A Life of Crime vs. The Free Market V
The fact literally no one was at work (except whoever ran where we ate; was at the market to say it was closed; and opened the club, obviously), had me anticipate the club being packed.
It was pretty much entirely empty.
As I saw it, Godsend – bad enough only being able to have one drink, without having to worry about people falling over all the stock.
But I hadn’t factored in just how early it still was; those starting work at a normal time would only just be heading the club’s way.
At the bar we dropped everything at our feet – giant sports bags brimming well beyond closeable. Mr T ordered two pints of lager and a packet of crisps, please; as I considered running back to the motor to get the rest of the gear given how much space we had.
‘Oh, no,’ said the barman firmly, eyes focused on what we’d dropped on the floor. ‘You can’t bring that in here.’
An Interlude to Further Delve into the Funny-not-funny Mindset of the Workingman
No matter how hard the times, he always manages to find enough money for beer.
I thought it was just communist granddad who’d neglected expenditure on his kids’ education to favour still going down the club for a few pints.
Growing up, I heard of this injustice often.
When older, it was evident in the actions of peers; as far as the sands of time go, personally don’t think anyone does it better than Zola.
Why a ‘working-class man’ might do this is something close to the heart of The Medusa Protocol (plug-plug-plug).
Granddad, though, wasn’t the average working-class man.
If he’d been given chance to defend against the oft lamented injustice before popping his commie-clogs and ascending to the Great International in the Sky, he might have put forward a plausible defense for his apparent hypocrisy.
He was big on Unions, the committees all the meetings to be attended too.
Presence required could easily be construed as excuse for wanton drinking.
Except . . .
He was involved pre Welfare State; a time when Doctors had to be paid for out of pocket.
Saving the Working Class
Granddad was the extremely due diligent treasurer of a ‘Christmas Club’. Taking a pound a week from members, it was able to help the working classes do something excruciatingly difficult on a low income: save
Not only were members returned the lump sum of fifty-two quid come December (a tidy amount back then), the club also made sure the money earned interest in the meantime, which in being ‘pooled’ earned a greater rate.
Though the interest wasn’t instantly divvied between investors: if a member fell on hard times during the year, it would be used to help them first.
Granddad had attended the University of St Andrews (Scotland’s fist ever university, founded 1413) on a scholarship; in which respect, he was the only one there.
He got a good close-up look at Privilege, Entitlement and all they stand for and stink of; able to watch somewhere they didn’t expect to be seen by the likes of him.
He was there for the same education as everyone else, and—it could be said—had actual merit to be so; nonetheless, he was treated as inferior due to not having his way paid for by rich parents.
He needed to work while everyone else toffed it up.
Given his unique perspective, he was also better qualified than the peers he drunk with at the club when it came to what their capitalist overlords were really like.
If anyone’s time at the club was justified, it was his; perhaps some hypocrisy here and there along the way can be forgiven.
Back to Being Banned from the Pubs
That was it!
Being told we couldn’t bring the stock in was the final straw.
There was no way I was lugging it all the way back to the car, just to leave it all on display there, to then walk all the way back to the club again in the freezing cold!
He could shove his two pints and a packet of crisps where the sun don’t shine!
Plenty of other equally empty workingmen’s clubs would be more than happy to see some punters through its doors, couple of bags in tow or not.
I was about to expletive tell him too, when he said, ‘Follow me.’
Mr T, the little wimp, had already started gathering bags back up.
He led us behind the bar and down a small corridor to a room containing beer barrels and some boxes of crisps. Somewhere to keep the stock safe while we drank beer – how thoughtful.
‘Wait here,’ said the barman, leaving us there.
Did we have to drink the beer there too; had he gone to get it for us?
Mr T wasn’t answering; too busy making what looked like a fort out of the crisp boxes . . .
We never got our pints. When the barman returned he wasn’t alone. Anyone who’d been in the club when we’d walked in was behind him.
They started making offers on the stuff Mr T was arranging on the boxes.
And what they offered was a lot more than we sold for at market!
For the first time that day something was immediately obvious. The barman had made a big assumption, then spread it to the congregation like gospel; everyone thought the goods for sale were hot off the back of a lorry.
As for why the inflated offers were quite so, that was easily explained by the same hypocrisy granddad had been guilty of; no one doing any of the buying had the first clue what things like shirts and socks might actually cost.
Though don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s because they never listened.
Due to the above mentioned priority given beer money, some missuses were rumoured to employ tactics such as ‘purchase price embellishment’ so as to skim just enough for the days the local workingmen’s club felt magnanimous enough to let them also buy cheap booze at the bar.
Just in case the mobile display cabinet of a Cortina Mk V ever got stopped by some snooping rozzer, all the receipts from the wholesalers were in a pocket; but no one asked to see them.
There were, though, questions:
How long would we be there? being a popular one.
Meanwhile a queue formed at the club’s payphone so friends and family members could be made aware; requests for different sizes and colours quickly followed.
We didn’t just go grab everything left in the motor, we even made a journey back to Kennington to get more.
We’d never had a day like it at a market.
And once the snow was gone two days later . . .
Workingmen went back to work needing to more then ever having just paid well over asking for some new clobber.
Back at the wholesaler we restocked exactly what had just sold so well; when the good times melted things ground to such a halt that it was exactly the same socks people were paying through the nose for when thinking them stolen that I later couldn’t give away in Croydon.
If there’s a lesson in it all:
When life gives you lemons, claim they’re nicked and be minted or wind-up left hanging like one instead.
As for Mr T; he wanted no part of the indoor market.
The Even Newer Kid on the Block
He went back to Oxford Street, but not to stand out like a sore thumb hawking from a suitcase on a street corner again.
This time he jumped on what was just starting to be a thing – squatting in empty shops and selling from them; something giving plod a whole new headache to deal with.
I haven’t seen him for years and hope whatever he’s doing today, he’s doing well; I learned a lot the brief time working with him.
Last time I saw Mr T, he told me that while being in the middle of making a sale (read exchanging item in one hand and ready cash in the other) in a manically busy squatted shop on Oxford St, a woman with an American accent had started to repeatedly and insistently say, ‘excuse me’ to him.
Given the point in proceedings, Mr T couldn’t think anything other than a distraction tactic to get his eye off the ball and the money in his hand out of it again, so replied, ‘Not now, love – I’m busy.’ without looking away from what he was doing.
Next, A Life of Crime Supplemental: Elephant and Castle, Stick It up Your Arsehole!
Previously in this series:
- Part IV: Mr. T. and the Art of Profiting from Snow
- 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.