Author: -Frank Zigler

The once upon a time men passed the pub every day in that summer of 1992 jointly carrying a handle each of a faded happy shopper bag. They looked like ‘harmless men’ and today would be considered men ‘on the spectrum’.

They passed by on their way to the shop every day at 4pm and you could set your clock with them and they returned fully leavened down an hour later.

There were very limited options  to shop up on the Green around then , a couple of off licences, a second hand furniture shop , a single  café but it had more fruit and vegetable shops per capita than anywhere else in London, that always seemed odd but nobody seemed to pass any heed.

This lack of interest in the rise of fruit and vegetable shops amongst the locals could have been because most of them were strung out on China white.

We knew a guy called Diamond Dave , he seemed like a  happy go lucky guy, always getting pissed up on Diamond White, it was the cider that was all the rage then. Some felt sorry for him cos he looked like he was lonely but there was another darker reason for his haunted drunken stupor, guilt cos he served up smack on the green and was working for a Turkish firm who ran a chain of high turnover , you guessed it , fruit and vegetable shops.

I always associated smack with fruit and vegetables ever since, it makes no sense I know, but you have to be street wise and keep your wits about you down the Angel and its like losing your childhood innocence, it takes all your naivety away and you start to look at decent honest Turkish fruit and vegetable shopkeepers with distrust and where someone sees a simple innocent avocado you see a ten pound fix.

You never do get your innocence back you know which takes me back to where we started The Once upon a time men.

Toz and I called them that name because they looked like they had stepped out of a fairytale.

They actually looked like fairies or gnome like mini men , both wore similar ill fitting coats, looked like brothers even semi twins , we never asked so we could only ever assume.

They could have been orphaned we thought, now in their late thirties and living a simple life and the highlight of every day was the trip to the shops on the green.

We had a mini man working for us too, he was 5ft 1 inches and had a beard 2 foot long and was a recovering folk hippy from the Irish midlands, he was a warm and fuzzy character but had a fierce fondness for the drink, his tipple was Guinness, between 10-15 pints a day and never paid for a drink in his life.

His name was Roderick John Locke and he despised the Once upon a Time men even though they never spoke to each other, he just stared at them and they at him, it was like they recognised each other from another planet but didn’t want to say anything.

One particular evening the Once upon a Time men passed as usual at 4pm , it was the month of July and it was hot, Roderick was wasting his and our time up on the roof watering the hanging baskets that hung outside the pub.

Myself and Toz thought it’d be a laugh to hide a hanging basket  on Roderick and blame it on the Once upon a Time men.

We took one discreetly away and sure as clockwork at 5pm the two possibly brothers , possibly aliens, possibly psycho  men rounded the corner walking two abreast and each holding one handle of their happy shopper bag.

We waited till they passed the pub then shouted at Roderick,’ those two fuckers have robbed one of your baskets’ and Roderick came running down  the stairs off the roof and started to run after the Once upon a Time men. The sight of the three mini men running and panting down the Albion road and Roderick like a crazed leprechaun giving chase cursing and roaring till one of the Once upon a Time men tripped on his own trainer lacer and tumbled over pulling the other one on top and the happy shopper tipped on to the footpath.

And like I said before you never can get your innocence back which is heart-breaking really as we dreamed up the two brothers, they looked nice but probably not the full shilling and we sabotaged our own mini man Roderick and his hanging basket for a bit of craic but what we saw unfold in reality was kinda tragic really , the happy shopper tipped on to the street had seven vacuum packed bags of smack fell out.

The Once upon a Time men who we all thought were simple were couriers.

We could guess and create a back story as to why they did it, they might have been orphans and abused and forced to carry the stuff, they might have been junkies they might not even have been brothers but the fact is that in that golden hazy summer of 92 nothing was what it seemed and everything was for sale.

Never heard what happened to them , we didn’t snitch them up maybe we should have  but it was none of our business and anyways fantasy is better than reality sometimes and we went back to dreaming up something else to take our minds off the terrible pain of the real world and all the people on china white waiting outside fruit and veg shops up on the green.