I come walking up your footpath and I ring upon your bell,
I carry a suitcase in my hand that’s filled with things to sell,
I call you Sir or Madam and I show you my I.D.,
And you’ll see if you study the small print that I’m not from a charity.
I’ve got dishcloths, I’ve got dusters, I’ve got pads that scour and shine,
I’ve got kits that clean the strongest stains from curry to red wine,
But once I was a miner,’til they closed the Yorkshire pits,
Now I make a living door-to-door selling oven mitts.
A mini-bus from Sheffield brings us to your town,
We seeks the well-off suburbs before it sets us down,
Then it’s ‘Off you go, good hunting, mind you’re all back here for five’,
It’s a way to make a living but no way to be alive.
I smile and tell my story as you hold the door ajar,
Some are kind and some don’t mind that I’m charging four times par,
And some cut out the middle-man by giving a quid as a perk,
But some are hard, refuse my card and tell me to go and get work.
Sometimes we’re down in Bristol, in Lowestoft or Leeds,
It doesn’t do much for family life but it meets material needs,
The day the D.S.S. finds out is the day yours truly quits,
But until then I’ll be round again selling these oven mitts.
This is a contemporary song about Yorkshire.
Every six months or so, for many, many years, my house has been called upon by door-to-door salesmen of the type described in the song. The men carry a large bag full of cheaply imported household items which are offered for sale at many times their shop price. It is basically a con trick, with middle men who organise it. They buy up and package the goods, recruit teams of unemployed people, provide them with legal but perhaps confusing identification and transport them around the country. The take is shared between the seller and the middleman. I found out these details after inviting some of the salesmen in for cups of tea. The song takes its inspiration from one of these salesmen who, way back in the early nineties, had said that he was from Sheffield and that he had been a coal miner until the pits were closed in the wake of the Miners’ Strike.
The song was written in September 1998
Geoff Lawes, May 2009
Recorded at Moving Mountains Studios by Martin Wharton