Another Unpleasant Valley Sunday


Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

Kris Kristofferson (who liked a slurp)

There’s no nicer weekend than the weekend when the clocks go forward. It’s the recognised start of Spring, the end of those long, cold dark nights and those short, cold dark days. Makes a man feels good. Unless, of course you caught the BBC weather forecast that says it’s going to snow heavily on Thursday. Snow. In April. Someone’s having a laugh and, as usual, it’s not me.
Adding to my woes this fine Sunday morning was the fact I had to go to work. So let’s get this straight. I get a one-day weekend AND I lose an hour in bed because of the clocks going forward ? Spiffing! Oh, and I’ll be in my duffel coat again by mid-week. Lovely.

To most, the switch to British Summer Time means they get up at 10am on a Sunday, rather than 9. For the insomniacs among us, who have the added privilege of sleeping on a bed of nails, it means waking up at six o’clock as opposed to the usual five. Christ, I’m tired. I’m definitely gonna change that sodding mattress this month. The springs poking out of it are giving my back the pattern of a Maori’s bicep.

I trudge wearily downstairs to put the kettle on. The birds in the garden had been up for a while and were in full, happy chorus. They’d all remembered to put their clocks forward, smug bastards. Tea in hand I switch on the tv and am greeted by the build-up to the Melbourne Grand Prix. It’s raining in Melbourne. Good. I only went there once and it was pissing down when I arrived. Looked like Croydon to me, not this sunny playground the Strines carp on about all the time. So it’s sunny in London and grey and wet in Melbourne? Good. I drank my tea then I went back to bed. It was still only 7.15.

I doze fitfully for an hour-or-so, but eventually have to concede that I am indeed off to work. The bathroom takes a battering as I off-load and de-clagg. More tea, a bowl of cereal , I pause to listen to Lewis Hamilton moan about his team’s strategy. They’d made him come into the pits and change tyres, thus scuppering his chances of winning. He was sulking like a seven year old boy stopped by his mum from having a kick-about in the street. I suspect that, now that Hamilton has sacked his dad from the management team, he wasn’t expecting anyone else to tell him to stop playing and come in to change.

Oh well, off to work. With the sun trying it’s damnedest to elbow it’s way though the clouds, a fine morning greets me. The daffodils on my front lawn are up and out and, ignoring the obvious Welsh connotations, look beautiful. In fact, the patterns they make on my lawn, along with the odd bluebell and the fox and cat shit, really is a design classic. Brer Fox and Brer Cat are heading arse-first into a goolie-kicking session, if I ever catch them. The words Ebay and Spud-gun enter my head.

So, with a spring (or rather a winter) in my step, I leave Railway Cuttings and stride up the deserted street (deserted as every other fucker is in bed, sleeping through the lost hour). At the end of the road I stroll into the station car park. It’s 9.20 and the Farmer’s Market is setting up at the far end of the lot. This is one of the Blackheath success stories. I may have mentioned before that there’s little more to the village than 6 curry houses, 7 pubs (sic) 8 hairdressers and 93 estate agents. If you want to rent a flat, have your highlights done and scoff Nepalese food, you’re in luck. There is a heel bar (Cobblers to the Pope), the world’s most expensive electrical store, a video store (closing down) and some kind of weird, gothic, travel agents which I’ve never seen anyone go into or come out of. Think of the fancy dress shop from Mr Benn and you’re nearly there.

There’s a Londis or a Happy Shopper, or something along those lines at the top of the hill (and, if it indeed is a Happy Shopper, they should be closed under the Trades Descriptions Act: no happy shoppers nor shopkeepers are to be found therein), plus a couple of little not-very-convenience stores in the valley of the village. But there’s nowhere you can buy a decent joint (meat, that is, not what the sell in the pub toilets round here), fresh veg, a good selection of dairy products (blessed indeed are those cheesemakers) and suchlike.

So with 10 minutes until my train was due (so therefore 17 minutes before it actually did) I afford myself a stroll around the now-familiar market stalls. Most were either setting up, or had done so and were waiting for the 10 o’clock start bell. There’s a fella who does a mean line in bacon butties and many of his fellow stallholders were chomping on his wares. The smell was torture. My previously-devoured bowl of Special K was having a hard time justifying itself as a proper breakfast. Top of the shop, nearest the station, is the vegetable stall. It’s one of three veg stalls in the market but is always the most popular, with the longest queues. The reason escapes me. Perhaps it’s cheaper than the others? though everything is relative, of course.

Nothing in this market is cheap. Keeps out the riff-raff, love. It’s selection of carrots and turnips, many of which have grown into rude and amusing shapes, will set you back a few quid more than the Tesco/Sainsburg “Washed-and-Scrubbed Winter Veg Selection (only 89p)” yet there’s always a long line of new-age yuppies, blue-rinse tories and the Barbour Brigade willing to through their hard-inherited sovereigns at these puveyors of fine-and-still-muddy produce. If you don’t believe queuing for a cauliflower could start Class War, come along with me next Sunday. You’ll be amazed by what and who winds me up.

Nextdoor we see a table, and a cash-till atop next to a pile of pears and a mound of apples. Now I know you’re imagining Cocker-ney yelps of “Ooo want’s yer Apples ‘n’ Pears-ah?” eminating from behind the table. No such luck, I’m afraid. This stall is selling organic apple cordial and organic pear squash. No, I never have! And judging by the lack of customers, nor has anyone else, since you’re asking.

One bloke I do hand over the Helen Reddies to is the Crazy Cheese Guy. Now I don’t know from where this aimiable, smiley man comes from , but I bet it ain’t South London. South Minsk would be a closer guess. Our conversation follows the same pattern each week:

“Wuld you like sum chiz, sur?” he asks
“Yuz pliz” I reply
“Crizy chiz?” he offers
“Crizy Chiz pliz” I confirm. Well, it keeps me happy for a few minutes.

Where the aforementioned Crazy Cheese is made, and from what I know not. But my little East European friend may as well leave all his other stock behind in the cow, sheep or goat from whence it came. It really is superb stuff. If you like the roof of your mouth being ripped off when you bite into a crusty cheese sandwich, then Crazy Cheese is the cheese for you. Go buy some. Pliz.

There are fishermen from Essex (“luvverly bit a Dover Sole, my sahn”); the milk and yoghurt woman, who sells lovely milk, but which keeps fesh for about three hours, then turns into yoghurt; and the roly-poly butcher with the complexion of one of his un-cooked cumberland sausage. At first meet, he seems a jolly enough chap (as us fatties tend to seem, at first meet), but after a while I’ve gotten the feeling that he actually thinks he’s doing me a favour by selling me 6 lamb n mint bangers and a leg of pork for 28 quid. No wonder he’s jolly. Fat cnt.

Finally there’s the bread guy: The Pointy Guy. Now he may-or-not be related to Mr Crizy Chiz, but it’s a fair bet that when he was growing up he was expecting for be fighting Chechen rebels before he got too much older. But whatever his upbringing in the Motherland, his bill of fare is sensational. Rosemary bread; walnut and raisin bread; olive bread; soda bread; bread bread; ciabatta; focaccia (which I believe is the BNP’s battle cry); baguettes and croissants. All of this, of course, is news to the Pointy Guy. He doesn’t know what he’s got.
You might go and say “A small ciabatta and a rosemary bread, my fine fellow”. He will give you a blank stare, then point to any loaf at random, raising both eyebrows and ask “Thiz wun?”
“That wun. And that wun” you reply (I can’t help myself).

I put it to you that, Farmers Market or not, the last time our Pointy Guy was on a farm he was wielding a shovel on the Russian Steppes rather than swinging a scythe in the Weald of Kent. And as for being a baker? Do me a favour. I reckon you might find him and his mate, 7 am every Sunday morning, on a street corner in Orpington waiting for a lift from a bloke called Dave (who makes bread and cheese in his garage). Dave drops these two blokes off in Blackheath, unloads the van of produce, leaving our two heroes to sell this stuff, completely unaware of what they’re purveying. Dave then buggers off home to have a bit of Sunday morning humpty with his (or someone else’s) missus. Hope she put her clock forward this morning. He might come too early.

Oh, and after all that, I missed my train to work. Arse.

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