THE COFFEE STALL KEEPER
by
Billy Bennett
(Almost a Gentleman)
Billy Bennett
Have I had this coffee shop long, Sir,
Dishing out coffee and tea?
Ever since Big Ben was a wrist watch
And the Thames that was as dry as me.
How long have I worn this apron?
I won't tell you a fib.
I've had it since I was a baby,
Round my neck I have worn it as a bib.
Longer than that I've had it,
When the lace on it looked very nice.
But you know how things shrink in the laundry,
Everything shrinks but the price.

For years I have worked for Lyons,
Till we had a bust up and so
I sacked him, but he wouldn't hear of it,
So I thought I had better go.
I've longed to be my own gaffer
And now I've got my wish.
There'll be some nippies* on the dole
Now I've opened up opposish.
I'm working the business up slowly -
It's bound to grow in years.
There's nothing grown much up to now, sir,
Except whiskers and rent in arrears.

Good Friday's the day I get busy,
not that I wish to boast.
You should see the buns I get rid of
and the hot cross eggs on toast.
I serve some very posh people -
you can see for yourself at a glance.
Here's a medal I got for serving the King
in the trenches somewhere out in France.
Today I've been busy spring cleaning.
I feel I've got lucky bow legs,
What with shaving the ham and dusting the jam,
and altering the dates of the eggs.

I see sights that makes the tears trickle,
Into the kettle they bounce from my cheek
No wonder my customers grumble,
The tea being salty and weak
I do all I can to help others,
I can't bear to see an outcast
If I notice one coming towards me,
I pretend I'm asleep till he's passed
I'm loved by the seagulls and sparrows,
They get many a dainty dish
In the week they get handfuls of doughnuts,
And on Friday's I fry them some fish

I could tell you some tales if I cared to,
there's one tale you've all read about
The tale of the tin of black treacle.
What a mess when that leaked out
I'll never forget last Christmas.
I had a trip in from Aberdeen.
They just ordered three cups of cocoa
and saucers for seventeen.

When a millionaire dashed through the swing doors,
Broke two panes of glass in the rush
Instead of him pushing where it said pull
He must have pulled where it said push.
I'm fainting he cried, "Give me brandy."
I said, "I've no brandy for you."
But he cried, "Give me rum for my pain's in me tum,
If you've no beer then Guinness will do."

In the saucer one man poured a white power
And the mystery I've got the solution. 
I cried to him "Stay, it's suicide eh?"
He said "You're a liar, it's Kruschen **
It's the women I hate to see starving -
In winter around me they squat.
They love to sit roasting their chestnuts
In a queue round the old mustard pot.

I mix with all sorts of conditions,
titled women I've seen on the rocks
And lots of young girls on the way to the dogs,
tennis players without any socks.
A lady once came and devoured
two cheesecakes before I could stop her.
Then she had the neck to want change for a cheque
As she'd only two pound notes in copper.

Round her neck she'd a celluloid locket
and as she gazed on it with pride,
She fondled it, opened it, closed it,
then shut it and showed me the photo inside. 
I said, "Who is that?" 
She said, "What?" 
I said, "That."
She said, "This?" 
I said, "Yes." 
She said, "Me."
I said, "You?" 
She said, "Yes." 
I said, "No!"
She said, "Oh." 
But it is. Again I said, "Look, can't you see."

And if all good folks go to heaven
Where the bugles sound the last call,
You'll be sure of a cup of hot coffee
From your pal at the old coffee stall.
And if your hopes of heaven turn out to be only a dream
Then down below you'll still find old Joe
with his apron on selling ice-cream. 

And that's all there is of that. 
_____________________
* Nippies were waitresses at Lyons Corner Houses ** Kruschen Salts was a sort of pick me up powder, giving relief from aches & pains - you could put it in tea, as this chap is doing. It was advertised as being tasteless in tea!
The end