Beware the dreaded Kitchen Dunny!

Kithen dunny


"This extremely well-located, ground floor, Art Deco, studio apartment boasts both character and charm," claims the page dedicated to it on "This," it concludes at the end of its spiel, "is city living at its best." I'm calling b*llsh*t! Closer inspection to the photo above demonstrates what it actually boasts: a dreaded kitchen dunny!

It wasn't a problem in the 'olden days' when the euphemistically described 'smallest room in the house' was outside the house - hence that other euphemism, 'the outhouse'. It would be strategically placed - when space allowed - down the bottom of the garden, and the choko vine, ubiquitous to Aussie backyards, ensured putrid aromas (the sillage of sewage) were contained.

When hygiene and technology enabled outhouses to be moved in-house, its understandable why many ended up adjacent to the kitchen: that's where the plumbing was. I'm not sure if indoor choko vines were ever in vogue, but they weren't necessary. As long as there were walls and doors separating the can from the room where foodstuffs were prepared, and a window in the smallest room of the house to allow circulation of air, it was all rather bearable.

So what's with the kitchen dunny? Shouldn't there be a solid, non-see-through door (along with a wall) blocking the view of the lav?

It's barely two months since the prosecution of a landlord in Cambridge for turning a backyard shed into a granny flat. Which involved the loo becoming… yes, you guessed it... a kitchen dunny.


Lifted from MailOnline

It's not like I'm some sort of expert - even though I have written the odd article regarding remarkable restrooms during my time in trades publications. But I was, for a time, the victim of the dreaded kitchen dunny.

About a year ago, when the career trajectory dipped back into retail and I discovered that absolutely nobody wants a table, I also discovered the stinginess of shop owners could stretch to amenities. Rather than creating two rooms or a room within a room, the 'office' out back - separated from the shop floor by a curtained doorway - was more than an office. It was the classic kitchen dunny. Sink in one corner opposite the door, bar fridge diagonally opposite, dunny in the other corner. It was close enough to the fridge to leave no doubt that the stains running down the side were not from the herbal teas brewed atop the fridge, where the kettle was kept.

There was a strict 'no solids' rule for the kitchen dunny. There was no door separating it from the rest of the store, let alone the other elements of the room that constituted 'office' or 'kitchen' accoutrements and differentiated it from being a dunny. Which is good. As the saying goes, one should never eat where one sh*ts.

Although, if I had to, I could perhaps have pretended I was sucking nipples.

You know, like the dude who licks ashtrays since that's what 'kissing a smoker' was supposedly like - during a time in the late-'70s/early-'80s when that was the clever anti-smoking campaign.

The breastfeeding of babies within the toilet cubicle, because nursing mothers often have no other option, has been compared to eating a meal on the loo.



However, I never ate in the kitchen dunny, because that was also forbidden. Couldn't have customers smelling food or its by-product, as they browsed furniture.

Leaving the shop for meal breaks suited me fine, anyway. I had to go for a wander at lunch: I had to find a usable dunny!

There was a KFC across the road - but I resisted setting foot inside the whole time I was employed across the road from it.

The local Coles didn't seem to have a public loo.

There was a Thai restaurant that kept itself clean, but how many times a week could you have an indulgent Thai meal for lunch?

The café on the next blook was more of a 'most days' haunt.

Of course, the owner of the service station across the road from it didn't mind how often I borrowed the key. But you know how servo dunnies are: definitely not worth the cost of the cherry ripe or can of soft drink I'd buy out of politeness every time.

There was a rather clean office building next door. And it had amenities. Typically, the guys who worked there rarely flushed, and only occasionally lifted the seat, but it was better than all the other options. I'd even take my own lavatory paper. I had to: the non-flushing, non-seat-lifting pigs rarely replaced lavatory paper.

I discovered it because one of the tenants in the building was a magician of a physiotherapist who did amazing back work. He made all the horrible pain disappear. And there tends to be a lot of back pain when working in a furniture shop.

However, being a regular client of the physiotherapist wasn't enough: an accountant who also had offices realised I visited most days and would lie in wait behind his door, to jump out and tell me off.

"This isn't a public toilet you know!" he'd sternly admonish me.

"Look mate," I'd explain, "I'm his patient…" - pointing at the physiotherapist's office - "… and I'm doing you a favour - I'm the only person using the gents who knows how to lift the seat and flush; I'm keeping the place clean for you pigs…"

The thing that had me stumped, the whole time I worked there, was how did my boss get through the day?

I think I can best express the differences between us by drawing from the theme music to the nostalgic sitcom Happy Days. Remember it had two themes? Earlier seasons opened with 'Rock Around the Clock' by Bill Haley and His Comets; it was later replaced by a purpose-written theme song, an earlier version of which had been closing the show from the beginning.

When it came to crappy days at this place, my boss's disposition could best be described by a variation of the latter theme:

Sunday, Monday: he don't poo!
Tuesday, Wednesday: he don't poo!
Thursday, Friday: he don't poo!Saturday, what a day –
Waiting all week to poo!

My case, however, was clearly defined by earlier theme:

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock: poo!
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock: poo!
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock: poo!
I'm gonna poo around the clock each day…

I've no idea how he got through the day without taking a dump. Maybe I was 'banned' from eating in the store so that, while I was out, he could shut the shop and duck out the back to lay a cable of his own. I don't know.

Point is, it's the 21st century; Australia is a civilised, industrialised, first-world country. There's no reason, let alone excuse, for a kitchen dunny.






Click Frenzy? Quick Endsy!
The Downfall of Click Frenzy

The US gets some cash-flow easing the economic crisis with Black Friday. And Australia… doesn't….

And so, as Chris North rightly points out, the Downfall meme regarding Australia's continued inability to get the Interwebs right is inevitable:



But there's also this contribution - an episode of the daily dose of excellent satire know as The Roast.



So has it made you wanna go back into a physical shop? Or just back to the online retailers you always go to?

Turning the Tables


After the usual series of career missteps, I find myself back in retail. It’s less fun this time because rather than the music shops of the past – few of which still exist – I’m selling furniture.

While all retail is painful, at least customers in music shops either wanted to buy the CD, or they didn't. Sometimes they’d need to listen to a bit in order to decide. And maybe haggle over a couple of dollars. But they’d make a decision: they genuinely wanted to buy some music.

Furniture’s different. Nobody wants to buy furniture. They certainly don’t want to buy a table.

Sure, they'll pretend they do, admiring the exquisite, intricate marble inlay that makes a golden mango wood extension table even more attractive than the rustic paneling of the Tasmanian oak equivalent. They’re both fine tables: handcrafted from solid hardwood whose respective grains display great character, they’re beautiful as well as sturdy. Built to look good and to last.

You'll show them how the mango wood’s synchronic extension mechanism works: pull one end and the other moves automatically. Much nicer than the Tassie oak, where it takes two of you, or just one running up and down the length of it.

Sometimes your customer has no self-respect, and is happy for you to have none for them either. They'll tell you they love the table so much, they’ll go home to measure the room to ensure they have the space for it.

You won’t be seeing them again. They don’t want a table. If they did, they’d have come armed with measurements.

Although measurements are no true measure of a would-be table buyer. When they want you to believe they’re serious, they already know whether or not the double extension table will fit in their house, both leaves unfolded, with room to spare. If they still need to ‘go home and think about it’, you won’t be seeing them again. They don’t really want a table.

Sometimes people have far too much time on their hands. They’ve been in with the measurements, gone home to think about it and returned to pretend they want a table some more. Beware these time-wasters. They’ll feign a preference for chairs as they discuss the cleaning convenience of wood over fabric and the frustration of sticking to the leather in summer and freezing on it in winter… but rest assured: they don’t want a table. Not even if they send their cute daughter in a tight top and too short a skirt to have a look at it the next day.

Her outfit won’t influence the final price, of course. Her parents have ‘gone home to think about it’ twice. The purchase of no table requires that much thinking time, so she’s not fooling anyone. Just smile, perve as best you can without getting caught, but don't waste more time than it takes to commit her to your spank bank. Everyone has better things to do. Maybe tomorrow they'll send their dog to yap at a table they don’t want to buy.

My favourite one’s the guy who comes at closing time, the ruse of ‘customer’ so well developed he’ll go as far as to declare the one table he could actually afford as ‘ugly’, somehow implying that it's for reasons other than the wrong colour, size and style. Don’t fall for that – he’s just the furniture equivalent of a tyre-kicker. After running up and down the length of the Tassie oak, he’ll develop an infatuation for the extension mechanism of the mango wood so disturbingly intense that he has to ‘pop home – just around the corner’. Not to ‘think about it’, mind, but to ‘get the Missus’.

“Yes,” I’ll assure him, “of course I’ll stay open.” After all, isn’t that why a shop still exists? Otherwise we’d all have to pretend to want tables online, and that’d be no fun. Whose daughter would we perve at then?

When he returns with his wife, he’s clearly extolled the virtues of the mango wood table a little too enthusiastically. She regards it with the same distrust wives have for husbands’ sudden love of unlistenable chart-topping hits – that happen to be performed by impossibly proportioned, near-naked nymphets. She’ll roll her eyes whenever he’s sprung looking at it longingly. This leaves no option but the Tassie oak – a fitting punishment, as far as she’s concerned, since he’ll be forever consigned to the Sisyphean task of running up and down the length of it whenever they entertain.

Except he won’t. Because they don’t want a table.

But don’t imagine that they’re done.

He’ll start asking about the chairs. How much for the Tassie oak with fabric chairs? With wooden chairs? With top grain leather? Honey legs? Chocolate legs? How do all the variations compare with the mango wood (wife rolls her eyes and shakes her head)? What about, he asks, his decision to stop punching above his weight momentarily taking you by surprise, the one he can actually afford? The ugly one? The one that happens to be the wrong size and colour?

“Sir,” I’ll politely point out, more to the clock on the wall than to him. “Happy as I am to determine the price of something you definitely don’t want, wouldn’t it be more helpful to determine the price of something you might actually want?”

But that’s just it: he doesn’t actually want a table.

Now’s the time. Not to close the store – that was twenty minutes ago – but to have some fun. This is where I’m compelled to offer the customer the impossible discount: a sale price so good that he’d be a fool not to take it and I’d be an idiot to show my face in the store again even if my employer was too stupid to sack me. “But,” I’ll add, as I stand with the purchase order form in one hand and the key to the door in the other, “you have to buy it now. Before you leave.”

“Um…” they’ll reply, clearly torn, their world standing still for just a moment. “Let me go home and think about it…”

Lucky me, I get to keep my job. They just don’t want a table.

Shania Twain's Husband Swap - that don't impress me much

**this one’s got some naughty words, so beware**

It’s a strange thing, how, as you get older, you somehow learn to appreciate country music. Proper country music. The outlaw variety, with – as Frank Zappa said in the song ‘Truck Driver Divorce’ – ‘steel guitars crying all over it’… sung by proper country singers like Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. But pre-American Recordings with Rick Rubin Johnny Cash. Certainly not Shania Twain country.

Shania Twain first appeared on the scene when I was still working in a top 40 chart music store. Or rather, its Classics and Jazz department (ie ‘classical music’ and jazz, but calling it ‘classics’ meant it could be show tunes and middle-of-the-road older stuff as well…)

I couldn’t help but give her a nickname. That’s what we did with all artists. New Kids On The Block were New Kids With No Cocks. Val Doonican was Val Croonagain. The Doors were The Bores (were they ever!) Neil Young, as time went on, lived up to his nickname of Neil Old. The Rolling Stones were the Strolling Bones. Kate Ceberano And Her Jazz Sextet were Kate See-no-bra And Her Tit Sex Jizz. Bob Dylan was Baaaaaaahhhhhhb Dylaaaaaaaahhhhhn (but you had to do his voice when you said it). And Shania Twain was… well, you had to pronounce her first name like an Aussie country bloke saying ‘showing ya', so it was like ‘sho’in ya’. Her name was Sho’inya Twat.

That has no bearing on this news story, reported by The Daily Beast, about Shania Twain shacking up with Frédéric Thiébaud, the pair having consoled each other after Marie-Anne Thiébaud nicked Twain’s hubby, Robert Lange.



Just finished a Melbourne International Comedy Festival show in which I had great fun taking the piss out of Gen Y speech habits and behaviour - particularly the art[lessness] of textspeak.

Doing the Saturday morning shop this morning, I discover this new soft drink. Or 'fizzy fruit juice', as they're trying to fob it off.


It comes in awesome rad flavours… with emoticons:




The LOL TROPKL flavour is the one that confuses me. It seems to be two apostrophies – well, an apostrophe above a comma – followed by a closed bracket. How do you do that? Clearly I'm too old for that one.


This product and the Gen Y palate are totes MFEO. (He said, uploading this post from his iPhone. Knowing full well he'll be correcting it from his laptop later.)

Shop (s)talk


“Don’t you remember?” My mother reminded me. “There was that teacher who was caught taking ‘up-skirt’ photos with his camera in a shopping bag…”

I don’t care what anyone says – no guy’s upbringing is so liberal that it isn’t even ever-so-slightly weird to hear your mother casually use the phrase ‘up-skirt’. In context. Over dinner.

Before I could double-take or mug to the non-existent camera and deliver a sorely needed bon mot in the style of Groucho Marx – (“you think that’s bizarre, get a load o’ this insertion…”) – my sister added that “there was a more recent case – a guy standing at the bottom of the escalators, photographing women above…”

This discussion had begun when I happened to mention that our local shopping centre had banned photography. I had discovered this a mere few hours earlier. At our local shopping centre.

Here’s what happened:

I had just taken a photo on my phone. I was on my way to the bank, but before I got there, a shopfront had caught my eye – a fairly new one, I guessed, because I’d never noticed it before – and I decided I needed a photo of it. So I took a photo, and as I was putting my phone back into my pocket, the figure of a white-shirted security guard, rapidly bearing down upon me, caught my eye.

“Sir, did you just take a photo?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, for I had, and I’d been none too surreptitious about it: no camera concealed in a loaf of bread; no hiding behind bushes or a pylon; no newspaper with the eyes cut out of the front page photo of somebody else’s face. I’d brazenly and boldly pulled the phone out and taken the photo. I suspected it might be out-of-focus, but it would suffice.

“This shopping centre no longer allows the taking of photographs,” the security guard informed me.

“Oh, really?” I asked, genuinely surprised to learn this. I knew you weren’t allowed to photograph train stations, but I didn’t know other public places were also banning photography now.

“May I ask what you took a photograph of?” the security guard asked.

“Um…” I said.

I’ll often stop and snap a quick photo if something I see sparks a thought, particularly if it’s something I might want to blog about. But this wasn’t one of those things.

“This is actually a bit embarrassing to admit,” I said. “I recently made friends with someone called Louise. Her nickname’s Lou Lou. She happens to be a lesbian. I wanted to photograph the name of that shop and send it to her. I thought she’d get a laugh out of it…”

Whether or not Louise was going to get a laugh out of it, the security guard certainly did. “You’re alright, mate,” he said, shaking his head at me. “Off you go.”

“Cheers,” I said, and headed to the bank.

“What was the name of the shop?” my sister asked.

I told her. Everyone laughed. And I realised this was now one of those things I was going to blog about.


You Are Soul

I just can’t help myself. A walk down the street is an opportunity to misread or see the potential for wordplay in every situation.

So I’m in a music shop and notice this Shuggy Otis CD. If you’re into good sounding guitar you should listen to this guy. His dad Johnny was someone Frank Zappa quite admired. I have two of his albums. But I couldn’t work out why this release was in a section called ‘No Funk Soul’– sure, distinguish it from ‘Funky Soul’ if you must, but what do those sub-genres even mean? And who’s deciding what areas they cover? Cos there are only two CDs in the ‘No Funk Soul’ section, and the Shuggy Otis CD, which I own a copy of, certainy has funk and soul.

And then I realise it’s a design flaw in the stationery: there isn’t a subgenre known as ‘No Funk Soul’, rather, the ‘N, O Funk/Soul’ section comes before the ‘P Funk/Soul’ section.


PS This post’s title comes from a chart-topping single by Doug Mulray

Glutton for Punnishment

Almost every time I have been reminded that “punning is the lowest form of wit” I’ve been able to point out that the person had involuntarily chuckled (occasionally belly-laughed) prior to forcing out the groan. Only once did someone counter this observation with, ‘yeah, but even though it was funny, it was still lame’. What? It’s either funny or it’s not.

Either way, I have my standards – and they’re usually tested by shopfronts. The multitude of Thai restaurants in Newtown, for example, that include Thai Me Up and Thai Foon, border on the painful. Although I do like From Here To Maternity in Neutral Bay. I do remember hooning around in a car with members of Leonardo’s Bride in the early ’90s, when someone suggested ‘The Yeeros Living Dangerously’ as an EP title (after the Peter Weir film). It was only a matter of time before a kebab joint adopted it, but Magic Lunchbox had a release out by that name the following year (on the Troy Horse label).

At university, when focaccia was all the rage, some mates kicked similar ideas around. We came up with a cafe called Focaccia Later. Yeah, such an emporium of fine toasted foodstuffs did eventually open under that name. But nobody’s come up with a similarly themed eatery called How the Focaccia, have they? Or the Oxford Street Turkish take-away called ‘Gay Pide’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I was in Wagga Wagga in the week before Christmas — you can tell I’m just a visitor because I called it by its real name; locals shorten it to ‘Wagga’ — when I saw this travesty:


It’s crap because, in the first place, there’s no telling what the shop’s about. From Here To Maternity sells maternity wear. Focaccia Later and How The Focaccia would sell focaccia. Gay Pide would sell pide. What does a shop called Ruma....Has It sell? One can only suppose the owner is named Ruma. But what is it that Ruma has got?

Of course the name ‘Ruma’ is also a bit of a problem. On first sighting, it’s hard to tell how to pronounce the word – you need the context of the whole name and you have to be familiar with the phrase. In all, what Ruma has is a crap name. And the proof is the shopfront itself.


That’s right, gone bust.

What’s in a name? A shop by any other name might actually stay in business.


A blogger called Ben has undertaken a worthy sociological task to compile and maintain a repository of pun shopfronts, under the fitting title of ‘Tanks A Lot’. He accepts submissions; how could I withhold this little gem? He no doubt agrees: tanks a lot for ruma has it, Ben.

Who’s That Little Old Man?

“I rang up on the fourteenth of the fifth about Gerry and the Pacemakers…” the customer began.

He was a little old man in little shorts that were pulled way too high. His clean-shaven face had those errant patches of wiry grey strands that old-timers inadvertently sport – small clumps of whiskers that had somehow managed to elude the razor. His Buddy Holly thick-rimmed glasses had flip-top shades in the ‘up’ position.

“And we were holding it for you?” I enquired, slowly rising from the stool behind the counter as he nodded. “Was it a CD or a record?” I asked, about to make my way to the far end of the space behind the counter, to the milk crates on their side that constitute the ‘hold’ box. “CD,” he replied.

“What name was it being held under?” I asked, as I pulled out all the CD-sized bags from the milk crates. Although I didn’t catch his name, I realised that as it was now the thirteenth of the month, anything put away on the fourteenth was at least a month old; if he had phoned to ask us to put it away, there was little chance that it would still be in the ‘hold’ box. But I checked each bag just to make sure.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” I explained to him back at the counter. “Our policy is to only hold something for a day without deposit. We need a deposit to hold it for a month. When did you say you rang us to hold it?”

“The fourteenth of the fifth.”

This time I actually heard him. “Fourteenth of May?” I said, disbelief in my voice. It was now mid-November. But he was an old-timer after all; there was probably nobody to bring him into the city. “I’m so sorry, Sir, there’s no way we’d keep something on hold for six months even with a deposit. But let me check to see if it’s still in stock.”

Only the items deemed ‘collectible’, ‘fragile’ or still shrink-wrapped actually contain their discs – they are kept behind the counter or in locked cabinets. All the other CD and DVD covers on display are empty cases, their discs filed — alphabetically by artist — in a set of drawers behind the counter. And, luckily, there was a Gerry and the Pacemakers disc in the drawer – Ferry ’Cross the Mersey, a live collection of the band’s best-known songs with an additional smattering of unlikely covers, recorded and released in the 80s. Although it took a while, I located the case and, inserting the disc, popped it on the counter in front of the customer.

“Here you go,” I said. “‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’.”

“Yes,” he said, “that’s it. ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’.”

“Yes,” I said, with a contented smile. “‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’. That will be ten dollars, thanks.”

“Isn’t it free?” the man asked me.

“I’m afraid not,” I said, proffering a brief courtesy laugh. “It’s ten dollars.”

I stopped laughing when I realised he was serious.

“I thought it would be free,” he said.

I felt myself stand a little taller, heard my voice hardening ever-so-slightly. This is an early step in a process of behaviour I regularly display that is best described as ‘turning into Basil Fawlty’. Under pressure, in retail, I frequently find myself turning into one of those tense, coiled, John Cleese characters that, on the verge of emotional explosion, enunciate every syllable through clenched teeth.

“I’m sorry, Sir, this is a shop,” I began to explain in a patronising tone. “The way a shop works is that I give you stuff in exchange for money. This is known, from my point-of-view, as ‘selling’. From your point-of-view, it is ‘buying’. So I cannot give you stock for free. You have to give me money for it.”

“Okay,” he said, never losing his pleasant, genial, shorts-too-high, some-whiskers-missed old man demeanor as he handed over two five-dollar notes.

I shook my head after he left, but didn’t have any time to think about it because I had a few customers in need of attention.

However, before long, the old man was back.

“Look,” he said, “I got to the corner and decided I don’t want it unless it’s free.”

I paused for a moment, attempting to process this information. But it was no use. “I’m sorry?” I demanded.

“Well,” he said, “I thought about it, and realised that it hasn’t been quite six months yet; this should still be free.”

“Tomorrow will be the fourteenth of November,” I explained, “six months after the fourteenth of May. We are shut tomorrow. This is as close to six months being up as we can get. But it doesn’t matter. I still don’t understand – why should the disc be free?”

“You said that you don’t need money after a day, but after six months…”

I took a deep, emphatic breath that cut him off.

“What I said was, we hold things for customers for a day without a deposit, or a month with a deposit. If we hold it for a day without a deposit, then you have to come in and buy it, or leave a deposit; if you leave a deposit, then, within the month, you have to come in and buy it, otherwise it goes back on the shelf.”

“Oh well, I don’t want it unless it’s free.”

Another deep breath.

“This is a shop,” I began again, carefully. “We sell stuff. Why should I be giving this to you for nothing? Do you go to other shops and ask for things for nothing?”

“No,” he said.

“Then why are you coming here to ask for free stuff from me?” I was uncomfortable. I didn’t understand. I really wanted to, but I didn’t.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I just thought of it.”

“You just thought you might come in here and ask for something for free?”


It was no use. Comprehension and I were not within spitting distance of one another. “Did somebody put you up to this?” I demanded, just in case.

“No. I just don’t want the CD anymore. I’d like my money back.”

“But I don’t understand. Why? You just bought it. I just sold it to you. Why should it be free?”

“I just think it should.”

On the verge of losing it, I tried one more time.

“I still don’t understand,” I began, relatively calmly. “Shops have been in existence almost from the beginning of time, and they all work the same way: you want something, you exchange something of value for it, in this case, money. When do you get stuff from shops for free?”

“Sometimes things are free,” he reasoned, hitching his shorts up that extra half a centimetre or so for emphasis as he delivered what he must have imagined was the clincher. “Sometimes you might win something when you go to the club. Then it’s free.”

I didn’t know anything about any clubs, but I knew about give-aways on th radio, so I tried to run with that example.

“Okay, so, say you ring a radio station and win something from them, they have to send it out to you.”


“So why are you trying to get this CD for nothing from a shop?”

“Because I thought it would be free.”

Now we were going in circles. Ten dollars was not enough justification to embrace the insanity that was slowly creeping over me. I wondered who’d believe me when, some time in the future, I try to re-tell this story.

“I’d really just like my money back,” the old man said. “If it isn’t free, I just don’t want it.”

I’ve never been in this position before, but I’d been near enough to it to know that no matter how you try to rationalise what has happened, no matter how calmly and sensibly you attempt to reason, there is no way out, really. It’s much easier just to give in.

“You know what?” I said, “I’m gonna give you your money back, and then I want you to leave this shop and not come back. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes,” he said, all genial shorts-too-high old man again.

I took ten dollars out of the cash register. But before I handed it over I decided to have one more go.

“Okay. Let me try to understand. Six months ago you rang us and asked us to hold a ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’ CD for you.”


“You wanted it then?”


“But you don’t want it now.”


“Because we didn’t keep it on ‘hold’ for you.”

“That’s right.”

“Would you want it now if it was still on ‘hold’ for you?”



“Okay,” I said, taking the plastic bag with the compact disc in it over to the ‘hold’ box, and then sauntering back to the counter.

“Hello, Sir,” I said pleasantly, as though I’d only just caught sight of him. “I suppose you would like the ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’ CD we’ve had on hold for you for nearly six months.” Before he could trick me by saying “no”, I dashed to the ‘hold’ box for the disc, and handed it to him. “Here it is, that’ll be ten dollars thank you, you wanted it, now you have it. The transaction is over.” I put the money back into the cash register as he shook his head and walked out, a little older and somewhat less genial, his shorts still way too high.

I was reeling from the experience, and needed to tell someone about it in order to try to make sense of it, so I rang the boss. When I got to the “… and he thought it should be free,” part of the story, he said, “Why? Because it wasn’t delivered in thirty minutes?” He couldn’t make sense of it either.

Suddenly, a slightly younger, taller, bald man with a moustache underlining an aquiline nose — essentially the spitting image of Jerry’s Uncle Leo on Seinfeld — was standing at the counter with that damn Gerry and the Pacemakers CD.

“That old guy’s an idiot,” Uncle Leo announced, before I - goggle-eyed and open-mouthed - could say anything about the CD in his hand. I assumed he worked in one of the other music shops along the street and he was going to tell me that shorts-too-high old man had been performing his routine in there as well. I didn’t care. I’d gotten him to take the CD and give me money. The transaction was over.

“He certainly didn’t seem to understand the concept of ‘retail’,” I agreed, hoping Uncle Leo did. I didn’t want that bloody CD back.

“He won a competition for a free CD of his choice from the shop two doors down,” the man said, pulling a second, and, truth be told, better Gerry and the Pacemakers CD out of a bag.

Jesus H.M.A.S. Christ! Now it all made sense. The little old man had phoned six months ago about a Gerry and the Pacemakers CD that would be held for him to pick up for free, because you can win free stuff in competitions at clubs. He had won such a competition. It was just that MY SHOP WASN’T THE SHOP RUNNING A COMPETITION THROUGH THE CLUB!

All of this must have gone through my head in an instant, because my immediate reply consisted of the following sentence fragment:

“But I’ve just been…”

After a pause, I started to feel remorse. “I absolutely tortured…”

“Yeah, he’s an idiot,” Uncle Leo let me off the hook again.

“That’s as may be, but, knowing that he’s an idiot, shouldn’t you have come with him?” I demanded.

“I had to wait in the car,” he explained. “I was in a loading zone.”

“Oh, you bloody idiot...” I thought to myself, putting the CD on. “Life goes on day after day/Hearts torn in every way,” Gerry Marsden reminded me as I withdrew those ten dollars one last time from the cash register, defeated.


That shop I was in when visited by the little old man has subsequently closed. That fact that it was on a clear slide towards its ultimate end - too many 'ten-dollar shops' and eBay teaching everyone the cost of everything and the value of nothing - explains why I went to some length to become the sort of shop assistant who would impress Ronnie Barker’s ‘Arkwright’ character from Open All Hours.

However, imagine how much funnier the whole ‘theatre of the absurd’ incident would have been had we not had a Gerry and the Pacemakers CD in stock. Pants-too-high would have made me search the entire premises, ‘cheese shop sketch’-like, until I found something that he actually wanted… and then he would have wanted to have it for free!

What’s in a name?


Two days a week I work in a ‘High Fidelity’ kind of store, called Egg Records. Yesterday, while I’m tidying up the ‘soul’ section, I see, out of the corner of my eye, a little old man holding a Zappa album. It’s a copy of Absolutely Free, a first US pressing on the Verve label, and I'm pretty excited; we've got $50 (Australian) on it; that’s a nice one-off sale to make, and, more interestingly, although hardcore fans are willing to make such a purchase, such fans rarely happen to be little old men.

A little while later, the old man comes up to the counter holding a record in each hand. He brings the Zappa album forward and drawls, in an old man kind of drawl, “this one says ‘Absolutely Free’.”

“I'm sorry, Sir,” I reply, as straight-faced and polite as possible, “that is in fact the title of the album.” I point to the price tag, to show him as I tell him that it actually says ‘fifty dollars’.

So he hands the record to me. He doesn't want it at that price. He only wants it if it is absolutely free. 

“What about this one?” he drawls, proffering the record in his other hand. It turns out to be a Tom Waits album… the one called… (wait for it)… Small Change!


Before he can whip out some pocket shrapnel, I let him know that once again, ‘Small Change’ is the album title, so rather than forty-five cents, or thrupence, or whatever jangly combination happens to reside his coin pocket, the price, as stated on the price tag, is seventeen dollars.

I guess I’m just glad he hadn’t tried to purchase a copy of that live charity album that the Oxbridge mafia comedians like the Pythons, the Goodies, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett recorded for Amnesty International in the mid-70s. 

Its cover says ‘A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick)’!