Last weekend I opened up my Mac and up popped a window decreeing: ‘Groundhog Day’. No shit, I thought ruefully, sure isn’t that every day? This month has been long and dark, and the logistics of working full-time, imposing some sense of order on my house and acting as PA and Chief Entertainment Officer to my offspring, is proving hard to manage. Balls are being dropped all over the show. Friends have been neglected, appointments missed, and many are the chores left unfinished.
I was in puerile form altogether last week and thought that urgent action was required. I needed a pleasant Friday evening to obliterate all thoughts of Brexit, embrace frivolity and make room for joy. Isn’t that a brilliant phrase? It could be the title for my memoir: ‘How a Sour Wee Bastard Made Room for Joy.’ I don’t think it would exactly fly off the shelves though, as folk may find the juxtaposition too hard to fathom and assume I was either a sanctimonious twat, or a more rotund and decidedly less effectual Marie Kondo.
Back to Friday night. I did some yoga (which was very joyful) and then met my friend Arlene for a tipple and a Chinese meal. In we trotted to The Northern Lights first where we met a large shaggy haired lurcher. ‘This is what I LOVE about this lace,’ I gushed. ‘You get to drink some wine AND stroke a lovely dog.’
‘You and I are VERY different,’ said my friend, who doesn’t share my enthusiasm regarding the animals, either in or out of a drinking establishment.
We caught up over a Sauvignon Blanc before making our way down towards Macau by the bridge. But en route, as we passed the Concern Charity Shop, what should I spy but something that looked suspiciously like a bed pan, set prominently in the window. We had been walking at quite an accelerated pace since I heard that Macau did wonderful deep fried aubergine and I was keen to get stuck in. ‘Hang on there,’ I said to Arlene. ‘I need to get another look. Perhaps my eyes have deceived me.’
My eyes, however, had not. It was indeed a bed pan, although labelled (incorrectly I think), as a ‘Ceramic Vintage Douche’, selling for the princely sum of £10. ‘Who?’ I stuttered. ‘Why?’
‘You need to find out,’ said Arlene, ‘I need to know the rationale behind this decision.’
‘What sort of a person,’ I mused, ‘starts into their January clear-out, finds a bed pan, and thinks, “I’ll just drop this down to the charity shop.’’
‘What next?’ said Arlene. ‘A vibrator? ‘Just one previous careful owner?’’
How we chuckled.
That made me think of my first car, a lovely Nissan Micra, red in hue and dinky, like a motorised ladybird. It had ‘one careful lady owner,’ who only ever drove it between Bangor and Donaghadee. It was pristine when I got it and remained that way for all of 10 minutes until I rammed it into my parent’s back gate and later into a bottle bank at the old Co-op on the Lisburn Road. ‘Oh, I am vexed,’ The Mothership, used to say, upon seeing the latest dent. We called it ‘The Sour Car’, for obvious reasons.
We were still talking about the bed pan as we tucked into our pork dumplings. ‘It’s quite a personal item, though isn’t it, to give in to a charity shop?’ said my pal.
I nodded vigorously. ‘I can’t imagine saying, as I ‘Marie Kondo’d my house: ‘here’s a dress I’ll never squeeze into again; a Denby cup and saucer and oh, that bed pan I have kicking about under the bed.’
‘Some weirdo might buy it though for other uses,’ she said.
‘Like what?’ I said, hastily swallowing down a mouthful of wine lest I choke.
‘Did you not read about that post which almost brought down Mumsnet?’
I shook my head, oblivious to this altogether.
‘You know, the husband who had a post-coital clean-up routine involving a beaker, which prompted his wife to post a message asking if this was normal behaviour?’
My eyes widened. I definitely hadn’t heard of this, for I’m sure I would have remembered.
‘It’s a very funny read,’ said my friend. ‘Be sure to check it out.’
We got back to the Ormeau bed pan. She suggested that I purchase it and put it to immediate use as a planter for some geraniums. ‘It could be a short story,’ she said. ‘From the point of view of a bed pan. ‘Living My Best Life’ you could call it, with before and after photos.’
So on Saturday morning, despite feeling the effects of the previous evening’s exuberance, down I trotted to ‘Concern’ see if it was still in the window. And yes, there it was, nestled under a china tea set, a box of spoons and a blue tinkly bell. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good root round a charity shop, as my return to work has put paid to such excursions. This was a worthwhile venture, however, as I picked up a spangly top, a pink woolly jumper, a Nora Ephron book and a jigsaw for the children, (complete, I’d like to add, as there ought to be a dark corner of hell for anyone who considers it acceptable to donate a puzzle minus a few pieces)
As I paid up, I asked the gentleman on the till about the bedpan. ‘There’s an item in the window labelled ‘a vintage douche’ and I just wondered if you anything about it?’ He looked at me quizzically. ‘A what?’ he said.
‘Well it’s labelled a ‘douche’, but I think it’s just a bed pan,’ I said. He raised an eyebrow and said that he’d have to see it for himself. Out he trotted after me. ‘No idea where that came from,’ he said. ‘I only work here on a Saturday.’ Do you think it will sell?’ I asked.
‘Goodness yes, he replied. ‘People always buy this sort of thing. Anything useful goes very quickly.’
He was very pleasant, the man, and seemed quite amused by my line of inquiry. I do like Concern, although it can be pricier than other charity shops along the Ormeau. One gets more of a bargain in The Hospice Shop, as indeed I did, a few minutes later, picking up an M&S leopard print skirt or £3.25. Once, in Concern, I lifted a pair of roller boots for my Older Child. They were £8, which seemed to come as quite a shock to the elderly gent behind the till. He said, and I quote, ‘Jesus Christ, I thought you were meant to get a bargain in here,’ and gave them to me for a fiver.
So there you are folks. What I want to know is this: would any of you good people either think to heave a bed pan into a charity shop, should one be lurking on your premises, or would you be inclined to buy one? I’m not convinced this particular pan was worth a tenner by the way, but you may strike lucky and get an understanding chap when you go to make your purchase. It looked in need of a good scrub too, although any residual urine, could, I suppose, bring on the growth of any potential herbs or plants. You know me- always looking for the sunny side….