bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

The Man Who Loves Cufflinks

Dear Rachel

I was discussing which shows and festivals to do over the summer with Richie, our Head of Provincial Development, yesterday.    He is a 31 year old man with a net worth of £18.    As a market trader, though, he has the winning combination of poverty and gameness which are necessary to navigate the choppy waters and changeable tides of the Informal Economy.    Despite this, as we discussed the merits of various events, we realised we couldn’t afford any of them and, in a rare triumph, prudence won the day.    Instead we decided how best to spend £18, were it to be bequeathed as part of a last will and testament.

The particular sum struck a chord because it’s the average price of a cufflink box from John the Boxes.    The retailing of cufflink boxes is perhaps my favourite evolutionary oddity in that it represents the literal conjuring of money from thin air, and is an activity with both heroic overtones and historical precedent.    This is a bold statement, and I shall outline it in more detail.

For my birthday in April, I received among other things some Paul Smith cufflinks.    They were from Liberty of Regent Street, which is my favoured department store, what with Harrods being for tourists and Selfridges being vulgar, and they are a miniature representation of the well known Paul Smith signature stripe shirt.    I have one of those as well, although I avoid wearing the shirt and cufflinks together as this, like Selfridges, would be vulgar.    The cufflinks are a splendid addition to my collection, which also includes some tiny pewter greyhounds and a pair made entirely from the mechanism of a wristwatch.    With so many cufflinks on active service, I fully expect to receive one of John the Boxes’ cufflink boxes for Christmas, as this would be a useful and handsome gift.    I am myself useful and handsome, which would make it even more appropriate.    Having a bona fide use for a cufflink box would, however, make me something of a rarity.    The thing is, no one wears cufflinks very often – except me, because I love all that – and most of them end up gathering dust in a sock drawer or dressing table or bathroom cabinet.    Thus, in contemporary retail, cufflinks serve no purpose other than the subsequent purchasing of cufflink boxes to keep them in.    Or rather, cufflink boxes are a necessary accompaniment to something which is unnecessary.    This sounds like the sort of thing for which there should be a parallel, and fortunately there is.

Horses are naturally competitive.    Among other things, this means that during a cavalry charge they will all try and get ahead of each other.    Thus, the many, massed horses become one solid thing – the charge – which generates unstoppable momentum until it exhausts itself.    You can’t really control a cavalry charge and you certainly can’t stop it once it’s moving – the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 is the best example of this.    This competitive element also seems to exist between cufflinks and cufflink boxes.    Let’s take the example of a father who has produced dull, unimaginative children.    He is in a high risk category for what is known as First Cufflink Reception.    This FCR is likely to develop into full blown Constant Cufflink Purchase when a second set is given on the basis that he pretended to like the first so much.    With CCP underway, John the Boxes stands to become £18 richer when a cufflink box appears under the Christmas tree.    There are at least six sections in a cufflink box, which means that at least four further sets of cufflinks can be bought, now with the added justification that ‘They’ll look lovely in that cufflink box you got for Christmas’.    You may already have spotted the inevitably convergent lines, like horses in a cavalry charge.    Let’s assume that the man with the dull children received his first cufflinks as a Christmas present in 2011, and a second set on his birthday, the following June.    The cufflink box will arrive at Christmas 2012, and the four vacant sections will take until Christmas 2014 to fill.    By this time, there is no way he can say that he’s tired of cufflinks, or that he only really wears them at funerals, or that his offspring bore him, because it will undermine three years’ worth of feigned delight on celebratory occasions.    By now he will be known as The Man Who Loves Cufflinks, and so a second box can legitimately be given, to usher in another three years of lazy gift buying.    Unstoppable momentum has been reached, and the relentless giving of cufflinks has done what it is supposed to do: the man with the boring children is now defined by his cufflink collection.

The Charge of the Light Brigade, while heroic and horrific in equal measure, also did what it was supposed to do – that is, capture a Russian artillery position at the Battle of Balaclava.    Well, kind of.    It was the wrong artillery position, and in order to get to it the Light Brigade, consisting of six hundred British lancers and sundry other cavalry units, had to charge down a long valley surrounded on all sides by people firing large guns at them.    It’s very likely that at the last moment Captain Nolan of the 15th Hussars realised it was a mistake, but as he sped across the front of the gathering horsemen he became the first fatality of the day, felled by a shell splinter.    He was therefore unable to pass on the counter-order he was almost certainly carrying to Lord Lucan, who give the command to hurtle down the valley and thus doomed a further two thirds of the Light Brigade to an exciting but fatal few minutes.    The next time you’re galloping along on a horse, open a hat box full of feathers and let the onrushing air whisk them airborne.    According to survivors of the charge, this is what brains sound like when escaping backwards from a skull which has been struck at speed by a cannonball.    From this, we can deduce that the afternoon was not without hazard.    Like the Russian artillery position, cufflinks and cufflink boxes are the wrong present, in that the recipient will have almost no use for them but, by the time anyone realises the mistake, such momentum will have been reached that there is no way of stopping it.    No one needed the Russian artillery position.    No one needed the cufflinks.    No one needed the subsequent cufflink box.    Strictly speaking, John the Boxes doesn’t need a living room full of architects planning an extension to his large house in Balham either, but you might as well do something with all that cufflink box money.


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Top – Dozing infant parked by my stall at Greenwich Market.     Earlier, she had generously given me several biscuits, which belonged to Jigsaw John, her old man.    I ate them immediately.    Fifty percent of the combination of Jigsaw John and myself minded, the other fifty percent didn’t.

Middle – Empty ink cartridge.    I’ve worked out that you get about three thousand words per cartridge.

Lower – A fiver with ‘Steve Meadwell’ written across it. Steve Meadwell appears to be a red headed defender with Genesis FC, an amateur football club from Loughborough.    According to the club site, he’s married a lady with ginger hair, they have a ginger cat and now a ginger child who I should imagine requires sunblock with a factor in the tens of millions.


  1. Eurokennan

    Jul 24th, 2012
    6:49 pm

    I take it you’ve read “Hell Riders”. Brilliant book.

    “There, my Lord, is your enemy; there are your guns.” Right, then.

  2. by Paul Smith

    Jul 24th, 2012
    8:32 pm

    Actually no, although I’ve been reading a lot about the Crimean War recently. What a mess it was. Fascinating but a total shambles.

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