Update: Jul 24th, 2011

Napoleon was wrong. By Stephen Myers.

 After a few days – a week or so at the outside- it became apparent to me that the authority’s opinion of our chest freezer might not be completely without merit. Her insistence that it was “knackered” and “as old as Adam himself” could no longer be appeased by my pleas of “it still works a bit” and “ten years is not old”. She clearly meant business as she handed me an envelope with her neatly written and completely unambiguous instructions.

1. Old freezer gone- I do not mean just put outside.

2. Pantry floor cleaned-properly.

3. New freezer bought and installed.

The envelope contained seven twenty pound notes and my heart sank. There did not appear to be a clear way out of this. Since I lost the family silver in a brief but quite spectacularly disastrous foray into the hospitality industry our finances have been in a parlous state. This money had come from her – never under any circumstances to be touched – children’s Christmas fund. Bloody hell. “And I don’t want a repetition of Ikea” was her parting shot as she left for work. Ikea was not really my fault.

        We live in a rural part of this once great nation and so any task of this kind involves some travel. I decided upon a largish market town some twenty miles away, where – I was quite sure – a freezer could be bought. The dogs wanted to come. But the last time I went shopping with the dogs it was not a complete success. And there would be no room in the van for a freezer, a stupid spaniel and chocolate lab the size of a small horse. I explained this to them and they went quite happily into their run (this bit is a lie).

      God this place has changed. So many new houses. I wonder where all the people come from and what they do. Here it is. Marvelous. Two shops bang right next to each other both selling freezers. This is going to be a breeze. Bloody hell – pay and display. Is it reasonable to expect people to pay to park to shop to spend? In days gone by I would have ignored this. Recently I have collected quite a few parking fines – one was a real stonker when the van got towed away. She would have my guts for garters if I got another. Bloody hell – a pound for two hours. I will only be ten minutes. Hey-ho play the game. I haven’t got a pound. Get some change – there – a newsagent. “Would you mind giving me some change for the parking meter”? I ask the young girl, offering  one of my notes. “I can’t open the till without a sale”. I am mindful of a row. “Twenty Silk-Cut Silver please”. God I’ll get shot buying fags with her Christmas loot. Still, where’s the machine – bloody hell it’s right over there. Number. Why does it want my number? Date of birth I could understand. I don’t know my bloody number. Make one up. Pound in but no ticket. Blood hell- why me? I am not putting another pound in. “There love – they come out there” An elderly lady behind me offers this advice. God – why is everything so difficult?

         In the shop. Brilliant- just the ticket. A small, top opening freezer and only £99.99. This opens up the unexpected possibility of a profit. “Excuse me. May I buy this freezer”? I ask a spotty youth in a cheap suit. “I’ll see if we have one in stock”. Stupid boy – I’m leaning on it of course you have one in stock. He goes over to a computer screen and spends about ten minutes pushing buttons and chomping chewing gum. “I am sorry we are out of stock at the moment, but I should be able to get one by the weekend”. “But what about the one here” I enquire whilst pointing to the white goods in question. “That’s display. We can’t sell display – customers would have nothing to buy”. I feel sure that his logic is flawed and ponder for a while the prudence or otherwise of pointing this out. Discretion is the better part of valour and I accept defeat. There is, of course the shop next door.

      I plan very carefully. Let’s not make any more mistakes. “Excuse me”- I am speaking to a quite pretty girl in her twenties. “Do you sell freezers?” She gives me a bit of an odd look as the shop is full of the bloody things. “Yes Sir”. This is a good start. “is it possible to buy one to-day and take it away with me?” “Yes Sir”. Splendid – things are going well. I have a look around and find one that fits the bill for £119.99. Bit more expensive but still a profit. “I’ll take this one please”. “I’ll see if we have one in stock”. Deja-vu hits me hard. The computer screen informs her that they do not have one in this branch but there is one available in Doncaster. I point out to her that Doncaster is thirty miles away and I would be perfectly happy with the one that is physically here and can be bought, paid for in full and moved within five minutes flat. My pleas fall on deaf ears. There is clearly more to this job that I had thought. I am cross, but the thought of incurring the displeasure of the authority spurs me on. Doncaster it is.

I don’t know Doncaster very well and it’s not long before I am temporarily unsure of my position. I am not lost. I just don’t know were I am. Bloody hell – look at that beauty. DOMESTIC APPLIANCE WAREHOUSE. Thank-you God. The place is full of freezers. They are all for sale. They can be paid for. They can be taken away to-day. The shop floor ones can be bought if they are damaged and most of them are. I am getting close. I find one very similar to the first one I saw. But I cannot see anything wrong with it. I push my knee very discreetly into it’s side which produces a pleasing dent. I go over to a middle-aged man and ask him how much the freezer is. He assures me he has no idea and does not even work there. It takes about ten minutes before I can find someone who will admit to working there. I’m sure the first man was lying. I can have the freezer for £100 but it is damaged. I tell him that I have seen the dent. It is only cosmetic and I am perfectly happy. “Oh. I hadn’t noticed the dent. I can do it for £90.00”. He opens the lid and shows me the broken tray inside.

       The pantry floor was more of a job than I had thought. The new freezer was up and running by the time she got home from work. There were a few moans about the lack of storage trays. But even the authority had to admit that it was a bargain at £130.


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