Celtic Illumination, part 254, I’m away wi’ the raggle taggle gypsy-o!
My Forces Master project was coming along well. Basically I was going to approach the armed forces from the top down. Abbey Life were preparing printed material to support me, all I had to do was prepare a killer presentation. At that time small briefcase sized computers were being used to give people accurate and on the spot quotes for whatever product they were interested in. It was a great tool because it was so simple to use you could just give the computer to the clients and let them fill out all the information. My idea was to get official permission to enter a unit or a base and give a presentation either in a mess or the families club or both. It would all depend on the response.
There would be no pressure to sell, but I believed that by explaining the world of insurance and mortgages, mixed in with a bit of humour and the odd drink, plus being able to play with the computers, people might be more willing to sign up for something if they hadn’t felt under any pressure and really did understand what was going on. That was the plan, but as with all things insurance we would have to give it a pretty thorough road test and begin crunching numbers so that we would work out a ratio concerning the number of people attending and the number of sales made. I think I had been influenced by the civilian teacher who took us through the economics course and who now spent his time floating around military base teaching O Level courses.
Occasionally I would go word blind, where you stare at a page but can’t really see anything, so I would leave the office and wander along the streets of London. It was good to get out and about. One day I realised that it was Saint Patricks Day so I dropped everything and made my way over to Kilburn, one of the areas heavily populated with Irish people. The pubs were heaving and as long as you were Irish you were a friend of everyone there. I was making my way along Kilburn High Street when I came to a pub which I think was called The Globe. I went in and was surprised to see most people present visibly withdraw away from me.
First impressions told me that it was a pretty rough joint and I probably did look a little out of place in my sharp suit. I eventually discovered that it was a pub that was popular with the gypsies. It took a while before I fell into conversation with some of them when I found out that they thought I was a policeman. Back home in Ireland I wouldn’t have given them the time of day for you really did have to count your fingers if you ever shook hands with one them. They also had a reputation for being tough, which they were, but it was a mixture of thick headedness, stupidity and not knowing when to stop that brought about their fierce reputation. While chatting away we became aware of one gipsy who was a bit drunk giving the barmaid, or landlady, some lip because she refused to serve him.
I promise you I have never seen anything like in in my life, and probably never will again, but the barmaid leaned forward and punched the gypsy in the face. The gypsy collapsed to the floor and the barmaid, perhaps landlady, strolled around from behind the bar, hoiked the gypsy under the armpits and dragged him out through the door. And she did this without one word, it was amazing. I left as I felt the gypsies were beginning to get a bit boisterous. I was wandering along Kilburn High Street when I met a fellow I knew from Violent Hell, Dermot. Dermot, like myself, was working in London and had made his way to Kilburn for a bit of craic. Boy did we have some craic. Dermot was flitting between London and Ireland and happened to have a large bottle of poteen in his pocket.
This of course was for sharing as no one on their right mind would attempt to drink even half a bottle of poteen. We were soon best friends with everyone in the pub we had found. And it’s only when you fall out of a pub, around midnight, that you realise you are stuck with no trains running, a severely limited bus service, leaving you the only option of catching a taxi, but where to, the office would be shut, so briefcase, train tickets etc are still on desk. How or what happened next I don’t know, but I do know that both Dermot and myself woke up in someone’s front room. We must have made a new best friend for life the previous evening; his wife didn’t seem too impressed as she nearly threw the bacon sandwiches she had made at us. The detritus in the front room told a little bit of what might have happened as there was an empty vodka bottle, which had been used to hide the poteen, but there was a gin bottle as well, loads of empty beer cans and empty curry dishes plus a large potted plant that seemed to double as an ash tray.
We made our excuses and left using our internal navigation systems to help us find a main street somewhere, a tube station and back into mainstream life again. I certainly didn’t feel human when I made it back to the office. My plan for the remainder of the day was a simple one. Collect my stuff, make my excuses and leave. I needed a shower and a change of clothes, I could have done with a pull through with a stiff metal brush, but that would have to wait. I nearly made my escape but was cornered by Graham who insisted that I accompany him to the board room where I was to help with a very important task that was hush hush. I was aware that Graham was a professional bull shitter so wondered what on earth could be so hush hush that was going on in the board room.
It was like a scene from a gangster movie. The large table in the centre of the room was covered in cash and I mean covered. There were already three or four fellows flicking though bundles of cash which, once checked, were laid in a nice tight pile at one end of the table. The boss of the office was keeping score and everyone worked in silence. “Make sure there’s a thousand in each bundle,” said Graham, who, with a wave of his hand invited me to choose my bundle. Believe it or not people do come across large lump sums of money now and again. In the city it was common for people to get one or two million as a bonus, some people sold houses left to them by parents so they would want to invest and protect their money. One way of doing this was to buy a pension and invest your lump sum that way, for a good return. However there were other people who came across large lumps of money from their not so legitimate businesses. These people might own lots of tanning salons, or supplying vast quantities of Bolivian marching powder to the army of users that lurked in the shadows of London and every other city, town and village in the land.
The standard was that you could borrow back a percentage of your investment, so if you put one million into a pension fund, you could immediately borrow back up to seventy five percent, seven hundred and fifty thousand. For criminals it was a godsend and as Thatcher was telling us all that greed was good, investment companies were falling over themselves to attract this new stream of clients. The one thing you could be sure of is that not one person in that room would ever think about slipping the odd bundle down the front of their trousers, these people were tough enough to give even the gypsies a run for their money, although I don’t know if they could have stood up to that landlady.