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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On bargains and politics,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

In your hilarious column today (15 October 2004), you reveal that you like to search for things for sale on eBay. I like eBay too, but what I look for are old railroad-related items such as timetables, stock certificates, steam-locomotive photos, padlocks and even sheet music. What types of things do you look for on eBay? Would you ever consider buying, say, a cello or a bow through eBay?

Jim in the Sunny South

Dear Jim

All I can say is: I was in the Sunny South!!!!!!!!!!! -- All we've had is rain, rain, rain for about a month!!!!!!!!!

The rest of all I can say is: I wish I was interested in the same items as you are, as you can probably get good deals on those!!!!

I have made killings on (a) expensive make-up and skincare (b) designer shoes (all UK 6s and USA 8s fit me PERFECTLY) (c) books of all kinds (d) the occasional concert dress (e) beanie boppers and My Little Ponies (not for me: for my seven-year-old, an avid collector).

I have messed up with (a) shoes chosen for my daughter (b) stuff for Simon (c) anything where I fail to set a limit and get carried away by someone's DELIBERATELY setting out to outbid me on something seriously crucial, such as a My Little Pony with WINGS and a FREE VIDEO at only 19 pounds!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or rather, 5 pounds, which is what it was at before I got all competitive about it.

Basically, eBay is for the psychologically sound of judgement, or, in other words, for nobody under the staid and sober age of 75, up to and including Archbishops. Unfortunately, in the real world, eBay is for people who can't resist bargains (follow me closely here) but who have a really CLEAR IDEA of what a bargain is. As for cellos or bows, I really can't think anyone could buy one, sight unseen. They could be riddled with cracks, not have been actually made by whoever is it who supposedly made them, have a rotten sound or (in the case of a bow) deplorable balance.

Howsoever, I DID, as it happened, just DIP my toe into the water of buying a BRASS instrument on ebay, just last week. This is because they have makes like cars, not individual makers, like stringed instruments, and because one Yamaha (in good nick) is supposed to sound just like any other Yamaha (as long as it also is in good nick).

Thus the following dialogue occurred last week:

ALICE: Guess what I just found on eBay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SIMON (for some unexplained reason burying head in hands): Oh God!
ALICE: A tenor horn for Rachel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SIMON: I suppose it's perfect.
ALICE: It's PERFECT!!!!!!!!! Hardly been played, only two years old, a Yamaha, and SILVER-PLATED!!!!!!!!!!!
SIMON: I bet the price is amazing.
ALICE: Listen, the price is just AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! They're letting it go for 315 pounds --------- no, sorry, that's just gone up to 415 pounds, but what a BARGAIN!!!!!!!! I mean, brand new they cost roughly the same as the national debt of Brazil and here it is, right on eBay, look you just press this button and then ...
SIMON: Right. Well, I'm working here ...

(A serious error, as will be revealed ...)

ALICE: Simon, Simon, we won the tenor horn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SIMON (still at computer): The what?
ALICE: The wonderful, silver-plated, Yamaha model tenor-horn, including hard case and Yamaha mouthpiece and --
SIMON (absently): Good, fine, great. What'd you get it for?
ALICE (WITH MODEST PRIDE): Only 590 pounds!!!!!!!!!

(At this point SIMON can no longer cope and strangles ALICE.

Ask AliceNext scene: a cloud. ALICE appears, with wings, halo, and harp)

ALICE (PETULANTLY): I can't understand it. It was such a BARGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Alice

Hi Alice! Great column ... I've been a fan for some months since Dick Cheney started sending it through on the presidential fax.

Been meaning to write for some time to ask your advice ... about keeping my job. A lot of folks out there seem to want me out since I made some unpopular moves.

D'you reckon there's anything I can do to pump up mah ratings (short of defecting to the Democrats)?

Keep up the good work -- the great and famous are reading Ask Alice!


Dear George W,

Well, thanks for the vote of support, which is more, frankly, than you got out of me.

Yes sirree, I hightailed me down to the Democrats Abroad and got me a good old-fashioned absentee ballot and voted for John Kerry, and then I posted it. (Get there by the 2008 election, I reckon.)

And why did I vote for Kerry? Well, the war had nothing to do with it. Saddam Hussein was terrifyingly Stalin-like, and I think he arrogantly assumed he'd just get away with murdering as many of his own people as he liked. (We should have sorted out Rwanda as well: I think that genocide will always lie on the West's conscience.)

I simply thought any presidential candidate not in the pocket of the gun lobby, the no-you-can't-even-use-cells-of-unborn-embryos-even-to-save-a-human-life lobby, and the just plain I'm-strong-and-my-opponent-changes-his mind lobby, deserves my vote.

Some of the best decisions I ever made were the result of changes of mind.

Not to mention the rights of Americans (such as musicians!!!!!!!!!!!!) who can't afford health insurance, to have access to decent health care.

And don't get me started on education!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, well, George, you had your go, and history will probably say that, OK, the Iraq war was worth it, but that you were fiddling about in the middle-east while America burned. (Go figure.)


Copyright © 22 October 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK



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