‘A breash of freth air…‘
With spring singing in the breeze I’m following the asphalt carpet to Broadway Market. Regent’s Canal is the closest thing you’ll find to a seashore in Shoreditch and here I am, gushing alongside an orgy of lycra-licked Haggerstonians – from starchy stomached joggers to humour-free vegans. We’re all enduring another joyless session of ‘spandexercise’.
“Which way to Columbia Road from here?” A jolly older gent enquires dripping with discharge, “I can’t quite see the signs!”
“Just keep running that way mate.” I say only too happy to help. “You’ll see a HUGE sign!”
He skips off into the golden distance, smiling and waving and it’s already too late to tell him that he’s heading in entirely the wrong direction. I pick up the pace with a gut full of guilt.
The banal canal continues as I delve ever deeper into its depths. I’d made it no further than the gusset of Hoxton when a curious couple spill onto the grass lathering each other in lust. I squat atop a nearby bench and observe. Their clumsy ardour held within it it’s own peculiar beauty. It wasn’t long, however, before their primal desire turned somewhat sour.
“Billy!” Shrieked the straw-haired woman with eyebrows as high as her heels. “Whose teeth marks is those!??”
His neck pierced with dental dents, the hubby could only offer: “Yours…”
“Taking the pish?” She wheezed through the toothless barrel of her mouth.
A fetid chorus of inarticulate bile continued, molesting the once serene scene.
The sizzling woman’s meat – and all the trimmings – seeped through her skant threads, turning stomachs and heads. The accused man extended a digit to his dog. “It was the fackin’ mutt Trace!” He spasmed. The dog looked on mortified. Disbelieving and appalled, the poor lady squelched off into the stark blandscape.
“You can milk yourself tonight!!”
An orgy of eyes remained tethered to Billy as he stood entombed in an acute bubble of embarrassment.
“Women!” he scoffed flicking his eyeballs to the heavens. “…Am I right…?!”
Insouciant sunbathers shrug in unison; the impossible silence had now become unbearable.
It was about this time, if my memory serves me right (which it doesn’t), that a panting chap running backwards for charity plonked himself beside me. With stocky legs, like two slabs of kebab wrapped in shin pads, he sported a full football strip and evinced a smug whiff of Lynx. ‘Putting the ‘FUN’ in Fundraising’ read his fluorescent bib’.
“I’m just doing it for the wee kiddie winkles…” He said with dead eyes, lifting his bucket of donations towards the yolk-yellow sun.
“Amazing. How much have you—”
“They LOVE me.” He interrupted clutching my knee. “Ain’t a child in this town I wouldn’t run backwards for…”
“What charity are you—” A polyphonic sea shanty blares out of his phone cutting me off again.
“Hellooo?” He answers. “Yeah it’s Ice. How many grams y’want…?”
Billy’s purple ears prick up bursting with intrigue. He strides over and bosoms himself between Ice and myself. Speaking in terse verse it swiftly became apparent that Ice was peddling more than just love and charity. Hanging up, he winks “It’s all for a good cause,” before peeling off his putrid shoes and socks. Billy thrusts him a crumpled handful of tenners. “What have you got that can cheer me up?”
A smile melted onto Ice’s pinched face as he passed along a goody bag of narcotic granules. Unwrapping the gift like a giddy child on Christmas morning, Billy boy’s bowels churned with excitement. The joy was contagious. With the heat and excitement rising, Ice removed his t-shirt and began wrestling with Billy. It was a picture that need never be painted as they grappled and laughed and clogged the footpath.
Swarms of cyclists whizzed past almost certainly too fast and a corpulent shadow now stretched into view. At the base of the shadow stood Billy’s lover. She watched the gurning guys wrestling and writhing, entombed in a clumsy cloud of male-on-male lesbianism; Ice began playfully whipping Billy with his damp tube sock and I knew it was curtains. I glanced back to the poor woman. A thin black tear coursed down her ashen cheek and she dribbled off without a peep.
The lazy afternoon yawned and so it continued. Naff socks and critically ill-fitting trousers lay strewn along the canal side while Ice counted his donations in little more than his pants and shin pads.
“So is all that money actually going to charity?” I asked.
Ice shuffled in his seat, straightened his spine and finally replied, “Absolutely not.”