LAST SATURDAY WAS spent trying to get some Christmas shopping done in Camden. This didn’t go well, but a couple of recording opportunities popped up instead.
The first recording contains some swearing and begins with an off-colour joke. An animated old man was pestering drinkers sitting by the canal at Camden Lock. Just before being able to make out the individual words, you could hear the distinctive speech pattern of someone telling jokes in the What do you call a . . .? tradition.
I’d been told of this particular beggar before and how he sometimes works the night-time queues outside the Dublin Castle and other venues in Camden. On went the recorder:
The jokes sound decades old and the way he slights his own people comes across as an appeasement tactic for reducing the risk of violence. It was a strange contrast to the globalised tourist culture on display in Camden Market, like finding an Egyptian mummy in a supermarket freezer.
Flyer distributors are hard to avoid in Camden, but this man’s voice faced no serious competition outside Camden Town tube station:
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He was working with a younger man, and as I was waiting for the train home, they both came and sat nearby. The older man talked for a while, telling his partner the work was good if you got through the flyers quick. The young man listened and said nothing.