Ding dong bell ­ Here

Costa Levante News - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Ash­ley, writer and broad­caster

Door to door sell­ing has be­come a long for­got­ten oc­cu­pa­tion. Not many of the breed around these days. In our neigh­bour­hood, we only get Je­ho­vah Wit­nesses and con artists try­ing it on. The for­mer is get­ting as rare as an in­ge­nious politi­cian, which could be down to the fre­quent blood sac­ri­fices on our ur­ban­i­sa­tion scar­ing the starch out of them. The lat­ter, ask­ing to bor­row €50 to pay a lock­smith to get in­side his house be­cause he's lost his keys, is best greeted with a sharply raised knee.

Years back there was a con­stant stream of hawk­ers and hus­tlers trekking up the path. The Man from the Pru – The Bet­ter­ware Man – Rag & Bone Man – bike rid­ing onion­sell­ing French­men. As­tute faith­ful reader, you will have sussed the theme. With the ex­cep­tion of the Avon Lady, it was then a chap’s pre­rog­a­tive.

Ex­cuse me while I di­gress for a mo­ment. In pre­vi­ous ram­bles, I've men­tioned be­ing glued to Fab 208 – The Sta­tion Of The Stars. The English ser­vice on Ra­dio Lux­em­bourg came on at night. I'd pull the blan­ket over my head and set­tle down with my tranny. Oh, stop it. This was long be­fore Grayson Perry.

I en­tered a com­pe­ti­tion with high ex­pec­ta­tions. The prize was a Singer sew­ing ma­chine, some­thing Mum re­ally wanted to re­pair my ratty school blazer. Mind you, it could have been a be­spoke Sav­ile Row job; it would still look ratty on me. Even to­day, if I wear any­thing that is ex­pen­sive, it looks stolen.

Weeks later came a rat­a­tat on the door – this was nor­mally the cue to hide be­hind the set­tee un­til the bailiffs bogged off. Not this time, it was a spivy look­ing chap with a pen­cil thin mous­tache wear­ing a cheap suit, a trilby and string back gloves. He was a Singer rep, “I'm very pleased to say Mas­ter Ash­ley has come sec­ond in our 208 com­pe­ti­tion.” Mum in a rather tetchy man­ner snapped, “So what's he won for be­ing first of the losers?” “A £1 off voucher when you pur­chase a new ma­chine from Singer which I just hap­pen to have in my Sun­beam Tal­bot parked out­side.” You never re­ally ex­pect your mum to know a rather more in­dus­trial al­ter­na­tive to ‘Shove Off ’ ­ won­der how many other run­ners­up there were?

In fair­ness to Flash Harry the Singer Spiv, many years later I did some door to door sell­ing and it can be soul de­stroy­ing. The first job was in Syd­ney for a well­known pub­lisher of en­cy­clopae­dias. Now, if your ter­ri­tory is the posh end of the city, you might do all right be­cause the la­di­da house­hold­ers want to im­press.

If, how­ever, like me you got the rough end of town, which hasn't been gen­tri­fied but still You've read Chris' writ­ing ram­bles ­ now lis­ten to his ra­dio ram­bles Mon­day­Fri­day, 9­12 on www.br2fm.com ­ great tunes from the 50s ­ 80s.

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