Graham's True Stories
Number 5, The People's Republic
Visiting the homes of people who have antique sewing machines for sale can be quite rewarding - and sometimes almost frightening.
The case I have in mind was in one of England's "New Towns" - tragic 1960's experiments in glass and concrete and universally known, by those who do not live in them, as the "People's Republics". A lady answered the door and we were nearly knocked off our feet by three pit-bull terriers making an escape bid. She screamed their names at them "Hitler, Goebels, Himmler".
I guess this should have given me the clue.
Inside we examined the two machines offered for sale and, harassed by canine representatives of Hitler's war cabinet, got close on the price but failed to go the full nine yards.
"You'll have to speak to Frank", she said. "Go through to the back room".
It was the smell that got me first; incense. There, in the corner, was Frank tending the everlasting flame on a shrine to Germany's Third Reich. Around the walls were photographs of Nuremberg Rallies; in showcases, weapons and Nazi insignia; from the tape deck, strains of Wagner.
I couldn't take it. Quickly backed out, paid the woman who thought nothing odd about my sudden reluctance to haggle, and fled for my car. It will be a long time before another sewing machine lures me into the People's Republic.