THOUGHTS OF A FRUITCAKE: By John Ward
I recently popped into a shop to buy a couple of the snap-on top plastic lunch boxes that I use to store nuts and bolts in. They are reasonably air-tight and hopefully keep the dreaded rust away. It was while looking at the vast selection available, that seemingly caters for everything from something the size of a matchbox to a big ’un to possibly hold an elephant’s front leg, should the need arise, and with the elephant’s written permission, of course.
It was while forming an orderly stampede to actually pay for said containers that I recalled those heady days of yesteryear, when you couldn’t actually source, as they say these days, a plastic storage box, unless you went to to a plastic container party.
That involved going to somebody’s home, house or lean-to see the latest offerings from a wonderful display of plastic products. They ranged from bowls to boxes you never realised before that you couldn’t do without, until shown the latest item to wow and flutter over at this party. All this while digesting a sandwich or homemade cake or something concocted in their kitchen/research lab that only a well-trained scientist or chemist could dissect and report back on afterwards.
My mum used to go a few of these events and came back to tell us she had ordered yet another consignment of things that were very useful . If Yvonne at Number 37 was having one, she needed one as well, plus, if your order was over such an amount, you got a free gift of something you couldn’t buy from their exclusive range (and perhaps with no wonder).
The hours we spent trying to work out what service or function this ‘gift’ served, as it was usually in a plain plastic wrapper with no instructions and, being a week or two since hearing what it did do, she had forgotten. Perhaps Einstein could have given a fair assessment of its meaning or use – but as he had not spent ten quid or so on assorted, plastic boxes and bits, it was highly unlikely. He went back to the relativity lark instead, that he is better known for.
If she did not really “need” anything from the exotic range of plastic bits, Mum still went to parties to offer support (?) and used Plan B, buying the cheapest option, namely a cruet – she had seven at one time, handy in case of a world shortage.
She also went to see what pattern their wallpaper was, and to enquire how much a roll it was. Plus, was their range of sandwiches up to much? Maybe at past events the bread was curling up at the corners – possibly due to exposure to the body heat of 18 or so clients, sitting in a lounge to savour the next unveiling of the Maxi Multi-Layer Serving Dishette or whatever. Mainly, the description offered more excitement than the item itself, or at least till the crab paste sandwiches ran out.
Before you scoff, consider that this was perhaps the forerunner of social media today . Before you could tap buttons to tell thousands of your newly-acquired “friends” what time you fed the cat and with what or whom, you went to parties like this to buy plastic boxes, tackle a curled-up sarnie and mull over if so and so’s diet was working, or how much was the price of cauliflowers on the market this week. All it cost was a set of matching plastic containers or, at the cheapest, a cruet, to go with the other sets in the dust-covered collection back home.
n The appointment to be in the Boston Pilgrim Hospital Outpatients’ Department was for 14.35 hours in Earth time, and, not wishing to be late, or in case they were having a sale, as you never can tell these days, I had left home an hour or so beforehand in order to be on time while allowing for traffic problems along the way. Plus, I am never knowingly late in such matters, as time is everything these days, more so in the medical world.
Getting to the hospital, or rather, seeing this majestic building from the roadway, there were only a hundred yards (or kilos in new-fangled metric stuff) to go to the entrance of the car park. With about 40 minutes to spare, what could possibly go wrong?
As with all plans, fate took a hand. Either a lot of people were ill that day, or a lot of folk were visiting or had heard word about the sale I mentioned at the start to this essay. The car parks, large and ample, were full, or perhaps taking part in an attempt to beat the record held by the M25 motorway of being the greatest area to be filled with stationary vehicles at any one time.
Getting in the queue, I proceeded like a member of the Lemming Society and collected my parking ticket from the machine. As the barrier lifted I realised this was one big mistake, as I joined in and played follow-the-leader. I knew that there was quite a procession of vehicles behind me as we slowly went round the car park, playing some bizarre form of Musical Chairs. One irate driver was arguing with another about a space. Questions as to his parentage were brought up, but I shut one ear and kept on going.
But help was at hand. There, like a shining beacon of hope, was a bastion of endeavour – somebody in a yellow fluorescent coat, waving his arms and pointing to things like non-available spaces. It was done in such a fashion you felt overwhelmed (I do so like a good overwhelm) to know that somebody from the cash-gathering department, car parking section, had sent a missionary out to sort us out in our hour of need. Or at the very least, to delay our visit in order to elicit more funds out of us for “overstaying”. My enquiry about the possibility of bed and breakfast arrangements was treated with a slight air of disdain, but coming from a fluorescent coat was comforting.
Getting into conversation with said car parking missionary, it was possible to leave at this stage without incurring any cost (!!!) and to this effect, the Out barrier was lifted and away we jolly well went. Freedom at last, as spending quarter of an hour or so waiting for a non-existent space was mind-numbing, although I did think about ringing the Outpatients’ Department to ask if the doctor could meet up with me at the car park, getting a coffee from the machine along the way and also one for himself, but no sugar in my one, but I thought better of it. I drove into Boston, parked and wandered in on foot. I just about made it to the minute and signed in as being present at Outpatients’ Mission Control. Being on time was an achievement for me considering all the aggro, but then I realised – eventually – that I had swopped one place of mind-numbing tedium for another as it was an hour plus before I saw the doctor.
But the good news is, I still had the problem I went with – Pitchfork Polisher’s Elbow –and it had not healed up in the interim, so the doctor still had something to look at and give me a quote as to its possible treatment and recovery.
I asked if he preferred sugar in his coffee, as I can see it being a long job, based on the car parking availability in the foreseeable future.