Milling around Little Ealing print-works today I feel myself irritable and devoid of usual chippy good humour. Signor Borrowman have me supervising cugine in construction of famous Molotov Rennards (MRs), a bundle of newspapers, tied with organic hemp and soaked in bio-fuels, that used to persuade truculent business types to use Liberali Family recycling bins for disposal of unwanted currency.
In nervous irritation, I'm all fingers and thumbs and splashing more ethanol on suit than newspaper.
"Liberali, you're going to end up smelling like the old Don if you don't relax" say friendly voice of Signora Elspeth. "I know exactly what ails you, wash that off, pick up your gear and I join me outside, but for goodness sake don't tell Menzies."
Five minutes later we out by moat with roll-ups and Sicilian home-grown. I’m soon having crafty one with Signora Campbell and small collection of equally furtive paisan, who also look relieved to be taking break.
Soon we feel troubles lifting, and even dodgy old out-buildings of Little Ealing operation look strangely comforting in the haze.
I drift away from group a little, lost in thought. I consider feeding ciggy butts to ducks in moat, but remember previous reaction to other local produce and think better of it.
Through the yellow mist, a figure lurch into view, look around to see I am alone and then whisper to me,
"Liberali, big secret. All I can say is Platform 9 and 1/4, Paddington, tap the wall thre times, the password is 'Ron Weasley is better than Voldermort',. Tell no one, just be there tonight."
Figure lurch off again with great stealth, interspersed only occasionally by quacking and whispered noises of "ow, ow, get off you feathery bugger".
Rest of day pass better after that. Come dusk I pack a couple of MRs in my emergency case and make way to local station. I'm soon in Paddington and hunting for strange platform which I find behind big advert for new kiddie film.
I knock on wall on few times, and eventually what look like brick painted on a metal panel is slid back. Throaty voice say:
"Er... new weasels is better than older sort..." I stumble.
There is what sound like tittering behind wall.
"... good enough, push the no smoking sign to your right and stand still."
I do. Suddenly floor is travelling down very fast and I find myself standing in what look like abandoned old Underground station.
Across platform ahead, couple of carriages sit on old track, glowing in gloom, as light disperse through curtains covering doors and windows.
I walk over. Doors swing open exhaling a familiar scent and cloud of promise that tonight will be good time for Don Liberali.
Inside train has been gutted, and interior redecorated with familiar leathers and woods of Liberali Club near Westminster. Many old paisan are here, lounging on recliners, reclining on loungers, puffing cigars, cigarillos and one or two hubble-bubbles. All having fine evening away from prying eyes of world of rules upstairs.
"Signor Liberali!" shout familiar voice "come and join us!"
In corner I see my old friend, and former Don, Signor Kennedy stretched out in large red armchair. He throw me packet of Sicily Lights and offer empty chair to his left.
"Mineral Water for Signor Liberali!" he shout to flunky "Russian-style I think, ice and lemon... if I remember your preference correctly"
"Very kind" I say "This great place Signor Kennedy, how long you had it?"
"Thank-you Don, it's actually a legacy of my predecessor Don Ashdown. There's a network of these old railway stations under the Territories that used to be used by his former Untouchables colleagues for training. When the Labouristi had a war with the Untouchables, many who knew about these places disappeared. They fell into disuse, and we have been exploiting that opportunity since my retirement."
"Prohibition is back Don Liberali, the new rules on smoking mean we now don’t just have a set of useful bunkers, but a chain of highly desirable premier smoking-clubs. The Ginger Nails are going to make a fortune!"
"That brilliant Signor Kennedy, Don Campbell must be delighted."
Room go very quiet all of sudden.
"Ah… we don't actually intend on telling Don Campbell about the Ginger Nails... it's more a of a private thing between friends… Trusted friends who need a place to go and enjoy mellow moments in the company of other trusted friends. Capisce paisan?"
"Of course Do... I mean Signor Kennedy, As you know my memory terrible, too much vino play havoc with recollection of detail, and Don Campbell far too busy with important affairs to Family to worry about little side-action from old protégé. "
"Grazie Signor Liberali, now relax, enjoy yourself... here's your water, try not to drop ash in it."
We have great evening, catch up on old times, and he tell me plenty good stories. I leave very relaxed, so relaxed it only later that realise I left suitcase at club.
Reminder come next day when I see picture of very grumpy Signor Kennedy in local Sicily Express, hanging out of window of what look like club with cigarette in one hand and blackened remains of handle in other.
MRs and environment of the Ginger Nail clearly not good mix.
Make me think smoking bad for health, particularly if I’d left my name on anything in the suitcase. Have sudden urge to go buy Nicorette patches…