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Friday, 13 March 2009

that'll do nicely

The race-goers peppering the village are as recognisable to locals as plain clothes policemen are to TV low life. It’s a roundness of tum, a certain kind of tie, a slope of shoulder (similar to my avatar) indicative of too much time spent hunched over the Racing Post. That, and a proliferation of Bentleys, and the fact that the skies have been alive with the sound of … choppers. For this is Gold Cup week and despite fewer helicopters than of yore, the rich are still at play (no silly banks to go to, sigh). Today, even the Queen’s due to pop in, bless her.
Every denizen in the geographical fallout of Cheltenham Racecourse is out to fleece the racers somehow. Friends do B&B and count the cash. Cheltonians go on cruises for Christmas, or are half-way to China, on the proceeds. Driveways are dusted off and called car parks; limos fill lay-bys; opening hours are rapidly extended: normal old breakfasts at cafes are called Racing Breakfasts, and charged accordingly. Everything, temporarily, becomes Gold this or Racing That.
It might add a buzz, but if you’re not profitting from it, you’re buggered by it and traffic means that we are effectively marooned this side of Chelters. It’s not that I would normally want to go, but now that I can’t, I feel aggrieved: even a Country Liter has shopping needs to meet. So I went just now, fool that I am, to the Post Office, to stalk out a few creme eggs and get in some Match Attax (sic) cards. Don’t tell me my education’s been wasted.
A string of racegoers were aimlessly wandering around the shop – tum, porkpie hat, tie, debris of disgusting breakfast festering in the café corner (don’t ask).

Post Office Man was – his words – “made up.” “All that booze they buy!” he hissed confidentially, “Each night! We get more in.” He did that pursed lips kissing the window thing he favours when making a point.Such is the mighty power of his whisper, so much more audible than the normal ebb and flow of his disappointed speech, that every race goer’s head turned to eyeball him.

I gave a stiff dead smile, cringed, and turned my best, dim, Lolly-like attention to the chocolate stand.He shook his head at the giddy commerce of it all. The thrill of the till, clanging shut on crisp Irish twenties (not village 20ps grudgingly counted out); the unexpected extra visits to the Cash & Carry; the sheer enterprise represented. He nodded a reproving nod at me and bounced off to tidy his bafflingly large birthday card racks, as if now jostling for Richard Branson’s place on The Rich List.
Witness to POM’s idea of self as successful entrepreneur, not washed-up weirdo with a penchant for driving ducks to Spain was not something I wanted to be.

I prowled around the tatty bit normally frequented by 10 year olds, where the Match Attax cards should be … but weren’t. POM has no idea of supplying to meet a demand, hence his unfathomable interest in the wrong sorts of cards, endless birthday ones. Profits lie instead in the greedy, shifting, desires of 10 year olds (and their desperate parents, eager for behaviour/treat leverage). Greasy cards shuffled fervently in grubby little hands, mini book-makers in the making, every one of them. We are all fluent in Italian midfielders.

Having made the effort to trudge across the road, and risk the conversational ambush of an encounter with POM, to be then denied my reason for being there was just outrageous.
“Still not in, national shortage,” POM said with something approaching pleasure in his voice. He’s moved on from locals, he hobnobs with race-goers now. “’ve been up since four,” he purred at one in a trilby, “No time for sleeping. Not in this game.”

Mrs POM, a study in defeat, was kept busy, the long minutes I was in there, debating the minutiae of a paper bill with a pensioner whose gloved hand was determined to remain triumphantly clasped round coppers. The paperboy – “he always walks on the grass!” – was being ripped to shreds.

It is a fearful thing the village Stores’n’Post Office being held afloat so arbitrarily, and by one who never sleeps. Post Office work, with its stingy pay off per “swipe,” brings something like £2.50 an hour. The many many greetings cards remain unsold, testament to a plan gone sour.
The Match Attax cards meanwhile might retail at a mere 40p a pack, but they disappear under the locust swarm of small children’s hands. Blink and they’ve gone. At the moment, they’re gone. And, with the imminent defection of the racers, if the national shortage continues, married to that capricious whim of fickle children whose interest in the cards will melt like butter in the sun the day his mis-judged double order comes in, then it could be Bye Bye Post Office.
Not for nothing did my boss call me Cassandra. Doomed ever to tell the truth but never to be heeded.

It’s a bit like musical chairs. Round of cuts: remove a chair: close a branch; take the big utilities from the Post Office: profits fall; remove a chair: close a branch.
We’ve survived the random chair removal so far, and our little sub-branch is still here. Match Attax could be the only thing standing between him and disaster. Feeling suddenly mean for laughing at his dreams, his misguidedly heavy investment in greetings cards, and being Queen of the Unnecessary Purchase, I grabbed indiscriminately at some over-priced rice to buy pro tem and scarpered.
“They’re on order,” he added wistfully, as the door clanged to.

2 years ago, it was Dr Who cards, another tense time with fluctuating availability. Then we had to stump out £1.50 for a mere 9 cards. I'm sure POM has a job lot out the back from when the demand plummeted.
Times change, and there’s nothing you can tell me about value for money.
Lolly is back to full prance and, I’m glad to report, the bill was small, meaning that it’s worth having a stern word with vets. I almost tipped her in my gratitude. Almost. Silly to give her any ideas.
an 8 hour stay on the day of reckoning, including (shudder), shaving, draining, pus collection, leak-seepage management, keeping an eye on
a course of antibiotics
a new yellow squadgy lead
2 follow up appointments (admittedly brief, but one of them involving 2 vets)
I was charged ….… £35.08.
Even I couldn’t baulk at that.

Indeed I’ve been recommending them all week so their portals will soon be bursting with skinflints bearing maimed pets.


Welsh Girl said...

I had to supervise some painters this week. They stopped work to watch every single race!

Come over to mine if you have a moment - there is an award for you!

Exmoorjane said...

Lordy yes, remember the Dr Who ones and your travails then too. MA has thankfully passed us by....keeps fingers firmly crossed. Pokemon is the ruling passion...and several quid a packet too.
Ah, I remember that post office, all too well....and the thirum of the copters... The Dulverton crowd aren't making the pilgrimage this year, so that's one mercy.
If I find any MA cards, will nab some....

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading... but why don't you like your dog?

Pipany said...

Ha, ha...sorry had to laugh at that comment Dave (who IS Dave?).
Racing is unknown territory in Cornwall. Haven't a clue, though my Irish, weirdly psychic Gran used to be very good at picking winners. Cannot believe how little you paid for Lolly's treatment Milla. I paid that just to have my poor cat put to sleep. One injection for heaven's sake. Not that I am suggesting she should have had anything other, but it was only a giant dose of anaesthesia after all (skinflint? Me?)

Suffolkmum said...

I'm mired in Pokemon too. Better availability than Dr Who cards. Yes, I'm with Dave - we should start a defence of Lolly campaign. I'm not too far from Newmarket, so it all sounds quite familiar.

KittyB said...

Pokemon and Crazy Bones were 'hot' at Christmas and much wailing adn bemoaning Everywhere selling out. But now they're cast asice in their little collector's tins, and we're awaiting the next craze. Perhaps Match Attax will make its way up North soon. If I see any I'll bring you some next week. 40p? Bargain!
Bargain vet's bill too. I pay through the nose, but I don't mind as I have a teeny tiny crush on the little vet. He makes me blush. You can almost see him thinking, 'Gawd, these middle aged mothers, how embarrassing.'

Preseli Mags said...

I have been to the Cheltenham races many times, but I hae never worn a pork pie hat. Or driven a Bentley for that matter. We used to have pony club camp there every year too, galloping sideways across the forbidden turf on ponies with delusions of grandeur. My pony used to neigh at all the statues and wonder why they were all so rude and didn't reply.

Fennie said...

So glad Lolly is up and about and the vets bill was small. Greetings cards no doubt carry an absurd mark-up. Maybe POM could carry some for racegoers to send to locals saying 'Wish you weren't here.' I found myself taken to Cheltenham Races once. But sadly I have never been able to see the point in Racing. Every race is the same (to the uninitiated). In fact I am with Jeffrey Bernard "Sometimes I think it would save a lot of time and energy on race days simply to get up in the morning, shove £50 down the loo, and pull the chain!" Now we know why. Where this would leave your POM I don't know. Maybe you could race Lolly. Appropriate name, after all. Run a handicap with bundles of greetings cards tied to her back to make up (or down) the weight.

elizabethm said...

Oh I love Fennie's idea of racing lolly - that would be fabulous. i can just see her charging over the finishing line with her hair in her eyes. Go on, she might win you loads of dosh to spend on your own Bentley and pork pie hat.

Frances said...

Milla, you have gotten my Saturday morning of to a fabulous start. Once again, you've shown us exactly what it is like to be surrounded by visitors to your planet.

(I remember similar feeling years back when working in mid-town the summer that the Republican party had his national convention in New York ... to re-, that's re-nominate George Bush. Vice President Cheney was staying in a hotel near where I worked. Crossing the street was an exercise in Secret Service security guard avoidance.)

So, so glad that Lolly is back to her fun loving ways.

Also glad that you are always able to tell us about your own fun loving ways! xo

Maddie Grigg said...

Match Attax, that's a new one on me. My boy collected POG cards, I think. We have the point-to-point here in a few weeks' time so we will be surrounded by 'rahs-rahs', as we call them. In previous years the village square has been littered with silk scarves after the various Ruperts and Jemimas and Sebastian and, dare I say it, Camillas roar through in their 4x4s with the windows and sunroof open.
Ho hum.

lampworkbeader said...

Glad to hear the dog's up and running. Great blog, you open up other world's. I'd never heard of Match attax cards until now.

Expat mum said...

Reminds me of when I used to live in Wimbers. The tennis fortnight was bloody murder when all I was trying to do was get to work. Tourists wandering round, getting on the wrong buses and trains.

Calico Kate said...

Makes me almost glad I don't have children to buy 'cards' for!
Great images of race goers, e don't have any here - nowhere flat enough for a course but we do have 'yachties'in their waterproofs and lifejackets.
So pleased that Lolly is well again. Are you sure the vet didn't miss a zero - don't reccommend you check though!

blogthatmama said...

I like the thought of you loitering in the Post Office looking for Match Attax cards amongst rich race-goers. Go Milla!

Anonymous said...

I empathise with the race going crowd issues. I live far too close to Chelsea football ground - and yeserday was a seething mass of bright blue acrylic, greasy burgers and plastic pint glasses. Delightful!

Glad to hear Lolly is up and running - and so cheaply as well!

Edward said...

Another top blog as per, but I always feel deeply sorry for POM. Who'd be a POM these days, with Mandy Antoinette poised to sell the whole shooting match for tuppence to some pensioned-up bankers.

ChrisH said...

Ooh, know the feeling of the racegoers - having moved from Epsom Downs where we couldn't move out of our drive on racing days for folks looking for illegal parking spaces or do the shopping without having bunches of 'lucky' heather stuffed in our faces. So glad the lovely Lolly was mended so cheaply.

muddyboots said...

lordy, lordy, the traffic, the expensive tarts residing in the Queens, the Irish pulling out vast with wads of £50.00 notes to buy a beer. The Queen Mum's car passing the corner of Pitville Circus Road.........

Arcadian Advocate said...

Glad Lolly is better and bill not too large... we had the vet here today... to a cow.

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

mewmewmew said...

Which reminds me Milla.... must make a vist to the bottle bank, my garage is fit to burst with empty's of the red stuff. I just 'chuck' them all in one skip, hoping for the best.!

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