The dressmaker made me wait if there was a fitting. Amid swathes of white net and lace. The opposite to the dusty brown tobacconists. I felt she wanted me to argue but there’d be a Saturday afternoon fug back at the shop so was happy to stand.
(I once tried to sit. Her eyebrows warned me not to.)
So, I waited.
Doris always asked how much. Then searched for money like the amount (£13.60) and the time (3:00pm) I’d arrived were a shock although everything about her order (200 Silk Cut) was the same every week.
This filled me with dread.
Just taking a Mercury to the Bookies.
It was always busy. Smoky. You could taste the tension in the air.
I hated it.
I’d queue. When really, I could've just gone to the front to slide it under the counter. I was too much of a mouse.
I did a deal when I could. With the bosses son. He’d take it and I got to watch the shop alone. That excited me and he liked putting a bet on. He smiled, nodded and put his finger to the side of his nose when he had.
My boss played chess by post. He spent all morning thinking before writing his move in the grid then gave me the letter to take to the box.
After a flurry of customers en route to the footie via the pub I'd sit on the step, pull the ring pull off a can of Quatro and wear it as a ring while I drank.
A boy, with a flick like David Sylvian, would come in early afternoon. He bought the coloured Sobranie cocktail cigarettes but once asked for the Black Russians. Imagining his life thrilled me. Still does a bit.
I covered quite some distance, delivering all over the City Centre. I couldn’t carry all the weekend supplements so I split the round in two and was told ‘Make sure you do it double quick’.
There weren’t any houses I don’t think. Just offices, each had three papers that'd be unread until Monday. It added to the futility of the morning's first job.
Down Grey Friars there was a letterbox with a serrated saw inside, I'd forget every third Saturday whilst not letting them 'poke out’.
After my last one down by the canal, I’d saunter back to the shop.
It was a different world.
I enjoyed being part of it.
Shouted tips for the 3:30 and swearing at football predictions.
Hand on chin by the till, propped on the glass topped display counter. (Old fashioned in 1986.) My elbows hovered above Montecristo’s and carved bowls of Meerschaum pipes. I watched red faced men struggle to reach their mags. Being green, I never offered them a bag.
About 11am 'Ounce of SP please' (said with a lisping nasal twang) would come in.
Sometimes the boss let me take an empty wooden cigar box home. It was the only perk.