Clarice Cliff

July 6th 2006

The Flogiteer turned up at the charity shop again this morning. Atkins Down The Road and I were ready for him.
Since the Flogiteer’s last visit we had purchased two fairly plain ceramic vases from another charity shop. Atkins’ wife, a dab hand at painting, and induced by Atkins with a tenner, had painted it to my instructions in the bright, almost garish colours and design of a piece of Clarice Cliff pottery. She had then added ‘Bizarre by Clarice Cliff’ in that pottery’s distinctive script on the bottom of the vase. The bait was ready.
“I’d like to give all the items of pottery in your windows a closer examination,” said the Flogiteer, immediately on arriving.
“Of course, sir, my pleasure,” I said, obsequious to a fault.
I duly removed all the pieces of pottery from the window, about twenty in all, and placed them on an MFI pine table which, if all went well, I intended telling the Flogiteer was an example of early Chippendale, with a view to a possible sale. I then proceeded to go about my business while the Flogiteer went about his; however my eyes never left him for a second.
He proceeded to go through his routine of turning every item upside down and inspecting the bottom. He literally froze when he turned the first of the ‘Clarice Cliff’ vases upside down. He must have stood stock still for at least ten seconds before, with a shifty look around him which would have done credit to Richard Nixon at his trickiest, he placed the vase carefully to one side and continued his search. The same thing happened, only more so if anything, when he came across the second vase. He went through the rest quickly and was very soon back with me, his treasure trove clutched tightly in his greedy hands.
“Found something you like, sir,” I smiled.
“Not really. Not really my cup of tea this stuff, but I’ll take it off your hands if you like,” he said, trying to sound disarming and couldn’t-care-less.
I looked at the price stickers. “That will be ten pounds then, sir.”
“More than they’re worth,” the ungrateful twat replied.
At that moment Atkins stepped in. “Did I hear you say ten pounds, Mr Ravenscroft?”
“That’s right.” I indicated Atkins. “This is the manager, Mr Atkins.”
“There must be some mistake,” said Atkins. “Someone must have priced them up incorrectly. They shouldn’t be five pounds each they should be a hundred and five pounds each.”
The Flogiteer nearly choked, his faced a wonderful mixture of shock and rage. “A hundred and five?”
“Oh yes. These are Clarice Cliff. Genuine antiques. Didn’t you know? Oh yes, they’re easily worth a hundred and five pounds of anybody’s money.”
The Flogiteer wasn’t giving in that easily, even though the vases, if the genuine articles, would be easily worth three or four hundred pounds each at the very least, as he well knew. “But the price tag on the vases was five pounds. Therefore you’re obliged to sell them to me for five pounds.”
Atkins stood his ground. “Not a bit of it. A price on an item is only an invitation to purchase,” he said, then went on with great authority, although it was probably absolute bullshit, “Sale of Goods Act, Section 2, Sub Section 3, Paragraph 2 applies.”
“ I’m sure you won’t be wanting them at a hundred and five pounds each since you said they aren’t even worth five pounds so I’ll put them back in the window shall I?” I said, making to do just that.
“No!” the flogiteer squealed, grabbing hold of me in an attempt to stop me putting them back.
“No. No I’ll take them.”
“Even at a hundred and five pounds each?”
“Well ……well after all you are a charity. And I’m feeling in a generous mood today.”
“Well that’s most magnanimous of you sir,” said Atkins. “Most magnanimous indeed. Cash please.”
“Sorry, we only deal in cash. All the rogues you get about today, you know. Present company excepted of course.”
The Flogiteer duly tipped up after visiting a cash machine.
So all in all it was a satisfactory morning’s work. The charity shop ended up two hundred and ten pounds better off; and with any luck the Flogiteer won’t be bothering us again. The only disappointment is that Atkins and I won’t have the pleasure of seeing his face when he realises he’s been conned. But then you can’t have everything, can you?

Swimming Lessons 5

July 5th  2006

Since being invited by the leisure centre manageress to join the 10.30 Monday swimming class I discovered, thanks to a chance meeting in Matalan with the hump back Mr Gearing (apparently their jumpers are the only ones that will fit him), that the class in question is the female equivalent of our men’s oldies class. Evidently the leisure centre powers-that-be have decided in their wisdom to lump us all together, disregarding their previous reservations about the risk of possible hanky panky, rather than take the risk of being sued by Mr Gearing, the dwarf Mr Leeson, the fat fuck Mr Liddiard, the man with the glass eye Mr Pargiter, and the man with the club foot, me.

In the event I chose not to attend the lesson. I knew what would happen. Once the instructor had started to give Mr Leeson individual tuition by towing him across the pool Mr Liddiard would demand the same treatment. What would happen after I don’t know, except that it would be some sort of shambles, but whatever it was it certainly didn’t warrant me having to pretend I have a club foot. (I hadn’t gone very far down that road beyond searching through our charity shop’s extensive range of footwear in order to see if there was anything in Elton John style platform soled boots I could borrow one of. There was one pair, and in only half a size less than my size, but after trying one of them on I found that although I could certainly limp all right, one leg being about three inches longer than the other, I had a job staying on my feet.)

When I say I didn’t go to the leisure centre that isn’t strictly true. I went but I didn’t go inside the building. I wanted to see if my suspicions would turn out to be correct.

The exterior walls of the swimming pool are made of plate glass so it is easy to see inside. I duly took up position outside at 10.30 on the dot and peered within. There were eight would-be swimmers in all, four of them women, the other four being the men from my class, all stood poolside listening to the instructor.

Many women in their sixties and even their seventies can still be quite attractive but the four women I was now looking at were definitely not among their number. That’s putting it as diplomatically as I can. Putting it as undiplomatically as I can they were fat ugly cows. Hanky panky with them would certainly not be on the agenda. A hanky maybe, to dry your tears, but most definitely no panky.

I settled myself to await developments, my nose pressed to the glass to get a better view, when suddenly I heard a voice of authority behind me.

“Hoy! What’s your game?”

I turned to see a security man, presumably employed by the leisure centre, although I’d never seen one before. Perhaps they’re like policemen, only ever there when you don’t want them.

“Bloody Peeping Tom, are you? Sodding Peeping Tom pervert?”

I looked at him in disbelief. It was quite genuine disbelief too, I didn’t have to pretend. “Are you joking?” I said. “Have you seen what’s in the pool at the moment?” I looked through the glass at the group of swimmers. His gaze followed mine. “If I wanted to be a Peeping Tom,” I went on, “which I don’t, I would do my peeping when the pool was full of nubile young sixteen to eighteen-year-old girls, not when it’s occupied by a dwarf, a fat fuck, a hump back, a man with a glass eye and four old women with tits hanging down to their waist. So kindly piss off and mind your own business.

He went. And so did I, very soon afterwards, before someone else who had difficulty minding their own business came along.

So my swimming career has come to a premature end, even before it ever really started. And if I fall in the canal I’ll just have to take my chances.


July 4th 2006

I was thinking this morning, about Kristin Scott Thomas, like you do, and how much of my future life I’d be prepared to give up for a night of unbridled passion with her. A year? No. Even for an all-nighter with the luscious Kristin, the woman of my dreams, a year is just too much to give up. I’m sixty eight now, I’m still quite active, I still have a fair few of my faculties functioning more or less properly, so I’ll still be well able to derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of another twelve months on earth, even if part of the enjoyment isn’t slipping Kristin Scott Thomas a length.

A month then? Would I give up a month of whatever life I’ve got left for a night with Kristin? Yes, that would seem to be fair swap, I’d probably go for that.

But would I feel the same about it if I asked myself the same thing at age ninety? Question – “Razzamatazz, tomorrow is your ninetieth birthday. You can either spend it in the company and in the bed of the delectable Kristin Scott Thomas and her eager beaver, then drop dead the day after? Or you can live on until your ninety first birthday, thus enduring another twelve months of rheumatoid arthritis in every bone of your body, incontinence, Alzheimer’s, spondylitis, hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, rickets and death watch beetle before you pop your clogs? No contest. It would be Kristin, without a doubt.

This poses the question – at what age would a man or woman give up twelve months of life in exchange for living out their dream, say at the age of thirty?

For example a man might fancy being a multi-millionaire for a week, He would enjoy the multi-millionaire lifestyle with all its trappings – the Ferrari, the luxury penthouse flat in Mayfair, holiday homes in the south of France and Antigua, the friendship of the rich and famous, the finest clothes and accessories, the finest wines (or lager if he’s a lout), the finest food, and of course an array of beautiful women at his beck and call and between his sheets whenever he wanted them. But if he accepted this he would die at age sixty (if he hadn’t already died from all the excesses he’d subjected himself to whilst he was enjoying his multi-millionaire lifestyle, that is). A bit young, perhaps? Seventy then? Eighty?

Answers please in my Comments section, stating your fantasy and at what age you’d be prepared to die in order to be allowed to live it. Your fantasy must be of no more than one week’s duration.

World Cup Exit

3rd July 2006

‘Twenty million England flags for sale. Hardly used’ ran an advert in the newspaper. ‘Fifty million bottles of celebratory champagne, now surplus to requirements, going cheap, ran another. ‘Twenty million dogs kicked’ said a headline. ‘Baden-Baden shopkeepers in tears as England Wags leave for home’ shouted another. These were some of the thoughts running through my head as The Trouble and I watched the England v Portugal match limp towards a penalty shoot out and another inevitable cave-in by our boys in whatever colour David Beckham had decided we’re playing in for this match. Well the football was never going to fully occupy my mind, was it?

“Why do they never go to the lavatory?” said The Trouble, out of the blue.

Obviously I wasn’t the only one who had found the football hadn’t been of sufficient quality to keep my mind from wandering off to more interesting subjects. I thought about it for a moment. “Well it’s a question of the toilets,” I finally said, the voice of authority.

“The toilets?”  This with a puzzled look.

 “Yes. As is the case with most public toilets nowadays you have to pay to get in at football ground toilets. And where would the players keep their money?”

The Trouble mulled this over for a moment or two, then said: “Perhaps they could carry one of those man handbags that are becoming popular.” 

“Of course they could my sweet. They could put them down on the pitch and play round them like women dance round their handbags at discos. Even better, they’ve no need to bother with man handbags at all, they can borrow one of their wives and girlfriends many handbags and carry those, they play like a load of women anyway so they might as well.”

“Women would play better than they’ve been doing, said The Trouble.”

I couldn’t argue with this, and didn’t.