By February 8, 2016 0 Comments

Clubbin’ with the mob

In the 90’s, I was studying Video Production at a college in London.  The college, which will not be named, was renowned for accepting drop outs, rejects and failures, like myself.   It was the only college that accepted me because of my less than average grades at school.

At the time, I was fascinated by the subject of video production.  I always dreamt of becoming a movie director, but that is a different story…

We were a small class of around 24 pupils, all aspiring to become involved in the video industry at one level or another.  After the start of the course, I started to lose interest in the course itself having discovered that I enjoyed writing as opposed to directing, but having paid in advance, I decided to stay on and to make the most of it.

We were a good mix, a real bunch of characters, some of us more eccentric than others.  I can vaguely remember that one or two people at most were seriously interested, the rest were mostly there to play.  I usually sat in the same seat in the center of the class and on my right would sit Rachel.  Rachel was a real east London cockney girl.  She looked slightly rough round the edges, maybe even older than her age but she was a good laugh.  She always wore very stylish clothing as if she was going on a night out, tons of make up and a different hat every day.  She was so eccentric, I recall a couple of times, when the teachers had to stop her from polishing her nails in class.  Rachel was a lot of fun and we joked often and we became friends.  During lunch time, we’d invite each other to lunch, have a coffee and enjoy a good gossip.   She was into fashion design but had found herself ‘pressured’ into joining the video production classes by the college, so we sort of shared something in common – we both did not want to be in that course.

“Garo, would you come over tomorrow night to my bar in Soho?”

I thought I misheard at first and asked her if she really meant what she said and asked her if she truly owned the bar.

“Oh yeah it is… it’s mine!  My dad got it for me… it would be wicked if you came.”
“I will… thank you for inviting me.”

Intrigued, I walked home, thinking to myself that she must be completely delusional but I had nothing to do so I went.

At the entrance, there stood burly and intimidating bouncers.  One of them turned to me and aggressively asked me what is it that I wanted.  I told him that I was expected and before I could finish my sentence, he interrupted

“Private party mate”
“I was invited by my friend…”
“Who’s your friend?” he interrupted.
“Rachel… (intentionally omitting surname)”

The bouncers looked more like thugs, they had no manners whatsoever.  He commanded that I wait and started babbling something at a walkie talkie.

A minute later, Rachel emerged from between the giants and told the one who had stopped that I was her guest.

“What’s wrong with ya???  I told ya I was expectin ‘im”  She was visibly upset and the bouncer looked confused and apologetic.

The bar was beautiful, lovely contemporary décor throughout.  It was a private function and there were all sorts of characters in there.  All I could hear was heavy cockney and everyone was loud.   She led the way to the bar and ordered me a drink, I offered to pay but she was offended.   We took our drinks and she invited me to her office.  We went past more ‘security personnel’ on the way and ended up in her office drinking and chatting away.

We were interrupted a few times by different characters knocking on the door.  All of whom congratulated Rachel on her bar followed by hugs and kisses.  She did not hesitate to introduce me as her best friend from college at every opportunity and they all shook my hand very warmly.  One of them, a slightly elderly gentleman patted me on the cheek ‘you awight son’

We drank some more and soon it was time for me to leave.  She walked me to the door and gave me a big hug and kissed me good bye.  The bouncers who had ignored me earlier now fussed over me and one even stopped a cab and opened the door for me.

It was a surreal experience and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she did in fact own the bar.  I was pleased for her.

The next day, I was having a coffee with some English friends from college and they knew Rachel.  I told them about my visit to her bar and they looked bewildered and kept asking me ‘what took you there?’ and ‘how was it?’  ‘ did you see many people in there?’  ‘was so and so in there?’

I explained that I went and had a drink and that was it and a couple of them laughed.   I could not really understand what was the big deal but then one of them asked me if I knew who Rachel was.  I told him that I knew her from college, that’s all.  They laughed again and then he told me.

“Have you not heard of her family name Garo?”
“No… is there something that I should know?”
“Rachel’s dad is a well known gangster in east London mate.  In fact her family are all gangsters and they do have a reputation.  That bar that you went to, is well known as one of their hangouts.  Not many people would dare go there!”

The penny dropped and everything started making sense; her clothes, expensive jewellery and the bar that she’s been gifted.  My thoughts wandered to the night before and I remembered the rough types and the various characters who shook my hand when she introduced me.  I often wonder which famous gangster’s hand I shook that night.  I am probably lucky to have been oblivious and maybe that is what helped me go through the night.

I never changed with Rachel, we still had our coffees and chats, we still enjoyed a good laugh and our warped sense of humour.  I never lost respect for her because of what her family did and we never discussed it.  She was intelligent, she knew that I knew but that was as far as it went.

I will never forget my brief journey into the underworld and my brief meeting and greeting with London’s top gangsters.  They probably thought that I was tough, like them because I showed no fear.  Little do they know that it’s due to me being naïve.  As for my college friends, they remained impressed that I had visited that bar.  They probably saw me in a different light after that and assumed that I had now become ‘connected’.

Very strange experience but at least I am here and smiling about it now.

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