Sunday, April 18, 2010

London Moments

Due to Volcanic Ash, London, particularly the South West, is bliss at the moment. Sunshine, brunch and dinner outdoors and best of all - silence in the skies and picturesque sunsets. If Boris's Thames Estuary airport doesn't get a few thousand extra supporters this week, from Housnlow to Twickenham, I'm a monkey's uncle.
But there are still dark corners of London where danger lurks....

After what can only be described as a very agreeable lunch in the City (High Timber since you ask, right on the river) I'm walking to Borough Market to spend a fortune on veg. Cross the Millenium Bridge without wobbling (wasn't that good a lunch) and am entering an underpass when I come across an altercation, a right royal todo straight out of a Dickens novel. We are in the shadow of the Clink after all.

A beggar (his own words I hasten to add) is berating another chap, pinned him against the wall and bawling at what should be his face. Except there ain't a face there, is there guvnor? He's one of them wotsits, that you see in Barcelona's Ramblas. They just stand there, painted in gold. But this one's got no head. He's the invisible man, see? (or rather not).
"Why don't you jaas fuck off??!!" the beggar is shouting. I should point out that this particular beggar is quite well dressed. Oxblood docs, cords and a dark sweater, all neat and tidy like. In his fifties he could have been a cabbie out for a walk.
"Just fack off you cunt!" he continues, the street performer now shaking.
"Why don't you say something, you silent bastard?" And that, I can assure you, is an EXACT quote.
"How'm I supposed to do any begging when you're here? All fucking silent. Doing nothing! I fucking live here! I'm a fucking beggar!" he spits out, pointing at a crumpled but clean sleeping bag over the other side of the underpass.
There's no doubt he would have hit him by now, if he had known where to hit, but since there was no face to punch, our friend was a little, er, confused.

At which point one of Southwark's finest comes along. Not an actual copper, one of those uniformed wannabes who cost taxpayers very little, do very little, but have a uniform.
"Move along" he says, as if he's just been watching some very old TV cop show like Dixon of Dock Green along at the BFI Archive.
I expected a 'Let's be avin you" next but that was not forthcoming.
Spying the uniform, our begging loudmouth eschews fisticuffs with the pretend rozzer and makes an exit. But not without a final act of defiance.
He stops at the end of the underpass and turns to us all.
"I live here!" he shouts.
And then, in what can only be described as a poetic climax, bawls out
"MILLWALL" and raises his fist.

Passing tourists are wholly confused. They can sense the aggression but not much else, having missed the finer points of a turf war set-to.

The street performer remains silent and slowly removes his apparatus. He's sweating, shaking, and speaks a little English.
"He was a bit upset" I offer.
"Yes. Not a nice man" He whispers back.

Our faithful servant in uniform takes a few notes and tells me that he's normally called here to quiten the noisier buskers who disturb the office workers next door.
"This was different" he tells me, furiously scribbling in his pad (see photo, above).

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