Once the old man had got over the shock of his cancer diagnosis, he made a decision: he’d sell the two paperbacks he’d recently written to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  During his career he’d made many decisions and, having made them, was accustomed to taking the steps necessary to bring them to fruition.   Inevitably, some ideas had proved easy to implement and others had been troublesome but, generally speaking, he was accomplished at overcoming obstacles and steering  things through to a happy conclusion.

He spent a couple of days pondering the pros and cons of his fund-raising idea and, finding it satisfactory on all counts, took his two paperbacks (collections of amusing short stories) to his local Cancer Research charity shop.  He waited patiently in a short queue at the desk while an overweight woman queried whether the size of a second-hand dress had been correctly recorded on the label.

‘Are you the manager?’ the old man asked the woman working the till. 

‘No, I’m the assistant manager.  The manager is on holiday.’

‘Well, I wonder if you can help.  I have written these two books,’ he put them on the counter, ‘and I want to arrange to sell them in your shop and give you all the money.’

‘Oh,’ said the woman, ‘you’d have to speak to the manager about that.  She’s back next week.’

The old man thanked the assistant manager, took a note of the manager’s name, and promised to return in a week’s time.

Ten days later, he had thought it wise to let the manager settle in after her holiday, he returned to the shop.  The woman at the counter was the one he’d seen before.

‘Good morning.  Perhaps you remember me?’  The woman looked at him blankly.  ‘I came in a week or so ago about selling my books in your shop.  You said I’d have to speak to the manager.’

A woman appeared from a room at the back of the shop that was overflowing with boxes and plastic bags stuffed full of donated clothes.  She looked harassed and was wearing green rubber gloves.  ‘I’m the manager.  How can I help?’

The old man produced the two paperbacks and explained his idea.

‘You want to sell your books in here and give us the proceeds?’ she asked incredulously.  ‘You’ll need to contact the district office about that.’

‘Fine, how do I contact the district office?’   The manager wrote a phone number on a scrap of paper and gave it to the old man.  He looked at it.  ‘Is there anyone in particular I should ask for?’

‘No, anyone there will be able to help you.’ 

The old man returned home and phoned the number he’d been given.   He listened to a long message about the wonderful work Cancer Research was undertaking and how, with his help, cancer would undoubtedly be beaten.  The message then went on to explain how easy it was to make a donation and that phone calls were being recorded for training purposes.  Eventually a man’s voice said, ‘Thanks for holding on.  Your call is important to us.  How can I help you?’

‘Thank you.  I have been into my local charity shop and spoken to the manager about a fundraising idea I’ve had and she says I need to speak to you about it.’

‘A fundraising idea you say?’

‘Yes.  I’ve written two paperbacks, they are amusing short stories, and I want to sell them in the charity shop and give you all the proceeds.’

‘I see.  You’ll appreciate that this is an unusual request.  May I ask what your motivation is for wanting to fundraise for us?’

‘Yes, I have cancer.’

‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.  Yes, very sorry.  We have people you can speak to if you’d like any support.’

‘That’s fine, thank you, but all I want now is permission to fundraise by selling my books in your shop.’

‘There are two paperbacks you say?’

‘Yes, they are on Amazon if you want to take a look.’  The old man gave the man his name and the titles of the books.

‘Got them!  Gosh, and you wrote them?’

‘Yes, I’ve written lots of books, but not short stories before.  So what needs to happen now?’

‘Well, we’ll need to vet the books.’

‘Vet the books?  Are you serious?   I can assure you they are harmless short stories.  Are you worried I might have written one about cancer being fake news?’

The man laughed.  ‘Don’t worry, it’s standard procedure.’

‘If you say so,’ said the old man.  ‘Would you like me to send you copies?’

‘No, that’s fine, we’ll order them from Amazon.’

‘Are you sure?  I’m happy to send them if you give me an address.’

‘No, I don’t want to put you to any trouble.  I’ll get them from Amazon.  In the meantime, I’ll set up a giving-page for you.  I’ll email the link.’

After a week or so, the old man was passing the charity shop and saw the manager rearranging men’s shirts on a rail near the window. He popped in for a quick word. 

‘I’ve been in touch with the district office.  Everything is in hand. Apparently, they have to vet the books before I’m authorised to use them to raise money for your charity.  Would it be possible to set up a small table in here?   I could offer to sign books if it would help sales.’

‘Oh no, you won’t be able to do that.  There’s no room for a table in here.’

The old man trudged home processing this latest setback and a solution suddenly dawned on him.  Rather than selling his books in the charity shop, he’d set up a stall in the street and sell them to passersby.   He told his wife about the idea but she was doubtful, warning him that unless he had a trader’s license he’d almost certainly be moved on by the powers that be.

‘Then,’ the old man said, feeling mildly irritated by the obstacles he was unexpectedly encountering, ‘I’ll apply to the Council for a Trader’s License.’   He looked up the website to see what was involved and found that he didn’t need a Trader’s License, he needed to apply for a Street Collection Permit.  The Council emailed him the application form and he saw that he needed to include various details about Cancer Research UK: the registered address, the charity registration number, VAT number and ‘official confirmation that the charity is aware of, and consents to, the collection being made’.

Happy that he’d found the perfect solution to how to sell his books in the street, the old man rang the Cancer Research district office.  A new voice answered.

‘I spoke to your colleague, Shaun, a few days ago about a fundraising idea I have.  Is he there by any chance?’

‘No, he’s on leave.  How can I help?’

The old man, drawing a deep breath, explained his fundraising idea all over again.  ‘So, I want to apply for a Street Collection Permit but I need your consent and some other details.’

‘Did you say Shaun is vetting the books?’

‘Yes, I left that with him but I haven’t heard back yet.  Perhaps he’s a slow reader!’

‘What did you say your name was again?’

The old man spelled out his name.  ‘Just a minute, our computers are a bit slow today.  Ah yes, I see we’ve set up a giving-page for you.  Can I ask, what’s your motivation for fundraising for us?’

‘It’s simple, I’ve got cancer.’

‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.  We’ve got people you can talk to if you feel the need for any support.’

‘Yes, I know that but what I want right now is to apply for a Street Collection Permit.’

‘Thanks for your patience.  You’ll need to apply for a Letter of Authority and a Logo Request Form.  I’ll email them to you now.’

The old man sighed.  ‘OK, send them to me and I’ll complete them immediately.’

The old man answered all the questions required and emailed the form back.  A week passed and nothing happened.   The old man phoned the district office again.  A woman answered this time.  ‘Your call is important to us, how can I help?’

‘A week ago, I sent you the form you wanted me to complete to get your authorisation to make street collections.  I need this so that I can apply to the Council for a Street Collection Permit.’

‘Hang on, can you give me your name?  Our computers are playing up today.’

The old man gave his name, calmly reminding himself that this woman, fresh on the case, was blameless.

‘Hmm, that’s odd.  I  can’t see any record of us having received the completed form.  Could you resend it please?’

‘Sure, I’ll forward it to you right now.’

‘Thanks.  Ah yes, here it is.’

‘So, what happens now?’

‘I’ll pass it to the appropriate people.  They need to consider your application.’

‘May I just ask if you can see any record of my books being vetted?   Some weeks ago, I spoke to Shaun and he was going to vet the books.’

‘Shaun you say?  I can’t see anything here.  I’ll be seeing him tomorrow, I’ll ask him.’

‘You’ll appreciate that this has all been being going for some time now.  At this rate I’ll be dead before I’ve been able to sell any of my books to passersby out on the street.  If you look at my giving-page you’ll see I’ve already raised £1,600 or thereabouts selling my books to friends.’

‘Gosh yes, I can see that.  Thank you so much.  Tell me, what’s your motivation for wanting to fundraise for us?’

‘That’s simple, I’ve got cancer.’

‘Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that.’

After the call, the old man swallowed two more paracetamol to help deaden the pain in his aching limbs.  He sat on his terrace, looking at the panoramic view of Windsor Castle, and wondered whether the King, recently diagnosed with cancer and now a Patron of Cancer Research UK, might be able to expedite matters.   


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