“Threadbare” Jo, who, to misquote the Bard, had a “Shirt for All Seasons,” and I don’t mean he had a shirt for every breeze and vista. No I mean he literally had one shirt, and he wore it regardless of the seasons, also lived in an emotionally impoverished state. You will not be surprised to learn that men did not walk up to him in the street and say, “I wish I was you” or girls murmur “Oh to lie in your stinking and unwashed arms and watch the sun setting in some unblemished refuse tip.”
Things could have been worse, and how often is that true: his morale was protected by his poor understanding of his situation, but even he knew he lived in an affection free zone. Thus it was that our Jo, more formally known as Joseph Leek, walked into “The Shop of Love” to see, emotionally at least, if he could re-equip his circumstances and experience a moment of living in the promised land.
This was no sleazy joint where women leaving the gentle slopes of youth might squeeze one last ingénue pose out for the camera, or men with more desire than aura were old enough to cause unsettled comment when they entered a nightclub. No, this was a shop offering the ultimate in emotional experience, if only for a while or possibly just a moment , captured in a corked bottle which could be opened and enjoyed within the privacy of your own home or space. Every hue and shade of feeling, from joy through to despair, ( a surprisingly good seller), was on offer.
Samual Sackly, who liked to weep while other smiled, and could be found walking inconsolably through the gardens of historic homes crying, as he held a tender flower in his hand saying, “They will die. You will die. All of them will die” which was true, but not for several months given that it was early Spring, used to purchase a deliciously soul-bleaching bottle of melacholia to heighten the experience before he set off on his adventure.
Joseph Leek just wanted “Love.” The nice old fashioned sort which we enjoyed before sensibility barged into the frame and made strong men weep just by looking at a cloud-tipped view while music soaked them with a sense of loss. “I’m after Love” said “Threadbare” and the attendant nodded sympathetically. He saw every kind of ill-fitting decision, or no decision at all, walk through the door. Here, as I said, they did not offer the physical experience of being loved, but just the essence of it, in every shade and strength of expression, so you could return home, make an egg sandwich and, quite literally, take the cork out of the bottle.
Now at last, as the yolk spilled down his cheek in the splendid isolation afforded by worn-out curtains and the lack of a phone, his emotion of choice flooded the room, bathing him in sweet recognition until, sated by the brief sense of acceptance and celebration, he slumped down on his bed and recalled those days when people cared and loved without recourse to manuals or instructions. That lost era before works like, “How To Live The Natural Way,” were to be found in the homes of aesthetes everywhere.