'Tickets? £1.00 for adults, children 50p. Come on in - please do. ' I announce at the sniff of a visitor...
...and worth every penny I add, sotto voce, to myself.
My inability to say 'no' or my hyper-inclination to volunteer for all and sundry finds me on Saturday afternoon as Custodian at the Old Bell Museum in Montgomery. This is like putting a child in charge of a sweetshop.
The Old Bell is the loveliest little museum you can imagine, focussed on the past of this county town and its immediate environs. I've been as a visitor a couple of times previously and each time found more of interest. How tantalising it will be to remain behind my desk knowing what treasures lie in the rooms beyond.
Fortunately I am taking over from an experienced hand who has successfully unlocked, un-alarmed and remembered to slide the little slidey thing which announces to the world that the museum is OPEN. I gather that as this is not the busiest visitor attraction in the county I can probably look forward to an untroubled afternoon.
I settle into my Custodian's chair and survey my domain. I have two rolls of tickets. (Proper museum-y jobs don't you think?)
I read the file of instructions for custodians and welcome my first visitors - the first of many as it turns out - enough to make the afternoon pass at a reasonable and interesting pace. I have little time to twiddle my fingers. I'm a bit restricted to the reception area but while it's quiet I open a few drawers; the Custodian's perogative perhaps. I am reminded of visiting No.10 Downing Street to find that tucked behind that famous front door were dusters and polishes. So much for the panoply of state.
Visitors were all most complimentary - and nobody asked really difficult questions. A couple were clearly moved by the room which exhibits artefacts from the Workhouse at Forden (a.k.a. The House of Industry) - none more so than the mother who was accompanied by her husband and teenaged son. He was deaf and perhaps autistic. He would have been she reflected, in years gone by, incarcerated somewhere like that. This room has in it the story of Blind May - Hannah Thomas - who, blind, deaf and dumb was sent to live at the workhouse at Caersws at 4 years old - and transferred to Forden where she lived until her death at the age of 89. It is the most poignant story. We must count our blessings.
The clock on the Town Hall just up the street eventually rang 5 and as the last 'dong' died away the long case clock in the the museum's reception chimed the hour too. Time to slide the slidey thing to its CLOSED position and bolt the doors. The museum's curator arrived and kindly volunteered to close up for me....but left me to 'balance the books'.
What a relief it was to find everything tallied. Phew.
*With apologies to Kate Atkinson.