Monday, 31 August 2009

The Barber, The Fruitcake and the Three Harley-Davidsons

I left my things on the table, went up to the bar, then returned with my pint and sat down. A chap nearby turned to me. "I wouldn't leave your phone lying about round 'ere," he said. "Don't worry, " I replied, "I was keeping an eye on it from the bar. And besides, I thought you looked pretty trustworthy."

This was a lie. Probably in his late 60s, by his appearance it was clear he was a perpetual adolescent. Tracksuit bottoms, rugby top stretched over his belly, a JD sports bag - the sign of the Chav. Shoulder-length grey hair held back with a pair of shades. In front of him sat a pack of B&H and a pint of Carling.

He winked, pulled out a cigarette, and used it to point across the room at a rowdy bunch of low-lives. "It's not me you should be worrying about, it's that bunch over there." He started for the door, then turned back. He wasn't finished. "I own the barber shop next door, know everyone in this town. I HATE this town. People always bothering me. 'Can I have a fag?', 'Could you lend me a quid?', and worst of all are the charity collectors. Every damn Thursday they plague the streets."

I agreed with him. The town where I work is without a doubt the most miserable place in England. Surrounded by estates, filled to the brim with drunks, chavs and charity collectors. I glanced out of the window. One of the local fruitcakes walked by. An old man wearing red trousers, a long fur coat and a black fedora with a yellow ribbon. A Gandalf-like staff completed the look. I have seen him before, always wearing a hat of some form. Sometimes a bandanna, sometimes a fedora, once in forester's hat with a large red feather. The barber rolled his eyes. "Don't get me started," he said.

Turns out the barber (like me) supported Spurs. Best start to the season since '61. We had plenty to talk about. Football unites like nothing else. We couldn't remember all of last week's goal-scorers. "Oi Phil!" yelled the barber, "who scored Spurs' goals last week?" Phil only drinks Newcastle Brown Ale, a cheap and pikey drink if there ever was one. Phil only wears one shirt, blue-checked. A man of routine. This town may be a dive but it certainly has character. He grabbed a copy of The Mirror and gave it to the barber. "It's all in there," he said.

The barber was looking out the window. He whistled softly. Two girls walked past. Short skirts, tanned legs, high heels. Three Harleys whizzed by. Three Harleys, three horns sounded. If there had been three girls the scene would have been perfect. I took my leave, already late back to the office.

On my way back a drunk approached me. "Do ya have a spare fag?""

55 comments:

otherworldlyone said...

Sounds like a very eccentric bunch you've been hanging around, Mo.

See, that's why I tan. For the whistles of weird men in track suits and motorcyclists. Nothing better.

erin said...

Wait a second, I don't tan and I still get whistled at by the likes of weird men in track suit pants and motorcyclists...

And Mo, a bun with nothing on it is just a hamburger bun. That's it.

Mr. Condescending said...

Hah mo for a second I thought I was there too, I love it!

Was this the same pub you did your live post a few months ago?
I bet that at night, that area gets *extra* interesting.

Alan Burnett said...

I do like these short pieces. They describe so well without having to make a deep philosophical point. What a breath of fresh air.

Sass said...

People watching at its' finest.

The way you tell a story makes me insanely jealous.

Just sayin'. ;)

Organic Meatbag said...

You are an excellent spinner of words and imagery, Mo... always a fun read from you!

Minka said...

Why does this post make think of "Only Fools and Horses"? Who knows...

Mr London Street said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr London Street said...

Very nicely done Moseph, I think this is one of the best posts of yours I have read.

Shame we have to wait seven days for them, mind you.

ellen abbott said...

Enjoyed the peek through your window.

Fenix35 said...

people watching truly is the greatest pastime :)

Courtney said...

I had a 'Gandalf moment' this past weekend...involving MANY brews, a fake walking stick and me yelling (in the midst of a crowded pub) "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Thank you for yet another intersting peek into your world!

ladytruth said...

I thought the man at the bar would be anything but a barber with his long, grey hair and shades fulfilling the duty of a hair band ;) I have to apologise because somehow in my tired state last night I completely forgot to put your name on the list for the award I've been giving away. I've rectified the situation by fixing up my blog; all that's left now is for you to please claim the award as I would love to read what personality traits you would come up with :)

Amy said...

Love this one!

I adore that y'all call them fags. You know how well that goes on this side of the pond, right?

What is a Chav?

What does Alan's comment mean?

I wish you could have a Take A Reader To Work Day. I'd love to spend a day seeing what you see. (Are you making all of this up?)

Tooj said...

In my "home" college town, there was a local. He wore red sweats. We called him Red Sweats. One time I saw him carrying a ham across a park. If my town met your work town....I wonder...no, never mind. Besides the few like Red Sweats, the town is very tame. And we don't have many "charity collectors" about. Unless you count the poor college kids.

Shana said...

Not sure what a 'chav' is but it doesn't sound good.

I don't get whistled at. oh well.

Comedy Goddess said...

Aside from Gandalf, it doesn't sound like The Shire at all.

BeautifulWreck said...

I don't loan out my gays. At all. ;)

Great post!

Simon said...

What I like is the people who don’t beg money from you, but want to borrow it. Begging is one thing, but it’s an insult to the intelligence (as well as a terrible mangling of the language) to say “Will yer borrer me a quid?” when they might just as well say “Will you give me a quid, please?”

And Amy, this is what a chav is.

Oh yes, the weird thing is that when I had a bike, girls would look at me and give me a smile as I passed. For some reason having a bike is associated with being a virile young man, rather than the middle-aged balding guy who it’s more likely to be, insurance costs being what they are.

Cora said...

Why is it that some men feel the need to honk at and/or whistle at girls like that? I get that all the time when I'm out walking at the running track ~ a honk and a whistle and a waving hand from a passing car ~ and there I am in my ugliest workout clothes, my hair tied up, all sweaty and gross and I'm mystified every time.... you're honking at ME? REALLY? Seems kinda sad actually.

diane said...

Perpetual adolescent, I know that type. And the fruitcake, every town has one. Ours wears a different wig every day, and carries a pink purse.
I can't remember the last time I was whistled at. I used to get whistled at all of the time, and even caused a car accident when both drivers were looking at me instead of the road. There's nothing more pathetic than an old bombshell.
The term "blowing a fag" has an entirely different meaning here.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

You really make me wnat to go to England and hang out in a pub.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

Your writing is so descriptive, I could "see" each and every character in your story. Great job!

Eric said...

Whoa there, so all this time I've been drinking the barbarian North's Newcastle Brown, thinking it was the best the UK had to offer?

I'll have to whistle at some random women in the museum tomorrow.

The Peach Tart said...

Now after hearing where you've been hanging out, I understand why there's only one day of blogging.

Michel said...

you go to the pub and THEN back to work?? I like how you brits think!!

Can you please send me a British to American dictionary? Between you and Rubbish I don't know what the heck you are talking about.

I really did think I spoke English too...

Soda and Candy said...

I think the fur-coated Gandalf sounds awesome.

jpooh said...

Despite the fact that I had to look up "chav" (god bless Wikipedia)(and you're not as bad as your chum Rubbish when it comes to colloquialisms that strain my poor American brain)(I just love using parentheses, have you noticed?)...

Damn I forgot what I was going to say.

OH! So, did you find a nice homosexual for the bum?

The Vegetable Assassin said...

This was excellent. And evocative of many pubs I've frequented in my time all over the UK - those little backstreet dives off of the main drag that have had the same faded wallpaper since 1977 and the same clientele for even longer. I could almost smell the place, reading your prose!

The Jules said...

I like wathcing the esoterically dressed. We have a chap around our way who has been known to wear a chair.

Kate Savage said...

I might argue London's the worst town in England, but I promised I wouldn't anymore. That said, it's forced me to BECOME a charity mugger, so you might just agree with me...

rubbish said...

Wait until you move "oop North". Wouldn't go calling Newcastle Brown Ale a pikey drink then. I am, of course, sitting in the front room, typing this, wearing tracksuit bottoms and a Rugby shirt.

jadedj said...

Well be thankful old Gandalf didn't whip out his wand. Otherwise, sounds like a reasonable place to hang out in to me.

Lana said...

i can't imagine a better way to spend a lunch break.

that barber sounds like the type you could base a novel on. sometimes it's the grit of reality that makes for the best fiction.

blueviolet said...

And the evenings must be even worse!

Hit 40 said...

The kids at school are always looking for a few bucks too!!! Like teachers make a mint to give away for a chunky teenager who only uses it for greasy fries.

Captain Dumbass said...

I like the old man pimp look. I think I'm going to work towards that.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

Man I wish you posted more than just Monday. But Goddamn if they aren't worth the wait.

bernthis said...

I believe if I worked there I would eat lunch at my desk everyday

Matthew said...

I'm going out on a limb and guessing you work in Portsmouth?

A Mom on Spin said...

Sounds frightenly like the crew I hang with on my job. . .

♥ Braja said...

Please don't give Michel a dictionary. Keep 'em in the dark, I say :)))

Sounds like you should actually take her with you when you go out to these places. I don't think anyone over there would stand a chance :))

Ananda girl said...

Hahaha... are you sure you live in England? Sounds an awful lot like my town in Oregon. Of course here we're talking baseball.

Nice slice, Mo.

Slyde said...

you really do surround yourself with an eclectic bunch, dont you?

Girl Interrupted said...

Another delightful slice of MoWorld ... the scene you described is so essentially English, I bet you could walk into most pubs and find the same characters having the same conversations all over England, you described it perfectly.

You should consider running your own pub ;) beer and blog fodder aplenty!

Harmony said...

An interesting title that led to a fantastic post. I just love how the consistency in the interactions of everyday people can tie up neatly the loose ends of the day. The drunk asking for a spare fag? Perfection. I adore your attention to the details of the world around you.

Debbie said...

It does sound like a place full of characters.

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

...wearing red trousers, a long fur coat and a black fedora with a yellow ribbon. A Gandalf-like staff completed the look.

I have never walked near your pub.

cactus petunia said...

Mo, thanks to reading your stories, then looking up all the terms I don't understand, the BBC shows I rent from Netflix are finally starting to make sense!

JennyMac said...

You make the English pub so highly desirable. And you would be big fun to have cocktails with.

Sassy Britches said...

There are some who read you right away because you're the best. I save you until mid-week...because you're the best.

If that makes as much sense to you as it does to me, you're even better than the best.

The Jules said...

Also, Tag!

You're it:

http://gravelfarm.blogspot.com/2009/09/its-all-about-meme-meme-meme.html

*runs away giggling hysterically*

Madame DeFarge said...

I do worry about where you work. It sounds so much like places I frequent. I always want to walk round in a biohazard suit. Might get some odd looks, but at least I'd feel clean.

Jeanne said...

Thanks for defining "chav" for me. I hereby declare a profit on the day!

Nej said...

I love to people watch. I don't take the time to do it nearly enough. :-)

As I have quite a few new readers since I became a "Jelly Biter" I've put this up here again. To understand the context you must read this post!