Living in a city gives one access to a wider range of unique shops unavailable in smaller conurbations. You may recall PC 72 about Edwards & Hope, the family-run North Laines, Brighton purveyor of all things electrical, established in 1935? More recently I found a shop on Portland Road here in Hove called Nuts & Bolts. If you are into fittings and fixtures, and I appreciate that this may not be your thing, this is the place. I only wanted a particular length of small nuts and bolt but, having made my purchase, wandered around the shelves, marvelling at what humans have designed to meet a particular need. Fifteen minutes later I emerged into the bright sunlight with a large smile on my face.
On Wednesday last week, as per normal for this obsessive, I practised the Bikram series of hot yoga, the 90 minute class taught by Marcin, a tall Polish chap whose day job is driving trains. His gentle recital of the dialogue is heavily accented and amusing.
Returning home, I had a little list of things to do before lunch. Having bought some eggs from Dean’s stall on George Street, I made my way along Blatchington Road to DL Jones & Son to collect a watch that was having its bracelet strap adjusted. There aren’t many places where you can get a new battery for a watch, or indeed a watch repaired but this is one; unique in its way!
It is also a store for second hand watches, jewellery of all ages, shapes, sizes and some of dubious artistic merit, old silver cigarette boxes, pewter mugs, small sporting cups, and even, inter alia, a rather battered copy of a Maintenance Guide for a Triumph Herald car (circa 1970). David Jones the owner must be just under 90 if my maths is still accurate. Some months ago I asked him how long he had been running his shop – “Well we opened here in 1950 and I was just 18.” David has those large bushy eyebrows that cry out for a trim and his body is rather bent from arthritis so it’s hard to see the twinkle in his eyes as he silently reminisces. I had gently suggested that he needed to take it easy but his look said “And what would I do with my time?” He lives in the upstairs flat, cared for by his son Michael, tall with equally large eyebrows but with a more lugubrious manner, who helps run the shop.
It was Michael behind the counter when I entered, the little bell so beloved of similar establishments announcing my arrival. You need a strong constitution to leave the fresh air behind as the atmosphere is rather damp, musty, chewy – almost fetid; it looks as though most of the items for sale have been on the shelves for a decade or two and there is a lack of breathable air. Those who have a dust allergy could not survive in here.
Nothing happens very quickly in D Jones & Son but in some way that’s its charm; you just have to relax and accept it. My heart sinks a little as I notice three people up against the counter at the back of the shop, two women, and a mountain of a man who is receiving Michael’s attention. Ivan must be about 1.9m tall and probably around 120kgs, most of the latter seemingly to concentrate in his stomach area, his rather grubby black T shirt failing in its task to hide the flesh! Whatever he was discussing with Michael didn’t end satisfactorily and he left. Next up was Sonia, a middle-aged woman who looked up and then down to her mobile phone. Michael looked up at me; I interpreted his glance to mean ‘this might take a while!’
I suddenly worked out what Sonia was doing; she held her phone up and in large type we all read: ‘I WANT TO SEE A COUPLE OF RINGS IN THE WINDOW.’ So we waited while she and Michael went to the window display, identified the rings and came back to the counter. She’d probably spied them before, had the cash ready and, satisfied they were what she wanted, paid for both and left. I thought later she was either dumb or lacked enough English to explain what she wanted; what a God-send a mobile can be!
Michael’s attention now turned to the white haired lady in front of me, whose friend’s watch’s winder had come off. As she brought it out of a little freezer bag to show him, the loose winder fell on the floor. “Oh! Dear!” Dorothy remarked in a rather resigned way. I looked down to see if it was visible on the red carpet. Given the state of cleanliness of the rest of the shop I didn’t relish getting down to search for it, but I thought I should try …… and in a ruck near the counter, nestling among the detritus of years of neglect, was the little metal piece.
“Oh! You’re so kind. Couldn’t have done that ….. no glasses …… and wonky knees!”
‘Contact lenses and Yoga’ I thought but, wanting to keep the transaction moving, didn’t actually say so.
The watch plus broken winder were put into a brown envelope, notes were written on the outside and it was placed into whatever system they managed for repairs; a deposit was handed over and Dorothy left. It was my turn. Well! I thought it was but Ivan breezed back through the door and up to the counter. Before he was able to interject, I reminded Michael what I had come in for and the watch with the adjusted bracelet was retrieved from a box in the workroom. I tried to put it on but I have big hands and it wouldn’t go over the knuckles. It was taken back to be adjusted, as Ivan nudged me to show his hands were so much larger. And they were; on the end of his arms his hands had these great sausage fingers. He smiled; we had a connection, if somewhat disproportionate!
I left, to gulp in some fresh air and head off to the ironmongers.
Richard 25th April 2019
PS This is my 150th postcard …………