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Doing A Luton With The Goat Bag Man

Dear Rachel,

I’m sure you’ll know what a middle eight – or ‘bridge’ – is, but in case you don’t, it’s the ‘middle eight’ bars of a pop song, which break up the verse structure and add interest, usually by embellishing a central riff or adding a solo.  For example, this morning I listened to the Beatles’ tremendous 1965 hit I Feel Fine.  The middle eight in I Feel Fine is the instrumental bit at the end of the second chorus and before the second verse.  It’s excellent, but when removed from its context, makes no sense whatsoever.  Now imagine a tune consisting entirely of middle eights.  To return to the case of the middle eight from I Feel Fine, you’d think, after a while, ‘I like this, it’s highly enjoyable and very catchy, but I don’t know where it’s come from, I don’t know where it’s going, and I don’t know the structure in which it is supposed to exist’.  That’s what a conversation with the Goat Bag Man is like.

As far as I can remember, it was lovely pampered floppy haired frightened of his girlfriend Hoxton lady/man with lovely skin like a lovely baby deer Chris who invented the phrase ‘Doing A Luton’.  ‘Doing A Luton’ describes the Goat Bag Man’s habit of constantly referencing his grimly entertaining formative years in the eponymous Bedfordshire town to add a couple of hours to the duration of any anecdote or story about absolutely anything at all.  It’s worth pointing out that the The Goat Bag Man’s qualities, both as a trader and a human being, shine forth like a lighthouse across stormy seas.  Not because his light is particularly brilliant – although it is – but because it tends to be the same brilliance, going round and round, over and over again.   I myself have observed that he likes to point out what we do for a living to add weight to an argument, in case any of us is in danger of forgetting what all that standing about behind market stalls and selling stuff to the general public is about.

Here is a stylised sample conversation with the Goat Bag Man.  To set the scene, bear in mind that he has exactly the same speaking voice as Johnny Rotten:

‘I was working away up at Camden, and this geezer comes up to me and asks where I get me bags from.  Now Paul.  I’m a market trader.  You’re a market trader.  We’re both market traders.  You know as well as I do that I’m not gonna reveal things like that.  And I could, because I know where I get them from.  You know where I get them from.  We both know where I get them from, because we’re both market traders.  But I didn’t tell him.  I thought no, I won’t tell him – and it was that, more than anything else, that informed my decision.  I thought that he might start to get all shirty, and if he had done I was gonna get a bit physical – and I could, I can do that sort of thing, because I’ve worked with problem kids in Luton, which is the county town of Bedfordshire.  I said ‘Listen mate’ – and Paul, I’m a market trader, you’re a market trader, we’re both market traders, we know how to deal with things like this, because we have to know how to deal with things like this, in the same way that it helps knowing how to deal with problem kids in Luton, some of whom are well nasty.   They were kids, and they had problems, and they were in Luton.  They were in every respect problem kids in Luton.  And I’d said to this bloke ‘Listen mate, I can’t tell you where I get me bags from, because I don’t reckon it’s any of your business’.  I said that to him, and he was aware that I was addressing him – I know how to speak to people directly without offending them, I can do that sort of thing – and I knew he was aware that I was addressing him, because he heard me.  Now Paul.  I’m a market trader.  You’re a market trader.  We’re both market traders.  We both trade within a market environment.  You used to sell t shirts and stuff on a market stall in Camden Market.  I know that, you know that, we both know that, because for five years – a year being the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun -  your stall was eight foot away from mine.  On my stall I sold bags made of goat leather – I still do, in fact – whereas yours, as I say, was mainly t shirts and stuff.   Now, I’m happy selling bags made of goat leather.  I can do that sort of thing, and I usually do it from a market stall.  We need stalls, because we’re both market traders, which you may have picked up from our many conversations over the years about market trading, in markets, while trading.  Anyway.  The bloke said ‘Fair enough, I didn’t mean to pry’ and walked off.  I was expecting him to say something else, but he didn’t, but the point is that he could’ve done, although as I say, on this occasion, he chose not to’.

Listening to the Goat Bag Man certainly isn’t boring – if I had my way, I’d have him listed in Time Out as an essential evening out when visiting London, along with Les Miserables and dinner at the Ivy – but it can often have a certain hypnotic quality, like a conversation with Derren Brown.  For all I know, I’m not actually a market trader at all, but have merely been hypnotised into doing it by conversational repetition, while my erstwhile colleagues at an insurance brokers wonder where I’ve been for the last eight years.

Twitter. No, I wouldn’t have thought the Goat Bag Man was particularly suited to Twitter either, but he’s there alright, as @GoatBagMan.   Half girl half lace handkerchief Chris is there as well: @SCDSoundsystem.

Facebook. I can’t tell you how bored I am of the idea of the Facebook Group.   Modern life is rubbish.

Picters: This week’s flounce around the photographic arts has given us:

Top: Entrance at the food end of Greenwich Market.   The shop unit directly ahead is now the market office.  The orange mountain bike in the foreground was there for four months.

Middle: Mehmet’s flower shop in the main entrance to the Market.   Mehmet has a nice shop and a good haircut.

Lower: Midway through setting up.  This is an extremely bad pitch, and I can’t remember why I was given it on that particular day, but I was probably pretty miffed.


  1. Gary

    Sep 6th, 2011
    1:21 am

    I suppose it helps if you know the Goat Bag Man, as I do, because I was a market trader and he was a market trader, and as you and I Paul, both sold, or ‘traded’ things in Camden Market, you will no doubt be aware that my pitch was directly next to his for several years.

    Being acutely observed and largely hilarious, this post made me smile. Somewhat wistfully, I’ll add.

  2. Paul

    Sep 6th, 2011
    10:00 am

    Yeah, God knows I can rattle on, but the Goat Bag Man’s like Lord of the Rings or something.

  3. goatbagman

    Sep 6th, 2011
    10:25 am

    Trouble is, now I know, I’ll probably take elocution lessons. It’ll be the end of an era. Give it a month and I’ll be talking like Brian Sewell.

  4. Paul

    Sep 6th, 2011
    10:31 am

    That’s the shortest answer you’ve ever given to anything.

  5. Goatbagmanbro

    Sep 7th, 2011
    11:42 pm

    Being the younger brother of the Goatbagman you have described his personality perfectly. I did not manage to utter a word as a child until I left home …. he left no space for my words or thoughts or our other three brothers. Our parents thought for many years we were all mute except …. the Goat bag Man
    Life with him is like being on a carousel, very colourful, very musical but you feel you have been there before, you have been there before, you have been there before, you have been there before ………….

  6. Paul

    Sep 8th, 2011
    10:28 am

    I recognise the name! You’ve popped up in conversation from time to time. Well, the same conversation, time and time again, I should probably say.

  7. Baby Stuff

    Dec 13th, 2013
    5:58 pm

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

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