Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Other worldly shopping


I was discussing the method of fixing the scagliola panels to the backing boards in such a way that they could be adjusted dead-level to each other, when my glamorous assistant said,  "What you need is 'Herculite Fibre-Fix'. It's brilliant, and will do just the job you want it to".

So I consulted the magic map and made my way back down Diagon Alley to the mysterious shape-shifting shop which - to my relief - was in pretty much the same place as I last found it. I went into the shop and the elderly shop-keeper made his way out from the shadows when he heard the door creak open and closed.

"I want some 'Herculite Fibre-Fix', please", I said, and he stared into the middle distance a while before replying, "I don't believe I have ever heard of such a thing. Have you bought it here before?"

I assured him that although I had not, my glamorous assistant had, and he had assured me that it was perfect for the job I had in hand.

"I am sorry Sir, but we have never stocked such a product, but we may have some cement-based powders which may well serve the same purpose."

Having informed him that I had to use a plaster-based adhesive, I bid him 'good day' and retraced my tracks through the wild Wiltshire countryside, back to my workshop.

A few days later, I told my glamorous assistant about this futile shopping trip and he - once again - assured me that the mysterious shop did indeed sell the stuff, as he had bought some of it there only a matter of weeks previously. So yesterday I went back to the place, and the elderly assistant loomed out of the shadows and greeted me without any sign of recognition.

"Hello. I would like a 25 kilo bag of 'Herculite Fibre-Fix, please."

"Certainly Sir," he said, "It is wonderful stuff - I use it all the time for all sorts of things."

There used to be a shop in nearby Marshfield - a windswept and desolate strip of a village on a hill near the outskirts of Bath. This shop was even stranger than the one mentioned above because - for around 50 years, the window display had never changed, nor had the stock inside it.

One day about 60 years ago, the man who owned the general store opened as usual in the morning, but decided that he would no longer sell any of the goods to anyone, ever again.

He continued to open the premises every morning and close it every evening - for all those decades - but if anyone came inside to buy something, he would pretend to be out of stock and send them on their way, whether they were locals or complete strangers.

The shop itself became a time-capsule, with adverts dating from the 1950s still hanging in the windows and packets of stuff which had long ceased being produced adorning it's shelves. People came from miles around just to see inside it and be turned away by the eccentric shop-keeper.

A friend of mine visited it one day, with the express intention of buying something - anything - from the old man.

He went in, and the man at the counter asked if he could help him. My friend - noticing some silk ribbon on spools behind the counter, asked for a yard of blue, silk ribbon. The shopkeeper apologised and said that they had none left in stock.

"Yes you have," my friend responded, "I can see it behind you."

The man became increasingly agitated, but eventually and reluctantly took the spool down, measured a yard of the ribbon, put it into a brown paper bag and asked my friend for a few pennies.

When he got it home and took it out of the bag, it fell apart in his hands as blue dust.

21 comments:

  1. Sounds depressingly like most traditional high street shops nowadays. Except they are desperate to sell.

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    1. True, and not truer than my local supermarket which is in the process of nightly reorganisation, so that even the staff do not know where anything is any more.

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  2. Have not heard about the glamorous assistant before. Much less that said glamorous assistant is a 'he'.

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    1. Once again, I must refer you to past posts, Rusty. Do keep up - we are losing valuable ground by retracing steps, and time is money...

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  3. Nowt so strange as folk, eh, Tom?

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    1. Never a truer word, Broad, unless you consider the life of a vampire bat.

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  4. We have a salvage yard owner in our area that does exactly the same thing as your shop owner....open, but won't sell a thing. I believe the new television show that airs here called "Pickers" identifies those odd fellows as hoarders. For whatever reason, they can't bear to part with a single thing.

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    1. Yes - I have known many of these 'scrap-merchants'. They usually have a fierce dog to deter customers and uninvited relatives.

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    1. It doesn't work for me - especially in Waitrose.

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  6. Was the Herculite Fibre-Fix just the ticket? I do hope so after having to go back a second time.

    I shouldn't be surprised if in your next run there, you find a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

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    1. I haven't used it yet. These things take time. Maybe I should have smoked less hookahs myself.

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  7. I really love the sound of that shop Tom ........ do you think that it really exists or do you step into another plane of existence !! ? When we are visiting my cousin in Bradford-on-Avon, I want to find it.
    You probably don't know the children's programme ' Mr Benn' ( not Wedgey !!) as you don't watch TV but, he used to go into a fancy dress shop, try an outfit on like a cowboy suit in the back of the shop and be transported to the Wild West or the place appropriate to the outfit......I want to go there as well !

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    1. I'll send you one of those maps which they use in Harry Potter films. At least you will be able to see where I am at that moment - unless I wander into the restricted zones.

      No, Mr Benn passed me by. Are you sure you don't mean Mr Bean?

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  8. No, no, no ....... I know who Mr Bean is ....... as in Rowan Atkinson.
    Mr Benn was an animated childrens programme. It's on YouTube.

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  9. Changing the subject somewhat, if John Gray says "Go figure" one more time, I will personally go round to his gaff and strangle him and his bloody chickens.

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    1. 'Strangling his chickens' was NOT euphemism, Jack@.

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