As Halloween rapidly approaches I thought I would recount an old story that happened to me a few years ago.
My local Authority every year puts on a town show every September and as part of that they have a craft marquee with all the usual competitions, best knitted article etc some of which are really good and some need a little more work. Next to the craft marquee they have anther marquee for the local arts organisations in which we had a stall promoting the shop we had at the time.
Now it so happened that I had been on a retailing course where we were told that to be successful we just needed to do the same as the big shops but to suit our budget. So that’s what we did, and decided to theme the shop for Halloween, to include a Coffin display cabinet. Now I did have a conversation with a local funeral director about buying one until I found out the cost ( and the lack of quality) so in the end I decided to make one. A sheet of top quality block board was duly purchased. I lay on it, my colleagues drew round me, and so a coffin was made, I then went on to make several more for local theatrical hire companies. I still have it and several times a year it gets hired out. I used to joke this was mine for when my time comes, but as I get older I find myself eyeing it up and thinking I must get round to adding some padding I want to be comfortable, is that logical?
Now I had decided to take the coffin fitted out as a display cabinet to the show to put on our shop stall to promote Halloween, but as a joke I mentioned to a council official I was going to enter a hand made wooden box into the craft competition. This was met with much enthusiasm as the wood section of the competition was always poorly supported. Over the course of the next few weeks I dropped several snippets into conversation about ” did they have enough space allocated for it” and eventually curiosity got the better of them and they asked what sort of wooden box it was. I hedge a bit but eventually I told them what type of box it was and all hell broke loose, you can guess the rest. Suffice to say it went all the way to the top, I had managed to scandalize a complete administration.
Having made such a fuss I thought I should actually support the competition and so instead entered a turned chess set which I had made for my dearly beloved. It had taken a month of evenings slaving over a hot lathe to turn a complete set of chess pieces in tulip wood and rosewood. I was so proud, if I say so myself they were perfect. All the pawns identical one of my finest pieces of work or so I thought. I didn’t have time to make the chess board so I just used one from home and into the craft tent it went. The coffin then went with me into the arts tent and became a amusing conversation piece for the day.
When the judging was over I discovered my magnificent chess set had been awarded third prize out of a field of three, and if I say so myself the first and second prize winners effort were pretty ropey. Now as luck would have the clerk to the judges was an old friend of mine, and when I was moaning to him about it, I was told it was because the judges hadn’t believed it was hand made. It was too good. So throwing my hands up in despair I said “what do I have to do to win first prize” to which the answer was “ask me nicely” and was then presented with a pink piece of card with first prize written on the front, which is all you won.
Back I went to my stall triumphant, clutching my First Place pink card which I duly pinned to the front of the coffin. As I did that who should stroll past but the mayor, who exclaimed “Ahh I see you have won first prize” and proceeded to shake my hand, as the photographer from the local newspaper took our picture. It made it into the paper the following week which goes to show you cant always believe everything in the press, and I continue to claim I won first prize for the coffin.