Join one family, as they struggle to survive the February freeze! Nazi Gold is a tale of specious morality, corporate intransigence, wanton child neglect and WW2 militaria…
“Hallelujah for Third Reich Memorabilia!”
Now, I’ve written some off-beat sentences in my time (you don’t know the half of it, Dear Reader…) but even for me, that’s an unlikely literary ejaculation. And why the exuberance? Well, I’ve rediscovered a cache of teenage trinkets that has lain undisturbed for almost three decades. Besides the arse-clenchingly, teeth-itchingly bad teenage poetry and the unpublished ‘first novel’ (it shall remain unpublished, without a doubt…), guess what I found? Well, I’ve sort of given the game away, I know. Jah, meine lieblings, Ich bin found a load of old militaria (or, “militrabilia”, as my Dad used to call it. A much better word, actually.) As a lad, I was always rooting around junk shops and antique fairs, slavering over German helmets and commando knives. Sadly, my mum would never give me the money for most of the pricier objects of my desire, but it seems I still managed to make a few good investments, thirty years hence… (Still, it does make you wonder what that stuffed Wehrmacht carrier pigeon would fetch today…)
These days, what with our ‘reduced circumstances’ (qv. “audacious corporate buccanneering”), anything of any value is consigned, before long, to a well known auction site (WKAS). WKAS is, it occurs to me, the modern equivalent of the pawn brokers, or the middle class version of Cash Converters (or, ‘Cash Covetors’, more appropriately…). Anyway, drollery aside, it’s a bloody God send, that’s what it is… ‘For richer, for poorer’, I pledged, and God knows I’ve kept my promise. Well, the second bit, anyway. Courtesy of WKAS, we now have almost no furniture, no jewellery and my delightful consort has (almost) no handbags. However, we have managed to pay the mortgage and avoid being thrown into the workhouse. Huzzah!(HMRC, if you’re tuning in, do recall this is all a lurid work of fiction, ahem…)
Anyway, in a sort of Buddhist way, it’s all quite liberating, ridding yourself of your accumulated trappings – especially when you can’t afford not to. So, rediscovering in a shoebox the tarnished tackle of totalitarianism was a bonanza indeed, and ready fodder for WKAS. Thank the Lord for my youthful obsession with Nazi uniforms. Never was blunt, brainless and brutish intolerance so exquisitely attired nor so lavishly accoutred with mystical iconography and aquiline nick-nackery. And I seemed to have quite a bit of it. Moreover, it seems that some people are rather keen on it and willing to stump up quite large sums for an SS belt bought by a teenager in a junk shop in Reading. Wunderbah. Slightly worryingly, according to the WKAS profiles, some of these good volk reside in Germany, though many seem to lurk in the South East of England and in Middle America. Anyway, I shall not wonder at their obsessions nor their complexes – not if they stump up the gelt.
So, it was with some glee that I sallied forth this morning, waking to the news of rampant overnight bidding on WKAS. £185 for an old belt buckle? ‘Gott in himmel!’, as the Commando War Library might to have it. The only trouble was, as I rose to face the morn, I couldn’t help but notice – and neither could Mrs D – that we could both see our breath in front of our faces. As a chill swept briskly over the warmth of fleeting financial salvation, our daughter toddled in and burrowed rapidly under the duvet. She aptly expressed through chattering milk-teeth the frigid conditions within the homestead: “Mummy, my hair is cold!” The boiler was kaput.
A lot of fiddling, cajoling and swearing ensued, but the boiler remained resolutely kaput. I had automatically glazed at the sight of the manual with its lumpen narrative and dispiriting schematics. There was nothing else for it but to assign the prospective Nazi Gold to the repair of the boiler. I had it earmarked for new pair of shoes, but needs must, and at least we had a contingency. A few phonecalls later and I was fully aquainted with the fell designs of the heating establishment. To wit, exploit to the maximum financial advantage the wretched condition of the pre-hyperthermic customer and his brood.
“£72 pounds per half an hour!!??”, I could be heard to exclaim… I dissembled before hanging up and descending into the nether regions of the house to fiddle optimistically.
In the meantime, the Gods of WKAS intervened.
“Your listings have been removed,” hollared Mrs D, from next to the rattling tumble dryer, where she was huddled for warmth.
Sure enough, a brief look at my iPhone confirmed it: “WKAS don’t allow sellers to list items that promote violence, hatred, racial or religious intolerance, or items from organisations that promote these views.”
I got onto WKAS to try to have it out with them there and then, pointing out that a mute, insentient historical artifact could not ‘promote’ anything. I was met with a rote-learned response, and spluttered an equally vain observation down the line to Manila: ‘There are about 12,000 items of Third Reich memorabilia listed on the site as we speak!’. I got the same parroted rejoinder and gave in. But really, all that was the low-hanging fruit of the moral argument. What I should have said was that this was stark evidence of an intolerance of free thought. This was an imposed code of ersatz morality – and yes, it was political correctness gone mad! The grand irony was that the Nazis, like many a totalitarian outfit, were similarly rather against people thinking for themselves, preferring that the public practice bovine adherance to the prescribed orthodoxies. Now, the sharp-eyed call-centre employee would have been pricked by a certain parallel there… He’d have had an instantaneous epiphany, picked up the phone to senior management and railed against the illogical inconsistencies in policy. Rules would have been changed, my listings re-instated and my Hun booty exchanged for vast sums of lovely cash.
What actually happened was that I lost my temper and conveyed a number of ripe expletives, demanding of the disembodied voice, ‘Have you ever heard of the National Front, the Ku Klux Klan or Eugene Terre-bloody-blanche?!! No? Well have a look on your site right now, because if you want an fascist fridge magnet, a rascist bumper stickeror a white supremacist oven glove, I know where you can get one!’. The line went dead during the course of this intemperate yet wholly apposite gambit. I had lost the battle but felt certain I had won the moral argument. Hopefully, if they were still conscious, Mrs D and the imp would be cheered – warmed even – by that small victory over faceless online auctioneering. But, as it happened, they weren’t.
So, there I was with a broken boiler, a family with the advanced stages of frostbite and a stash of unsellable Aryan heirlooms. I was assailed by my familiar persecution complex, and not for the first time – in this blog or otherwise – cursed audacious corporate buccaneering… The family was in the soup, with yours truly playing the main crouton. Moreover, this situation provided proof positive that political correctness was a menace to humanity and robbed children of the most basic amenities, such as warmth. Indirectly… Sort of.
I repaired to the bowels of the house to commune with the boiler. Reluctantly, I picked up the handbook and tried to apply some of the procedures, restarting, resetting, and giving it a thump. That last bit wasn’t in the handbook, but it was satisfying, and did actually coincide with a rather encouraging noise from within the boiler. I dashed upstairs to check the thermostat, which exhibited a rather propitious green light… I turned it back to zero and then up to 15 degrees, hoping against hope… Bolting back downstairs, I arrived just in time to see the joyous blue flame ignite in its little round window and to hear the boiler gurgle dispeptically into life. Heat began to surge through the house, the pipes creaking and ticking to herald my success. I headed upstairs to convey the good news, peeling off my jumper ostentatiously to lift the morale of the troops.
As I struggled back into my jumper, I relayed elaborately yet grippingly the technical acumen that had engendered the clan’s deliverance. From beneath the blanket under which Mrs D and the imp were huddled, came a weak chorus of approval. Not only that, once Mrs D had recovered the use of her tongue, it transpired that one, ‘Ricky’, from Loughton – WKAS handle: “Panzer-God 13” – had emailed privately to ask if he could buy the entire stock of Nazi nick-nacks for a handsome sum. As I reflected on this reversal of fortune and considered the prospect of liquidating my collection, strangely, the image of the pilot light, dancing in its little window came into my mind again and again. It kept making me think rather biliously of ovens, ashes and gas. Some indefineable discomfiture made me politely decline “Panzer God 13’s” generous offer.
I still believe in thinking for yourself and would be happy to engage in another round of verbal argy bargy with WKAS, but I suppose you do always have to consider that freedom of thought leeds some people to the wrong conclusions… That’s why you can’t just be told what’s right, you have to understand what’s right.
Postscriptum: Driven by Mrs D as much as by financial peril, I did ultimately sell the Nazi hoard, to a Police Community Support Officer whose sole duty seems to extend to chastising school children at the bus stop by the station. He didn’t pay quite as much as “Panzer-God 13” had pledged but seemed reasonably balanced, and as a guardian of the law, surely appreciated the grey shades and nuances of morality… That having been said, he did joke that the SS belt would go well with his uniform.
I was just obeying orders…