Needs and Desires

All sorts of one-time essential items become surplus to the requirements of the unwaged. Even more so if one has developed a disability. However, no longer having a use for something doesn’t necessarily remove any craving to possess it.

One raw, dreich afternoon last week, I had a prod around the sales racks in our local shoe shop. And there they were! Scarlet, with gold spangles on the string-like straps and dancing merrily along the four inch heels. I twisted one shoe in my hand, allowing the gold to glitter but, before I could execute the logistics of removing wet, walking boots and thick socks, the manageress had appeared. We’ve been friends since school; in Zoology, she was the quivering heap at the back of the lab, gibbering because I’d done something politically incorrect to her with a freshly dissected piece of pickled dogfish. Not one to bear a grudge, whenever Mr. Dog and I frequent her shop, we have a chat, usually comparing the foibles of dogs and husbands.

“Naw! I’m no selling thae tae you. They wudnae be safe. And onywey, they’re too big, they’re a five.”

Marvelling how one person could memorise the shoe sizes for the whole town and its environs, I replaced the shoe. She was quite right; I couldn’t have worn them. No Jimmy choos or Manilo Blahniks for me. Frumpy flatties and douce pumps only. And no, musing over how much money this saves me is not adequate compensation!

Yes, over the years, I’ve carted many a bulging bag down to the charity shops, as I’ve adjusted wardrobe and lifestyle to changed circumstances. Skirts, frocks, anything top heavy or fragile. I may lust after a sharply tailored suit from Jaeger, or a strappy little something from Versace, Classy and eye-catching but not exactly practical for yomping along the sodden streets of a Scottish market town in winter.

However, the walls of this house remain covered by pictures. In fact, just like Elton, I’m running out of wall. Squarish blobs annoy my vision less than busy wallpaper. Why shouldn’t I have decor similar to that of any other home? There are plenty of others to appreciate it. And because they were so integral to my life, I’ve kept many of my books; although most of my childhood library is scattered around the weans of friends and relatives, small people completing the digestion of the well chewed Ruperts. A project for these dreich days of winter is to select cookery books which my nieces will appreciate. Reference works, however, are definitely for keeps. Yes, I know all about Wickipaedia, but I doubt if it contains much about 19th century smuggling in the Machars, and the quickest way to check a line of poetry is request the assistance from a pair of eyes; a real person, once caught, is still better at suggesting variations on a half remembered line than Google.

So here we are. Wardrobe sorted. Library likewise. Even a few quid in profit from Ebay. Apart from a pristine pair of walking boots which are a tad too big and a posh trouser suit whose floaty sleeves distract both me and Mr. Dog. The pinnacle of red oot perfection attained! Until my Husband tidied the desk and found it. A relic from that previous life. My Lochgelly belt. The media always referred to these peculiarly Scottish objects, one-time stalwarts of our educational system, as the tawse but in Galloway, the term was always “the belt”.

What to do with it? My brother displayed one on his bedroom wall; a hunting trophy, nicked from the Heidie’s study. At least, its acquisition hadn’t endangered any species; except, possibly, himself. Put it in the bin? What would the bin men think? Add it to the compost? It would be a long, long time before the well tanned strip of leather mouldered away. A friend told me someone else, well it would be, wouldn’t it, had sold theirs on Ebay. To an American.

And therein lies the dilemma. School belts are on sale on Ebay, because other people are buying them. Why? There can only be a finite number of folk museums and, in the decades since corporal punishment was outlawed, I’m sure all those which wanted to recreate an authentic Scottish schoolroom will have done so. Who, then, is buying the things? And for what purpose? If I sell mine; low mileage, one careful, lady owner, what exactly would I, albeit remotely, be encouraging? I mean, this could involve forty odd quid!

This dilemma isn’t giving me sleepless nights but it is a niggle. Why else would I be writing this? Such a thick, well cured strip of leather could amuse Mr. Dog as a chewy for, oh, at least five minutes. Surely, if it’s to provide some fun, it might as well be for such a Noble Beast rather than some bored politician. Alternatively, I could go ahead and sell it. If nothing else, the process might engender some interesting e-mails! But, what to do with any resulting dosh? Simple! Donate it to charity. Conscience salved and a good cause helped.

There is, however, another option. Keep it. After all, in education, as in fashion, everything eventually returns; trailing new jargon and packaged in revised raisons d’etre. Then, a classic Lochgelly really will be worth its weight!

© Charlotte Bennie 2009