The maroon-jacketed barbers have clearly spent the morning Brylcreeming themselves in preparation. The pictures on their wall – Gregory and Rock and the first Darren from Bewitched – greet us with sneeringly-slick Hollywood sparkle. It’s the bloke who looks like that wise Irish sergeant from Z Cars doing my hair today. The bloke with his own monogrammed scissors. I steal a packet of dunkies (did you call them that?) when he turns his back to get a mirror. I’ll never use them, obviously. I’m eleven, for God’s sake.
Hair now successfully sliced in a mock-Rock style, we leave. In the haberdasher’s opposite The Hop Poles, the haber is busy dashing. When he and my mum aren’t looking, I nick a needle and thread. Just in case. That, too, goes in my Spurs bag.
Cobblers. Alf is tall, wears a clinical white coat. He’s fired up his whirring noideawhatitdoes machine in preparation, just for me. A true professional. There’s nothing he can’t mend, Alf. He smiles as he chats to mum. And I steal some Cherry Blossom as I slide out of the place behind her. Brown Cherry Blossom: all my shoes are black.
In Ken’s, with mum outside talking to a bunch of older kids who are scrounging pennies for a guy that looks exactly like my headmaster, I leaf through the used singles. Wizzard. Medicine Head. Mud. When Ken is distracted by Cliff the Biff walking into his shop, I take a Jubbly. It’ll make my gums bleed and taste of snow. They always do.
Nearly home. The rag-and-bone man rings his bell as his horse and cart turn from the Crescent into our road, excited – I can tell by the way he and the horse are both neighing – to see me. Someone’s dumped a promo picture of Elvis in Viva Las Vegas in the cart. I nick it as old Steptoe chats to mum and Mrs Ganderton. I can’t stand Elvis.
Later, in the stillness of my bedroom, I empty my bag of my imaginary haul, spread the stuff out neatly on the bed. I stare at it all, inwardly cackling like The Joker. I don’t yet know what a metaphor is.