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November 26th, 2014
I arrived at Greenwich Market on Saturday to find Danny shouting at Keith. This is not an unusual occurrence; as I’ve mentioned before, so well-known is their animosity that the phrase ‘Danny and Keith’ has evolved into localised rhyming slang for ‘teeth’, as in ‘I must nip to the dentist – me Dannies are playing up’. Danny’s threats towards Keith have also evolved in recent months, from offers to go round to Keith’s house and give his wife Barbara ‘…the full half pint’ to not only killing him, but burying him, dancing on his grave, digging him up, reanimating him, cloning him, and then killing each clone in turn in front of the others to teach them a lesson.
June 5th, 2014
I horrified an artisan baker recently by making a sandwich out of crisps and a focaccia. If you’re unfamiliar, a focaccia is a type of bread originally eaten by Italian peasants but now made by people called Angus and Fergus and sold to people called Laura and Matilda, and Greenwich Market is knee deep in it. I pointed out that they were artisan crisps, but he was still upset.
It’s because of this sort of thing that I have developed an intolerance to artisan food. I’m fine with nuts and wheat, but I have to avoid anything that claims to have been prepared with love. It’s not that it isn’t nice – on the contrary. I have no problem with artisan bakers baking stuff, but I do have a problem with the expectation that we should be grateful to them for having done so. ‘I don’t care if God’s made it,’ said Danny at Greenwich on Sunday, summing things up quite nicely, ‘four quid is a lot to pay for a Viennese whirl’.
May 30th, 2014
These days, we take the fact that It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It for granted, but it wasn’t until 1983 that Fun Boy Three pointed it out, and even then they needed to feature Bananarama in order to do so. This principle can be seen in action everywhere. Take adrenaline, for example: it’s not simply that it makes time appear to pass more slowly in stressful situations, but that it does so by making you so hyper aware of your surroundings that you become effectively bionic. Time isn’t passing more slowly – your reactions are speeded up, which amounts to the same thing. You’re using the Force, basically, and your mind is working so fast that it can find itself contemplating things unconnected to your immediate surroundings.
Unexpectedly obliged to cycle at full tilt through crowds of pedestrians along the Edgware Road recently, I had an opportunity to experience this phenomenon at first hand. Instead of concentrating upon avoiding people and prams and plate glass windows, I was thinking about a man named Walter Greaves and the front door keys to my old dear’s house, which were at that point undamaged.
May 21st, 2014
As a child, I always knew when someone was approaching the house as my old dear would put Radio 4 on to make us seem sophisticated. If you’re unfamiliar with Radio 4, it’s a service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation that strives to list all the things that middle class people can’t cope with, and even if my old dear and I sat around all day eating artisan pesto sandwiches and watching the Great British Bake Off, we would still not be its target audience.
A baffling woman, my old dear would be an interesting Bake Off contestant. She recently complained that ‘you can’t keep gravy on a Tesco’s sausage – they’re like candles’, and that by the time she was back from the shops she could ‘strangle for a bun’. When we take observations like this into account, and combine them with, for example, her recent desire to take on a rescue dog – ‘one that just wants a little bit of plc’ – you’ll understand why my advice for people meeting her for the first time is to get her drunk as quickly as possible – her behaviour won’t change, but at least you’ll have an excuse for it.
May 6th, 2014
Everything in the countryside wants to bite you, and because of this I have traditionally eyed it with caution. The problem is that I’m simply too urban, and the countryside knows it. I don’t walk like someone from the countryside, I don’t talk or buy biscuits or charge my phone or sit on a sofa like someone from the countryside. I don’t know how animals work, or what most of them are for, and I’m obviously ‘not from round here’ as soon as I’m exposed to anything more rural than a roundabout sponsored by a garden centre.
In fact, I am so out of my depth in the countryside that I look like someone doing an impersonation of someone out of their depth in the countryside, falling over gates, wading waist high through nettles and asking what time the cows usually go to sleep. I’m like the last Roman in Britain – I want everything on time and where I left it, and I don’t see the point of several thousand years of municipal evolution if it’s longer than ten minutes to the chip shop. Imagine my delight, then, when I recently found myself at an agricultural show in deepest Norfolk, watching a man shooting vegetables in a field.
January 31st, 2014
Danny is a man of many talents, which he modestly keeps hidden behind several thousand catastrophic faults. For all of these – and I could reel off seventy three major ones without pausing for breath – he is an engaging and excellent man. I consider his repeated claim that I am his ‘brother from another mother’ to be a huge compliment, and while I’m not sure how enthusiastically either of our actual mothers would embrace the implications of this, we certainly have many things in common.
While a verifiable genetic link between us seems unlikely, I also appreciate his assertions, via the early Public Enemy back catalogue, that we are a) brothers of the same mind, unblind and b) caught in the middle and not surrendering. In fact, there is almost no early hip hop rhyming couplet that Danny won’t bring to bear in order to rally us during low points, and I consider this, along with his sullen dog Marshall, to be his best feature.
Imagine, then, my dismay when he informed me that he was chucking in market life and going to work in a call centre. I was poorly at the time and engrossed in an antique jigsaw puzzle. Aghast and full of Lemsip, some of which I had spluttered into my phone as he told me the news, the best I could utter in response was a horrified ‘What would Flava Flav say?’ It was quite a moment.
January 24th, 2014
‘Smokey Bacon’ is an ex-arsonist of my vague acquaintance who lives in a presumably fireproof box room on the Holloway Road. It’s an accurate nickname, as the first part refers to his former pastime and the second to his surname: Hogg. I bumped into Smokey recently near Archway tube, where he described his post-arson life as bouncing from project to project ‘like a shark’, presumably on account of always being on the move. I’m not sure that the thing about sharks having to be constantly mobile is actually true, but I pointed out that he must truly have changed his ways, as a shark would make a terrible arsonist, what with trying to get a decent blaze going under water and all the problems it would have with trying to hold a lighter properly.
January 8th, 2014
An unexpected feature of Christmas trading was the amount of naked photographs of myself I was asked to sign in the grisly aftermath of the Greenwich Market Boys charity calendar, which I think we’ve discussed before. Usually, I apologised for the poor quality of the other models, who have reduced the thing to the status of a Victorian freak show, with the exception of Danny, whose picture has rather amusingly seen his fan base shift from badly tattooed forty year old Lewisham based grandmothers to physically impressive and sexually terrifying European homosexuals. My old dear, who is neither of those things, commented that he looked like ‘a dark Tom Jones’, which I’m not sure is a thing you can really say anymore. This was in November, and I replied that if I found myself calling him Dad over Christmas dinner I would disown my entire family.
October 24th, 2013
I have never knowingly been naked. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to recently find myself posing nude for a charity calendar, with nothing to preserve my modesty but a mug of tea and a strategically-placed copy of Little Dorrit. Physically, I am a patchwork of parts that are either pasty or hairy or both, and the whole mouth-watering ensemble was not enhanced by cycling 26 miles through a freezing downpour immediately prior to the photo shoot. The resulting study is being mercilessly prepared for the contemplation of a horrified public even as I write, and nothing can stop it.
September 26th, 2013
Put literally anything in a field with a beer tent and a chip van and play Solitary Sister loud enough, and British people will gleefully descend from miles around with calf tattoos and angry, fat, idiotically named children like it’s the second coming of Christ. As a British person myself, I have a suspicious disdain of the outdoors, until I find myself among it. When this happens, I tend to bound about offering astonished geological insights such as ‘Those hills are well big’ and ‘Look how messy those trees are’ until I can be made drunk enough to fall asleep.
It was, then, with initial reticence but mounting enthusiasm that I joined thirty thousand Bristol folk recently to witness some hot air balloons being inflated slowly in a field, to the accompaniment of turn-of-the-’90s dance music. This took place at Ashton Court, a former medieval estate across which deer freely roam, arranged around a seventeenth century manor house in the Bristol City half of town. The event was marshalled via tannoy by a man whose name I swear was Mike Gammon, and it was brilliant.