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Archive for July, 2011

The Trade Of The Tricks

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Dear Rachel

Like Saul – who we may safely assume was some sort of fish or possibly greengrocer – on the road to Damascus, the scales fell from former Camden trader and now Greenwich stalwart Magic Alex’s eyes one Tuesday afternoon in 1985, at Knightsbridge tube station. This is how, spurning a floor manager’s position at Next on the Kings Road, he unexpectedly became a magician. We found ourselves in conversation by the Amiable Shriveled Book Vendor’s stall on a recent Saturday morning, during the course of which we discovered we’d both shoplifted from the same shops in our youth, including the Next outlet from which, technically, he is still on his lunch break.

Although Magic Circle rules and the fact that I have forgotten forbid me from recounting it in detail here, I learned something called the Disappearing Pen Trick from Magic Alex many years ago at Camden. I used to baffle Pikey Dave with it for a short while, until he said he could also make a pen disappear, and demonstrated this with the equally affective – albeit less wily – method of throwing it over the East Yard wall, into the Grand Union canal. He offered to do this with my stock and also myself at various points during our relationship, which can best be described as ‘troubled’, although in his defence this was around the time as I was having a bit of a larf by setting fire to bits of paper I had placed strategically around his stall and trying to distract him long enough to get a nice blaze going.

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General Misunderstandings

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Dear Rachel

There is a sign outside the Tulse Hill Hotel in south London that says: Roast Dinner – Tastes Like Your Mums.  This is fighting talk where I come from, however, things are very different over the water and we must all learn to accommodate each others’ quirks.  In the white heat of casual retail, you get very used to accommodating people whose particular quirk is not understanding absolutely anything whatsoever at all.  For example, I regularly – and by regularly I mean once every fifteen or so minutes, not regularly as the thirty year cycle of Saturn’s solar orbit – have people running up to the stall in a triumphant manner, loudly exclaiming the type of goods on sale.   Not the extensive design work that’s been applied to the type of goods on sale, which is what makes them saleable in the first place, but the goods themselves.

For example, we sell travel card holders on our stall at Greenwich and our various outposts around London and the provinces.  One of them is the centre of a tube map I designed which shows all the ghosts, plague pits, abandoned stations and such through which all the tube lines are cut.  It’s a pretty unusual thing which took a long time to research and get the graphics right on and so forth – although this, of course, is no reason for anyone to buy it, or even like it.   However, I never tire of people delightedly shouting ‘Oh my God!  They’ve got travel card holders!’ picking one up – perhaps the ghosts and plague pits one, as discussed – immediately looking at the reverse side, which is completely blank, and then walking off in silent disappointment.   After some note taking on the subject, I can reveal that the second most common response is ‘Have you got one of these, but with the normal tube map on it?’ the third is ‘Why should I buy this when I can get a free IKEA one from a tube station?’ and the forth is simply ‘But why did you do this? which is when I employ my usual tactic of pretending that either a) this is not my stall or b) that I am Polish.

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Uncommon People

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Dear Rachel

It would make my life a tiny bit easier – although slightly sadder – if leaving Greenwich market after trading was a matter of simply walking up the High Road to the train station and heading off towards London Bridge. It really isn’t like that, at all. There’s a complex system of hand shakes, embraces, high fives and knuckle bumps to get through first, and they all have to be administered in the correct order to the right person, or I’ll look like an amateur. For example, a firm two handed handshake is the order of the day with Bill and Fabio, whereas I normally try to disturb and annoy Keith in some way by commenting that I like what he’s done with his hair or whatever, in one of many standard Keith-annoying ploys we’ve discussed before.

The most complex of all farewells, however, is with Danny.  This entails a normal handshake which morphs into an urban warrior variant, combined with a manly embrace with backslapping and finally a mutually exchanged knuckle bump with the salutation ‘K. I. B.’ which does, of course, mean ‘Keep It Black’.  Trains run very frequently from Greenwich to central London, which is fortunate, or I’d be missing them all the time.

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