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The world according to.... Sid Langley.

Thank heavens for Mrs Gaskell. She has quite restored my emotional equilibrium. Well, no. That's perhaps claiming rather too much. But the in-favour Victorian novelist has comforted me more than a little this week, when my life was in distinct danger of transforming into a cartoon strip. And a not very amusing one.

The problem, and I may as well come straight out and say it, is bulldog clips. Now I'm sure that if I went to the right agencies and buttonholed the right social worker, I could find myself in a bulldog clip awareness group or one-on-one counselling to t ry to come to terms with my problem, to externalise my guilt.

I can just see myself now, rising unsteadily to my feet at the back of a neon-lit room in a community centre or primary school hall and announcing in a quavering voice, "Hi, my name's Sidney and I'm a bulldog clip hoarder."

They'd understand. They, as we have all learned to say along with Ricki, Oprah and co, have been there.

It started when Mrs L spent cash on some brightly-coloured plastic thingamibobs, a genetically-engineered cross between pegs and hairgrips, to seal up packets of frozen peas etc to return to the freezer.

Preparing a meal one evening, I had cause to open a new pack of same. As you do if you're planning a certain sort of risotto. But I couldn't find any spare whatsits to seal them again.

Inspiration struck me when I fumbled through the dining room dresser having exhausted all the kitchen cupboards, drawers and old pickle jars which are an archaeological treasure trove of rubber bands, used stamps, drawing pins, 20p off offers, pre-decima l coinage and that bulb from the Christmas tree lights which, once inserted, completes the circuit and has them all winking merrily away as good as when we bought them in 1971. It's the first time I'd seen it since 1980. But that's another really engross ing story which I'll save for another time.

Anyway, during this hunt for freezer thingamibobs, I came across a large silver bulldog clip. About three inches long. That's 7.6 centimetres in new money. This, I thought, is just the job.

It worked. I had a small reservation that using a metal implement to close the frozen peas and all the attendant moisture might result in a certain amount of rusting. I could, I reasoned, explain that this was a trendy new method of adding health-giving iron to our vegetables. Why, I'd say, I hear they do it in California - home of all things trendy - all the time.

But, of course, the metal goes on the outside of the bag anyway and need not contact the peas, sausages, fish or whatever.

I began sorting the spaghetti of cables, aerials and miscellaneous wires behind the telly and hi-fi into neat coils holding them tidily together with bulldog clips.

I began using the large ones positioned sideways to hold used paintbrushes upright in jars of white spirit.

I began keeping my place in my diary and books with clips of assorted sizes.

I began threading them on clothes hangers to hang ties and belts from them.

I have fastened bags of muesli and cornflour with them, fixed sagging plants to trellis, used them in car, garage, kitchen, garden. Everywhere.

Our meagre supply was soon exhausted. I began to, er, acquire them elsewhere. Just here and there, one at a time.

No-one misses one bulldog clip.

But I have never, ever, hand on heart, taken one that was in use, never unsheafed papers or anything nasty like that. I've only ever pocketed unemployed clips which I've come across in halorgotten corners of desks and work stations.

Of course, I could go to an office supplies emporium and buy several gross of them. But that is missing the essential point of recycling clips, making the world a place of order and neatness for no cost.

But I've found myself with half an eye on a casual clip encounter for most of the working day. I've become a cliptomaniac. And I've remembered the hoarding of cartoon icons Ren and Stimpy.

Which is where the soothing Mrs Gaskell comes in. In her classic novel of 19th century smalltown life, Cranford, which has been my motorway listening over the past few days, she has her heroine, Mary Smith describe the fixation of one old lady in making tapers to light candles from scraps of old paper. This leads Mary to confess her own preoccupation with acquiring odds and ends of string just in case they may prove useful.

Phew...now I can tell myself I'm upholding Victorian values.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 30, 1998
Words:779
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