bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Salutations To The Dawn

Dear Rachel,

‘Each morning when I wake here in Spitalfields’, writes the Gentle Author at one point in Spitalfields Life, ‘I lie for a few minutes contemplating the squirrels gamboling in the yew tree outside my window before climbing from my bed to start another day’. If you don’t know the Gentle Author or Spitalfields Life, the latter is the creation of the former and documents people and places in and around the Spitalfields area of east London, including the famous market there. The Gentle Author and I live in very different worlds, although we both write about market life quite often. I have had plenty of time to consider these differences recently while at Greenwich Market, in the quiet couple of weeks between the various Olympic Games which are being held next door. Well aware of what they have done to Greenwich, I have been fond of referring to this pause as the lull before the calm.

Not having the opportunity to listen to squirrels playing in trees, I started last Sunday by cycling to Greenwich from Tooting Bec, via Clapham, Brixton, Peckham and Deptford – as is my habit on trading days – and walked straight into an argument between Danny and Keith. This broke out because of the way Danny started his day, which was by pouring Marshall’s water bowl over Keith’s chair, as part of an on-going attempt to convince him that he is incontinent, and therefore eligible for the forthcoming Paralympics. Marshall, needless to say, is a dog. Marshall started his day by eating some money, which as you can imagine did little to cheer Danny up. Be that as it may, Danny has been routinely pouring water over Keith’s chair in this manner for several weeks, but on this occasion Keith’s counter measures caused little short of civil war.

Danny was late paying his stall rent that morning, and Keith decided to point this out to the management. Danny’s outraged and horrified reaction is best summed up by this keynote sentence: ‘You lollied me up, you grassy Judas lovely boy Bertie Smalls cunt’. This is a remarkable sequence of words which I suspect will require untangling. To ‘lolly’ a person is to report on their behaviour to superiors in return for preferential treatment. ‘Grass’ and ‘Judas’ are widely known expressions for snitches, although ‘lovely boy’ is more obscure. It pertains to a catchphrase from an old sit com called ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’, the cast of which coincidentally recorded a song called ‘Whispering Grass‘, which ties in quite nicely. Bertie Smalls is a police informant so reviled that his name is considered an insult. ‘Cunt’ is also usually considered an insult, but is used by Danny to address Keith so often that it has taken on the attributes of a pet name, and is therefore the least offensive part of the exchange. Incidentally, Danny’s stall rent was late because it was the money that Marhall had eaten earlier.

I am used to being called upon to settle disputes between Danny and Keith, and was asked to do so again this time. I pointed out that grassing is a grave offence and a diabolical liberty; Danny didn’t grass Marshall for eating the rent, after all. This is an object lesson in manliness and humility, and Keith could learn much from it. Keith’s response was unrecorded, due to a sudden change of subject matter provided by Danny. ‘Excuse me darling – you see my mate over there?’ he said to a passing lady and nodding to where I was standing with a look of anguished surprise on my face, ‘Yes?’ she said, ‘Well’, he said ‘Your kid’s just elbowed him in the bollocks’. The incident, entirely accidental of course, had been bought about by a stray arm flailed recklessly during a boisterous game of chase with a nimbler sibling. The lady apologised in a manner as sincere as barely-concealed mirth would allow, although it wasn’t in truth particularly painful. This was fortunate, because as Danny reiterated the point that ‘A lady’s dustbin has caught Paul in the Jacobs’ – ‘dustbin’ and ‘Jacobs’ being rhyming slang for kid (dustbin lid) and knackers (Jacob’s Cream Crackers) – I made a mental note that in the event of medical attention being required I would either have to be taken to a Cockney hospital or have someone other than Danny liaise with staff.

All these events happened at about the same time that the Gentle Author would presumably have been listening to the squirrels in his garden not so very far away. I like Spitalfields Life, I bought the book and enjoyed it even when it reminded me of what would happen to social history if it was recorded by the makers of Trumpton. He’s calling himself the ‘Gentle Author’, for Heaven’s sake, so he’s pretty out there about the manner in which he’s going to report stuff. I’m not sure the Amazon comparisons with Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys are entirely justified, but they did at least give me something to think about when travelling home that evening, which was a longer journey than usual, up to London Bridge and down through Elephant and Castle. In this regard at least, I was grateful for the Gentle Author and his idyllic morning routine as it gave me something to be jealous of as I rode my bike carefully down Borough High Street on unhappy testicles.

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Kindle – Have climbed 63,621 places to number 85,522 in the Amazon sellers’ ranking since last time, which sounds impressive. In the listings, we’re just behind ‘Father-Daughter Succession In Family Business’ and just in front of ‘Colandra’s World: Caress the Sun, Embrace the Thunder’. This is not the first time we’ve looked over our shoulder and seen Colandra’s World gaining on us. In case you’ve forgotten, it’s about a Paraguayan village which finds God. Of the two, it’s my recommendation this week as the other on is bound to be a bit issue-y.

Picters: This week’s photographic studies are:

Top: Danny, making good his escape having just emptied Marshall’s bowl on Keith’s chair earlier this year.

Middle: Pre-set up view from my stall, looking towards Danny’s (white with Union Jack accessories), Keith’s (next door with chair, cushion removed and drying outside) and John the Boxes (opposite Danny). I once helpfully pointed out that perhaps Keith’s chair is getting splashed by the nearby Flood Gallery, which provoked a robust response. Note the curved bars on my stall in comparison to the flat ones on Danny and John’s; for some reason, these curvy stalls were commissioned especially for the Olympics. The curve means that any hangers and such slide about all over the place, and the whole thing is too high to be in the eye line of anyone wandering past. Still, some consultant somewhere decided that having them designed and made was a good spend of tens of thousands of pounds of public money, which is the main thing.

Lower: Cartoon Ben. If you were to walk backwards eight foot from the vantage point of the previous photograph, you would be standing where he is. Ben can be quite fragile for a variety of reasons, though, and it would really freak him out if you did. The pink stall between Cartoon Ben and myself is the Pink Pamper Parlour, which is an eyebrow threading place. Puja, who runs it, and I have a thing called ‘Saturday Face’. This is the look that we habitually have on a Saturday after about 3 o’clock when we realise that yet again we’re going to remain poor.

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