A bargain is not always what it seems

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The Independent Online

There is a very curious trial going on at the moment in the High Court, in which a shopkeeper is accused of obtaining money by false pretences. Yet everything in his shops is what it claims to be. So what is the mystery ...?

There is a very curious trial going on at the moment in the High Court, in which a shopkeeper is accused of obtaining money by false pretences. Yet everything in his shops is what it claims to be. So what is the mystery ...?

Well, I think I should bring you an extract from the trial, as that will explain it far better than I can, and into the bargain I shall be able to take the rest of the morning off.

We join the trial where the shopkeeper, Mr Slazenger, is about to be cross-questioned.

Counsel: Your name is Raymond Slazenger?

Slazenger: I have that honour.

Counsel: What honour?

Slazenger: The honour of being Raymond Slazenger.

Counsel: Is that an honourable thing to be?

Slazenger: I have always accounted it an honour to be me.

Counsel: If it were not an honour to be you, would you try to have the honour of becoming someone else?

Slazenger: No. That would not be honourable.

Judge: Mr Battle, what on earth is going on? I do not understand a word of this.

Counsel: Mere verbal fencing, your honour. Did I say fencing? Sparring might be nearer the mark. We are testing our defences before we attempt to land a blow.

Judge: Then get on with it !

Counsel: Yes, your honour .

Slazenger: Ah ha! You call the judge his honour!

Counsel: I do.

Slazenger: And yet from me you do withhold that name!

Him call you his honour, me just common clay! Wherefore should he be thought so honourable

When I am just as good as he, i'faith?

Counsel: Because he is the judge! From him doth wisdom flow,

Down from his seat of knowledge on to us below!

Slazenger: I warrant you, there's nothing 'neath that wig

Save an old dodderer, and an ancient prig!

Judge: Gentlemen, gentlemen, I've lost the thread again. Is this still sparring, or some other game?

Counsel: We do but toss the shuttlecock of the law back and forth, like two players engrossed in the parabola of rhyme and reason.

Judge: Well, do it in plain English, then. And I never thought I'd hear myself say that in a British court of law.

Counsel: Certainly, your honour. Now, Mr Slazenger, I believe you own a large chain of shops which specialise in selling bargains?

Slazenger: I certainly do.

Counsel: And these shops are called "Everything Must Go"?

Slazenger: Some of them are. Others are called "Closing Down Sale". Some are called "End Of Lease Bargain Bonanza". One in Birmingham is called "Closed Yesterday, But Open One More Day Today".

Counsel: Is that ironic?

Slazenger: Nothing in Birmingham is ironic.

Counsel: Is that true?

Slazenger: No. I am being ironic.

Counsel: I see. Now, the names of all these shops give the definite impression that their days are numbered, that if the public do not rush in and buy, they will not have the chance next week, that, not to put too fine a point on it, the shops are on the verge of closing, is that not so?

Slazenger: Spot on.

Counsel: Yet have any of your shops ever closed?

Slazenger: No.

Counsel: I think I am right in saying that the only time they ever close is when they are due to be expanded.

Slazenger: That's right! My flagship store in Shepherd's Bush, "Final Fling", had a notice up the other day saying: "Definitive closing this weekend, prior to refurbishment, enormous expansion and reopening in two weeks time!"

Counsel: Has it ever occurred to you that you are a wicked, wicked man who is sailing under a flag of gross deception?

Slazenger: I am not with you.

More of this gripping stuff tomorrow.

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