I moved back to England in 1990 on a whim and a toss of a coin.
I’d first left England mid 1980’s, explored and exhausted possibilities in Melbourne, various places in New Zealand, and finally Hong Kong where I had (sort of) come off drugs, worked profitably full time, taken up hard core drinking and put on a huge amount of weight.
I settled in Brixton, establishing a few contacts with old friends from New Zealand and Hong Kong and started renting a room in a flat.
I had arrived in the country with my CV and a large dose of positive and what I thought was organised, thinking.
Within a fortnight I was having the occasional hit of heroin with one of the aforementioned old friends, and quickly realised I needed to generate an income to accommodate what looked like a new recreational approach to drug taking.
I went to a local pub in Ferndale road, around the corner from my flat, armed with pen and a stack of newspapers with multiple work available ads.
Seating myself at a table in the otherwise empty bar, I smoked, sipped and circled. The obese Irishman behind the bar noted my actions and suggested I work there.
Always a sucker for the easiest option I did.
Although the landlord Paedar, was Irish, the clientele of the pub were predominantly Jamaican. The pub was very,very run down. The previous incarnation of the building was a front for a drug dealer, so the onus was on things other than clean beer pipes and maintained fittings, and the bar and its regular clientele were just superficialities and props.
Paedar had started running the pub not long before I started working there. He came from a tiny place in Ireland and it was surreal the way he brought his small town Irish nationalism to a multi cultural corner of London and created an alternate reality there; a reality decorated like a room in his Edenderry home complete with indigenous food and local characters.
Characters that could be stereotypes from a sitcom would move in and out of the pub, visiting from the home country.
Geraldine, a singer, was a huge woman with white blonde hair and a head that used to wobble slightly when she talked and wobble even more when she sang, like a slightly ADS angel.
Ollie, a psychopath who worked on a building site.
John Joe with his suits and his priest like persona albeit a persona physically decorated with an impressive dent in his head from Gaelic hurling.
A second John Joseph, also be-suited, but opting for the well dressed Mafioso look.
In more recent years mulling over my part in this strange dynamic, it seems all the more odd, although it is the nature of human beings to create a comfortable place for themselves.
A group of people playing their usual roles, but in an alien place surrounded by drug dealers, local prostitutes and an older generation of respectable Jamaican immigrants loudly manhandling dominoes as they had their post work drinks; all also existing in a transported bubble of home comforts and characters.
The internet being the handy tool that it is, I thought I should check out the eventual fate of some of these people. I found they all had eventually returned to Ireland. They are older, fatter, but seemingly unchanged, and now they are in context.