Another week and another episode of Captain Crickles’ Shanghai Seafaring Adventures. For those of you who were bored enough at work to peruse Captain Crickles memoirs you will recall that last week we were left with the right honourable Captain having landed in Shanghai and within a few short hours having found himself trapped in what he described as “the belly of the underground tube beast”. What is this beast and will the Captain escape? Read on in this week’s episode of Captain Crickles’ Shanghai Seafaring Adventures to find out. . .
After opening me eyes I were sure that I’d see blood and carnage of the damned, per’aps I meself would be one of this mighty beast’s victims, but nay, nay I tell thee. T’were as if I were locked in the hold of a ship. There were these bright lights and hundreds of people standing around staring, staring at what? What d’ya think? Staring at me, for why I cudn’na tell ya. I felt an odd sensation from me boots to me gullet, t’were like I were flying, but from what I cud tell we weren’t even movin'. It were all black outside, and inside on’t wall a moving picture was screaming some gibberish while some lassy were riding a donkey, I hadn’ a clue what were ‘appening, but all them Chinese didn’y even notice, they were too busy staring at me. Looking me up and down like I were some mermaid trying to lure sailors to their death. They cudn’ take their eyes off me, it were unsettlin’, I didn’y like it and I’m the kind of man not to take summat I don’t like. “WHAT YOU LOOKING AT?!”, no answer only stone cold gazes, “YOU FANCY ME OR SUMMAT?! PISS OFF!”, I were yellin’ at ‘em, givin' 'em a right load, but this only attracted the attention from more. I swears they were weighing me up, ‘magining what I tastes like I bet. Then suddenly the blackness outside turns to light and the beast halts, I crash into a couple of gawkers and then that beeping sound again. I see the doors open and I makes a dash for it, “MOVE GODDAMN IT! MOVE YOU INGRATES!!!”. People were tryin' to push their way on, I’m there tryin' to push me way off, carnage, then there's that beeping noise again, the doors start closing and I use all me might to squeeze out before the tube monster traps me once again. I land on me arse with a group of people staring at me. “What? You never seen a man fall on ‘is arse afore? Bugger off!”. I picks meself up and stumbles towards the stairs.
There’s two sets of stairs and one of ‘em appears to be moving as if powered by sorcery. Now, once again there’s a sea of black hair scrambling and pushing, punching and fighting, just to force their way on them magic stairs that carry ‘em up. Yet t'other stairs, the normal ones, are empty, not a soul on ‘em. So why are they all fighting to get on the magic ones? I walks around the swarming crowd and approach the empty stairs. Per'aps it’s a trap. Per'aps if I start climbing them stairs some spears are gonna fly out the walls and pin me to the ground like a cocktail stick through a cube of cheese on a buffet table. I look at the crowd, still fighting each other to get on the magic stairs, looks like far too much effort to me. “Sod it”, I says to meself, I tenderly put a foot on the normal stairs. . . nothin'. I step up all gingerly like. . . still nothin'. Starting to brim with confidence I begin climbing them stairs. They’re just normal stairs! So why’s all them Chinese fighting each other to get on t'other ones. It’s like they’re trying to save energy by letting the magic stairs carry ‘em up, but they’re expunging far more energy than it’d take to climb the normal stairs just trying to get on the magic ones. I dunnae understand, and it’s only 15 steps! Why?! I tell thee, them Chinese be mental, it’s like they get off on pushing into each other and scrabbling about. Whatever, I ain’t got no time to be pondering that unfathomable quandary, I needs to get out o’ this underground maze, back up top, and then I need to settle the rumblin’ in me stomach, but I’m out of guineas to pay. I need money, food and a bed, preferably with some wench in it to warm me cockles. But how to do it? Best place to start is a tavern I reckon, there’s always some loose tongued drunkard around who’d be happy to ‘elp out someone as infamous as good ol’ Cap'n Crickles. Tavern it is.
After finding me way out and back into sunlight with some difficulty I set to lookin' for the nearest tavern. Now, I were thinking this would be a trifle difficult and I were right. Everyone I approached ran in the opposite direction. People were avoiding me in the streets, crossing to the other side of the road when they saw me approaching, it were as if they thought I were carrying the black death. I started to believe I'd never find a tavern when all of a sudden I caught a whiff in the air, could it be? I could tell that smell anywhere in any which ways. . . RUM!!!
Lookin' round me all I could see were tall glass buildings that seemed to reach for the very 'eavens and behind me were some gold monstrosity, like one of them temple things, but I had no time to be goggling at no buildings, so's I follows me nose and it were telling me south, about one nautical mile, so off I went. . .
. . . and quickly encountered a disaster of a problem, road crossing. Now there were these steel carriages racing along like they were being chased by the devil 'imself. 'Ow to traverse them dangerous paths, only time could tell. I thinks to meself, “arr it'll be fine, just go straight ahead, they'll stop, surely no man's just gonna drive straight through us”, but I were wrong, thems drivers dunnae stop for no man. I tried crossing and was met with bursts of horns as loud as the screams of men being torn apart by sharks in the Yellow Seas, and I tell thee I preferred them screams to the howls these metal terrors were makin'. But how to cross? All the while me nose's gettin' stronger an stronger scents of me favourite tipple, but I can't get any closer 'cos of them blasted steel bastards! I cudn' see no alternative, just run for it, the God of Rum will keep me protected, either that or I'm gonna end up deadder than me Ma were after I put a knife through her throat following a dispute over who got to be the top hat in a game of Monopoly. . . I ain't never bein' nothin' but the top hat. We'd lost most of the other pieces so the only two other options were the iron or a dried up circumcised foreskin that belonged to me Uncle Dick that me Ma liked to keep in her purse, and I bloody hate irons!
So there I were, hat in hand sprinting across the street, zigzagging like a confused bee that's just encountered a window. There were 'orns blastin' at me and once or twice I really thought I was dun for, but luck were on me side and God only knows 'ow but I'd made it. The pungent aroma of freshly poured rum filled me lungs like an opium addict toking on death's black teat. I followed me nose as quick as me tired legs would take me and afore I knows it I were there. The street were signposted with some strange writing but I could kinda make out the English name, summat like Young Fool's Road, but that didn'y matter, what mattered were the rum bar I was standing in front of, and I tell thee it were my kind of gaff, like it had been plucked right out of Greenwich Docks and dumped here in Shanghai.
I pushed open the tavern door and was greeted with a site that brought a tear to me eyes. . . rum, everywhere rum, rum and more rum, rum, deliciously delectable, brain-cell destroying rum. To have it cross my very lips brings a twinge of pleasure in me nether regions. The fragrance can be likened to that of a young maiden frothin' between her legs while watching those “actors” in them Twilight films, there ain't nothin' sweeter on God's great Earth, and soon it would be running down me gullet, it's healing warmth seeping through me body. Rum, I loves you more than me own pleasure pickle.
I approached the bar, “Barkeep, rum”, I says.
“How much?” he says.
“Gimme one quart of your finest”.
As he's pouring the heavenly liquor he comments on me rags. “Nice costume there mate”.
Now why he'd comment on another man's clothes I 'av no idea, per'aps he's one of those who likes 'is butter spread on the other side, not my particular preference but I've seen a sailor lost at sea far too long end up givin' it to a halibut just to sate his desires, each to their own I guess.
Awkwardly I thank 'im for the compliment and as he passes over me bottle of amber joy me 'ands start a tremblin' with excitement. I pour meself a glass and raise it to me lips. . . but afore I can get a climatic taste the barkeep puts his hand on me arm and says “120 please”. . . bollocks.
“Now squire you see I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma in that I don't appear to be carryin' any cash. Could I spin ya a yarn that'll excite and delight you in ways you never knew possible? Surely that'd be worth a measly bottle of rum?”
“No mate, sorry, no cash no drinks”, and he reaches over and takes me rum back..
“Well what can I do to get a drink?” I asks.
“You need money mate if you want anything in this city”.
“And how can I get meself some wedge?”
“The easiest way for a foreigner to get any money here is by teaching. You just need to be white and able to speak English, that's about it. Obviously, to give you some advice, and don't be offended by this, you are going to have to brush up on your English ability because the way you talk is not exactly the business English style. Also you should probably get yourself some new clothes, and have a wash, a shave, and a haircut while you're at it.”
“What's the matter with me speakin'? An' I ain't never changed these clothes in the last seven years, what makes you think I'll be hankerin' on changin' 'em now?”
“Well if you want to buy a drink then you're going to need some cash, unless you feel like turning to begging?”
“I ain't beggin' nothin' off no-one. All right, how can I get dun all what you said?”
“Ok, just because I like your costume and I think my mate's going to find this pretty funny, here's my friend's business card. I'll give him a call and say you're heading over to his place and he'll help you out, just go to the address on the card. What's your name again mate?”
“. . . right. Well. . . ok then. I'll give my friend a call and you get yourself over to his place and he'll sort you out.”
“Much obliged squire”.
So me a teacher eh? I reckon I can do that. Why not? Mr Captain Crickles, teacher of English, maker of money, drinker of rum, and hopefully we can throw in a little fornication to sweeten things up. So address in 'and I 'eads out and makes me way to. . . well summat.
Come back next week to find out how Captain Crickles gets on in his quest for drinking money and until then, merry mooncake munching boys and girls.