Taking the lead from youngsters at fuel station...

Peter Unsworth

Peter Unsworth

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

HANGING around while parents pay for fuel at the filling station is never a problem for nine-year-old Ryan and his younger brother Nick.

They have invented a game. I came across the pair as mum Fiona waited in the queue at a Banbury garage.

The boys study the people in the queue before looking out at the cars by the pumps and guess which customer might own which car. They saw I was interested.

“You can play if you like,” said blond-haired Ryan. It would be easy enough – or so I believed. I made two guesses and got one right – and only because the driver’s overalls bore the same logo as that on his van.

The boys were more successful. Nick, almost eight, correctly paired a distinguished elderly man with a spanking brand new Jaguar (I had linked him with an 02-registered Vauxhall).

Meanwhile Ryan confidently – yet quietly and respectfully – announced the ageing Ford Focus belonged to “the old granny”.

“The only drawback is they’d keep me at the pay point all day if I’d let ’em,” said Fiona. “But it does make a change from computer games for a short time.”

On a more serious note, I’m sorry to read that David Miles and Eileen Benfield have been so disappointed by the attitude of staff at a charity shop that they have withdrawn their long-time support for this Oxford-based hospice. (Letters, March 13 and March 20).

Heaven knows charities need all the help they can get. Look how many of their shops have notices appealing for stock. As more compete for a share of what the belt-tightening public can give in cash and goods, they have to realise that support is not unconditional.

Charity shops have changed considerably since the days when little Mrs Cannybody and a few helpers (mostly retired, and mainly women) fronted the operation. Today some charities seem to have as many shops as Marks & Spencer.

As a result, those at the top of the retail operation must apply strict business practice, while shop staff have to conform, meeting targets, answering memos and obeying rules. ‘Table manners’ might slip when the going gets tough, so training on more than operating the till is called for.

Supporters can’t be taken for granted. There’s always another charity waiting to snap up the drop-outs.

Don't forget it is Mother’s Day on Sunday. A card, some flowers, a box of chocolates – or all three – is small recognition for what they do for us.

If, like me, you no longer have a mother of your own, why not try to find somebody, like Ryan’s little old granny, who would be delighted to be remembered on this day?

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