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Vox pop 2

I’m getting a sandwich in my local deli. A guy not in the best of mental health walks by erratically outside the window, berating the air around him. He peers in, mutters something and wanders off. The Portuguese owner of the deli nods towards him. “There was an old guy, used to come around,” he says. “He was the leader of... that lot. The homeless guys, the crazies.”

We establish that it's the same bloke I’m thinking of: a small, ageing black man who used to harass people for change outside the local newsagent and would bang on to everyone, sometimes quite threateningly, about peace. I realise it’s a good couple of years since I’ve seen him, maybe three.

“When he first came in here,” says the owner, “he said, ‘I’m an alcoholic. I need money. Could you give me two pounds?’ I gave him two pounds. Then he said to me, ‘You will never need to worry about the shop’. And in all this time, I’ve never been robbed. All the other shops along here, even the pub. But not here.”

I say, “That’s the cheapest protection racket I’ve ever heard of.”

“Just two pounds, occasionally,” grins the owner. “And sometimes I’d give him some cake. Sometimes even now I walk around here and I meet a group of these homeless. I’ve never met them, but they all know my name. ‘Hi, Roy’.”

“Wow,” is all I can say.

“He came in recently,” says the owner. “Just out of prison. He didn’t want anything, just to say hallo. He’s still their leader, I think.”

At those kinds of rates I’m tempted to track this guy down and ask him to protect my flat.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
Jesus, H. You should write a compendium of modern insanity in London.
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
He's in it.
Sep. 8th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
He is it.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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