"Alright, boss?" he greets me, as he always does.
I join the end of the queue, nodding at a former stranger who's almost become a friend over recent months.
Because on my (very) occasional nights at home, depleted of nourishment in my fridge, I've become something of a regular at my local chippie.
"Chips'll be ready in a minute, boss" he announces.
I shuffle forward.
"Chicken and mushroom pie" I request, "and just a couple of scoops of chips, please."
I don't really need to order, because he knows it by now.
"Salt and vinegar, boss?" he asks.
"No thanks". (For some reason I prefer to season at home. Feels somehow better.)
He doesn't really need to ask this, because he knows this by now.
He shovels up several scoops of chips, as he always does.
He generously seasons them with salt and pepper, as he always does.
"Thanks, chief" I say, taking my wrapped nourishing meal.
"See you soon, boss" bids my new friend.
... for my continued lack of posting activity.
Work has dominated my life somewhat, but is soon to draw to a close - as this means to the end which is travelling this summer is oh-so-very soon to take its place.
Yes, for Unlucky man will be spending a couple of months abroad, which promises to bring with it a whole new strand of misfortune.
With this in mind, anyone familiar with South America... where would you recommend, and why?
Until the next post proper, share my delight and surprise in a positive turnaround in London crime
Fate, part 3
"Yah a fackin' temp???!!!" my cabbie splutters, "Yah should be slippin' 'er one right now, yah fackin' idiot!!!"
As I decline his offer to turn back to her house, the meter clicks to twenty-five quid.
Number Two had surfaced - eventually - from behind the toilet door. Where she'd frogmarched me purposefully out of the work bar but half-hour previously, I sheepishly guided her back into the bar. Acutely aware of the covert gazes we were arousing around us, I steadfastly refused to make contact with anyone, aware my reputation as the Boris Becker of the direct marketing world was already sealed. As she slumbered against the steps leading to the outside balcony and rooftop garden, it was clear I just had to make sure she got home.
"I'm not one for taking advantage" I pointed out, perhaps unnecessarily, to a senior colleague I'd been speaking to shortly before this all started. "But I just have to make sure she gets home."
I picked her up, walking her slowly through the packed bar. Before realising this just the easy part as the apex of the reception atrium stood before us.
"Ready?" I asked, holding her upright. "Let's go downstairs - slowly."
Left step, right step, left step, right step. We pretty soon had a rhythm going. Until the last couple of steps, when she improvised a quite spectacular tumble onto the pine floor.
I picked her up again, smiling gingerly at the disapproving-looking security guard. Before realising we still had the escalator and rotating doors to negotiate. But this we did, without further event, as Number Two took in the first of the cool night air. As she held on to me for dear life, it became clear flagging a passing cab was going to be no mean feat. Instead, she staggered back, before pulling me down against the entrance to FCUK, where she promptly fell comfortably asleep against me. This was clearly the closest I'd get to a fuck that night.
Recuperated, after several shaking heads we'd found a driver amenable enough to take her home. And the ensuing journey pass without much event, apart from the occasional faint murmur. Even if extracting an exact address had proved quite an arduous task. We'd made it. Cabbie and me, we'd got her home.
"Men just don't do this any more!" she mumbled as I walked her upstairs to her door, as I mentally estimated the taxi meter reading.
"But I'm doing it" I replied, "right now. If I didn't, I don't believe you'd get home."
Returning to the taxi, my cabbie announced: "Yah girlfriend was pretty pissed, mate".
To which I'd explained she wasn't my girlfriend. To which he'd asked me how I knew her. To which I'd explained to him as I've explained to you just now. To which he'd responded I'd been a perfect gentleman, and done the right thing because these things can backfire. Until I divulged I was only working there temporarily.
"Yah fackin' idiot!!!" he continues spluttering, "Yah should fone up the agency Monday morning, sayin' yah don't likes the environment no more!!!"
As we chat and laugh, I watch the meter rack up thirty quid, then forty. By the time I arrive home, I have to withdraw more cash to meet the fifty total. This whole sordid exercise had been unbudgeted.
"Here you go" he says, frantically waving something as I walked back to pay him, "you've well and truly earned ya wings tonight."
"USE THE SYSTEM!" he shouts, Thrusting a blank pad of cab receipts into my hand, "USE THE SYSTEM!!!".
This time, next year, I could be a millionaire.
Fate, part 2
"Are you still in there?" I shout, banging frantically against the door.
The faint murmur of acknowledgement that filters through the pine panels indicates that she indeed still is.
I nod politely and smile gingerly at the online creative bloke who passes me into the cubicle next door.
Whilst waiting I use the opportunity to text Tall Stuttering Friend, to point out that his casual dismissal of my chances
on his visit to the Totty Towers Bar mere weeks before has just been rendered factually incorrect.
"Number Two!" I exclaim proudly, "Knew I was right!!!"
I knock again. Another faint murmur.
"What's happened?" bleeps the immediate reply.
"Snog." I text back, "She's in the toilets. Possibly vomiting."
I nod politely and smile gingerly at the offline creative bloke who passes me into another cubicle.
The night had been progressing nicely. Catchup with work mates, maintaining my veneer as a professional freelancing direct marketer. Coupled with fun banter… folks relaxing into the weekend ahead. A quietly enjoyable Friday night among esteemed marketing colleagues, in the sumptuous surroundings of our big media agency bar.
But I'd realised that things weren't quite right the instant I felt Number Two greet me, adopting the unusual tactic of biting my back. Her evident drunkenness leading to her perpetual swaying and subsequent uncharacteristically undignified lunge. And as her lunge approached a momentary thought had flashed across my mind reminding the need to maintain my professional veneer. Alas this thought had been immediately usurped by a larger, more powerful thought which had flashed across my mind reminding the need to optimise any potential opportunity, no matter how tenuous, life presents, and exploit it to its fullest advantage.
So I'd lunged back.
And with this Number Two was in schoolgirl snog mode. She hugged me, before leading me to the outside balcony. Before heading out to the rooftop garden. Then parading me back past colleagues into the work bar. And although these colleagues continued chatting around us apparently obliviously, I'm old enough and wise enough to know we were making ourselves the subject of next week's rumour-mill, but also old enough to know not to pass up such increasingly rare opportunities. But finally, just as I considered this, she led me by the hand out to the toilets. So, unsure of where this was leading, I followed her. Only to find her promptly lock the door. The door which the creative blokes (online and offline) had seen me waiting outside. For fifteen minutes, maybe twenty.
And which I'm still waiting outside. My mobile bleeps.
"You paint such a charming picture" TSF texts back, "Force home your advantage now. Take her back to hers and fuck her bandy."
I laugh at his commendably foolhardy encouragement, but realise that my reputation already lay in tatters.(to be continued)
It wasn't what I'd been expecting at all.
Through the crowded bar, she'd made her way towards me, announcing her arrival quite firmly.
Brushing her brunette locks against her soft-skinned shoulders, she swayed her beautiful head flirtatiously - swaying quite a lot, it has to be said - as she indulged me in the briefest of conversation.
I was awestruck.
But she was a girl who knew what she wanted, and within minutes made her move.
She leant towards me - and lunged.
And that was when she kissed me.
My mobile bleeps.
"Effin Travis are replacing Morrisey at next week's festival" announces the text from Dorset Boy #2, "Another opportunity for a kip methinks."
I feel compelled to convey this news by texting friend-of-friend Hip Young Thing also attending aforementioned festival:
"Terrible news!" I announce, "Mozza's pulled out of Isle of Wight - Travis in place."
This will impress Hip Young Thing, I think. Showing my genuinely-held appreciation of one of the last remaining Great British Songwriters. Over and above a well-meaning but frequently bland Scotch pub-band.
"O woe!" I finish, accentuating my plight.
A few minutes later, my mobile bleeps again.
"Travis better than that old codger dude!" comes the reply.
Soon to turn older than Jesus, I am feeling my age.
Win, lose or draw
"Alright then" I reluctantly agree, and hand the barmaid my pound coin.
I hadn't planned to go out again. At the end of a long bank-holiday weekend, I needed my rest. But, speaking to Ex-Boss on mobile, as I sat alone awaiting my little sister Babyhands return my misplaced iPod in a West End rail terminus burger station, as he sat alone having returned from holiday to find his promised-refurbished kitchen still a state of carnage so severe as to necessitate the despatch of his young family to the in-laws, was just so, so wrong.
"This is just so wrong" I'd announced, "I'll be with you in half-hour. But I do need an early night."
As the summer Wimbledon sun was setting, the barmaid graciously accepted my entrance money for the two-hour pub quiz.
"Bear in mind" I warn Ex-Boss, "I'm really rubbish at quizzes."
A couple of beers later, sufficient to see sense in naming our team 'Derek', the quiz starts. The News round starts off fresh enough. But the Specialist round - FA Cup history - proves horrendously difficult, buoyed only by Ex-Boss's gut instinct. The Music round finds us both on more familiar territory. Within an hour, the break arrives.
Up to this point, we hadn't taken the quiz seriously even one little bit.
Until the barmaid announces: "… and in joint-first spot…. 'DEREK'!!!"
We almost fall off our seats. But instead swig a couple more beers. Before starting start to take the quiz extremely seriously indeed.
It becomes much more difficult: Sport, obscure Art, finishing with a seemingly-impossible Knockout round.
After a long wait, we're flabbergasted to be announced winners.
A crate of wine or beer is already in the bag: "But" asks the barmaid, building the losing teams' good-natured anticipation, "Will 'Derek' gamble?"
She asks if I'm nervous. I reply nervously yes into her mike. She asks Ex-Boss if he'd like to pick the envelope. He replies nervously yes into her mike. About to pick, I ask the barmaid to shuffle the envelopes.
The barmaid is building the crowd up.
Ex-Boss opens the envelope.
The room's a storm.
Ex-Boss reads from the envelope:
"Look!" he exclaims, turning the contents to the crowd and frowning: "NO PRIZE".
Having helped Ex-Boss miss out on 300 Smackers, we accept the conciliatory bottle of plonk, content with our few moments of adulation.
It's been a tight schedule, but it looks like we've just about made it.
Arriving in good time to help unpack the second van load (having cleverly missed the earlier, heavier first van load), my little sister Babyhands and boyfriend Vernon can at last pronounce themselves to have officially moved in to their new home.
The boys rush the van back to the evil hire company for its 1pm deadline, or risk the wrath of the hire company's £200 late fee.
Which they meet, only to be told by the miserable foreman that the tank is not full, demanding them to fill it to the brim.
"Do we have to?" they complain, "We've only driven it a few miles."
The miserable foreman nods insisting that they do, or risk the wrath of his evil employer's £75 refill inconvenience fee.
Agitated, the boys slouch shoulders and walk back to the van. Rush round to the petrol station. Fill the van up: seven-pounds-tuppence. Pay. Jump back in. Rush back - still trying to keep to the 1pm deadline, which remains the greater of the evil hire company's two evil fees.
Which they meet, just about - only to hear an awkward crash as they re-enter the yard.
"What was that?" panics the driver.
Vernon notices the van has clipped one of the bollards, strategically-placed just outside the evil hire company's yard.
The miserable foreman approaches the van on hearing the noise, shakes his head, and picks up the broken bumper from the floor.
"Excess fee, lads" he shouts through the window, "£75."
We retire to the pub for the sunny afternoon, deciding it best to leave the remaining move work for another day.
"That was the most fucking amazing thing I've ever seen" I announce to Dorset Boy #1 "ever, in my life."Beck Hansen
is purely and simply the coolest man in the entire world. Effortlessly blending his electic blend of rock, funk, folk, hip-hop and bluegrass, he is cooler, even, in my eyes, than Jon Snow. I'd just returned from the bar (Long queues. Bad system.). To find Beck's relentlessly upbeat set slowed. Acoustic. The backing band sitting, in a somewhat contrived manner (Stop now if you're seeing him soon. Because this will spoil everything.), around an apparently haphazard table consisting of drink and bites. Until, that is, the reason becomes apparent. The bassist starts beating a plate. The drummer begins hammering a glass. The keyboard player joins rattling some cutlery. Pretty soon, the group are providing a perfectly rhythmed and tuned percussion backing. Not a drink laid too low; not a beat out of time. The cacophonic effect, it has to be said, is pretty electrifying. Like of nothing which I've ever seen before. And, at that moment, the most fucking amazing thing I've ever seen.
"Ever" I repeat, "in my life", pointing.
"Ahhh" replies Dorset Boy #1, somewhat dismissively, "not as amazing as the time I saw a man play another's buttocks at the Royal Festival Hall."
I had no comeback. I hate it when my friends have better stories. Indeed I had never witnessed any man play another's buttocks.
But Beck Hansen just makes me smile.
What made you smile today? Time to share, lurkers.