Posted by: Chris Wright | May 18, 2008

Perry Gets Scammed

On a splendid spring morning there is little better than a breakfast at Richeaux on Piccadilly, followed by a quiet hour or two taking in the paintings at the Royal Academy. As Margaux and I trundled along the North Circular to Finchley in the Morris, my thoughts turned to lunchtime and the promise of a chilled bottle of Rully from Edouard’s excellent cellar.

As we approached East Finchley Underground, my mood darkened in unison with the traffic’s turgid tumult, my heavy sighs doing nothing for familial accord, Margaux shooting me one of her ‘looks’ – after several eons spent creeping along the High Street, the traffic opened up in front of us next to the car park entrance, Margaux attracting the opprobium of fellow travellers by creeping gingerly across the several lanes of traffic and dawdling slowly into the environs of the underground station.

Out of nowhere, a cry and a thump indicated a sudden and painful arrest – my view of the station obscured by as unpleasant a pair of youths as I have seen outside of a television documentary. Scowling faces pointing accusingly at the Morris, red rimmed eyes and grimy fingers stabbed at Margaux. Reluctantly extracting myself from the comfort and safety of the car and carefully adjusting my spectacles, I approached the youths with caution. My cheery “Top of the morning” was responded to with a volley of abuse and promises of instant and painful retribution “this bike cost £5,000 – you’ve fucking ruined it you clumsy old fart”

On the ground, a shining new bicycle, front wheel mysteriously out of kilter. “That looks dangerous, you really should get it repaired before you cause somebody a mischief” I offered.

“We’ll cause you a mischief you ponce – he’s broken his fucking wrist!” the elder of the two stepped forward and began poking me in the chest in a most provocative manner.

“Much as I’d love to spend the morning engaged in a battle of wits, I make it my rule never to do battle with an unarmed adversary.” I replied, hoping my good natured banter would diffuse the tension that was now beginning to threaten my prospects of lunch in St. James Park.

Blank looks were exchanged “That wheel will cost £400 to replace you cunt” the elder of the two eventually relied.

At this, Margaux, who is gifted with a mysterious ability to empathise with the lower orders, suggested we sally forth to the bicycle shop around the corner, there to get the damage made good. More blank looks were exchanged and the youths retreated to a safe distance, to telephone their parents for advice – if any child of mine were to address me as ‘mate’ they’d get short shrift, but eventually they returned; “Sorted” the younger declared – baffled by this I raised my eyes to heaven and was about to recommend the immediate purchase of Gleason’s ‘Linguistics and English Grammar’ when Margaux dug me viciously in the ribs.

We arrived at the bicycle shop a few minutes later. If I was expecting a grubby shack, reeking of puncture repair outfits, attended by enthusiasts vigorously debating the benefits of variable-ratio transmission system gearing, the reality was startling in the extreme, rows of shining bicycles covered every inch of space; more, suspended from the ceiling made progress difficult for the vertically advantaged though the youths managed to navigate with ease. Unfortunately my plus fours became entangled with the multiple sprockets that I later learned characterised the Derailleur gear and I was unable to progress more than a couple of yards into the shop. I was however able to hear the conversation that ensued.

To my great surprise, the shop owner estimated the repair work to cost no more than £150 and breathing a sigh of relief I extracted my wallet from my sports jacket and began counting out the notes – suddenly St. James Park didn’t seem so far away and my mood lightened. It was not to last – a youth emerged from the back of the shop and whispered something to the owner – “We can’t do the work until the end of the month” he informed Margaux and the youths – “Well that’s no fucking good to me” quoth the urchin “but I’ve got a spare wheel at home, give me the cash and we’ll call it quits”

The owner then declared “There is just one other thing, the chassis number on the bicycle appears to have been filed off – I think the machine is stolen” Pandemonium ensued; snarling threats and bodily harm if my hearing does not deceive me, the youths seized their bicycle and barged past me, snatching my wallet and toppling me into the row of bicycles I had only just succeeded in detaching from my gaiters. Margaux sniggered in a most unhelpful fashion and with a muffled cry the proprietor leaped forward to help, tears streaming down his cheeks. Once the bicycles had been returned to an upright position he began stroking the saddles and murmuring soothing words in a manner suggesting an unhelpful prioritisation of the bicycles wellbeing over my own.

The police had to be called and sitting in the police station opposite Sergeant Bullivant I began to feel there was more to this escapade than met the eye. Sucking on a stub of a pencil, the sergeant made extensive notes – “and what make was the bicycle that was ensnared in your trousers?” he queried, I felt that we may possibly be straying from the germane in this line of enquiry, but grateful to have somebody listen to me without simpering like a halfwit, I assisted his enquiries for several hours.

Later, nursing a curative glass of Chateaux de Castex 14 year old armagnac I resolved never to visit East Finchley again.

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