Anton Rippon: I'm not 'all heart' when it comes to a doorstep sales pitch
YOU know how it is. You're busy deleting e-mails from minor government officials in Nigeria anxious to give you 10 billion US dollars if you'll just let them have access to your bank account.
Then the doorbell rings and, standing on the step, with one foot now in the door, is a recent guest of Her Majesty, keen to go straight by selling you dishcloths that you can't purchase because such matters are the sole responsibility of the management and she isn't in and it would be more than your job's worth to alone make such a monumental executive decision.
That is where I was the other evening when Alf came round.
"What did he want?" asked my pal, nodding towards the character that was now marching off up the street after pointedly leaving the front gate swinging on its hinges, presumably because I'd resisted the temptation to dip into his cavernous holdall and stock up on oven gloves and tea towels.
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"He said he'd just come out of prison," I replied. "Come to think of it, he didn't say whether he'd escaped or been released – and didn't want to rely on charity, so he's selling household items.
"When I said I didn't think we needed any, he got aggressive.
"And when I explained that, if I bought them even though we didn't need them, then that would be tantamount to charity, he swore and marched off."
"You're all heart," said Alf.
"Well, I'm suspicious," I said, "of these guys who knock on your door at dusk, claiming to be offenders going straight, and flashing identity cards covered in layers of yellowing Sellotape so that you can't read them."
That said, I have some sympathy for anyone reduced to tramping the streets, confessing to being a criminal and, from that hardly positive standpoint, attempting to sell over-priced household goods that, if anyone had wanted, they'd have already nipped down to Sainsbury's.
I might have been mean-spirited but, many years ago, when I didn't immediately dismiss someone who'd stolen money from my business, they rewarded me a month later by stealing from me again.
I'd accepted their first plea of mitigation – blind panic over a physically abusive spouse angry about unpaid bills – and allowed them to repay the money.
That makes me a mug, you might say, but hindsight is the most precise of sciences: I did what I thought was right at the time.
Second time around, although they were out of the building in five minutes, I still didn't call the police.
Maybe I should have done, but at least they didn't end up peddling dishcloths to pensioners at dusk.
Alf was now making himself a cup of coffee, which is a sight to behold. He likes it just right, so I insist that he prepares it himself. It's like watching a medieval alchemist at work.
"It's not long to Christmas, " he said, weighing and measuring deliberately.
"I know," I said, wondering if I should have been more charitable to the doorstep dishcloth purveyor.
Just then, the doorbell sounded again and there stood a man wanting to know if I'd ever considered replacing my soffits. Even if I'd known what they were, the answer would have been the same.