Monday 9 February 2004 12.33pm
Well well. Funny thing happened to me on Saturday night.
I was sitting in my car - parked considerately - at the back of the National Theatre
waiting for the Mrs at 6.30pm when who should trot into view - none other than Captain Panic. Undercover, not sporting his trademark epaulets, but unmistakeable nevertheless. He jogged past the car and I watched him skulk around the back for a while - strangely for man of his trade seemingly unaware of the function affored by the bits of silver glass on each side of a motor vehicle - then, prepared, he trotted back towards me.
Unusually not being in a hurry, and aware of the appropriateness of his choice of venue, I thought I would give him the opportunity to perform.
He indicated he wanted to talk to me so I opened the door and oh dear, all was not well. Not at all. With arms waving, his bunch of keys in one hand and what looked like a new mobile with a blue LCD screen in the other and the usual breathless Irish brogue and anxiety-ridden delivery he warmed quickly to his theme.
He's clearly suffered from tourist timewasters, got wise to that, and now asks if you can speak English. Readers might want to prepare a "Nyet" option if they encounter him this summer. He doesn't strike me as the type that will cross-examine and ask how you understood the question.
Anyway, his wife had gone into labour four weeks early and had been transferred from St Thomas' to a second hospital (sounded suspiciously like St Paul's) and had then been transferred to St Benedict's. But he wasn't asking me to take him there. No. Definitely not asking that. (Which was just as well as I have no idea where St Benedict's is, and personally I would have tried the maternity unit at Guy's but then what do I know). So on it went.
So although he didn't need a lift he did need my help. And with a quick evaluating glance at the car he informed me needed four quid to get to St Benedict's. Of course he would give me his keys, his jacket, or anything - quite why wasn't established but I wondered if the phone might be an upgrade for me - and in summary what was required was Four Quid. St Benedict's.
Ouch and sharp intake of breath, prices have gone up, and he waited for my response.
Ignoring the obvious question of why he didn't drive there when he was clearly holding a car key in his right hand, I observed affably, "you usually ask me for money to park your coach".
Well the coach had obviously been the source of some frustration because he immediately span on his heels, exclaiming f****** coach, and off he trotted in the general direction of St Thomas' - just as the Mrs swung into view - leaving me to ponder the issues raised.
Did he perhaps need the four quid for diesel for his coach? And where can you buy diesel for coaches in SE1 anyway? How far can a coach go on four quid's worth? Where is St Benedict's - sounds more like a cider the SE1'ers might drink? Can he draw? Has he got £375,000 in his bank account as well?
Another South Bank mystery!