Aug. 3rd, 2007 05:32 pm
webofevil: (Default)
I’m queuing at the cashpoint on Dean Street. A homeless guy, Welsh, 20s, with a pierced nose and a small Mohican, is sat against the wall asking for change. Suddenly a fat bearded man in shorts rushes up to him, hands him a £20 note, says, “There you go. I told you I’d stop by”, and hurries on his way. “Thank you!” shouts the beggar. Then, as the man disappears around the corner, the beggar looks up at the rest of us. “But I’ve never seen him before in my life. I just got here five minutes ago.” Unnerved, he keeps repeating this to anyone who would listen. I suggest that he makes the most of it. “Well, yeah,” he says, “but bloody hell.”
webofevil: (Default)
Yesterday began with me giving a bit of change to two old Irish tramps in a park in the sunshine, spurring one of them to deliver a stream of grateful old blarney along the lines of, “Ah, may the cockles of yer heart be warmed by...” (etc etc; I didn’t get the rest of it because I was too startled that anyone would actually say this stuff outside of a sitcom). Yesterday finished with a skinny English tramp half their age interrupting me while I was on the phone in the rain outside my flat and, on being told that no, I didn’t have any change, informing me that I was a “posh cunt”. Light and shade, eh.

Anyway, last night, in honour of [livejournal.com profile] flaneurette, a few of us gathered in a tandoori restaurant and watched this guy (Fig. 1) impersonate Elvis, although I couldn’t shake the fact that he reminded me more of an Indian Ray Reardon (Fig. 2).

He wasn’t bad and went down a storm, especially with the party of birthday revellers sat on the other side of the restaurant consisting mainly of drunk and excitable gay men (“We love you, Elvis!” “Do Beyonce and Shakira!”). His rapturous reception, however, may have been the reason that he extended his set; he was on for the best part of four hours. As a general rule, it’s probably best for a performer to finish their act before most of the audience has left.

He had a camera crew with him at first. Turned out they were from the BBC, who are, oh God, running a competition in the summer to find the best Elvis impersonator. Our man had already declined to take part in the competition, on the grounds that they would be looking for someone who looked like Elvis as well as sounding like him, which, barring a genetic fluke, pretty much rules out anyone of Indian descent. The Beeb reckoned there was a nice angle to be had anyway in an Indian Elvis tribute act, and asked if they could film him for the documentary. He said the crew had been following him around all day. “They filmed me at home with my cat, then coming down here, then they wanted to film me getting changed, in my pants, trying to put my leather trousers on, everything.” “What programme did they say they were from?” I asked, fearing that BBC3 might have been secretly gathering material for an “innovative, in-your-face” series called something like Look What We Got This Tosser To Agree To.

He takes his Elvising very seriously. “I slagged off some of the others in the competition,” he told us at the end of the night, before rushing back to his machine to sing a few more encores. “The ones who just put on a jumpsuit and think they’re being Elvis. You can’t be him, you can only pay tribute. But they’re pissing all over his memory. I said they were shit.” Look out for him when the programme airs, saying jumpsuit Elvis impersonators are shit.

(Actually, there was briefly an Indian Elvis impersonator, years ago. He made an album. I can’t find any recordings, but here’s proof that indeed there once was an “Elvis Patelvis”.)

[livejournal.com profile] flaneurette, who has a profound loathing of unwanted attention—which is a bit unfortunate as she is doomed always to receive it—was made by Elvis to stand up and have “Happy birthday” sung at her by the restaurant (“Her birthday’s today, so I want you guys to sing to her!” he announced. “It’s not today,” she protested, off-mike. Elvis hadn’t been told this. He looked at her for a moment. “It’s today!” he cried into the microphone), and then he came and sang at her and kissed her hand. She smiled and through the medium of body language communicated “You can probably stop now” as demurely and pleasantly as possible, providing a rich contrast to the outright mauling he later received from his enthusiastic new fans—the by now thoroughly raucous Jimmy-Somerville-alike birthday boy and his hyperactive friends—when everyone was dancing to ‘Suspicious Minds’. My God, the cat will have heard all about it when Elvis finally got home. “You won’t believe the night I’ve had, Lisa-Marie...”

Vox pop 2

Sep. 8th, 2006 02:55 pm
webofevil: (Default)
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.
webofevil: (sniper)
Down in an underpass under Park Lane on Friday there's a busker playing a tin whistle. About ten metres further along lies an old, drunk, toothless tramp—trouble not, delicate reader, this one had no romantic designs on me, that's not where this is going—shouting at him: “Shut up with your fucking playing. That’s all I fucking hear. Why’ve you got to come down here and play when I’m trying to fucking sleep?”

The busker stops playing. “You can sleep anywhere in London,” he says plaintively.

“That’s right,” the tramp replies blurrily, “and I choose to sleep here. You can fucking play anywhere in London.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” says the busker, and resumes playing.

“You carry on playing, I’ll fucking get up in a minute and come over there,” slurs the tramp. The busker stops, says “Yeah? Come on then”, and tootles his whistle at him.

“I’ll fucking come over there,” says the tramp. The busker emits a provocative flourish.

“Don’t make me fucking get up,” rails the tramp. The busker chirrups at him merrily.

Repeat to fade as I leave. If I’d had change it would have been worth seeing the effect of giving it to the busker; I think the tramp would have detonated out of sheer rage.

Talking of folk poetry in underpasses, my mother reports these two pieces of graffiti next to each other in the underpass on her route to work, both followed by a different phone number: “I do back door” and, enticingly, “I stab poo”. Same product, yet quite different campaigns. I'd love to know which number gets more calls.
webofevil: (all hail)

Saturday night, [livejournal.com profile] strictlytrue, [livejournal.com profile] nudejournal, [livejournal.com profile] burlapfuton and I are waiting for a bus outside the KFC in Brixton. A toothless, barely coherent old rasta tramp joins us and starts being “hilarious”. “Shall I kill him?” he asks, putting his arm around [livejournal.com profile] nudejournal's shoulder. "Shall I kill him or kiss him? Heh heh heh,” he says, seeing our expressions, “I'm just kidding. I'm not going to kill anyone.” He's so out of his mind, he can barely remember even the basic rasta shtick. “I think we ought... we ought to... ahm... [inspiration strikes] LOVE... human beings.”

He eventually gets around to business. “How about a small contribution? A penny each.” I give him a quid. He insists on bumping fists with me, and then before I know it he gives me a cheery, stubbly kiss on the cheek. (I wouldn't mind quite so much but it's not the first time I've been ambushed with a kiss off a tramp. Buchanan Street bus station in Glasgow at Hogmanay; the bugger wasn't even asking for money, just happy to be celebrating the time of year. Some people have the kind of face that the opposite sex finds attractive, some the kind that mysteriously invites ageing strangers to tell them all about their offspring's most intimate operations. None of that shit for me; no, my speciality is apparently being a tramp magnet.)

But the highlight of this brief encounter (depending on how excited you got about the stubbly kiss) was when he thought for a minute and then solemnly announced: “You should all vote... Liberal Democrat.” I asked him to repeat it, as I presumed I'd misheard. There was no doubt, though. “Liberal Democrat,” he said earnestly. “You should all vote LibDem.” I suppose what with the local elections coming up they're taking on all the staff they can get.
webofevil: (rummy)

In the unlikely event that you are the girl who plays the violin in the Westminster Underground subway most lunchtimes, please will you for the love of God stop. It's murder down there. I used to play the violin and know exactly how difficult it is to produce a decent sound on the thing, but your audience shouldn't be able to share that information. You're the Les Dawson of strings. And you've got the effrontery to ask for money. I'll tell you what, I'll give you a crisp fiver for every two successive notes you manage to play in tune with each other.

Is she homeless? She doesn't look homeless. But if she is, it's not inconceivable that her situation is somehow connected with the Christawful atonal yowling she produces whenever she puts bow to string.

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