bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Archive for 2010

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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Talking Telephone Numbers

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Dear Rachel

Thick people being bullied by the menopausal – either about the state of their house, their appearance, their cooking skills, their diet, their children, just something – is the entertainment format for which our culture will be remembered.  With this in mind, the possession of Dragon’s Den’s own Theo Pathetis’ phone number is quite a coup, and I sort of have it.

It was quoted to me by a bloke called Dave, who wanders around Greenwich blowing raspberries into ladies’ shopping bags.  It is as follows: 07956 775885665681184509078854001, and I quote Dave, who is considerably mental, directly, as I wrote the numbers down in my notebook.  After the dialling code, he said the rest of the number in groups of three digits.  As ‘07956 775 885′ is an entirely plausible number, I was midway through saying ‘Yeah nice, cheers, I’ll bell him on Monday’ when he said ‘665′.  I then thanked him for that, and midway through doing so he said ‘681′.  I waited a few seconds, with my agile mind ablaze with the possibility that this may not, after all, be a real phone number, then started saying ‘Right, well yeah thanks for that, nice one’.  I got as far as ‘Ri’ when he said ‘184′.  The rest of the number was given via a series of increasingly long pauses on my part during which we would be mentally circling each other, then he’d say three random numbers at high speed as soon as I drew breath.  It felt very much like being in a duel where only your opponent has a pistol.  I’ve just reenacted the scenario, actually, and I estimate it took 57.21 seconds from start to finish, and drew rising amusement levels from my small band of browsers – which come to think of it, would be a good name for a World War Two epic set in a market – before Dave rushed off to outrage an Italian woman.  He popped back later, though, promising to ‘have a word’ about the twenty trillion pound loan I said I required, so fingers crossed.

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Mimes Through A Cafe Window

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Dear Rachel

I am not by nature a coarse man; perhaps a little bawdy, usually in need of a bath, a hot meal and an early night, and constantly wearing at least one item of clothing too small or too large for me, certainly, but not actually coarse, or seedy, or lewd.

I was therefore surprised to find myself knocking loudly on the the window of a Greenwich cafe one Saturday morning quite recently in order to alert the assembled breakfasters not only to the existence of my reproductive organs, but also, once the initial interest in my general groinal area had waned, an invitation to further unchaste perusal by pointing out the exact whereabouts of every component part thereof.   Happily, I had my complicated summer trading shorts on, but only because they are too complex to remove.

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The More Ker-chat The Less Ker-ching

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Dear Rachel

The bloke who prints some of our stuff has a brilliant way of letting you down gently when it comes to his frequently demonstrated inability to hit any kind of deadline whatsoever.   A regular feature of my Saturday mornings are exchanges like this:

Self: Morning Micheal [as a rule I always address people by the long version of their name] have you got those A1 and A2 prints I asked you to do for me?

Mike: No – that’s why I haven’t charged you.

Self: Fair enough, bring them in for next week then.

My current breakfast is a healthily unbuttered fruit scone, accompanied by coffee with milk, sugar and butter in it.  I will be some way through this before it occurs to me that yes, of course I’ve not been charged for Mike’s work, because he hasn’t bloody done it, and because he hasn’t done it, I can’t sell it to the general public, and because I can’t sell it to the general public, another tiny part of the economy crumbles away forever.  I don’t include myself among the ranks of the easily baffled, and am therefore regularly surprised that Mike’s ‘Good news – I’ve stitched you up!’ gambit works so smoothly, and always leaves me feeling like not getting some of the stuff I need to trade with has been something of a lucky escape, and not, I dunno, fucking annoying or anything.

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No Jacket Required

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Dear Rachel

Glastonbury Festival is a hundred thousand mid to high earning Guardian readers and/or their offspring standing in a field listening to Paul McCartney.   That’s counter culture for you.   Pretty much the whole festival season is basically an excuse for middle class people to get away from ethnic minorities for a bit, and apart from a downturn in sales of halloumi, hummus, cava and Apple products in Hackney and surrounding districts, I don’t see that the traditional mid summer slump in market stall revenues can be attributed to it.

It’s the heat that makes things tricky, as far as I am concerned.   The other Friday it was 38 degrees at my stall under the roof at Greenwich Market.   I coped by sitting around and looking grumpy, and a seven hour wait for the first sale was my reward.   I passed the day reflecting upon how far from what I had expected my life to be like this all was, and generally losing the will to live.   After a while, though, I snapped out of it and instead began to lose the will to allow anyone else to live, and felt better for it.

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Can You Smell Burning?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

The phrase ‘He could sell sand to the Arabs’ is a common expression used, of course, to describe someone who is a very good salesman.  Myself, I would rather buy sand from the Arabs, who have loads of it, and sell it to the Eskimos, who don’t have any. This is because I am not a salesman, but a business.  In fact, what I would really rather do is arrange for the Arabs to sell sand to the Eskimos themselves in return for salted fish, impose excise duties on the ports at both ends, and then go on a nice holiday, so as not to disturb the cash as it rolls its way in.  That’s because I’m not a salesman, I am a business, but I’d like to be a merchant, because that’s where the real money is.

I think this salesman-business-merchant hierarchy works quite well, if only to illustrate that even an operation as miniscule but tenacious as ours has to understand that it is part of a larger world with complex agendas.  This larger world fell upon Greenwich market a couple of weeks ago.  It came in the form of yet another group of developers looking to demolish it and put a hotel in its place, and a meeting they were holding with the market traders to discuss this.

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Gary Numan, Dalek Dentist

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Dear Rachel

I am the only heterosexual man ever to have bought Faith by George Micheal, and I continue to like it despite the number of people who think it would be nice if they could touch my body dwindling by the year.  I’m already resigned to increasing reliance upon professionals in this particular arena, a process which begun in earnest with a memorable bout of dentistry last week.  It started reasonably enough in the waiting room with the usual reading of Build Your Home magazine while assuming that the extra mouth washing I had undertaken prior to coming to the surgery would reverse several years of eating almost nothing that wasn’t caramel based.

While reading, I noticed a bloke Windolene-ing the glass doors of some kind of dental cabinet, and it was only when our names were called at the same time that I realised he was in fact my dentist.   I actually held the door open for him as we went into the dentistry parlour, and asked for a show about Gary Numan to be put on MTV for me to watch while we got down to the matter in hand.   This is how I came to be contemplating Gary Numan’s dentistry skills very intently indeed in a happily successful bid to take my mind off the drills and pain and gurgling.   He certainly has what appears to be a dentists’ shirt on in the ‘Are Friends Electric?’ video, I reasoned over the smell of scorched enamel, although admittedly it does make him look like the kind of dentist whose clientele would be either daleks or thought criminals, or who is employed on the Death Star doing fillings for stormtroopers.

For all his admirable if baffling attention to waiting room tidiness, though, my dentist is a larf, and quickly saw through my clever ruse of putting ‘Dentist’ as my occupation on my new patient form in order to get preferential rates.  Before we got underway, he asked me ‘Are you nervous of dentists at all?’ ‘No’ I replied, quite truthfully. ‘Well you might be after this’ he said ‘As it’s really going to hurt’.   I raised my arm very slightly as I felt our easy and highly enjoyable familiarity would support a high five, but it became immediately apparent that he had stopped pissing about and had started to earn his money.

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