Holding screwdrivers and conversations: the art of being a Compleat Landlord. Episode 4: Greengrocer’s and their apostrophe’s?

Image result for greengrocer 1950s photos

It’s not just customers and staff that landlords have to deal with – it’s suppliers too. They’re a mixed bunch, from the faceless corporations who deliver 15 days late and then want to charge you £12 because you’re one day overdue with payment, to the little men: the butcher, the baker and the……greengrocer (candles are never an issue) with his myriad superfluou’s apostrophe’s. It’s not actually fair to single out one particular retailer for grammatical error’s – I’ve bought my share of pork lion chop’s; the fishmonger once sold me 2kg of Hadd Ox (he had just arrived from Bulgaria) and I’ve even seen a hand-written invoice from a wine merchant for two dozen Servant Mont Blanc (just assume the person is tee-total or new and ignore it).

Greengrocer’s are special though. Some of them have been at it for generation’s. My wife admit’s to being confused about where apostrophe’s belong because, as an avid and early reader, much of her grammar was learnt from shop sign’s (that and the fact that she’s from the north). Here’s something my greengrocer Alf said to me the other day. He didn’t breathe when he said it and he tells me something similar most days.

“I says to my missus I mean my ex-missus cos we’re not togevver anymore you can’t move to Cornwall coz I get up at one firty every day six days a week and then I gotta drive to fuckin St Ives to see my daughter and it’s not fair I know you don’t like me but it’s not fair on her and my new missus never gets to see me cos she‘s in Derby waiting for her divorce to come through and her and her old man just lived off credit cards and had all these fancy holidays but then they had ninety grand on credit cards with all that interest and I turned round and said to her if you wanna live like that you better find someone else cos mum and dad offered us a free pitch on their site and we could live in a caravan and all I’ve gotta do is buy the caravan and she turns rounds and says she don’t wanna do that she says I’m not living in in caravan and I turns round and says why not all you’d ave to pay for is your food and you’re in a sorry state if you can’t afford to eat I live by what cash I’ve got in my pocket and I ‘ad a Beamer on trial last weekend the dealer wanted forty five grand and I turns round and says I’ll give you forty cash and he said I can’t take that kinda cash and I said I don’t want it then ‘ere mate do us a favour can you pay me that thirty quid from yesterdays delivery cos im going out tonight? I don’t wanna keep working like this I turns round and says to my old man why don’t we sell up and live on the costa del sol and play golf all fuckin day and he turns round and says he don’t like that my old man but I don’t see the point what is the point you don’t have a life do you if all you do is fucking work and I’m gonna dump my missus anyway what I wanna know is how everyone in town knows my business I don’t like it they’re all talking about my personal life? It’s not right.”

He delivers that sort stream of consciousness as if it’s a free gift that comes with the order. It might as well be wrapped in a brown paper bag and be charged for by the bunch. The speed of delivery, lack of hesitation, political correctness and volume are all Olympian. Dizzying even. Even more dizzying than the fact that, in his conversations at least, no-one can say anything without “turning ‘round”. A party at his house must be like a Whirling Dervishes’ rehearsal session, with a peculiar rule that you can’t start a conversation with anyone until they’ve turned their back on you. Or perhaps they actually turn ‘round’, inflating like human balloons each time they speak.

I’d like to hear him do it on a shrink’s couch, with the tape spools running ever faster simply to keep up. I’ve reached the point of hiding in the attic when I see the van or even borrowing three carrots from a neighbour to avoid having a delivery. It’s not a conversation, it’s a Cockney monologue that would benefit from a few bits of rhyming and two chords from Chas ‘n’ Dave. He could write an Eastenders Christmas Special in fifteen minutes; chuck in a couple of discharges from a sawn-off and he’d knock off two series of the Sweeney in a week. He means well but don’t we all? Like when you ask after a customer’s husband to find he’s emptied the bank account and run off with the au pair – possibly not something she needed urgently reminding off.

There’s his van now. Must go, I saw two rogue wild potato plants in the back field. If I can dig up 5lb, I might not have to have a delivery tomorrow……

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