Rock Climbing With The School Bully, Part V: A Score Settled

Public Service Announcement: I was for several years a trader at Camden, Spitalfields and Greenwich markets, to add context to the following post. There is an old 300,000 word blog dealing with that, but I have mislaid it for the time being.

Unless you are trying to see how far you can slide in your socks – which in my part of the NHS we do quite often – you never run along a hospital corridor. The trick to getting around efficiently is to walk fast-slow, so as not to disconcert patients, while maintaining your hospital voice. Sid’s interpretation of me doing this involves charging around the front room shouting ‘CALM DOWN MY NAME IS PAUL WHEN DID YOU LAST EAT?’, and this is a reasonable approximation. On rare occasions, however, there is a need to ‘walk, but run’. Basically, this means jogging, but it’s over-dramatic, even if I sense there are some staff whose entire reason for joining the medical profession in the first place is, one day, to run along a corridor doing this exact thing. Dicks.

That said, there are times when no amount of jogging, calming down, dietary enquiry or explaining what my name is will change an outcome, as was the case recently with a Stoke City fan. He was an entirely likeable man, cheerfully and calmly accepting his deteriorating situation. In fact, so admirable was his stoic manliness that, as a result of speaking with him, I no longer want to kill former Stoke midfielder Chris Kamara, proof that your opinions about people can change. In case you are unfamiliar, Kamara broke West Ham striker Frank McAvennie’s leg some years ago, and the refrain Kill Kamara! echoed around Upton Park for the rest of the season. It echoes still, in faded spray paint, along the less frequented alleys and burger vans of E13 – a haunting reminder of a happier time. It also lingers in north Norfolk, where I once delighted my current girlfriend and startled our dozing son by yelling it when I discovered him reading the CBeebies bedtime story, but perhaps it is time to move on. As I explained to the Stoke City fan, if Frank McAvennie is allowed to break Chris Kamara’s leg in return, I am finally prepared to draw a line under the episode.

(Incidentally, at around the same time, former Liverpool and England stalwart Emlyn Hughes publicly criticised West Ham in the tabloids. Disaffection among fans was transmitted in a blunt refrain set to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In and utilising the ‘call and response’ method most closely associated with the gospel music of the Deep South, replacing the line ‘I want to be in that number’ with ‘He’s gonna die, die and die’. Emlyn Hughes did actually die, twenty-four years later, of a brain tumour, so the song proved to be chillingly accurate.)

My opinions on Nat Baker haven’t changed much since he stole my Minstrels, but I occasionally wonder what might have come to pass if I’d just stabbed him in the fucking face when we were children and had done with it. Perhaps he might have avoided a subsequent life of crime, culminating in an arrest in a Honda Passat containing half a million pounds’ worth of Ecstasy, for which he received eight years in Belmarsh and, presumably, lost his driving licence. When in Belmarsh – ‘a local nick, for local people’ – with my old Camden co-trader Plastic Dave he discovered a flair for kitchen work. Had he not done this, he may not have acquired Abra Kebabra in Turnpike Lane upon his release, buying salad wholesale from Greenwich Market trader Fruity Eddie, whose sister he subsequently married. His kebab shop was great, and did the magic combo of kebabs and chip shop chips, so perhaps not stabbing him was a positive move, after all. As I have explained to him since, I could slash away like a combine harvester these days and never hit an artery, such is his tremendous fatness. Ah well. Perhaps this, perhaps that.

Not that we had any contact before Fruity Eddie recommended me as a source of kitchenware for the six outlets he and Mrs Baker went on to own across north and west London, as Eddie and I were both trading at Greenwich Market at the time. Had this not happened, I would never subsequently have been re-acquainted with Nat in the now-demolished Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1, and a deal between us would never have been struck, with my insistence upon a catering sized bag of Minstrels and a vinyl copy of Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot by Denise LaSalle thrown in for a larf. Subsequently, I would not have had care labels with ‘Enormous Thieving Wanker’ attached to the inside neck hem of sixty bleach-resistant poly-cotton bib aprons with adjustable halter and anti-tangle ties. Above all, though, I would never have been in happy receipt of cash payment for the same and, while pondering what to do with it, received a call from Mrs Baker about swear words in her aprons. I assured her that there was no need to worry because, although foul language around food was unprofessional, it was perfectly hygienic, and embraced the warm and calming sensation of justice finally done.


Main: Abra Kebabra in, I think, Croydon. This is an actual chain in Ireland, so I am not sure how it all works with copyright and whatnot. In any case, the last I heard, Nat had sold the business, so who knows.

Top: Chris Kamara, still alive and everything.

Lower: Writing important things on my arms in Main Theatres, as always.

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