The weirdest thing that ever happened to me (apart from that other thing):
Many moons ago I spent a couple of post-college years on the dole. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, or so it would appear judging by the number of friends making the same career choice. I lived in Hackney, coveniently located right opposite a string of fine restaurants – a kebab shop, a chippie, and a Starburger. Sadly, the ?27 per week I received from being a sponge on the State didn’t stretch to such gourmet pleasures, so for the most part it was baked beans on toast, day after day after day. The only other things I spent money on were cigarettes (Lambert & Butler, because they were cheap) and a weekly jaunt to the Syndrome Club on Oxford Street, possible birthplace of Britpop, home to ‘the scene that celebrated itself’ (Lush, Moose, Swervedriver etc), where no-one paid to get in and where members of The Wonderstuff and Carter USM would frug around the dancefloor to Mudhoney and The Stone Roses. Glorious times.
Each week I stumbled drunkenly out into the darkness at closing time to catch the N97 nightbus home, where a bedtime snack of beans on toast was waiting. Around noon the following day I’d get up and have more beans for brunch… I think you get the idea.
Sadly, man cannot live on beans alone. Apart from the monotony of the diet, there’s health implications to consider, alongside the obvious, more pungent side effects. One Monday evening, I’d had enough. There was a choice to be made. I could pop into the corner shop for enough beans to last me through till Wednesday, or I could buy a kebab and not eat at all for the best part of 48 hours. I chose the latter.
It was a thing of rare beauty indeed. I hurried home, greasy goodness seeping through the wrapping paper, and unveiled a feast fit for a King on the kitchen table. After admiring this one man banquet for several moments, I lifted the fat-saturated bread to my mouth, ready to gorge on delicious month-old lamb and wilted vegetables.
And then the bell rang.
I pottered off downstairs, untouched kebab in hand, opened up the door, and standing there was a horse. No rider, just a horse. No-one else in the immediate vicinity. On the aptly named Mare St, main thoroughfare through one of urban Britain’s bleakest neighbourhoods (don’t get upset if you’re a resident, I hear it’s much nicer these days). The horse looked at me, I looked back at the horse, both of us looked down at the dripping kebab in my hand, and before I knew it a giant set of teeth had clamped down on my dinner and wrestled away the lettuce and tomato. I panicked, dropping the rest on the floor, while the horse promptly turned and wandered off in the direction of Hackney Downs, chewing contentedly. I stared at the mess on the pavement, decided not to resuscitate the damn thing, and went back indoors.
I have never been able to come up with a rational explanation as to what happened that evening. And I’ve never trusted horses since.