bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Prudent Purchases In Tooting Bec

Dear Rachel

I have only been abroad once in my entire life – I decided on a whim to ride a mountain bike from Atlanta to New Orleans and back on my own, for reasons that now escape me – and perhaps because of this I have always found airmail writing paper curiously exciting.   It makes a lovely crackly noise when you handle it, for a start, and it has a romantic quality, too – whenever I recieve letters written on airmail paper I always imagine that the person writing them is sitting under a palm tree in the East Indies, even if they are in a rented room in Chatham.   Not that Chatham or the nature of rented accomodation are necessarily without romantic qualities of their own, of course, but they do not spring as readily to mind as a classic romantic backdrop.

I have spent a good deal of the past summer outside London, scampering around the provinces in the interests of our wider commercial affairs.   While doing so, I’ve taken to using Basildon Bond airmail paper over emails for personal correspondence as, due to what we may now call the Chatham effect, it gives a letter from Hastings or Ramsgate or Grimsby an exotic aura that it might otherwise lack.   When writing from home I usually use standard Basildon Bond post quarto paper, either blue or champagne, depending upon my mood.   For very special letters I whip out couple of sheets of Eclats D’or, which has tiny flecks of gold in it, and I favour a Parker Duofold pen.   There are only two downsides to written correspondence: 1) It could be misconstrued as self conscious whimsy, which runs the risk that the kind of women who feature prominantly in advertising will drag me off to meet their cats and parents as soon as I start to write anything, and 2) my handwriting is so atrociously bad that I routinely have to send a version of all written correspondance by email, so that the recipient can actually read it.

For extended writing sessions, I usually pop round to Greenwich Market stalwart John the Boxes’ flat in order to utilise his excellent mahogany writing desk. A mahogany writing desk, especially a splendid Victorian example such as the one owned by John the Boxes, will set you back between a monkey and three bags*. I imagine however that he bought it in a field in the Home Counties for a quid, in a thought process that will soon become clear. Endless engineering work on the Northern Line has meant that traditional Sunday evening revelry at the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1 is not currently as regular as it once was, so I am tending to celebrate the end of the working weekend at the reasonably nice but don’t get too excited Wheatsheaf, by Tooting Bec tube.  While doing so last Sunday, John the Boxes presented me with a holdall. It was of course Shakespeare who said ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’. Shakespeare never met John the Boxes on a Sunday evening on Trinity Road SW17, or his famous musing about the nature of life and fate may well have come out as ‘All the world’s a car boot sale in Essex, and John the Boxes has once again a bought a binliner full of Caramacs for three quid’. I am regularly invited to consider the post car boot sale contents of John the Boxes’ holdall, and was on this occasion as enthralled as ever.

‘Rewritable cd’s. There’s forty there. Maxell. Quid’ he said, by way of an opener. This was, I sensed, the Twist and Shout of that day’s car boot sale haul – something everyone knew and could enjoy. I particularly like the way that each purchase is described in as few words as possible, and presented in such a way as to suggest that if you hadn’t for example bought forty rewritable Maxell compact discs for one pound sterling that afternoon, you were to be pitied.

‘Razor. King of Shaves. The best’ he continued, holding the item close to my face in case I thought he was making it up for attention ‘Quid’.

‘Look at that’ he went on, holding up a tiny tube of Colgate, ‘Travel toothpaste. Ten p each. I got eighty of them. And these’ he placed two plastic bottles on the increasingly crowded table ‘Radox muscle soak bath lotion and Boots Zingy Lime shower gel. Quid’. There was some further rummaging, which as it turned out ushered in a change of commodity from budget toiletries to inexpensive samples of the Fine Arts.

‘Sixty Rogers and Hammerstein songs on cd. My dad loves that stuff. Quid’ I examined the small box set in order to confirm that yes, it was indeed sealed and brand new, and prepared for what I anticipated would be some kind of crescendo.

‘Two books. Quid. Stars of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor. Improve Your Grammar by Marian Field’. He opened both slightly so that they would stand unaided, and positioned them at the rear of the not unimpressive display of thrift and prudent husbandry.  I’d like to point out that John the Boxes is not some kind of scavanger – his flat is among the coolest I have ever seen, and he has an extraordinary sense of style and knowledge of subcultural history – and if I did not already realise he was gay, I wouldn’t have worked it out from his decision to pack gin and tonic for a recent joint excursion to the seaside.   I would, however, have definitely worked it out from his decision to pack gin and tonic and a lemon.

*London slang: ‘Monkey’ – £500 and Cockney rhyming slang ‘bag of sand’ – grand (£1000).


Facebook. If you have a Facebook group, you can’t message members anymore, which is a bit of a shame.   If you have clicked through to here from our Facebook group – and I’m not sure how you would know to, because we can’t message you, you see – you might want to subscribe to the RSS thing, or we may never meet again.    Or rather, we already won’t be meeting again, because you won’t know this bit has been written.    And to think we didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye properly, after all we’ve been through together.

Photards.   If you were here last week you’ll recall that Gary hasn’t got round to fixing our main and hugely important computard, so we’ll have to make do with photards that we’ve already seen before.

Top: Christmas tree at Gary’s house, late January.   This isn’t, as you may reasonably suspect, a Christmas tree from December, but a normal tree which has been growing in Gary’s living room for twenty three years and that he hasn’t got round to sorting out yet.   That cat has just been sitting there since Gary’s road was a field, and the house was built round it, as it didn’t get round to moving itself.  It was lifted with a special crane while it was asleep and placed back on the carpet again before it woke up.

Middle: Toynbee Street, London E1.  Gary probably owns all these shops but just hasn’t got round to opening them or whatever yet.  Also, all those posters and such are for Elvis and the Dave Clark Five and what not, which Gary thinks is current music because his ears haven’t got round to catching up and that.

Lower: Bad violinists ruining Christmas as Greenwich Market.   The one in the green hat is Gary, who despite being thirty one, has yet to get round to growing beyond the age of eight.

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