bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Archive for September, 2010

The Places Where We Fall To Bits

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Dear Rachel

If you come out of Gillingham station – Gillingham in Kent, not the Gillingham in Dorset – you will find a chemist which sells balls of wool.  Venturing further down the High Street which lies adjacent, you will find Hair Pavilion, Nail Palace, and a pet shop, on the wall of which someone has written the word ‘Whore.’.  Just like that, with the full stop and everything.  To reach the pet shop you’d have walked past a cafe, which, due to a catastrophic apostrophe miscalculation, has the word ‘Caf’e’ emblazoned in gold lettering across the window.

By the time you have walked the length of the High Street, which will take you six minutes, you will have noticed that this is a very run down place indeed.  Gillingham is part of the Medway Towns, and the three Medway Towns have traditionally been built upon the military; Rochester has a castle and is the administrative centre, Chatham had a dockyard, and Gillingham had the Royal Engineers.  There is no university in the Medway Towns.  It is not therefore a region used to producing academics or skilled workers, although Charles Dickens lived here and Samuel Pepys got off with a chambermaid in Rochester Castle.   There is a MacDonald’s at the station end of the High Street, but that’s as far as the franchises have ventured.  Everyone is old, or weirdly, arguing – six minutes in Gillingham High Street took me past three separate arguing couples.  There has been a lot of south east London overspill in the area, and it is strange to consider that it’s so out of touch that the chav kids are yelling at each other in the London accent not heard in actual London since 2001.  In fact, the phrase ‘chav’ itself was coined in Chatham and used to describe the otherwise indescribable people who would collect in and around the Pentagon shopping centre, which looks from the outside like the sort of building where thought criminals are taken to confess and disappear.

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Our Friend In North West One

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Dear Rachel

I wouldn’t go back to trading in Camden Market for all the teeth in China.  It has, however, been a couple of years since the good ship publicgriefjunkie fired off a broadside at the unsuspecting penniless public oozing out of Camden High Street, and it feels very natural to suddenly have a presence there again.  This remarkable turn of events has come about as a result of the union between us and Martin the Jewelery Seller, with whom we used to share a double pitch with until we left for Greenwich in early 2009.

Martin is the most Yorkshire man ever.  In this age of text speak, Martin hoses down his text messages with arcane northern speak.  To support that statement, here are some actual phrases he’s used in the last five messages I’ve received from him: Ay Up, Lad (this starts every message).  Speak to thee soon.  Are you reet to sup next Wednesday?  Enough of my mitherings.  Love to thee and thine.  Let us ponder.  Appen so.  Appen as. (I only know that these last two mean something along the lines of ‘See you later’ because they appear at the end of messages).  We shared the same twelve foot double pitch in the East Yard every Saturday and Sunday for two hundred and fifty consecutive weekends, and more than a few weekdays, too.  Whenever I think of that statistic, I find myself staring into the middle distance and slowly shaking my head.

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Fly Me To The Moon

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Dear Rachel

Comparisons to a young Sinatra have been leveled at me throughout my market trading career.  I now understand that, among other things, it’s because the song I have been habitually singing bits of while trading all these years is in fact Fly Me To The Moon, and not some random la la la nonsense I had made up myself.  Keith pointed this out as we loaded Danny and his stuff into his car early on Saturday morning prior to the Thames Festival, which saw the usual exodus of traders from Greenwich, Camden and Spitalfields heading to the South Bank for the last big weekend before Christmas.  Danny was very apprehensive, and I felt strangely like we were strapping him into a Spitfire and sending him out to face the Luftwaffe.

Sadly, however, that is where similarities between Danny and the noble young airmen of the Battle of Britain must end.  While the RAF pilots would’ve been more than happy to simply see terra firma again, Danny was more than happy – absolutely delighted in fact – with a mobile phone he’d bizarrely been given by a tramp, which was full of short films of some bloke up his missus.  This was presumably the phone’s previous owner, and I am struggling to convey just how delighted – and really, it was bordering on the ecstatic – Danny was as he practically vaulted over his stall and barged festival-goers asunder in his frenzy to show me the appalling shovings and grapplings of a fat bloke horseing into a lady with slag tattoos.

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Guildford-based Misunderstanding

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Dear Rachel

Autumn – the season of mists and yellow fruitiness, according to Keats – is also a time when market traders who like to get among the summer festival circuit return to pubs such as the Duke of Wellington and offer cuttings from the verdant and far reaching branches of the Casual Retail Grapevine.   This way, everyone – to use the correct phrase – ‘knows a man‘, a term that made a brief popular cultural reference when uttered by Nick the Greek in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.   You can’t become ‘a man‘ until your ‘handwriting is good enough‘ – ie, you have sufficient reputation to be deemed trustworthy.   It’s a whole other, entirely unnecessary, language.

Anyway.   The words ‘rock’ and ‘Guildford’ glide effortlessly alongside each other, and the Goat Bag Man, who is one such Camden urchin who likes a bit of swashbuckling on the high seas of casual retail, recently traded at ‘Guilfest’ among the crazy folk of Surrey.   It’s a lovely festival, actually, although the last time we traded it – 2005 – Paul Weller was headlining, presumably to mark the 25th anniversary of the last time he wrote a decent tune.   The Goat Bag Man was commenting on the strange phenomenon of trading next to Millet’s, who in case you are unfamiliar, are a high street outdoor clothing outlet.

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Don’t Believe The Hype

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Dear Rachel

I almost always get the Times on a Saturday and Sunday morning. As it is no secret as to how I earn a living you’ll understand that I have no use for the Business, Money or Leisure sections, all of which go straight into the bin.  I read the Sport section and then give it to Simon who sells jackets, and give the magazines to Keith.  I give the cryptic crossword to Danny to colour in, and have a go at the jumbo one in the weekend section.  This is only, however, if I am trading in my usual area, which is the centre of the market known to me and Danny as the Hood.

The original Hood was a ghetto in Los Angeles full of drug gangs shooting each other; the Hood in Greenwich Market differs slightly, as its most notable features are Danny and I trying to bully Keith into hanging himself, and Jean and Marva on the hand cream stall saying ‘Try our lovely soft handcream’  which after a while sounds a lot like ‘Try some Lowestoft hand cream’, which in turn sounds like a euphemism for something unspeakable.

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