WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
It must be that time of the year again when one well known High Street shopping chain brings out their bi-annual “shoppers’ catalogue of delights” that basically is the prelude to the Christmas selling pitch. No doubt many will be clamouring to see what new wonders are available and, being of an age when these first started coming out and having joined in the hordes to get a copy then, nowadays I look at these catalogues and marvel at the changes that have come about over the years.
How things have changed and moved on. In the mid 1970s, the thing to have was a music centre and these came in various sizes but the basic line-up of the key functions were a record deck, a radio and a cassette player/recorder. They came in assorted sizes, from some that were taken home in a large carrier bag to some that needed a team of friends to help you lift it through the front door and once in, apply for planning permission for the speakers as they were so large and once installed, many a proud owner would spend hours giving talks on the merits of the said device to those silly enough to ask. Some made it back home by midnight, the same day...
I remember dragging such a device home and saying to Mum that it had “got Dolby” and she looked at me and suggested I tried getting it off with a damp cloth, and if that didn’t work, take it back and say I wasn’t happy with it. That told me, then.
Nowadays everything seems to have gone smaller, yet, oddly, dearer to buy, and in some cases to change the required radio station or adjust the volume you require a pair of tweezers to assist you, plus a magnifying glass; a selection of magnifying glasses is available on Page 983, and would you like to take out an extended three-year warranty as well for the said magnifying glass? It covers against it catching fire (we have bright sunlight at times and one cannot be too careful, can one), flooding and accidental damage, such as it falling out of your pocket while trying to adjust the volume on your newly-bought Waddayermacallit MK 7 hand-held device while out hang gliding. One thing that this shopping concept has done is to shape the wedding prezzie idea like no other, and this is why it’s not unusual to see the heaps of wedding presents at the reception consisting of seven china tea services, assorted designs and patterns, 13 steam irons, eight deep fat fryers, assorted colours and capacities, Lava lamps, many of, as they “are making a comeback, luv”.
Then there are the assorted coffee makers (non human), microwave ovens in various sizes and shapes that can accommodate anything from a budgie to a bison – as long at it’s dead first, or it messes the cooking cycle up a tad – plus a portable telly for each room or toilet in the house, then a few Blu-ray players as “those DVD player things are now so, so ‘old hat’, darling” and all this will help the newlyweds’ humble first home take on the appearance of an electricity board showroom of years gone by.
One thing that did upset the scene slightly was Bruce Forsyth and his Saturday night BBC telly show The Generation Game (remember that? – it was at least entertaining, as many may recall). If contestants could remember afterwards, when asked, the many, assumingly, desirable things (apart from the Cuddly Toy) that slid past on the conveyor belt containing possible prizes, that featured at the end of the show, the outright winner could take them home as winnings ... the ultimate object of desire included, and yes, indeed, I speak of none other than the almighty Fondue Set.
I know at the time there were gasps in our house as Mum, test pilot of the people, for the people, sat with cup in mid air, as in half way from saucer (saucer – nowadays used as a place mat for indoor flowerpots and the like) to lips, in a state of shock. Dad stopped and looked up from the coffee table from where he was pursuing his hobby – he used to turn table lamps into wine bottles – and, as they looked at each other, I think it was Dad who spoke first as he enquired, what exactly was a Fondue? and Mum replied maybe they had it with chips, like that funny-tasting sauce stuff at that pub that opened up a couple of years back. The pub boasted it had the best kitchen for miles, plus Luigi the chef (who was really Les in a droopy mustache, who before had worked at the transport café that got shut down, or rather burnt down, in unexplained circumstances), although the local health department on a visit disagreed with its self-proclaimed “best” idea, and it closed shortly after a guest appearance by the owner at the local magistrates court, where the chairman of the bench also took a dim view of it, although the owner maintained it was not dim but “atmospheric” lighting and, true, it could have been better, give or take a candle or two. Fined £600, plus costs, with service charge included.
Soon after, one of Mum’s chums popped her head round the kitchen door to say she was going to get a Fondue Set for her niece’s wedding, as seen on Brucie’s show of course, and with Mum, set out to get one regardless, as this was now considered “the” thing to be giving, so they headed to the Mecca of wedding presents that was Catalogue City in the High Street.
Having only seen the said item whisk past on a conveyor belt on TV for a split second or so did not really give much away of course, so, once within the hallowed walls of Catalogue City, copious flicking of the pages back and forth, and looking in the index, brought no hint of the item wanted.
Plan B was to ask a member of staff and this was met with: “Are you sure you are spelling it right, Modom?” as the dear girl had not heard of one and had no idea, and the standard-issue Get Out Of A Sticky Spot card of “I’ll fetch my supervisor” when stuck for answer was deployed, so after a bit of arm twiddling and pointing, the Gifted One arrived on the scene.
This eventually floundered as she, too, had not the slightest idea. Cue standard response of “If it’s not in the catalogue, I don’t know what to suggest”, as they just didn’t stock them, as they were so new on the must-have-bauble scene, so to speak, and this is why Mum’s chum ended up buying a trouser press as a wedding prezzie – the bridegroom said his trousers were fantastic, but the bride said it took its time making toast.
Don’t try this at home – use somebody else’s.