What are they on about?

4th May 2001 at 01:00
David Newnham encounters a pressing problem at the newsagent's

Does anybody need a mahogany-finish trouser press, wall-mountable, as new, with LED display and electronic timer? If so, there's one advertised for pound;25 in the newsagent's window.

Me? I'm not in the least tempted. For one thing, second-hand trousers are more my line. And for another, there's that phrase at the end of the ad. "Genuine reason for sale," it says. On the whole, I think it would be better to come straight out with it, if only because, in the absence of a plausible explanation, those words work horribly on the imagination.

What's the most likely "reason for sale"? I'm groping in the dark here, never having owned a trouser press. But my guess is that the thing seemed like a good idea at the time, but once set up and mounted on the wall, it proved more trouble than it was worth, requiring even more time than the dishwasher to set up every night, and with a nasty habit of triggering the smoke alarm at 3am.

The appropriate shorthand for the above, of course, is "unwanted gift". But this hint of some "genune reason". Does the owner no longer feel comfortable wearing men's clothing? And if not, why not? Maybe it's something complicated but essentially innocent, such as the boss deciding to introduce a "dressing down" policy in the office. Maybe.

My guess is that what we see in this little postcard is evidence of some greater domestic drama - a precursor of the sort of thing we will witness at number 43 a few years from now. There's a man at number 43 - I don't know his name - whose wife is called Val. I know this because the red and amber tiles on their roof have been arranged in such a way that they spell out the words "I LOVE VAL" for all the world to see.

Now, statistically, it seems inevitable that the day will dawn when passers-by, scanning the skyline for signs of better weather, will see a lone figure perched atop number 43, shuffling tiles late into the night. When "I LOVE VAL" becomes "I LOVE LIZ" or even "I LOVE IAN", then all the world will know about it. Almost as surely as if Val had put a card in the newsagent's window offering an as-new trouser press for pound;25.

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