bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Collins, Hughes, and the Camden Nepalese

Dear Rachel

Some years ago, I consumed an estimated seventy bottles of vodka and five hundred Kit Kats on a ninety day festival trading tour with the Camden Nepalese.  Midway through, concerned that we hadn’t had quite enough vodka yet and remembering that it’s always better to be safe than sorry, we blagged our way backstage at V and swiped most of Babyshambles’, too.

Although I found myself happily free of lasting health problems when the whole remarkable jaunt finally shambled to a close, I retained the Nepalese habit of rubbing the proceeds of the first sale of the day across my forehead in order to – so the superstition goes – encourage more to follow.   I was explaining this last week during idle discourse with a common shop-girl of my acquaintance.   Our conversation was made more interesting than usual on account of the fact that she’d had some stitches in her mouth earlier that morning, which rendered her unable to move her jaw or tongue in order to facilitate speech.   A side effect of this was that she spoke in exactly the same way as one of the endless parade of Yorkshire terriers trained to say ’sausages’ on demand through bared teeth that were a staple of early evening light entertainment shows in the 1980s, which is an unfortunate look for someone working in a patisserie.

Other things of superstitious concern to the Nepalese trading community include the precise actions of the first customer of the year.   This is far too arcane to go into in any great detail here.   However, the first person to visit our outpost in the western provinces was comedian Sean Hughes, who you may remember from such years as 1992, and from absolutely nothing else since.  1992 is one of the Godless years between the end of the Smiths and the start of Britpop.   During this time, I attended the Phil Collins-themed 18th birthday party of a girl I knew.   It wasn’t an ironic Phil Collins party or anything – she just really liked Phil Collins, and had a jean jacket with his face on in order to underline this.   Phil Collins has always struck me as quite a larf to be honest – I read a brilliant interview with him in a magazine at the dentists’ last year where he revealed that he retired from music because he was sick of hearing himself on the radio, which is pretty cool.   Nonetheless, I knew that my formative years were set against a backdrop of bad times for popular culture when the highlight of a birthday party for this well liked and popular girl was a slow dance to Another Day In Paradise.    I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think Nick Lovell fingered her in the car park after.

Anyway.   By all accounts, Sean Hughes was unimpressed with our lavish kitchenware range, which he considered somewhat lowbrow.   In our defence, I am tempted to point out that at least we still have a brow, however, by way of his defence, I’ve just watched twenty minutes of Sean’s Show and found it fairly amusing by modern standards, which must’ve made it an absolute riot in an era where 18 year olds had unironic Phil Collins parties.   In his continued defence, we probably caught him on a bad day, whereas he caught us on a completely normal one, and to convert this continued defence into a knockout blow, he was on Never Mind The Buzzcocks for ages and drinks in Quinns on the Kentish Town Road, which is an excellent pub.   There was no such controversy surrounding my first customer of the year at Greenwich, who was one of those likable but disconcerting 30-something girlwomen who spend a great deal of time making cup cakes and dressing like an 8 year old.   Talking to someone like this is strange, because although they have an endearing perkiness about them it’s too self conscious to be convincing, and you can sense their own Ghost Of Every Evening standing just behind, drinking wine and crying.

I should like to point out that the common shop-girl was in no discomfort throughout our conversation, despite replying and interjecting in the manner of a diabolical night creature.   The most common question she was asked by customers was – not unreasonably – ‘Why are you working?’  to which she had to reply ‘Short staffed’, which I quickly learned contains all of the hardest sounds for someone with a static tongue and jaw to pronounce, and which came out in the manner of a furious snarl.   Have a go yourself next time you’re in front of a mirror – it’s terrifying.   Interestingly – and so as to return us back to where we started – the word ‘festival’ contains all the hardest sounds for a Nepalese speaker to pronounce, to the extent that Bipin, who is an old skool East Yard comrade and excellent stalwart of the Camden Nepalese community, simply substitutes the word ‘vegetable’, as it sounds similar and is much easier to say.    Bearing that in mind, I must demonstrate my admirable forward planning business skills and turn back to sorting out this summer’s vegetable trading season, which I regret will be sadly Nepalese-free.




Top: Spitalfields childwear vendor Viran at the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1.  He does this t shirt in a baby grow if you’re interested.

Middle: The writing desk at Tooting Bec.   Note airmail envelopes and paper; I write letters to my old dear with these to make it look like I’m somewhere exciting.   Note also budget Parker fountain pen, which was only a tenner and is an excellent ‘pocket pen’, as we like to say in the fountain pen community.

Lower: Keith reads Cartoon Ben something of interest from the Sunday Times magazine.   Sharp eyed film buffs will spot Cartoon Ben in this.   He runs in exactly the same manner along Nelson Road in order to get to Greenwich Market for stall allocation these days.


  1. Mrs.D

    Jan 18th, 2012
    7:30 pm

    love the description of the common shop-girl & the light entertainment show “sausage” dogs …..
    your mates T shirt is also funny

  2. Paul

    Jan 18th, 2012
    8:09 pm

    Thanks. Later that evening, we had to wrestle him out of the pub and lock the door behind him.

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