On the somewhat circuitous career route that led me to advertising i had some very strange jobs indeed. one very weird one was working in a bar in an extremely Asian part of London. I was new to London and needed a job fast and they needed a bartender fast. At the interview I noticed that this pub looked a lot newer than most london pubs. it was a lot newer.
it turned out that the pub — The Hambrough Tavern — had been the focal point for a race riot in 1981, just nine years earlier. And it had been burned to the ground. It was in Southall, an overwhelmingly Indian and Pakistani neighborhood in west london.
Yet the idiot guvnor of the pub somehow decided that bringing in neo-nazi skinhead bands to play in the pub was a good idea. It wasn’t a good idea. And the arriving skinhead fans soon clashed with the locals, who then set fire to the pub as the bands played.
I found out all this much later. I thought i had found myself a cushy number in a new-smelling pub. I was wrong.
After a while i noticed that the clientele of the pub was somewhat limited. It consisted solely of Punjabis (Sikhs, the guys with the turbans) who didn’t seem to have jobs yet had plenty of cash. This was their home pub. They were gangsters. The gang was called the Holy Smokes. Their rival gang was called something in Punjabi that sounded like TOOTENANS to my ears.
These boys could drink too. We got on well. They were good fun and hilarious to listen to.
Punjabis are the turban wearing dudes with the beards. They come from the Punjab province of india. They are NOT muslims as a lot of people assume. Sikhism is a separate religion. These guys didn’t wear the turbans or have beards. They were second-generation and all had thick london accents. They were fond of telling me that they were “Indo-Europeans”.
One gang associate was an ambulance driver who wore a ton of gold jewelry. He was a really good pool player and general jack the lad. His name was Afi.
There never was any violence in the pub. Mostly because all the locals were afraid of the Holy Smokes. So they had the pub to themselves. Although one night one of the gangsters, Ranjit, a very tall and well-built gangster unfortunately, was tripping on acid and started throwing pool balls at some imaginary monster. He did a lot of damage that night.
Another night, a very drunk member of the rival gang walked into the pub and started disrespecting the patrons. One of whom pulled out an alarmingly long knife and stabbed him in arse. Stabbing someone in the bum was a sign of additional disrespect apparently.
Now if you’ve never seen someone get stabbed in the arse let me describe it to you: a fountain of blood squirting out of your bottom.
The Holy Smokes gang leader gestured to me not to call the cops or ambulance until the stabber made a getaway. So i didn’t. The rival gang member staggered out the door of the pub, squirting blood out of his bottom as he went.
But here was the funny part. When the ambulance arrived, and it took a while, guess who was driving it? That’s right – Afi! And Afi was in no hurry to get the emergency room either. He smoked a leisurely fag with me and had a drink as they loaded the wounded hero onto the ambulance. Afi joked about how slow the ride to the hospital would be. I laughed. The whole thing was crazy.
this youtube video Gives you some idea of what i was dealing with. Hilarious.