Monday, February 16, 2015

The Time I Worked for Darth Vader: A Tale of Mirth And Woe

Somebody asked me to do a repeat of the story of the time I worked at Darth Vader's Newsagents in Twyford. Seeing as there are two stories – written 12 years ago - I've pulled them together into one throbbing whole for your delight.

(TL;DR version: Had a paper round, saw naked people, got sworn at)

Darth's shop: Now a Thai restaurant

I was fourteen years old, stony broke and living in a village 35 miles west of London. There wasn't much left from 50p pocket money after 2000AD and the bomb-making materials were taken into account, so I faced the shocking truth – I had to take a job. I took myself down to Darth Vader's newsagents and begged them for a paper round. Darth, a man with a heroic fifty-a-day smoking habit told me to (gasp) bugger off (gasp).

A couple of weeks later I got a phone call. It turned out they no longer wanted me to bugger off, because their star paperboys the Pepall twins were moving house, and there were vacancies in the highly-prized newspaper delivery business. Three (gasp) fucking quid a week, take it (gasp) or leave it, sonny (gasp), the owner said, a filterless high tar number hanging from the corner of his mouth.

I took it, as did my brother, who got the nicer end of the village. I'm not saying that parts of my round were rough, but the tarmac road actually ran out halfway through, and you would often approach some of the council’s finest housing across lawns several feet deep in grass, burned out and dead postmen.

I soon found, to my disgust, that the village's other newsagent paid their paperboys a whole, shiny pound per day, but Darth was adamant that "there are (gasp) plenty of other kids (gasp) willing to work (gasp) for peanuts, and you can (gasp) fuck right off (gasp) if you don't like it".

Darth, it turned out, was in his hog heaven, working in a business that dealt in his favourite hobby of smoking heavily, with a whole wall of tobacco products at his fingertips all day, every day. He indulged to the limit, even when it became clear that it was killing him completely to death, unable to say a whole sentence without coughing up his lungs all over the newspapers, the huge wheezing gasps for air inevitably followed by extreme profanity.

I'd get up at six in the morning, cycle down to the shop, run round the houses as quickly as possible, ripping number eighty-eight's unfeasibly large Daily Telegraph to shreds trying to get it through their unfeasibly small letterbox, get home by seven and do my homework before going to school. This got me a) paid and b) evenings to myself.

"Those (gasp) fuckers from number eighty-eight have (gasp) been in with their (gasp) fucking whinging again"

Nicotine-stained from head to foot, Darth was always on your side. "We've had a (gasp) complaint from (gasp) number eighty-eight (gasp). Fuckers (gasp). Told 'em to (gasp) fuck off."

Fridays were the worst. That was the day the Maidenhead Advertiser came out. For a town were precisely nothing happened, the Advertiser could be anything up to 140 pages long, all in a tabloid size that defied folding in half. Everybody got the Advertiser. Everybody. The miserable buggers on my round, too lazy to go down the shop and buy it for themselves, often got their copy one sheet at a time. And while I was struggling with that lot, it turned out that other paperboys round had punters who had his porn delivered with his morning papers, fuck my luck.

All I got was a couple of nuns living next door to the Catholic church, and a copy of Jackie on a Wednesday for a horsy teenage girl in one of the posh houses. But I also got Peter's mum. Every damn day.

See that hedge? I've been sick in it

My round had the unfortunate effect of bringing me into contact with Peter, the school drongo. I'm not being drongo-ist here, for I have always considered myself as 30% drongo and some of my best friends are drongos, Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip), was an obnoxious little turd, who could often be seen wandering the village, lost in a daze, reading “Commando” comics through broken National Health glasses worn, squinting, like a monocle; and dressed in his Army Cadet uniform, the only clothes he possessed outside of his school clothes. When I worked in the civil service, I ran into him working as a filing clerk in the prison-like document registry, still reading those commando comics, still wearing combat fatigues in his mid-twenties.

Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) lived with his mum and his nan, two enormous, frightening women, who would often wade into fights to defend their son’s honour, which was often, because at the merest slight against his honour, he would got home and tell his mum, and all hell would break lose. School bully, classmate, teacher, headteacher. It mattered not to Peter's mum (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip), for they all took a whipping.
I had to deliver the Daily Star to his house, perhaps the most forbidding in the whole village, and every morning I had to endure the sight of Peter’s mum with a face like a melted owl, of a size that more polite writers would call "formidable", getting dressed in the living room window. I reached a deal with the milkman where we'd meet by the gate and "do" the house together. Safety in numbers, but as the first naked woman I ever saw in the wild, she left me with a lifetime of issues.

One day, Darth announced that Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) would be (gasp) starting a (gasp) paper round. He got Pennfields, the next road along from my round, and perhaps I’d like to (gasp) show Peter (pronounced with your (gasp) tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) the (gasp) ropes?

I showed him the (gasp) ropes, like a good boy, and the complaints soon started rolling in. Mainly because he couldn't match up the houses with the numbers that Darth had scribbled on the papers, and mostly because he would leave his morning paper round for after school. Or after his dinner. Or the next day, which, in the paperboy industry is known as "fucking up your round", and is a deadly sin.

Out of the way, Hipsters. All the cool kids are riding the Raleigh Shopper these days.

His second week on the job, if things weren't going badly enough, it snowed. Showing a bit of rare sense, my brother and I left our bikes at home and walked to the shop. The whole affair took an hour longer than usual, but we got round and earned our precious fifty pence for the day. Riches.

Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip), on the other hand, brought his mum’s Raleigh Shopper bike, and spent the next twenty minutes carefully rearranging the newspapers in the basket on the front while we warmed our bones in front of Darth’s ashtray. Then he got on his bike, cycled a full ten yards up the road and fell off, flat on his face. Newspapers exploded across the road, and whipped up by the wind, flew in all directions across the High Street and over the Post Office.

We laughed.

"Didn't hurt," Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) said defiantly, blood running down his chin.

Darth went ballistic, calling him a "(gasp) fucking twat you (gasp) fucking moron (gasp)". He was so cross, he nearly dropped his cigarette. Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) sheepishly picked up what was left of his papers, and disappeared into the blizzard, rounding up loose lifestyle sections and Daily Mail health scare specials like Captain Oates on his last fateful walk into history.

The next day, it rained. Buckets and buckets of freezing cold rain. We had our bikes, our waterproofs and our special thick plastic newspaper sacks to keep the newsprint nice and dry. Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) turned up in his Army fatigues and his mum's Raleigh Shopper with the wire basket on the front, still filled with what was left of the previous day's newspapers, which he had diligently rounded up, and taken home and dried on the radiator. They were now soaking wet. He piled the new day's papers on top and spent another twenty minutes carefully rearranging them while Darth watched, shaking his head at the shop window, a sprinkle of fag ash giving a cheerful Christmas effect. "(Gasp) Fucking idiot (gasp)".

Then he got on his bike, cycled a full ten yards down the road, and fell off, his glasses skidding under the wheels of a passing car with a sickening crunch.

We laughed.

"Didn’t hurt," Peter (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) said defiantly, blood running down his chin.

The next day I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime offer, the chance to do my own round and Peter's (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) as well because "I've (gasp) sacked the useless (gasp) cunt". I got an extra quid for my efforts, not to mention mouthfuls of abuse from locals thinking I was to blame for a week of newspaper buggery.

"(Gasp) Fuck 'em", Darth said the next day when I complained about my near death experience, "I had that little (gasp) turd's mother round (gasp) shouting at me (gasp). How did (gasp) such a fine woman spawn (gasp) such a (gasp) arsehole?"

Darth finds out I've gone for a job in a supermarket

Over the next months, I saw enough quivering flesh and industrial strength brassieres constructed by the best of the British shipbuilding industry to last a lifetime, and all for fifty pence a day. Friends, desperate for any naked flesh at all, thought I was the luckiest kid in the world.

But I was still irked that my so-called friends working for the other newsagents in the village were getting twice as much as I was, so I resolved to ask for a pay rise, or I'll walk.

He told me to "(Gasp) Fuck off you (gasp) greedy twat. You trying to (gasp) fucking break me?", while puffing on a Capstan Full Strength which he probably hadn't paid for.

Still annoyed at his attitude, I hatched a plan. A plan that would – if perfectly executed – engender much-needed community relations in a village that was in danger of becoming little more than a dormitory town, where one neighbour would never even acknowledge the chap over the road. It was also very wrong, mais je ne regrette rien.

I gave everybody's paper to the house next door, and all the Advertisers went to the last house on the round, who just happened to be the village doctor. If they wanted their morning rag, they would have to go knock for it.

This was made all the more fun by the fact that one side of the road was entirely posh houses with south-facing gardens who all took the Telegraph, The Times or the Daily Mail, while the other was decidedly servants' quarters where the Daily Star was seen as highbrow reading. It was also the side of the road where Peter's (pronounced with your tongue pressed firmly against your lower lip) mum got dressed in front of the living room window every morning. She got the Daily Express and I got another eyeful.

Mission accomplished, I popped into Darth's shop the next day to pick up my money, just in time to see Dr Thomas storming out, veins bulging on his forehead in fury.

"You (gasp) cunt" said Darth, the last words he ever spoke to me. But I didn't care, because I was already on one pound ten per hour. One pound fucking ten, and a digital watch that played "It's a small, small world". Stick that in your pipe, Vader.

And then he sicked his lungs up in a hedge.

Exactly like the computer game, only with more nuns and more nudity.


Mad Brad said...

Loved it! Again!

Alan Galaxy said...

'A face like a melted owl' had me spluttering over my Pale Ale, some came out of my nose!

Dioclese said...

'Twyford'? Fuck - that takes me back. I used to live in Winnersh, but I escaped...

brian said...

I delivered evening papers for a week it was crap. Then I realized I was expected to collect the money as most of my round was CHT is was a nightmare so I ditched it.

WrathofDawn said...