A wink and a smile to a Mill Road exile.   4 comments

Yesterday I was in the Cat’s Protection League doing dumb things like wondering if I should spend £7 pounds on a hugely outsized cream-coloured kind of, uh… ornate designer bling streetwear jacket and just about resisting but then hardly wondering at all whether i should spend 50p a pop on some old 78s of Maori music and a version of Onward Christian Soldiers and a sweet looking 10″ of some Polish spoken word. Whilst I was in there I hear some voices outside, and in my nosey way I clock this Mill Road Character woman (who I can always scent a bit of a story about because she has these fiercely intelligent eyes and a way about her that just suggests she’s a bit of a wrong ‘un) and another, older female companion. Anyway, Wrong Lady is saying something like “How much is that? That’s nice that is. Have you got four pounds on you you could lend me?” and I have to say I’m immediately thinking the worst of her. Sadly, it turns out I’m not entirely on the wrong track of the Wrong because a minute or some later she comes up to the counter with a cat-transporter-box thing and says to the Cat Woman “Do you know how much this is? Is it two pounds? Is it two pounds is it? Cat Woman smells a rat and asks her co-worker out the back how she put on the item and quickly the chancer-lady starts going “Or was it… four? Was it two, or four? No, no that’s fine. I’ve got a Burmese, see?” As soon as she leaves the cat persons start muttering about how this isn’t the first time.
Then I go into the RSPCA and I’m buying a Dictators 12″ and this short, intense-looking spoddy chap asks the manageress in posh, clipped tones “Have you any Pevsners?” And when she looks a bit in askance he just reiterates “Pevsners”. “Everything we have is on the shelves…?” she attempts, and then as she kind of gives up and walks off he clarifies slightly by saying “I’m looking for the County Durham one…”. Anyway, I know I was in animal shops but it all felt a bit anthropologically very Cambridge indeed.

Maori music
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Me and Simon had this conversation the other day about the Japanese-looking chap who is always on Mill Road and apparently has been bothering our separate curious minds. He’s always alone, and although quite neatly turned out and well-groomed has slightly well-worn elements on his clothing, like where the backpack he habitually carries has rubbed into the fabric of his jacket etc. He is often seen smoking and drinking outside local pubs and cafes and usually carries an umbrella. Apparently Simon has mentioned him in his lyrics somewhere. Anyway the conversation with Simon put me in mind of one I’d had with my brother about how sensitive observers of the human condition are often spurred to travel to foreign lands not so much out of an adventurous urge to encounter the new but rather to escape the maddeningly familiar, and in particular the banality of the background noise that is immediately apprehensible as a native. My brother used the example of his recent trip to Colombia and how shitty commercial radio there was nothing like the awfulness of its UK equivalent. We speculated that this Japanese exile was merely resting his troubled intellect in what for us was our over-familiar numbingly-crap lowest common denominator British street culture, almost (but not quite, lest it seems like I am getting carried away) like Burroughs and Bowles might have found a kind of nourishing solace in an alien environment like Tangiers or whatever. If I ever get the chance I am going to ask this guy what he is all about. It’s starting to feel like I am obligated in some way, to be honest. Then again, perhaps I should be preserving his psychological ecology, or something, and I should probably just give him a wink and a smile.

4 responses to “A wink and a smile to a Mill Road exile.

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  1. I almost spoke to him on Saturday. He was in LibraAries closing down sale, but then I thought better of it.

  2. The fact that he was in the bookshop lends a little weight to the theory perhaps?

  3. He didn’t buy anything though!

  4. That also lends weight, cos if he’s preserving his psychological ecology he wouldn’t be able to read English! He’s writing a great Japanese novel. I’m sure of it…

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