I’ve only just stumbled across the website Mugged by Reality but would highly recommend an hour spent reading the author’s account of his wasted youth as a dole-claiming ne’er do well in South Yorkshire in the early 1990’s entitled Down and Out in Sheffield and Lincoln.
If you like the description of one of his aquaintances – excerpted below – there’s plenty more where that came from:
Another instantly recognisable local personality was the Snakeman who wandered around with an enormous python draped around him. This guy enthused about snakes to such an extent that you got the distinct impression something wasn’t quite right upstairs. Snakes were all he ever talked about and he had a proclivity for steering any conversation in a snake-ward direction, which made you feel pretty uncomfortable after a while.
That said there was one afternoon in the Frog & Parrot when I really felt like shaking his hand. Some dreadlocked Nedger girl had come in the pub carrying a wire hamster cage full of tame rats and had gone table to table asking if anyone wanted one as a pet or knew of someone who did.
“I do,” said the Snakeman, who had deftly hidden the python under his jacket “I know loads of people who want pet rats; in fact I’m so sure I do that I’ll take the lot off you”.
“I hope they’ll be taken care of properly”, said the girl.
“Don’t worry about that,” hissed the Snakeman, sounding for all the world like a pantomime villain, “They’ll definitely be appreciated”.
I half expected a clap of thunder to ring out and for him to start cackling manically.