There was once a small clothes shop on Holloway Road, just past the Lion pub, opposite Archway tube on the way to Camden Town, and in the window was a sign saying ‘Skinny Jeans Can Fuck Off’. This would date it to around 2008, when Joe and I would tumble in to and out of the Lion after Saturday trading, tumble into Planet Kebabs, and tumble back to his squat in Bracegirdle Street which, as it turns out, was next to a money laundering operation. These were fearless times: the most we had to worry about was the DJ who used to play outside the veggie burger place at Camden Lock Market, who would corner us on the Northern Line and explain how he was changing his DNA to counter CIA mind control techniques. Someone mugged us on Archway Road around this time, and even he was a larf, once he stopped waving his butterfly knife about. We ended up sharing our chips with him, and I think we might even have given him a tenner. What we should have given him was a solid kicking of course, but I had a downstairs flat in Kentish Town and a vintage Vespa with chrome and mirrors all over it, Joe and Becka were about to get married and, in that vanished world of N19, it was a veritable Summer of Love.
2008 was also a good time for Portsmouth, who won the FA Cup that year. I was reminded of this by Matt, our new chef and Portsmouth fan, during his event debut at the recent Runton wedding, while setting up a ‘hummus cannon’, ie, a middle class buffet. A hummus cannon is like any other buffet but gluten free, vegan and funless. This is how you know it’s middle class, because normal people can’t afford to eat like that. Also, everyone has to say ‘I don’t suppose we’ll be able to get this after Brexit’ every time they put a kale vol au vent or whatever on a reusable plate they subsequently leave in a hedge. The wedding party was typified by a Boden catalogue who rampaged across the cous cous while snarking on about a recent dentist visit she had undertaken. The treatment, for a root canal, had required a subsequent appointment. The dentist told her there would be a four week wait, but the ‘good old working class receptionist’ had managed to squeeze her in next Thursday at three, with the overall impression that between them they had scored a victory over what counts as oppression for white girls like this. I was tempted to explain that, when you think about it, the job of dentist and dental receptionist are quite different and, to illustrate this, perhaps next time the dentist could take care of the appointments while the receptionist has a bash at her root canal surgery, and see how that works out. Also, had I been the receptionist I would have been tempted to take advantage of the fact that she was full of anaesthetic by leaning over my little reception desk and punching her in the fucking mouth.
This sort of thing, and the wedding party looking, as you might expect, like an Extinction Rebellion protest, did not detract from a happy and heart-warming event. Unfortunately, I missed most of the reception, including Princess Leo and his Star Wars cabaret drag act, because Joe and I were reintroducing the Confederate reenactors – who as you may recall, have been living in the woods for some time – to the twenty first century. They were in good shape and high spirits and sat in a minibus eating pizza and checking their phones while Joe and I hefted their stuff into the back. I was tempted to offer them hummus cannon leftovers but felt this might be a let down after subsisting on squirrel meat in a forest for three weeks.
Along with banjos and replica firearms, we carefully folded their flags into a suitcase with an Ibiza sticker on it. Confederate flags are often reviled as a symbol of slavery, being that the Confederacy was a slave economy, but I can’t really think of anywhere that isn’t. The Pyramids were built by slaves, and no one’s boycotting Egypt. People are worked to death making iPhones or handbags or trainers, but no one really minds. There are many many more slaves these days, but I suppose we don’t mind because we can’t see them. Anyway, at least the Confederates were up front about the unpleasent nature of their society, and in that regard perhaps their flag is the most honest that ever flew. For some time we reflected that, while the world of the Archway clothing shop and its views on contemporary legwear are long gone, as is the Lion public house and our Camden trading empire, the world of the Confederates is more evident than ever and we may therefore assume that they won their civil war pretty easily.
With our minibus loading complete, and Princess Leo’s rendering of I Like Big Hutts And I Cannot Lie, 99 Problems But The Sith Ain’t One and Sand People Are Made For Each Other drifting across the Estate, we waved the Confederates off and went in search of overlooked bottles of cava among the wedding party. Another summer at Runton has begun to wind down.
Main: Norfolk level crossing.
Top inset: Joe’s ex post office van. A bit scruffy, but surprisingly robust.
Middle inset: Fat stormtrooper at a Norfolk carnival.
Lower inset: A Confederate re-enactor, or possibly ghost.