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Jul 20, 2018

Running an independent sports store is no joke!

A sideways look at the world of independent retailing

We had this new entertainments officer from the local Chamber of Trade round the other day. It’s been an organisation for the walking dead for as long as I can remember and apparently this bloke’s been brought in to try to liven things up a bit.

“I know times are hard, but having a laugh never did anyone any harm,“the chap said. I could have told him about my Uncle Alan who burst a blood vessel while laughing at the Morcambe and Wise Christmas show, but I didn’t.

“Every trade has its funny side,“said this geezer, looking straight at my assistant Norman.“We want to organise a competition among local shops for the funniest joke about your retailing speciality.

“First prize is half an hour on a paintball park and the second a free manicure for your dog. It’s all adding up to a cracking day out.

“We were hoping to get sponsorship from the bloke who runs the joke shop next to the bus station, but he’s apparently having treatment for manic depression.”

I said we’d think about it, but the moment he’d gone Norman started remembering the sports-shop jokes he’d heard at a customer-relations forum organised by those sportsgoods importers who were later exposed on Rogue Traders and were chased in their white van by the bloke on a motor-bike.

Norman had found the invitation in a box of North Korean tennis socks and thought it seemed a pity to waste it.

The jokes he remembered included “How did a football pitch end up as a triangle? Answer: Someone took a corner” “We lost 3-0 and played so badly we were lucky to get nil” and “Old skiers never die, they just go downhill”.

I could have said none of them were as funny as his exploits during his brief appearance as deputy assistant reserve goalkeeper for Accrington Stanley Reserves, but I didn’t because that would have been gratuitously unkind.

Instead, I said that if necessary I’d take out an injunction against his telling any more awful jokes in working hours and if that failed, I’d sack him.

Norman took the hint and said he’d consult his friend Kevin, an amateur comedian who would have been in the Britain’s Got Talent auditions if he hadn’t got the day wrong, and see what he came up with.

All Kevin did come up with was a joke about a man who went flyfishing and came home with a bag full of bluebottles. We were still working out how to get out of the whole gruesome business when the cove from the Chamber of Trade started emailing the entries he’d already received, presumably in the hope of raising the level of interest from nil to at least mild apathy.

Old Mr Mortiboys, from the secondhand shop next door, had sent a joke about a man who bought a brass rat from a junk shop despite being warned that there could be alarming consequences.

As he walked down the road, he was astonished to see rats emerge from neighbouring buildings and throw themselves into the nearby canal. Returning the shop, he was asked :“Do you want your money back?” “No,” said the man.“Have you got any brass solicitors?”

The pet shop next to the Indian takeaway had never seemed a particularly cheery place, but they had submitted no fewer than six jokes, including the one about a man who went into a pet shop to buy a goldfish.

“Do you want an aquarium,” asked the assistant, to which the man replied:“I don’t care what its starsign is.”

Then there was the one about the snail run over by a tortoise. Unable to explain what happened, the snail told the police:“It all happened so fast.”

And what about the man who asked the pet shop proprietor if they sold wasps?” When told that they didn’t, the man replied:“Well you had one in the window last summer.”

What can you expect from an establishment which has a mynahbird called Morris?

The grocer by the town hall came up with:“I’ve bought some HP sauce and it’s costing me 6p a week for the next two years.” And the pork butcher in the main street who’s now a vegetarian and hasn’t been known to smile since England won the World Cup, was a surprise entry with:

“I bet you can’t reach that meat hanging on the hooks from the ceiling.“Reply:“I’m not betting on that - the steaks are too high.” Followed by: “Have you got pig’s feet?”, “Oh yes, sir.” “Then trot over and get me a pound of mince.”

The joke competition results will be announced next week and although we haven’t yet put in an entry, apparently we are in the running for a special award.

It seems that trying to run an independent sports shop just round the corner from a branch of our biggest national sports retailer is reckoned to be probably the biggest joke of all.

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