A Life of Crime vs. The Free Market IV
While The Mr T I worked markets with bore no resemblance to one from TV, it’s no reason not to again include the mother loving video in which it’s apparently thought just fine to go round calling people things like fat, so long as no one’s mother is brought into anything:
Mr T had been working markets on and off for a while; when he wasn’t, he was known to turn up down London’s famous Oxford Street with a suitcase full of goodies to sell until plod got wind and a fast runner was done.
For a combination of reasons—a big one being the latter part of the Oxford Street equation often not being done fast enough—Mr T had started erring towards markets on a more permanent basis (until plod stopped going out of their way to look for him on Oxford Street, at least).
Mr T liked doing things alone—a lone Mr T Wolf, as it were—while the Oxford St deal was a three person job.
- Fake excited buyer
Mr T was so good at the first he didn’t need the second, so figured why bother with the third. While this policy had increased his productivity 66%, it decreased the head-start of fast runners by 99%, so had contributed significantly to how regular he was reached by the Long Arm of the Law.
Mr T would’ve happily worked markets alone, where—ironically—doing so wouldn’t have presented anything like the same problems. Only thing, he’d just lost his driving licence (again).
Instead of the slap on the wrist, caution and fine for getting nabbed up Oxford St (again), he was looking at serious time if caught behind a wheel.
That’s where I came in:
Initially we went to as many different markets as possible, including as far-a-field as Kempton Park Racecourse. But when even Mr T’s gift of the gab started to do little good we knew something was up.
Eventually settling on East Lane/Street for the reasons given, it became more about having something to do in the face of doing nothing; if it had been any further away the cost of petrol (gas) getting to and from would’ve have ruled it out alone.
A Beginner’s Guide to How Markets Work:
Permanent pitches on the market surpassed mere gold dust to be like whopping big nuggets – it would take either years or lots of money to become holder of one.
Those with them tended to only work the prime days, like weekends, as that’s all they needed to.
It left many pitches open to ‘temporary traders’ the rest of the week.
The market manager was obliged to give permanent pitch holders a certain time to turn up by; after that it was first come, first served with a twist – the manager had to ensure stalls selling the same things weren’t all clustered close together.
It meant being second could really mean anything.
It was a hectic start to the day: on one hand finding nearby parking; on the other locating the manager—who could be anywhere on the market despite having an office—ASAP to let him know we were there and wanting a place.
When all that was done and a pitch allotted, a market barrow had to be found, taken back to the car, loaded up with the stock, then pulled/pushed to the pitch.
Still, sounds a damn sight easier than pre 1927. Then no one had a permanent pitch. Who got what was decided by a rozzer blowing his whistle at 8 a.m. to signal traders could race to grab the best spot they could.
Given everyday in the run-up to Christmas was considered a ‘prime day’, pitch pickings were likewise cut to the wick.
Post-Yule was more a case of a tasty prime rib after it’d been mercilessly picked clean by families of vultures.
Then it snowed. Heavily.
Unlike other countries where it snows, in the UK everything automatically grinds to a halt when it does.
One morning we arrived at the market to find it pretty much deserted apart from an abundance of white mountains where market/street cleaners had tried shoveling it out the way.
Mr T jumped out of the car to find the manager, briskly navigating ice and blowing hot air onto rubbed-together hands as he went.
Returning chilled to the bone despite the sheepskin, he confirmed the obvious; the market had been cancelled.
Not a decision made lightly – it impacted incomes, livelihoods.
To drown my sorrows, I was all for running Mr T back home then returning to what was possibly still a warm bed.
Mr T, however, wanted to go for breakfast.
But not because he was hungry; instead as eating a Full English would apparently kill just about the right amount of time before the Workingmen’s Clubs opened.
No wonder he kept losing his licence . . .
An Introduction to Catching Socialism in Bed with the Patriarchy
Back then—and very possibly now (though hopefully not)—Workingmen’s Clubs were ‘funny little’ places serving cheap booze that were normally quite big for something not focused on making a profit.
Run by committees of men, they refused to let women stand near the bar (let alone get served at it) except for maybe one day a week.
Tape placed on the floor would let women know how close they could get before expecting a serious reprimanding.
My grandfather, a communist, was a big fan of going down the club.
I remember being taken when young and he entering by the main door, while my nan and mum had to enter by one round the side. In that particular club, women even had to sit in a separate room.
Kids got defaulted there, too; I remember the doors being open to both rooms and being able to see granddad all the way across the entrance hall in the other having a right old laugh with his mates.
Reasons to Not Want Breakfast and Beer (bizarre as that with hindsight may seem):
- The above mentioned bed
- Not liking Workingmen’s Clubs much (again, see above)
- I’d only be able to have one pint
- Generally speaking, not a big fan of morning drinking, unless at Christmas when it becomes mandatory; though only as it’s my birthday, not any of that religious mumbo-jumbo (granddad’s communist ways having positive influence in some areas at least)
Why I Don’t Recall the Breakfast I Never Wanted in the First Place:
My car was a Ford Cortina Mk V Estate (think station wagon if in N. America) with three sunroofs—two over the front and back seats, the third over the ‘estate’ rear area—installed after an associate of the previous owner (a minicab driver) came into possession of a ‘job lot’.
While Estates are great for getting loads in, they’re the worst when it comes to that whole not-leaving-things-on-display thing; especially when they’ve been modified to have as many ways of seeing into them as possible.
Breakfast was spent in an agitated state of anxiety; I asked that we at least drop the stock off before heading for a drink, but Mr T said it would be fine while smiling wryly.
Easy for him to say: it wasn’t going to be his car that had all the windows put in.
And as he insisted on going to a particular club in Peckham that he knew, I likewise persisted in pushing my point.
While Only Fools and Horses was set in Peckham, it’s East Street market used in the opening credits even though Peckham has a market all of its own.
Eventually my anxiety got too much and Mr T relented; but only to offer the compromise of taking the stock into the club . . .
If the idea of drinking at that time of day hadn’t appealed, doing it surrounded by stock in what would be a crowded club thanks to the snow did so even less.
Mr T, though, was adamant.
On arrival we grabbed as much as we could carry and headed to the club.
- Next: Banned from the Pubs
Previously in this series:
- Part III: East Street and the Mystery of Charlie Chaplin
- Part II: Songs Mr. T. Taught Me
- Part I: A Tale of Gratis Woe
Thanks for reading. 🙂
N. P. Ryan.