Years ago, I was home alone one afternoon enjoying a good book. Just then, the door bell rang. I sighed – where I lived, the only people who unexpectedly rang the door bell were usually salesmen, or politicians. In fact, standard form for family & friends was to just march in the first open door they could find. And if they didn’t find you in the kitchen or sitting-room, they wouldn’t think twice about banging on the bathroom door just in case you were in there!
I reluctantly opened the door…to a child! Couldn’t have been more than six years old, just a few feet tall, and he was astonishingly filthy. Yes, some readers may have figured it out, he was a
knack…sorry, a traveller – I guess you’d call him a gypsy today. And under his arm he was holding a chicken…
I was a little perplexed – clearly he’d been dumped by his family, and told to go earn his keep for the day. But where did the chicken come into it? Was it some kind of strange new begging accessory or tactic?!
Nope, this 6 year old was already an entrepreneur, and confidently piped up: ‘How’s she cuttin’, boss – howja like ta buy a few hins?‘. This is my best transcription (to translate: ‘Good day, sir, would you like to buy some chickens?’). And if you haven’t heard the accent, you just can’t imagine it… Actually, Brad Pitt took a fair stab at it in Snatch. I was just as bemused by his use of the plural – but if I’m sure he could have rustled up a half-dozen hens in a flash if that’s what I wanted!
It was clear he wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer. In rapid-fire order, we discussed the weather, my lovely house (making me slightly nervous..!), and then the hens – they were good layers, tough enough to ‘fight off a fecking fox‘ (?!), but still nice & tender for the dinner, etc. We then moved on to discuss price, and I quickly discovered that price was a v flexible concept for him. I’d hazard that pretty much any price would have yielded him a profit..?! Oh Lord, clearly I’d have to go nuclear with this tiny salesman to get rid of him:
‘Didn’t you notice this is a farm? We’ve enough hens already, we’ve hens coming out our ears..! Time for you to leave‘.
He looked a bit crest-fallen for a single second, and then – I’ll never forget this – he came back swinging. Quick as a flash, he put down the chicken, stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out…the largest wad of cash I’ve ever seen! A bloody rubber-banded roll of at least 500 quid (when that was real money!), which he waved in my face as he said:
‘So! You’re selling hins! I’ll pay you top prices, boss, how miny ya got..?!‘
Wow! Even today, that memory reverberates with me – think of all the insights to be drawn from such an amusing little encounter… Some years later, I realized that little kid was actually a bloody trader – pure & simple – and I thought maybe I could be a trader too (except with a nice suit & office)!
And today I realize that kid, wherever he is, is probably far wealthier than me…