Observing Mr. Big in Action.

Those who pop in here from time to time cannot fail to know that I’ve had a long-lasting love affair with photography.

At one time I would take my camera everywhere on the off-chance I’d find something to capture for posterity.

My first camera was a Kodak Box Browny which actually belonged to my husband, but share and share alike eh? What’s yours is mine…

Back in the day, it cost an arm and a leg to buy film and to develope photos. The local chemist would send the photos away to a lab and one had to wait two to three weeks for them to be processed and ready for collection from the shop.

Quite often there were photos that had not ‘come out,’ properly or there was a double exposure – one photo taken on top of another. Such a disappointment.

Later there was a send-away service whereby one could send the exposed film off to a company – via the mail – that had a series of photographic laboratories and they’d process the film and print the photos and send them back, often with two free copies of each photo. Sadly, there would be over-exposed photos, and those that didn’t ‘come out,’ included in the returns but one had paid in advance so there wasn’t any redress sadly.

I went on to own Nikon and Canon cameras and loved them, but they were so heavy and cumbersome to hoik around, that the arrival of the phone camera was a joy to me. I can take as many photos of whatever I want without the expense of developing them. The trouble is, they end up on my computer and will most likely stay there. It is rare to have one printed off. That is quite sad, somehow. No more photo albums to flick through with subsequent trips down memory lane with each one.

Going through Old Photos for Research (c) Jane Risdon 2012
Photo (c) Jane Risdon

I inherited an interesting camera from a relative who died and I must admit that it had me wondering about him. He was in business and travelled the world for many years, living and working in a number of countries. Why he had such a camera, I shall never know. My imagination, however, had been in over-drive ever since I was gifted it. It’s a good old-fashioned, ‘spy’ camera! Those who know me will get the significance of this to me as a writer.

Sadly, I did not own this camera at the time of my little adventure detailed below.

Photo (c) Jane Risdon

There have been times when I’d have loved to have been able to have taken photos of an event, but it would have been intrusive and inappropriate to put someone in the frame however badly I wanted to take their photo.

One such occasion was when I was out on one of my ‘jollies,’ with a younger sibling who enjoyed taking me to pubs in the East End (of London), and to the many historic pubs in Essex. He maintained they were full of interesting characters who’d inspire me as a writer. He wasn’t wrong. We enjoyed many outings together, sitting in such a hostelry imbibing the odd glass of vino collapso – for me – or the local ale for him, as we people-watched.

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

Below is my account of what I observed and longed to photograph on one such visit. I only remembered this recently when my sibling told me about another event at the pub involving an author ( a former jail-bird and murderer) who held a book signing there. More on that another time.

The pub in question, in Essex, is a well-known hang-out for the fruitier members of society, mostly gangsters past, and present, and the wannabe criminals – hangers-on -who frequent the establishment hoping to make an impression on the current Mr. Big and his cohorts. The pub is old, circa 18th century, and very atmospheric featuring low ceilings and beams, uneven flagstone floors, and featuring lots of nooks and crannies with dark quiet places where dodgy deals can and probably are made. The lighting is low and adds to the ambiance.

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

My flash-back is to 2016 to the pub in question where several brassy blondes with huge bosoms and dangling earrings, wearing tight dresses – with every seam doing its duty – decorated the front of the bar space, enormous designer handbags swinging from their spray-tanned arms. Each female tottering on diamanté encrusted 6-inch heels and waving their long square-shaped painted nails around as they squawked and screeched at each other through their luscious glossy red Botox-filled lips, fluttering eyelashes any Hereford cow would’ve been proud of. Between them, they must’ve been keeping the local tattoo artist in business judging by the artwork on display across their bosoms and their backs. Pints of beer/ale/lager drunk from huge beveled glasses were imbibed with abandon, they got noisier and noisier as the alcohol began to hit the spot.

Blokes in black suits with lace ties and interesting bulges – in their jackets – squared their shoulders at one another other, whilst whispering into each other’s ears as they drank their trendy cocktails. Huge designer wristwatches flashed as others gesticulated, and every now and again there was a glimpse of a huge gold bracelet or a medallion nestling on top of an abundance of chest hair poking through tight-fitting shirts, jackets open exposing paunches of varying proportions. Their dyed black hair betrayed the lie their wrinkles proclaimed on faces stiff from too much sun.

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

A guy in a classic black mourning suit arrived with two ‘heavies,’ and the place fell silent. My brother, his partner, and I stood back and watched. Mr. Big had arrived. The funeral wake could begin in earnest. He squared his shoulders, cracked his knuckles, puffed his chest out, and walked towards the lady of the house. He bowed his head and muttered his condolences, which elicited smirks and chuckles from those assembled.

Apparently, the recently widowed landlady – who displayed her ample and exposed bosom to all and sundry in a tight-fitting black mini dress, obviously in deep mourning for her departed husband – had asked Mr. Big to render her a ‘favour,’ and everyone was assembled to give the victim of the ‘favour,’ a big send-off!

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

The widow smiled slyly and offered him a large glass of champagne. He toasted the dearly departed with her and moved off to join a group of men who would not have looked out of place in a police line-up; the usual suspects.

People almost fell over themselves to buy The Boss a drink, shake his hand, and get close to him. He listened with head bowed, nodding now and again, and it was obvious that he was being asked for favours, endorsements, and was having his ego polished by sycophants. What a lesson in human nature and behaviour. It was amusing to witness. A real-life God-Father event.

Talk about stereotypes! The whole scenario was unreal and hilariously funny. It had to be seen and experienced to be believed. I was so glad I’d been taken to witness it.

I later discovered that the poor man whose wake we were witnessing had been a right pain in the aspidistra. His hard-working and ambitious wife, despairing at his laziness and lack of business acumen and upon discovering that his trips to play golf were in fact an excuse to indulge in a little indoor physical training with a younger model, decided enough was enough.

Mr. Big’s ‘people,’ had listened to her ‘people,’ and passed her request to him. They’d agreed upon a fee. He’d ensure that one of his ‘people,’ dealt with the loser who would soon be history. And he was.

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

This is a true story, well known in the Essex village where the pub is located. I heard that the deceased was parted from his head, but I don’t have any way of discovering if this was true. However, it was clear to me that the pub is the haunt of East End gangsters, and before that, Highwaymen frequented it on their way to London.

I loved every minute of my visit to the pub, observing the patrons and their behaviour, eavesdropping on their whispered conversations, and being rocked by the raucous laughter and girlie-talk from their ‘molls,’ who got more and more intoxicated as the afternoon wore on.

I itched to take my phone out and photograph the wake but I couldn’t risk being discovered. Who knows how they’d have reacted. I might be wearing a pair of concrete boots by now, forever sitting on the bottom of the Thames, or propping up a new motorway bridge. So, the phone camera remained off. Sadly.

Photo: (c) Jane Risdon

I’ve had many similar trips and experiences with my younger brother who is like a walking tour guide to pubs and places of interest in and around London and Essex. He knows every pub where Dickens or similar authors wrote this or that book, who died where and when… a fascinating character himself.

All great material for a crime writer. No doubt it will turn up in one of my stories before too long.

Have you ever ached to photograph an event but have had to resist for the sake of propriety or your safety? Do let me know.

Next time I shall share something about the convicted murderer and her book signing at this pub.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. For obvious reasons, the pub and patrons remain anonymous. I plan to be around for some time.


  1. Hi Jane, this is a fabulous story. A great place to visit even without all these interesting people and the tale you shared. I often don’t take pictures here in SA. There is so much crime here I think people might think I’m doing something illegal or nefarious.

    Liked by 1 person

Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.