"Do you sell Quink?" I said to my local stationer."Do we sell Quink? Of course we sell Quink. That's a strange question." "Well, it's the digital age. I wasn't sure that people still used Quink." He snorts with derision and sells me the Quink, while also slipping in some crafty cross-selling and getting me to buy two expensive black ink cartridges for my inkjet printer. I used to do loads of stuff in Quink, until I bought myself a Wacom art pad in 1997. There was a girl I worked with when I first came to London who drew wild landscapes in Quink. I fancied her, of course, but she had an on-off relationship with a Scottish rugby player so I didn't get involved. He didn't play for Scotland or anything, he was just Scottish and played rugby. We lost touch around 1989 but I kept her memory alive by starting to draw my own pictures in Quink. My pictures weren't wild, mostly just sketches of fat people at Walthamstow market or caricatures of my flatmates. The stationer also cross-sold me some nice writing paper. I'm going to stop emailing my friends and write them proper letters instead. Masterpieces of the genre such as: "Howdy. Fancy a pint Thursday? T."
Amazing news. I've recently learned about an underground river that flows from Highbury down into the Hackney Brook Valley. Usually I spot these streams when I see cans of extra strong lager scattered about on the surface, but in this case there was a whole off-licence.
I was buying a few bottles of beer at Highbury Vintners and commented on the strange slope of the floor in the shop, which seemed to counter the slope of Highbury Hill.
"That's because there's a river that flows under the shop," said the owner. "It goes through here and underneath the church."
I expressed an interest in starting to go to mass, then fiddled about with the real ales before announcing to the whole shop: "I've written a book about underground rivers."
The shopkeeper was not phased. "Bloody Highbury. Everytime I bring up some topic of conversation, one of our customers will go 'I've written a book about that'."
Where have all the little grocers shops gone? Twenty five years ago, most of Britain was overrun with little establishments run by hairless old men with specs who stocked only four or five products, covering the basic nutritional requirements. These minimalist general stores were as ubiquitous as McDonalds are today. And old fellows in shops always had stories to tell - of runaway steam trains and daring dawn raids on Jerry (or in some cases, dawn raids on the Boers).
The main item they always sold was jelly. They had several flavours, in a nice display. Jelly always comes in handy. They also had an extensive range of soups, covering all the flavours that matter - tomato, vegetable and exotic oxtail. Sometimes there were cornflakes too. As with many such pairings, one old gent was always nice and one was nasty. But you could never tell who was what. And I suppose now we never will.
Seeing as I was barred from using Stoke Newington library due to by inability to let go of their copy of 'Water Nymphs and Fairies', I decide to venture into town and browse around for stuff in the huge new Waterstones in Picadilly that used to be Simpsons department store. We went along for their closing down sale. Every tweedy sports jacket in the country had been rounded up here before being taken off to the countryside to be shot and burned on huge pyres. My Dad, who likes sportsjackets and has been wearing them since 1957, caressed them longingly but decided not to buy. I asked a sales assistant if they had anything about the masons and underground rivers. Sorry sir, this is a clothes shop. Come back in a few months time when Waterstones will ve here,