Saturday, 30 January 2010

Found: Lost innocence




This came to light the other day. I found it in a forgotten leatherette letter-compendium, which a favourite cousin gave me when I was about 12. The compendium unzipped to reveal little pockets and straps to hold envelopes, stamps, and a quarto pad of writing paper, complete with blotting paper and a guide printed with heavy black lines which showed through faintly from underneath your writing to keep it straight. Do they still make Basildon Bond?

Treasure trove inside one of the pockets, unseen for years:

A letter from the then Secretary of State for Scotland congratulating me on a performance of The Gondoliers which I'd recently conducted

A letter from a student friend beginning 'Dear Chris, As I have in my Levantine lethargy...'

A letter from a friend describing what it felt like to lose her virginity (Nothing to do with me: I wanted the information for a novel)

This postal order. Five shillings must be, let me see, 25p, but I see that its validity expired some little time ago. This came from an old schoolroom we cleared out once, some years after the departure of an ancient lady called Jessie, who had lived there in the utmost squalor. In the worm-eaten cupboard that served her as a larder there were a few eggs, probably of the same vintage as the postal order. Very old eggs explode when you put them in the fire.

10 comments:

Rog said...

They all use the old "reasearching a book" excuse!

Geoff said...

My mum gave me a half-sovereign ring on Thursday. Why was cockney gangster jewellery so popular?

We still receive the odd postal order at work. I will be sad when they stop coming.

I, Like The View said...

oh this makes me smile so. . .

. . .I have fond memories of Basildon Bond and I love staionery compendiums and letter writing. . .

. . .thank you for this. . .

(I'm wondering about the exploding eggs - and then trying not to think about it)

Christopher said...

Rog: I know. It's back-breaking work. But someone has to do it.

Geoff: I loved postal orders. There was something homely and comfortable and unshareable about them, like your very own sherbet dip or spoonful of Radio Malt.

I: Pyrotechnically the eggs had it over the plate of mince we found in the same cupboard. But for a real blaze the prize went to several very old pink corsets.

Dave said...

That postal order is probably of more value to a collector than 25p.

Sarah said...

Chris!
I'm with Rog.....might have easier (and less embarrassing for your 'friend') if you rang one of those 'bored housewife' numbers, for your book research!

Christopher said...

Sarah, it concerned two very old friends - there was nothing prurient or salacious about it, and certainly no obligation to tell.

Dave: Ebay, do you think?

Z said...

Someone is hoping for £25 for a 1927 sixpenny postal order. There isn't a bid yet. However, £2.50 has been bid so far on a two bob one from 1940, and there's still a week to go.

Ancient eggs also explode, in a very smelly but less, er, explosive way when you throw stones at them. When we find an abandoned nest of addled eggs, we make sure we don't waste them, but have some countryside fun instead.

A hedgehog will eat an egg, however old it is.

Vicus Scurra said...

Did your letter bear the signature of Viscount Dunedin? It may be worth a tidy sum on ebay, as he later became a sportsman of some prominence in a minor sport.



Or that may be someone of the same name.

Christopher said...

Z: A mine of information, as always. However, in the light of the rather disappointing figures you quote, I may have to wait until 2026, when it will be 100 years old, before putting it on Ebay. Or I could leave it to you if you like.

Ho ho, Vicus. Alas, no. The office which Viscount Dunedin (whom you may remember) held was occupied somewhat later by my signatory Gordon Campbell, Baron Campbell of Croy. Mrs C. (who has recently turned her elegant hand to making excellent gravy) and I last met him outside a newsagent's called Strachan's in Nairn. He had bought The Scotsman and the Daily T...graph. Unlike the grocer whom he served, he enjoyed G & S, but was not known as a sportsman, even as a tennis player, because a war wound had left him a damaged leg.

(I assume you were referring to the first of the three letters I mentioned. If you were in fact referring to one of the two others, I may have to revise this account.)