Saturday, December 1, 2012

Graham's True Sewing Machine Stories

Graham Forsdyke granted permission to display his sewing machine
stories as told to the people on the featherweight fanatics daily
email listserv, on Gaileee's web site.
Date: 29 Mar 96 19:28:40 EST
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True Story (3)

It was 6 in the morning at an outdoor antique show in up-state New York. It was
raining hard and I was not at my best.

But there on a table under 10 sheets of polythene directing the water down my
leg was a super-rare sewing machine, dating from the 1860s.

It was near perfect, but for the fact that some designer-type had converted it
to act as a table lamp.and, I suspected, was going to be very expensive indeed.
Now I always try to set up a little raport with the vendor in these case --
helps to crunch the price down, I find.

Hoping to appeal to her inate love for antiquity I fired up with "Now, what
idiot tried to convert this fine machine into an ugly table lamp?"
She sniffed, looked me up and down, sniffed again and said: "I did".

Date: 03 Apr 96 08:24:53 EST
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Pending

True Story (4)

He arrived at the shop looking like a street bum. He'd obviously not washed or
shaved for days and the rucksack over his shoulders probably contained
everything he owned in the world.

He opened the conversation by revaling that he was from Holland and that he had
arrived especially to buy antique sewing machines.
Did we mind if he ate his meal as we talked? What can you say?

From the rucksack came a wedge of curled sandwiches which he munched between
asking the prices of the most expensive machines on offer.All the time he was
making notes on the sandwich wrapping. After around 10 minutes of this I began
to make hurry up noises. He then declared that he would buy five of the most
expensive machines on offer and, again delved into the rucksack to bring out a
fat wad of bills.

He paid up and we carefully packed the machines into the rucksack and the two
bags that had been inside it.

He announced that he was now going straight back to Holland. We asked if we
could we take him to the airport or rail station. No. He was going to
hitch-hike bcak home and hoped to do it quicker than the
three days it had taken to get to us. I had to ask. "Why, friend, do you
travel thus when you can clearly afford to journey a little more
comfortably". He looked amazed. "It's simple, he replied,"every guilder I
save like this I can spend on sewing machines".

Maggie and I call him The True Collector.


Date: 04 Apr 96 11:50:59 EST
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True Story 5

Visiting thw homes of people who have antique sewing machines for sale can be
quite rewarding -- and sometimes almost frightening.

The case I have in mind was in one of England's "New Towns" -- tragic 1960s
experiments in glass and concrete and universally known, by those who do not
live in them, as the "People's Republics".

A lady answered the door and we were nearly knocked off our feet by three
pit-bull terriers making an escape bid. She screamed their names at them
"Hitler,Goebels, Himmler"

I guess this should have given me the clue. Inside we examined the two machines
offered for sale and, harrassed by canine  representatives of Hitler's war
cabinet, got close on the price but failed to go the full nine yards.
"You'll have to speak to Frank", she said. "Go through to the back room"

It was the smell that go me first. Incense. There in the corner was Frank
tending the everlasting flame on a shrine to Germany's Third Reich. Around
the walls photographs of Nuremburg Rallies. In showcases, weapons and Nazi
insignia. From the tape deck, strains of Wagner.

I couldn't take it. Quickly backed out, paid the woman who thought
nothing odd about my sudden reluctance to haggle, and fled for my car.
It will be a long time before another sewing machine lures me into the People's


Date: 21 Apr 96 11:21:42 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

It was a very rare 1860s Queen Bess Sewing machine, in outstanding condition
and the price was more than reasonable. We were in the living romm of a
pleasant middle-aged couple in the Bristol area who had rung to offer us
the machine. The man of the house explained how they had come by it. Seems
he was a builder and, having agreed the price errected a fence around the
property of a very senior citizen, called at the door, announced he was
finished and would like to be paid.

The VSC responded, saying that she didn't have any money but would cook him
breakfast for the next month in lieu of payment. Our builder's wife didn't
appear too happy at this prospect and the fence was written off as a bad

A couple of years later the old lady rang again. She wanted new
glass put in a window. After some pressure she agreed to conventional
payment -- no breakfasts, or any other meals, in lieu.

When the job was finished she again pleaded poverty and handed over a paper
sack. The builder stormed off. When he got home he examined the old sewing
machine that the sack contained, shrugged, put the whole thing down to
experience and consigned the machine to the attic.

Four years passed before the machine came to mind after the builder and his
wife saw Maggie, my SO, on a TV show about collecting. He made contact, we
did a deal, and left him pondering that although the price he got was more
than enough for the window he wasn't really sure if it covered the fence
as well.


Date: 28 Apr 96 15:07:06 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True stories number nine

It was around two in the morning when the phone rang The caller was a great
friend from Pa who knowing my unconventional hours doesn't hesitate to call
even when most are asleep.
We chatted sewing machines for around half an hour when she suddenly changed
tack and announced that a police car had arrived at the front drive.
Now, this friend's nearest neighbour lives some miles distant and the car was
obviously  targeted at their address. She left her husband to deal with the law
and we chatted on. A couple of minutes later another police car turned up and
he husband shouted up the stairs for her to come to the door.

We terminated the call  with me saying I'd get the next plane and post bail if
necessary. It was all quite simple really. The code for international
calls from the USA is 011. My fried dialed this  but then decided she
might have missdialed and hung up and started again. She had miss-dialed.
Using an old-fashioned rotary dial (all my friends are like this) she had
failed to drag the dial around all the way for the first digit.

Instead of a zero she got a nine and thus dialed 911.
The emergency services noted the attempted call and then when they traced the
number and found it engaged thought that the phone might have been ripped out
of the wall by a burglar, drunken husband or worse.
The police went into action and surrounded the house. My friend's husband
had to display her, in one piece and not bleeding before they accepted
that the whole deal had been a mistake.


Date: 29 Apr 96 16:15:03 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contributions

True story 11

Did I tell you about the time I bought a sewing machine from a dead woman?
Well, that's almost true.

I'd called at a house deep in the  French countryside to inspect a Peugeot
treadle from the 1870s and was met at the door by a young man in black who
showed me the machine in the hallway. We dickered price for a while and he
asked to to wait. He disappeared into the front room and returned moments
later to say the price was ok.

He then asked me about a grandfather clock by the door, I agreed a price and
again he went through the front-room routine.

The next thing he asked  was whether I bought furniture. I said yes and
followed him into that front room to inspect a set of chairs that were on
offer. There were about 20 people sitting around and, as I checked out the
chairs, I noticed that the guy who had answered the door was going to each
sharing out the money I had given him. I mentioned the price I was willing
to pay for the chairs (a good bit less than he had suggested) and a vote
was held, the bid accepted and again the money shared out.

It was only then that I noticed that one guest, an old lady sitting in a
rocking chair in the corner of the room, was not getting a share.
I guess it took a couple of minutes and a glass of the profered booze before I
realised where I was and just what was going on.

I was at a wake, the relatives, with no need for wills or lawyers were sharing
out the estate under the watchfull eye of the recently departed in the corner
rocking chair.


Date: 30 Apr 96 17:55:59 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution^E

True story 12

The pawn shop was about the only building standing in the vast demolition site
to the north of Dublin. The area was being cleared in a new housing project and
I'd been called in to help the owner of the shop clear out his final goods
before the bulldozers moved in.

First thing I saw when I got in the door was a magnificient horn phonograph --
minus the horn. It was a fantastic piece of furniture, floor standing and in
rich red mahogony which, unlike in America, is more highly regarded in Europe
than oak.

I obviously asked about the machine and, having no horn it was cheap. It went
to the top of a list which over the next two hours grew and grew as the
owner dug items from his back room. Many still had pledge tickets from the
1920s and his rice  structure seemed to contain a formula depending on the
original cash he had allowed, multiplied by just how many of his seven
cats were on the stained marble counter at the time.

To an antique dealer like me this was a trip to heaven. Just about everything I
asked for was met with a "Just a moment, sor" and a trip to the back room . He
'd return, blowing dust and cobwebs from the very item I'd mentioned with a
"Was this what you had in mind, sor?" The counter began to fill with my purchases.
Music boxes, microscopes, typewriters,  many sewing machines from the 1880s,
early woodworking tools, cameras,  all left when money was tight in the 1920s
and never redeemed. At last we were through. I'd never got to see in the back
room but I'd asked about everything I could think of.

Maggie and I loaded the lot onto the truck we had hired. As we set the last
item, that magnificient phonograph, carefully aboard it suddenly occured to me
that there was one more question I could ask.

I wandered back in and said: I don't suppose you've got any phonograph horns?"
He disappeaed into that Aladin's cave of a back room again and returned with a
wonderful phonograph horn, craftsman made in a deep rich, red mahogony. He said
: "Just the one, sor, but it's cheap as there is no phonograph to go with it."
Maggie and I didn't say I word about it all the way home. Back in London we
unloaded the truck took the phonograph up to her apartment and re-united it,
after half a century, with its horn.

Note from GF. If some of these little recollections are a bit too general for a
sewing-machine listing please let me know.

Date: 17 May 96 18:25:57 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True story number 13

Have just been told by a couple of FWFs that this story never made it complete
-- despite two attempts. So here goes for try three:

One of the most desirable machines ever produced was the Scottish Kimball and
Morton model made in the shape of a Lion.

For years we had known of one in terror-torn Belfast but the owner steadfastly
refused to sell although he had promised us first refusal.

Then, out of the blue, he phoned and revealed that he had been made a very high
offer by a Dutchman. This tempted him but, if we wanted to match the offer, the
machine was ours.

I arranged for him to be on the dock at Belfast with the machine and Maggie
planned to drive up to Liverpool overnight, get the ferry, meet up with the
Irishman and drive straight back onto the boat which had a one hour turnaround.
I had just waved her off and come back into the house when the phone rang. It
was a friend from Germany who told me that he had heard on the grapevine that
the Dutchman had learnt of our plans and had phoned Ireland and doubled his

What could I do? This was before the days of mobile phones and all I could see
was this picture of Maggie docking at Belfast to find, at best, the contact
wanting twice what she had with her and, at worst, not there at all.
There was nothing for it, I had to phone the guy in Belfast and hear the worst.
I rang

"Hi," he said, "I'm all loaded up for the morning. Is Maggie on the way?"
"Er, um. yes", I stammered. "I hear you've had another phone call from Holland"
"Yes", he replied. "The Dutchman's a persistant type of guy. Keeps puting the
price up. But, of course, I told him is wasn't mine any more and that he should
talk to you."

There's nothing to say to that. This guy could have invented any kind of excuse
to go back on our arrangement. But he didn't. To his mind we had shaken hands
on a deal, allbeit, over a telephone line, and that was the end of

Maggie still has the machine. At the moment it's on loan to a German museum
where I know the Dutchman visits regularly. I like to think of him flinching a
little every time he walks past the Lion as he remembers the day that all his
money couldn't even dent one Irishman's honour.


Date: 03 May 96 14:43:21 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True story number 14

We'd called at the little New England antique barn miles off the beaten track
and over the cup of coffee with the charming senion-citizen couple who owned
the store (I think callers were pretty rare) we went through the speil
about the type of sewing machines were were looking for.
The lady revealed she had a machine  which sounded interesting but it was at
her home and we couldn't get at it for a couple of days. As we were going
home the next day we took the address and promised to write.

Here is where I hang my head in shame. We lost the notebook with the address
and had many pangs thinking about the couple and what they must think of
the Englishman who didn't keep his word.

For the next couple of years we tried to find the barn again but with no
address and only a hazy recollection of the area we never located it.
Eight years went by and I hang my head again to report that we had forgotten
completely about the deal.

Then one Fall, when chasing a lead about an old typewriter in New Hampshire, we
passed a barn that looked familier. There was no "antiques sign" but we both
felt we had been there before.

I parked the car near the rusty plough and the barn door opened and a couple
appeared. Then it all came back. Resisting the urge to flee in shame, we got
out of the car and walked over, ready for almost any rebuke.
It was the woman who spoke first.
"Hello", she said, "we've got your sewing machine in the back room ready for
you". How can you not love people like that?

Date: 14 May 96 14:23:09 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 14

True stories number 14

Most collectable sewing machines are offered to us by middle-aged or even
elderly folk, so it came as something of a surprise when a young lad -- perhaps
18 -- arrived with an 1888 Starley machine  which he wanted to sell.

He also made it clear that unless he could get 800 English pounds for it there
would be no deal. Now, Starley was one of the early manufactuers (he went on to
invent the safety cycle) and 800 pounds, about $1300, was not out of order.

The  lad explained that the machine had been given to him by his grandmother.
He looked honest enough but I checked his ID and noted his name and
address just in case there would be any question over title later on.
The phone call came the very next day. It was from the lad's father. Seems that
the machine had indeed been given to the boy but on the strict understanding
that it wasn't to be sold.

Dad then revealed that his son had been after buying (against the family's
wishes) a motor cycle priced at exactly 800 pounds.

I imediately offered to let the family have the machine back but the father
would have none of this. "No," he said. "A deal is a deal and I think that the
price was fair.

"But I'll tell you one thing", he added,
"He's still not getting that motor cycle!"


Date: 07 May 96 16:22:28 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution

True Stories number 15

The small antique fair had just opened its doors. The trade was allowed in an
hour early and a friend and I were making the most of this privilege by rushing
round as the stallholders set up their displays.

Only one stall looked promising, yielding up  a couple of small sewing
machines, a microscope and other long-forgoten items. I made a small
pile of these at one end of the stall and asked the vendor how much he
wanted for the lot.

"I don't sell anything until after 8.30" came the reply. "I like to get set up
properly first".

What he actually meant was that he wanted to avoid having to give any form of
dealer discount until the public had had the chance of paying him more.

My friend and I walked away and over a cup of tea (much tea is drunk at such
affairs) evolved THE PLAN.

Just before 9 am we wandered back and I again began to make a pile of the
things that interested me. Only this time the pile was much larger. As each
item was selected I asked the price and, most times, agreed it. The dealer
kept a list and, as the total mounted, he could hardly fail to show his
excitement. This was his big day. The day all antique dealers dream of.
The day the mug walks by and clears all the rubbish he's been carting
around for the past nine months. And the mug never even asks for a discount.

The grand total was well over 2,000  pounds ($3,000) and as my friend and I
discussed how we were going to load such an array of treasures into our
vehicle, I pulled out the dealer's "wad" and began slowly to count out the notes.

The timing was perfect, I was just two notes short of the total when the hall
clock began to strike nine.

My friend gently pushed me aside, picked up the pile of notes from the table
and led me away, loudly reminding me:
"Come along Graham. Remember, you never buy anything after nine o'clock.


Date: 19 May 96 05:14:34 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 15

True story no 15 (second try)

Regular readers here will know that I have a particular hate for those
collectors who claim to have museums and have nothing of the kind. The ploy of
course is to get you to part with something they want at much less than the
market price because you think it is going to be displayed for posterity.

Last month I had a rare chance to get my own back on one of these charlatans
was able to use the ISMACS convention to do so.

Advertisements had started appearing in collecting magazines offering a good
home in a sewing-machine museum for any pre 1870 machines. These machines could
be donated or, in exceptional cases, the museum would provide postage expenses.

Having checked that this was indeed a dealer with no museum other than the top
shelf in his shop, we put the plan into action.

I wrote to the museum telling the owner about the ISMACS convention and the 170
collectors from all around the world that would be converging on London. I also
told him that we would be hiring four coaches to bring the entire party to
visit the museum on a given day Panic must have set in for he rang the next day,
attempted to brazen it out by saying that decorating work was to start on the
very day I had proposed. Otherwise we would have been most welcome.

How lucky, I replied, we've had to bring the convention forward a week. I then
asked whether the museum car park could take the four coaches and whether the
establishment had a full restaurant or only a snack bar.

I added that I was going to contact the local newspaper and TV as media
coverage of such an international group would be valuable publicity for his museum.
The phone went quiet and I imagined him  pondering on the thought of 170
visitors in his 20 by 20-foot shop, four coaches, press and TV cameras and
hungry collectors demanding to know where the restaurant was.

Minutes went by and then he collapsed completely. Told me he had to invent the
museum because business was bad. Told me about his wife and three children.
Told me the tax man was on his back. Told me he was sorry and would never do it
gain. And he hasn't -- so far.

Beware "museum" owners, the ISMACS convention group could visit you.....


Date: 19 May 96 18:09:54 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 16

True story number 17

Maggie, my SO, and I always leave a little extra time at airport security when
we are on a sewing-machine-buying trip.

I don't know why but a Wilcox and Gibbs and a Betsy Ross in the carry-on bagage
always seems to look like a loaded Ouzi with a spare magazine once viewed
through an x-ray machine.
Like I say, we're used to emptying the bags, answering a couple of questions,
listening to the "I wouldn't want to run up a set of drapes on one of those"
jokes and hearing how the security guard's grandmother had a machine that was
at least 200 years old.

Therefore we were both a little surprised  when leaving Edinburgh a year back
not to send the usual alarm bells ringing. I must have looked a little shocked
for the guard asked:

"Is anything the matter, sir"

"Well, no," I replied, "I guess I was expecting you to check the bag."

A big grin came over the guard's face -- he'd been waiting for this for years.

"Why should I stop you sir? You can't hold up a plane with an 1886 Moldacot
sewing machine can you?

He explained his wife was a collector, he did the restoration work and was
currently halfway through a major overhaul of a Moldacot.

I guess he tells the story at every chance he gets and Maggie can't resist
revealing how she signed up ISMACS member 375 in an airport check-in lounge.


Date: 25 May 96 15:53:34 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 17

True story number seventeen

You have FW Fanatic Henrietta Clews to thank for this one. She asked how I got
so interested on old machinery, I started to answer her e-mail and realised
another true story was on the way

My love of ancient machines goes back nearly 25 years. I was sick with 'flu and
being very sorry for myself (you might have noticed that men are pretty good at
this). Maggie, my SO (we are still together) is not the most patient of souls
and eventually walked out of the apartment in a desperate attempt to find
something to take my mind off being totally bored.

I think she was headed to buy magazines but her route took her past a thrift
store in which she spied an old typewriter looking very sad and uncared for.
She knew that I prefered an old-fashioned manual machine to the, then,
new-fangled electric varities, and  called into the shop to buy it as a joke.
When she asked how much it was , the assistant appologised and said that it
really shouldn't be there because it was broken and could not be fixed.
"Perfect," said Maggie, "I'll take it." She came back with the machine,
dropped it dramatically on the bed and said; Here you are, fix this!"

Twenty plus years later I'm still fixing. All that journalistic training and
experience down the tubes.

I blame Maggie of course for converting a scribe on his way to his first
Pulitzer into a creature besoted by what most consider junk.
But, between you and I, there's no way I'd trade back.

Date: 06 Jun 96 19:30:11 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 18

True story number eighteen

A great friend has just died.
He lived in NYC and I first met him 25 years ago when, after a minor heart
attack he decided to sell his typewriter collection , not wishing his wife to
be faced with the prospect of dealing with it on his eventual death.

Ours was a business deal conducted in a business-like manner and our handshake
would have been the end of our relationship had it not have been for the less
than generous antics of another New Yorker.

This second guy was a sewing-machine collector who had told me of the wonders
of Brimfield Antique Show. He invited me over, would pick me up at JFK Airport and
transport me to his brother's house in Mass which would be our headquarters for
the three-day adventure.

I arrived at the airport feeling like hell after an eight-hour flight but could
not find my buddy. After an hour I rang his home. No answer. I tried his

He was there and simply told me that he didn't think he'd be able to make the
trip after all.

So there I was, no driving licence and unable to hire a car. What to do?
I phoned the only other guy I knew in the Big Apple -- the ex-typewriter
collector, explained my problem and asked if he happened to be going to

"I am now", he  said.

Half an hour later he arrived at the airport and we were off.
It was only years into a wonderful friendship that I discovered that for a
relative-stranger he'd shut up his shop for three days, cancelled a visit from
his children, an anniversary dinner and a theater trip.

He was that kinda guy.
Since then we've met at least twice a year, sometimes in London, sometimes in
New York. I almost turned him from a Democrat to a Republican --  but not

He almost turned me from an agnostic to a Christian -- but not quite.
And then a phone call to tell me he had died.

Forgive me for wanting to share my grief. I've lost family members, of course,
but somehow this is more of a wrench. I guess you chose close friends but
family comes with the territory.

I'm beginning to ramble now, but it hurts.
His wife is coming over to see us very soon. I going to take her to his
favourite restaurant, sit her at his favourite table, re-live all the good
times and toast, with his favourite drink, the memory of a real American gentleman.


Date: 21 Jun 96 15:00:00 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 20

True story number twenty

Maggie has a dog. It's a Norfolk Terrier that thinks its a Rottweiler
and it answers, when it wants to, to the name of Dizzy. I call it The
Rat.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love dogs. Some of my best friends
are dogs. The problem I have with The Rat is that it doesn't take
kindly to being on a leash.  Maggie handles this disciplin problem
by letting it off the leash at every opportunity.  And this is where
the trouble started.

We were at the East of England Antique Show two years ago and had
just entered through the main gate when Maggie paused by the sign
saying that all dogs must be kept on a leash to remove The Rat's leash.
All went well for half an hour until The Rat met The Domino.

Now the Domino is a 125 pound Dalmation with a mean streak as wide as his
owner's IQ is narrow.  Maggie saw the salivating Domino bearing down
dragging its owner  and, about 30 minutes late, decided to put The Rat
on its leash. Given the choice of the leash or three rounds with Domino,
The Rat chose the fight and launched into his enemy oblivious of a
100-pound disadvantage.

Seconds later, The Rat was firmly clamped  in Domino's mouth and was
steadily being shaken to death. Maggie, never at a loss in an emergency,
re-acted immediately --- "Do something", she screamed at me.
Realising that this was all my fault and that I had to make amends,
I launched into the fray and managed to prise the Dalmation's mouth
open. The Rat fell like a stone. I stepped back in relief. The Rat
rolled over, shook himself, relaunched at Domino and settled back to
being shaken to death.  I gently suggested to Maggie that she grab
The Rat next time and we went through the same performance again,
allbeit more successfully, if at the expense of a little more of my
blood and skin.  As this contest was going on, a small crowd had
gathered. The owner of the Dalmation just stood there looking stupid
but one onlooker had obviously read the book.  You know the one -- where
it says to throw a bucket of water over fighting dogs.  Only she didn't
have a bucket of water -- only a king-size carton of orange juice.

This she threw at the dogs.  She missed The Rat. She missed the
Dalmation, She got me in the center of the chest with the full contents.
The Rat spent the rest of the day on the leash. I spent the rest of the day
smelling of Florida's finest -- made from concentrate, 100 per-cent juice.


Date: 27 Jun 96 17:40:18 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 21

True stories number twenty-one

I'm not one for name dropping, of course, but did I tell you about my recent
correspondence with the Queen of England.

Feeling that she needed a distraction from her recent family problems, I wrote
to HRH at Buckingham Palace to ask what had happened to her grandmother's
sewing machine.

The Royal family were given a machine each year around the turn of the century
by the Jones Company which could thus proudly boast "By appointment to Queen
Victoria, King Edward, King George etc."

My clear thinking  deduced that there was obviously a room set aside at
Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or one of the other four official residences
kindly provided by the British taxpayer, where the machines were stored just
waiting for a collector like me to clear away.

Just think what they would be worth. Jackie O's baubles would be cheap by

I was even mentally writting the advertisements: "Jones Family CS Model as used
by HRH to run up the coronation gown" or As new Jones Model A, one carefull
Royal owner, some small tiara scratches".

The reply took about two months which disappointed me a little as I had
contributed to the wedding costs for all her children and am soon to be hit in
the pocket again for a couple more divorces.

And I know that you are going to find this difficult to believe, but the reply
came not from the Queen herself but from "a lady in waiting". I hesitated over
'phoning HRH and pointing out that I'd been the one doing the waiting but felt,
on reflection, that a sense of humour was sadly lacking at Buck House.

The reply was less than satisfactory. It told me that a search of the contents
of all Royal residences had been made without turning up a single sewing
machine. However, it pointed out that, if I knew the inventory numbers for the
machines, a more-thorough investigation might be made.

I can't help thinking I've been fobbed off a little here and now I'm going to
defect. I've just remembered that in 1885 peasants in a small Russian province
presented Czarinna Romanoff with a jewell-encrusted sewing machine.
Working on the theory that this was rescued from the Winter Palace, it's
probably knocking about the Kremlin somewhere being used as a door-stop.

Dear Commrade

I'm wondering if, during your strolls around the Kremlin, you have happened to
have noticed............

This one, I tell you, is going to work.


Date: 27 Jul 96 14:43:17 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 22

True stories number twenty-two

It was three in the morning and Maggie and I staggered out from a disreputable
Californian bar in the middle of Oakland's no-go area in the company of a
sewing-machine collector who, around six hours earlier suggested we have " a
couple of drinks before he found us a motel room".

This guy's generosity in treating Maggie to one of every cocktail the bar could
produce was only matched by our surprise when his mobile phone rang at 3am. He
mumbled something about having to rush off, downed his drink and was gone.
We stood on the sidewalk and remembered that we didn't have a motel room nor
did we have the slightest idea in which direction the motel belt lay.

Locking Maggie in the car -- I told you it was that sort of area -- I went back
into the bar and asked for the motel district.

I got directions, a wink and a dirty leer.

We headed along the suggested road and yes in a couple of miles there were
motels -- of a sort that could be rented by the hour.

Now please believe me, we were getting desperate so we selected the least
disreputable one and surprised the clerk behind the bullet-proof window by
negotiating for the remainder of the night.

I appreciate that none of the good ladies and gentlemen that make up FWF have
any idea of what these rooms are like so I must explain. Mirrors above the bed,
red velvet everywhere, a choice of the most unusual movies on the TV, a
king-size waterbed and satin sheets.

I soon discovered that waterbeds and I do not mix. One person turns over and
sets up a tidal wave that wakes the other who turns over and sets up a tidal --
- you get the picture.

The room had one more feature. A Magic Miracle-Motion Matress Mover. That's
what the label said, would I lie to you?

Seems, according to the directions, all you had to do was insert a quarter and
the MMMMM would vibrate your cares and aches away lulling you into a perfect
sleep. Had to be tried, right?

The first few minutes were not at all bad, the vibration was, in fact, soothing
but it was coupled with the noise similar to that made by an angry helicopter.
After 10 minutes we began to wonder how much longer we would be being lulled
before we could actually sleep.

I decided to turn it off. Big mistake, no off switch. Obviously on a timer.
Have to wait a while. When the while got to 40 minutes Maggie decided action was
called for. "Do something" she said. A decisive lady, the SO.

Picture the scene. It's four something in the morning, I'm half naked,
scrabbling about around the bed with a cigarette lighter trying to find where
the  lead for the Mx5 pluged in.

The short answer is, it didn't; the wire simply disappeared through a hole in
the wall.

At 5.15 am, "Now!" had been added to "Do something". There was only one answer.
Taking a firm grip on the cord where it entered the wall, I yanked. About four
feet of cord joined what I had already. The process was repeated three times
before there was a ripping noise from behind the wall and the helicopter fell

The next morning after tucking 20 feet of electrical cable behind the bed, we
crept silently from the room sliding past the office and making a quick dash
for the car.

I thought this looked a little conspicuous but as Maggie said, it's probably
how everyone always leaves that sort of motel.

Graham Forsdyke

Date: 08 Aug 96 17:22:31 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 23

True story number twenty-three

This is a sad story with a moral -- don't cheat on the revenue.
The antique business is a funny old game not least for the fact that it is
about the last bastion of cash left in the Western world.

That's real cash, the folding type that you see in old movies on late-night TV.
Every antique dealer carries his wad. That's a casually-folded pile of grubby
bills totalling, perhaps many thousands, stuffed in the back pocket of the
jeans he probably slept in for the past two nights.

To outsiders he might look rich, at least excentric, but that pile of folding
is simply his tool box which he has to use to earn a living. Unless he uses the
wad he has no stock. The wad goes up and the wad goes down. That's the antique

Now there are those individuals who (how shall I put this) use this cash-driven
trade to alow a little laxity on revenue returns.

You can understand the temptation. Dealer Doug is at an antique show. At 7am
he buys a clock for $600. A couple of hours later he rounds up his
purchases and is loading them into the  truck when Picker Pete comes
along. "How much is the ticker, Doug?" Doug, ever the optimist, quotes
"Gotta be a Big One, Pete".

Eventually they settle for $850. Now, you know and I know that Doug has just
earned $250. But will the Internal Revenue ever know?
If Dealer Doug is of the type who resents his tax bills -- and there are a few
out there who do -- he might forget the clock, and quite a few other
tranactions as well.

Soon he is stuffing spare wads under matresses but what to do with all this
bent wealth. Holidays can take up a little, a better car perhaps, but in
England many feel the answer is Home Improvements.

We're not talking about replacing the odd shingle here but the complete
transformation of a near ruin into a profitable asset. Profits on the sale of
one's residence are not taxable.

Let me tell you about Charlie, his wife Ann, their dog Butcher and Harry the
builder. Charlie and Ann had quite a few "spare wads" tucked under the
matress and evolved the Home Improvemnt Plan to legitimize it without
paying tax. They sold their small apartment and with the proceeds bought a
run-down town house that was barely habitable. A few nights spent in the
local pub led to an introduction to Harry, a builder not adverse to a
little moonlighting for cash. Harry went to work and a year later had
transformed the house.

Charlie and Ann sold it, explaining that they were both keen do-it-your-selfers and,
under British law, did not pay any tax on a profit . Then they did it again, and
again. Harry the builder was almost a permanent fixture in the home and, as the
houses got grander and grander even had his own self-contained apartment so that
he would be on the job 24 hours a day.

Then it all went horribly, drastically and dramatically wrong.
Charlie came home late one night. No Ann. No Harry.
Just a note telling that they had run off together.Possibly to spend some of
those wads that were bulking up the builder's mattress.
I hear you asking, where does Butcher, the dog, come into all this?.

Ann got custody.


Date: 03 Jul 96 17:06:35 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 24

True story number twenty-four.

Don't tell me, I know this story is a little out of sequence but time is short
and it could be the most important thing you ever see on the Internet.

Im cheating here a little and using my true story category to make a very
important personal plea. I know the power and the spread of the Internet and I
want to use it here to make our forthcoming American visit to search for sewing
machines, that much more enjoyable.

Please Mr and Mrs America, please learn how to make a cup of tea.

Let me tell you how we do it in England.
We'll assume that we are all using tea bags for the purpose of this

Take tea bag and put in cup. Take cup to source of boiling ( that's boiling as
in boiling) water. Decant boiling water into cup.

That's all there is to it.

But let me tell you how you do it in America. A typical family restaurant will
sufice for our example.

Take order from Englishman for cup of tea. Insult him by asking does he want it
hot or iced. (No-one but no-one outside of the USA drinks cold tea)
Take glass to special container of luke-warm water and fill. Put glass on
counter and search in drawer for supply of tea bags. Go ask Joe in the kitchen
where the tea bags are. Find one and place it on counter next to glass of tepid
water. Search in other drawer for special, stainless-steel glass holder. Write
cheque for table number five. Put glass of barely warm water in holder. Give
truck driver directions for finding the Interstate. Take cup of near-cold water
and tea bag to customer .Be sure that there is absolutley nowhere for customer
to put dripping tea bag when he takes it from the glass. Put glass and tea bag
on table.

Say "enjoy".

Should the Englishman call you back, plunge three fingers into the glass, hold
them there and say " I shouldn't be able to do this " -- that will be me,
making yet another vain attempt to educate the people of America into the noble art.


Date: 17 Aug 96 14:51:48 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 25

True stories number twenty-five

Have you noticed how some Americans have a thing about hats.

Sorry, make that most American males. Usually beat up caps announcing affiliation
to some long-forgotten baseball team or an afternoon at a theme park in the Bronx
.Maggie and I often wondered whether they ever take them off.

A friend from Vermont was a case in point. We'd eaten at his home the previous
trip and now it was our turn to provide a little hospitality at a restaurant of
his choosing.

It was all pretty up-market -- you know, more forks than courses and
dinner-suited waiters who filled the water glasses after every sip -- but none
of it phased our friend, he just sat there in a well cut suit, shirt and tie,
English leather shoes.... and a filthy baseball cap that I had observed him
using a couple of days earlier to save the wheel nuts from his car getting

A few weeks later at an antique show where we had a motel room and he was using
a camper he came along to our place for a shower.

About five minutes into his shower we heard a small giggle erupt from behind
the bathroom door. It grew into near-hysterical laughter and eventually our friend,
now dressed, returned, still  unable to control his mirth.

Share, the joke, we demanded.

"Well," he said, "I got halfway through showering and realised that I'd still
got my cap on....".

Date: 02 Oct 96 20:13:26 EDT
From: G Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 26

True stories number twenty-six

We pick our officers for the International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society
with some considerable care.  For example, we obviously need an editor who is
literate, a secretary with organising skills  and a treasurer who knows his way
around figures.

Thus, when the post of chairman came up (the former occupant was retiring
abroad) I cast around for a member with sufficient dignity, composure and
authority  to run our meetings and represent the society to the outside world.
We had the perfect type -- ex-army officer, presently director of a large
communications company and a really keen sewing machine collector.

I put his name forward, he was elected and only once since then have I doubted
the wisdom  of the choice.

It was at one of our annual conventions --  the North of England spa town of
Harrogate. One of the lady members had devised a cunning competition by putting
a quantity of cotton spools into a large glass jar and challenging  us to guess
the number.

In announcing the winner from the stage I rattled on a little before coming to
the point (why are you not surprised, I wonder). I said that I had tried to
cheat by enveigling the answer out of the organiser.

Getting carried away a little, I said that I'd tried to bribe her with a
five-pound fruit cake. I even suggested, in hushed tones, that I had offered
her my body.

At this stage the Chairman could take no more, he leant back in his chair and
in a loud stage whisper said :" You might have had more luck with a
six-pound fruit cake"

Like I said,  perhaps we might have picked a better man.


Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 12:41:01 -0700
Subject: To FW Digest

True Story #28 from Graham Forsdyke:

Please post to FW Digest for Graham

You can blame Fanatic Mary Lehrhoff for this  story. She wrote in FWF a
whiles back asking if I even got to NJ.  Which reminded me of my last visit
to Newark. Maggie and I had been  plane hopping and driving around the
States using the Visit America  scheme whereby you can pre-purchase a book
of tickets at $100 a throw  and use them between any connecting North West
flights.Our last car  hire was in PA and the plan was to drop it off in NYC
and spend a  couple of days catching up with old friends before the trip
home.  Unfortunately, Alamo, the car-hire company I was using, has no
locations in Manhattan and the car had to be dropped off at Newark. I  had
Alamo at Newark phone for a cab to take me into the big city but  when it
arrived we were in for a little shock.  I know that when cars  pass their
use-by date and fail all control tests that, before going  to that great
scrap yard in the sky, they spend a given time as NYC  cabs before their
final demise. But the vehicle that turned up looked  as though it had just
taken part in a demolition derby -- and lost.  One headlamp pointed
aimlessly at the sky. The other had probably  departed at the same time as
the front fender. The roof was dented  (how do you dent a roof?) and the
whole colour scheme was a mottled  grey and red where previous owners had
tried, and failed, to keep rust  at bay. It lurched to a stop and the
driver, (we'll call him Pancho)  got out. So did his wife and his two
children.Clearly P was a family  man and where he went, they all went. Their
dog stayed in the vehicle.  Pancho blanched a little at the number of
suitcases -- we were at the  end of a month-long trip and a couple of the
cases held complete,  stripped-down treadle machines -- and opened the
trunk. There would  have been enough room were it not for the spare wheels.
There were  three of them, each adorned by what had once been tyres but now
as  devoid of patern as those bolted (I hoped) to the corners of our
conveyance. Pancho started to attempt the impossible. He tried every
permutation of case and wheel but two cases still remained. Let me cut  down
on the agony a little.  Maggie rode in the back with two cases  one dog and
one child. I had the front seat (someone had to navigate)  with the other
child and the wife -- did I mention she was eight  months pregnant? Pancho
spoke no English. His wife spoke not at all.  The eldest child, about 10 I
guess, acted as interpreter suffienctly  to translate my left, right,
straight ahead, don't hit that hot-dog  stand etc instructions into whatever
language Pancho understood. We  only used one of the spare wheels -- just
before the Holland Tunnel.  And what a team Mr and Mrs P turned out to be.
Their wheel change  would be the envy of any Indianappolis pit crew. I guess
if you do a  thing enough times you get pretty good at it.... This was
third-world  travel in the middle of the richest country in the world.
America,  you never cease to amaze me. 

Graham Forsdyke     True Story from

Date: 20 Jul 96 07:59:09 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 29

Again a story out of sequence, but it's topical so I jumped it up a few places

True stories number twenty-nine

A word of advice here. Avoid the combination of NorthWest Airlines and Logan
Airport Boston. I've done my fair share of air travel and have gotten pretty casual about
weight limits on baggage. In fact, we carry on long trips to the States two ultra-
large cases, the hard-shell type, into each of which you can pack, after stripping
down, two complete treadle machines.

Of course the cases get pretty heavy -- in fact so heavy that one man can't
lift them. But this was never a problem--- until Northwest and Boston a couple of
years back.

We had over-done things a tad.A total of four treadle machines, around six
heads, a few miniatures and toys and the biggest problem of all, 50 copies of
Glenda Thomas's book on toys.
We arrrived about 20 minutes before the flight -- quite early for us and
manhandled, with the help of a skycap, the first case onto the scale at check
The attendant, fresh from her audition for the first act of Macbeth, spat out:
"You can't take that one." Feeling that here was a soul mate in the making, we
weighed the other three. They came out at 65 112 85 and 90 pounds apiece. The
hadrian smirked that this would cost me $400 in excess the limit was
70 per bag. I appealed to her better nature, resisiting comments about
broomsticks etc, and she relented, producing a carboard box which I could use.
But, she added, this would be five pieces of checked baggage and the extra
charge would be $375. A saving of 25 bucks already!
Things were getting better and feeling I was on a roll, I declined her offer
decided to re-pack.
I want you, dear reader, to picture the scene. The crowded concourse full of
heaving humanity and, centre stage, Maggie and Graham unpacking all the cases
an attempt to transfer sufficient weight to hand baggage on which there is no
restriction.Piles of dirty underwear getting under the feet of the crowds. All
the time encouraged by the friendly attendant with her joyful cries of: "If you
don't clear up that mess we'll call the police" and "We're over booked you know
and if you don't comply soon I'll give your seats away". Like it was  my fault
they were over booked.
We must have looked pretty pathetic for soon the offers of help started. A guy
returning home to Lancashire took 20 books, his wife a New Home head. An
American business man strolled over from first class to enjoy the show and was
given a box of toys to carry with his lap-top.
All this sympathy was upsetting NorthWest's employee of the month who loudly
started telling everyone that it was not allowed to carry goods for other
passengers. "Hey, lady", retorted a guy from Houston, "my friend here has just
made me a present of this here sewing machine and if I chose to give it back to
him in London, well I don't quite see what the hell you can  do about it".
We made it. The plane took off with the same load that it would have had if we
had not been hassled and in the baggage lounge at Heathrow airport, bemused
customs officers watched as various books and parts of old machinery were
transfered to our  three trollies.
Needless to say we haven't used NorthWest since. Now we are American Airline
customers and have no complaints. Mind you, we haven't, as yet, used them from

Graham Forsdyke


Date: 28 May 96 15:24:38 EDT
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 30

True story number thirty

Now I've told you about The Rat before.
You remember,Maggie, the SO's Norwich Terrier that thinks it's a Rotweiler.
The Rat has seen it all, done it all and if dogs bought Tee shirts he have a

In Winter the Rat has a choice at outdoor antique markets. He can sit in the
relative warmth of the car or he can stand in inch-thick snow ready and willing
to launch into devcon five if Maggie gives the command (she hasn't yet, but he
lives in hopes).

When it rains he just stands there looking far wetter than he is and soaks up
the water and the fussing of every passing customer. When the coat becomes over
waterlogged he shakes and (I promise you he wasn't specially trained) always
seems to do so in close proximity to a French tourist. That's my boy!
So there we have it. A rough, tough dog with a capital D.
Then came the Dutch Tourist.
It was May, temperature in the 50s and surprisingly, not actually raining.
Maggie was doing her best to  convince a Canadian that of course he could take
a treadle sewing machine back as hand baggage, when she was tapped on the
shoulder by the Dutch Tourist.

"Have you been seeing your dog please"? said the DT.

"Huh?" Replied Maggie in her best London Tourist Office mode.

The DT expanded a little. "Your dog is being too small for colder weather. You
must take him in hot room now or he die"

Pausing only to rapidly work out the conversion rate from Canadian dollars to
pounds sterling, Maggie explained to DT that Dizzy was built to survive the
bleak Norfolk moors and was bred from stock that hunted in all weathers.
DT was not impressed. "You take home and give hot bathing now or I call many

Maggie has a breaking point. This was it.

She didn't tell me the words she used but I've had reports from other dealers
who were there, who tell me that many were fairly short and truely

That night in one of her long e-mails to ISMACS representative Brenda Dean in
Australia, Maggie told the story of her run in with the ISACPL (International,
Self Appointed, Canine Protection League).

Brenda, sensing that Maggie was going to be fuming for days, defused the
situation with a little Internet humour
She sent the following poem:

Escuse me, Madame. Don't get in a tizzy,
I'm a well-loved dog and my name is Dizzy.
I have a fur coat to keep out the rain--
So just "bugger off: you're becoming a pain.

To any of you visiting London this year don't miss Portabello Road Antique
market. Call and see Maggie and say hello to the Rat -- he'll be there, rain or


Date: 20 Oct 96 19:16:23 EDT
From: G Forsdyke (
Subject: Contribution 31

True Story mumber thirty-one

This silly little story comes out of our  big ISMACS convention held in London
in April.

People arrive from all around the world. Remembering names- nearly 170 on this
ocassion -- can be tricky but I do my best.

Therefore I  make a point of approaching anyone I don't recognise and seek an

My knowledge of European languages is limted and of former Eastern block
countries is non-existant so when a German collector arrived with his new girl
friend from Poland, I anticipated trouble.

He introduced us, giving her a name of umpteen sylables that I had no chance of
remembering and one which was not easy to shorten down. I tried a couple of
times and then gave up with the name and said " You can't use all that everytime
you meet -- what do you call her?

He replied with a nice simple , easily-remembered name (which I've since
forgoten) which I used continually for the full two days of the convention.
It was only as we were packing up that he slid across and whispered in my ear -
"I don't suppose you know it, but you've been calling my girl friend
'hot lover' all weekend!"


Date: 10 Nov 96 11:14:39 EST
From: G Forsdyke (
Subject: Re: Contribution

True story number-thirty one

I was reminded about this incident when all the chat about tea brewing
escalated into a discussion about tollerance over other countries' national

Maggie will tell you that my taste in food is fairly conservative. I can't
really argue with that. But it wasn't always so. Time was I was the
experimenter in any pack -- until that village cafe in Spain.

Let me backtrack a moment and set the scene for you.

There were four of us in a beat-up old panel truck deep in the Spanish
countryside. We were about half-way through an antiques-search trip which
wasn't proving anywhere near as successful as we had hoped.
And we were also suffering withdrawl symptoms for the womenfolk we had left
behind. It was to have been an all-boys together, 10-day stag night but the
novelty soon wore off.

Having to provide our own food meant eating every meal in an hotel or
restaurant. This was fine in the evenings but for lunch we hit a big snag. Just
about the very time we got hungry, the Spanish got sleepy and everything closed
down for siesta.

Result of this was that you used the rare restaurant that was open rather than
have the luxury of being able to pick and choose.

On the fateful date in question that changed my eating habits for the rest of
my life, were were trundling through rural Spain -- and Spain can get
pretty rural -- desperately looking for somehwere to eat. The occassional small
village  did have a restaurant but the owners were all catching zzzzzzzs.
Eventually we came to the smallest town square in the smallest village and
there, just opening up was the smallest restaurant . It we trouped and Manuel
(really) dropped two menus on the table. There were only two menus -- there
were only two tables.

Wouldn't you know it -- everything written in Spanish!

Our group member with the schoolboy Spanish had coped quite well in Madrid but
claimed Manuel spoke in a "strange" dialect so we were on our own.
The consumate cosmopolitian, I sat back sneering at my friends trying to convey
"fish and french fries" by hand signals. I berated them. "We are in Spain, we
must absorb the cultures and cuisine of the country".

This was met with even more violent hand signals to which Manuel eventually
nodded his head. It was my turn to order.

With a casual superiority which comes only with years of the grand tour, I
pointed at the third dish down on the right-hand page on the menu. The left-
hand page was blank and there was no third page.

Manuel beamed. He had found a soul mate.

Minutes later he returned with the cutlery and two glasses of wine -- one for
me, the other for himself. My friends were pointedly ignored. Together we
toasted, probably, the great Spanish chefs  who had graced the hallowed kitchens
of the Avienda Palace Hotel in Barcelona.

Eventually Mrs Manuel called from the kitchen. He put down his fourth glass of
wine. I think we had toasted the local matador twice and General Franco more
than that.

He pushed a trolly before him. On it were three plates piled with fish and
fries. Cries of glee from my companions. The miming had worked.
Manuel indicated that the third dish down on the right hand page was rather
special and would be a little longer.

I resisted the temptation of poach the odd potato from my friends' plates as I
waited, getting hungrier by the minute.

Eventally Manuel  arrived with the trolly. Behind followed Mrs Manual.  She
wasn't going to miss meeting the cosmopolitiam gourmet who had picked her

The plate with its silver cover was placed in front of me. Manuel, with a
flourish worthy of that bullfighter I think we had been toasting earlier, swept
off the cover.

On the plate was a slice of toast On the toast were three fried sparrows
complete with heads and feet.

Now, perhaps you understand why I'm a little less adventurous these days.
Maggie is the experimenter now. Eye of toad, ear of crocodile, she'll go
for practically anything.

Except, I have noticed that, whenever we are in Spain, and I'm making those
fish and fries  signs, she studiously avoids  selecting a certain dish
--- it's the third one down on the right hand page.


Date: 18 Nov 96 17:41:38 EST
From: G Forsdyke (
Subject: Re: Contribution

True story number thirty-three

I'm not going to draw any conclusions here, make any judgements or point any
moral fingers. I'm just gonna tell it how it is.

Think I might have mentioned a slight tendancy for male antique dealers to edge
towards chauvanism on the odd occassion.

Well, Old Charlie wrote the book. And his wife Jean didn't even know it had
been written. But hold on, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Let me tell you a little more about Old Charlie. Perhaps give you a couple
examples from that book I was talking about.

I'd call around to see  him every so often and he'd always be there in a giant
overstuffed armchair. I'd be waved to a seat and he would bellow for Jean.
"Gra's here, get the kettle on".

Jean would appear seconds later appologising for the delay -- she'd been
decorating their bedroom. After the tea was made Jean was seen struggling out
of the front door with two giant bags of washing on its way to the launderette.
"Hold on a minute, Jean", says OC. You'll hurt yourself with those bags.  Do
like I told you -- take them one at a time"

Jean would beam -- did anyone else ever have such a considerate husband?
Old Charlie enjoyed his booze. He didn't make big bucks at the antique game and
most of Jean's factory wages went keeping his glass filled.
This meant very little available for Jean's wardrobe. But hand-me-down mens'
shirts and old jeans looked pretty good on her.

One day we were sitting there as usual, waiting for Jean to get home from work
to make the tea. When she arrived, put the kettle on and came into the room she
was obviously upset. It didn't take our Charlie more than 10 minutes to notice
and ask what was up.

Jean explained: "They've all been laughing at me at work -- calling be a bag
lady. It's my clothes". She burst into uncontroled sobbing.
This was interestesting. I wondered just how Old Charlie, the MCP champion, was
going to handle this problem.

I shouldn't have doubted him. Imediately he turned to me and said the magic
words:- "there you are Gra, just like I was telling you, ladies can be really
jealous about another woman's good fashion sense and style".
It was fansastic. Jean's tears disappeared at once and a bright smile spread
over her face. Charlie had spoken and all was right with the world.
This story doesn't have a happy ending.

Jean fell amongst social workers. Well, to be more accurate a couple of young
divorcees came to work at the factory and began to tell Jean the truth about
the man she worshiped. Told her she was getting a raw deal. Told her about
the good times they had since getting rid of their husbands.

In the end the stories began to hit home. She actually asked OC a couple of
times to fetch in the coal and help with digging the garden. That was the
beginning of the end.

They are now divorced

Now I can hear a lot of you out there saying "not before time". But let me tell
you the end of the story.

Old Charlie hit the bottle big time and is now terminally ill.

And Jean?. She went to stay with the two divorcees for a couple of months but
had to move out when they got re-married. That's right, re-married.

Now she lives in a one room roach-ridden apartment. Nothing's clean, nothing's
tidy. There's no-one to clean and tidy for. I see her every so often.  All she
talks about is Old Charlie and the good times.

You see, Jean was perfectly happy until someone told her she shouldn't be.

And Charlie will die, never knowing why she left him.

It's a funny old world.

Postscript. I wrote the above around 10 days ago intending to post it sometime
in the near future. One hour ago Jean rang to tell me Charlie had died.
I'm sorting out the funeral business with her tomorrow. I considered deleting
or, at least, changing the story somewhat but then asked myself "why?". And I
couldn't come up with a good enough reason to alter one word.

Date: Sun, 28 Sep 1997 23:43:16 +0100
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: True stories

To all re True stories

It's been far too long since the last of these. I've cross posted to FWF
and ISMACS. This one dedicated to Sandy Wilcox Levine in Pacific

Not sure where we got to with the numbers and none of the archives seem to

Not sure where we got to with the numbers and none of the archives seem to
agree so we'll call this

True story number thirty (Actually it is number 34...webmaster...)

Joe what what you would call an eccentric. His wife, Esther had quite a
few other names which were far less complimentary.

Visiting the pair was always a little traumatic -- rather like being a
referee in a grudge fight -- and it got to the point where most friends
stayed away and we only braved the battle once a year at Christmas time.

Joe had been an antique dealer before a heart attack laid him low . After
that he pottered around the house whilst Esther held down a job at the
supermarket checkout. Then she reached retirement age and the house just
that he pottered around the house whilst Esther held down a job at the
supermarket checkout. Then she reached retirement age and the house just
wasn't big enough for both of them -- Hurst Castle would have been too

There was no violence, no thrown pots -- just a tense air and continual

Each year we would be welcomed in by Esther to find Joe slumped in an
armchair in front of the television set.. A ritual had developed. Esther
would repair to the kitchen to make cheese and onion sandwiches -- I don't
know why but we always had cheese and onion. -- and Joe would launch into
a ten-year-old story which he firmly believed had happened only yesterday.

The sandwiches finished, Joe and I would go up to his "collection room"
for shop talk and more stories that I had heard a dozen times before -- yes,
including the one we had with tea -- whilst Maggie and Esther huddled
around the coal fire for woman talk.

Now, I had the best end of this deal. All I had to do was listen with as
much interest as I could muster, to the same old yarns.

Maggie had the short straw.

As soon as the door closed behind us Esther launched on a littany of
complaints about Joe. He was lazy, un-caring, noisy, under her feet etc

Maggie would have to sit there and listen to how Joe had gone shopping and
lost the change, how he'd spilt coffee on the rug and how he caused more
work than a house full of children.

As soon as decently possible I would lead Joe back  and the conversation
would quickly turn to the best route from  Birmingham to Preston. Joe
would painstakingly draw a map based on the road system 20 years before the
coming of the freeways..

Out of the house and breathing a lot easier, Maggie and I would continue
our journey with her relating to me the latest list of Joes's failings
according to Esther. As Maggie said, every third sentance was " Did ever a
woman have such torment. What have a done to deserve such a problem?"

Then Joe died and we traveled up from London for the funeral and to help
with the estate.Esther met us at the door. She looked much older , frailer
and very, very lonely.

The cheese and onion sandwiches came along of course  but there was no Joe
and no escape to the collection room.

We finished the snack and Esther huddled down in the chair to tell us
about Joe. It was a very different story, punctuated every third sentance with
"Did ever a woman have a man who helped her so much? What did I do to
deserve a love like his?"

Maggie looked across at me and raised her eyebrows, I shook my head gently
and we sat nodding at the story of the husband who was now gone.

Esther wasted away and followed Joe a couple of years later. Christmas
visits to the North of England are a little empty  now.

No cheese and onion sandwiches and only the memory of a love story that
failed to bloom until an old man died.

Graham Forsdyke
Subject: True story 2/2 (
True story Series two number two

I'll call this bride of the desert

We antique dealers get around and sometimes when in uncharted territory
we employ a local expert to ease our searching.

Thus it was that three dealers took advantage of a cheap air fare and
found ourselves in Morocco. Our first job on exiting the airport was to
find a guide.

Believe me, dear readers, this is not difficult. The slightest
hesitancy in pace guarantees a swarm of wannabee guides promising
everything from the best hotel, snake charmer or the pleasures of a
virgin sister.

We picked up a likely-looking lad of around 30. Never discovered his
name but a small portion of it sounded like Ben so that was good enough
for us.

It was a little difficult to convince Ben of his duties over the next
three days. No we didn't want to buy wacky backy, nor sample the
delights of his young sister or, come to that, his brother.

Ben's job was to be at the hotel at 9am, climb into the back of the car
and direct us to antique dealers and markets.

It took him a day to get the message but soon he was performing well,
only the occasional mention of a sister  - he had one in every town we
passed through.

He was a professional guide and proud of it. Education had been limited
to back-street classes in basic English from an elder brother who now
ran a night club and probably employed quite a few of the sisters.

For the past 15 years Ben had haunted the airport picking up tourists
and guiding them to the best hotel, best taxi and best everything else
which provided a small kickback for an introduction.

Ben was a pretty happy and outgoing character. Due partly to his
natural joy at finding a three-day job although, perhaps, the
inexhaustible supply of strange-smelling tobacco which he smoked had
something to do with his disposition.

On long trips between towns we learned something of Moroccan culture
and with four men together  the subject of sex wasn't totally avoided.

He told us that he was "western civilised" and did not require his wife
to walk 10 paces to the rear but, yes, she was expected to wear a
yashmak to cover her face in public at all times.

Sitting at a roadside cafe with Hookahs and teapot bubbling we got a
little deeper into the sex business.

How, we wanted to know, did boy meet girl in such a restrictive

It tuned out that boy didn't meet girl at all.

Ben explained that when a young lad left school and started work he
would immediately commence saving all his spare cash for the
buy-a-bride programme.

When enough money had been collected the groom-to-be would approach the
father of an eligible girl, sit down and cut a deal.

Now we were getting really interested. Buying and selling we
understood. But we were keen to know the going rate the average father
would put on one unused bride.

Ben was a little reluctant to get into this one but eventually said
that the price depended greatly on the beauty of the girl.

"Yes, yes", we prompted. Our guide lowered his head in shame and
whispered: " At the time I didn't have too much money".

We never met the bargain-basement bride but making our big farewells at
the airport we rounded up all our spare Moroccan money and pressed it
into Ben's grateful hands. He stood on the tarmac waving as the plane
took off, leaving us wondering if we hadn't been a tad too generous and
whether previously-used brides were taken in as part payment on a new

Graham Forsdyke
From: Graham Forsdyke (
Subject: Re:True story
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 1997 22:38:13 +0000

To all
True Story, series two, number three

Still in North Africa with this story but another trip and one that
found Maggie and I in Tangiers -- I think it was Tangiers, it all
happened a few years ago now.

It was a super cheap package tour but the hotel was reasonable and the
only cloud on the horizon was the lack of hire cars. Seems that there
were none available without the right documentation and I had somehow
missed out on taking a Tangerian driving test.

One of the waiters offered his  ancient motor cycle for the equivalent
of $2 a day (all in). All-in, it seemed, included everything bar
insurance, fuel, air in the rear tyre and we  were planning an antique
hunt and there is a limit to what can be packed onto the back of a 1934

None of the available taxis looked capable of getting outside the city
limits without major surgery so we carefully browsed the available
excursions offered by the tour company. One, by coach, offered the
delights of the "Fabulous Maki Market" and we signed up for the next
day's run.

As we approached Maki, the number of local merchants on their way to
market increased. These could be identified quite easily -- man of the
house strolling along the dirt road with his wife trailing behind with
the 50-gallon oil drum filled with  garden produce strapped to her
back. Some clearly more-affluent families had a donkey. This allowed
the husband to ride ahead of the wife and the oil drum.

The market itself was a strange mixture of produce laid on sacks on the
ground and shack shops with plastic sheeting for windows.

And it was in one of these shops that we saw two items that we knew we
had to have. The first was a beautiful phonograph horn from the 1920s,
unblemished and probably never used in anger. The second was more
exciting -- the clockwork motor  from a 1901 Berlinner disc phonograph,
the company which eventually became Victor. It was the motor from the
"His Master's Voice" machine and very, very desirable.

Problem was that the shop was closed and attempts to find the owner by
sign language  simply resulted in drinking motions from his fellow

Whether this meant that the shopkeeper was drinking tea or that we
should go and do so until he returned was never clear. Our problem was
that  the coach would leave on the hour and was due to call at another
market before returning to the hotel. The minutes ticked away and as
the driver started the coach we put plan one into action (there was no
plan two).

Maggie would hang around the market, buy the items and find her way
back, somehow, to the hotel, whilst I carried onto the next stop. I can
now sense some raised eyebrows amongst my readers but let me assure you
all that Maggie is a very resourceful lady and probably far better at
handling the problem of a 30-mile cross desert trip than I. And the
advice that echoes around European antique markets has ever been --
"Don't Mess with Maggie".

I settled back in the coach having had a word with the driver and off
we set. I heard whispers from the other passengers -- mostly American,
German and English -- who were clearly  wondering about the empty seat
next to me.

I wish I could claim complete spontaneity for my eventual answer but,
in truth, I probably had five minutes whist the whispering grew louder
before the question eventually came.

The brave soul who made it was a charming lady from Maine.

"Err, excuse me, sir", she said. "Could we ask, what has happened to
your wife?"

In the most casual manner I could affect I replied as if it were the
most natural thing in the world

" Oh, Maggie?  I traded her for two sheep and a goat"

Deathly silence. Then the odd titter. They assumed it was a joke. They
hoped it was a joke and I sat there with the smirk of an efficient
businessman who has just swung a good deal  and said not another word.

Maggie made it back sharing a taxi with 9 (yes 9) local ladies one
phonograph horn and the Berlinner motor. I'd been quite wrong about the
cabs not making it through the desert.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to tell her about the conversation
in the coach.

At dinner that night, two charming ladies from Germany approached us.

"We knew your husband was joking about trading you", they told Maggie.
"Otherwise, he would have had the animals in the coach with him"

This, believe me, took a little explaining.......

Graham Forsdyke

Edited 12/12/2012 by Gaileee

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