Tuesday 17th August
A Peddlars Tale
(A personal account)
The Struggling Retailer sets sail from its Walcot Street base
at around 11.30am. Its only my fourth time out this summer,
so Im still enjoying it a lot and its sunny so Im
looking forward to the day I sell a copy of Awash
With Ale by Swift
& Elliott outside Nashers.
The Retailer rolls to the bottom of Walcot Street, right into
Broad Street and then left into Green Street. We have a gentle
bimble down Union Street until approached by a man. He looks as
if he spends too much time under neon strip lights, and Im
not sure but maybe he has cobwebs around his face.
The man asks me if I have a Pedlars Certificate and I tell him
yes I do. He hangs around for a bit so I say Oh, would you
like to see it? and he says yes. I show him it. It looks
On the back is space for Endorsements under the Pedlars
Act 1871. Fortunately I dont have any yet, but then
I havent been out much. The man (who is wearing a stripy
nylon shirt) asks me all sorts of questions, most of which are
already answered by the details on my Pedlars Certificate.
I ask him what hes up to, who he is and which hairdresser
does he go to? He says hell tell me in a minute when hes
finished making a note of my details.
Then he shows me his identity card. Its quite plain looking,
laminated, typeface is Helvetica
and it has the logo of the so-called Bath & North East Somerset
Council (a dull six-pointed star in blue and green, colours
that dont go together well at all). The card says his name
is Mel Ohagan (small h). I wonder if hes
from Bath, or whether he drives here from Devizes or somewhere
just to hassle people like me who do live here. I have
certainly not met him in the pub before now.
Aesthetically his identity card has all the appeal of his nylon
shirt, and makes me hope I never have to carry an identity card
with me too. (However all the indications are that the UK totalitarian
state is now well established and weve just gotta learn
to live with it or leave the country.)
When he is finished writing stuff down about me he says right,
now youve got to stop. I say, Hello mate I dont
He says I am doing all sorts of things that contravene the conditions
of my Pedlars Certificate. I say, Im very sorry
but I think youre mistaken mate.
He says he is surprised that the people who issued my Certificate
(Avon & Somerset
Police) didnt tell me that I wasnt allowed
to operate like this. He makes up a list of things Im doing
He says Im not allowed to sell any of the stuff Im
selling under a Pedlars Certificate.
Im selling T-shirts, CDs, hand-made necklaces and
books written by local authors. In fact everything I sell is made
by Bath artists. It is my policy to only sell stuff made in Bath
by people who live here.
I say "Well Id like to see your copy of the Pedlars
act 1871 mate, cos the copy Ive seen doesnt
have any of those stupid rules in it. (In fact theres
no way the Pedlars Act 1871 can have anything about pedal
power in it because no-one invented the bicycle until the 1890s.)
Mal says theres a copy in the library and I say well I
couldnt find it last time I looked so can I see a copy of
yours please. He says it would take you all day to read the whole
act and I say thats fine mate Im a publisher. I like
reading long bits of writing. He says well youve got to
stop trading and I say I dont think so mate, youre
wrong. Youre just a bully, and Id like to see a copy
of what youre saying in writing. He says ok then Ill
go and get you a photocopy of the Pedlars Act 1871. I say
great, see you later mate.