Monday 26 January 2009

Philip Lane: A Tale of Treachery, Protection, Cucumbers and Marching Songs.

Cemal calls round last week. I haven’t seen him for ages. He’s been keeping a low profile in a charming northern city somewhere, railing against the lack of proper Turkish supermarkets, giving up smoking, complaining, nay mewling, about those other Kurds, those ‘Iranian’ ones, who turned out to be Iraqi, but also enjoying a good moan, breathing cleaner air, and getting very attached to his local, premier league, football team.

So we stroll out in the morning frost to investigate Philip Lane which, I realise, has completely changed since his departure last year. Now, he used to work at Aksu, little Aksu, the veg shop on the corner of Kitchener rd, that’s where I met him. Then the bigger shop by the bus stop, big Aksu, committed an act of unspeakable treachery. It started to stock vegetables too, not as well kept as those on the Kitchener rd corner, but veg nonetheless. The upshot was that little Aksu went 24 hours, then closed and was sold, unable to compete with its treacherous neighbour which now sold alcohol and veg. Little Aksu didn’t have room for alcohol and anyway Hussein’s wife was observant and didn’t really approve, so Hussein went and got drunk at the Turkish tea shop at the back of Botany Bay pub opposite and gambled away the shop’s meagre profit.

So, the ever stoical Cemal migrated over the road to work at Ocean Stores, another Turkish supermarket. We had only two so naturally a third was necessary. Mr. Ocean must have been a bit loaded so he bought up little Aksu as well and turned it into a butcher. That lasted less that a year, and was bought by Mr, Tea-shop-at-the-back-of-Botany-Bay-pub, affectionately known as ‘the Trafficker,’ on account of the alarmingly high turn over of Lithuanian women who worked at the bar in the tea-shop. So the Trafficker buys out the butcher’s shop and turns it into – yes that’s right – another of his lovely tea shops, because we’ve got only fifteen of them in Philip Lane / West Green road so, clearly, we need another.

Well then Mr. Ocean buys up the Turkish hostel at the back of Ocean Stores where my friends Cafar, Bilgen and their children used to live (in one room with the children in a bunk bed under the stairs in a corridor - happily they now live in a nice big flat at the back of Tescos opposite Seven Sisters), and where Cemal used to live, ‘bunking up’ with his mate, Rifat, and he, Mr. Ocean, extends Ocean Stores to include the butcher again. It’s now a pretty substantial supermarket. He even thoughtfully drops the price of soya milk from £1.29 to £1.19, having noticed at long last the Big Aksu has been selling theirs for £1.19 ever since they committed the cucumber coup.

Then what? Well, Botany Bay Pub was closed down and sold off around Christmas last year. Lately there’s been much activity and buying in of shop fittings and I ask the nice young woman at Ocean Stores what’s happening. Ocean Stores by now has doubled up as the local recruiting agency for the PKK. If you go there at the right time of day, there’s now a very chatty lad who plays, ‘communist marching song’s’ according to him. ‘I’m not supposed to,’ he confides and then starts trying to interest the hairy English anarchist man behind me, sporting ginger beard and desert fatigues, in joining up. He looks at me and boldly asserts, ‘there are almost as many women in the PKK as there are men, you know.’

I’m interested in more mundane matters though and, as the nice young woman counts my change, she informs me that Botany Bay is to be another supermarket – a really big one. ‘What sort of supermarket, which supermarket?’ I demand, dreading the onset of Tescos or similar. ‘Another Turkish family,’ she growls, and flares her nostrils for added emphasis.

Thing is, I cant see either Big Aksu or Mr Ocean going down without a fight and, given Ocean’s affiliations and Aksu’s protection racket which, according to Cemal, he started around the time of cucumber coup, I’m not sure if the sheer size of Botany Bay will be enough. The C Word’s prediction for 2009 is local skirmishes breaking out on the borders of N17 and N15, (BB is N15, Aksu and Ocean N17 – Philip Lane is the border,) resulting in possible all out war later in the year.

Maureen at the Laundrette on the corner of Philip Lane and Clonmell rd offers the best vantage point for anyone interested in observing from her splendid, full-size, picture windows. It was ideal for observing the fights at the pub and I’ve no doubt she’ll offer front row seats, tea so strong you could tar the road wit it, and a plentiful supply of her own unique Irish wisdom for all patrons in need. She also does a very fine line in second hand books. I wonder if there’s one about the battles of Broadwater Farm. Ah, now there’s another story. Thelma at the flower shop over the road can tell you all about that.