If only the world’s disputes could be handled like this...

Peter Unsworth

Peter Unsworth

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

YOU don’t expect a turf war in down-town Broad Street. Or do you? On a sunny day, with more guides than you’d find bookies per acre at Ascot, I suppose it could lead to furled umbrellas at 10 paces as each strives to corral the most visitors.

It came pretty close on Tuesday morning. A long-established guide – well, he and his colleagues have notched up three years of experience on their CV – was complaining that casual johnny-come-latelys were brandishing their publicity boards and grabbing the best places where their own publicity material was regularly sited.

Standing his ground, one of the newcomers said they were not offering the same tour content. Anyhow it was fair competition. The other disagreed and eventually stormed off.

I waited for re-enforcements to appear. They didn’t. Instead a now much calmer guide returned and apologised for any offence he might have caused. He offered the hand of friendship while sticking to his point about pitch invasions. If only the world’s disputes could be so easily handled.

Meanwhile, a guide who does not charge for his services yet invites an end-of-tour donation – hopefully of a sizeable amount – argued with one who charges a fixed fee. It all made for an exciting morning...

‘HOW much do charities pay professional canvassers to get us to part with our hard-earned?”

The question came from retired travelling salesman Harry, a chap who has a lifetime’s experience of getting blood out of a stone. I admitted ignorance while assuming an expert approach was needed with so many good causes chasing the same pound coin. “Fair enough,” he said. “So don’t you think the canvassers should know something about who they’re working for?”

It was a rhetorical question; before I could comment, he pressed his point with much hand-waving.

“I asked a young canvasser a few questions about the charity; I knew the answers because I’m a long-time supporter. He was stumped. It was embarrassing – for him. If a firm is going to charge a fee it should at least learn more than the name of the charity and the charity should make sure they do.”

So ended the mini-lecture.

I SOUGHT calm and found it with Stan and Ching Ing, a surprisingly tall and elegant teenage couple from China. They were looking for books to help with English studies while they are here.

We drew blanks at a couple of stores, Stan finally scoring a hit at the Oxfam shop in the Turl. Ching Ing searched on, until...

Whether a Simpsons’ cartoon book will answer their needs I’m not sure, but it certainly brought an extra smile to Ching Ing’s face. It brightened my day.

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