In the beginning of this academic year, before I returned to the city and university I'm in now, I was living and studying in London for a month. I didn't like the course in the university I was in so I decided to leave. Anyway, the point is, I had to live somewhere while I was in London. Where do you think I chose? The artsy atmosphere of Notting Hill, or the cosmopolitan feel of Earl's Court? Nope, I opted for the center of the universe: Bermondsey.
Now for those that by some childhood defect have never heard of Bermondsey, it's located close to London Bridge and Elephant and Castle. It brought such great things to the world such as Millwall F.C. and the Bermondsey Antique Market (now defunct and deserted).This is my attempt to pigeonhole Bermondsey: It is an area mainly populated by white, working class people. All of the areas surrounding it however, from Peckham to Elephant and Castle, are mainly composed of non-white people (and particularly black). Thus, the atmosphere in Bermondsey is tense, to say the least. Still, I had a very nice apartment, and the neighbourhood could never be described as dull.
I shared my aparment with an American friend. One day, we decided to pay a visit to our local pub, the Grange. It was me (an Arab), my American friend, and a posh English friend. I dress in a pretty arabic fashion: always shirts and jeans, with the added difference of a long trenchcoat (I got that trend from the posh guys at the current university I'm in). My posh Englisyh friend sticks to his stereotype, and always wears shirts, trousers, scarfs, and long coats. As you can tell, we fitted right in. Do I need to go on to what reception we got in the pub?
Well, I'll go on anyway. We opened the door, and suddenly, the whole pub went quiet. The whole place (7 people) stopped their conversations, and turned to gaze at us. This pub is frequented only by regulars, and any new people stand out. To add to this, we obviously were not locals since childhood. Thus, they decided to make their new guests as comfortable as possible.
Anyway, we decided to ignore the situation, order our drinks (non-alcoholic for me of course), and play some pool to ease the situation. As I was playing, I decided to look around. Boy, you see some characters. The nice thing about these pubs , to put in unpolitically correct terms, is that they're frequented by weirdos. After a while, you get to know the characters of the regulars, and to appreciate their eccentricities. In one corner, there was this reallllllyyyyy old woman (sixty plus), who not only has been beaten by the ugly stick a couple of times, but on whom also the effects of time have taken its toll. She wore heavy makeup, and was pissed out of her head. As you can imagine, she put forward the epotimal image of beauty and class. Right next to her, however, was a thirty-something year old guy who was heavily flirting with her. He was buying her plenty of drinks, apparently being witty (since she was laughing loudly in a harsh tone), and slowly wrapping his arms around her.
In another corner, there was a middle aged woman, who also was completely pissed out of her head, and talking to the bartender. This, in itself, is not striking, particularly in England. What struck me, however, is a comment, she made to bartender. "Ohhh, fu'ing hell, I got to be ge'in home now. I left me little kid for too long. I need to buy him some dipers."
Seated,at the bar, however, were the two protagonists of our story, Robert, and some dimwit that I can't remember his name. We didn't expect to be left alone for too long, as I guess we were too curious of specimens to be left in peace, and sure enough, Robert and dimwit decided to approach us. Now I've lived in England for a four years, and I can understand many accents, including Scouser. Still, I could not decipher what Mr. dimwit was saying at all. I could understand Robert, alright, but not Mr. dimwit. I don't think being pissed as a monkey in the hands of Edmundo helped either.
Anyway, in the beginning they seemed to be quite friendly, so we thought, "hey, we might be even able to make friends here." Well, it did not turn out that way. After a while, mr. dimwit just go too drunk, and started slurring. I got tired after a while of asking him "Come again?", so I just kept nodding and feigning a laugh when I thought he said something funny. Slowly, as the alcohol built up, he became more aggressive in his tone, and started just barking unintelligible gibberish. Foturnately, he then reached his peak point of drunkenness, and decided to get up and start dancing all over the pub. That was him gone.
Robert, however, turned out to be more resilient, and gay. No, he was not interested in casual conversation, but in hitting on one of my friends. When my friend told him there was not chance in hell that he's willing to have him, Robert decided to become abusive, started shouting, and threatening. He made a particular point of mocking my posh friend, and calling me a terrorist. I, at this point, lost my patience. This issue, considering the state he was in, was not going to be resolved by an intelligent debate, and he was too drunk and too weakly built to scare me in a fight. So I looked him straight in the eye, put on a serious face, and said in a stern tone, "Walk away, or I'll kill you."
Now I'm not proud of what I did, but it happened in the spur of the moment. This strategy, however, of seriously but calmly threatening people by death, can have one of two effects. If you're unlucky and he calls your bluff, you're in for a fight. He, however, went for the second option. He just picked up his beer, slowly got up, walked to the bar and sat down. Maybe the Arabic stereotype helped.
Phew! Anyway, we got the signal of not being wanted there, so we finished our drinks, and got the hell out.