Today, after packing a reasonable number of parcels, I started loading a selection of maps, went on to empty coin cases and then started on some books. We have a very interesting book at the moment – and as a result of reading it I now know what arrangements were made for pregnant women, victims of shipwreck and people who made gloves from rabbit skins as a side-line. I can also tell you what arrangements wee in place pertaining to pre-war fabric, second hand goods and fund-raising bazaars. Fascinating stuff – and I mean that sincerely. The administration must have been a huge task, and that was just one small aspect of wartime life.
All you need to know about clothing coupons
The second book I looked at was, in some ways, more interesting, purporting to be a journalist’s evaluation of German paratroops. He says they dropped into Poland and Holland in disguise, dressed as regionally appropriate peasants in Poland and, amongst other things, nuns and British soldiers in Holland. My view, as it always has been, is that these were just stories. Look at it logically – you look up and see a nun on a parachute. Is your first instinct to wonder why a nun is parachuting, or wonder why the Nazi is wearing a dress? It’s bad enough jumping out of an aeroplane and being shot at without having the additional distraction of a stiff breeze blowing up your wimple.
Slightly less educational
So there you go, a day of education.
The advert in the header is from a map of Hampstead. It’s a Volvo P1800 as driven by Roger Moore in the Saint.
I had a note from WP the other day congratulating me on posting three days in a row. This puzzled me as I have done more than three days in a row on many occasions and they have never bothered to congratulate me. have any other regular writers out there had a similar message, and did you think it was strange?
They have probably been on a training course to teach them how to be empathetic. Unlike their new editing system, which as you know, I consider to be merely pathetic.
Today, in a distinct absence of orders from eBay, I put 16 more pieces of sheet music on eBay and then moved on to maps. WE now have over 1,300 items of stock on eBay and we are going through all the boxes of junk and having a push at getting rid of it. It’s a welcome break from Elvis coins, but that’s about the best you can say for it.
When I got home (it’s now taking three times as long as it did before lockdown ended) I found I had two letters. One is from the NHS, and is an example of how to use a lot of words, and create confusion. In summary, it says thank you for filling in a recent questionnaire and could I now fill in a new one as they are testing the reliability of the questionnaire design. The trouble is that I don’t think I filled the last one in. It can be confusing to a man who doesn’t concentrate.. I’ve done two online surveys too. I think I blogged about one of them. I’m doing three surveys on a regular basis, one of them monthly, and I can no longer remember who they are for.
First job this morning was to parcel up the Prisoner of War postcard. It appears to have gone to a collector. There were only three people in the bidding and two of them chased it up over £60. As far as I know it’s worth £20-30 as a piece of postal history so I presume it was the story they were bidding for, and that it will be well looked after from now on.
Second job was to parcel up a nice late Georgian medallion. It was struck in 1835 so it’s nearly as late as it can be whilst remaining Georgian. It has been on sale a few months and we turned down several offers because we thought it was a good piece. It commemorates the installation of the marquis of Camden as Chancellor of Cambridge University. Lovely medallion, as I say, but he’s no great looker, and it’s a dull subject. It has gone to America. A lot of our better medallions go to America or China. I feel slightly guilty about exporting our heritage, but we have an excellent stock of historical medallions which is hardly ever looked at in the shop.
Earl of Camden, Chancellor of Cambridge University and, as I said previously, no great shakes in the looks department. Roman nose, piercing stare and, doubtless, a commanding manner, but not easy on the eye.
I then spent the rest of the day beavering away at my desk loading a succession of modern coins onto eBay. They are weird modern combinations – a coin from Niue celebrates Edison and the lightbulb, one from the Cook Islands celebrates the Ascot Gold Cup and one from Somalia is part of a series called “Wildlife of North America”. The Cook Islands coin is quite pleasant apart from that, but the Somalian coin is an abomination and the Niue coin lights up if you press it in the right place. Words fail me…
I despair of any society where people actually collect these monstrosities
Can you see the light?
At least the design is good, even if the mis-match beggars belief.
I seem to have lost all my drafts. It doesn’t really matter in most cases as I rarely actually go back and use one, despite my good intentions. On the other hand I did write half a post last night that I wanted to finish it this morning.
Instead, I will move on to the next subject I had in mind. Prepare to be saddened.
We bought 5,000 cards plus assorted ephemera last week, the stock of a retired dealer. It has been gone through and is really just the leavings of a lot of mixed lots that he bought. It’s taken us the best part of two days to sort it – work that out on an hourly rate if you are interested in the hidden costs of running a collectors’ shop. We have found a few decent cards, but it’s mainly dross. However, they all needed going through and they are all sorted into counties now, which is always a test of general knowledge.
One interesting card we found was a pre-paid card addressed to a prisoner of war in Japanese hands. It has a positive message on the back, as you can see from the photo.
It was posted nine days before VJ Day, so it looked like a happy ending was imminent. However, many people were so ill by then of the war that you can’t guarantee a happy ending, even at that point. I decided that after I checked it on the Prisoner of War roll I’d check the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, just to see if he made it home.
I didn’t need to do that, as it happened. The first POW roll I checked had all the details I needed to close the story.
I suppose the “Return to Sender” stamp on the front should have alerted me to the outcome.
649850 AC1 Victor Ernest Gordon never made it home. As you can see from the print-out behind the card, he was buried at sea on 6th November 1943, a year and a half before the postcard was posted. He died of beriberi, which is a variety of thiamine deficiency brought on by existing on a diet of white rice.
Another roll narrows his place of death to “off Formosa”, about halfway between Java, where he seems to have originally been kept, and Japan, where he was probably bound.
His father would not be the only parent in this situation- the entry appears on British Page 284 of the roll entitled “Unreported Deaths of Allied Personnel”. He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, which commemorates 24,319 British and Commonwealth Servicemen who lost their lives and are not recorded elsewhere.
The next stage is that it will be put on eBay. This is what we do, and although it seems disrespectful to consign such a sad and historical document to an auction, that is, when you think about it, exactly what his family did when they sold it. We could give it to a museum, but museums have a habit of locking things away where they are never seen again. at least we are able to tell the story and move it on to a collector who will value and cherish it, and possibly give the story a new lease of life.
It’s a moral question I’ve often had to face in many years of collecting and dealing, but the fact to bear in mind is that nothing comes up for sale before the family, or even the recipient, decides to sell it.
US Navy Sweetheart Brooches – the penny is 20.3 mm in diameter. An American cent has a diameter of 19.05 mm for those of you who like to know these things.
Despite the need to spend money on the house, and to declutter, I am still browsing eBay, and still adding a few items to my collection. If you want to see other examples , I have written about Sweetheart Brooches in a previous post,
My collecting started over 50 years ago. I was about five or six when I started collecting badges. A few years later my Dad gave me his stamp collection (which had been untouched since he had left the Navy). I added a few to it, then went into coins, bird’s eggs (yes, I know this was bad) and military medals. I’ve carried on sporadically ever since. At times I’ve been busy or broke, so there have been long gaps between purchases. However, with eBay , a regular income and the time that comes from having no kids around the place, I have been slowly adding to the collection again.
The latest two are both American and Naval. I don’t collect Navy brooches to the same extent as I collect the army ones but I always like to add a different type when I find one. American brooches are often sentimental/patriotic rather than military in style, though there are some more military ones. They also tend to have more bracelets than we do. Generally I don’t collect brooches from beyond the Commonwealth forces, but if I see an unusual type I can be tempted.
US Navy Sweetheart Brooch – with PO Class II badge
A couple of months ago I was tempted by the brooch with the Eagle and Chevrons. I think it is the badge of a Petty Officer Class II but I’m relying on the internet for this, as I’m not sound on US Navy badges. I have a couple of other brooches with this sort of chain set-up but this is better quality, and it’s always nice to upgrade. Collecting sweethearts, you will never get every possible type, so there’s no point trying. Compared to the tyranny of trying to collect one of every known date of a coin, this is a very relaxed way of collecting. These days I just collect things that catch my eye, and where the price is right.
A couple of weeks ago, another one caught my eye. It’s exactly the same sailor and the same set-up but the device on the chain is the medal ribbon of the American WW2 campaign medal for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was sold by the same dealer and is out of the same collection.
US Navy Sweetheart – Europe, Africa and the Middle East campaign ribbon
I’m now checking them regularly to see if they have any other varieties. With coins and medals all the varieties are known and catalogued (with the odd rare exception) but with sweetheart brooches you can’t know everything. There might be sailors with different devices attached, or there may be marines, soldiers or airmen. You never know…
I had my vaccination this evening. The nurse promised me an aching arm lasting a couple of days and flu-like symptoms lasting around 12 hours. So fa I have had a slightly achy arm, which wore off after about twenty minutes, and absolutely no other problem. It’s all very disappointing after the dire warnings. I was hoping to have something to complain about.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t need all the information they told me to take, and I did need information I hadn’t ben told to take. As I told one of the nurses, I had come equipped for a vaccination, not a quiz.
Apart from that it’s been the same sort of day as usual, and I managed to eat my sandwiches by 11.30 as I was so bored. Only four parcels to do. Several infuriating customer complaints which are nothing to do with us – if Indian customs hold things up (as they are doing in two cases) we are NOT going to give refunds. We have three others on the go, two where the customer simply changed their mind but it is costing us money, and one where the customer claims they did not get the parcel but the Post Office has a signature to show it was. At one time eBay would tell the customer to get lost, but last time it happened they gave the customer a refund and took the money off us. I sometimes think eBay has become a den of thieves, and that the biggest thieves are eBay. I will, however, not bore you with the details.
I’ve just had a letter which claims to be the report of my last telephone consultation with rheumatology. It took place while I was in the car by the side of the road bringing Julia home from work. They were a bit off with me, muttering something about hadn’t I realised I had a telephone consultation booked. I was a little tactless in my reply – that they were often hours late in ringing me so I wasn’t going to sit at home waiting when I had things to do.
They have had the last laugh with this letter. It claims I said my pain score was 2.5 out of 5, when I actually said it was “half”. I have a little stiffness and discomfort but no actual pain. I now look like a whining hypochondriac. Next time I will just say zero. It will be less accurate but less susceptible to mis-reporting., as in mild discomfort, with no actual pain. They have also reported that the only remaining path of psoriasis is on my neck. I actually said “legs”.
Fortunately there is nothing life-threatening about the errors, but it does make mw wonder how accurate my medical notes actually are, and if I will die one day because they apply a tourniquet to my neck instead of my leg.
We had six parcels for eBay (none of which were posted, because the Post Office is still closing on Saturdays), and two customers, so it wasn’t a particularly busy day, allowing us to get more foreign banknotes loaded onto eBay. They are selling well – one of today’s sales was a set we had put on the days before and two lots we sold on Friday had been loaded on Thursday. It feels good when that happens, particularly as they are old stock that have been at the back of a store room for years. That’s the beauty of eBay, it reaches so many people that the stock is always new to somebody.
Anyway, have to go now, Julia bought some mistletoe this afternoon and I suppose I’d better check that it works. Ho, ho, ho, Happy Christmas…
For years Julia has been asking me not to put tin lids into the washing up bowl, and I have been replying that the chances of cutting yourself are (a) very small and (b) even smaller than that unless you are a complete idiot.
We had our latest round of conversation on the topic only last week, as part of a larger conversation about dangerous things she conceals in the washing up water.
After that I suppose it was inevitable that I should stick my hand in the washing up bowl last night and catch myself on the lid of the bean can I had removed at lunchtime. The wound in my finger eventually stopped bleeding, but started again when I caught it on the edge of a box of pills whilst trying to get my Warfarin out. Yes, Warfarin, the pills that allow me to bleed more freely.
There are several levels of irony here, and possibly a whiff of kharma.
By the time I got to work today we were be in lockdown. I had checked the ebay results and knew that I was going to work after dropping Julia off, as I already had six parcels to pack. The doors were locked and the lights were off and nobody tried the door, which was a relief as I wasn’t in the mood for telling people to bugger off . Well, I was, but not in a polite and professional manner.
One person rang to see if £20 notes with the AK47 prefix was worth anything to us. They aren’t. Collectors don’t want the and the novelty prefix market never really developed, despite the reports of the tabloids.
Someone rang with a”rare” Peter rabbit 50p. He wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t.
One person rang to see if £20 notes with the AK47 prefix was worth anything to us. judging from the accent it was the same person or a close relative checking to see if I’d changed my mind.
Then somebody rang to see if we were open. There had to be one…
I am not convinced that this lockdown is going to be as effective as the last one. People aren’t treating it as seriously, and small businesses can’t afford another month of being closed, particularly this close to Christmas.
I’m watching TV and typing again, as I did last night. It means I can talk to Julia, watch TV, blog and save money on heating. And they say men can’t multi-task…
We were busy in the shop today with a combination of eBay and retail customers. We also loaded quite a lot of medallions onto eBay. However, though busy, it wasn’t the sort of day that provided much in the way of interest or insight.
Watching TV all evening has had a similar result, passing before my eyes and leaving no mark. I’ve laughed a few times, but learnt nothing and not been provoked into any thought other than “TV is really rubbish tonight.” I would like to report something more profound, but that’s as good as it gets.
Julia outdid herself tonight, producing a roast dinner as I slept in front of the fire with a quiz on TV. This is not really how I imagine the home life of a poet. I can’t imagine Byron or Wordsworth, or even Larkin or Carol Ann Duffy, snoozing in front of the TV. Well, maybe Larkin…
I might have to change my artistic ambitions away from poetry and move towards art. That way I can tell people that I’m installation art, and the snoring is meant ironically. The gravy on my shirt will also be incorporated into the work, as will a regular supply of tea, which will then become tax-deductible. If I’m going to be able to claim for tea I can probably pay a butler to serve it. It seems to have worked for Jack Vettriano.
This morning I went to collect cash from the ATM. At 8.30 there was already a queue, with two people in front of me and two behind me by the time I finished. Despite what the shops and banks keep telling us, people still want cash.
I was in the shop for 9.00 and, with a coffee on the desk, was answering queries from eBay users. In general, eBay users who ask questions fall into five categories. One is buyers who are reasonably intelligent and ask useful questions. These form about 10% of all enquiries. We didn’t have any of these this morning.
Some, possibly 5%, are enquiries about deliveries. We had one this morning, because the post has been erratic during lockdown. By the miracle of the internet I was able to put the tracking number into the Irish postal system and find that it has been sorted in Dublin and is out for delivery.
Another 10% make ridiculous low offers. We had a couple of these on Saturday but none this morning.
Another 10% ask questions that they could have answered themselves if they had read the description properly. We had one of these this morning.
That, as you have no doubt already calculated, leaves 65%. These are enquiries made by people who would at one time have found employment as village idiots. Thanks to the internet they are now able to extend their reach and disturb my morning from many miles away.
The rest of the day went quite smoothly, until I returned home. The gardeners had returned to finish the clearing, and had filled the skip, including a lot of roofing felt. You can’t put roofing felt into a skip these days, along with a lot of other things, so I had to set to and remove it all. This was tricky as it was in many pieces and much of it was still attached to parts of the shed roof. However, I am glad to report that my hands worked well, my back stood up to the strain and I managed to get all the felt out.
It was a minor victory. In fact, a few years ago it wouldn’t have counted as a victory at all, because I would have expected to be able to do it. A couple of years before that I would have demolished my own shed and wouldn’t have needed help. This is a picture of me in 2012. The contrast with the haggard me of 2020 is a bit of a worry.
This was a rugby club ID photo – I was much more colourful in those days, with a ruddy hue and ginger beard. I’m now pale and white, which reminds me – I had a look at yesterday’s foggy photo and have just noticed the decapitated scarecrow in the foreground. No wonder people have been saying it’s eerie. I missed that until today.
I am much more wrinkly than I was in 2012
It’s a sombre thought on the impermanence of what we regard as a normal way of life. Tomorrow I will try for a more cheerful view.
Meanwhile, I will leave you with a header picture of a poppy purple poppy. I like purple poppies. I found it whilst looking through some old photos. They seem to have died off in the garden, but the memory lives on.
As an antidote to musings on mortality we had sausages for tea and followed them up with rhubarb and apple crumble. You can’t be serious while you’re eating sausages, which don’t really lend themselves to solemnity. Crumble, though lacking some of the comic potential of sausages is a similarly cheery food and should, in my view, be prescribed as a cure for depression.
I may actually launch a movement to deliver crumbles to neighbours. Unfortunately, in these days of Type 2 diabetes and rampant anti-sugarism it may open me up to accusations of attempted mass murder…