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Jo'Burg Days: All Her Lovers

Barbara Durlacher reveals why someone would pay £200 for a dingy strip of khaki.

It was a dingy strip of khaki sewn at intervals with regimental badges. In some the thread had worn thin, in others, the colours had faded.

Strange that this insignificant piece should come up for auction. What possible interest could it have for anyone? In the crowd around the auctioneer’s podium stood a grey-haired man, and his upright stance, disciplined moustache, cavalry twill pants and tweed jacket suggested a military past.

Soon only a couple of spinsterish watercolours and the piece of cloth were left. ‘What am I bid for this?’ the auctioneer asked in a tired voice. The military gent raised his hand. ‘Two Hundred Pounds.’

‘Two Hundred Pounds’, the auctioneer repeated with amazement, and knocked it down to him. The military gent paid the price and retrieved his prize.

Unable to disguise my curiosity, I edged over to him and asked why he had paid so much for something which appeared so valueless.

“Well, you see” he replied quietly “It belonged to a lady I knew many years ago. All her lovers were from the Army, and all except one, were killed in action. These regimental badges are the only link I have to some very brave and valiant men, and to the woman I loved. Two hundred pounds is nothing for the memories it holds for me”.

And with that, he turned on his heel clutching his shabby prize, and disappeared into the crowd.

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