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Archive for May, 2011

A Lady Named Disdain

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Dear Rachel

‘Andy’ is a classic, solid and perfectly serviceable name, but you don’t expect to see it tattooed in Germanic script above the left knee of a steampunky girl walking through Greenwich Market.   This slightly unusual sight occurred at the end of a routine day in casual retail, and prompted Keith and I, idly watching her progress as we packed our stalls away, to embark upon a discussion of childrens’ names.   I mentioned that if I have twin daughters I want to call them Disdain and Antipathy, whereas for a son, I am leaning towards Vladimir.  Vladimir Smith – and I don’t know why – sounds like someone with a plan, someone who knows what to do and the shorter Vlad Smith variant sounds like a Communist safe cracker or a vampire from Barnet.

Marshall is the name of Danny’s English terrier, and his main role is to hang about under and around Danny’s stall, attracting fuss from angry looking women with prams and tattoos that don’t say ‘Andy’ from Peckham and Catford.   As Keith and I continued to put forward ideas for infant nomenclature, standing by this point facing the back of our stalls, he suddenly said ‘Where’s all this bloody water coming from?’ and looked up towards the roof, which he reasonably assumed to be leaking.  ‘Do you reckon it might be coming from there?’ I said, pointing at Danny, who had just walked past holding Marshall’s water bowl, which was usually full of water but mysteriously wasn’t on this occasion, as if it had just perhaps been emptied over someone.

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The Brune Street Beatles

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Dear Rachel

I was walking to the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1 recently, carrying about my person a roll of our lettering vinyl. Lettering vinyl is pretty much what it sounds like: a roll of vinyl into which we have cut the lettering that we later melt onto the aprons and such. On my immediate approach to the pub door, I shifted the roll of vinyl from inside my jacket to my hand, and for a second or two this gave it the plausible appearance – it being dark – of being a weapon of some kind.

The streets around the Duke of Wellington – Toynbee Street, Brune Street, Whites Row, Bell Lane, Frying Pan Alley, Artillery Lane, Tenter Ground, Strype Street and Anns Place – are unpretty and discheerful, especially of an evening, but nonetheless unlikely to afford you any great harm. That is, except for when coincidences happen. By chance, a coincidence happened during the very same couple of seconds when the roll of lettering vinyl was in my hand, and involved myself and two very large gentlemen who, unlike the local street plan, were likely to generously distribute large amounts of harm to anyone they thought might, for example, have just pulled a weapon from their jacket.

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Blue Room On Toynbee Street

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

I often visit the AMT coffee outlet on Liverpool Street Station, which enables me and the Chinese girl with brilliant hair who works there to enter into our own special Wild West shootout, which she always wins by telling me what my order is before I have had a chance to tell her. My order is not difficult – white coffee and four Welsh cakes – but nonetheless she is endearingly pleased with her feats of memory and customer recognition.   I congratulate her on remembering who I am which – and this is one of our little jokes – I won’t be able to do for myself until I’ve had my coffee. To extend the jollity a bit I sometimes ask if her telepathic skills extend as far as knowing where I’m going and where my phone is and so forth, and it’s all very pleasant.

Our brief conversations also help set the scene for the second trick of the transaction, which is this: my order is actually white coffee with sugar and four Welshcakes.   It would be disappointing to say ‘Oh yes actually I like sugar in my coffee after all’, as she will know I have been indulging her for the last year or so.   Therefore, I have to steal the sugar and a wooden stirrer during the few seconds she is focused on stuff behind the till, shove them in my money belt, and sort it all out when I am out of sight, as I don’t like to spoil her moment of memory glory.   What I might do next time is say that on the advice of my dentist I’ve started taking sugar in my coffee, as this will hopefully enable her to be just as delighted to remember this whole new order in future.    I could just get coffee from somewhere else, I suppose, but that would be poor form.

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Keep Calm And Marry On

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

Early summer can be a tricky time in casual retail, and as Steve Gemstones and I discussed this over one of the recent Bank Holidays, he mentioned that he usually has a flat spot, mid year.   I said I thought Mid Year was the bloke who did Live Aid with Bob Geldof, but before he could reply, Keith arrived, waving a card for us to sign.   I worked in an office for a large telecoms company for quite a while and there were always cards going round for various things.   I would write ‘Thanks for everything, Paul xx’ in every one I ever signed, no matter who it was for or what the occasion was – birthday, marriage, leaving, retirement, or funeral – and no-one ever questioned it.    I saw no reason to change tactic on this occasion.

It’s unusual to find yourself signing cards for fellow traders, as significant events are usually well known around the market grapevine and marked with an awful lot of drinking.    However, after signing in my usual manner, I handed it back to Keith, who it transpired also had no idea who it was for, and who therefore didn’t know who to give it to next.  I explained that if you just pass a greetings card on randomly you’ll be rid of it forever, unlike what he thought would happen when he got AIDS, and amid some retaliatory swearing I lost track of it.

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