My university campus was located in a Aldenham, a beautiful rural nook of Hertfordshire. In addition to the uni-faculty, it was home to some lovable but knackered-looking horses and a golf club that I was asked to leave one night after turning up a) drunk and b) wearing pyjama bottoms that I thought were snazzy, bobby-dazzler type fashion slacks. It was also home to a snigger-tastically named pub called The Round Bush from whence I was sacked after doing a spectacularly
Aldenham is next door to Radlett, another delicious cranny of Herts. Have you ever been there? Is it a really small town or simply a massive village? I can never quite decide but either way, it’s lovely.
Now that I’m hurtling towards my mid-thirties and am officially boring – hooray! – I love nothing more than spending a lazy Saturday morning having a little pootle around Radlett. I’ll drive in via the scenic route, attempt to get a parking space outside the shops, fail to capture said parking space, swear a bit, grind my gears, have a bit more of a swear and then end up in the car park around the back. I’ll take in the shops – all half a dozen of them – and then end up in a coffee shop where I’ll fail to resist the cake whilst having a good reminisce about the good old days in Radlett… I’ll drift off into daydreams-ville and miss my mouth as I think about the following…
1. As a student, I used to work in a hideous video shop which has now been swallowed up by a Tesco Express. Even though Tesco’s expansion worries me, I say good riddance to the video store. It was run by a smelly, fat pervert called Raza. He was much fatter than I, but this didn’t stop him poking me in the love handle with his overly-chewed biro whilst inhaling a samosa so quickly, that he obviously thought I was going to steal it. I suppose he had good reason: at the time, I thought of myself as a Marxist. I bought the Socialist Worker and everything. I didn’t read it, but that wasn’t the point. Anyway, one day, I upset old Raza by shutting the shop up so I could nip next door and get myself a cob/roll (delete as applicable, depending on geography). I was halfway through a twelve hour shift and needed a break. I was the only person working that day, so I put a sign up saying, ‘BACK IN TEN MINS’. However, Raza caught me red-handed. He threw a paddy, screaming, ‘No! No! Never! No! You must ALWAYS put, ‘Back in one minute!’ ONE MINUTE! Are you trying to ruin me and my FAMILY?’ Then he picked up his biro and tried to stab me in the flab with it.
He’d also ring me up at midnight to ask me why the cash till was down by 46 pence and then tell me that he was docking my wages to make up for my incompetence. The Marxist within was not amused. On my final shift, I went through the computer system, cleared everyone’s fines and helped myself to as many Kit Kats as I could shovel down myself. And believe me when I say that was A LOT.
2. Budgens. It’s 1998. It’s Friday afternoon and the Bank Holiday weekend is about to kick in. All my assignments are complete. I am planning on celebrating with a night out into London. I am in Budgens, buying groceries and attempting to get cash-back when the wonky-eyed, slab-cracker behind the counter takes my debit card off me at the request of the bank. I get home and ring the bank, only to find out that I’d inexplicably gone £900 over my overdraft limit. Like, whoopsy. Shame and social ostracision follows in the form of a SOLO card.
3. Mamuzin Pizza. Still in business today and with good reason. They make the best pizza in the world and happily accepted cheques back in the day, which meant that I could still purchase delivery pizza even when I was £890 over my overdraft limit. *slaps arse twice*
4. Beaver Travel. Again, still in business today. Call me puerile and childish, but I always chortle at the name of the place. What with that and The Round Bush. And I’m a gay. Fancy.
5. Being a penniless student, I once tried to jump the train at Radlett. I got caught and despite an Oscar winning performance of, ‘must have left my ticket on the train, missus’, the conductor wasn’t having any of it. Thinking that there was nothing more to be done than just cough up, I proffered my gorgeous SOLO card. The conductor took one look at it and laughed in my face. Fortunately, it wasn't checked when I ended up giving a fake name. I still haven’t paid the fine to this day. Ronan Keating, if Network Rail ever caught up with you, I’m sorry. Actually, I’m not. Consider it your punishment for Life Is A Rollercoaster, which still haunts my dreams to this day.