We dived straight in to packing this morning and managed to get quite a bit done before the first customers arrived. They were a lot easier than yesterday’s crowd, the emails and telephone calls were all easier too and by 3pm everything was done and the desks were clear. launched into it, saw a few customers and ended up at 3pm with a clean slate. It was nice to have a change of pace. There will be a few things to sort out tomorrow when the owner returns but most things are up to date.
I now have nine months before I retire. In that time I could have a baby, so it’s surely time to sort out the decluttering. We will see . . . Julia is not convinced.
Last night, as part of the retirement process, I looked into my state pension arrangements. It is not riveting stuff and only an accountant would enjoy a blog post on the subject, so I will skirt round the subject. I will get a letter in seven months time and I have to decide whether to claim my pension or defer it. You can get extra pension by deferring it, but the figures suggest that I am better just taking it as soon as possible. That, to be honest, is my view on all these matters. Being sensible and putting things off for a little long term benefit is grand if you are forty and fit. I’m sixty five and I’m fraying round the edges so priorities change.
I may defer my retirement for a few months (the extra pay will be welcome) but I will claim the pension as soon as it becomes due.
Having braved the terrors of the pensions website last night, I am going to apply for a passport and a blue badge over the next few months. Next year I will also apply for a free bus pass. If I’m going to be old I may as well embrace it. I’ve just been looking at the bus timetables – just over three hours from Peterborough to Norwich. I can take sandwiches, stare out of the window, maybe stop off at Wisbech or Swaffham, and fully embrace my role as an elderly eccentric. If I’d known it was going to be this good I would have retired years ago.
The smell of cooking potato is wafting through the house. It will soon be followed by the scent of sizzling sausages. Tonight’s meal is not going to rate high on the sophistication scale. I briefly toyed with the idea of sausage casserole, but quickly blanked it in favour of wedges and beans. I will add one of the many relishes I currently find myself in possession of, and consider it a meal fit for a King. The new King will probably disagree, as I doubt that his minions are currently engaged in cooking anything as mundane as this.
I returned to work today, to find a list of sales on eBay. There were 25 parcels by the end of the day but all I managed was to pack & post 16 of them and the pack a couple of others ready for tomorrow. It works out at three parcels an hour, which is not impressive, though I did have to disinter some of the stock from dark recesses and use some cunning packaging on a few others, which all takes time. I really wish the owner of the shop would consider how we are going to pack some of the things we sell. Several of them required export labels too, which can be a bit like writing an essay.
Julia came with me and kept me supplied with sandwiches and coffee, before walking over to the post office with bags of packages. She is going to help tomorrow morning too, by which time we should be caught up. She truly is a jewel amongst women and deserves better than me. Those are my words, not hers, though I’m fairly sure she would be happy to agree.
We also had a number of phone calls, several starting with “Oh, good, you’re open.”
I had to disappoint those customers by telling them that we weren’t, and I was there to pack parcels. On the whole, they took it well, despite the anomaly of having someone answer the phone to say we weren’t open.
The featured image is a bronze memorial plaque from the First World War. They were given to the families of servicemen, and women, who were killed in the war. Around 1,355,000 were issued, with 600 being named to women.
We bought it in the shop a couple of years and it has been lying in the back room since then. It’s clearly had a hard life. The hole at the top with wire loop is a modification you regularly see. It’s a defacement, but at least it means that the family displayed it for a while in memory of the life it represents. There’s a nick in the edge, probably where it was dropped, and green specks in several places. Normally that is verdigris, but in this case it’s what I’ve always thought was Windsor Green paint, a traditional shade used on exterior woodwork in old cottages. On looking it up I’m not quite so sure. It may actually be Brunswick Green.
Whatever it’s called, it’s an external paint and suggests the plaque might have spent some time outside or in a shed. It won’t be the first one to have suffered like this.
The final fault is that someone has polished the bronze, so it looks bright and shiny. I’m not sure it’s an improvement. However, it’s 100 years old and it’s seen many aspects of life in that time – from a memorial to a family member, hung on a wall, to a piece of history offered for sale at a car boot sale. One of our customers saw ti and brought it to us.
Meanwhile, what of Mr Dunkerley?
Great War Memorial Plaque – 32265 Private Charles Dunkerley, Manchester Regiment
He is actually traceable because only one Charles Dunkerley died in the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website has details of 46 Dunkerleys. They came from Australia, Canada and South Africa, though the majority came from the north-west of England. They are buried from the UK to the Far East.
Charles Dunkerley’s military records are still available on-line. He was a clerk, who enlisted in 1915 aged 32. He served in Mesopotamia with the Manchester Regiment, being wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder on 9th January 1917 at Kut al Amara, during the retaking of the city. It had been the scene of a humiliating defeat in 1916 and is not one of those campaigns that attracts much notice. He was treated in hospital in India and was posted to Egypt in December 1918.
He appears to have been employed as a clerk after his wounding, and is listed as Category B 2. Category B meant that he was not fit enough for General Service but still fit enough to serve overseas on lines of communication. B2 denotes that he was able to walk 5 miles to and from work and see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes. To be B1 he would have had to be fit enough to march 5 miles and shoot with glasses. I’m guessing that marching involved full kit where walking was less onerous.
His parents were both dead by the time of his return, and he had one sister. The address he gave on enlistment was the same as her address, which he gave as his address when embarking on his demob leave. The journey home began in Egypt on 4th July 1919 and he went to Prees Heath (a dispersal depot which received men landing at Liverpool). He was released on 22nd July and made his way to Manchester. He was, according to his sister, in perfect health on 25th July but complained of a pain in the head on Friday 26th. After a few days of illness he began to feel better but on Friday 1st August relapsed into unconsciousness. He was admitted to Nell Lane Military Hospital, where he died at 5.55pm on Saturday 2nd August. Cause of death was due to Acute Infective Meningitis, probably due to parasites from sandfly fever.
The 1911 census shows that he was living with his mother, Alice. I know this is her name as she was still alive in 1915 when he enlisted. His sister Martha Ann (Martha Ann Whittaker as she became on the service record) was 20 and still living at home.
In 1911 Charles was a Railway Engine Fitter’s Labourer/Student. He had obviously moved up in the world by 1915. His father died somewhere between 1891 and 1901 and he also seems to have lost both a brother and a sister between 1891 and 1919.
It’s taken me two years to write this, but there is clearly more to do. That’s the allure of working in the shop, the ability to reconstruct a story, even imperfectly. It’s not a happy story, but I like to think it was worth doing – his sacrifice merits more than just being sold at a car boot sale.
Today was a day for packing parcels and listing foreign banknotes on eBay. also rang for a blood test appointment. There were queues of 12, 18 and 9. I didn’t fancy any of them but eventually, at about 2pm, decided that I would have to join the queue of twelve. It took me 31 minutes to get through. Thirty one minutes of appalling twangy music. The time was incidental to the mental anguish of the music. Every so often a dopey male voice came on the line to tell me I was “now in position . . .” and a female voice then added a number. It’s all very strange but at least they have removed the bit where they say my call is important to them.
Fortunately there were no customers and no phone calls in that time. I say “fortunately” but customers are really the point of having a shop . . .
I have a blood test appointment for 8.45 on Wednesday, which will give me plenty of time to help Julia with the list of errands that need doing. I’m looking forward to my “day off”.
I’ll tell you one thing that has really suffered during my recent illnesses – fluency. I used to be able to sit down and rattle off 250 words without thinking. They just came into my head. They weren’t all coherent, or spelt correctly, or even grammatical at times, but they were there. Now I struggle to find 150.
Even now, after over an hour of trying (not, I admit, continuous effort) I’m only just creeping up to 250, my self imposed lower limit.
And now I’ve done it, I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow.
Julia saw an iridescent cloud today. I didn’t even know they existed. She sees better things than I do.
I forgot to tell you something a few weeks ago. When we went to the Yorkshire Coast on our day trip we saw a lot of valerian growing (Centranthus ruber). The red and white forms were happily growing next to each other. When I looked up the Latin name I found that the white one is also Centranthus ruber, despite being white, though they do sometimes call it C. alba and Red Valerian (White form). It’s all very confusing. I was surprised to see them growing next to each other and staying red and white, after my experience with alyssum I was half expecting that they would just cross- breed to become light pink. They don’t. When you have white and blue alyssum in the garden a lot of it comes up white with blue edges next year. Or it did with us. Then it dies. All our remaining alyssum is pure white again. I wonder if I am young enough to start learning more about plants?
Having spent most of the day listing gum cards of 1970s footballers, I have learned a lot more about 1970s footballers than I intended, including the splendidly named Len Badger. Those were the days when footballers had simple names – Len, Ron and Harry being among the favourites. One of the cards features a fresh-faced youth called Harry Redknapp. I know he’ll be completely unknown to anyone outside the UK, but I thought I’d mention it as I get to use the link to Eastenders.
It has been one of my most soul-destroying adys ever in the shop. No customers, a few phone calls and the grind of listing and photographing and editing the photos of around 100 gum cards. It’s not like proper work, and I’ve had much harder days, but I’ve rarely had a day which made me question my career choices so harshly. Still, you have to count your blessings. I sat down most of the day in reach of a kettle and there were no flies or manure involved. I’ve had worse days.
We started the day with parking spaces, which is unusual for a Saturday. I packed the parcels while the owner sorted the Large Trade Order (LTO). I have decided that as it will be with us for a while it justifies its own set of initials. “Pack the Parcel” sounds like a party game doesn’t it? My life is one long round of hobbies and party games. I may use that as a title for a post one day.
Elvis on a silver dollar – note the coin design underneath and the Elvis Presley Enterprises copyright notice. He is till a big earner in death.
We had no customers booked in but several rang or just turned up and we ended up with a reasonably busy day. I also had a big telephone order to pack, a couple of late eBay orders and some things to post on eBay. I finished off and loaded several things I’d prepared during the week and started on another – a drop-down menu with 38 items. A lot of photographs. Oh, and there was a listing that needed alteration, and coins which had been put in the medallion cupboard (which meant they took a bit of finding). When you have three people, thirteen hundred items on eBay, limited space and a lot of other stock, things do go adrift.
We sold this a few months ago, and sold the bronze version yesterday.
We have passed words on this several times recently. My personal gripe is that three months ago I knew where everything was but the boss decided to have a tidy and things are now in different boxes or different cupboards, and it makes tracking them down very time-consuming. Yes, they are usually moved due to a logical reason, but that doesn’t really help. It’s like cupboard stacking. I stack cupboards so that I can see what is there and get to it with minimal fuss. When you have arthritis you tend to want ease of access.
He stacks cupboards like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle s that half of it has to be removed to get access and then put back in exactly the right way. It looks nice and it’s an efficient use of space. Unfortunately it misses the point of stock control, which is, to me, about knowing where things are and being able to get to them easily.
London School Attendance Medals 1890s
Nine times out of ten, we go to the right box and find the item. But if we don’t, I am always reminded of the words “time is money”. This is often the trigger for a rant, but today I am going to smile and pas on the chance. Anyway, it’s not my money, so why should I worry? I’m doing my best and being thwarted by someone squandering his own cash. Not my problem. Stock control is not one of those subjects that tends to crop up in poetry or creative writing classes. May be I should start, it can go with my funicular and Martin van Buren poems.
I now have another poem in mind and need to do that, so will close this and post.
A woman rang today and asked if we bought unusual American coins. I passed her on to the proprietor, as he has a wide-ranging knowledge of American coins. It turns out she had found a rare Buffalo nickel (1913 San Francisco Mint – I’m hazy on the rest of the detail as I wasn’t listening). The Buffalo Nickel is a lovely coin, and if I were American I am sure they would be a pleasure to collect.
This was unusual because “rare” coins usually aren’t rare.
Earlier in the week we bought some coins off a man. He brought two small lots in- one bag of coins from his wife and one from him. He told us his wife was making him sell the coins he had inherited from his mother when she died last year. They came to £17.50. The wife’s coins only came to £5. So he signed the form and went off with his money. Six hours later we had a phone call from the wife telling us he shouldn’t have sold hers. He had to sell his but she wanted to keep hers. Then she told me she wanted hers back. That was, off course, a problem, as we had already sorted the lot into various other places.
She told me they were worth a lot more than £5. I couldn’t help it, I just laughed. It was the end of a long day (in fact it was 15 minutes after closing time and we were just parcelling up a couple of late orders) and I really couldn’t be bothered. They coins were rubbish, her internet search was misleading and her grading, as usual, bore no resemblance to the reality of the condition of the coins.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we sorted out a selection of coins that resembled the ones she had and the boss, worn down by her whining, just gave them to her to get rid of her, and to reinforce the idea they were virtually worthless.
It’s her husband I feel sorry for, he had to get rid of his but she keeps hers. (He’s a little older than me, by the way). His must be quite a cheerless existence.
You see all sorts in a coin shop . . .
In other news, my blood test was OK this morning, though I still have to go in next week. I really must start applying pressure about less testing.
Wednesday produced some brilliant service from the NHS, who sorted a problem out in five minutes and had my delivery with me inside 24 hours. If I were a curmudgeonly sort I would point out that if they had done their job right in the first place three weeks ago there would have been no problem. However, it is the system that is at fault and an individual who sorted it out, so credit where it’s due.
Then tonight the warning light came back on in the car. Did I tell you about that? Ys, I checked and I see I did. So far that Engine Management System has failed to flag up a single problem but it has cost me hundreds of pounds for replacing a faulty valve and several trips to the garage to get lights reset. It’s the next step in consumerism – first we had planned obsolescence, then we had vacuum cleaners that need replacement filters all the time instead of a new bag every few years, and now we have systems in cars that need repairing even though there is no actual fault with the car. This is either brilliant or very annoying, depending on your point of view. To me, it feels like Volkswagen are picking my pocket on a regular basis. Technology does not seem to be good for me.
And that’s before I get on to the story about how I had to open a HP account to use my own scanner on my own computer. I couldn’t work round it by downloading a fix from Microsoft as they don’t recognise my account details. I answered a lot of stupid questions to try to retrieve the account and they told me I hadn’t answered enough. A big sort out is coming and the machines are going to come off second best when I raise the New Luddite standard. Thirty minutes messing about just to scan something for Julia, when in the old days, before the “new and improved” system, I could have done it in ninety seconds.
Things are not going well. I had a bad day on Thursday, aching in all my joints. Eventually I had to give in and give myself a good dose of painkillers before bed. Yes, including ibuprofen. It worked. I had a good night’s sleep, a complete run of five and a half hours without waking, and when I did wake I was pain free and felt years younger. Meanwhile my co-worker said he also felt undefinably ill that day. I put it down to something in the air. Then on Friday we found the boss, who had been doing paperwork and having a day off, on Thursday, had also felt ill on Thursday. On Friday he was still ill, and developed a harrowing dry cough, one of the classic covid symptoms. His wife made him take a lateral flow test on Thursday night and he was clear, but it was still a worry. I took a test on Friday night and was OK. The boss’s wife made him do a proper test (I forget the name) on Friday night and they sent it off.
As a result, with my co-worker away on Saturday and the boss being made to self-isolate by his mask-wearing wife, there was just me in today.
I had the door locked and did the eBay parcels. There were six of them, an advance on previous days. Then a customer arrived and I let him in. While he was in a family (grandparents and grandson) arrived. That took some time, but the lad is just starting out and needed some advice. I see advice for young collectors as an important thing so took my time over that.
By the time I had the shop to myself again more items had sold on eBay and several auctions had finished. I’d been told I could go at 1.00, but ended up going just after 3.00. It was still an early finish, but it’s surprising how a day’s work can expand, particularly now that all the foreign parcels need customs labels – thanks to leaving the EU. It’s one of the hidden costs. We spend a couple of hours a week doing them, I suppose. Not a huge figure, but 2 hours a wee is 100 hours, which is two weeks. Somebody has to pay fro that two weeks. I don’t remember seeing that written on the side of a bus…
It was also hot and stuffy as we have no air-conditioning and can’t hav ethe doors open when there is just one of us in the shop.
Hopefully, all the covid stuff is just a groundless worry, but watch this space.
My new health regime, which consists mainly of going to bed at a sensible time and turning down offers of a second slice of cake, have paid off – I’m already feeling a lot better than I was at the start of the week.
Today turned out to be another busy day. The sales promotion has not only brought a surge in sales but an avalanche of enquiries – many of which are time consuming and lead nowhere. However, like many things, you have to sift through to find the nuggets and as one of the queries led to a £275 sale, it was worth the sifting.
Nothing else of note happened during the day. I watched a little TV, snoozed and ate stir-fried vegetables for tea. I’ve also been going through magazines of Readly. I’ve managed a bird watching magazine, two writing magazines, the TLS and an art magazine tonight. Not bad for a monthly subscription that is the equivalent of buying two magazines. OK, so I only browsed the last two as I wasn’t feeling very intellectual, but it’s still good value.
If anyone is doing ab thesis on the life of an average middle-aged man in the early 21st century – this is it. This what I spent 60 years training for – a life of quiet mediocrity and vegetables. I always wanted to be rich and famous and eat steak…
I had an article sent to my email about the cherry trees in Washington DC – very interesting. I like cherry trees. My Mum and Dad had several and when Julia’s Mum died the village planted a cherry tree in memory of her contribution to the local community., so they have always ben part of my life. Of course, now that I write poetry in Japanese forms I am virtually obliged to write about them.
I seem to be deficient in cherry blossom pictures, so you will have to make do with apple blossom.
I’ve just had a quick look at eBay, and today doesn’t look like it’s going to be too busy. We certainly won’t be having any customers in the shop (that’s still two weeks away) but we may get phone calls. The one’s I really marvel at are the ones that say “I was just checking to see if you were open.”. It’s as if a year of lockdown ha passed by them without making any impression. Either that or they see a coin shop as an essential service.
They assume that because we are in the shop we are open, which, in a sense, we are. It’s like (as if you can’t tell from the title) we are in the position of Schröedinger’s cat, being both alive and dead at the same time. We are clearly open because I am answering calls on the business number, and am actually sitting in the shop. But we are closed to the public (a) because we don’t want to be responsible for transmitting the virus and (b) because breaching the rules can lead to a fine of up to £10,000. As a dealer in London was recently fine £8,000 for selling a £5 medal to someone who entered his shop uninvited while he was doing admin, it’s not a risk I want to take.
Tyhe long, narrow shop.
I’m expecting a lot of activity when w do actually open. We are already taking bookings, and have a few in the book for 12th April week. People don’t like planning too far ahead, so there will be more appointments made in the next week or two and there will be a lot of people who ignore the sign and website and come in without an appointment.
The shop is long and narrow and, with three sets of customers in, is soon crowded.
Just to think, a year ago a crowded shop was considered a good thing. Now it’s considered a health risk.