My Only Weakness Is… Well Never Mind

I just read a review of Rachel Shteir’s The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifiting, and I’ve come over all grifter-like.

My skull is now graffitied with a healthy dose of youthful folly and guilt.

Somewhere there is an old plastic bag, its handles frayed, its logo lost in the smudge of time, languishing in an upstairs attic or sadly stuffed with the remains of the day in a basement.

I won’t say I was a pincher par excellence, but I had my days.

With my oxblood Doc’s polished so that I could see my smiling mug, I’d engage in minor disturbances of the sweetest kind: Dislodge a Double Decker from its neat row and slip it into my pocket. Pull a Curly Wurly from its stack and dash.

Once I nicked a Judge Dredd comic from the newsagents (when such stores invited petty crimes) and felt the Judge breathing down my neck for weeks after.

My favourite pilfering store in those days was Woolworths. This was before cameras, although I seem to remember the odd security guard leaning against the magazine rack, flipping through a girlie mag.

I stole a few of those, too. Which required nimble fingers and an accomplice who would distract any onlookers by knocking bargain items over, mostly glass ones. Or else asking the shopkeeper (who had been ensconced since 1835) if she carried any Virgil.

“What are those, dear?”


“What are they called again?”

“Publius Vergilius Maro. That’s their proper name.”

“Are they foreign?”

“I think so.”

“Wouldn’t you rather buy some British fags for your mum?”


“Let me look then. Virgil. Mmm.”

And then I went to work.

My biggest heist, though, should go down in a bookish court of law. I’d grown up, too, and would, if I’d been caught, done some serious time unemployed.

It happened about the same time I became serious about writing. I was accumulating authors I wanted to read but there wasn’t enough pennies knocking about in my jar. So I got a job at a coffee shop in an undisclosed city in an undisclosed state. My pièce de réistance, though, was that the coffee shop was joined at the hip to a mega bookstore.

All I can say is, that I wouldn’t be half the writer I am now without my natural born thieving abilities.

Listening to

“Shoplifters of the World Unite” by the Smiths (what else?)

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time.” Jack Kerouac





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