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Tuesday 26th August 2003

Everyone knows I love pizza. Heck, I get mail addressed to the Pizza Lover. I'm obsessed with pizza and I want to marry it.
But last night, for a second, it seemed that that love of pizza might lead to my demise. (Probably my love of pizza will eventually and slowly kill me. As we enjoy endless intimate union, we will become one as the mozzarella clogs up my arteries, until one day we both go out with a bang.)
The thing we love always hurts us.

Anyway, I am back on a diet as I am a stone heavier than I was when I set off for Australia. My tummy has returned. I had missed the old fella, but if I went to do my leather trousers up in Carlisle next week (in the show, I'm not kinky....oh wait. I am kinky also. I have just talked about union with a pizza.) I'm going to have to shift a few pounds.
I'd had a good low cal day and been to the gym, but after three glasses of wine with a friend I noticed how hungry I was and lost my self-control.
Though it was slightly out of my way I headed to Leicester Square, with a sudden yearning for a slice or two of unpleasant Pizza Hut take-away pizza.
Sometimes you need dirty, sordid loving. That is what Pizza Hut is for. Though it's not as dirty as practically any other of the pizza slice prostitutes who ply their trade in central London for a quid a throw. At least with Pizza Hut you are unlikely to end up with a disease.
I was going to get a classy pepperoni slice for £1.99, but to be honest, it was the last one and looked a bit manky and so instead I bought two slices of fresh cheese pizza at 99p each n(twice the slices for 1p less. My alcohol addled brain did not realise that this was a bad thing for my diet. Or realised and chose to ignore it.)
The service incidentally was excellent, very efficient and polite. And the bloke working the late shift at the Pizza Hut takeaway window in Leicester Square is probably a contender for worst job in the world. One can only imagine how pleasant he would be if he had a nice job working in reception at the Hilton hotel in York. I think I see a job swop opportunity coming on.

Anyway, as I was paying a gang of excitable young men came up behind me. They were asking if all the pizza was 99p, which was a little rude of them. I hadn't finished my transaction yet. The pleasant man serving up the pizza broke off from serving me to tell them that the margherita was 99p, but the other slices were £1.79 and £1.99 respectively. The gang of lads expressed their disbelief and disapproval.
I took my purchase and was adding some bits of chilli out of that shaker to make it a bit more interesting (spicing things up a bit to continue the somewhat over-stretched "pizza as sexual partner" analogy.)
I felt a hand on my shoulder, trying to push me out of the way. It was one of the eager, angry men behind me.
I turned round, possibly a little sharply.
There was the briefest second as we all assessed the situation. There were five or six of them. Their ages seemed to range between 14 and 16 (but I'm old now and find age hard to judge). Some looked young, others looked old, as is the way with a gang of teenage boys.
One of the boys (not I think the one who had pushed me) challenged my glance.
"What?" he said, somewhat aggressively.
I wasn't riled. I wasn't even scared. Not because he was young. He was considerably taller and fitter (in a bit of a skinny way) than me (that would be because he was skinny then!)
Five years ago I would have looked at the floor and apologised and said nothing. But now I have less regard for my safety and more pride in myself and possibly less of a will to live (or maybe I'm not so worried about dying).
Weirdly I wasn't scared. Coming from a man who was terrified out of his wits by a swan and a small ram, this might come as a surprise.
But I stood my ground and looked him in the eye and said "I was just wondering why you were touching me."
The boy seemed to take my perfectly decent request as a challenge. He started mouthing off to his friends. I can't remember exactly what he said. He brought the colour of my skin into it. It was a different colour to his. I didn't see how this was relevant to an argument about me being in his way in a pizza queue, especially as it wasn't until I had turned round that I could have noticed that difference. Although he was talking aggressively I was mainly thinking that it was a shame that he'd contrived to bring the colour of our skins into this. Whatever the problem was.
I made to get passed him, but he was still jabbering and showing off to his friends. But I wasn't leaving. I just smiled as he threatened me with violence. Somewhere deep inside me something jolted, a part of me wanted to get out of what could be a dangerous situation, but I wasn't going to be bullied when I had literally done nothing wrong.
I smiled at the child as if I thought he was incapable of the actions he was threatening me with. It was then that he said that he should shoot me (he used the language of the street and I'm not going to attempt to recreate it, as I think it would look stupid written down, especially if I got it a bit wrong!)
I still wasn't scared. It was a stand-off. I guess he thought he was bluffing, but a part of me didn't care.
"Go on then!" I dared him.
"I will," he said.
"All right, go on."
"I'll just get my gun out of my bag."
There was another flash of fear in the back of my mind, but I ignored it and stood my ground. I was ready to give up my life over this argument about... what was it about? Me being in front of them in the queue when they wanted to buy pizza? Me daring to put chilli on my pizza and holding them up by maybe five seconds? Was this something worth dying for? My brain figured that it was, which is possibly why all those men in World War I were prepared to jump out of their trenches, all for the cause of... what exactly?
I suppose the boy had assumed that I would be frightened off by now, but I didn't want to give him that satisfaction. I wanted to see how far he'd go.
His bag was an unusual one to carry a gun in, it was a large brown paper shopping bag, with a handle. But he slid his hand in to get his gun.
I waited.
I think he was laughing before he pulled it out. I think I had started to laugh by now as well. But the gun he pulled out was plastic and multi-coloured. Possibly a water-pistol.
A child's toy. In the hand of a child who had been showing off to his mates.
Suddenly the whole incident was seen in its true and different light. The whole thing had been a joke. Possibly he thought he'd freak me out. He hadn't (well only in the back of my mind). Rather than being the victim of this joke I was now a part of it.Apart from the possible initial tension as I had spun round and glared at him and he'd questioned my actions, the rest of it had all been a way of stopping a situation. Either by scaring me off with his threats (in which case youth had won and he would be the alpha male) or by revealing that he was only joking (I could laugh at the young pup, aware that my status was secure...for now)
And I did laugh at him, he smiled back. I probably told him to "fuck off".
Now would have been an excellent time for him to reveal that his water-pistol was full of acid. But he didn't do that.

I suppose I was lucky that he didn't really have a gun. But then again I suppose he was lucky I wasn't the kind of person to punch first and think later. Because without a gun, him and his mates weren't much of a match for an aggressive grown-up.

(My mum is convinced that the streets of London are a dangerous place. She told me a story about a bloke who had been laughing at a friend's joke, and had then got into an argument with a man who thought he was laughing at him and later on cut off the laughing man's hand with a sword. The next day she'd read my story about being kicked in the head for much the same reason.
She seriously told me that when I was in London I shouldn't laugh. I said, "But in both those stories the person who ends up getting hurt is just laughing at something else. Do you seriously expect me never to laugh? What if someone tells a joke and I don't laugh and they get angry and decide to cut my hand off with a sword?"
I've lived here for about 15 years and in that time I've been kicked in the head once, threatened with a plastic gun and had an argument with a bloke on a tube about who should be allowed to enter the carriage first and he swore at me. That's not bad. I got beaten up more in Cheddar, which has about 20 million less people living in it. Admittedly I could have helped matters in this case by walking away, but then I would have looked like a coward rahter than the big hero I look like now for having outfoxed a small child.
Don't worry, if he'd been a bit older (or some kind of small animal), I would have run for it.)

The incident over, I walked to the tube and ate my pizza.
It was nasty.
Just the way I like it baby. You know how to get me going.

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