Spaces always look smaller when empty; something in this case helped big time by the stage being hidden behind a curtain. The area once full of merry drinkers now occupied by a solitary pool table, five ‘chaps‘ drinking and smoking round it.
It’d become one of those pubs where unless you knew someone already there, everyone there would assume you undercover plod worthy of a good stabbing–up. The fact one of us was a loud Aussie doing nothing to allay suspicions; on the contrary, what better way for a rozzer to hide than appearing to be from a different country.
In the early 90s I worked London’s markets; the following is an account of true events:
“What you reckon?”
T looked at me across the table of the ‘workingmen’s café’ he’d chosen to meet in for ‘a bit of breakfast’.
He’d been running up and down Oxford Street selling out of a suitcase; just he hadn’t been running fast enough. A three person operation (seller/fake excited buyer/lookout), T had decided he had enough winning charm not to need the second—granted, I’d give him that—and enough cunning and sly to outwit plod: wrong; numerous times too.
Wot with being educated in sarf London, one left skool not well-endowed on the grammar front. Upon realisation of how the wrong 2 can leave a whole sentence in complete error—‘knackered’ as they say where I come from—I recoiled in utmost terror.
With great Gusto, I tried to get much better. Gusto—guess what—did really great, while I just mediocre. Correct me if wrong, I’ll be glad. But a two-way street it’s apparently not, as discovered to my bad.
It’s only with hindsight that I realise what a ‘playground‘ London was for me from the mid-eighties (when becoming old enough to do as I pleased) to the late nineties; when changes started running so deep they were impossible to miss and/or ignore.
“I could be a writer with a growing reputation; I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station. What a waste . . . What a waste.”
I used to walk past that ticket man made famous by Ian Dury’s lyrics on regular occasion. Going to and from Chelsea matches at Stamford Bridge. It was always a man, as I remember. Not that I paid too much attention.