An Ordinary Life

Yesterday started, as usual, with shillings. We’ve probably spoken about shillings enough. I’ve certainly sorted enough.

I then moved on to sorting out four boxes of  secondhand office supplies we’ve recently inherited from the estate of a local dealer. Although I like stationery, I don’t necessarily like it when it’s mixed up in a box. What with scissors, loose staples and a loose craft knife it was not a happy episode.

Finally I was able to get to the computer in the back office and start putting medallions on eBay. We have a large supply of medallions. I refer to them as “modern”, though to many people the 1970s and 80s are “before I was born”.

I’ve put 41 on in two days and sold 14 already.

Fortunately I am not an ambitious man.

Historical Note: When someone reads my blog 50 years from now to see what ordinary people were thinking about Syria in the run up to Armageddon they are going to have to conclude “not much”.

I’m not sure why we are involved. I’m not sure why the Russians are involved. And I’m not going to waste time worrying about it because there’s nothing I can do to change things.

I’m now going to make corned beef hash for tea.

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We appear in the Local Paper…

Yes, we’re in the paper, though there is more coverage, including pictures of all the staff, online.

You’ll never guess what I’m doing on the video clip. That’s right, I’m sorting shillings.

It’s my day off today. so I took Julia to lunch at Pizza Hut for the all you can eat buffet. I’m capable (as you may guess from the unflattering pictures in the link) of eating quite a bit of pizza. I also had a bowl of salad to keep things healthy. Tonight we are dining on soup.

Anyway, while we were there a lady with a child sat on the table behind us. She also ordered the buffet, then, when asked what the child would like, said just an extra plate. I suppose it was worth a try. The waitress politely pointed out the range of items on the menu specifically for children.

When last seen, the lady was on her third plate of pasta and the child was carrying his second bowl of ice cream back from the ice cream machine.

I’m constantly amazed at what people do with the buffet offer. We once saw another family group pile their plates with pizza slices and ask for a doggy bag. They were most annoyed to be told that it didn’t work that way with the buffet and they had to eat it or leave it.

It takes all sorts…

Back at home I had two letters, one told me I’d passed the blood test from yesterday and don’t need to go back for three weeks.

The other was from Rotherham. I nearly threw it away unopened, as I often do with letters that come from unknown sources. They are usually of no importance and, so far, no harm has ever resulted from this practice. However, I did open it this time, and found it was from the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Constabulary.

“That’s nice,” I thought, “he’s writing to me to thank me for all the safe and careful driving I’ve done in my years of driving through South Yorkshire.”

But I was wrong.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Some people have no sense of gratitude.

Nottingham Post in the morning, Police Gazette by the afternoon.

Ah well!

Blood, worms and British Telecom

I regretfully parted with more of the red stuff yesterday morning. The phlebotomist stuck me in the painful place they’ve been using recently and drew three quarters of a tube before tutting, fiddling about and, finally, throwing the tube away. It was, it seems, not working properly.

For those of you not familiar with modern blood-letting, it is no longer necessary to put blood in a tube as it was when I first started. These days they have a tube that sucks the blood out. Or, in this case, sucks most of the blood out then stops.

If it doesn’t draw enough blood they can’t do the test, so they had to re-stab my arm and take another tube.

If I had a bad day, it was nothing compared to the bad day that a number of worms were having. After the night of constant rain there were dozens of large fat worms crawling around the footpaths. I’m not sure where they all came from, or why they decide that the footpath is suddenly the place to be.

What I do know is that when I arrived at hospital at 8.04, they were alive and mobile. When I left at 8.44 many of them were lying dead in the rain.

I blame the carelessly placed feet of the multitude of bustling NHS staff that always seem to be late for work as I make my way slowly along the path. It’s a rare day when I’m not overtaken by at least half a dozen of them as I hobble to Phlebotomy.

I have no evidence for this, as I wasn’t actually watching, but they are the only people likely to have the speed to trample worms underfoot. The rest of us move slower.

When you think about it the average worm is doing more for the planet than the average human, so we ought to take more care of them.

Meanwhile, talking of lowly creatures, and people who contribute nothing to the well-being of the planet, BT still hasn’t moved the shop phone number. They have, however, cut off the old number as of Monday, so we currently have a phone line and a number nobody knows.

Tuesday’s development was a letter informing us that they are going to provide us with an ex-directory number free of charge, because that’s what you want when you have a shop – a phone number that nobody can see.

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The shop front – with telephone number

 

 

Shillings, always Shillings…

We had fourteen parcels to pack and post this morning, which we managed in reasonable time. I was happily photographing and loading medallions on eBay when the boss arrived and hobbled through the door.

He has a bad back and stick that is too short for him – a recipe for disaster, as I know to my cost.

Then we had cake.

After that the other two went home, one to a pre-planned afternoon off and the other to an afternoon of stretching out with painkillers and hot water bottles.

That left me alone in charge of the shop. Just me and several thousand shillings.

Two hours later there were still several thousand shillings, but they were arranged differently.

Shillings of Elizabeth II - English and Scottish varieties

Shillings of Elizabeth II – English and Scottish varieties

When I write the chapter called My Working  Life – The Shilling Years for my autobiography it’s going to need some work. I may have to tell the story of how Kylie Minogue came in to buy Australian coins for her father’s collection.

She spent several hours picking over our fine stock of antipodean numismatic gems before noting the time and wondering if she had time to stay.

I should be so lucky

 

Disclaimer: Shillings, always Shillings… is a lazily written work of fiction and the author would be glad not to be sued by Miss Minogue, who has never actually been to the shop. Though she would be welcome to pop in if she’s ever passing.

Other pop stars are available, though their songs probably wouldn’t have fitted so well and, frankly, if S Club Seven, Blue or Little Mix came to the shop I probably wouldn’t recognise them.

 

 

 

The Psychology of Collecting

For years I’ve observed the link between collecting and mental illness. I’ve seen it in others and I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve also seen hoarding, excessive shopping, depression and bipolar disorder, though I’m glad to say that, apart from the hoarding, this has been from a distance.

I will confess now, that the house is full of junk and it is a case of hoarding rather than collecting. The old excuse – that it’s stock – no longer applies because I don’t have a shop. Even when I did have a shop I could never part with the rubbish. As a result, when I moved from the shop I moved carfuls of worthless junk that now just clutter the house. That’s how you know you’ve passed from “collecting” to “hoarding”, or from sanity to something that needs tackling.

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Brick from Watnall Pit Brickyard

Julia, having found out that there were a lot of local brickyards, including those run by the National Coal Board, has started a collection of bricks. So far this one is the entire collection. We have a photograph of another in a post on Rufford Abbey, which was where we discovered that there were such things. There is, inevitably, a website on the subject. This is a good example of what can actually be done by a collector with a passion for his subject.

One of the things I found when doing the research for this post, is that Freud considered that hoarding to be a result of our feeling of loss of control we experience when we flush the toilet. I’ve never felt the urge to retain anything I’ve put down the toilet. Fortunately I’ve never known anyone who has, and nobody has ever brought such a collection into the shop. Dr Gillian McKeith might have an archive collection, but that’s work, not a hobby, so is probably acceptable.

I was struggling for vocabulary for a moment, but after reading the Gillian McKeith article I can now use the word stool. Normally I only use it when referring to a small backless seat, but needs must. None of the other words I know are really suitable, though the word stool is not as clear as it could be.

If I refer to not being offered a stool collection during my days in the antiques trade I lack clarity as, for all you know, I might have been in the furniture trade. I suppose, with modern technology such as freeze drying and vacuum packing, it is only a matter of time before the first stool collection hits the market. Or the fan.

It seems that many people collect things. Up to 70% of children collect things, though by the time people are in their 20’s only 23% of people collect things, falling to 12-15% of people in their 60’s. These things don’t have to be valuable, they just need to be something that interests the collector.

This is part of my collection of Post Box photos. The box is a double aperture Type C with the post-1980 “Royal Mail” logo. Oh yes, collections can be dull and worthless…

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Post box at Bakewell

It’s clear from this that the people I would to as collectors are different from the people that psychologists would refer to as collectors. They see people who accumulate things as being collectors where I tend to think of collectors as people who collect to a plan. Even if that plan is to amass a pile of stuff as cheaply as possible.

As for hoarders, these are collectors who have let things get out of control. Between 2% and 5% of adults meet the criteria for being hoarders.

The lack of clarity in terminology is only one of the complications you run into. The mind of the collector is another cause of confusion.

There was a collector in Nottingham who used to enter all his purchases in a diary. This was so that he could prove to his wife that he was sticking to a strict budget. He did this by writing down a cost that was 10% of the true cost. Even at that level, his wife thought he was spending too much on his hobby.

It all went well until he died. His wife, armed with the book, then marched into the dealer where the husband had made most of his purchases. After lecturing him on the evils of him helping her husband waste his time and money she pointed to the book and demanding that he repaid her all the money her husband had wasted. She wanted the full purchase price back, she declared, and wouldn’t take a penny less.

So he paid her.

It’s a tricky moral point. He paid her what she wanted and she went away happy. If she’d merely asked how much he would give her he’d have paid more.

On another occasion a widow called me in to look at a collection. It didn’t go well and, after travelling fifty miles to do so, I fell off the badly made loft ladder leading up to the hobby room in the roof. It got worse after that, but I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just leave you with the comedic picture of me stuck halfway through a roof hatch as she struggled to shove the ladder back under my flailing feet.

 

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Notts and Derby sweetheart brooch

And, of course, no discussion of collecting would be complete without a picture of a sweetheart brooch. It appears to be as big as a Double Aperture Type C pillar box, but is actually quite a lot smaller.

I have yet to master photography as a documentary medium.

Lost in Leeds

It’s been a depressing few days. I’ve had a cold, and chest infection and sinus trouble. I’ve also been taking the problems of the world too seriously (let’s face it, I’m not going to change anything), feeling guilty about bringing children into this world, dwelling on past failures and thinking about how I’ve wasted my life.

It’s possible that a late Spring has had something to do with this lack of cheerfulness. There’s something rather forlorn about barbecue supplies replacing Easter eggs in the shops while freezing rain falls outside.

The fact I’m less than a month away from turning 60 may also have something to do with it. I know it’s only a number…

In fact it’s probably a good thing to turn 60, as one school of thought claims that ages ending in 9 aren’t good for you. You’re more likely to have an affair at one of those ages and more likely to commit suicide.

I am also, it seems, more likely to post a fast time in a marathon.

I allowed myself a slight smile at that thought.

Julia, on the other hand, had a good laugh.

Too lazy to kill myself, too ugly for an affair and too fat to run. Is this what my future holds?

Last night, whilst feeling ill, I drove to Leeds to pick up Number One son. I am such a good father. He’s lived in a number of places in Leeds and the last one was easy to find and convenient for parking.

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Leeds – convenient parking

It’s a shame that he moved away from there and took up residence in a glitzy block of flats in the centre of town. They have many good features, but being easy to find and in possession of convenient parking aren’t amongst them.

That was how I came to be parked between the flats and a shopping centre loading bay, and how I was able to experiment with low light photography.

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Leeds – low light photography

 

 

 

More Serious Stuff – Deep Thought, Castration and the Importance of Parents

I started doing more thinking after writing yesterday’s post. There was a lot to think about, mostly about murdered teenagers. After bringing two kids up in a city that had a poor reputation at one time, you can get quite thoughtful.

Interestingly, the writers blame the Labour government for the various problems, where most of the people these days blame the Conservatives. That is probably a sign that we should leave politics out of the discussion.

Youth clubs, youth sports and such things are, at best, distractions rather than a cure. If you are keeping kids off the street they can’t get into trouble. When looking at funding possibilities I’ve often seen the terms “distraction” or “displacement activity”.

We had quite a few difficult kids at the various rugby clubs we attended. Some were the typical sort of inner city kid you’d expect to be in trouble (who we used to work with in Rugby League) and others, in Rugby Union, were much more affluent and better educated.

One of the things I noticed was that you could put a lot of effort in and make no discernible difference. I also noticed that if the parents weren’t engaged nothing seemed to work. That held good for all the kids – parents who were at work all the time were just as bad as parents who deserted their family.

So my solution to the problem is to put the family back at the centre of things. I’d also be prepared to think about castrating absent fathers who didn’t live up to their responsibilities, though it’s likely that this would be a last resort.

It’s about the basics – decent places to live, education, jobs, reducing teenage pregnancies…

I’m starting to sound like a beauty queen here, but I’ll stop short of advocating world peace and an end to famine. It is, however, a matter of some regret that I didn’t start thinking forty years ago – it might actually have made a difference at that point.

Does anyone have any good ideas?