Day 23

Our Government is in disarray. Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border. Tonga has been flattened by a tsunami. But I’m more concerned with on-line grocery shopping, approaching poetry deadlines and eBay. In years to come, I can’t see my blog being much of a barometer of the mood of the country in 2022 Unless everyone else is  self-centred and politically unaware too.

Let’s face it, Russia starting World War III isn’t even the biggest problem we have. The planet dying because we have too many people using too much stuff and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. WW III might actually do us some good by thinning out the population. I’m not advocating it, just pointing it out. How ironic to come back in a a hundred years, having been frozen in a new Ice Age caused by nuclear winter, to find that Vladimir Putin is actually seen as the saviour of the human race. Well, if we are allowed freedom of thought by our new Chinese overlords.  They might want us to see the General who ordered the release of Covid to be seen in a similar way.

That’s at least two sci-fi novels in the bag – The Man who Saved the World and The Pangolin Protocol. Sadly, a I can’t even get a simple haibun written, I’m unlikely to be able to find time in my schedule to knock out a couple of dystopian novels.

This is a shame, because if I could write them, and the film rights sold for enough, I could spend the rest of my life living in a plastic bubble on Mars, taking drinks by the pool with Elon Musk and Richard Branson, whilst paying Microsoft or Amazon a monthly fee for air.

Sometimes Armageddon doesn’t look so bad . . .

 

Day 22

Got up, had breakfast, went to work. There was one parking space left when I arrived. Is this what my life has become – repetitive with worries about parking spaces? I used to think there was more to life than that.

On the positive side, I have started to find myself laughing and smiling more. You are supposed to get happier as you age and I had been waiting for it to kick in, as the last few years have been hard work. I may be lagging behind the curve (nothing new there) but it looks like I’m finally becoming happy.

The customer who has been irritating us for most of the week with unrealistic offers has finally decided to order something. He still tried to do a deal until we had gone to the post office (it closes at lunchtime on Saturdays) so we won’t be able to send it until Monday. By Tuesday I expect he will be writing about something being wrong. Some deals just have an aura of doom hanging around them.

One bright spot in the day was that we put some second-hand display cases on sale. After a bit of a lull they have started selling and we sold our last three during the week. The owner checked in the overspill stock room (as I call his garage when talking to customers) and found a couple more, which I added to our eBay listings around lunchtime. One of them sold twenty minutes later. It always feels good when that happens.

Day 21

Group dynamics are a difficult thing but it’s noticeable that Friday afternoon, when the owner and I are on our own in the shop, is more productive and relaxing than most other days. We’ve known each other for over 30 years (he is more sociable than I am and came over to introduce himself at an antiques fair we were both standing at Granby Halls) and it’s a bit like being married – as long as I do what I’m told it all goes well.

Granby Halls was demolished 20 years ago, how time flies. I’ve just looked it up and am amazed by how historic it was – I’d have taken more notice of it if I’d realised. If you have read the article behind the link you will now know what me, Mick Jagger and Sir Oswald Moseley have in common.

This isn’t to say that we don’t get on when all three of us are in, but it’s different. Personally, we have no problems, but I don’t feel we work as well as we could do as a group. When there are two of us we work as boss and peasant and it all goes quite well, as I see my role as doing what I’m told and being paid for it. With an extra person there, we seem to lose focus. He’s not yet been beaten down sufficiently by life to take on the roll of a peasant.

Shakespeare £2 coin – comedy. I put it in here because I fulfi8l the role of Fool to the owner’s Lear, though I don’t actually call him Nuncle. NOt that Lear is a comedy, but I thought the hat and rattle fitted here.

One of the things that influences my attitudes to groups is that I’ve been fortunate to be in some good teams over the years – nearly always by accident, as they seem to form and then become successful without a lot of talk or planning. The key thing, I think, is that “a star team will always outperform a team of stars“. Once you’ve been in a good team it becomes easier to become part of another.

I’ve also been in one or two bad teams over the years , such as the rugby club committee where the Chairman eventually fell out with us and resigned, taking the post protectors with him. We had to run round and borrow a set for Saturday. If I were writing a play about a dysfunctional Rugby League team I wouldn’t dare include that in the script because it’s so hard to believe.

Shakespeare £2 coin – history

Day 20

I sat down with a cup of tea, fell asleep in a draught and woke up an hour later fee,ling distinctly lazy. So I shelved the plans for a healthy vegetarian meal and ordered pizza. That’s twice this year already. It will last for three meals but it’s not the sort of diet I would like to admit to.

Whilst eating pizza I watched The Apprentice, but they seem to be running out of idiots with character/ All they have now is commonplace idiots, and they aren’t very interesting. They have also got rid of all the decent assistants and gone the “no character” route again. Karren Brady actually seems to be getting more boring as time goes on and I don’t know who the other one is. So far I find him virtually indistinguishable from the apprentices.

We are trying a new method at work, loading more on eBay and using less description. It seems to work for some of the big sellers. Most of the stuff we sell doesn’t need  much additional information and even people still ask us about things even though all the information is there. As each email represents time wasted, and therefore money wasted, We might get a few more queries if we cut down on the information we give, but we will be saving time on writing the sales. It will be an interesting exercise.

We’ve exchanged a string of emails with someone today already. It’s not about details, it’s about unrealistic offers. He’s made several offers on something, the changed to making unrealistic offers on something else. We don’t mind doing a deal but we need to cover the costs of running a shop. Some people can’t see this.

We have stopped replying to him.

Sometimes, despite the doctrine that “the customer is always right” you have to put an end to things.

The top picture is a group of pre-decimal halfpennies. There were 480 of them to a £1. They are about the same size as  modern 2p – where there are only 50 to a £1.  That is one way that decimalisation has been an improvement.

The bottom picture is a propaganda Iron Cross from 1914 – highlighting the destruction of Belgian cities, raising the martial ardour of the British and raising funds for charity. When the price rose above £5 I stopped buying them. We sold this one for £40. If only I’d kept buying them . . .

British made propaganda Iron Cross 1914

 

 

Day 19

I finally dragged myself down for blood testing at around 10.30. There was a bit of a wait but I was till only number six in the queue. They were moving though us rapidly and I was in and out in just under 15 minutes. It would have been quicker but I couldn’t stop bleeding. The pills must be working, though part of it was probably that I had managed to fit in two cups of tea before going to hospital. When they have trouble they often blame it on my lack of liquid intake in the morning.

So far I’ve had no panic phone call so it looks like I might be OK.

Last night I did several of the Citizenship Tests posted on the internet, to see if I knew enough about the UK to be allowed to live here. Well, fortunately I passed. I did four tests and got six questions wrong out of a hundred. As I’ve lived here for over sixty years I feel I could have done better. I’m sound on Magna Carta, Tudors and Stuarts and electoral law, but can’t see that the first two are very useful today. There was a distinct lack of questions on queuing, recent history and the law as it applies to motor vehicles. All three of these are more important in 2022 than the date of Magna Carta and the Spanish Armada.

And in case you are wondering, yes, this is what they mean by “displacement activity“. It meant I didn’t need to fail to write any publishable poetry.

Anyway, why you would want to be a citizen of a country that demands you know such things?

The picture is one of Mrs Botham’s pork pies. There were no questions on British cuisine in the citizenship test. Not even fish and chips.

Fish and Chips – more British than Magna Carta. 

Day 18

Day 18 passed in much the same way as Day 17, but without the element of anticipation that you get after a Sunday off. In that respect it was very much like Day 11. I expect that Day 25 will be similar.

It was also like Day 17, in that I have a few ideas for writing, but didn’t do much about it. The trouble with giving days numbers is that the passing of time is much more noticeable and there is nowhere to hide. “Next Wednesday” is quite a friendly place, in a soft and woolly future. “Day 26” is much sharper, and leaves you in no doubt that you have seven days to do something, and that when it arrives the deadlines are only five days away (the days leading up to Day 31 are going to be interesting.)

I bought 500 items on eBay last night. They were very cheap, just pennies each and will, eventually, help finance my collecting habit. Julia will be delighted when she finds out and will no doubt be keen to congratulate me on my financial acumen and the purchase of more clutter. That’s why I’m letting her know via the blog. I don’t want to be in the room when she finds out. I could, I suppose, conceal this from her, but she will eventually notice a big box of plastic tokens no matter what I do.

When I have  a few minutes I will prepare more posts on collectables to leaven the musings on mortality, boredom and the passage of time. However, despite all my attempts to put it off, I need to go for a blood test now. It’s not procrastination if you put it off because you have to do something important.

I had some haiku turned down yesterday, which means I am currently running with one acceptance and one rejection so far this year. The editor sent a longish email and included a useful link to help me do better. The problem I find with haiku is that although they are small poems they come with a lot of conventions attached (some call them rules, though this isn’t quite accurate) and I never quite manage to remember them all at the same time. It’s a bit like that hypothetical over-filled bookshelf – you put a book on one end and one falls off the other. That’s my brain . . .

The picture is a small Royal Artillery sweetheart brooch carved from mother of pearl. They are generally from the First World War usually, I’m told,  made in Palestine. I include it as it’s a new picture and illustrates my inability to stop collecting things.

Day 17

More of the same. Parcels. Customers. Miserable weather. The only difference was that the car got covered in a fine spray of dirt thrown up by cars passing by the shop on the main road, and a bird, which appears to have dined on something quick-setting and durable, deposited the digested remains in the middle of my windscreen.

I spent 27 minutes on the phone at one point, being cross-questioned by a customer with “jut one last question” being promised more than once. In the end he said “Well, why do people collect if you can’t make money from it?” My reply was that collecting is about the pursuit, the assembling of a collection which is greater than the sum of the parts and, with luck, the knowledge you gain.

If you want to make money you take a second job, put the wages in the bank, buy shares or buy precious metals.

He said: “Oh!”

It’s a good thing the boss wasn’t in. That’s half an hour of my wages down the drain just so that my pearls of wisdom can bounce off someone who thinks numismatics is the way to get rich.

Before that we had someone in who kept asking for dates of coin which don’t exist. He couldn’t get his head round the idea that there were no pennies minted in  1941, 42 or 43 as there were thought to be too many in circulation. In 1949 most of them were held back, and they were still being issued as new coins until 1956. In 1950 and 1951 very small quantities were struck and were stored until 1956 when they were sent to Bermuda (all the 1950 mintage and most of the 1951 too).  They say that British dealers started travelling to the island and offering £1 for 1951 pennies – 240 times its face value (there were still 240 pennies to the £ in those days).

There is one coin known from 1952. I don’t know why, some arcane Mint purpose. In 1953 they struck pennies for commemorative sets. Only one is known from 1954, used for die testing. Somehow it escaped melting and ended up in circulation. Then there were no more until 1961. They were struck every year until 1967 and all the pennies struck in 1968 and 1969 were dated 1967. Again, I haven’t a clue why. After that they minted them in 1970 for the final £sd sets and, after a thousand years, the old penny made way for the decimal issue.

It’s amazing how many we have being brought in , and even more amazing how many collectors haven’t bothered to learn that there are years when certain denominations weren’t stuck. The saying “Before you buy the coin, buy the book.” does not seem to have reached everybody.

The pennies in the picture are Australian pre-decimal pennies – but they are the same size and shape, just that they have a kangaroo instead of Britannia.

Day 16

Got up after a lie in and had to unfold my back. The two are linked, but I don’t want to buy a new mattress until the end of the year, as we have to do some building and other dusty stuff. I have a couple of weeks of sleep troubled only by an ancient bladder and dreams of old age and poverty, Then I have a week of being troubled by the inability to straighten up when I( wake. It isn’t too bad, just takes ten minutes longer to get up.  After that it seems to pass off again.

Julia has been ill since Friday, but it seems to be passing today. We think it might be diet related and a few days of light diet and no cheese seem to have done the trick. She was particularly subdued yesterday when I got home from work, which is not like her. “No cheese” is my general treatment for all abdominal pain, and often seems to work. I had trouble with IBS about thirty years ago. The doctor told me that he would tell me to give up smoking but the resulting stress would probably be just as bad for me. That was in the days when doctors gave realistic and practical advice. He also told me that a cup of tea and two cigarettes was not a nutritionally sound way to start the day.

I started eating proper breakfasts, gave up smoking and put on weight. However, with that and a certain amount of caution regarding cheese. This gives me the moral high ground when it comes to lecturing Julia about her health. I fully intend to take advantage of this.

The photo is from January 2017. She was, as I recall, making some cutting remark about the statue being similar in build to me. Ah, good times!

Day 15

Day 16 is coming to a close as I finally get round to Day 15’s events.

Saturday (or Day 15 as I call it in my new, dull, boring fashion) was a day of little promise. It started misty and eventually cleared so that it was just grey and cold.

I rose a little later than is my habit during the week, grabbed my bag and got to the shop just in time to secure the last parking space by the shop. I then breakfasted on the sandwich I had prepared in advance.

An email the previous night had told me that I had a winning lottery ticket but at £3 I am going to let it change my life. Yes, I am back buying lottery tickets. I don’t buy many and I don’t smoke or drink so I feel that the occasional lottery ticket won’t break the bank. The best bit is that in the time between buying it and realising I have not won, I can dream of cruises in warm places.

I also dream of buying twenty or thirty old cars and abandoning them in places that will cause the most inconvenience to people who have annoyed me by parking badly by the shop or in the street. If I had money it probably wouldn’t make me a nicer person.

We had a few sales in the shop, including a multiple purchase from someone who bought four items that we had listed less than a week (two of them had only been listed in the hour before we went home on Friday (Day 14) recently and three that had been on for ages. It just goes to show the benefits of putting things on regularly, as it attracts people onto your site.

We also had a couple of customers in to buy things and several coming in to sell, so it was a pleasant enough day. If I hadn’t have been at work I wouldn’t have done much anyway, with the cold, damp weather and my disinclination to mix with people. (See Day 16, when written, for an account of such a day).

Day 14

It was icy over night, then the mist added a film of dampness to the already slippery surface. It was unpleasant even walking the few yards to the car,  which was comprehensively iced.

It stayed misty all day, which would have been atmospheric if I had been in a place with hills and trees but which was merely depressing in the middle of town.

Yesterday had been bright and light when I left the shop. Tonight was dull and grey. However, it wasn’t slippery, so it wasn’t all bad. That is how we are at the moment, with slow progress to Spring. We will have  a couple of days of higher temperatures and lighter nights, then it will drop back for a few days. I suppose that’s what makes me appreciate the good days.

So far it has been a mild winter, and, as usual, I keep having to remind myself that there is plenty of scope for bad weather in February (which is often a bad month) and even March. Being realistic, it doesn’t take much to close us down. A day  of snow will cause havoc in the UK, whereas Norway or Canada would look at it and shrug it off.

I think poets must thrive on misery, because I found myself thinking creative thoughts on the way home in the car. This could be the end of the poetry drought, and about time too – there are a lot of deadlines coming up. I had 42 poems published last year and have had two accepted so far this year. I’m not going to judge myself solely by numbers but I would like to be in that area again so I can’t afford to waste too many chances.

I’m, sticking with my theme for photographs – another postcard and another parcel. variety is over-rated.

Another one of an endless team of envelopes