Sunday, 24 April 2011
The Flying Scotsman - a reflection on St George's Day
I do voluntary work with a campaign called No Sweat. We raise money for workers fighting for their rights in other countries, generally in factories doing outsourced work for big corporations, in short, sweatshop workers. Possibly of more interest to my readers, however, is the fact that No Sweat's office is in King's Cross!
I spend a couple of days a week in a top-floor room leased from Housmans radical bookshop. The computer at the No Sweat office is hopelessly slow. The long minutes passing as the screen redraws or the computer performs the most basic task gives me time to gaze out of the window at the flats, shops and streets around about. King's Cross, half regenerated, half degenerate, affords plenty to see and think about.
A key feature of the area is the Flying Scotsman pub. Look this up on beerintheevening or fancyapint and you'll learn, as I did, that this pub is famous for its strippers.
I can see into the first floor where there appears to be a small bar and some stools. The clientele upstairs are mostly women - perhaps they are the turns resting between acts. There is also the men's toilet. Mercifully, that has frosted glass but you can still see whether a man is sitting or standing, and count the number of sheets of bog paper he tears off to wipe his arse.
The pub windows on the ground floor are painted over, a flat brown colour.
The Flying Scotsman is always busiest on a Friday evening; men pitch up in droves from mid-afternoon, desperate for a pint and an ogle.
I'm no connoisseur of strip joints, but according to the reviews (and the testimony of a friend who says he once popped in there when desperate for the loo) a noteworthy feature of the Flying Scotsman is that while one woman performs, the next act circulates around the bar with a pint pot. The more money the punters put into the pot, the more the woman on the stage reveals. It all sounds very depressing.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon there was quite a commotion outside the FS. A large group of white men, sporting little red rosebuds on their chests in honour of St George's Day, had just left the pub. They had brought an "official photographer" along for the day: a girlfriend or wife of one of them, who did her best to take some group photos - but it was not easy, since she was as drunk as her subjects.
The men shouted a lot and made disparaging remarks about some of the people passing, particularly anyone who wasn't white. Then at some signal the bulk of them lurched off in the direction of King's Cross station. One of their number tried to get back into the pub but the pub closed the door on him and there was an argument on the pavement. Two vans of old bill turned up and ticked the drunk man off - but the intervention of the forces of law and order came too late, well after the lord mayor's show had passed.
Everyone should know by now, but for the purposes of this post I still must mention, that the historical figure of St George was probably born in Palestine/Syria, and, of course, he never visited England.
So what did I witness yesterday? A group of white Englishmen too rude to be welcome in a strip joint. Invoking the name of a Palestinian/Syrian-born Christian saint in order to abuse anyone who didn't look like them. With women playing only bit parts in the drama (I use the word advisedly). How far from decency we still are.