Notions of getting anything for free were very quickly stamped out
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To continue from last week – the arrival of a second set of stamps for "perusal and purchase" from the stamp sellers in Eastrington, Goole, was unwelcome to a lad of limited financial means, no matter how keen a stamp collector he was.
But this was nothing, given that during the interim I had fallen for another advert in The Beano, and had sent off to a different and entirely separate company offering undreamed riches of more free (and, as it turned out, utterly valueless) stamps – provided that you accepted their "highly collectable and competitively priced" stamps for sale "on approval".
Thus, within a day or two I had two sets of stamps to choose from (and cough up for) and, like a mug, I once again parted with my scant resources, this time by mortgaging my future and wheedling pocket money in advance.
Why I simply didn’t simply send both lots of stamps back, I’ll never know. But I suppose that the "gift" of all these free stamps had left something of a feeling of obligation in a young mind. That was how these crafty stamp sellers operated.
Well, as if you hadn’t already guessed, within an astonishingly short time another two envelopes full of approvals appeared in the post, and this was to be my first experience of a multiple debt crisis.
"Oh, there’s another letter for you, Jamie – and it does look interesting!"
Mutely I accepted the proffered missive, and right away took it up to my bedroom and placed between the pages of Five Get into a Fix by Enid Blyton (I’ll come back to that).
Soon another letter arrived asking what had happened to the approvals; and then it was joined by another letter enquiring about the other set of approvals. And then more letters appeared, this time using quite worrying language. Enid Blyton’s storage capacity grew; and I began to avoid policemen.
It was a seriously frightening episode. Not only was I losing sleep, but I had visions of myself wearing stripy pyjamas and breaking rocks. My stamp collection stayed unopened. Suddenly this childhood enthusiasm was about as welcome as a piece of fish under the carpet.
"Oh good, there’s the postman."
Eventually it was noticed that I was pale and off my food. So, thank heavens, at last I did the sensible thing and confessed.
"Let me see these letters."
"Right" said my dear kindly father "I’ll deal with this".
And he did. It was like the most ghastly heavy weight being lifted from my shoulders and I was young and free again. My lesson was learned and I never went near those adverts again.
At a young age the seeds of suspicion of any "free offer" were well and truly sowed. I have been a sceptic ever since.
However, since I am in confession mode this week, perhaps I had better come clean about that book by Enid Blyton, the one that was my filing cabinet.
Five Get into a Fix was itself the cause of another fix that I was in at that time. The book was terribly overdue for return to Tain lending library and Mr Sellar the librarian wanted a word with me about its return and the fine that was owed.
Alas I came out of this second financial mess with little honour – for unlike the stamps confession – I am afraid.. I am afraid that...
Oh the shame. I buried that blasted book in the garden and never went near the library again. Or at least not until I became a councillor (at the age of 32. I was the youngest in Ross-shire) and my conscience pricked.
It pricked so badly that I went and bought three brand new Enid Blyton books, including Five Get into a Fix, and solemnly presented them to the rather startled young librarian behind the counter.