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I may have had love at thirty and even love at forty, but there didn’t seem to be such a score as love fifty.  I even thought that my name was a cross between a sexually transmitted disease and an artificial sweetener.  Or was it that, as a femme d’un certain age my frankness and candour had become eponymous and self-fulfilling?

I looked out of the window.  The rain it raineth every day.  I wondered if it had been the wettest June and July since Shakespeare’s time, let alone since records began.  (My English degree sometimes surfaces like a rogue shark on the Barrier Reef of my endangered intellect.)  I decided to venture forth to surf the main street of Suttonford.)

The lure of Tesco Express hooked me in.  Yellow stickers on a few packets of prawns helped me to rationalise that what I saved on comestibles would subsidise the purchase of a few designer garments in the sales.

Tesco Logo.svg

Co-op or Tesco?  Difficult, as I’d have to negotiate the Charybdis of a Romanian Big Issue seller who had taken to making himself very comfortable on a teak garden chair, right outside the entrance to TE, causing the automatic doors to go into overdrive; or I would have to steer clear of Scylla, in the form of Suttonford’s designer tramp who sat cross-legged, texting his currency dealer, or checking his Visa account on his mobile. I was in danger of extreme compassion fatigue.  It was no use asking myself: “What would Jesus do?”

Probably He would have been able to address the Romanian in his own language and could have introduced Himself as the original Big Issue, or He could have given the technological tramp advice on a hotline to heaven that didn’t involve indulgences in the form of top up cards.  Maybe He could have transformed intermittent reception owing to SIM malfunction, rather than to sin.  Anyway, I doubted that the tramp would have appreciated being told to take up his bed and walk.  I thought he’d prefer another can of the lager that the public-spirited locals tended to supply.

The Son of Man once had nowhere to lay His head either, but things might have been improved if Nevisport down sleeping bags had been around two millennia ago.  Mind you, maybe the Apostles hadn’t needed such protection, as climate change hadn’t made camping in Galilee as warm and wet as in the present time.

Furthermore, I wasn’t sure if I should offer the indigent, if not mendicant, anything, since I had witnessed my neighbour’s dismay on proffering him the leftover sausage rolls from the Jubilee Feeding of the Five Thousand street party.  He had politely, but firmly declined: No thank you, madam.  I’m a vegetarian.

My neighbour wasn’t used to a tramp taking the moral high ground.  The cheek of it!

Oh well! Better trundle off with my funky trolley out and head for Help the Ancient, before any of the rapacious so-called pre-empt me and bag all the bargains.

I used to find lots of treasures in charity shops before the prices rose in the time of austerity.  Even the rich are feeling the pinch, so why do charities double the price of clothing, which is then unsold and has to be re-distributed to lowlier branches in less salubrious areas, where it is offered at half the price to the same rich bounty hunters, who simply have the plastic wherewithal to put enough petrol in their 4x4s so that they can travel further afield in their materialistic slash and burn forays?

No, not all the elderly are rapacious.  Some volunteer in such shops, but find multitasking challenging.  You must never distract them at the till and it is essential to check the chip and pin, or you can end up paying £8,000 for a pilled pullover, already pricily tagged at £8.  The manager usually has to be summoned like a genie from some steamy esoteric activity behind a back curtain.  Then, to the accompaniment of impatient dismay from a line of jealous vultures who have just spotted your potential purchase of a Merino, or Cashmere find, but who haven’t noticed the moth holes, a till roll with Cancelled, the absurd length of which would  delight any Andrex puppy, will be issued. I always doubt the assurances that a sum that equals the deficit of Spain will not appear on my next statement as an outgoing.  Still, I can’t keep away from the places of temptation.

Hello, Candia.

It was my least favourite volunteer.  Rather than thanking people for donating sacks of goodies, she delighted in deterring them from depositing bags after some arbitrary time of day and she could spot an electrical item faster than a Heathrow sniffer dog uncovers a kilo of cocaine.

When a breathless woman whose twins were squabbling in a vehicle on a double yellow line came in, gasping as she heaved a bulging black bag, the do-gooder delighted in delaying the drop-off by asking all sorts of intrusive questions as to whether the  donor was a UK taxpayer or not.  Eventually the woman snapped:

How can I be a taxpayer when I have never worked?

I didn’t know the volunteer’s name and she wasn’t wearing an identification badge.  I launched in, nevertheless:

You know that Ming vase that I was cajoled into buying last week for a fiver?  Well, it had a hairline-no, not an airline- crack.

She turned up her hearing aid. I continued:

That means that it isn’t fit for purpose and David Battie always says that there is a difference between a firing crack , which wouldn’t affect the value of a piece materially, and a hairline. I know you are a charity shop, but the Trades Description laws apply to you as well. Can you give me, at least, an exchange note?

Certainly.  Do you still have the receipt? Fifteen love.

I hesitated. Well, no.. You see, it said £500,000, so I destroyed it in case someone thought I was into money laundering. Thirty love.

Ah, well, I’m sorry. We can’t do anything without it.  As a decorative item, I’m sure that it is worth what you paid.  I stopped scoring.  The ball was in.  Okay, they were not going to get my old Manola Beatnik slingbacks that I’d bought in a Moroccan souk. I will take them to the next Roadshow valuation day.  They might be worth something in the very distant future.  Maybe Fiona Bruce could try them for size.

My next stop was Costamuchamoulah, a trendy “must-seen” coffee shop, where the price of a cappuccino was commensurate with the cost of one of the rare beans from which its beverages were produced.  A single example had excited more fever on the Stock Market than a tulip bulb had raised in Amsterdam at the time of the girl with the pearl ear-ring.  They sell other things too- such as sprouted beans that might be Ming rather than mung and could featured in a barter system where rare porcelain Nanking wreck discoveries could be exchanged for one millionth of a gram.  Still, as the adverts keep reminding me: I am worth it.  Instant gratification here I come!


It was a deeply insincere parent of a dreadfully dim girl that I had once taught.

Look at this amazing double egg cup in goose, hen or quail sizes.  It has such cute little sheeps’ heads on it.

Sheep plural, I scoffed silently.

I simply must buy one for Becca’s Biology teacher.  He really helped her to get an A* with all those extra lunchtime sessions he provided.

The ones which she didn’t bother to turn up for with me, I brooded.

(This A/ A* obsession was becoming as annoying as having to observe all those Chinese silver medallists blubbing because they feel they have let down the Motherland.)

Yes, that’s what got her into Biological Sciences at Oxford, the proud progenitor persisted.

Brookes. I silently supplied the post-modifier.

Instead I said, How marvellous!  And how is – I fudged the name– doing now?  As if I cared.

Oh, she’s landed a superb internship for next year at CERN.  She wants to research Botox particles and can’t wait to jog around the collider when it’s not switched on.

I grimaced.

She was at a party in London and met a girl who babysits for Roger Federer- you know, the tennis player..

(Yes, I do know, you patronising… This sotte voce.)

..when he is at Wimbledon.  Now she’s really into all things Alpen.

Muesli for her, I muttered in an embittered tone.  Must dash. Say her old English teacher was asking for her. (Maybe Becca or Chewbacca, or whoever, could get me a discarded sweat-drenched towel from Wimbledon.)

I will, darling, if she remembers who you are/were.  Ciao.

I couldn’t help wondering who babysat for Andy Murray’s mum?  Presumably Kim.

© Candia Dixon Stuart and Candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012