bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Lullaby Of Tooting Broadway

Dear Rachel

A couple of Saturday mornings ago in Greenwich Market, volley after volley of threats, curses and expletives of all flavours and descriptions being hurled at Danny were my first indication that Keith had returned from an eight week sojourn in Cuba, where he is the guest lecturer in photography at Havana State University. I pride myself on an eye for good tailoring and a confident, understated sartorial style, and to this end was giving a full length cashmere overcoat from Liberty’s of Regent Street rare market airing.   It is a fine garment supplied by a fine English company, and both Keith and Danny know that I do not tolerate profanity or foul language in front of it.  I once made Childbrain apologise to it for swearing, to the amusement of Cartoon Ben, and indicated my displeasure with Keith’s tone by addressing him with a stern look and tapping a lapel with my forefinger.  I’m afraid to report that he responded with further recourse to the language of the gutter, with which I shall not trouble you.   Informing Keith that he was a very common fellow indeed, I retired to what seems to have become my regular pitch near the lesbian cake ladies – who have taken to providing me with shortbread so sugary that it actually makes me shake – and waited to see what all the fuss was about.

What all the fuss was about, more or less, was the arrangement of a pre Christmas do at a Turkish restaurant in Dalston. Despite being in north London, Dalston has no tube station, and if you’re new to the city this is your reason to be suspicious of it. It’s also one of the many parts of town famed for its diverse mix of people, and like all the other parts of London with this tag line, consists either of yapping gangs of Bens and Lauras and Henrys and Sophies, or crack dealers from Eritrea, whose lives barely acknowledge the same rules of physics, let alone any shared commonality or purpose. The Bens and Lauras and Henrys and Sophies are usually related to Emilys and Julians and Simons and Beckys from the early nineties who liked Carter USM and the Wonderstuff and are the reason that Indie music fans are not allowed to breed. This latter group are mainly in Crouch End and such these days, which is also in north London but which also – see how quickly the pattern emerges – has no tube station. I think it’s because Crouch End and the surrounding areas are so much like south London that they have no tube access, because nowhere in south London has. Well, Tooting has, and I recently arranged to meet Martin, my old cohort from the distant Camden Lock days there to pick up some stock that I couldn’t even begin to heft up the Northern Line to his stall.

It’s probably worth pointing out that there is very little actually wrong with south London. It’s not as cosy as north London, all the streets are too wide and feel drafty, and to a north Londoner (or indeed east Londoner in my case) it feels like a collection of suburbs trying to be a city, but despite this parts of it are undeniably very nice. The part near Tooting Bec tube, which is well known to myself, is alright, and has a small Sainsbury’s if you like that sort of thing. It was in this car park that I had arranged to meet Martin and his stupid purple van for the purposes of exchanging stock for cash. Martin’s stupid purple van differs from south London in many key areas, but not least because whereas south London does have some things going for it – I am out about my liking for roomy, high ceilinged south London pubs, for example – the stupid purple van simply does not. It’s a Volkswagen camper van from 1871 or something with all the original log books and engine parts and all that and while this makes it an excellent vintage vehicle, it also makes it a highly annoying modern one. The first time I was ever in it I put my seat belt on while Martin started the ignition and pulled the choke out, and we then sat in silence for about a minute and a half instead of joining the traffic on Kentish Town Road, which I had assumed would be the next thing to happen. The silence had a loaded and awkward quality to it, and I thought that Martin might have been about to tell me he was gay. What he was actually doing, however, was waiting for the engine to warm up, which I’d forgotten engines even needed to do anymore. It has a lovely sound to it, though, and once the thing is actually moving Martin hurls it around the London streets like a matador’s cape. He hadn’t hurled it into the car park of Sainsbury’s though, despite telling me that he had. Increasingly tetchy voice mails from myself as I traipsed up and down the Upper Tooting Road in the pouring rain pushing a sack barrow full of aprons alluded to mistaking his van for a skip full of old tyres, and expressing surprise at his claim that he had managed to put both his indicators on to aid recognition as this would mean he had both hands out of the window at once and wouldn’t be able to hold either his phone or the steering wheel. I further mused that in any case this last action was unnecessary as I would just look out for the large group of people pointing and laughing which I assumed accompanied him every time he took to the road. This was unfair on poor Martin, who is a redoubtable and trusted ally, but entirely fair on his stupid purple van, which isn’t.

Anyone who shops at Sainsbury’s in the Tooting area will know that both Tooting tube stations – Bec and Broadway – have a branch next to them, and anyone familiar with language will know that ‘Bec’ and ‘Broadway’ are entirely different words, with different meanings, and – most crucially of all in this context – different geographic locations. I only became of the former at the same moment as pointing out the latter to Martin amid a torrent of foul language not dissimilar to Keith’s Saturday morning outburst. There is a difference, however. In my case, annoyance was caused by a simple error exacerbated by rain, cold, and the hefting of stock; in Keith’s case it was caused by Danny’s booking of a table for fourteen at a Turkish restaurant in Dalston for us, and a table for one in a Chinese restaurant in Seven Sisters for him, and exacerbated by how much he was laughing about it.

Post Script:

In an entirely futile attempt to preserve the few remaining iotas of Danny’s good character I should like to emphasise that, in the end, everything was alright.


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  1. Simon in Crouch End

    Dec 21st, 2011
    12:06 pm

    I am not nearly as offended as I think you intended. And I still remember the words to Sheriff Fatman.

    This is still the best blog since Dickens

  2. Paul

    Dec 21st, 2011
    12:17 pm

    I quite like Lean On Me I Won’t Fall Over and Highgate, but that is as near as I get to Carter USM and Crouch End. Both are far too self conscious to warrant further study, although I will concede that Jim Bob is one of the nicest men ever, if various interviews I’ve seen with him are anything to go by.

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