In Loughborough I chalked up another in my personal I Spy challenge to find the most obscure local charity shop. Loros supports hospice care for Leicestershire and Rutland; I didn't even think Rutland still existed! I didn't linger long in the shop itself, partly because the place couldn’t seem to decide whether it was a furniture shop or a more conventional chazza selling clothes etc. But mostly I was scared off by one of the other browsers. She was fiftyish, and had enough tattoos and piercings to qualify her for a job in a circus. She also had a distinct white patch in her towering beehive of hair which made her look like a cross between Dickie Davis and Amy Winehouse’s nan. I made a swift exit.
I fled to the Sense shop where further strangeness ensued. I caught one of those eavesdroppings that almost make life worth living. Two old friends had bumped into each other after a long interval and were catching up with each other. One of the friends mentioned her son, who, she casually revealed, had been born with webbed fingers. The other woman responded, ‘Oh, right. You don’t hear of that much these days.’ I thought, these days? As if webbed fingers used to be all the go with the youngsters. When was that particular fad then? Sometime between Space Dust and happy slapping, when I clearly wasn't paying attention.
She explained that her son had received corrective surgery. She said, ‘It was his dad who wanted it done. Personally, I’d have left it.’
Left it? What was she doing, planning ahead? Perhaps she wanted to avoid those difficult toddler years of having to nag him not to pick his nose. Maybe she didn’t want him pestering her for a guitar when he hit his teens. Reeling with information overload I stopped snooping and turned my thoughts to lunch.
At the next table in Wetherspoons sat a smartly dressed man in his late twenties. He was heavily built and sweating copiously. Set out on his table were two meals, plus a bowl of chips, a cup of tea, a large Pepsi and a dessert. He sampled each of them, more or less in rotation, apparently oblivious to the people pointing at him and laughing as they passed.
I couldn't quite work out what this guy's deal was. He might have been some sort of area catering manager doing a round of quality spot checks. The pub may have been expecting a visit from the chain's director, and this bloke was his personal food-taster, paid to check for evidence of poisoning. As he finished his meal and waddled out I considered following him to ask but lacked the nerve.
I dropped into a small private art gallery. It was oddly deserted; I could’ve robbed them blind if they’d had anything I liked. There was the usual mix of seascapes, landscapes, with a few still lifes thrown in. Curiously, the same artists crop up repeatedly in these galleries. Jean Picton’s flowery work is everywhere. She’s a former TV actor who now bashes out pictures of poppies at a furious rate of knots. I had a browse and, unusually, couldn’t find anything by her. But there were some similar paintings by Anita Dobson. There wasn’t anyone around to ask so I don’t know if that’s the Anita Dobson ex of Eastenders, but if it is, what exactly’s the deal with TV actors and flowers?