Just found this again, prompted by this vice article
We are at the top end of Camden, the Chalk Farm end, up and past the markets towards the park with the zoo in it where we trip on summer days. We are in The Marathon, a kebab shop speak-easy run by Cypriots and bounced by Arabs. Bruno says that it is a “beat place, a secret place”. The back bar is a small room with table up against the walls, and a small dance floor in the middle. In the corner a rockabilly busker I’ve seen often on the Tube is strumming with his junkie fingers, speaking to heroin through a fretboard. Bruno describes him as “typical”. I understand he means he has seen him around many times, but he is also typical of Camden. A pair dance to the music: a fat North London southern belle doing the twist with a podgy New York Doll. We drink cold cans of French lager in the corner.
“You always find interesting people in the Marathon” Bruno says as me and Ryan stumble from a conversation with an African academic making moves on the Spanish girl who loves Madrid but not Barcelona. He was intoning seriously, as only Africans can, about ‘difference’ (in the Derridian sense) and Toulouse. He was speaking for himself, we were an audience, not participants, although he did spare a broad-teethed smile when I threw in my tuppence on tea and British cultural colonialism.
His friend has the shaky hands, junkie fingers yet again. Heroin speaks through the hands and eyes of users. At some sudden point he leant across the table and with a twitching hand took Joe’s tobacco, so I gripped his wrist and took it back. “Always trying to put a nigger in a box”, he weakly retorted, and reminded me of the days at school and college when my mates would play the race card whenever someone challenged our rights, and as I looked around the table and saw only white-faced companions to my own Caucasian demeanour, I realised I’m at university now.
Still I recognised his impulse, and the weighted down nature of his words spoke of a lifetime of excuses and as he fumbled into his seat muttering racist slurs and pulling his trilby lower I felt no anger. And so the conversation and the night died there on the floor of The Marathon, as the bouncers rounded us up and out into the warm night. We gulped down our drinks in the shadow of the Roundhouse and scared away the Spanish girl who likes Madrid but not Barcelona with our English way of smashing bottles in a midnight prayer to the swirling sirens of a weekend stuffed with fuses, in a city ready to blow.