“I’ll knock you from here to next week”, he said, looking straight into my eyes.
At that point, looking into his angry mouth, I knew I had more teeth than him, for how long this would remain so, I had no idea.
I was sitting in the Caffe Nero in Euston, enjoying some fancy Red Velvet Cake and a big mug of black coffee. All was quiet, a low rumble of gossip and travel detail as people prepared to wheel their cases to Liverpool, Carlisle or Bletchley. I had just tweeted about how much I was looking forward to that night’s Dead Funny night.
The low rumble was shattered by an outbreak of bellowed and toxic, “you cunt. You foreign cunt. Get. back to your own country.” It might have started earlier, but that was the first I became aware of it. I looked over, and there was a man holding a sandwich, with an umbrella under his arm, and a rucksack. It was an altercation between him and a barista. I got back to mulling over the opening credits of The Tomorrow People and Children of the Stones, hoping to use them as intros for that night’s acts, but the aggression heightened.
Some people looked around.
Most stared at the muffins beneath their eyes. I had run out of cake, so there was nothing left to look at.
There was a point, when he shoved himself briefly beyond the bar area, that I thought, “well, I better do something, whatever it is that I am capable of doing”, knowing full well that I am not equipped for much in the way of fighting. My best move is probably piercing the skin of fist with my shattered glasses. So, I popped my laptop in my bag, and walked to stand in front of the shrieking man. I had neither plan nor capability, but I thought I might as well act as a flimsy wall. And so I faced him, with my librarian face. “what are you going to do about it?” “Nothing”, I replied, “I just don’t think you should be shouting at this woman like that”.
I felt like the father in the penultimate scene of Room for Romeo Brass. He cannot let his family be attacked. He can only stand between the psychopath and the children. He is weak, but feels he should do something. There is something a tad pathetic about it. This is not first choice casting for the fight scene.
There is a point when you think, “I don’t reckon this man will do anything”, but just before that, an utter uncertainty about whether a knife or hammer may appear and it may all be over bar the bleeding.
A myriad of film scenes play in your mind. Another, taller, man joined me. I think he had more wherewithal in such situations. Eventually, and that is an eventually that is probably seconds, the angry, tooth light man back off a bit. Still swearing, still aggressive, but nearer the door. I felt my cameo was over. The taller man patted me in the shoulder. “well done, mate” Translated as, “what would a nerd like you do in a situation like this? But you stood there, so well done”. It reminded me of the reaction of the Belfast audience who booed me for 30 minutes a couple of decades ago. Afterwards, they congratulated me for remaining on stage, but with am expression of “we have no idea why you didn’t just leave”. Was there any point in getting in the way. I have no idea. It was one of those moments of, “well, if no one else is going to, I suppose I might as well stand up to be knocked down. I’ll probably be a bit cross with myself if I don’t”.
What was going through everyone else’s head? Was it, “hmm, this is the city. And we can’t leave our wheelie suitcases unattended. Best stay here, otherwise we’ll cause bother when our unattended luggage is deemed to be explosive.” Did they make the right call? “It’ll all blow over soon.” All I know, is your knees feel very odd after that sort of to do. Once you are back in the air, with only a half memory as your gut instinct usurped your consciousness, all that adrenaline that burst forth to aid your falling to the ground, sloshes about with nowhere to go apart from confusion creating.
I am not Lee Marvin. I am a have a go impediment.
I am off to Newcastle, Goole, Canada Water, Manchester, Totton, Bordon, Belfast and on and on (US and Australia in 2015). Details here http://www.robinince.com
Dead Funny horror anthology with stories by Stewart Lee, Sara Pascoe, Phill Jupitus, Reece Shearsmith and Charlie Higson is out now