From Chapter Two of Why Drawing Naked Women Is Good For The Soul:
One summer’s day a few years before Churchill died, I delivered some wine to a house a few doors from his London house. I rang the bell and from above I heard a man shout: ‘Tradesmen’s entrance.’
He left the window and a few minutes later popped up from the basement.
‘Oi! Down here.’
I followed him down the steps to the area. He held the door open and ushered me in. He had a nasty look on his face. Delivery boys get nasty faces from adults. Adults forgot it was not the 1930s. Adult arseholes talked to you as if they were the master class and you the underclass, because you were 15. They had lived through the war and shot Germans and killed Japanese. And maybe fucked women in potato sheds and threw grenades at the enemy. We had Elvis Presley, and Paul Anka, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly; we had films and records and we could be our own selves. But when you went to work you realised that they thought you were shit.
‘What gives you the effing right to knock on the effing front door? Eh?’
‘Where’s the notice for tradesmen’s?’
‘We don’t have a notice. We are a cut above. Churchill lives a few doors from us.’
I laughed. I could not help it. This small scrawny man who may have been a hangman in the army had the look of a man who felt he was important.
‘You can’t be that ‘cut above’. My guvnor says you haven’t paid for your drinks for almost a year. And if you don’t pay this week it’s the company’s solicitors after yer.’
He kicked the chair. The chair fell over. He snarled.
‘Your boss told you the private matters of my employer? A piece of shit like you?’
I was enjoying this.
‘And lots more. He said your guvnor did have money but he spunked it away on drink and boys’ arses.’
He kicked the chair again, and threw the now empty box on the floor.
‘Your boss said all this? It’s effing libel. Effing libel.’
I shook my head.
‘You don’t understand mister. It’s libel if it’s printed. It’s slander if it’s said.’
He kicked the box and backed me out towards the door.
‘Get out, you piece of rubbish. Get out.’
A door opened and a man with makeup and wild dyed red hair came in. He was wearing a furred dressing gown. His nails had paint on them. He had a cross face.
‘What is this shouting for Haliburton? Oh, I see some drink relief.’
And then looking a me.
‘And a charming Trollope of a boy to deliver it.’
He smiled and came towards me. His man Haliburton looked down in a shamed way.
‘So thank you, you sweet boy, for bringing all of this to me so early in the morning.’
‘It’s my job Mister. Delivery they call it. For the working classes to do.’
‘Oh, not so much of the class stuff here laddie. We don’t recognise the class stuff here. Do we Haliburton?’
He said this without looking up. I could not avoid a smirk. The master was a complete cunt.
‘Would you take a little drink with me boy?’
He said this coming up very close. He smelt of drink and lavender oil.
‘No sir. It’s illegal to ply drinks on a minor sir. And as a member of the working class I’ve got to keep working.’
He was put off by this.
‘Truculent as well. Ugh! All this class stuff. I bet you’ve been locked up. You have that kind of bitter face.’
‘Not often Mister. Maybe three times.’
The man turned to Haliburton. To scold him.
‘We are obviously using the wrong wine merchants Haliburton! How did this happen?’
‘We deliver to the Royal family Mister. And you won’t be getting any more of the wine and spirits from us. Unless you pay your bills.’
The servant now pushed me towards the door. Though small he was very strong. His master shouted at me.
‘Go and tell your company that their services will no longer be required.’
‘I’ll tell Mister Lindsay Mister. And I’ll say you are a straight up and down gentleman. Not the kind who’d piss his money up the wall on booze and boys.’
The servant took a swing at me that missed. I punched him hard on the nose and it bled. He pulled back and slammed the door. I knocked on the door.
‘Can I have my cardboard box back mister?’
I cycled off on the bike, passing a house with a policeman standing outside. I stopped and called over to the policeman. ‘Is this Churchill’s house guvnor?’ The policeman shouted back: ‘Sir Winston Churchill to you.’ I scoffed. ‘I bet there ain’t one law in this land that says you’ve got to call Churchill Sir Winston Churchill.’ The policemen walked over and took hold of my jacket. ‘Would you like me to get you done for Sus, son? Eh? You look as if you’ve seen the inside of a cell before. And a Black Maria.’ I looked at him and said, ‘I ain’t got no power guvnor. You can say what you like. The world’s yours.’ He let go of my jacket, pushing me at the same time. I cycled off, but stopped fifty yards away. I looked back at the cunt. I took my fingers and made them shaped like a hand gun. Then I put them to my head and went ‘Bang’. And then I cycled off as fast as I could.
From Why Drawing Naked Women Is Good For The Soul, by John Bird.