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There were a couple bits of side business from Chapter 7 that caught my fancy which didn't really feed the story but fed the atmosphere in spades. Here, apropros of nothing, is a digression from the middle of Alf's Clapham Common misadventure:

As young Alf told me of his spell of honest employment we were standing at the top of the Walk, where it bends round to meet the Lambeth Road. There is a shop at that point which always interests me. If I shut my eyes and think of something I do not want and could not in any probable circumstances want, and then open them on that shop window, I shall see the thing itself.

A silk hat of the later eighties? It is there. A Jumbo Entertainer's voice producer? It invites you. A bust of Wordsworth - engraved? You may have it at a sacrificial price. 'Law's Serious Call'? It stares you in the face, with 'The Young Criminal' as next-door neighbour. Racing calendars, too, seven years old, and looking their age, you may get; accordions, and briar-pipes, well-coloured, and marked at twopence. It would pay a discontented man to come to that corner--he could ride there from any reasonable part of London for threepence at the outside--and learn how many things he does not want. Where do these strange things come from? And have they any future? You would think that the silk hat of the later eighties would have had enough of life and be glad of oblivion.

I was interested in the shop; but courtesy demanded that I should attend to my entertainer. (pp. 88-9)


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