I went in for a chicken and avocado toasted sandwich and a coffee at a little cafe opposite the station. As soon as I sat down Talk Radio was turned off and what sounded like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers came blaring out of the speakers. A middle aged man comes in and tries to get pally with the bloke behind the counter.
– So, you Italian?
There's a brief silence. The older man looks around.
– So you do food?
His new mate looks around him at the sandwiches and salads on display and arches an eyebrow.
My toasted sandwich is still very hot. In a pedestrian island in the middle of the road I can see a
statue of the anti-Corn Law campaigner Richard Cobden. The Corn Laws were a vital part of my 19th Century British history module at A Level, but I failed to concentrate in lessons due to the presence of a very pretty and very young substitute teacher who had just arrived from teacher training college. When it came to the exam a few months later and the relevant question, all I could think
of was her face, smiling and blinking in slow motion, as she says something about Peel and free trade.
There wasn't much avocado in it.
Coinciding with a massive hangover, the Hackney Brook appears to have resurfaced on Blackstock Road, just south of the Arsenal Tavern. Not caused by heavy rains this time but a large yellow JCB, which has dug a huge hole in the side of the road. Water shoots out of a pipe and into what’s becoming a quite decent sized pond. My little boy Seánie is well impressed. “Digger!” “River!” He dances up and down on the pavement. We go to the Gunners Fish Bar for lunch, where we meet a group of Bayern Munich fans in town for tonight’s Champions League game. They have come for some hot Pukka Pies. Blackstock Road is certainly at its most beautfiul for these visitors – shit weather, grey skies, soggy chips. and huge puddles in the road.
I suspect an Arsenal plot, some kind of pitch waterlogging thing must be going on here. I notice that one of the Germans looks like Nigel Winterburn and mention it to Seánie. He is not impressed.
Which reminds me of that poem, ‘Arsenal fullbacks try to change the world in a night’:
Lee Dixon came to our local pub
And tried to convert us all
To the cause of International socialism
“You’re too late mate,” said the landlord
“We had that Nigel Winterburn in here last night.
We’re all Buddhists now.”