Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Article excerpt

Low life

I was early for the Club Taurino of London's monthly meeting. They usually have it in a central London tapas bar, but the tapas bar was being refurbished, so they'd booked the function room of a large busy Victorian pub in Paddington. The pub was packed and the bar staff were working like acrobats. I couldn't see any aficionados I knew in there and the barman who served me had no knowledge of the booking. He leafed through the pub diary with one hand and flipped an empty pint glass over and over in the other to keep his momentum going. `Club what?' he said. `You're not a darts team, are you? All I've got down for tonight is a darts match.'

There was a newspaper on the bar. Without physically interfering with it, I read two single-paragraph news stories. In one, an argument about an inheritance had ended with a man bludgeoning his dead father's lover to death with a bust of his father. In the other, a man had shot and killed his best friend during a row about which of them had the longest criminal record. Then someone punched me lightly in the ear. It was my friend LittleEyed Dave. Little-Eyed has no interest in la corrida, but I'm rarely in London and the CTL meeting was an opportunity for us to catch up with each other. `How's tricks, Dave?' I said. `Jel,' he said, `things are going so well at the moment I wouldn't be surprised if it was a fit-up.' I showed him the news paragraphs I'd just read, but he didn't see the funny side. In the milieu Dave moves in, it isn't unusual for heated arguments to end in bloodshed. In fact a friend of Dave's was currently being blamed by police for shooting a nightclub doorman in a case that made some of the nationals. `If Ronnie did it,' commented Dave, `he must be a very good shot because he was in Maidstone prison at the time, doing six months for deception.'

I ordered drinks. While the barman was away pouring them, Little-Eyed said, `He's from Kerry, he is. I can tell a Kerry accent anywhere.' Little-Eyed thinks he's a bit of an authority on regional accents, so when the barman came back with our drinks, I said, `Where are you from, by the way?' `Sweden,' said the barman.

I told Little-Eyed I was surprised that an honest man like Ronnie should end up going to prison for deception. `That's right, Jel,' said Little Eyed. …

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