I was in Birmingham recently. For which I was roundly castigated by Andy for not telling him in advance so we could meet up for a drink.

During this time, I went out for a drink in a bar near The Mailbox, and then wandered along to a real ale bar called the Canalside Cafe. As you may imagine, this is next to the canal.

On the way along, our party encountered a gentleman holding a copy of The Big Issue, and asking if we would help contribute to his kebab fund.

There were initially a certain amount of murmurings and “no thank yous” but this did not perturb the gentleman, who carried on walking along the canalside with our party, suggesting that we mind where we placed our feet, as we did not wish to bump into various moorings and the like along the banks of the canal.

He assured us that he was not actually trying to sell us a copy of The Big Issue, saying that it was like trying to sell ‘Rocking-horse shit’, which at least appeared to demonstrate a sense of humour, although he seemed to have missed the point somewhat. As I understood the definition, rocking horse shit relates to something extremely rare (or non-existent) so presumably if you actually had some, people would be willing to buy it.

Indeed, he should perhaps have indicated that trying to find a buyer for the Big Issue was like trying to find rocking-horse shit. This would have made somewhat more sense.

However, as it was bloody freezing and despite the fact that I wasn’t convinced he was a legitimate Big Issue seller (he seemed to have one copy rather than many, I didn’t notice a seller’s badge etc), I chose not to offer up a critique upon his incorrect usage of the term and instead contributed some money towards his drink or drug habit — sorry, kebab fund.

When we arrived at the drinking establishment he wandered off and we occupied ourselves with a pint of something which, if I remember correctly, was called ‘Darkwing’ before later being joined by another member of our party, who promptly informed us he’d just met a Big Issue seller by the canal who was after money for his kebab fund, because apparently trying to sell a Big Issue was like trying to sell rocking-horse shit.

While I was slightly disappointed that it appeared that the gentleman only had one routine (which was flawed), it was interesting to encounter some local ‘colour’, and it was also pleasant that he was cheery and good-humoured and it provided a point of interest for the evening.

I can’t help but wonder however, whether if we had mentioned the encounter to the barman, he would have responded similarly to the barman in the tale of the nun outside a bar.

2 Responses to “Rocking-horse”

  1. Dan responds:

    For a late, cold Wednesday night in Birmingham his patter was pretty good. God knows how long he’d been out there, but what seemed like his last copy of the Issue was looking a little ragged and grubby. We should be glad he didn’t insist we take it…

  2. JackP responds:

    Hmm…. like I say, I’m less than convinced it was his last copy: I think it was the copy he got his hands on specifically to look like a legitimate vendor (which, lets face it, kind of fits in with someone with the gift o’ the gab like that)… but yes, the patter was good.

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