Doing It Under The Counter

By | January 3, 2009, James beckSome businesses are obviously successful. You see them turning over huge quantities of cash and serving a vast customer base. There are businesses that seem to flourish, or at least exist from year to year with little of no income.

One such business was a fish and chip shop near to where Suze and I had our first flat. It was a city centre location, studentville in fact. The shop was a converted terraced house and had been there for at least sixty years according to my grandparents who knew the area. It was staffed by a husband and wife, each in their mid fifties and their adult son. The son apparently lived with them, and lived off fried food judging by his physique.

Not being ones for fried food we only occasionally patronised the shop. When we did it was apparent that the parents seemed to do all the work and the son just brought the occasional tub of raw chips from the peeler/chipper in the rear of the shop and dumped them in the fryer. The rest of the time he spent chatting to the customers. OK so maybe that was part of his job description, customer relations.

Apart from this apparent over-staffing (because they were rarely busy and their pace of work never made it above a vaguely interested crawl) they never seemed to be open.

They took two three week holidays each year. They being the mother, father and son by all accounts. Even when they were in the country the shop only opened three or four days each week and then often at hours when there was little custom. Bank holidays saw them shut for several days or maybe more if they felt like it.

Quite how they made their money (because they lived in a very nice house, drove a big estate car) was a huge mystery. Until last night.

For some reason the chip shop family popped into my head and I realised they must have had an illicit business to supplement their deep fried income.

Think about it. Long holidays abroad, weird opening times, friendly with their regular customers.

I’ve decided (with no real evidence of course LOL) that they must have been selling dirty movies.

It was at a time before R18 was available in the UK and all hardcore porn was banned. The only way to get porn that was anything other than titillation was to go “Under The Counter” and access the illicit material imported by certain shady characters.

They were obviously driving themselves off to Holland and/or Germany to pick up a load of “Art Movies” and selling them under the counter.

So if you ever happened across someone in the living room looking guilty and adjusting their clothes with the faint smell of chips in the air … you know what they were up to.

Image: James Beck as the spiv Private Walker from BBC’s Dad’s Army