Sunday, December 11, 2005

One Potato, Two Potato...

So what’s December like in London? Cold? Yes! Dark? Yes! White? Any day now. I’ve got to admit that it doesn’t feel as Christmassy as I thought it would. Considering I work in a music store I thought I’d be bombarded with that big-city pushy, angry, rushed, commercial Christmas spirit. But we don’t even wish our customers Merry Christmas... yet. Although I am wincing in anticipation at the variety of Christmas albums that will make their way onto the store sound system any day now; two favourites are White Snake’s “White Christmas” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Merry Christmas”.

HMV Islington is a decent place to work as far as retail goes. It’s considered small by London standards but it’s in fact the size of Sounds Mega Store on Queen St in Auckland. There are nine of us temps and about 15 other staff all together. Three of us temps are Kiwis joining another fulltime New Zealander (from the Shore); plus an Australian temp, two lesbians (one who’s Polish), and two Allans (who get differentiated by the names ‘Gay Allan’ and ‘Games Allan’; which when pronounced by the two Eastenders who work there isn’t a differentiation at all).

Adding to the multiculturalism are our two security guards; the quintessential odd couple. Rob is Irish but grew up in the Eastend, so can barely pronounce any word as the Queen intended. Starting with the shop’s name… “Haytch-M-V”. Being of Irish descent his “th” is just “t” as in “t’ink” instead of “think”. But his Cockney upbringing means a “v” is pronounced as a “th” or an “f” or a slurred combination of both as in “guf’nor” instead of “guv’nor”. Which is why I had to stop myself laughing when he told me his job was “to catch the all the teething bastards”.

Of course Rob was probably being ironic as most of the theives coming into the store are merely babies.

The other security guard (or Loss Prevention Officer as HMV likes them to be known) is a Pakistani who’s no taller than me. His name is Mo… which is short for Muhammad. Now, while a 5’ 6” Pakistani may not strike fear into most criminals I can assure you he’s one dude I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. One Sunday afternoon a young crackhead (and I assume he was a crackhead because he had some sort of vessel underneath his Umbro track top with a crackpipe poking out the top of the zipper and dangling near his mouth) was suspiciously hanging about the 50 Cent CDs. I informed Mo who approached the chap and as he did the crackhead reached into his pocket and before I could even see it was a knife Mo had knocked it out of his hand and into a display of Madonna DVDs.

Last Saturday we had our staff Christmas party. We resisted the urge to hire a fancy bar, put on a spread, or hang some decorations. So off we all went - boys and girls, gays, lesbain Jews, and Gentiles - around the corner to our local pub and we put the entire budget on the bar. Within two hours the management had asked us to leave (the Shore girl had emptied her stomach across the pool table). The next day at work wasn't any prettier: two people called in sick, two didn’t even show up and one girl had five epileptic fits on the stock room floor. As bad taste as it sounds I secretly hoped the paramedics would take me away on the stretcher and nurse me back to good health.

Now the great thing about London is the best nights to go out are the nights that aren’t Friday and Saturday. So having survived that hellish Sunday at work I went off to my favourite club-night. It’s called Buzzin’ Fly and it’s at a club named Plastic People. Funny names aside it’s got the most amazing sound system and they play some amazingly cool tunes. And on this particular occasion I got to rub shoulders and have a boogie with Tracey Thorn from Everything But The Girl, Ed from Chemical Brothers and Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream. Which, for those looking confused, are essentially the dukes and duchesses of early 90s British electronica.

I struggled to get through work on Monday but seeing as I had Tuesday off a few of the boys from work decided to have a few “quiet” drinks. Now, another really good night to go out in London is a Monday night. We soon found ourselves in a queue for this uber-cool club-night called Trash. It’s a really crazy place playing Glam Rock, Nu Wave, Synth Pop and 80s Electro. More crazy names, I know, but not half as crazy as the regulars who come to this night – the majority dressing like David Bowie and Debbie Harry in their prime. How we got let into the premises I’m not too sure. I think it had something to do with the French man in the queue in front of us, wearing a Yves Saint Laurent shirt and LaCoste specs, who got kicked out of the line for “looking like he came straight from work”. The bouncers felt they probably should let us in to set an example; despite the fact we were dressed like - and had come - straight from work.

Inside was all a bit too much of a timewarp for me; but I impressed these two Spanish girls who weren’t impressed that I was buying a Becks when there was San Miguel on offer. So they bought me San Miguel for the rest of the night… and I’ve never been one to turn down free beer from Spanish girls. When the club finished up the girls offered to take me and the boys to some private Spanish club a few blocks away. Despite their thick accents they didn’t need to ask twice. So we followed them down this dark street off Tottenham Court Road where they knocked on a random black door and uttered the password to get in: “Potato Potato”. That had us in hysterics but unfortunately the club was closed. So Maria and Ana set off into the sunrise and we grabbed a hotdog before the police officer arrested the vendor for selling dodgy food, jumped on the N19 back to Highbury & Islington, and got some much needed rest.

All of the above is really just stamina training as I’ve recently been informed that I’ll be working on New Year’s Day!


At 7:01 pm, Anonymous Anita said...

Hi Randall

Well a very enlightening update into the (mad) world of working at HMV and the social goings ons.
What a bummer you have to work New Years Day. Don't suppose they give you double time or anything.
Well it sounds like work is keeping you very occupied, especially having to be on the look out for "thieves". Sounds like a very lively mixed bunch you're working with.
I don't know whether to hope for snow for you, but I hope it starts to feel like Christmas soon.

Take care

At 7:02 pm, Blogger Bee said...

Partying hard. Good to hear.

Well I am writing this from your old turf, here in Auckland. But won't be trying to match your partying ways.

Sounds like your place of employment is so fun you may not want to leave.

Better leave it at that as about to attack Auckland traffic.

Good to hear from you. Take care.

Have a lufly Christmas

Bee, Martin, Isaiah and Dayna

At 8:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scandal Munro - a great way to start a Monday morning and better still I have just scored U2 tickets and didn't even have to pick up a phone nevermind sleep outside Real Groovy for 2 days like everyone else. Will email you the tales of a huge night at Spy on Friday shortly. Didnt get to George Xmas party - long stort- might call you this weekend.

Mrs Lewis-Mayes

At 10:23 am, Anonymous Phantom 48 said...

Phew, was beginning to think you'd been kidnapped, or even worse when I saw there have been more huge explosions around London somewhere.
Well Rob will feel he has a real mate with the Aussie working at HaytchMV. I chuckle all the time when they spell something with an Haytch in it.
Like Anita, hope you start feeling some Christmas spirit soon (not that you need any encouragement for the alcoholic kind). What plans do you have for the big day?
So England isn't like the States huh, where the mail must get through?? Hope they made an exception in your case, and your present made it.
As always, take care. Love - Mum

At 9:05 pm, Anonymous Tom Kelly said...

Sounds like your stamina is getting up there. Happy New Year.

At 10:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

poof. drink more. always more.

muchos aroha
k. x


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