Many years ago, I used to work in a wine shop. Late one night, a regular customer came in to tell us that he’d just seen a man nick one of our blackboards. These were big, heavy boards that we propped up outside the shop, advertising the latest deals.
Now I’ve seen all kinds of things shoplifted in my time, by the hopeless off-their-face druggies taking a can of strong beer to the highly professional gangs taking champagne and the expensive wine, but no-one had every stolen a blackboard before. I mean they are big, bulky and of no practical use (even as advertising they were highly suspect). As the only girl in the team, it was my job to chase after the shoplifters. OK, it wasn’t my job, but the six foot plus boys I worked with were big scaredy cats, so I walked out of the shop to have a look. Sure enough, just heading round the corner, were two men, slightly weaving, one of which had a board tucked under his arm.
Wanting to catch them before they got too far, I jogged down the road to catch up, shouting “Please may I have my board back?” as I rounded the corner. The two guys swung round and to my horror I realised that one of them was Cider Man.
Cider Man a totally unhinged, off-his-face man who would come into the shop and demand to know why we didn’t keep cider in the fridge (any guesses as to why we didn’t). The conversation would always end up with him shouting at us, then he’d stagger off across the road to the other shop that did keep their cider in the fridge and harass the staff in there. One night, I’d had a bad run in with him and he ended up hanging around outside the shop waiting for closing time having made thinly veiled threats to kill me. Even when the I’d stood up to a gang of six, big, guys who’d come in to nick champagne (the boys cowered behind the counter) or had a shoplifter grab my arm when I was taking down the number plate of his get-away car, I hadn’t been worried. They were sober and predictable. This guy was totally psychopathic and it’s the only time I had been scared.
By now I was mentally kicking myself and praying that he didn’t remember who I was, as we stood in a dark, quiet, side street. This is the mad thing about London. Behind me was a busy, wealthy, Fulham road. Down this side street, the road was quiet, badly lit and lead to really rough council estate.
“What board?” He asked, turning to look innocently round him, the large board almost bashing his friend as he turned.
“Umm, that board..” I pointed.
“I don’t see a board.”
Just as I thought this was going to go on all night, and did I really want the board back that much…..Cider Man’s friend had obviously had come to a similar conclusion.
“Oh for god sake, just give the girl back her board!”
Cider Man looked down and did the perfect comedy double-take. “Well how did that get there?!”
Striking while the going was good, I grabbed the board, politely said thank you and lugged the board back to the shop and my waiting regulars and useless colleagues.