The Pirates of Deptford Creek

The Royal Navy tried, they really did. Frigates, destroyers, dreadnoughts, rubber dinghies, armadas of novelty inflatables, they gave it their best and bless ’em for the effort.

Then the Americans came in, late, as is their habit, and took their turn. They brought an aircraft carrier and three nuclear submarines, not to mention the fighter jets, Apache helicopters and, eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matt Damon on their day off. They’d both trained extensively for the job but in the end their performances were unconvincing. Right up to the point where they were hung high from the yard arm, tarred and feathered with a copy of the South London Press jammed into their mouths.

The Russians chanced their arm next, ships, planes, tanks and a whole heap of grim faced, heavy set men in ushanka hats with little patience for anything that stood in their way. They filled Deptford Creek with soldiers and sailors, an impressive achievement given that the tide was in, but still they had no luck. In the end Vladimir Putin himself had to do the back stroke in and call his lads off, to the jeers of locals and the smug nods of nervous American Generals keen not to be outshone.

After that it became a bit of a free for all really. The French came and went with not a shot fired, the Germans threw their spiky hats into the ring then ran when they were thrown back, the Israeli’s tried building a wall, the Chinese built a bigger one, the Mongols came by on horseback and the Swiss waved their pikes around. All for nothing as the Pirates of Deptford Creek repelled the greatest powers the world has ever seen without even breaking a sweat. And by the end even they were starting to feel bad about it, after all it doesn’t do anyone’s pride any good to be beaten back by a load of people who’ve only just stumbled out of the pub and onto a slightly lopsided old trawler. When the fire was in them though, when the black flag was flying and the dirty brown sea spray of the Thames was in their eyes there were none finer on the water or under it than those fiendish sailors of South London. And to think, until someone had the bright idea after closing time to sneak onto a ship and go for a joyride not one of them had ever been closer to sailing than floating a rubber duck in the bath.

So it went and so it still goes though. Not a tourist cruise is safe, not a party boat goes un-raided, at least when there’s nothing worthwhile on the telly and it’s not pub quiz night. The Royal yacht doesn’t dare show it’s face and HMS Belfast has given up and applied to join the infantry, police boats skulk in small inlets, surreptitiously smoking roll ups and hoping not to be noticed while coracles sailed down from the wild wastes of Kent and Essex overturn themselves in fear at the shifting of the waves.

The Pirates, for their part, take it all in their stride. They’re local heroes now, their names spoken in reverential awe by landlubbers and salty sea dogs alike – from Brockwell Lido to the raging waters of the Atlantic. Barrington ‘One Eye’ Daniels, Trevor ‘Trevor’ Murdoch, Lisa ‘Kick ‘Em In The Head’ Flynn, Dan ‘I Can’t Swim’ Levy, Irfan ‘Don’t Get My Shoes Wet’ Hussain, Mandy ‘My Other Boats A Frigate’ Mitchell – titans amongst giants amongst mere mortals. One day, they say, we’ll leave these homely waters, when the novelty wears off of sinking boats full of drunken students and confused tourists, we’ll sail to the very edge of the earth – or perhaps over to Calais on a booze cruise. But as the Royal Navy, Americans, Russians, French, Chinese, Swiss, Mexicans, Mongols, Malaysians, Mamluks, Mercians, Madagascans and Peruvians have learnt from bitter experience – you just can’t shift a Deptford Pirate.

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