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Friday, September 21, 2012

That winning smile!


My greatest triumph in terms of charm concerned a certain irascible member of the catering staff in my university.  Living in Neuadd Lewis Jones (Lewis Jones Hall) on campus meant that we could have breakfast in College House as long as we arrived to eat it before half past eight in the morning.

Our hate figure was a wizened harridan called Nicky whose grating cry of “Iz gorn ar past eight!” greeted anyone daring to turn up and expect to be fed after the magic time.  I loathed her just like everyone else until she had some sort of Road to Damascus experience – but only concerning my good self!  She would hurl abuse at the other late arrivals but turn to me with a frightening fawning face and (for her) ask me sweetly if I wanted a glass of milk.

To this day I do not know what caused the change in her abrasive personality towards me.  I would like to think that it was because of my irresistible magnetic commanding personality – indeed in latter years I have come to believe this almost as an article of faith.

Nicky remained my single greatest triumph – until today.

Our local bakery boasts an assistant who is to customer service what Tesco is to self-effacement.  She has never been known to smile; she never indulges in small talk and she serves with the sort of resentment that is usually reserved for customers daring to use ticket windows in theatres in the West End.

Even when she was with people she knew, the same sullen expression set her face in its customary humanity free style.  Until today.

Today when I went in to the shop to get the bread I made a little joke and was rewarded not only with a smile but also a positive laugh!  And conversation!  Dialogue rather than silence!  Not that I understood all of it or course, but the tenor was unmistakable. 

Now the key moment will be the next time I go there.  Will there be a remembrance of times past and a cheeky grin play around her set face or will her expression revert to the times before the laugh?

With Nicky the change was absolute and irrevocable; only time will tell if the Unsmiling Baker has responded to the touch of personality changing magic that I have now convinced myself is mine to bestow!

The weather continues resentfully dull with rain in the wind and threatening clouds masking the hills around the town.  The sea is that deep dirty green which is dramatic but depressing.

And I have been bitten again!

I am obviously something which appeals to the autumn mosquito and they wait for the cooler damper weather before filling themselves with the russet fluid they relish.

I am also running out of the “magic” cream that I have discovered this season which does do, for once, what it says on the tube - soothe and heal.  Pity is cannot be applied in industrial quantities to most areas of the world that qualify for a mention in the almost infinitely depressing world news with which I start my day!  Though I wouldn’t do without the news of course: better to know and be downcast than not to know and speculate about Armageddon!

The Eight Bricks (I feel such a structure deserves capitalization, and indeed the definite article) are now partially covered with plaster and the whole structure has been painted.  Tomorrow (Day 5!) might see the sink actually placed on said bricks.  Comment is superfluous.

Today I received information from the Philatelic Bureau about the cost of the first day covers for the Paralympics’ gold winners.

The Post Office was caught out during the Olympics by the success of the whole enterprise.  The idea of issuing a special stamp for each gold medal winner in the Olympics was a good idea.  Painting a pillar-box gold in the winner’s home town or city was positively inspired – and camp!  But did no one in the Philatelic Bureau think about the knock-on demand for stamps for Paralympian gold medal winners too would be overwhelming?

Their initial idea was to produce a couple of sets of special stamps to commemorate the Paralympic Games – a first in philatelic terms as no other country has issued Paralympic stamps – and that would suffice.

Although I missed out on the furore about the Paralympic athletes being treated as second class by not having their own stamps, the Post Office responded by saying that they would issue stamps in exactly the same way as for the Olympians.

This provided the Post Office with a problem.  The 29 gold medal winners, each with their own special issue mean that 2012 is by far the most productive year for new commemorative stamps ever.  With the addition of 34 stamps for the Paralympians you have the equivalent of about eight years of normal issues in a couple of weeks.

Then there is the cost.  As a collector of first day covers I had already signed up to receive as many first day covers as we won golds.  This was, as you can imagine, a major cost then, to keep the collection complete, came the news that there were to be even more issues.

I think that the Post Office solved the cost problem fairly well as it has announced that anyone who bought the whole set of Olympic gold winners via the Philatelic Bureau could have the complete set of Paralympic stamps at a twenty pound discount.  Each discounted set matching the number of sets of Olympic stamps ordered.

For reasons which are not entirely clear, the cost of each first day cover is actually less for overseas customers than it is for collectors living in the United Kingdom. 

As I have had to buy new albums to contain the covers every little helps.
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