Jonathan Rendall RIP
I was watching a re-run of C4's The Gambler late last night and thought this was a guy I'd like to meet but, when it ended, I saw that he'd died. This re-run had been a tribute.
A very unsettling (and later surprisingly soothing) sense of my own mortality hit me when I saw he'd gone, so I looked into his literary works on the web, which are astounding. He's the best gonzo writer you never heard of, and this one, below, was published in the Independent in 2001.
It's called 'Last Chance Saloon'
The other day I was wondering what would happen to you if you went to some distant, cut-off town with a load of readies in your pocket but that, because of the way you looked when you went into the off-licence, a rumour got around that the notes were fakes and, though you and they were perfectly legitimate, no one would accept your cash.
I concluded that you would get manageable withdrawal symptoms from the booze and fags but that you would soon get hungry, and would in the end die in the gutter, your pocket still stuffed with notes, just because that off-licence manager was a malicious bar steward. I only thought that because something similar happened to me, but luckily it was in West London so I was able to get out of it.
I knew I was going to end the poncing lark but I did do one last job in Queens Park - a hundred - which is shameful but not that shameful because they know I'll pay them back and, also, when I make it big and have 'homes' in Mayfair, the Greek islands and the Yucatan, they're going to be having the life of Reilly on my slate.
Anyway, I waited for this man - an old friend, truth be told, but it's not like that when you're poncing: it's 'this man' - to finish his lunch while I amused his kid and finally we made it up to a newsagent where, to my surprise, there was a cash machine in the middle of the shop.The person I was poncing off was a non-drinker and, though he'd offered me a couple of 'beers' from his sumptuous fridge, I hadn't popped the question yet when he'd offered them, and it seemed rather heartless to point out that they had 'non-alcoholic beverage' stamped across them. In the shop I snaffled the notes with suitable embarrassment and decided not to purchase a bottle there because I didn't want to appear like a desperado, at least not in front of his kid. I'm not one, but I knew he'd think I was if I did.
There's nothing like recent impecuniousness to encourage extravagance and for some reason I headed west with a vague idea of Chelsea or Kensington - Chelsea particularly. I used to walk around there years ago, impelled by its artistic past and thinking that it must once have been as close as we got to the Left Bank.
However, as I veered round Sloane Square in the old hatchback, I remembered I'd been back there a couple of years before, hoping to sense the ghosts of old bohemians drifting up through the gaps in the pavement, only to find that they'd all been completely concreted over. So, Kensington it was then. I parked on an extortionate meter and went in search of a place selling wine where I could flaunt my wealth. I found a shop that, as well as wine, catered for all sorts of fancy goods; cheese, cured meats etc. My route back to Kew sometimes takes me this way and I realised I had clocked this shop before - chiefly because a big fat man was often standing outside it wearing a white apron, modelling himself, in my estimation, on the TV actor Richard Griffiths in that crime-comedy series that never really came off.
But I like Richard Griffiths nonetheless, and fancy goods as well, particularly when they are unattainable, and as I went through the door their temporary attainability gave the shop a benevolent aura that I really savoured. I was wearing a very threadbare second-hand suit from Suit City in Ipswich, which wasn't ideal, but I knew it wouldn't count against me if I had the dough.
I was wrong, though, because as soon as I'd walked into the well-populated shop 'Richard' came up and, jabbing his hand hesitantly if fake-assertively at my shoulder, asked me if I wanted anything. He wasn't doing that to anyone else so I knew he'd targeted me as a potential mugger or thief.
To becalm him I picked up a £5 sliver of goat's cheese from the chiller, walked up to the counter and handed him a £10 note. I knew it was extortionate but that's part of the deal in those places and anyway I had my own reasons. He looked at my note and said he thought it was a dud, and to be honest I was stunned and then angry. I could see that zapper-thing they put the notes through beneath his counter but he wasn't having it.
'It's bloody not,' I said. 'It's just one of the new £10 notes.'
'I'm just not happy with it,' he said portentously. 'I'm sorry.'
There was a queue building up behind me and I let fly a bit about his prices. I would have hit him but he wasn't really the fighting type. I pulled my leg back to kick down the pavement-sign he had outside but then I thought that would be childish. Relieved, I discovered there was an off-licence next door - one of the French ones where the staff are always so charming (non-English theory). I retreated to Kew and drank my purchase. In fact I was lucky to be able to, as three or four of the customers had followed me into the French wine shop and, by the way they were watching me, I sensed their sole interest was the pornographic one of spectating which mug I would try to pass off the notes to next. For a moment I thought one of them might warn the staff, but they didn't and anyway the French have an overlay of politesse that makes them immune from such idly malevolent vibes.
Later that evening I had to go to St Pancras to pick up my girl and, because I was early, went into the station pub. I ordered a pint of London Pride and the young African man behind the bar said, 'Is it your first?'
'Why do you ask?' I said.
He shook his head and said, 'It doesn't matter. I didn't mean to be...'
But I was getting paranoid after the Holland Park incident and, though I tried to read the paper nonchalantly, started thinking that I must look like a raving alco and had now entered the zone of not getting served. I didn't really want another one but the train was still 20 minutes away so I went up to the bar again mainly out of defiance. I ordered it and he said, 'Is that your second?'
'Why do you ask?' I said.
'Because if you buy two London Prides you get the third one free.'