People think that all solicitors are rich and prosperous. In any town there are, of course, rich and prosperous solicitors, but there are also solicitors like me. I am neither rich nor prosperous. I have an office over a fish and chip shop, for which I pay an exorbitant rent, and two rather inefficient secretaries.
I suppose it is because my premises are in the less fashionable part of the town, but my clients always seem to have enormous problems and miserable incomes. Mr. Pollard was exactly that sort of client. He was a small, untidy little man, with a large head and round, old-fashioned spectacles.
"I have a problem," he began nervously, "I bought this house, you see. I got a mortgage from the building society, but then I lost my job, so I got behind with the payments." He gave me the details. It appeared that he owed eleven payments of fifty pounds, and had no job and no money. Not surprisingly the building society had written to say they intended to take possession of the house; sell it, and thus get back their money.
"What would happen if they sold it for less than I paid?" he asked. "Would I get back any money?"
"Probably not," I replied.
"Would you mind telephoning the building society?" he pleaded, "and see if they could possibly give me a little more time?"
"If you're not earning any money, how will more time help?" I asked. He looked at me hopelessly.
In the end the house was sold. The building society debt was paid off and Mr. Pollard got sixty pounds.
Everybody agrees I'm just ordinary. My face is ordinary, my voice is ordinary, my clothes are ordinary. Everything about me is ordinary. 'What's Frank like?' they say. 'Frank? Oh—you know, ordinary.' they say. Now look at that man two rows in front. He's not ordinary. In fact I can't see anybody apart from me who is. Even this fellow next to me. Quite ordinary on the whole, I suppose. But there's something a bit ... something a bit odd about his mouth. Mustn't catch his eye. Might start a conversation. Don't want that. Interesting that he was just in front of me in the queue.
They looked in his bag, they looked in his pockets—made him take his shoes off even. Mm—they've nearly finished with the food—though she didn't take my glass when she collected my tray. Ah—she's pressed her button again. Probably wants another gin and tonic. Had four already. Or is it five? Not bad, though. At least not in this light. Good—some of them are getting their blankets down now. I reckon that in about half an hour it'll all be quiet. And then ... Of course they looked in my briefcase too. Didn't look here, though, did they? Oh, no. Hah! Though they think otherwise, I know very well who those two in the back row are. Noticed them when I went to the toilet. But they won't shoot. Not as long as I have this in my hand, they won't. And it's so small. Marvellous what they can do these days. Just about now, if I were sitting in funny mouth's seat and not by the aisle—just about now, I could probably look down and see the mountains gleaming in the moonlight. I like that. Mm. Well, now I must go over my speech again. Mustn't forget what my demands are, must I?
Well, I think that this problem of teenagers getting into trouble with the law is mainly caused by unemployment. You see, because of the high level of unemployment, so many teenagers nowadays leave school and find that they have no chance of getting a job, and this obviously makes them feel bored and frustrated. And as a result of this, they're much more likely to get drunk and so on. Another thing of course is that you get groups of unemployed teenagers wandering around the streets with nothing to do, which can easily lead to trouble of one sort or another.
1. At the third stroke, the time sponsored by Accurist will be twelve one and fifty seconds.
2. The code for Didcot has been changed. Please dial 05938 and then the number.
3. In the train crash in India, three hundred and twenty-five people are feared dead.
4. The 3.45 at Ascot was won by Golden Dove, ridden by Willie Carson.
5. Well, um, for a trip like that, we are speaking in the region of, er, two thousand eight hundred pounds a head.
6. Er, Celtic three, Manchester City nil, Queen's Park Rangers two, Motherwell United one.
7. In New York, the Dow Jones Index fell by point four to a low of two oh six four point eight. While in London, the FT Index rose eight points to one seven nine four point three.
8. That'll be sixty-eight p, please.
9. The, er, latest figures show an increased profit of seventy-eight thousand, nine hundred and fifty-six pounds.
10. And how can we continue like this with unemployment running at three million, two hundred and fifty thousand. It really is unaccept ...
11. Yes, we can give you a special rate of, er, five point six eight per cent.
12. We'll have to adjust all our figures by an eighth.
13. Well, that's your choice. Eleven pounds forty-five for this one, fourteen pounds, or fifteen pounds ninety-nine.
14. So, it's two thousand three hundred and ninety-eight plus two thousand four hundred and eighty-nine plus two thousand four hundred and sixty three. I'll just total that up for you.
Woman: So, you'll take the cream at three pounds five, the pills are four pounds thirty and then, um, this if fifty-five p. That's seven pounds ninety-five.
Man: Sorry. I think perhaps it's seven pounds ninety.
Woman: Is ten pounds all right?
Man: Yeah, that's fine. It comes to six pounds thirty-five. Your change.
Man: Can I help you, sir?
Woman: Oh, just a minute, I think you've given ...
Man: Oh, I am sorry. Of course. Here you are.
Well, we met at a party in London. You see, I'd just moved to London because of my job and I didn't really know anybody, and one of the people at work had invited me to this party and so there I was. But it was one of those boring parties, you know everybody was just sitting in small groups talking to people they knew already, and I was feeling really bored with the whole thing. And then I noticed this rather attractive girl sitting at the edge of one of the groups, and she was looking bored too, just about as bored as I was. And so we started, um, we started looking at each other, and then I went across and we started talking. And as it turned out she'd only just arrived in London herself so we had quite a bit in common—and well that's how it all started really.
—What's the matter with you, then? You look miserable.
—What do you mean "us"?
—Well, we used to talk to each other before we were married. Remember?
—What do you mean? We're talking now, aren't we?
—Oh, yes, but we used to do so much together.
—We still go to the cinema together, don't we?
—Yes, but we used to go out for walks together. Remember?
—Oh, I can remember. It's getting wet in the rain.
—And we used to do silly things, like running bare foot through the park.
—Yes. I remember. I used to catch terrible colds. Honestly, you are being totally ridiculous.
—But we never used to argue. You used to think I was wonderful. Once ... (sound of the door opening) Where are you going?
—Back to live with my parents. That's something else we used to do before we were married. Remember?
Not long ago I was invited out to dinner by a girl called Sally. I had only met Sally twice, and she was very, very beautiful. I was flattered. "She likes me," I thought. But I was in for a disappointment.
"I'm so sorry we asked you at such short notice," she said when I arrived, "but we suddenly realised there were going to be thirteen people at the table, so we just had to find somebody else."
A superstition. Thirteen. The unlucky number. Recently I came upon a little group of worried people, gathered round a man lying on the pavement beside a busy London road. They were waiting for an ambulance, because the man had been knocked down by a passing taxi. Apparently he had stepped off the pavement and into the street, to avoid walking under a ladder.
They say this superstition goes back to the days when the gallows were built on a platform. To get up on to the platform you had to climb a ladder. To pass under the shadow of that ladder was very unlucky ...
Other superstitions are not so easily explained. To see a black cat in England is lucky. But if you see a black cat in India, it is considered very unlucky. There too, if you are about to set out on a long journey, and someone sneezes, you shouldn't go.
Break a mirror—you will have seven years' bad luck. Find a four-leafed clover, you will have good luck. Just crazy superstitions, of course.
I have an African friend. One day he said to me: "If ever an African says to you that he is not superstitious, that man is a liar."
Perhaps that is true of all of us.
This is Lethbridge's description of a ghost near Hole House.
One of the first incidents happened near to our home in Devon. One Sunday morning my wife and I were standing on the hill and looking at Hole Mill, which belongs to Mrs. N. I sat down and admired the view. After a time I heard a motorbicycle start up and I saw the paperman riding off and, as I watched, I saw Mrs. N come out from behind the Mill. She was dressed in a bright blue sweater and had on dark blue tartan trousers and a scarf over her head. She looked up, saw me and waved. I waved back. At this moment a second figure appeared behind Mrs. N and perhaps a meter from her. She stood looking up at me. Mrs. N went back behind the Mill and the other woman followed. I did not know her. She looked about sixty-five to seventy years old, was taller than Mrs. N and rather thin. Her face appeared to be tanned and she had a pointed chin. She was dressed in a dark tweed coat and skirt and had something which looked like a light grey cardigan beneath her coat. Her skirt was long. She had a flat-crowned and wide-brimmed round hat on her head. The hat was black and had white flowers around it. She was, in fact, dressed as my aunts used to dress before the First World War. She didn't look like the sort of person who was likely to be staying at Hole Mill today. Later we were leaning over a gate, admiring some calves, when we saw Mrs. N alone. 'Oh,' said my wife, disappointed. 'We were expecting to see two of you.' 'How is that?' asked Mrs. N. 'I have only seen you and the paperman all morning.'