Thursday, 23 October 2014

Things I didn't know at eighteen: part two

The sketch I almost, but didn't quite, write for the student revue when I was eighteen (because at the time I was blissfully ignorant of the subject matter) continues. Our leading lass, Yours Truly, has opened a Bank (part one lurks here)...

The Perks
Yours Truly: Well that was a busy day yesterday! I think I’ll do a spot of tidying up. (starts putting the pirate's pieces of eight into the drawers of the old desk, drops a few, while this is happening a fastened bundle of notes is thrown in and hits Y.T.)

Y.T.: Ooh! My first repayment has arrived! (picks up bundle, flicks through it and puts it next to the remaining pieces of eight. Carries on tidying but is a bit distracted as the other 2 bundles fly in and either hit her or scatter coins on the floor. Y.T. Places the three bundles carefully in a row along the front of the desk, having still not completely tidied away all the pieces of eight, beside which Jim’s bag of notes is still visible)

Y.T.: (flops down in old chair) You know, for all this hard work I think I deserve some perks! I know (picks up the three bundles) I shall hire in some personal services. Let’s see, I need...a Chauffeur

(gentleman in smart grey chauffeur’s uniform walks crisply in, touches peak of cap)

...a Masseur

(Chippendale-type gentleman walks in, striking a few poses on the way, stands next to chauffeur. Y.T. stands in front of him, he massages her shoulders then gooses her)

Y.T.: Oooh!!
...and a Flâneur!

(raffish Oscar-Wilde-type gent saunters in)

Voice off: Wot’s a Flâneur?

Y.T.: He’s a gentleman who strolls around the city admiring the scenery. Think of it as our Bank’s contribution to The Arts: every bank should have one!

Flâneur: (handing Y.T. a slim and sophisticated-looking envelope) My thoughts on Nelson, ma’am.

Y.T.: Oh thank you very much. (hands each gent a bundle of notes: the Chauffeur tucks his smartly into an inner breast pocket, the Masseur tucks his suggestively down the front of his tight shorts, the Flâneur puts his in the pocket where the envelope was, and discreetly takes out and swigs from a hip-flask after Y.T. has turned to the audience again: Y.T. puts the Flâneur’s envelope down on the old desk)

Y.T.: (waving absently in their direction) carry on!
(the three gentlemen file off

Y.T. sits in swivel chair, facing the computer, and looks smug, as if contemplating going for a pedicure. After a few moments Jim comes in unseen at the front.
Jim: Shop!

Y.T.: Oh, good afternoon

Jim: I’d like to withdraw my ten thousand pounds, please.

Y.T.: Certainly, sir. (Crisply and professionally, although she knows the implications could be devastating, Y.T. takes the money from the original bag and counts it out) Ten thousand pounds.

Jim: Thank you. Good afternoon! (exits)

Y.T.: Oh dear. No reserves. (the lights start to dim, and continue to do so through the following) Still (brightly, trying to convince herself) the Auditor isn’t going to turn up twice in the same month now, is he? That’d be too much like hard work! And, in the meantime, I’m doing the new 1980s in thing, I’m taking risks! I’m one of the big boys now. And anyway, he was perfectly happy with me last time he came ‘round (she shuts up shop for the day by pulling down the blind). Oh doesn’t it get dark early these days? It’ll be even worse when the clocks...go...err...

(Ominous music, Chopin’s Funeral March or similar, starts quietly, more dry ice, the Auditor is dimly visible to one side at the back and is coming towards Y.T. throughout the following)

Y.T.: (looks at accounts book with an expression of utter dread) October always was a bad month for Banking wasn’t it? What am I going to do? I can’t use the Pirate’s pieces-of-eight ‘cause that’s Offshore Business and we’re not allowed to do that until at least 1986. And I haven’t even got any porn left: they haven’t published “Fifty Shades” yet...I could write extra numbers in the Book, but I don’t know how to do that on the computer without making it look too obvious. I wish I’d taken my Dad’s advice and stuck to Physics. Now I might go to Prison...

or, I might even have to go back to Lancashire (gropes around desk without really looking, comes across the Flâneur’s envelope)

Y.T.: Oooh Nelson! I wonder what he would have done in a predicament like this? (she opens the envelope, takes out sheet of paper and reads) “Nelson, is a small town in...” (buries face in hands and starts crying)

Auditor (standing straight in front of desk, his face still unseen): what’s this? (points white, bony finger at book) No reserves?

Y.T.: (puts hands right over top of head, mumbles) meep...

Auditor: you know what we’re going to have to do, don’t you?

Y.T.: (softly) I’ idea...

Auditor (putting case on desk): the Bank of England has a special procedure for cases like this (opens case). It’s called (reaches into case)...
(pulls out fistful of notes and scatters them all over Y.T. and the bank) QUANTITATIVE EASING!!

Y.T. (feels paper landing on hands. She lifts her hands away and looks up, like one of those people in religious paintings, who have just witnessed a miracle. She sweeps some notes off her head and uses them to dry her eyes)

Auditor (suddenly friendly): You didn’t think we’d leave you without any reserves do you? You’re one of us now, you’re a banker! You’re the Fountainhead! If we went around shutting down banks like yours just on account of a few (dismissively) inconvenient numbers, the whole country would grind to a halt because nobody would have any money! (Looks at pieces of eight) And you’re even getting into Offshore! Good lass! Here, have some more! (scatters more notes) you may not be allowed to print it, but we can!

Y.T.: (suddenly worried again) But, the people who work for me, will they be alright? I may be a banker, but I do have a conscience...I used to be a Physicist. And, I haven’t always lived in the South-East..

Auditor: Oh of course! You need the best people and we wouldn’t dream of getting in the way of your rewarding them however you see fit.
(The Auditor glides off, scattering more money as he goes. The three gents come back on, plus the pirate and Jim if we haven’t had to double-up on actors)

They all dance off in a chorus-line-type routine to the sound of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

But in this sketch, as in real life, the identity and allegiance of the Auditor remain a mystery...

Things I didn't know at eighteen (part one)

Most people can think of something they wish they'd known at 18. But just a few of us can think of things about which, looking back, we're glad we really didn't have a clue at the time. In my case, having just left Lancashire for the sunny south coast (and accidentally taking the accent with me) that Thing was Money, or more accurately, where the stuff comes from. Armed with this one simple but devastating piece of knowledge, I'm pretty sure I would never have bothered to go out and look for a job. 

But, I used to write comedy stuff for the student radio. Back then in the early 80s Comediennes were pretty thin on the ground, but there were Pamela Stevenson and Dawn French for inspiration. Think of the sketches I could have written if we'd had an annual Revue! I might even have decided to star in one...

(Stage set: bare except for one door at back of "room", its reinforced frosted window covered with a dark blue roller blind. Scenery and wings dark. Stark, cold lighting.

The Plan
Yours truly walks briskly on, dressed in the one smart skirt and white blouse I owned at the time, smart tights and shoes, which I'd probably had to borrow, carrying 1980s-type attaché case, which I'd definitely have had to borrow. Walks up to mic on stand at front

Y.T.: Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, aliens and aardvarks! This evening's show is all about Money, and how to make it. Lots of it. Fast! In my attaché case I have a Plan, and that Plan is for precisely that: making money! First, I need a Bank....

(2 stage hands walk on carrying a desk which they place at the front, so that one would sit at it facing the audience, Y.T. talks over this...)

Y.T.: “Bank” just really means a Bench (thank you) where people would come to either get their money stored safely, or exchanged for a different type of money. There were all sorts of “money” in the old days: Florins for buying crafts, Guineas for buying horses, Pistoles for buying land, these kept changing all the time. You’d often have to change your money.

The Punters
Swift fade-down and up, with a bit of Mediaeval-sounding music. Yours Truly, in a rather raffish Mediaeval hat and having undone her blouse a bit, is sitting on an old wooden chair behind the desk, getting out and counting chocolate coins from little gold bags. There is a standing notice on the desk, with incomprehensible lists of numbers on

(A Pirate carrying a sack of loot swaggers in along the front to the desk)
Pirate: Morrrrnin’ my fine young wench! I’ve some pieces-of-eight that I need changin’ fer Florins, ter buy a pretty dress_

Y.T.: Oooo! Suits you sir!

Pirate: ...fer me fine young lass!

Y.T.: (winks knowingly) Of course. (indicates board) these are our rates and commission, so...(swiftly sweeps coins, one-by-one, from one side of desk to the other) that’s eight-hundred and fifty thousand, four hundred and twenty-six Pieces of Eight, which at an exchange rate (looks at board) hmm...and taking away commission that leaves (counts out 5 gold coins) Four point four-five florins and fifty-four farthings!

(Pirate looks at coins, aghast) 

Y.T.: Fluctuations in the currency rates, sir...

Pirate: (picks up 5 pieces, walks off grumbling) Fluct-you-young lady in the Foc’stle more like

Y.T.: Bankers have always been popular people! (tosses aside mediaeval hat, takes notice off desk and puts it underneath out of sight, does up blouse to look 1980s again)

Y.T.:  But what this plan needs is a modern bank, with a swivel chair (calls to wings) Set-‘em up, Joe!..

(swivel chair wooshes in from wing to Y.T., who may or may not catch may or may not fall over)...

Y.T.: ...and a big desk with a com-pew-tah!

(two stage hands carry in desk with a cardboard model of an Amstrad computer, plus an 80s-style desk-tidy with marker pens in. They place it perpendicular to the other desk with the seat facing away, as if the two desks were facing the walls of the same room, but taking care that the audience are still able to see the “screen”, which is actually just a paper flip-chart. Real computers cost a bomb in those days)

Y.T. Oooo look at that (strokes computer)...state-of the art, millennium-bug-proof, British-made computer (sits in swivel chair and types a bit, turns to audience, pulls face) Computer-says-Noo. But, notice please, we do not have a prin-tah. Oh no. We’re not allowed to just set up shop printing money. Too obvious, guys. (walks to door and pulls up roller-blind, behind which, on the frosted glass, is simply written:



(underneath which a car tax disc is stuck to the glass)

Y.T.: The Bank of Yours Truly is Open For Business! Oooh I think I’m going to just sit here at my com-pew-tah and type in some nice big numbers, like (writes on “screen”), Three hundred and thirty-three thousand and three hundred and thirty-three pounds, thirty-three and a third pence...
(while she is doing this, Jim, a chap in a well-worn suit and carrying a battered case walks in towards the first desk and waits, looking increasingly impatient)
Jim: SHOPP!!

Y.T.: Oooh my first punter! (walks over) Good morning sir, and what can we do for you?

Jim: Just sold my beau-ti-ful mo-tah, and would like to deposit the ten thousand pounds in your bank if I may. Is there a high rate of interest?

Y.T.: Oh yes, everybody’s interested in your money these days. (counts notes) I’ll just get you a form to fill in (produces 2 slips of paper, they each start writing on one. Y.T. switches slips and hands one to Jim) Right(reads from slip) Jim, that’s your receipt, your money’s safe, and we pay five percent interest (Jim takes slip and starts to walk off) and (when Jim’s out of earshot) I get to play with your money...(picks up money sensually) ooh, d’you think if I stroke it, it’ll get bigger?..(slaps self on wrist, sternly) That’s quite enough of this smut!

(addressing Audience) Can we have a volunteer from the audience please? Who would like to help me play with the nice gentleman’s money? (chooses volunteer)

Y.T.: Come on down... what’s your name? But wait! This is the early Eighties! There weren’t money-laundering checks in those days, were there? So if you’re too embarrassed to give away your real name in this show, we can offer you a nom-de-guerre, or if you’re a Pacifist, even a nom-de-pluuuume! (if our volunteer hesitates)... Ladies and gentlemen, a big hand for Nebuchadnezzar!

Y.T.: Now, all I’d like you to do, is to just answer a few easy questions, OK? And, to make it even easier, I’ve got the answers right here on these Cheat Cards that I’m going to hold up for you. Ready?

The Cheat Cards read, in this order:

“£333,333.33 1/3”
“I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous, and even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you!”

Y.T.: OK, first question: Have you come to the Bank of Yours Truly seeking a mortgage?”
(guest reads answer)

Y.T.: Great! And how much would you like to borrow?
(guest reads answer)

Y.T.: You can just say “a third of a million pounds if that’s easier..oooh doesn’t that sound nice? Next question: has the property you wish to buy ever, to your knowledge, flooded?
(guest reads answer)

Y.T.: Does the ground underneath the property you wish to buy look, or indeed feel, at all iffy?
(guest reads answer)

Y.T.: And finally, is anyone considering getting a great big drill, drilling down a few miles away from the property you wish to buy, then turning sideways and drilling underneath it without telling you, cracking up the ground and shoving substances of a confidential nature into the cracks with a view to, erm, getting some oil or gas out?
(guest reads long, final answer)

Y.T.: Marvellous! (reads from back of last card)
“The Bank of Yours Truly is delighted to extend you the offer of mortgage on the property known as Blenheim Palace”
(well you could buy a LOT of house for a third of a million in the early 80s).
 “Terms and conditions apply” 
they’re written on the back of the card here (hands guest A3-size cardboard cut-out of Blenheim Palace). Stay with us for a minute please, because you can’t be in the 1980s property boom all alone can you?

Now can we have two more volunteers who’d like to join in the Great 1980s Property Boom? (chooses volunteers) (names to offer if they are shy: Kublai Khan, Nell Gwyn, Cleopatra, Montezuma, etc)
Y.T.: well as it’s getting a bit busy at the Bank these days, I’ll run through your questions together to save time if you don’t mind.

(Y.T. and the two guests go through the same routine again, but for the final question)

Y.T.: (final question to guest 2) Is it even legal to buy this type of property?
(guest reads long, final answer)

Y.T.: Excellent! (reads from back of last card)
“The Bank of Yours Truly is delighted to extend you the offer of mortgage on the property known as Victoria Railway Station. Terms and conditions apply” 
(hands guest A3-size cardboard cut-out of Victoria Station).

Y.T.: (final question to guest 3) Is the country in which the property is situated, on the point of making a Unilateral Declaration of Independence?
(guest reads long, final answer)
Y.T.: Grand! (reads from back of last card)
“The Bank of Yours Truly is delighted to extend you the offer of mortgage on the property known as Balmoral Castle. Terms and conditions apply” 
(hands guest A3-size cardboard cut-out of Balmoral).

Y.T.: Thank you all very much, enthusiastic property buyers! And, because the show’s all about money...(hand them each a gold bag of chocolate coins)
Ladiesandgennlemen, giveitupforrr, (names as appropriate, e.g.) Nebuchadnezzar, Queen Nefertiti and Nestor the Profit! (guests resume their seats in audience)

Y.T. (goes to computer) Oooh I can type in some more big numbers on my com-pew-tah now, like, another Three hundred and thirty-three thousand and three hundred and thirty-three pounds, thirty-three and a third pence (writes on “screen”), and another Three hundred and thirty-three thousand and three hundred and thirty-three pounds, thirty-three and a third pence, making a total of, a Million Pounds (rubs hands with glee) look at that! And, I’ve got the ten thousand pounds that I can play with, and my trusty Licence (takes tax-disc from door and looks at the reverse side)

My “Licence to Bank” entitles me to write, using a com-pew-tah, as much money as I like on the screen. And, as soon as I press “send”, it sends that precise amount of money to other people’s bank accounts! Just like that!! It’s not real money, of course, and the people at the other end have to spend it onwards, but that’s exactly what they want to do isn’t it? Now they can buy all those lovely properties. But, you might think, what’s the point of being able to create money only if you have to send it all away somewhere instead of printing it like any other criminal? _erm, I mean, entrepreneur?

Well, the Bank of Yours Truly isn’t a charitable organisation: that money is a loan not a present! Every month, our three happy customers, and all the other people with a mortgage here, will have to work for and pay me about one one-hundreth of the value of the loan they took out. So after about 8 years I get all the money back. But the genius bit is that the repayments carry on for a quarter of a century! That’s, more time than I have even been alive! But what if they can't pay me, you may ask? Simple! I get to keep Blenheim Palace, Victoria Station or Balmoral!

And to think, all I have to do to maintain this happy state of affairs is stick to the conditions in my Licence (flourishes tax disc) which says, near the bottom here in between “20: do not walk on the cracks in the pavement” and “22: under no circumstances use the Cruciatus curse”, whatever that is, “21: always keep one percent in your reserves”. Which I have, haven’t I, because Jim has been kind enough to trust me with his ten grand, which I can play with. And every now and again an Auditor comes along to check it all. I’d better write it up in my Books, just to make sure.

The Auditor
Y.T. moves across to old desk, takes out large book and starts to write. Lights dim. Suspenseful, scary music (the jittery violins from Mussorgsky’s “Night on a Bare Mountain” would be ideal). Dry ice, if the Physics department can spare any. The Auditor, robed entirely in black including a heavy cowl, glides silently in. You don’t see his face during the entire subsequent encounter because he is facing Y.T. across the front desk.
Auditor: (menacingly, not quite distinctly, but in South Lancs accent) Show me your Books

Y.T. Looks up startled and then starts nervously to undo the top buttons of her blouse.

Auditor: no lass, books!

Y.T.: (does up blouse, regains most of her composure) Oh, yes of course! We’ve got (leans under desk to get each one out “Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying”, “Alice in Wonderland” and (the last one is wrapped in a plain brown paper bag) “Emmanuelle”. Oh, and (indicating account book with a knowing wink, completely regaining composure) a big book about money.

Auditor: (looking through accounts book) Excellent. The one percent reserves are there. All in order. (not menacing any more) As you were.

Auditor exits, quietly taking “Emmanuelle” in the brown paper bag with him.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bicycles: the dénouement

It need hardly be repeated that, on the weekend of 5th-6th July, the Tour de France temporarily became the Tour de Yorkshire (including such linguistic delights as "le Cote du Jenkin").

It all made for a great weekend. Day 1: accidental choice, in deepest Wensleydale, of one of the best vantage-points ever (because it happened to lie just after a watering-point, so we got to keep team logo water-bottles as souvenirs). Day 2, riding four miles along the river path to catch the Peloton as they leave town and start the race proper, serenaded by (among other things) the strains of "Riders on the Storm" (it had been raining heavily earlier on) from a local resident's garden, then our delightful glide afterwards along completely car-free roads all the way home.

But I could never quite stop myself from looking twice at each yellow-painted bicycle that the Great Yorkshire Public had put up all along the route just to check: was it my missing bike?..

It was some consolation to read the following week in the local paper that an aid charity had offered to take all the yellow bikes, recondition them, and ferry them to villages in Africa. There they would enable people to launch small businesses, go on health visits, or otherwise improve quality of life at a tiny cost.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cool Space

A dilemma occurs over lunch: the weather is hot enough that any butter left in the butter-dish on the kitchen counter turns, in short order, into unpalatable goo. And yet, if we were to put the same butter in the fridge, it would be too rock-solid to make ham-and-raspberry sandwiches*. 

I found myself wishing we had a Beurrier-a-l'eau,one of those useful little devices that no self-respecting French kitchen would be seen without. And this got me thinking about France. 

Americans like to sneer that the French have yet to discover the delights of air conditioning. But have you ever noticed, on a hot day, how cool it is inside, for example, Chartres Cathedral? Heat energy soaks into the walls. When it gets there, instead of heating them up, it goes to work on evaporating years'-worth of accumulated dampness from them.

An air conditioning unit uses the same idea, but with an ugly twist. Instead of leaving the dampness floating around in the open air, only condensing once it has found a place (or a time, like 4:00 a.m.) cool enough to do so, the unit expends a lot of energy compressing the vapour it creates, so as to retrieve and re-use the liquid. The compression process produces heat, which is then dumped unceremoniously on to passers-by of the car or other space in which our transatlantic punter wishes to remain, well, cool.

In other words, the thick walls of Chartres Cathedral, and the entire French fleet of beurriers-a-l'eau, are quietly doing their job in a much more considerate and public-spirited way than typical air conditioning. As befits French dirigisme rather than American laissez-faire, in fact. They also give much less of a shock to a body as one moves from one space into another. 

After all this existential musing, I now recall that there is a
beurrier-a-l'eau lurking in a high-up cupboard here at Space: it was bought as a souvenir in, where else, France.

Looks as if it's time for lunch...

*At 32oC it is a touch too hot for Wensleydale-and-honey

Monday, 9 June 2014

Schrodinger's Bicycles

Wedged between the frame and brake cable of the bicycle that wasn't mine was my original note, now very faded after all the rain. Without thinking, I pulled it out and stuffed it in my coat pocket.

There were two reasons I could not bring myself to lay instant claim to the bicycle that wasn't mine: firstly, shifting it would require quite some physical force and I was on my way to a concert, and thus dressed in clothes which I wished to preserve free of rips, mud smears and oil stains; and secondly (and rather obviously) it wasn't my bicycle. I found the nearest person with a phone (to protect other people from the consequences of my absent-mindedness, I don't take phones to concerts) and called Rozzer Central once again. Having taken the details, they assured me they would deal with it.

Then, nothing happened. When nothing had continued to happen for two more days, I emailed Rozzer Central to enquire if they had at least re-united the bike with its owner. Their reply came as a bit of a shock.

It transpires that, at least here in Viking city (which, I might add, has somehow awarded itself the strapline "cycle-friendly"), the Police don't recover stray bicycles: that job is delegated to the Council. And the Council, in their turn, don't treat bicycles as objects of value, but as items of fly-tipping, to be got rid of pronto.

Which leaves me in the horrible position of not knowing whether my bike, or indeed the one that wasn't mine, are still in existence at all: they may by now have been melted down as scrap (probably in Sheffield).

The theory of continuity of bicycles may therefore have to be abandonned. The saddest thing of all is that, as I smoothed out the note to take a photograph for this blog, I noticed an addition in neat, pale pencil along one edge:

"This bike just arrived on my doorstep _ please keep!"

Friday, 30 May 2014

Probability Cloud

So I finished a turn of heavy digging at the Plot one Wednesday morning earlier this month. Tired, aching and frankly filthy, I staggered out of the gate. And there, where my trusty bike usually waits for me so that I can get home quickly and have a wash before lunch, was just an empty space!

I had to admit, on reporting the sorry tale to Rozzer Central, that I had never bothered to lock my bike. Nobody else does at the Plots, and my machine is plenty the worse for wear, unfashionable, and old enough to vote. It also happened to be covered in mud after a recent minor prang. Plus, it's so unusual that random people have recognised me just by seeing it in town.

An impromptu gathering of fellow Plotters decided that whoever took it was just having a laugh and would soon get bored and abandon it somewhere. Someone had the idea of putting up a notice simply saying that I missed it and it would be nice to see it back. I even found a picture of it, and put it up with my plea.

I happen to believe in the Theory of Continuity of Bicycles, which posits that the said machines don't, as a rule, simply vanish into thin air or change into, for example, lampshades or iguanas. And a bike like mine would not have been "stolen to order" and whisked off to Leeds, Manchester or the Continent. So for the next few days I went walkabout. Just, anywhere I could think of where a bike might be abandonned. The river path, the park, round the edges of playing fields, the local car-boot sale.

It was only after this last that the thought occurred to me: a bike has a "probability cloud" of all the places it's likely to be found. Without realising it, I'd been gravitating to the places where my bike's cloud had been at its densest before it went missing. I'd missed out a whole semicircle of town, including the University, the nature reserve and the winemakers' kit shop. It was a long walk, but I was on to something. People I met on the hidden footpaths said things like "you often find bikes just left here, sometimes quite nice ones..."

Then it rained so much that I didn't go back to the Plot for over a week. And even that was only because I happened to notice the words "cycling music" on a flyer in the health food shop, and that it was happening just down the road, that very evening! So off I went. On the house's spare bike. And as I passed the Plot what should I spy embedded in the fence but...a bicycle? Which, to complicate matters further, wasn't mine?...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A crisis in Space

Lately, backstage at the Erudite Space has turned into something of an obstacle course. Our crates of donations perch even higher and more precariously than usual, with bags more sitting in corners, under desks and even lurking in the dumb waiter. And still donated wares come. I start recalling the pictures in Dr Seuss books. No matter how rapidly we sort them, label them, sneak a quick peak at some of them (yes we've all been tempted...well, mostly me, actually), and then put them out on display...and indeed, no matter how enthusiastically our punters buy them, the piles still grow and the room for manoevre becomes ever more thin, divided and frankly triangular.

And then the lad who brings donations from the city's various drop-off points turns up with an entire carload of books. As I help unload, I notice what interesting tomes they are, and in what excellent condition compared with the usual fare from that quarter. It transpires they come, not from the drop-off points, but from a Canadian family, who are quitting Blighty and returning to the Great White Space.

"I can't blame them, with the weather we've been having..." and therein lies, apparently, the cause of the Erudite Space's predicament. Our sister shop on the coast, who usually take our surplus if we think it'll appeal to the Holiday Reader, are presently flooded out. There is no alternative route for excess donations that will still sell, and so here they all sit with us, patiently waiting 'til the coast is clear.