All for charidee
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:-
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
1/4 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...