This weekend I spent an evening in my favourite pub. As a point of fact it’s not actually a pub at all – it’s a private club. I’m not a member though so I don’t have one of the magic keys required to get in. Instead I hang around the doorstep with the smokers until someone opens the door. Taking my cue, I dash inside faster than an oiled-up chimp.
My nom-de-plume is written a hundred times in the guest book. Take that, society.
On the upper floor, some sort of live musical event was going on and after some drinks, a librarian friend and I decided to go up to see what was indeed what. Apparently she knew the guy vending the tickets and he would let us in for a few minutes for free. This night, it seemed, was all about subterfuge.
Once in, I noticed a chap standing stock still on the dance floor, drinking beer on his own. He wasn’t part of the band but he appeared to know them and to me he seemed very familiar.
After a short while it occurred to me that he works in my local fruit and veg shop. It’s quite a sobering experience to spot your greengrocer on a Friday night. When a drunken superman, you don’t want to be reminded of how, during civil hours, you pretend to weigh up the benefits between varieties of lemongrass but don’t in truth have the foggiest idea what the difference might be.
“Hello,” I said, “You work in the fuit shop”.
“Hello,” he said, “You shop in the fruit shop. You and your broken arm.”
After a while it occurred to me that he was not the only greengrocer in my vicinity. The guy on bass guitar was a greengrocer and the guy in the ticket booth was also a greengrocer. The place was swarming with the blighters. I had found the nest.
The girl on keyboards also seemed familiar and I had concluded that I recognized her from my work at the university library but now I think about it, she too was a greengrocer. A she-grocer. She had once undercharged me for some basil pesto.
This was a bit awkward. In truth, the head greengrocer and I had seen each other in pubs and on the street before but we had always ignored each other. Acknowledging each other’s existence outside of the world of vegetables would violate the patron/greengrocer code of social conduct.
“Well,” I said, I shall see you around. Next time I want a pineapple I’ll come and say Hi”.
My librarian friend and I went back downstairs to our fellows. That’s how it works at this place. Librarians downstairs, greengrocers in the attic. It’s got a very high gini coeficient for a single premises.
Later in the evening, I was having a wee in one of the toilets, the cubicle door hanging open in a carefree manner. That’s the kind of party animal I am.
Suddenly, someone starts talking to me.
It is the head greengrocer, washing his hands at the sink. It is encouraging to see him doing so, I think, as he has responsibilty for handling my mushrooms. I can’t hear what he’s saying though so I wonder over to him.
“This had better be good,” I say, tipsy, “I put my willy away for this”.
He tells me about the greengrocer band. He’s not in the one I had witnessed upstairs (“Electronica? Pah!”) but rather he is in an entirely separate greengrocer band which plays heavy metal.
I suggest to him a few fruit-and-veg band names he could use. The Vegetables. The fruits. The Smashing Pumpkins. Cauliflower Ear. My personal favourite is ‘Part Zucchini’ but he doesn’t like any of them.
I tell him he’s actually a bit of a local celebrity – the fanciable greengrocer – but that I think people get carried away when they’re in such close proximity to so many courgettes.
His friend, the bass player, is at the urinal and he asks if people fancy him too. I say “No, you’re known as the grosser grocer”.
On this note, I go back to doing my wee.