinic and vice versa. There used to be two. I remember when there were two. But the route of one of them was attenuated some years ago, and that one would now only take me part of the way to the acupuncture clinic. Which is no use at all.

If I've missed the bus home by only ten minutes, or if I'm very tired, or my blood sugars are getting low, or the weather is shocking, I'll hail a cab.

But I rather resent paying £7 to get home for what would be less than a ten minute journey on the bus. And the acupuncture clinic is right next door to a very large Oxfam shop. From which, with considerably less than the £7 one might otherwise have spent on a taxi, one can emerge with something tangible.

This isn't your everyday sort of Oxfam shop in which you have to fight your way past rails of clothes to get to the books. (Not that there is anything wrong with buying clothes from charity shops: I used to do it a lot when I was young and impoverished.) No, this one doesn't have any clothes for sale at all. It sells household objects, furniture (one of my nice, curvy 1930s wardrobes was bought from there years ago for about £15) and books.

Not just a few shelves of books, either, mind you: a whole room full of books. And there are few places in which I would rather fritter away forty minutes of free time than a room full of books. And, because the shop is so well-known locally, you can often find very old books which, I would imagine, have been donated as a job lot after their original owner has passed away. Which means that, for 50p, I get to amuse myself reading cookery books from the 1930s.

One such - which must have been well-used, because the owner has strengthened the cover by gluing on a piece of rather nasty green fabric - has several blank pages at the end for the recording of further recipes. Recipes hand-written in pencil are, of course, the vintage cookery book afficianado's gold. Miss - or Mrs - Bainbridge, who owned the book in 1937, must have been something of a parkin-fancier because she has written down three different recipes for it. Here's the first one:-

Parkin I

5 oz white flour
5 oz oatmeal
1/2 lb brown sugar
1 oz ground rice
2 oz each butter and lard
1/2 lb treacle
1 egg
1/4 tsp bicarb of soda, dissolved in a little milk
2 tsp ground ginger

Mix dry ingredients, and fat, add egg, warmed treacle and lastly soda in milk. Mix to stiff dough. Bake 1 hr in Reg 4.

Anyway, I didn't start writing about the Oxfam shop just to provide you with an old recipe for parkin. No, I started writing about the Oxfam shop because a strange thing happened the last time I was in there.

It was a Monday afternoon. I was engrossed in the cookery book section, checking to see whether any more vintage books had come in since my last visit. I wasn't consciously listening to the conversation in the next room, so I don't know whether The Incident blew up out of nowhere or whether it was the result of a simmering feud over positions in the queue for the photocopier.

I'd be lying if I claimed I could remember more detail about the opening, inflammatory remark than,

"Mumble, mumble, mumble, old fella, mumble".

The riposte, on the other hand, is burned indelibly into my cerebral cortex.

"Who are you calling an old fella, you c***?"

Which does seem to be something of an over-reaction but, as I say, I didn't witness what had gone before. Faces may have been pulled. Offensive gestures made. Toes trodden on. Who knows?

Be that as it may, the manager of the shop swung into action and, after a short scuffle, propelled the fella who clearly didn't consider himself to be old out of the door with the classic line,

"Get out! You're barred!"

Which minor drama led me to ponder exactly where on the street cred scale having been permanently barred from an Oxfam shop would put you...

The Editor


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear Shakespeare can't go in there either:

"You're bard!"

I'll get me coat.

2:26 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

£7 is not the price of a ten minute journey. £7 is the price of the beneficial effects of a therapy session not being completely undone by the time you get home. £7 is the price of being able to spend your afternoon/evening in whatever productive and/or enjoyable pursuits you want to, rather than whimpering in pain on the carpet wondering what on earth posessed you to overdo it like that.

That's the argument which convinced me that, if I had the money, taxis were a reasonable expense. Although, I admit the balance of the decision would be affected by a shopful of interesting books with laid-on entertainment from elderly delinquents.

4:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had a farthing for every time I have been called "Old fella", "Old bean", "Old horse" or "Old sausage", I'd probably have a shilling by now.

Actually I'm all for fighting fire with fire, especially where insults are concerned, but since when did this particular epithet become offensive?

Perhaps the gentleman in question was not familiar with the literary works of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. Or indeed with the theatrical utterances of Mr Adam West in his most famous celluloid role as The Batman, in which he frequently refers to his junior aide as "Robin, old chum".

PS If I were to invest in treatment which could be completely undone by a simple journey home, I would have to think twice about whether said treatment was a sound investment in the first place.

10:24 am  
Blogger DD said...

Nothing that exciting ever happens in Oxfam Skipton. Mind you, up here he'd probably have called him a silly old bustard.

6:12 pm  

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