I have the great pleasure of living in a place crowded with hundreds of characters. Last year, while grabbing an early morning Sunday coffee on Portobello, my husband and I had a close encounter with one of them.
I sip my strong coffee as the unfamiliar sun caresses my head. Nearby, an old-school ghetto blaster belts out Lionel Richie as the street slowly stretches its Sunday morning arms.
'Am I annoying you?'
My head swivels. At the next table, a middle-aged posh-looking man is settling into a chair next to a complete stranger.
'No, you're alright, mate,' the stranger says. Eyes glued to newspaper and head down, he maintains Londoners' strict code of conduct.
'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' says Posh Man, swaying slightly.
Stranger barely looks up. 'Sounds like a messy night,' he says in a typically understated British way.
Posh Man pulls a face. 'No, not messy. Not messy at all. I'm just coming down. I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he repeats, louder, in case any of us have missed it. Stranger continues with his newspaper. Silence falls.
'I'm the best film maker on this street. Too bad my wife has left me. Man, she was hot.' He points to Stranger. 'Now, if she was with you, I'd be impressed. You're rich. Not as rich as me. I have a Rolex that used to be owned by Frank Sinatra. I'm the best film maker on this street.'
Stranger folds his paper and gets up, walking away without a word. Silence descends again, until another man nabs the chair Stranger's just vacated. Posh Man looks his way. 'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he says, delighted to have a new audience.
Husband and I get up to leave, stifling our laughter. 'He's a nutter!' my husband says.
'But he looked so posh...' For some reason, I find it hard to believe a man who speaks like Prince Charles could be clinically insane.
'He's wearing a bow-tie,' my husband responds assuredly. 'The mad ones always wear bow-ties.'
Any mad characters in your neck of the woods?