Our quiet Oxford Street daily’s life was sometimes broken by the sudden and almost fleeting appearance of the "smugglers".
These were lurking people from the East London less wicked and dishonest than their nickname could allow to presume, who were capable of improvising a street sales of genuine false brand names best suited for a Goldoni’s comedy.
They usually acted in groups of four, each one of them with a definite role.
They arrived to Oxfors street in a peak hour (between 11.30 a.m and 16 p.m.) after parking their van in one of the inner streets. They usually occupied a sidewalk segment between two crossbars; two of them acted as poles in each of the two intersections, so it could never happen that a patrol bobbies came unexpectedly and the other two arranged the box with the merchandise in the center of the pavement (perfumes, wallets, scarves, lighters, watches, jewelry, which varied according to the days, but they were always fake trademarks).
One of them, the speaker, sitting on one of the cardboard boxes, overturned as a seat, while on the other higher the objects were exposed for sale, boasted the quality and price of their goods, extolled in that incomprehensible London dialect, which itself was an unmissable show.
The other, the provocateur, was placed behind the crowd who regularly stopped around the show, attracted by that improvised show and pushing against people with the elbows, showing the money between his fingers, shouted "... I buy three of them! "," I want two! "," I take four of those! "dragging behind him dozens of buyers who sometimes gave the money without even knowing what they were buying.
Once one of the two poles, aware of the arrival of a couple of bobbies, gave the alarm. Within a matter of five seconds, without having previously reassured the occasional customers on their honest intentions, goods, money and boxes had already disappeared swallowed from the alley opposite to the policemen 's arrival direction. And after these, completely ignorant, had disappeared from the acute view of the poles, at the same point they were reforming the sales desk. And it should be added that the interruption did not do much to the affairs of the band.
As a matter of fact the fear of the police the band showed, whether true or false it might have been, convinced people that the proposed deal had to be very profitable.
What a blessed naivety of British people and London tourists!
I remember that my father used to count about Neapolitan scoundrels selling to naïve buyers fake gold watches since the endo of Second World War, pretending they were booty of the last robbery of the century. Though everybody knows the Neapolitan Theatre , is somewhat different from the English comedy.
I also remember that Bob once confessed to me that he had earned his way of living in that style , for some time, and he knew those who practiced it, to be all very good guys.
11. to be continued...