On Location: Frank Bruno and the art of bagel making

THE FRENETIC industry of the all-night bagel shop was only brought to a halt by Frank Bruno. The shop, at the top of Brick Lane in London's East End, reaches its weekly climax at about four o'clock on Sunday morning. Because anyone going out for a bagel at that time is certain to be at least slightly interesting. Dull suburban couples, for instance, wouldn't survive the strain were one partner to suggest that "This week dear, instead of Sunday afternoon at the Harvester, why don't we go to a bagel shop at four in the morning?".

The flamboyant and colourful clientele remain constantly jovial, undisturbed by the abuse doled out by late-night curry house yobs. "Creeeam cheeeese," screamed the campest skinhead dressed in rubber I'd ever seen. "Whack us a pair of tunas," said the hard bloke behind him. Then came a pair of coppers, and a couple who must have been to a fancy dress party, him as Oscar Wilde and her in a 1920s Charleston outfit. If a Red Indian had come in, this queue could have earned a fortune as a Village People tribute band.

The bagel itself is a traditional Jewish roll, sweet, with a hole in the middle, filled with smoked salmon, herring or other, more gentile, fillings. In the back half of the shop, the process of making them entertains the queueing customers. Sweating, agile artists rapidly but delicately brush each bagel before swinging a tray carrying 60 of them into a huge oven, while their colleagues knead enormous blocks of dough, and everyone shouts at each other across the clattering of bagel-related accessories.

This never slows down, even during quiet periods, and you wonder whether it's an addiction; and whether, on their days off, the bagel-makers stay at home slamming their oven door shut, chucking Polos into trays, and yelling "MORE DOUGH", at passing strangers.

In the corner, chomping on a slice of salt beef, was Douglas. Chunks of bagel were spilling through vast gaps in his teeth on to his crumbling black coat. He was Scottish and had worked on the oil rigs for several years but had to leave when he became disabled. He now lives in a homeless person's unit. "Usually ah come here in the afternoon," he said. "Ah get here at four, and stay until midnight. I've nothing else to do, have I? They always see me all right for bagels."

But today was different. He was here at night, to listen to the radio commentary of the fight at Madison Square Garden between Holyfield and Lewis. In the moments before it began he was joined by Reg, who'd come off a night shift on the Underground, and the three of us moved as close as we could to the crackly sound of Frank Bruno imparting his expert analysis.

"Lewis is making this look so easy, he's a dangerous dude," said Frank. "He's walking it," he enthused after each round. "He's walking it," said Reg and Douglas to everyone who asked. "He's scoring so many points with his jabs," said Bruno. "He's scoring so many points with his jabs," said the little man serving cheesecake one minute later, to a pair of lads on their way home from a rave.

Once every two rounds, the tempo of commentary would increase, along with a surge of ringside yelling. We'd all stretch an inch nearer to the radio, and at that moment the woman in the corner would turn on the bread- slicing machine, which clattered like a fruit machine coughing out a jackpot - you could shut your eyes and imagine you were in a steelworks.

"Pleeeeease, can't you do it between rounds," we'd plead, but she just looked puzzled and carried on.

The fight ended. "Lewis is easily the champion," said Frank, and everyone agreed. But we hadn't seen a thing; we only had Frank's word for it. For all we knew, Holyfield had spent the whole fight pinging Lewis's nose with an elastic band, while Lewis yelped,"Ow, stop it, that hurts."

"It was much closer than you seem to think," said a British journalist to Bruno. "Rubbish," shouted Reg and Douglas. And then the verdict; the infamous draw. "Well they were watching a different fight to me," screeched the little man behind the counter.

"To be fair, we didn't see it," I interjected pathetically. "Ye can tell by listening tae the radio," spat Douglas.

But now Bruno was on a roll. It was disgraceful, scandalous, shameful, appalling. To break up the adjectives, he actually said "know what I mean". And then he went for a big finish. "That Holyfield is a man who believes in God. So he must look in the mirror and say to himself, `as night is night and day is day, Lord, I know I lost that fight'."

Suddenly the regular kledank-kledank of trays in ovens was interrupted. "That Bruno," screamed an Italian baker, slamming down the tray of bagels he was brushing with oil, "he talk a-nothing but sheet!!".

And he sat down for the first time in at least two hours and howled with laughter in an Italian accent. This brought the whole bagel-making process to a halt, creating a log-jam of dough and stacked-up trays.

And it was all a touch ironic. Because the last time British people thought there was about to be a British world heavyweight champion was just before Bruno fought Tyson. Then Bruno was clumped on to the floor in the third round, and we all suddenly thought, how did we fool ourselves? This was Iron Savage Penitentiary Terminator Crocodile Tyson - against Buttons from Cinderella.

Which leads me to the sad declaration that this was the last of these visits, as I'm supposed to be writing a book and a radio series, both of which take bloody ages. But I would like to thank this newspaper for giving me the chance to write these pieces, and the readers who've read them.

What they've confirmed for me is that while the class divisions which shape our society are enormously complex, give or take a few grey areas and exceptions, working-class people are creative, positive, amiable, humble and unselfish. And the rich are ignorant pigs. Ta ra.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas