The likes and dislikes of Gary from Elsey & Bent
I’d probably be a sports photographer—that’s something that would get me into all the top venues around the world and really close to the action. Places like Augusta, Wimbledon, Wembley. But it’d definitely be more about getting access to great sporting venues than the photography itself!
I grew up watching Johan Cruyff and he is the best footballer I have ever seen. You hear about the others like Pele and George Best, but I never saw them live. I did see Cruyff and it was unbelievable the gifts he had on a football field.
He did everything with such elegance, and at a time when football could be a really rough game. When you look at the success he had with Ajax and then Holland before going into management and building the foundations for the great Barcelona team we have today, it’s unbelievable. I think he’s just top drawer.
Well, I’ve done this job since I’ve left school. While I like it most of the time, there are times when it can be really tough. I remember working on my dad’s stall in Soho where you had to haul heavily laden barrows of veg to the stall on a freezing cold morning at 4am in the rain, potholes everywhere. In those conditions you can end up spilling everything you’ve loaded—we’ve all done it.
Bad days don’t come along that often, but when you’re not in the mood things that you normally brush off wind you up a bit more than they should. You can get asked all sorts, and if you’re not in the right frame of mind it can get to you a bit.
I remember one customer trying to buy travelcards from the stall. Tony, who was a lad working for me at the time, answered quick as a flash: “If they’re not next to the plum tomatoes, try behind the cauliflowers.” We all had a bit of a giggle.
Favourite TV programme
Death in Paradise. You get a bit of a laugh out of it, there is some great banter between the characters and the scenery is beautiful. It’s also an hour long, which is enough TV for me if I’m not watching sport.
Legend, a film about the Kray twins. I turned it off after half an hour. There was a nastiness about it that just didn’t appeal to me.
Favourite holiday destination
When I was younger I did quite a bit of travelling, but the place I keep going back to for holidays is Cyprus. Been going there for a few years now. It’s just very relaxing, has a lovely temperature during the summer months and the people are really nice.
When I first started working, I went to places like Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, parts of America like LA and San Francisco, and quite a few of the European countries. Hawaii really stood out. I was about 18 when I was there, and it was everything I thought it would be. It had the laid-back feel of an island but also that American efficiency, so things happened on time. The weather was beautiful.
At the time they were filming Magnum PI on the island, which was one of the biggest shows on television. I got to watch them filming and saw the Ferrari driving around. It was just a great holiday for an 18-year-old lad.
Favourite childhood dish
It wasn’t so much the dish but a meal: I really loved Sunday lunch. My dad worked the market, so he didn’t sit down with us to eat that often. But every Sunday the whole family—mum and dad and the three boys—would sit down together for lunch. We’re a close family, so Sunday lunch was a really big thing for us. We would have beef most of the time, because that’s what dad loved.
Favourite time of year
The middle of spring, when the weather is warming up and the sun is shining. We are just coming out of winter, people are in a really good mood, and you get some banter going with the regulars. I still get customers from when I worked with my dad in Soho, and it’s always nice when they turn up for a chat and to ask how my dad is. Also, you’re starting to get all the British spring veg coming in—you can’t get much better than that.
Favourite subject at school
I really loved technical drawing. When I left school I joined a lift company to train as a draughtsman. I passed the four-year apprenticeship but realised I didn’t fancy doing it as a career. I knew I really just wanted to get back down the market, so I joined my dad instead.
Least favourite subject
Physics. Too many formulas, equations, figures and things that just didn’t interest me.
Tipple of choice
A nice cold beer; I like a good draught lager.
Whitney Houston. I like a bit of Neil Diamond too, but Whitney Houston has to come out on top.
That’ll be Whitney Houston again. I saw her a couple of times in the late 80s, early 90s, and she had everything. She had that amazing voice, great charisma onstage, she just had it all. To this day, I haven’t seen anyone who comes close to her in terms of talent.
Perfect relaxation method
Probably watching sport on the box, anything that’s live. Watching highlights is okay but I much prefer watching something that’s happening—you get caught up in the tension much more. Football, cricket, golf, that kind of thing.
Sydney. I was there for the Australian bicentenary in 1988 and that was spectacular. I have been there twice and would love to go again.
A black coffee and back to bed.