I first knew Susie, one Saturday morning, as an example of those so-called chuggers who hold clip-boards in busy shopping-centres and pester passers-by about giving money to charities – and give these chuggers your name and address and it can all be done utilising the tax that the charity would have otherwise to pay on your donation (or is it you who would have paid it? I’ve never really understood).
Anyway, I must have been attracted to Susie in herself, as I hate charity worse than the ‘Deal or No Deal’ Banker hates it, and that’s saying something! This Saturday in question was when shopping for my ancient Mother who was housebound. That’s my sort of charity, helping others but not just helping any Tom, Dick or Harry, oh no – you see, blood is thicker than water; help your own, and the others can look after their own own, as it were! And if there was a little spin-off for me, like chatting up Susie, then why should I worry? Love makes the world go round, I say.
I always thought chuggers was the nickname of that young lad who used to help Noel Edmunds on the old Tv show, what was it called? The multicoloured swap shop, or something like that. Chuggers Goes Pop was another show, I guess. And he once went naked on something and that’s when I stopped following his career. Anyway, back to Susie…
The charity she was representing when I first caught sight of her outside the 99p Shop was an appeal called ‘The Dog Laughed’. There was a picture on her rattly tin depicting a cartoon version of that ‘His Master’s Voice’ dog facing the business end of an old gramophone horn and laughing its head off. Yes, you guessed, it was some sort of animal charity, and if I loathed any charities, that was the type of charity I loathed most. Blood is thicker than water – starting with your nearest and dearest – then one’s fellow countrymen of your own acquaintance – next followed by fellow countrymen beyond your acquaintance – followed even by foreigners but, last and very much least, pets and other animals. Makes common sense in my book. The optimisation of scarce resources, if you don’t mind big words.
“The Dog Laughed, eh?” I said with a smile as I put a threepenny bit into her tin.
“Super name for it, isn’t it?” thee thaid, and when I discovered she had a lisp, I was already half in love with her. Her return smile was the clincher. I even felt guilty that I had surreptitiously used a coin that was no longer a coin of the realm. No longer legal tender. I later hoped she never suspected me when she finally emptied her tin. Still, I think the charity chiefs at ‘The Dog Laughed’ head office would be the ones who emptied the tins, not the chuggers themselves like Susie. Don’t know, in hindsight, whether she was a chugger proper, as she had no clipboard and no gift aid tax forms for me to complete. But she sure did shunt in my sidings all that night long.
Gradually, however, over the next few months, fading from my mind as things do when they seem beyond one’s ability to obtain. Ever to be an unrequited passion. Until I saw her again, this time outside Waterstones. A bit more up market as a site, I thought… The same Susie, according to the name badge on her bosom, but now chugging for a charity called ‘Holiday Without End’.
“What happened to the laughing dog?” I laughed.
She turned to look at me wondering, no doubt, what the hell I was spluttering on about or asking herself how did a man like me remember (and why) her previous charity. Was I some sort of weird stalker? But I can assure you I hadn’t thought of Susie for ages and in no way had I haunted this shopping area on Saturday mornings in the desperate hope of finding her there rattling a tin. Today was a sheer coincidence. And it was Tuesday afternoon!
With cheekth bluthing, thee thaid: “Sorry, what did you say?”
“The laughing dog, you know, when you were last here. I remember it well particularly as I later made a bequest in my will to that charity, because I was so impressed.”
It was my turn to blush. Lies always did that to me.
“Oh you mean The Dog Laughed?”
“Yes, The Dog Laughed, it was such a good name for it. Now…” I peered closer at the sash around her bosom (she now carried a clipboard rather than a tin). “…what is this? Holiday Without End? Hmmm, is that about a hospice? That would be a good name if it’s a charity for a hospice, I reckon.”
“No not exactly a hospice.” Thee thmiled.
She gave me the top page from under the bulldog clip on her board: a form with all my details already neatly filled in by some unknown hand. I found this out as I skimmed it. But not skimmed quick enough, it seems. She had gone by the time I looked up. I thought with some sense of temporary fleeting dread of the sort of official documents that always needed to be specifically passed by hand into the hand of the correct recipient or otherwise they lose their – what shall we call it? – legal tender.
I never saw Thuthie again.
Or her bulldog clip.
Or, thinking about it, anything else.