Double Vision


A couple of months ago Lady Mantle was invited by Max for lunch.  This was the first time that one of my clients had visited another.  It got me to thinking.

When I lived in Bristol, before I saw the horti-light, I used to visit a hardware shop not far from where I worked.  It was a traditional, fork handles/four candles kind of place.  Packed from floor to ceiling were pots and pans and sandpaper and scissors and mothballs and other such treasure.  Quite why I was such a faithful fan I can’t remember, possibly I was going through my string phase or needed to bolster my collection of galvanised nails.   Behind the counter sat one of two youngish chaps, both with a similar demeanour of “don’t bother me unless you really have to and then don’t bother me”.  They were fine once you got to know them, but were definitely disciples of the “treat them mean and keep them keen” school of customer service.

One day I was in another part of town, in desperate need of some WD40 (we’ve all been there) and I remembered that there was another outlet of this same store close by.  Perfect, my penetrating oil and water-displacing spray deficiency sorted.  As I crossed the threshold I stopped in my tracks and looked about me in disbelief.  It was exactly, I mean exactly, a carbon copy of the other shop.  The same size, the same stock in the same position and behind the counter (which was identical) the same grumpy man who gave me the very same look of disdain.  Surreal.  I poked my head out the door, just to convince myself I was where I thought I was.  Yes.  Fearing the ridicule of Laughing Boy I continued as if this absolute attention to doubleganger detail was all perfectly natural, made my purchase and left slightly disturbed by the whole experience.

When her ladyship said she was visiting I fantasized about how wonderful it would be if, after lunch and small talk, she was invited to look around the garden and found a carbon copy of hers.  There would be no looks of disdain though.  Just laughter at such jolly ruse.  It wasn’t real life after all.

11 thoughts on “Double Vision

  1. What a lovely story. There used to be a wonderful ironmongery shop in York called Stubbs, in Fossgate. It closed around 2000 more than a little due to the competition from the big chains. The kind of place one could buy anything including BBN’s ( very large nails) or the even bigger FBN’s.


  2. We are about to lose the wonderful ironmongers in nearby Hadleigh, such a loss. These old fashioned shops where you can buy anything from a teapot to a lawnmower are treasure troves. And they all do look alike and they are manned by similar people which is strangely reassuring.


  3. Isn’t it tradition for merchants to be grumpy there?
    I found a hardware store right in downtown Hollywood (Los Angeles) that really was in the vast city, far from suburban or rural area, yet the stock was the same as in the local hardware stores here. There was nothing wrong with the stock, but it struck me as odd that some of the items seemed so out of place in that regions. They had nice splitting mauls and wedges; but I have never seen a woodpile in Hollywood. Very few fireplaces survive the earthquakes, and those that do never get used. Palm trees do not make firewood.


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