It’s a while since I wrote about any of our favourite catchphrases. I recorded many of them in the first few months of this Blog, and created this Category to find them easily.
A phrase that my wife and I have used throughout our married life relates to the best hundred pounds (or fifty pounds, or relevant other amount) that we have ever spent. I used it for many years after we bought a swing-seat for the back garden in the summer of 2004. As a child I saw swing-seats in films and TV shows but never sat in one. We didn’t have one and nor did anyone we knew. The one that we bought in 2004, the summer before our first child was born, cost £100 at a local garden centre, reduced from something like £250. It came in a flat-pack and had to be assembled at home. I loathe such tasks but undertook this one with less cursing and grumpiness than usual. When it was complete I sat on it, swung back and forth and said, “That is the best hundred pounds I have ever spent”. For the rest of the summer my journeys home from work were improved by the prospect of sitting or lying on the swing for a while on my return.
I am easily put off by the most mundane acts of maintenance and the swing-seat brought its own daily chores. The cushions had to be stored in the house when not in use and brought out when they were needed, in case of cats or birds going about their business on them. The rain-cover had to be placed over the entire frame after each use and removed before you could have a swing. It was fiddly. Even so, these daily routines were offset by the pleasure that the swing-seat brought me.
That item of garden furniture did its job. We enjoyed it for several summers but much of it rusted away and it has now been broken down and taken to the recycling centre. For its last few years it only served as a piece of gymnastic equipment, the main part of the frame being the only part that was still reliable. When they were smaller the children would stretch up and work their way along the frame, in the same way that they use the monkey bars at the playground, but more recently =they no longer had to stretch, and swinging by their arms from the horizontal bar across the top became rather dangerous. The cushions were long gone, the rain cover was unable to keep the elements at bay, the base of the seat was weather-beaten beyond repair. In its early years I did contemplate keeping the whole thing indoors during the winter but the proper place for garden furniture is, as its name suggests, in the garden.
Another more recent purchase prompts an adapted version of our catchphrase. A box-set of the BBC Shakespeare Complete Works set me back £63 in the spring of 2015, as I noted in this piece about watching every Shakespeare play in 2003/4. I have observed, more than once, that it’s the best £63 I’ve ever spent. (Technically it didn’t even cost me that much: I used Amazon vouchers, which came as a reward for using a NatWest credit card, rather than cash.)
Some years ago, when “Desert Island Discs” was only broadcast live and not available on any of the BBC’s Listen Again services, I recall one of the guests describing a collection of albums by a specific artist in a similar way. I’d have to trawl the archive (a pleasant enough task) to find who it was, and which artist they were referring to. They suggested that the £50 or £100 they had spent on that performer’s albums was as good a purchase as any other they’d made in the 1970s. Was it Jack Vetriano talking about Bob Dylan? Was it Ian Rankin talking about David Bowie? Maybe it was neither of them. With the way CDs are priced these days you could probably buy all of the major albums by Bowie, Dylan and Led Zeppelin and still have change from £100. It could be the best hundred pounds you’ve ever spent.