Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 2

A continuation of Grovel Greg, Grovel - Greg moves to London. It is 1976. Greg is a shy and naive 19 year-old, who has decided to take his chances in the big city. He must pitch his wits against racism, unemployment, and people who want to take advantage of his inexperience. But things don’t go well, and by the Autumn, he has disappeared from the face of the Earth. Or has he? In Part 2 Greg moves to London, and takes-up residence in the strange lodging house, "Turbot". Part 3 is set in the present day, as his sister sets out to discover what really happened. One chapter will be published on Movellas each day, until the story reaches its gripping conclusion.

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4. The Date

Derrick has arranged for Greg to meet Leomi in a pub. Maybe Derrick thought alcohol would help. The pub is in part of Stockwell that Greg does not know very well. The pub is called The Globe. Sure enough, when Greg arrives, he sees a rather tacky sphere dangling from an iron arm protruding from the front of the pub. The sphere sways in the warm evening breeze. Greg has decided to go through with the date, to please Derrick. But he knows that once it is over, he can say that they didn’t hit it off, wash his hands of her. He is glad that the date is in a pub: at least he will have the chance to sink a few pints, which is becoming one of Greg's favourite hobbies.

            Having convinced himself that the date means nothing, in romantic terms, his nerves are thus settled as he enters the pub. It is just before 8.00 pm on Wednesday 2nd June, 1976. There are a lot of people in the pub for a midweek night, thinks Greg.... black people. He is alarmed. What if this is a 'black' pub? Greg has been told (by white people) that there are 'black' pubs, and that a puny, white guy like him should not venture into one alone.

            But the blacks just look at him for a while, as if he is a vaguely interesting minor piece at an exhibition, then turn away to get on with their drinking and chatting.

            Greg orders a pint of Double Diamond. He decides he must not start to drink it before Leomi arrives. So he sits there, on his own, trying to look occupied, without doing the one thing that would occupy him- drinking. He takes-in the decor. The landlord has tried to make the place look modern, by providing benches covered in bold orange plastic to replace the rickety old wooden chairs that (Greg imagines) were once here. He looks at his watch. It is ten past eight. What sort of person would be ten minutes late for a date, he wonders? No one who is serious about it, he decides. He smiles a faint, ironic smile to himself- of course his date would get messed-up- his first ever date, at that. He is destined to be single for ever. Greg starts to believe that he has been stood-up. 'Oh well,' he thinks; at least he has kept his side of the bargain. He can look Derrick in the eye and say 'yes' he had been there, it was her who did not turn-up. He breathes a sigh of relief and makes for his pint mug.

            At that moment, the pub door opens. The men at the bar stop talking. They are watching the flurry of a spectacular floral dress as it starts to appear through the door. It is, of course, Leomi. She is having trouble getting herself and that dress through the door. Some of the men at the bar smile when they see this. Leomi appears to like being the centre of attention, and gives them a broad smile back. She does not appear to have seen Greg. This is the first time Greg has seen her smile. He tries to work-out whether she looks any more attractive when she smiles.

            Greg feels a flush of embarrassment creeping up his neck. He realises that instead of being an object of desire to the men at the bar, Leomi is a curiosity. They have that 'What the fuck is that?" look on their faces. They will be thinking: 'Who is her date with?'-'What sort of man would want to go out with a woman like that?' And the answer to those questions is him. To compound matters, Leomi does not seem to have spotted Greg. She is preoccupied with soaking-up the attention from the other men. Thus Greg is going to have to make himself known to her, which will draw even more attention to himself.

            Greg waves at her, hoping that no one else will see him do this. But she does not see him, though Greg can sense everyone else staring at him. His cheeks burn.

            Eventually, Leomi sees Greg. She stops smiling and marches over to his table. Then she stands there, in front of him, so Greg stands too. He thinks that he may be supposed to kiss her, but he does not possess the necessary know-how. So he forces a smile, and waves his arms around in a manner designed to suggest that, if only convention would have allowed it, he would have kissed her. Still she does not smile, or say anything. Greg starts to find this disconcerting. He can feel anxious perspiration bursting through the pores on his forehead. He knows the men at the bar are watching. He is free entertainment. He offers her a drink. At last she says something. It sounds like:

            "Dubrumanko." She says this in a deep voice, which Greg finds strangely muffled.

            "Pardon?" he says.

            "Dubrumanko," she says again. In fact, Greg makes her say this several times: each time he cranes his neck a little nearer Leomi, in an effort to aid comprehension, and each time some more sweat appears on his forehead. He thinks the other customers in the are pub laughing at him.

            To avoid further embarrassment, Greg pretends to have at last understood, and escapes to the bar. Now he stands in front of the barman looking flummoxed, unsure what to order. He begins to believe there is a rare brand of spirit called 'Dubrumanko', and he is about to order it when one of the other customers leans towards him and says quietly:

            "I'd get her a double rum and coke if I were you mate." That was it!- Double rum and coke, that is what she'd been saying all the time!

            "Cheers mate!" says Greg. Greg has never said 'cheers mate' to a black man before.

            Greg decides he must do all the talking during their date, as Leomi obviously has a very poor command of English. So he sets-off on a long-winded description about how he he has come up from the country to work in the city, justifying his actions as he goes along on the grounds of his fresh entrepreneurial spirit "Which is what you gotta have nowadays." To his surprise Leomi says:

            "Yes, it is the more enterprising members of a community who choose to migrate to the big city." Now Greg feels stupid; he realises that Leomi's English is at least as good as his- he has struggled only because he has taken a while to get used to her accent. Greg smiles. But Leomi looks bored, and Greg senses that his date is about to come to an end. She says:

"OK. You come to my flat on Saturday night." And at that, she promptly gets-up and leaves the pub. Greg stands-up and watches her leave, and then sits down again to finish his pint.

 

On Thursday, Greg walks round to Derrick's flat. He needs to ask Derrick if he knows where Leomi's flat is. Greg was so surprised by her proposition, he forgot to ask Leomi where she lives. These days, Derrick is Greg's main friend- he scarcely socialises with Olly. Greg's relationship with Olly is strained. Greg is unsure what precisely has changed things, but he imagines that Olly bears a grudge against him, for some reason. Greg goes to Derrick's flat just after work. Upon his arrival, Derrick dives in the fridge and extracts a can of lager for Greg. He then says, in a serious tone: “Greg. There is something I want you to see man.”  He ushers Greg into the living room and sits him on the leather sofa, in front of the telly. Greg sips his lager. 'This is so cool,' thinks Greg, ‘sitting on a black guy’s leather sofa drinking a tin at 5.50 in the afternoon.’ But Greg is also wondering what Derrick wants to show him. Derrick gravely points a long finger at the telly. The test match is on. “You guys have been bowling at us all day and you've only taken two wickets. Two wickets,” Derrick repeats, his pleasure begining to break-through. “England- You are being beaten at your own game!” More mirth from Derrick. Then, in a cracking 'English' accent he proclaims “Its just not cricket!” Eventually the telly shows the score- loads of runs for just two wickets. Viv Richards has got 143. The most Greg ever scored in P.E. lessons at school was 2. Derrick turns the telly off: “OK, enough punishment for today! Now down to business.”

            Derrick draws a diagram of where Leomi's flat is located. It is in a house, on a small street, off Railton Road, in Brixton. “Don't bring flowers. Bring drink. Strong drink. And some of these.” Derrick waves-around a packet of Durex. “You know what these are, don't you?”

            “Yes, but I...........”

            “OK, have these.” Derrick gives Greg two packets of Durex.

            “Why've you given me two packs?”

            “One for training. One for live combat. And don't get there too late.”

            “What time do you think I should get there?”

            “No later than seven o'clock,” says Derrick, with great certainty. Greg is surprised.

            “Seven o'clock? But she told me to come there on Saturday night.” Derrick tries to explain.

            “Railton Road....” he pauses to think how to put it: “....it can be a rough area........you may be, how should I say....conspicuous. Get there at seven, lock the door behind you. And make love!”

 

Friday night, at Turbot, Greg decides to go to bed very late. He whiles-away some of the moments before bed time by filling-in his diary. He tries to tell his diary how it feels to be on the verge of losing one's virginity. How it is to be (on the verge of) having all one's doubt and curiosity blown-away and finally accepted as a fully-fledged Man of the World. But his pen fails to convey the magnitude of the it.

            The reason why Greg has decided to go to bed so late is so that he can be sure all the other people in Turbot have gone to bed, before he tries-on a Durex. Olly in particular had the habit of bursting into Greg's room without warning, though he has not done this recently. Finally, Turbot is quiet. Greg imagines that Olly is prowling up and down the landing outside. He tells himself not to be so silly, and starts to think of women. He thinks of Raquel Welch in the film One Million Years BC. He thinks of Nadia with her bare legs in her short skirt. He thinks of Shaccara. He does not think of Leomi. After a short while he is ready to try on the spare Durex.

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