Monday, February 13, 2023

Boxing Days

A few months ago, I found myself scouring the titles that were available in an Audible sale. I came across one book which links back to a memory of my uncle who passed away twenty years ago today.

The audiobook in question was Duncton Quest - the second title in a fantasy series about a labour of moles written by William Horwood.

I had first became acquainted with the Duncton Chronicles through the first book in the series - Duncton Wood - in 1989. At the time, someone I had met on holiday in Malta had bought a copy to read while staying at the hotel.

A few months later, I noticed Duncton Wood on the bookshelf of my aunt and uncle's home and I read a bit of it while I stayed at their home for either the October or February half-term holiday.

I didn't finish the book. It was massive to my eyes!

Fast forward a few months from then, and it's the summer of 1990. Once again, I find myself at their home for a few weeks. I had just left primary school and 'the big school' was looming. 

On one of the first mornings of the visit, a lady arrived at my relatives' home with boxes filled with brown envelopes. She would drop them off and then carry more boxes to her car. 

She came back the next day. Once again, with boxes full of envelopes and would leave with different boxes only to revisit the following morning.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I asked what she was doing with the boxes.

My uncle explained to me that the lady was taking the boxes away and filling envelopes with leaflets for his business. Those leaflets would then be distributed by Royal Mail in local towns. 

I cannot recall how much she was getting paid per box, but they must have been filled by at least one thousand envelopes. I was stunned at how frequent this lady must have filled those boxes.

My uncle, seeing how interested I was in this envelope gig, let me in on it.

I was not as robotic as the lady. It took me days to even fill half of a box. However, I finally got into the swing of things by realising I could do the folding whilst watching the TV in their living room. As I type this now, I can still recall having to put the little business card in the middle of the leaflet, fold the leaflet over and then slide it into the brown envelope.

Day-upon-day was spent with the goal of filling a box. Once I had, it was onto box number two. 

But then disaster struck.

My aunt fell ill and was unable to look after my sister and I. We had to head back home. However, we had to wait until the following morning to get a train. So, to get us out of the house for a few hours, my uncle and one of my cousins took my sister and I shopping.

While walking around the WHSmith store wherever we were (I am going to guess Carmarthen), I noticed a copy of Duncton Wood on one of the shelves. Then, as I scoured the magazine shelves, I found a copy of the WWF Magazine (Hart Foundation on the cover!). 

My uncle came up to me and said 'I haven't paid you for the envelopes yet have I?' and I responded.

'How many did you do?'

'I filled one box..' and then I explained how many I had done for box number two. He worked it out in his head and gave me the money for not only filling the one box, but also the additional envelopes.

With the money in my hand, I concluded that I was going to spend some of it there and then. It was either Duncton Wood or the WWF Magazine.

Upon reflection, I cannot figure out why I didn't go for both, but I went with:

Duncton Wood by William Horwood

Yes, I chose a book about moles over a professional wrestling magazine. I'm glad I did, though. 

Other than the times when I've read it or simply picked it up to hold, this copy of Duncton Wood has been kept close to me on one of the desks in my home. 

I cherish the book because I see it as the first thing I've ever bought with money I've earned through work. My uncle plays a huge part in that story because it was he who 'employed' me for the task.

Speaking of stories, it has been a long time since I've read Duncton Wood. I cannot remember the tale. I didn't even read the following two books in the trilogy.

I'm going to change that starting from today.

When I noticed Duncton Quest in the aforementioned Audible sale, I decided I'd pick it up. Not only that, I used a couple of credits to buy Duncton Wood and the third novel in the Duncton Chronicles - Duncton Found.

February 13 2003 was an imperfect day, but today - twenty years on - I feel its a perfect day to revisit Duncton Wood.

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