An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

To The Grapes

"Well, fuck me, what a turn up for the book!" Charlie was propping up the pewter topped bar and talking only to himself. "What a bunch of poxy posers. . . Oi pal!". The barman minced over, he was wearing a black apron and had a tea towel limply draped over his sloping shoulder. "Geneva gin and tonic, no ice, no lemon, straight, and while you're at it where the fuck did all these ponces come from? Some coach outing or what?". "They sir, are our locals - our regular clientele, unlike you!". He turned like a girl and went back to the optics with a flounce. "On a fucking optic? You're having a laugh surely Shirley! Used to be under the counter. Locals? I should bleeding cocoa!" He had heard of the gentrification of Wapping but it had not somehow sunk in. The place even had a station (Wapping Dock Stairs would you believe?) nowadays and those poshed up warehouses had certainly shocked him but somehow he had not imagined that a seriously dodgy boozer like the Prospect could have moved so far up market. Set back off of Cable street and the Highway it had, in his former times, been a very down market dive. Even the Thames seemed to stink less. You wouldn't have left your jam jar parked round here without a local minder in past days but now there were 4x4s all over the bloody show. The barman brought his drink, charged him what seemed like an arm and a leg, and mopped the bar top desultorily. No further words were exchanged.

Charlie relaxed and settled in for a wait: he was half an hour early and he had no doubt that Petra would be at least half an hour late. All previous experience indicated an hour's wait minimum. Maybe three G&Ts. The supposed locals were an oddly assorted bunch. All sizes. Both sexes - maybe all three. All colours. And then he realized that they were all roughly the same age - perhaps 35. And they were all wealthy - you could almost smell the money. Even those dressed casually and there were not that many of them were expensively dressed - discreet logos bedecked each garment. He recalled coming down this way of a Sunday on the trolley bus from Barking as a kid on the way to Brick Lane. And what he remembered most was the kids playing on the bomb sites and the tenement flats where they lived - each with that characteristic slick of slimy green water sliding down the outer walls making the brickwork shine and shimmer. "Another!"

What a shock when he asked for the bogs. He remembered a lean to out the back with a piece of galvanised gutter propped on two posts and sagging in the middle but what he found in fact was a revelation. An ocean of black marble and tiles with bright white porcelain. Urinals that flushed automatically as he moved away and basin taps that switched on automatically as you put out your hands. "Whoever cleans this place, " he thought, "it isn't Denise - not a smear in sight." He checked he was zipped up and reunited himself with his drink. He lit a cigarette and checked the clock by the door and as he did she walked in. It would have been impossible to mistake her because as far as he could tell she had not changed since he last saw her all those years ago. No drop. No fattening. And as she came closer he noticed, No wrinkles.

She came close and then a little closer still until she was brushing him lightly with her body. She kissed him on the lips - affectionately at first, and aggressively as he fell into the kiss. "I haff an apartment just by The Grapes" she whispered, taking his hand. He caught the smell of tobacco. "Let us go there". And then she led him off as he dropped a score on the pewter topped bar and waved vaguely at the barman not to bother with change if there were any

Outisde the pub she embraced him full on before leading him right up Wapping wall and past an arts centre (an arts centre in bloody Wapping? he thought) and into Glamis Road. They made their way up to Narrow Stret and over the little bridge. He was stunned by the cleanliness of it all - this previously grubby little place was now spotless. Where it had been dark and dangerous it was now brightly lit and, he felt it in his bones, as though it were permanently under surveillance - which it actually was - is. You could not have slipped a Rizla between them so close were they now. Her heat passed to him and vice versa. Heat indeed.


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