bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

The General Public and Telescopes

Dear Rachel,

I have latterly arrived at the conclusion that while the general public are a harmless and usually quite friendly bunch, the majority of them spend the greater part of their lives in one of two states: bafflement, or surprise. When dealing with them in a casual retail environment, which is what we spend a lot of time doing, it is best to imagine them to be a large coach party of special needs children on a day out. In fact, I sometimes think that Britain is a sixty million seater Sunshine Variety coach on its way to the seaside for a day of dropped ice creams and tragic bonhomie. An example at Tony’s antique stall at Greenwich last Saturday will illustrate this.

Tony’s stall offers for sale antique pocket watches, sundials, telescopes, and bakelite rotary dial telephones with the lovely purring noise that now Belongs to History. It is the telescopes with which we are primarily concerned. Tony pointed out to me in an exasperated fashion how people would pick up the telescopes – which it is worth pointing out, are clearly marked as telescopes – extend them, in the way you might well do when about to use a telescope, and then look at something right in front of them. I saw more than one person testing a telescope by looking through it at their hands. ‘It’s a telescope, not a contact lens‘ you want to shout ‘Look at something far away.’ I fully expectwd someone to hand one back to him and complain that it tasted funny. It’s a good job there was a better understanding of what telescopes actually do in the Age of Exploration, or Sir Francis Drake would have sailed round and round Plymouth harbour, endlessly discovering stuff that was three feet away.

[Making Read More your bitch will reveal more reluctant voyeurism on the Underground and tales of automotive deprivation)

I seem to find working at Greenwich more tiring than Camden. I have hardly been seen in the Duke of Wellington since trading there, and only went on Sunday as Louis the Goat Bag Man was over, and I am always nice to him in case he turns out to be the Secret Millionaire. These days, that is the main reason I am nice to anyone, to be honest. Camden is mainly British students and Spanish tourists – who therefore have roughly the same level of English comprehension – but was quite easy as most of the time I would just wander around the place, dossing about. Trying to keep me behind the old Griefjunkie pitch was, as Martin the Jewellary Vendor would wearily point out, like trying to keep a dog in a bath.

I still get to Camden on Thursdays or Fridays to drop stock off, though. Last Friday I was going up the escalator at the tube station, gazing blankly into the middle distance in the traditional manner of the habitual London Underground user, when I discovered that the middle distance into which I was staring was occupied by an unobstructed view up an office lady’s skirt. Reluctant voyeurism on public transport is a subject we’ve covered before, and this was, if anything, more awkward, as I had several seconds to think yeah, that looks the sort of middle bit of a pair of tights that a lady might wear, before realising that it actually was. For an astonished second or two I was staring right at, well, it. If anything, it was staring at me. I am pleased to report that she wore a full knicker – come on, no one really likes thongs, surely – and that while we were never likely to exchange numbers afterwards, the moment passed without embarrassment.

These things never happened to me when I had my scooter, a lovely Vespa PX 125 with chrome crash bars and four wing mirrors up each side. That was a sharp machine. Then again, careless escalator exhibitionists are unlikely to be towed away on a flat bed truck and crushed for non payment of fines, which is the fate that befell my scooter, so I don’t know what to think.

Bored office worker? Facebook.

Stalker?: Twitter.


  1. Tony

    Mar 30th, 2009
    7:08 pm

    Exasperated indeed ! Many just point them directly at the table or back of the stall and then inform me that they don’t work. ‘Nevermind, there there, carry on and mind how you cross the road’ I think to myself. Although I must confess my arrogant and patronising inner judgement is almost certainly hypocritical for if they asked me how to use the sundials or compasses on display I would suddenly become humble and sheepish, or possibly deaf or Spanish.

  2. Paul

    Apr 1st, 2009
    10:07 am

    Instead of ‘telescope’, you should label them ‘endoscopes’, and supply a little room with a curtain at the back of the stall for testing.

  3. rachel

    Apr 3rd, 2009
    9:04 pm

    my parents still have a rotary phone in their living room. i always liked it.

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