Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leamington Is Full Of The Strangest People, No. 1: Bob The Shopkeeper

It’s taken a while for this guy to impinge on my consciousness but now that he’s arrived I find it very hard to miss him.

He works at a corner shop just down the road from me. It is diametrically opposed (both physically and commercially) to another corner shop on the other side of the road. Normally I favour the other one – the fruit and veg is always of excellent quality and all the goods are well within their sell by date. As a regular purchaser of comestibles these are the qualities that are of the most importance to me.

But occasionally I’ll nip into the “not so good” shop. For a packet of crisps. Or a Yorkie. I just happen to be on that side of the road and can’t be bothered to cross over, etc.

He – “Bob” – is normally always standing outside the shop. Naturally I at first assumed he was doing some sort of building work inside although there was never actually any evidence of this. Aside from the shiny white construction safety hat that is constantly perched upon his head, that is. Occasionally he’ll have what I assume is a walkie-talkie in his hand but I suspect it is nothing more than a child’s toy, a chunky mobile phone or even an empty box though he’ll occasionally raise it to his lips at a jaunty 45 degree angle as if talking to someone (I can only assume it’s Lofty).

Lately though he’s taken to carrying a new looking black briefcase around with him. The way he swings it about would suggest it’s empty but it’s quite possible it contains his packed lunch.

Whenever I see him he is either pacing around outside the shop or walking back to it as if he’s just come from the shop on the opposite side of the road. Possibly he’s been checking out the competition or just plain scaring them with his intense building site demeanour and the packet of prawn cocktail crisps he keeps stashed in his case.

When I went into the shop the other day he followed me in.

I mean literally followed me in – like we were doing a parachute jump together and he was the instructor guy attached to my back. Thankfully he detached himself once we were inside and swept his hand grandly across the serving counter just in case I’d failed to observe it. He then gave the Asian girl behind the counter a quick nod as if giving her permission to serve me. She seemed totally OK with this and it was at this point I surmised that possibly this guy owns the shop and is the girl’s boss and/or father.

I got on with selecting a Yorkie bar – one that hadn’t been snapped in half – and removing the small change from my wallet.

“I’ve had a very good day today...” issued from behind me in a tone so gravelly and with such a heavy Anglo-Indian accent it took me several attempts to decipher what it was he was saying. Luckily he did actually repeat himself several times in order for me to do this.

Now I didn’t ignore him deliberately. I genuinely thought he was talking to the girl behind the counter so I didn’t answer. I merely handed my Yorkie over and let the girl ring the price up on the till.

“Do you want a bag?” came from behind me.

Suddenly I twigged that he was definitely talking to me and that possibly all his past proclamations had also been meant for my ears. Shoot. I turned round and, staring into the strangely feral gleam of his builder’s hard hat, told him as jocularly as I could that no, I didn’t need a bag as I doubted the chocolate would last that long once I’d got it outside.

He nodded officiously and clapped his briefcase smartly to the side of his leg. Kind of like Bob The Builder doing a Hitler salute. It was an incongruous combination to say the least.

The girl then handed me my change. Very deliberately counting it out in my hand and giving me way too much. I’d virtually got the Yorkie for free. I opened my mouth to protest but she held up her hand and said, “No, it’s alright”.

I think I managed a nonplussed nod of acknowledgement and then walked out into the relatively sanity of the afternoon sunshine.

Although nothing actually happened I nevertheless found the whole incident incredibly bizarre. I feel like I completely missed something; something that would make his behaviour and the deliberate mistake with the change both connected and logical. I came out of the shop wandering if Bob had somehow slipped me some Rohipnol and erased a couple of hours of my life but no... time seemed to have elapsed normally. I’d plainly just entered The Twilight Zone.

I’ll be watching Bob carefully from now on. He’s either snapped mentally like Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down and will be arriving armed and intense at a fast food joint near you very soon or he’s working his way through a fixation with the Village People and next week will be performing a rain dance outside the shop resplendent in fake Native American headdress picked up dirt cheap on eBay.

Either way I think I’ll be acquiring my Yorkies elsewhere from now on – despite the generous compensation offered by the girl behind the counter.

Leamington, eh? It’s full of the strangest people.

(This is possibly the first in an absurdly long running series but don’t hold your breath.)


24 comments:

Gappy said...

Oh please go back. I want to read the next installment. Bizarre indeed. I felt all vicariously weird there.

Steve said...

Gappy: "vicariously weird"? Now that is weird!

The Dotterel said...

Clearly the shop is just a front for some top-secret and highly important international security-related activity and your potential as a new recruit was being tested.

And I think you might have failed.

Oh well. How was the Yorkie?

Steve said...

Dotterel: the Yorkie was weird. It had a strange chemical aftertaste and gave me flashbacks to a desert campaign that to my knowledge I didn't actually take part in. And it gave me a slightly upset stomach. I think I might go for a Milky Way next time.

Kelloggsville said...

well finally the gap I had in the bank holiday has been filled, I have to go try this one out for myself. But Milky Way you say, hmmmm maybe there is a combination in the chocolate bar you buy and the answer to the 'innocent' remark "I've had a very good day". Watch the news for woman killed by poisen pen in Bob shock Riddle (Did it cross your mind that she was just farming out on you a bunch of fake coins she'd taken that day?!)

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: no, those coins were genuine; I broke my teeth on them and everything. But maybe his remark did comprise some kind of test.... maybe he's a spy and thought I was a colleague come to collect a top secret dossier (that he found abandoned on a train)? Possibly I should have replied: the eagles in Siberia wear hockey shorts for Midsummer's Eve... and then I would have found myself awarded possession of his sacred packet of prawn cocktail crisps. Hmm. To tell you the truth, I'm rather glad I kept my gob shut...!

Monalisa said...

Try the Crunchies next time...

Steve said...

Monalisa: I may well do... but I will be avoiding the Snickers like the plague... too damned nutty. ;-)

Vicky said...

I watched Falling Down on the weekend, very scary movie.

femminismo said...

This is too weird! However did you keep from laughing? "Oddball and the Girl Who Tried to Protect Him." Perhaps - please - the first chapter. Let us know of other odd Leamingtons. I see your area becoming a tourist haven for those who love oddballs.

Steve said...

Vicky: it is - but I totally agree with him re: the argument over the hamburger.

Femminismo: hmm... you might be onto something there... Steve's Rough Guide To Leamo... hmmm! Leave it with me! ;-)

Selina Kingston said...

That made me snort with quiet laughter so much that the coffee I was trying to drink came out of my nose ! It was the bit about him following you into the shop....
And why are so many asian men of that generation called Bob. I can think of two straight away. They are not obvious indian names!
You do paint a very interesting picture of Leamington. I am definitely going to have to pay it a visit one day. Thing is, I don't even know where it actually is ....
Thank you for being so entertaining!

Steve said...

Selina: what a delightful image - snotty coffee! Cafe au bogie! I may have to try and order that next time I'm in a coffee shop (I'm sure it won't be the first time these ragamuffin waiters have sneezed into someone's latte)! As for Bob - that's my name for him; I have no idea what his real name is at all and to be honest i don't want to get that intimate with him! As for Leamington - we're smack bang in the middle of the UK!

Nota Bene said...

I've known plenty of weird people from Leamington myself...and I thought they were for real..

Steve said...

Nota Bene: sometimes their corporeality is the strangest thing about them...

Fran said...

Is 'do you want a bag' code for something? My son swears that if you go to the corner shop and ask for baked beans you get drugs.

Steve said...

Fran: what do you get if you ask for drugs?

Joe Bloggs said...

Funny think; my local kiosk chap is a builder too - but he's a booby<strikeout<, bobby<strikeout<, body bulider... I think his name is Mahambob but I'm knot sure cos the guy glares (when he smiles it's like the sun's come out, ie. rarely - it's alwash raining here) like he's playing for cheops or summit.

BTW - Bob's actually me uncle... but he prefers to be called Robert, problahblahbly cos his brother/me dad is always ever so pleased to trumpet - BOB'S YOUR UNCLE, SON! whenever there's a family do

Löst Jimmy said...

"comestibles" - it's been a while since I heard that word, I like it,...as for the Yorkie...it sounds like you were getting some chocolate payoff - now your owing them, they'll most likely call you later for some 'job' or something...

Steve said...

Joe: Bob might be your uncle but is Fanny your aunt?

Löst Jimmy: you could be right... but I suspect the job he might be wanting me to do is a spot of bricklaying or putting up a stud wall...

Joe Bloggs said...

Fanny you should mention it, though alas - not any more - Mae she rest in peace.

Being Me said...

I'm coming to the conclusion that your comments (readers and your responses combined) are just as thoroughly entertaining as your posts and that I must allow enough time to read those as well.

That is all. As you were.

Steve said...

Joe: sorry to hear that Fanny has gone lightly... Mae she rest in peace.

Being Me: time spent wisely is a wise investment indeed... I'm honoured that you choose to spend yours here... Though not sure how wise that is!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Sounds like The Twiglet Zone to me!
;- )