As a local writer of no celebrity, and even less fortune, I dine at the finest joints and hang out at the trendiest of scenes. By these I refer to the lowliest possible table in Costa Coffee, right by the toilet door, where no-one ever wants to sit, and of the reading room of the town’s central library, but it was by frequenting these locations that it put me in the sphere of influence of certain local characters.
As a local writer of no celebrity and even less fortune I naturally dine at the finest tables and hang out at the trendiest scenes. And by that I, of course, mean the library reading room and the lowliest possible table in Costa Coffee outside the toilet door where no-one ever wants to sit. But by frequenting these locations it does put me in the sphere of influence of certain local characters.
When I was at Bangor University there was an edict passed down by the head of department that no visiting prospective student should be taken above the sixth floor, because they didn’t need to see what went on up there; for a clean-living physical chemist like himself he considered the organic research groups to be dirty, seeing as they actually did proper chemical experiments, and for him, safely ensconced in his first floor office, they were the departmental shame.
Having given up a so-called proper job to become a writer I reviewed my end-of-year accounts where in the In column I had fifty pounds which I’d won on the premium bonds, the two tickets I’d won to an American podcast recording in a science-fiction bar, and the two I’d also won to a National Theatre play. And that was all. I’d once been disillusioned about the paltry sums earned by writers, but even so this was going some.
The Daily Telegraph finally got with the programme and printed an article on “café conquerors”, and “coffee shop lingerers”; those hardy souls who consider the price of a coffee to be the rent for office space, which they then proceed to hog, so it’s nice to know that I’m clearly a trend-setter seeing as how I got in on the act before it became over-fashionable. A trend-setter and an all-round menace to society, it seems.
I do love a local legend; the affectionate term for the group of characters who, combined, can be defined as the people who make our communities unique; whilst, individually, they can be summed up as that nutter who lives down the road. I once found a national website called Local Legends, compiled from local contributions, which chronicled some of these hardy heroes who clog up our high streets. Looking up the local area the most amusing feature seemed to be someone called Mad Denis who had a biography which lets the reader know that he’s mad, and that he’s ginger, and that he’s well known for “showing off his large belly and shouting “I am the Lord” at the top of his voice”. I like it how his biographer felt compelled to finish off this Who’s Who entry with: “Not to be approached”.