“When I first came to London I was only sixteen; with a fiver in my pocket and my ole dancing bag; I went down to the dilly to check out the scene; And I soon ended up on the old main drag.”—Shane MacGowan.
I was nineteen, and having already heard Mr. MacGowan’s cautionary tale, I had no intention of ending up on the old main drag.
Upon my arrival, this was the welcome that I received.
“Where are you planning on working illegally in London?”
“You” are not “your mind”. You are a “host” for your mind; and if you’re like me, (which I pray you are not), your mind has a habit of making you say things that are not beneficial for your well-being.
What my mind wanted to say was, “Well, I was hoping to work illegally at a construction site, lay my hands on some (brand name deleted) and either take it back to Ireland or maybe use it here, like at your mother’s house, or something.”
Luckily, I overcame my my mind for once, and said, “I’m not here to work. I have a job.”
Which was not true.
“Then what is your purpose for visiting England?”
“Touring. You know, seeing the sights and all.”
I was forced to show all of my money, my return ticket, and so much more.
And so, after I got myself a job working illegally at a construction site, with no intention of doing anything other than making a few pounds, I had to find a place to stay.
I have English friends in London.
They like me because I love surfing and drinking (not at the same time, kids), and because I can take an Irish joke.
Because I am one.
I like them, because they also like to surf and drink, and also because they both come from families richer than the Vatican.
Which affords me to live in the style to which I’m (not) accustomed.
Neither one of these bastards was at home.
One of them likes to spend his free time in jail; the other, at his parent’s second home in Brittany.
I couldn’t afford a hotel; didn’t want to stay in a hostel if I didn’t have to, and then I remembered a Canadian acquaintance of mine who was also working illegally in London. I rang him up, and asked him if he had a place for me to stay for a bit.
” Yeah. But you’re not going to like it.”
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I did not. He was living in what would be generously described as a hell-hole; the lights were flickering, the roof was leaking, there were about seventeen non-English-speaking Chinese illegals there, and the landlord was an arse.
“Do you have any other suggestions?,” I asked my Canadian friend.
“Look, I know it’s awful, but if you’re going to go about (aboot) working illegally in the U.K., this is the best you’re going to get.”
I didn’t believe him and spent the next two days looking for something better. Turns out he was right.
By the time I got back, the Chinese had multiplied from seventeen into something around one hundred thousand; the electricity was out, and the place was flooded.
“Fuck this,” I said. “I’m going back to Ireland. I’ll sleep in a ditch in Donegal before I live in this.”
“I’m coming, too,” “Gordon” said. (Every Canadian male is named Gordon, every female, Kathy. Just kidding, Canada. You know I love you.)
“Not with me, you’re not. I’m gone.”
When I left, I ran into the same bastard that had so graciously welcomed me to England with his proper British manners. He remembered me and asked how my touring had gone over.
“Delightful. I love London. It looks just like something out of 101 Dalmatians.”
The “mind” took over, there.
So, I had to be searched again, and all of that, and was cordially invited by the aforementioned prick never to visit the country again.
So I did.