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A Shout From The Attic: Mummy-Daddy Years - 3

Ronnie Bray reveals that even men of the world make mistakes.


When I was working at James Wilson (Ironfounders) Ltd., in the cast iron foundry on St Andrew’s Road, the foreman, Owen Crowther, called me furtively into the aisle between the racks that held patterns and core boxes, beckoning me with his finger to come where no one could see us. When we were suitably concealed, he spoke in a low voice.

“You’re a man of the world,” he said.

Somewhat puffed up by his odd compliment, I was bound to grudgingly admit that I was, but I wasn’t convinced. “Well, yes.” I waited for whatever was coming next.

Moving closer, in his most confidential voice he barely whispered, “How much is it to post a parcel?”

Man-of-the-world that I was, I had no idea. I referred him to the General Post Office and inwardly chuckled my way back to work.

We both moved on. He to become general manager of Kaye’s Iron Foundry at Thornton Lodge, me to try to make a living in the retail world. To stock my second hand shop, I attended Oscar Crowe’s Dewsbury Auctions, at Ravensthorpe on the way to Mirfield. I had only been to a few weekly auctions, when Oscar retired, laid his hammer down and his son, Bill, picked it up, and carried on without a losing a beat. Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoon, lots of things were sorted into auction lots and offered for bidding.

I put things in the auction and bought from the auction. Selling stuff there was no way to get rich, but buying was cheap and a profit could be made through my second hand shop. Being a man of the world, I was expected to be wise in buying. I knew the old tag, Caveat Emptor, “let the buyer beware,” and thought I had enough oil in my lamp to avoid major pitfalls. I also knew the dangers of buying a pig in a poke, and of not judging a book by its cover, so I have only myself to blame for ignominiously losing my title of Man-of-the-World. It happened on this wise.

I arrived a little late at one Saturday's auction. Silva Crisp was handling the shops for me as her Saturday Job. I had a quick look round the sale items and my eyes lighted on a big green bag with carrying handles that proclaimed its contents to be a Two-Man Bivouac. I thought that would do for Matthew and me so I watched for it to come up. The bidding was brisk, just another man and myself after the prize, but I got it for a little more than I would have liked to pay for it.

When I got it home, I could hardly wait to unpack it and start camping. When I did, I found that it did contain a tent, but despite its grand title, it was a latrine tent, and even if two men could squeeze themselves into it, which I doubt, they would have to sleep standing up. Not only that, but all the tent poles were different lengths. I rolled it back up, put it into the next auction, and took a loss on it.

Even men of the world make mistakes, and those who rely for their judgement on other peoples’ assessments of them, they can be tricked into believing they are something they are not. When I am flattered by well meaning people, I get the vision of a latrine tent masquerading as a cheap holiday, and I am chastened. So, if you ever call me a man-of-the-world, and I laugh in your face, you will know why.

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