After living and training at Rose Bruford in Sidcup for 3 years, it was of no surprise to me that Bexley was one of the few London Boroughs to vote "Leave" - the area has the enviable reputation of being the location for the Stephen Lawrence murder up the road in Eltham, same location where the EDL idiots came out in force during the London riots. My local in Sidcup was the BNP meeting place, a fact I learned after walking in one evening to a load of 60 year old skins singing "Land of Hope & Glory". I wrote this story about some of the people I saw whilst living there. The bit at the end is partially true. (No connection intended between the title and the drink blaa blaa blaa - it's only a play on words.)
His obituary would read Dedicated his life to the service of his fellow countrymen, or something along those lines, such as, Worked tirelessly to help the community.
Albert Smith; 78 years on God’s planet. Albert Smith; as English as Fish and Chips, Margate Pier and Sunday Dinner. If you cut him, he bled the true English red of St George. Albert Smith; pinning all his hopes for future generations on the British National Party.
“Ah di’nt face all that artillery at Dunkirk f’naffin’ y’know,” he growled at anybody who cared to listen without questioning the Maths.
“Fought for me country ah did, laid me life down for ‘is Majesty. We got them boys back off the beaches,” he announced to agreeing nods and murmurs down his local.
“And this is the thanks I get. The bloody country gets invaded anyway. I walk down me own High Street and no bugger speaks English. I’s all sprechen zie Pakistani instead. I’d ‘ave preferred German – at least they wear proper clobber.”
“Want another in there, ‘Bert?” Said his drinking side-kick, Alf, seizing the opportunity as Bert drew breath – Alf was always keen not to let politics interrupt the flow of Pride.
“I will, thanks, Alf. Another pint of London Pride. Tha’s what it’s all about innit? The Pride of London – tha’s what we are. ’Old off for a minute, though, I gotta go and turn me bike around. I’ll pop out for a fag on the way back.”
He shuffled off to the Gents, struggling with the zip in his suit trousers, muttering to himself, “And tha’s a facking cheek ‘n’all. Fought for me country an’ I can’ even ‘ave a fag inside me own local. Gotta freeze me nuts off outside wiv’ the homeless ‘n’all them asylum seekers.”
“Two more of the usual, please Errol, when you’re ready,” said Alf.
The manager acknowledged him from the other end of the bar. “I’ll be there after these, Alf,” he said, nodding to the Guinness order he was finishing off.
Bert’s empty bladder and nicotine dose made for a sprightlier return shuffle. That and the sight of another full glass of brown liquid placed on his side of the bar. He hoisted himself back onto his perch.
“’Course, you don’t count, do ya, Errol,” he said to the manager with an evil glint in his eye. “Someone taught ya to pull a proper pint of ale – practically one of us now in’tcha?” Bert let out a phlegmy chuckle.
“Yeah, Errol,” Alf chipped in, “I’ll swear you get whiter every time I come in ‘ere.”
The pensioners chuckled uncontrollably, wheezing, they coughed and spluttered. “Gnaf, gnaf, gnaf, gnaf, gnaf.”
The bar manager flashed his white teeth at the pair. It could have been a smile but then again animals bare their teeth before they attack. But this wasn’t an ambiguity the old double-act wasted any time pondering.
“Anyway Bert,” Alf said, wiping the tears from his eyes, “’Ow comes you’re looking so snappy today?”
“I’s my grand-daughter’s wedding today, innit?” Bert said. “I only stepped in ‘ere for a couple before ‘eading down the Registry Office.”
“That’ll be nice,” Alf said. “You’ll be off in a bit, then,” he added with a faint air of disappointment.
“I ain’t going too early,” Bert reassured his drinking buddy, “Only be queuing in a crowded waiting room full of some Paki wedding.”
“Can’t even escape ‘em at yer grand-daughter’s wedding,” Alf lamented into his pint glass.
“Like vermin,” Bert said finishing up his pint, “anyway, I’d best be off and get the train.” He slid off his bar stool. “Make sure she don’t marry one of ‘em by accident, eh? Or else it’ll be curry instead of cake.” He slapped Alf on the back and left the bar chuckling to himself.
“Send ‘em all back to the jungle where they came from,” Alf muttered. “Not you, ‘course” he said to Errol, nudging his empty glass towards the relevant beer tap. Grimacing, Errol took the glass.
Errol Brown had heard all the jokes: “’Ere Errol, I believe in miracles - is a free pint of Pride on the cards?” And then there was, “Someone’ll think you’re a sexy thing, Errol. But not me, mate, I like mine a bit less burnt.”
It probably didn’t matter to anybody that he was more cockney than all of them put together; the only one to be genuinely born under the Bow bells. A man could flip in the end.
Svetlana Federava straightened her skirt and took a deep breath before heading back into the main conference room of the hotel on Brighton sea front.
The irony of the occasion wasn’t lost on her - years spent scrubbing toilets and changing soiled hotel bedding with stains on that people wouldn’t dream of making in their wildest fantasies on their own beds. Hours at evening class learning “Ingliski” and an eternity of bad jokes about being Nikita incognito.
Finally, yes finally, after working her way up to Head of Entertainment Services, her first wedding reception of the year would be the local BNP candidate’s daughter’s nuptials – an entire wedding reception full of people who’d have her flung out of the country on her ear as soon as look at her. After all that. You had to laugh.
The old man, the granddad, now he was hard work. And drunk. The rest were just drunk. Grandpa had already tried to get his nicotine stained hand up her skirt as she poured the toast. The old boy making some joke about the cold war definitely being over or some cliché like that.
Svetlana quickly recovered herself and flashed her assassin-blue eyes at him before moving on with the Moet. She hadn’t scrubbed skid-marks off the hotel’s best Armitage Shanks for nothing – he was no match for her. Nobody was going to get in her way now.
Bert leaned over to his neighbour from the Groom’s side. “Now, I don’t mind ‘em coming into the country if they’re blonde and fit as a butcher’s dog like what she is. That’s one thing them Ruskies got right – making ‘em all dominate in world gymnastics.” He chortled another phlegm ball. “Not like them darkies, they don’t want to work - all they do is run corner shops and drive taxis.”
“Ain’t that just right,” said his neighbour. The pair fell silent as they eyed the Hors d’Oeuvres.
“Mini lamb samosas with onion confit?” The head waiter said, holding his serving fork expectantly over the platter.
“Sam-what?” Bert said.
“Mini samosas, Sir,” repeated Sanjeev Patel. Correction. Dr Sanjeev Patel, or at least he would be when he’d finished his internship. Dr Sanjeev Patel, specialist in geriatric care and lifetime master of patient acceptance of white man ignorance.
Too right. Night shift work in retirement homes wiping a production line of old peoples’ bums had seen him through sixth form. Sanjeev Patel possessed first hand evidence that the likes of Bert Smith and his pals had neither the smart arses nor big balls they were the pretenders of. And with exam time being extra stressful, it wouldn’t take too many Bert Smith-isms to push Mr Patel past the patience boundary tonight.
“’Ere, Gupta,” Bert leaned over to Sanjeev with a confidential air. “Can’ you bring us some chips or wotnot? Y’know…English food…stuff what you know’s in it.”
“I’ll ask the kitchen, Sir” Sanjeev said, using his well practised pacifying tone. He caught Svetlana’s eye as he headed towards the exit. She rolled her eyes and swiftly followed him out the door.
“Ah need a piss,” Bert made the announcement to the table of total strangers as he stood up, swaying back and forth. “And ah need a fag,” he concluded, raising his glass of bubbly before it was time. A medley of polite chitter-chatter acknowledged his statement as he disentangled himself from the table cloth.
Fumbling his way through the mirrored doors of the banquet room, Bert Smith searched for the “Gents” sign. The usual routine; attending to bladder requirements first made for a more pleasant nicotine intake second.
“Awright, Helga?” He blew a kiss at Svetlana as he passed Reception heading for the revolving doors to the main entrance.
“Dirty old git,” Svetlana cursed under her breath.
The following ten minutes were never properly accounted for. The other wedding guests were certainly oblivious to the snuffing out of Bert Smith by the sign on the wall outside saying Please Extinguish Here.
One instant he was sucking away on his favourite Benson & Hedges, as the waves across Brighton sea front sucked away from the shingle. The next instant saw the life sucked away from Bert Smith.
Like a tree felled at the roots, Bert Smith toppled backwards, rigid as an ironing board, B&H still in hand. Only the waves on the beach heard his head hit the planter behind him.
Svetlana peered through the entrance doors. “What is now?” she said tutting as she went to scoop up the bigoted old drunk from the Begonias.
Bert Smith’s steel-grey eyes stared at her as she approached. They stared, unblinking. Svetlana’s assassin-blue eyes met his. The assassin-blue eyes widened. The steel-grey eyes still stared, unblinking, unchanged. Cigarette ash fell from the fag frozen between Bert’s yellow fingers.
“My God, old git is dead,” gasped Svetlana rushing back inside. “Call ambulance,” she shouted at Reception. “Get doctor!”
A small crowd gathered as Bert continued to stare. His cigarette burned. A small trickle of blood left the cut on his head. The old git had gone.
Sanjeev pushed his way through the onlookers. “Excuse me, excuse me. May I see? I’m a doctor.” He arrived at Bert’s side. “Ah, cardiac arrest,” he said. “Has somebody called 999?”
“Two fingers from the sternum,” Sanjeev muttered to himself, placing his hands on Bert’s chest before pumping all his weight into him. “Come on, old man, come on,” he said, recalling current resuscitation guidelines…if in doubt, pumping the chest in time with ‘Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive,” is the best rhythm for heart massage…
A man in morning dress pushed his way through the group of onlookers.
“What the fack is that Paki doing to my Granddad?” he shouted.
Sanjeev looked up at the man. “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive,” he said, beating on Bert’s chest.
“He’s facking mad. Get him off!” the man shouted. “The Paki’s just done my Granddad in and now he’s singin’ fackin’ Voodoo Bee Gee songs over ‘is corpse. Get off ‘im!”
A fist swiped Sanjeev’s right ear knocking him off balance as Bert Smith burst into life with a gasp of breath.
“He’s back,” Sanjeev pleaded, looking up at the cluster of morning suits stooped over him. “He’s back, he’s back, he’s back.”
“He done ‘im in,” the first man said, “look at Grandpa Bert’s ‘ead, he mugged the ole bugga. Get him, lads.”
Paki-bashing. It’s like modern-day stoning. Sanjeev curled up and took it with patient acceptance of the white man ignorance. Least provoked, soonest ended.
“I’ll teach yer to mug an old man. Fought for ‘is country ‘e did. What have you done for ‘im, Paki?” the man said lifting his right foot as the ambulance pulled into the hotel loading bay.
It was the steel toe cap in the temple that did it.
His obituary read Born in Shoreditch, London, Sanjeev Patel dedicated his life to the service of his fellow countrymen and specialising in geriatric care he worked tirelessly to help the community…
actor, general alright person and tree-climber extraordinaire.