bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Danny Helps A Pigeon

August 9th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

Interestingly, fans of the film version of Lord of the Rings who fancy trading at Greenwich Market can be allocated a pitch by a man who was actually in it. Ben – for this is his name – certainly has the stature and general beard of a man at home with chasing Orcs around woodland areas with a large axe, in accordance with his most notable cinematic role. He also has the air of a man with too many new traders – none of whom have to date recognised him, or shot him with a poisoned longbow – for one person to deal with.

To this end, he approached me with a group of them selling – probably – tea cups with candles in them, cushions prominently featuring the word ‘Love’ or bad charcoal drawings of cats and said ‘I’m handing you over to Mr Smith here. He’ll be able to look after you, because he’s the King of the Swingers – a jungle VIP.’

‘It’s true,’ I confirmed, developing the theme, ‘I’ve reached the top, and had to stop, and that’s what’s bothering me,’ increasingly aware with every passing syllable that I was addressing a group of people who had never seen the Jungle Book. Suffice to say, as I showed them to their pitches, I didn’t get the impression that they particularly wanted to ‘be like me’ very much at all. It was, however, an entirely different film-related event that proved to be of most interest that day, as it concerned Danny’s ill-starred attempts to release a pigeon into the wild, preserved forever on an iPhone 4.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs, Podcasts | No Comments »

Saturday Morning, Peckham Road

July 1st, 2013

Dear Rachel,

I’ve found that an ideal way to test the goodwill of the general public on a Saturday morning is to take a right-hand turn – such as the one from Denmark Hill onto Peckham Road – too fast on a folding bicycle while attempting to charge up the inside of a stationary line of traffic. If you can, it’s best to do this just as it starts to move away from the lights at Grove Lane, although this still only meets half the requirements. To really make it work, you need to hit a patch of surface diesel, lose the back end, recover it again, and realise that if you continue to follow your new, recovered, path you’ll hurtle straight through the back of a Vauxhall Carlton which has suddenly become visible as the traffic moves away in earnest. All you need to do now is lose the back end again while attempting evasive action, part company with the bike and slide along feeling remarkably relaxed about all these developments and enjoying the sensation of time moving so slowly that, if nothing else, you’ve been given an unexpected moment of clarity and a welcome break from hectic London life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »

Pride Of Our Alley

June 19th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

To my amazement, Danny recently received a clean bill of health from his annual medical check up. I didn’t want to harsh his buzz by pointing out that this does not mean he’s immortal or has superhuman powers – as he seems to think it does – but I admit it’s a nice thing to know. Last year following a similar check up, I learned that I was both fertile and AIDS-free which, considering I live in London, are not only rare attributes to find in the same person, but are among the biggest compliments I’ve ever had.

Perhaps as a result of all this medical interest, Danny likes to take everyone’s pulse on a Saturday morning before trading to make sure we’re all in tip-top condition. From this I have discovered that I have a resting pulse of 57, which indicates excellent cardiovascular health, and that Keith’s is 75, which Danny puts down to ‘…having a tiny cock and a mrs that everyone’s had a go on’.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »

One Hundred And Thirty Six Thousand Pounds

May 30th, 2013

Dear Rachel

I found myself discussing the subject of gambling recently at the Duke of Wellington public house, London E1, with Vinny the landlord and a Petticoat Lane fabric wholesaler of my acquaintance, who shall remain nameless. Vinny’s method of gambling – which I call ‘Cab Out, Bus Home’ – involves going to a casino up West in a black taxi, losing all his money as quickly as possible, then coming back on the N11 from Stamford Brook with the clubbers, homeless and mentally ill. The nameless fabric wholesaler has a more successful approach, which he puts down to nothing more than being born an optimist in Watford. As he explained his theory, I offered to sell Vinny my bike to cut his travelling costs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | 2 Comments »

The Trouble With Brighton

May 14th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

I’m not sure I believe in horoscopes, although I do see how having several different innate character types would be useful if you were inventing a species from scratch. As a means of prediction it seems flawed to me, although no more flawed than an origami salt cellar. This is the official name for one of those paper devices from everyone’s childhood which consist of four folded quarters, the contents of which contain a ‘fortune’ which is revealed and read aloud after the ‘enquirer’ has first picking an assigned number and colour.

Recently on my stall at Greenwich Market, I was confronted by Dalek Stu’s endearing son Peter and Mental Dave (who owns an imaginary hotel in the Bloomsbury area), who appeared from different directions at the same time. Peter shoved an origami salt cellar at me and asked me to pick a number, to which I replied ‘Four’. Mental Dave informed me that former Spurs and England midfield maestro Glenn Hoddle was looking for me in Marks and Spencer, to the amusement of nearby customers. Meanwhile Peter, having counted to four and rearranged the salt cellar accordingly, asked me to pick a colour. I said ‘Blue’, while Mental Dave asked if I’d heard any more from Phil Spector about his car keys. Peter unfolded the origami salt cellar and invited Mental Dave to read what was written there.

‘The Problem Is You’re An Idiot’, he said, quoting the salt cellar and bringing a look of ill-disguised glee to my customers.

‘That is uncanny’ I said, and walked off to get an Americano from Coffee Keith, leaving them all to their own devices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »

Carpet Issues

March 5th, 2013

Dear Rachel

I am fond of the middle class, and would invite them to give themselves a round of applause if they weren’t already doing so. I don’t really have the self-loathing to get involved properly, but I am definitely partial to the things they like – I keep loose leaf tea in a caddy, I own a folding bicycle and a box set of The Thick Of It, and not only do I understand cricket, but I consider it to be the most exciting boring game in the world. I have a decidedly middle class snobbery about stuff, too – for example, I think tomato sauce with a roast is poor form, as is gravy on the same plate as baked beans. This is more to do with style than class, I suppose, because you’re either Blue Peter or Magpie, Swap Shop or Tiswas, Liberty or Selfridges. You can’t be both.

In my case, I am tempted to suggest that this is genetic. My grandfather thought that sandwiches cut diagonally were ostentatious and that eating them would make him a class traitor, but that garden gnomes were tacky and common. I discussed this recently with his daughter – my old dear – as I rolled around her living room in an armchair. There is such a thing as a castor cup, which is placed under chair wheels to prevent this happening: demonstrating the irrational snobbery of the family line, my old dear refuses to have them in the house.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »

The Unsecret Code

February 20th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

Keith’s coffee van at Greenwich Market is so small that when he’s driving it, it looks as though it’s been painted onto his jacket. If it were mine, I would save petrol by bouncing it there like a basketball. It is in fact so very miniscule that my only involvement with it on Sunday – I wasn’t trading due to a state visit to the east end – was to almost run over it as I cycled past him at Elephant and Castle, causing it to flurry about in my slipstream like a Kit Kat wrapper.

If you are unfamiliar, Elephant and Castle is a joyless mess in south London, through which I cycle often and as quickly as I can. The nicest building there is the Imperial War Museum, which housed Bedlam lunatic asylum when it left Whitechapel, and the only cheery feature are the tube station lifts, which play the same sound when the doors open as Pacman does when he eats a power pill and runs about chasing ghosts. I assume this is a deliberate feature, as Elephant and Castle is a stupidly complex maze of tunnels and subways – not unlike that which Pacman has to charge around – and the station itself is one of the most haunted places in London. If they were any more similar, your reward for clearing a screen on Pacman would be a Bakerloo Line train to Regent’s Park or Marylebone, both of which are much nicer places to be on a Sunday afternoon then Elephant and Castle.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A Bit Of A Headache

February 8th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

I was speaking to a gynaecologist recently, and was impressed by the way she could sketch a female reproductive system without looking at the paper she was drawing on. We were talking on a non-professional basis, but she estimated that she’d drawn over eight thousand female reproductive systems in her career and, as an encore, drew another one as a single unbroken line. I suggested she arrange for cannons to go off and glitter to come down from the ceiling when she reached the ten thousandth, because something like that should be given a sense of occasion.

Market trading is more difficult to represent with diagrams, so instead I turned the paper over and drew the principal causes of the War of the Roses, as I’d been reading about them that morning. Despite the Battle of Hexham having to appear on the back of a market rent receipt placed next to the main drawing, it worked quite well, and I was struck by how weird we’d be to play Pictionary against.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | 4 Comments »

The Imaginary Hotel

January 17th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

There are no consecutive months more dissimilar than December and January, and this is especially true for those of us involved in market trading, the chip shop scuffle at the ragged end of retail. For a start, there are far fewer traders in January; Christmas attracts any number of Kirstie Allsopp fans who don’t understand that unless you actually are Kirstie Allsopp, no one’s going to be interested in something you saw her make on her show and thought you’d replicate for the retail benefit of the general public. Essentially, these are craft show traders – the giveaway here is that they talk about ‘table fees’ rather than ’stall rent’ – and are used to operating in a rather more sanitised environment than Greenwich Market. Not that Greenwich Market is rough in any way (in fact, it borders on the genteel), but it is a lot rougher than a trestle table in a home counties scout hut, to which they are more suited.

Another difference is underlined by the the mentally ill, who are vital to the overall ambiance of any proper market. Indeed, at Camden they form the core of the trading community itself, and while they are less in evidence south of the Thames, my favourite at Greenwich is Dave or, to give him his full name, Mental Dave. Mental Dave is something of a mascot, and his wise words are welcomed by all. I think I’ve mentioned him before ages ago, when he gave me Theo Paphitis’ forty digit phone number and spent an afternoon issuing threats and warnings to golden retrievers, but I particularly enjoy his string of imaginary hotels. This prompts him to say things like ‘I can’t stop to chat, Boris Becker’s waiting outside on a double yellow, he’s working for me at the Dorchester’, which is disconcerting if you are unfamiliar with him. Those of us who speak in terms of stall rent value people like Mental Dave whereas those who talk in terms of table fees are not quite so at ease, as we shall see.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »

My Name Is

January 9th, 2013

Dear Rachel,

One of the ways Danny copes with market trading during the quieter parts of the year – such as January – is by having text sex with grandmothers from Lewisham. Danny’s romantic texting technique is best described as forthright and committed to getting things over with as quickly as possible, and I am often drafted in to add a line here or there, check spelling, edit out the more horrifying parts, or generally jolly things along. As I usually trade near Danny and also get bored easily, I am sometimes handed the phone and asked to keep things ticking over while he is busy with a customer or walking his dog, and as it’s always nice to find a new low, I’m happy to oblige.

The latest such occasion was on Sunday and involved some tired old dinner lady called, probably, Alison or Janet or Mags or Peggy. While supplying me with background information, he told me that he likes to say ‘What’s my name?’ in a threatening and aggressive manner at critical moments during sex. Intrigued, I asked for a vocal demonstration. Upon receiving it, I larfed for eight minutes, to the point where I had to return, weeping with mirth, to my own stall to calm down. I assumed that this ‘What’s my name?’ business was something to do with her senility, but he told me that it ‘adds a bit of terror’ to proceedings. Considering the answer is presumably ‘Daniel’ – not a conventionally terrifying name – I’m not sure how long a menacing atmosphere could be sustained in this manner.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blogs | No Comments »