I started smoking the pipe a few years ago I have always bought my smoking supplies from my local newsagents-come-tobacconists
shop. This is run by a ruddy-faced, cheery old soul called Tam. Tam and I have become firm friends over the years based partly
on the fact that in one corner of the shop he keeps a terrarium – one of the hobbies (in addition to brass rubbing)
which my good lady wife and I indulge in to while away the long Caledonian winters. As a result I often drop in to the shop
even when I don’t need to buy anything just to yarn about how to treat Red Leg in Horned Frogs (a knotty problem, of
my first few visits I began to notice that a short red-haired man of about 30 years would also often come in to buy a pack
of pipe cleaners. (Note for the cognoscenti: Churchwarden Standard, pack of 36). I mentioned this to Tam and he confirmed
that “Och aye, old Ginger is a rare one for the pipe cleaners – he buys them from yon wee Londis supermarket too
– but strange to say ah’ve never had him buy tobacco, or even seen him smoke”.
matters rested, and over the next many months I started to notice “Ginger” going about his business elsewhere
in town, sometimes accompanied by a statuesque female companion who I took to be his wife.
personally I have never been much of a one for pornography, adhering to the dictum “Why go out for hamburger when you
can have fillet steak at home ?” (or, in the case of Mrs Woodley, tripe and onions), but Tam also stocks a small selection
of “top-shelf” magazines which though classed as “adult” are mostly bought by the surly neo-adolescents
who grace our local streets with their al fresco Special Brew discussion groups.
day when I went into the shop Tam waited until we were alone, took down one of these magazines and handed it to me “Will
you take a look a page 37, Ted” he said. In the tobacco-heavy atmosphere, silent but for the chirrup of an Oriental
Firebellied Toad, I turned the pages. Tam had directed my attention to a pictorial section called “Reader’s Wives”
– there resplendent in a series of photos was Ginger’s wife, disrobed but for a tight corset from which one or
two (two, actually) key sections were missing. The corset was so tightly bound that its contents were overflowing more than
somewhat. “Bringing disgrace to Falkirk !” I commented (satirically), handing the magazine back to Tam.
again, Ted” he said “Look at the close-up – what else do you recognise ?”. Steeling myself, I looked
again …. the fabric of the corset …. that texture … where had I seen it before ? … that white and
black patterning …. suddenly I recognised what could only be the black ribbing of a Churchwarden 12-incher ! The entire
garment had been made out of pipe cleaners in the manner of medieval chain-mail – no wonder its grip was so tight !
then the bell over the door rang and in came Ginger himself ! Flustered, I dropped the offending magazine into the terrarium,
stunning a Paddletailed Newt.
pack of pipe cleaners please” said Ginger.
absorbent, or Ream-n-Clean ?” enquired Tam.
over the newt, I stifled a chuckle.