Monday, 27 December 2010
a rainy night in soho
Late night cafe, for a hot mug of tea, or a Spanish omelet. A place to escape the cold night air, or to wait for the morning trains to start. A few drunk clubbers, some musicians sitting for an after work coffee. Late night whores on a break. Old school gangsters wearing the immaculate fitted suites of a bye gone era, after spending too many years behind bars, cooped up in wormwood scrubs. Undercover vice squad with yellow fingers, from too long sitting on stake outs smoking players number 10. The proprietor watching over his flock of misfits.
On the wall are pictures of beautiful Spanish hillside villages, the sunsets over the Mediterranean, white painted buildings and tango dancers, all slightly faded and worn, a tea urn sitting on the edge of the surface, with a steady flow of steam escaping from the top rim.
Family photos of children in Sunday best clothing, posing with their mother and father, proudly hanging on the wall behind the service area. Jack wondered what brought this guy to London, the city of thieves. Maybe he had got on a boat to seek excitement of the most magical city on earth, His own business feeding the English people Spanish food. Sending regular letters home about the great business in London, hoping one day for his Spanish sweetheart to join him, or to one day return a rich man to the village he had come from.
Furniture from 1960´s square melamine tables with wooden chairs. A yellow glow from too much cigarette smoke and cooking fat, creating a warm homely atmosphere, the transistor radio playing wonderful world by Louis Armstrong.
A politeness and courtesy to the night owls of Soho. Two young skinheads feel welcomed as they take a seat, resting the tired feet from the constant walk around the streets of the west end.
Two overdressed and over made up girls stand, the smell of perfume hanging over them mixed with cigarette smoke. One wearing tight leather dress and leopard skin coat. The other in a bright red micro mini skirt short enough, it almost reveals her panties. Her boob tube squeezing the breath out of her chest, pushing her ample breasts to bursting point. Bright red lipstick and almost red blusher on her face.
¨see you later Luca, back to work¨ one says as she blows the proprietor a kiss walking out of the late night omelet café.
¨stay safe darling¨ replies the Spanish guy behind the counter
Jack and Gavin sit by the window sipping mugs of tea. Jack watching the Mercedes outside with the Arabic looking guy behind the wheel.
¨mind if we sit here?¨ a strong female northern Irish accent asks.
Yes sure you can¨ jack says, looking up to see two pretty punk girls standing smiling at him and Gavin. Jack offering a big smile to the girls as they take their seats.
¨god I could murder a cup of tea¨, one of the girls remarks as she looks at the menu written on the wall.
¨I think you have to go ask at the counter, Jack says, I’ll come with you, I need a refill, thinking it a good excuse to talk to the girl.
The proprietor , a thick set man in his mid 50´s with jet black hair and dark brown eyes, a few too many hairs sprouting from his nose and ears, wearing a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, an apron not hiding his petruding stomach very well, a tea towel laying over his shoulder.
¨how can I help you kids¨, he asks the couple as he places some clean plates on the shelf.
¨two cups of tea, please Mr.¨, the young punk girl asks
Holding the silver aluminium teapot under the water boiler, he pulls the handle and a high pitch hiss comes as the boiling water squirts into the open pot. Swirling it around in circles, he pours the thick brown tea,
¨And what about you son?¨ he says to jack without looking at him, preferring to concentrate on the boiling water.
¨I´ll have two teas as well please¨, he says placing his two cups on the surface.
Rejoining Gavin and the other girl, who had already struck up a conversation, the two friends placed the tea cups on the table and sat down opposite each other.
Where you two from¨? Gavin asks, my mum is from Ireland.
¨really, where from, asks the girl, we are from Belfast¨
Port Louth, by the prison¨ Gavin replies.
¨Wild place that, all the families from both sides go and live there, to be near the old man in jail, the girl says with a laugh, having their own private war¨.
Gavin continues ¨my mum hates it in Ireland, she has been here since she was about 18, got out as fast as she could, my uncles also moved to England, so we don’t really have any family there at all nowadays, I have never been there, but my uncle was a champion hurling player.´ Billy Dargan .
¨Oh that’s grand, I hope to move away from Ireland too, maybe we will stay in London, we just got here today, so we don’t know yet. London scares me.¨
Ha-ha jack laughed, you are scared of London, and you got the IRA blowing the fuck out of your town?
¨Oh it’s not as bad as that, don’t believe all the news reports, if you don’t get involved with it, they leave you alone¨.´ The IRA blew up the police station down my street once, but that’s about it¨. London is full of muggers.
¨Yes I guess so, Jack said, my brother was in the army over there, but he was stationed down in south Armagh, a place called Crossmaglen¨
¨Oh yes that’s called bandit country, they have shite going on across the border down there.¨
¨I´m Mary by the way, and this is Bridget, nice to meet you´.
¨My brother is a Belfast skinhead, but he´s over here now, living in Kilburn, do you know him, he´s called Mickey Doyle¨.
¨No can’t say I do know him, there’s a lot of skinheads in London´, but might have met him at some time or other,¨ Jack replied.
So what brought you to London, you just visiting your brother and shopping¨?
Well , something like that. Bridget here thinks she is in the family way, so we had to come over here, you know how it is being catholic in Ireland, she is going to the family planning clinic tomorrow, her ex boyfriend doesn’t want to know, he´s a waste of space, the feckin ejit¨.
¨Oh well I am sure you will be ok in London, there´s more Irish here than in Ireland.
Is that a fact, I was a bit worried we might get a hard time here, because of all the political shite.
¨No, like you say, don’t believe the media, our estate has loads of Irish, I don’t think the average Englishman blames all Irish for a few fucking scumbags, Gavin said, when my mum came over in the 50´s there was a bit of ignorance to the Irish, they used to have signs up in lodging houses, saying no dogs or Irish, but that’s ancient history.
So what brought your brother here, work¨? Asked jack.
Ha-ha, our brother, she said with a big smile. Biggest fool of them all, wherever there is trouble , our brother won’t be far away, he decided one night to steal a car, to get home from the pub, him and a few ejit mates of his.
The next day we get a visit from the ´Boys´, they tell our brother he has one hour to leave Ireland, turns out the car belonged to them. Luckily for him our Dar knows a few people, so managed to sweet talk them into agreeing not to take my brothers knees, if he left, and my father paid for the repairs to the car.
Silly fool, he parks the car a few streets away, thinking no one would notice, the local skinheads, in their big boots and no brains. You can´t blow your nose in my street without all the neighbours knowing how many tissues you use¨. ´
´so of course the Provo’s were round the house before breakfast, knocking me Ole Fella out of bed in his Y fronts
Hahahaha, so he moved to safe London, full of muggers, hahahaha, Jack said with sarcasm.
Yes, something like that, she said, he has to send me father money every week. He got a solid leathering from me Dars belt, to send him on his way. ¨she said, as all the four new friends laughed together.
A man came into the café, immaculately dressed in a sharp 3 button Italian suite, with a full length Crombie style overcoat draped over his shoulders, a pair of smooth’s, so shiny you could see your face in them.
¨hey Peter! The man behind the counter called out, in a very pronounced Spanish English accent, a huge smile across his face and an outstretched hand. The two guys hug, and the proprietor kisses the man on the cheek.
¨how’s the lovely clean air of free London my friend,
¨just great Luca, but the air is not so clean these days, with all these cars about¨.
¨what you want my friend? anything you like on the house, my home is your home¨ he continues
With that, the two old friends went into conversation about old times, dropping the volume levels gradually to a quiet talk.
Jack watched them as they spoke, imaging the stories those two guys could tell. Men from a different era, The jazz clubs of Soho, the swinging 60´s of the Mods . And The London underworld. Judging by Peters clothing, the way he held himself, with confidence, and the fact he wore a deep scar down the side of his face. Not a Chelsea smile, but a sign of an old street fight and a cut throat razor.
¨jack stop staring, Gavin’s voice broke through jacks thoughts¨.
¨Ur ur yes, shit, jack stuttered realizing he had been eyeballing someone who could take it seriously the wrong way, and returned his attention back to the girls.
¨so how’s the punk scene in Ireland¨ jack asked Bridget.
¨Yes pretty good, I like the English bands more. I love Sousxie and the Banshees, X-ray Spex¨ she said.
Yes they are good bands answered jack, but I love Stiff Little fingers and the Undertones¨.
¨Yes they are good an all, but all the best music, comes from London, you have so much here, most of the Belfast punks have turned skinhead now, they all love madness and the specials¨.
The conversation carried on about the punk and skinhead scenes in London and Ireland. As peter the sharp dressed guy crossed the room towards three other older guys of similar age who were sitting in the corner. As he passed the young skinheads table he smiled.
¨Tut tut, what’s this town coming too, he said, bloody skinheads