The Spar on New Cross road is one of my regular haunts. Whether it's picking up a newspaper after work, buying emergency plum tomatoes for one of my oh-so-lovely stews, and now, a seemingly interminable sale of 1l bottles of Copella apple juice for £1.49. Scholars of the 1l bottle of Copella will understand what I mean, it's value for money which makes you want to slap your bottom Asda-style. The shopkeepers in the area know my face. In fact, sometimes when I buy plantain (which some of you may or may not know is a personal obsession), I get offered an extra one - which is basically 5 for the price of 4, or 5 for £1. When you go through as many plantains as I do, one extra plantain can be difference between rice and plantain, and rice with a hint of plantain.
Sometime last year or the year before, I went into the Spar (which incidentally doesn't sell plantain), only for the shopkeeper to greet me like a long lost brother. They must love my custom, I thought. How about a free bottle of Copella, I almost said. "Do you still work at Victoria?", he asked. I've worked all over London in my time, it was plausible that he'd seen me work in Victoria. "No, I haven't worked in Victoria in a while", I replied, "I work all over the place."
For some reason, I felt I should know him, which is why the questions didn't seem so weird. It may have been one of my sight issues. Once upon a time, I jumped on the bus 63, when I should have been getting the 53. The bus turned off Old Kent Road, which made me ask the driver what bus I was on. 63. Not 53. My not knowing this man may have been as a result of my sometimes dodgy eyesight. So I played along.
And then he asked me about Paneel. Paneel? Oh, Paneel! No I haven't seen him for a while. The truth is, I didn't have a clue who Paneel was. At this point, it should have tweaked that I didn't know this guy, because I always worked alone, and would never work with someone else. Let alone Paneel. But this was a shopkeeper who worked for Spar, he was here today, but he'd be gone tomorrow. Till today, I ask myself what possessed me to pretend that I knew Paneel. Of course he was there that day, but he hasn't been gone since. He pops up ocassionaly every few weeks, when Paneel is out of my mind. I walk in for a pint of milk, and bam! I end up having a conversation about Paneel, with someone who may as well be described as Paneel's keeper. I'm sure Paneel is doing well. Have you seen him lately? Is he still working at Victoria.
All I ever want is some milk, and a 1l bottle of Copella. But I end up talking about someone I don't know, never seen, had previously never heard of. So, who exactly is Paneel?