Friday, July 20, 2007

1981 England, London Razzles

< 1981. Leah & Mark Esslemont, Kings Head Tavern, Earls Court, London.

Leah and I browsed museums on my old street-sweeper beat. We grazed Tate Gallery, British Museum and the National Gallery. If we had spare cash, we saw a West End show from cheap gallery seats. Nureyev had the most stage-presence I ever saw. The Mousetrap cast was tired.

After shows, we visited a Chinese restaurant on Shaftsbury Avenue. At George House, Sam's wok cooked us Chinese meals. With Sam and Xue we hunted curries in the Tandoori jungle. We liked Hot Pot, Earls Court cafe, serving French, Italian, Chinese cuisines. McDonald's or Wimpy sufficed, if we were poor. On Sundays, for a beer buy at the Golden Lion pub, we watched girls strip on a central stage.

Once, Leah and I tried sneaking through Savoy Hotel's back door, but were seen by a doorman, who said, "Bloody 'ell. This is the Savoy. If yer wanna visi', go ta reception a' the fron'!"

Another time, I stole soap from the The Ritz Hotel toilet. While I boasted about my handfuls to Kleintjie at the urinal, the doorman walked in and discreetly peed next to Kleintjie. I dumped the soap in a basin, while Kleintjie wet himself.

When GH rooms were fully booked, Sam laid mattresses on the TV lounge floor, so backpackers could sleep there till rooms were available. Bolder backpackers changed in front of TV voyeurs. "While you were working this morning," said Skate, "you missed Joey. Her tits were huge man!"

In Sam's room, girls chattering on couches, I retold the story to Sam and Xue: "...Joey's tits were huge Sam."

"Firekin' 'ell! Joey's on my couch!" Joey froze me out.

Favourite pubs were at Penta Hotel; Denmark, near Gloucester Road tube; Kings Head in Earls Court; Fox in Barons Court. If we left our drinks and went to the toilet, Mavis swigged them. Mavis sneaked into pubs, pestering patrons, until barmen ejected her. I began an argument between two Irishmen, asking one of them, "Please explain the Irish troubles?" They began politely, but soon ignored me, arguing for hours. Next day on the way to work, Leah had an Irish bomb-scare at Victoria Station. Leah and crowds were ordered by station officials and Bobbies to leave.

< 1981. Rhodie Kleintjie & Leah Esslemont with Scotland vs England soccer supporters, Kings Head Tavern, Earls Court, London.

Kleintjie and I frequented a "yaroooing" Aussie pub near Curzon Hotel, Courtfield Gardens, sneaking our six-packs inside. Hidden by the crowd, we drank our beers, stomping our empties on the floor. Kleintjie sniffed: "A kaffir's here."

"Only raucous Aussie here."

"A kaffir's here. I can smell 'em." Kleintjie's nose was still tuned to bush-spooring. At the bar, I spotted Nigerian Joko, London University student, who dossed in GH. He swotted on floor-landings, avoiding rowdy roommates.

I worked as a kitchen-porter for The Prudential. A Polish woman, married to a Cuban, then employed me as a receptionist at a Belgrave Road hotel, where poor Polish chambermaids sent wages back to Poland.

Every day, Cuban's Polish wife collected money and inspected my book-keeping. General Jaruzelski had taken over Poland's government, tensioning up socialism in Poland, so London Poles were jittery.

When I worked night-shifts, Leah came to my office after her work, for free meals. Once, while I cooked a meal in the kitchen, Cuban arrived and chatted to Leah, who told him about SA's beauty: wildlife, flat -crown trees, savannahs, deserts, mountains. When I served food, Cuban upset Leah saying, "You treat blacks like shit."

"In Angola," I said, "your occupying commie Cubans, supporting local commie MPLA, were recently fucked up by SA troopies, helping Savimbi's UNITA. Sneaky Cubans and Soviets in Angola want Angolan diamonds and oil, deceiving yourselves you're saving blacks from SA racists. Where'd you Cubans get your sugarcane slaves from?" Silent Cuban. (Sean Moroney, Editor, Africa Volumes 1, 2, Facts On File, New York, 1989).

See The Ritz.

No comments: