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Saturday 17 November 2012

How Much You Want?

The lift girl took a fancy to her blouse --
my daughter's. Every time we'd travel
with her in her lift, whether up or down ,
I'd see her finger it and smile.
Nice, dearie!, she would say. How much?
And every time my daughter would just smile
and shake her head, turn slightly pinkish
and the girl would ask again: How much?

I thought it strange. Though some clothes 
were in great demand, the blouse was very like
the ones the locals wore round town --
embroidered in the same half folksy style,
with just the motifs differing: hers Teddy
bears and dolls; theirs pine trees wolves and trolls.
(One hotel guest disposed of all her husband's clothes
and went home with a suitcase full of useless currency.)

Daily beside the hotel swimming pool
illegal currency exchanges on-going all the while --
and all beneath the noses of the far-
from-secret Secret Officers in far-
from-plain-clothes suits, with half-
mile-wide lapels - suits that only they could buy.
How much you want? and Give you... echoed
quite like laughter round the pool.

And then one evening during dinner:
a commotion. An Officer type Spiv --
lapels at 10 to 2 -- had arrested on the hotel beach
a young girl for soliciting. She'd cloned --
I swear to heaven -- the very blouse my daughter
still was wearing. Some sort of badge or sign
those motifs -- so the inference was that all the guests 
soon drew. My daughter didn't wear the blouse again.
I will not divulge at this stage where in the world these events took place - thought some might like to guess. My daughter at the time was ten years old.


Daydreamertoo said...

Oh that all sounds very cheesy sleazy. I bet your daughter felt so awkward. Now, I'm so curious as to where you were. Must have been a really 'lively' place...lol

Anonymous said...

Ha. Supremely well done, from the awkwardness of the girl saying "nice dearie" which is not a girl thing to say unless not really an English speaker, to the insistance of the inquiry. The echos of the bargaining around the pool and the lapels, and the sub rosa bblack marketeering with the sudden crackdown. Very well done.

I'm guessing Eastern Europe but these experiences happen so many places. I remember visiting Myammar then Burma, where they were bidding on your cigarette and scotch before you even lefft the customs area of the airport. Of course the agents were probably getting a piece of it.

Your especially vivid. Sorry for typos--on iPad which is great but does lead to typos,

Brian Miller said...

kinda scary actually, or awqward feel to the situ...and no matter how much you try to distance yourself from it , in infers intimacy...reminds me a bit of haggling in mexico....love all the details that really bring this to life dave

Mary said...

How sad for your daughter to find out that the blouse she was wearing represented something illicit. Yikes. I would guess the lift operator probably knew as well and perhaps wished to be one who was making extra on the side. I will be interested in what country. I will hazard a guess -- Italy or Greece.

Helen said...

A 'keep your children close' kind of story, Dave. Wherever this happened, sleaze was alive and thriving!

Ygraine said...

What an uncomfortable experience for a ten-year-old. I'll bet she has never forgotten it.
I wonder if we are somewhere in South America here?

Sarav said...

Dave, what a story!! Excellent write, I felt like I was there-really enjoyed that description of the-no-so-secret men:-) very clever

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Your daughter won't forget. An experience that sounds strange, unique, bizarre and a bit shocking..exactly what life is.

Claudia said...

oh heck..that sounds rather surreal in a way...i can imagine that she didn't wear that blouse again

sm said...

nice write up
how much

Dave King said...

Thanks all.

Taking things in chronological order,
we were in Ceausescu's Roumania. Not long before his downfall, as it turned out. There were a number of incidents like these involving the not-so-secret police who in fact were most conspicuous. You could pick them out at a great distance. I was surprised, though, to learn from you that such events do/did occur around the world not infrequently.

Thank you for your sympathetic understanding of the effect upon my daughter. She did appear to shake it off, but yes, it was uncomfortable for her.

Quite a memorable holiday: just for good measure we had a lightning strike on the beach a few yards from us!

Thanks again to you all.

Anonymous said...

an amazing story! very delish infact and full of possibilities.

thank you for sharing.