Punks used to put washing-up liquid in the fountain sometimes and it bubbled wonderfully over everything and made councillors cross.
The other was a joke shop called U-Need-Us (I never got that name, I thought it was called Yewneeders. Kids are so stupid.) U-Need-Us relieved me of pretty much all of my pocket money (when I wasn’t collecting Panini football stickers), and one particularly prized piece of crap I bought there was this kind of squishy face-puppet thing.
It had a Popeye-ish visage on the front and three fingerholes on the back which you could squiggle to make Popeye gurn. I was very keen on this thing, but one day I left it on the rim of the Jubilee fountain, and when I realised and ran back for it, it was gone. Then I saw another boy with one just like it. “That’s mine,” I said. “No it isn’t, I’ve had it ages,” he replied, lying through his nasty little teeth. Before I could formulate a proper counter-argument his parents appeared and swept him and my squishy face-puppet away forever.
This episode, or a warped version of it, came back to me in a nightmare last night. But Popeye had a flat, 2-dimensional body, and Jason my childhood dog was there, and they were all running laughing away from me, and men in grey Panama hats loomed in tunnels, and there was a pounding drum and a scratching, squealing guitar sound.
And I churned helplessly through thick air. “Wait!” I cried. “They don’t love you like I love you…Wait!”