Baz and Mark emerge from the budget hotel and step into the warm early evening streets of another European city in search of refreshment. To Baz all European cities are the same, existing only to host away matches for the football team he supports, the reason he’s here now, and to maintain his beer intake – best described as monumental. Culture and the like can go hang in Baz’s eyes. Entering a pretty plaza, he rubs his hands eagerly,
‘Where we opening our account then, I’m fucking gagging?’
‘Your choice squire’, says Mark. It’s always Baz’s choice anyway.
‘May I suggest a hostelry of some description. We’ve got four nights in this dungheap. Should be able to find one decent battle cruiser at least’
‘Dungheap? We’ve only been here an hour. Give it a chance for fuck’s sake’
The plaza is dotted with couples strolling, families and street traders. From nowhere a man jumps out at the two friends causing them both to recoil. He’s bedecked in flowing clothes, a fez and grinning wildly, ‘Shoe shine?!!!’ He sweeps his hand proudly towards his stall and continues with the huge grin. Baz and Mark attempt to walk on.
‘Shoeshine sirs? Sir. Shoeshine?’
Sparkling footwear is pretty lowdown on their agenda as they attempt to side step the man who in turn blocks their path.
‘Sir. Very shiny, very nice. Clean shoes sir.’ He’s cottoned onto Baz, ‘very shiny. You want shoes clean and shiny?’
‘Fuck off you tit!’ retorts Baz. Mark raises an eyebrow in a ‘nice work Baz, classy’ kind of way.
‘Very shiny shoes sir. See face in shoes’ and Mr Shoeshine sweeps a hopeful hand again to his pristine workstation of brushes, waxes, polishes and cloths.
This does little to impress an irate Baz, ‘Look at my feet you fucking buffoon!’ and the three of them do so together, all eyes resting on a pair of slightly soiled but much loved white trainers. Baz starts to leave the scene, his head shaking at the incompetence of these foreign types but Mr Shoeshine isn’t giving up and his hopeful voice tracks them as they walk off,
‘Sir, sir!’ he offers.
They turn together and he’s holding up a tube between index finger and thumb, grinning even more wildly.
‘I have special trainer whiting. Make trainer very white!’
‘For fuck’s sake’ mumbles Baz and breaks into a gentle gait to escape the persistent salesman who’s still holding up the tube and beaming.
It’s the next night and the two lads are walking along the same route in the gentle dusk light. They’re chatting about the previous evening’s events and still suffering belated hangovers which are soon to be given a hair of the dog treatment.
‘Eh up, your mate’s here, keep walking’ mumbles Mark out of the corner of his mouth. Baz is behind, crouched against a slight breeze wrestling with a cigarette and poorly functioning lighter. ‘Mmm? Y’what...fucking foreign crap...light y’bast...got it...what you on about?’
And here he is again, blocking Baz’s path.
‘Sir, special trainer polish. Very white. you take seat’
His hand sweep more majestic than ever is observed by a dismissive Baz. He blows cigarette smoke out of the corner of an unhappy mouth and pinches the bridges of his nose to think for a second.
‘Listen you fucking quarter wit.I don’t want my fucking trainers cleaning. They’re clean enough you tit!’
They aren’t to be honest. They could be caked in three week old dog shit and he could have walked through a trough of hot tar but to Baz they were box fresh if it meant not giving this irksome little man his business.
‘Come on, the beer’s getting warm’, says Mark, laughing at his mate’s predicament. Maybe it’s payback for not giving a flying fuck for what the place may offer other than ale houses.
‘I would if this knob’ll let me past.’
Baz stares into Mr Shoeshine man’s face who in turn grins back and meekly mouths hopefully, ‘Very white?’ while his potential customer barges past.
‘Look, if he’s there again you just stride past ok?’
Mark’s drilling Baz on their third night. They’d choose a different route but their now regular bar is located on the other side of the square. To be honest they’ve never got as far as discovering another place. ‘It sells beer, it’s cheap, I like it’ is Baz’s Tripadvisor style review.
‘Don’t engage in conversation that’s the key.’
‘It’s alright for you, he’s fucking latched onto me hasn’t he. Why don’t you get your bastard shoes shined?
‘Because I’m wearing trainers’
‘Don’t fucking go there. Very white, very white’ says Baz in a non-specific foreign accent.
Like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn the shoeshine man appears and is off with his patter and his sweeping and his grinning and his little act...
‘You have dirty shoes sir. You need shiny shoe shine. Special trainer white. Very cheap. Come oooon, give me break.’
Baz puts his head in his hands, exasperated whilst Mark giggles uncontrollably. They’re both a little pissed from a bonus afternoon session of a couple that led to a few couples.
Mr Shoeshine continues to proudly sweep his hand to his stall. Pigeons peck nearby.
From his window seat at the pizza restaurant a few yards away an old man watches the scene unfold between bites of pepperoni and cheese. He sees one man with a red face shouting a lot and pointing at his feet, another with a fez is holding something up whilst doing exaggerated sweeping gestures and a little further on a third man is doubled up laughing at the other two. He swallows and sips on his wine.
‘Same bar then eh?’
No reply from Baz.
‘Same bar then yeh?’
No reply. He tries again.
‘Can we at least make an attempt to try somewhere else please, we’ve been to the same...’
Baz stops walking, faces his friend and bites his lip.
‘I can’t go through all that again. I’m off to get my trainers cleaned. Bollocks to it, where is that little fucker?’
He scans the square, squinting in the sun and strides off purposely to the shoe shine stall where his ‘mate’ is plonked behind a newspaper, fez peeking over the top.
‘ere mate. oi!’ and pulls down the paper, ‘it’s your lucky night squire’.
The stall holder dramatically flicks his paper back into a readable state and continues to scan it.
‘ere, come on Mr Shoeshine. Here’s my shoes’ and Baz plonks his size nine on the step, ‘Come on, clean the bastards with your special white stuff. You’ve worn me down. You win’
The shoeshine man makes an exaggerated gesture in turning the page whilst cocking his above average sized nose in the air. Mark watches from nearby and frowns as he sees Baz throw his hands in the air and turn away, turn back, shout something containing a fair smattering of fucks and walks back towards his mate.
‘Let’s get a fucking drink’
‘What’s going on? Thought you were getting your shiny shoes very nice?’ Mark jogs to keep up.
‘Don’t fucking ask’. Baz has his lips pursed and is shaking his head as if surveying bleach spilt on the shagpile, ‘you couldn’t make it up. You couldn’t fucking make it up’
Baz stops and turns to Mark. A good six inches taller, he looks down at his mate and clears his throat.
‘He said..…he said it’s his fucking day off!’
And while Mark is picking his self up off his knees some little time later and wiping away tears of laughter saved only for moments like this a shabby looking man appears and on his arm belts hang like snakes from a branch.
‘Belt sir? you want nice leather belt? Keep up trouser.’
And Baz smacks him somewhere near the right eye, not his hardest punch, but it’ll be sore in the morning.