Back in 2016 I one day sat down in my room and wrote a poem based on a memory from my childhood.
It was a memory of being thirteen years old, and whilst living rough in London as a runaway teenager - I one day walked into the Sports Cafe on Haymarket pretending to be a Walsall FC footballer. Either the barman actually believed me or he could spot the blag and simply kept me around in the quiet bar for his own entertainment purposes. Who knows? Once I wrote the poem (which is one of the shortest in my book), it was from there that I decided to write more poems based around my childhood and teenage years as a missing runaway and perhaps a book.
Here is 'Free Drinks on Haymarket' - just one of sixty stories from my book.
FREE DRINKS ON HAYMARKET
This time I’d ran off in my tracksuit top, with a Walsall FC badge on it.
I’d walked past the big sports café down on Haymarket.
I’ve had a good day hustling, and I’ll go in there I think,
To check out what this place is like, and get myself a drink.
Screens everywhere and racing car tables, this place was cool I had thought.
And at the end of the room I soon got surprised, that inside was a basketball court.
I dropped down my bag and in there I went, and took a few shots at the net.
Then wandered around and walked up the next floor, because I’m sure that there’s more to see yet.
I went to the bar and sat on a seat, and brought myself one pint of beer.
I’m glancing around then the barman asks me, “So what’s it that brings you in here?”
I then look down at my tracksuit top, and then I go straight on to say,
“I play in goal for Walsall FC reserves, and it’s Millwall that we play today.”
It had been the first thought that I’d had in my head, which was the main reason I lied.
Always needed a story to keep a good cover, with depth and sometimes hard I tried.
“You from Australia?” I said to him, “New Zealand” he said back to me.
And after I’d sat and brought a few whiskies, he told me the next ones were free.
“Just give me ten pence or something like that, for the camera that’s there on the wall.
Because if they see you give money, and see me give back change, there’s nothing they can do at all.”
Another hour or so and plenty of drinks, I now am sure feeling the whisky,
I say thanks and goodbye and then make my way out, and then walk along Haymarket tipsy.
Find more of my posts at https://www.benwestwooduk.com/blog
Ben Westwood is a writer, author, poet, singer, musician and campaigner. Read more about his story as a runaway child, and his book 'Poems From a Runaway' at https://www.benwestwooduk.com