A feature of being a true Londoner: refugees from the country tend to land in your spare room at weekends, escaping all the Londoners who turn up in their designer waterproofs and take over the old cottages from which the farmworkers have long since been dismissed. This weekend it's Mel's turn.
Mel lives in one of those villages strung out like herring skeletons along a moorland road, where the weather changes three or four times a day and every alleyway has an old brick dunny that used to be shared by the entire street. She seems blissfully happy; another person who struggled to keep her head above water through the white-water tidal race of her teens and twenties only to find herself startled in her thirties by just how pleasant it is to sit on a rock and play ducks and drakes.
But queer things are afoot in the rural North. Mel turned vegetarian years ago, and vegan more recently, and was delighted to find that a geezer had started up in business locally delivering organic vegetables door to door. "Well, I'm hopelessly naive," she says. "I only live a few hundred yards from his house, so originally I offered to come and pick them up myself, but he absolutely refused. Then, every week when he turned up with my big box, he'd ask if there was anything else I wanted. It took months until I realised that all the local hippies weren't just using him for the quality of his carrots and that he was actually the local dealer."
British entrepreneurialism at its most dazzling. This is as obvious a doubling-up of business as video shops that sell ice-cream; and anyone in the fashion business could tell you that there are few better ways of killing the hunger pangs of a vegan diet than a couple of lines of cocaine.
Mel's "dealer", though, has it already planned. "I'm saving up," he says, "to open a couple of outlets in the East End." "What are they?" says Mel, who hasn't heard it before. "Well, there'll be one called Fag 'n' Cake, where all the old girls can go and talk about how everybody used to leave their doors open during the war". "Nice boys, the Krays," says Mel, "Loved their mother." "Mmm," he says. "And the other one will be called Motors 'n' Shooters. Everything for the armed robber. Include a lingerie section and you've got an automatic market for stockings."Reuse content