The fag end of january, rain coming down like scratches on an old black and white movie, a grey Tuesday in Walthamstow and a sky that hadn't seen a rainbow in a long time.

The place was Small Wonder Records, the time was now! Small Wonder, as its title suggests, is not a monolothic multi-national company run along ITT lines. It's a record shop with its own label, boasting four releases to date, the fourth of which displays the manifold talents of Patrik Fitzgerald.

That's right, Patrik Fitzgerald. Whaddya mean, WHO? Don't you read the singles reviews any more? OK, for the less observant: Patrik Fitzgerald scored Singe Of The Week from Charles Shaar Murray a couple of weeks ago.

It's a zippy five track opus, retailing at 85p a shot, "Safety Pin Stuck In My Hearth" is the name. Originally, 2,000 copies were pressed, but now, due to popular demand - as they say - a further 5,000 have been pumped out. CSM's review certainly helped to generate interest, and it's been heard on the Jonathan King and John Peel programmes (Patrik's recording a session for Peel for future broadcast).

So who is this man Fitzgerald? A myth wrapped in an enigma? Well, actually, no. He's a 21-year-old-East Ender, ex-rhytm guitarist with a local reggae band (the token white in the line-up) and a veteran of 26 gigs at places like the Marquee, Vortex and Roxy, just him, his guitar, his poems and his songs.

Funny little songs they are too, similar to the sort of stuff John Otway's been getting away with recently, simple and catchy, but sung in an intense and commited style. He's an original, and deserves to be heard.

The old equation of singer plus guitar equals folk singer doesn't apply in his case though.

"I've never considered myself a folk singer. I went to a couple of folk clubs, and the were pretty boring, escapist sort of stuff. The songs I do are a return to basics, just me and a guitar."

"I don't want to be tied down with a group, it can be restricting. At the momen t it's just me, which is fine as there's more scope on your own, so if a song does't go okay at a gig, I can stop, either do it again, or read a poem."

It's inevitable, I suppose, that Fitzgerald will be branded by the punk stigma (signed to a small label, short hair - he even, gasp, wears safety pins through his pink trousers!) but he's willing to tote that cross for a while.

"I suppose I am part of the punk thing, yeah, but Leythonstone, were I live, is a long way from the West End, so I didn't really get involved in punk until quite late. But punk can only go so far. I get sick of listening to bands whose words you can't hear. My songs are designed so that you can hear the words, and hopefully influence people."

"I'd disagree that there is 'No future', I think there is a future. Anything that says anything about anything is good. Even if you say something negative, it's a positive step. I think a lot of good things have come out of punk, the fanzines, people designing and selling their own clothes, the small independent labels - but even they are becoming part of the business."

"Stiff were round recently, and were interested in signing me, but I'd rather stay here on Small Wonder. It's legitimate, and you're in direct contact, there's only Pete and Marion, The people who run the larger labels, they're out of contact, it's a business for them, and I don't want to end up being marketed like washing powder."

All well and laudable, but can you avoid the business side? You've already got a manager - the first step on the ladder of rock'n'roll perdition. From there you could end up jaundiced in hotel rooms writing songs about 'the road' and the day-to-day angst of the rock business.

"Well, I've only had a manager for a week - he's a friend of Pete's - and he's just arranging gigs and things at the moment, 'cos I'm not on the phone at home.

"As for writhing, well, I obviously write about what I experience, and the past week I've been experiencing the business side of things, but that's irrelevant to write about. Sort it out in conversations, sure, but it's the pits to write a song about it."

After some thought, the only influence Patrik could cite was Bowie, simply "because he sang in a Cockney accent, and didn't put on a phoney American accent." He hated his sister's Beatles records. So when did the writing start?

"oh, when I was 16 I suppose. At school, people used to get on at me about my size and pick on me." The kid who was always getting sand kicked in his face? "Yeah, that sort of thing. But I used to think, 'Don't worry about me, I'm gonna be a pop star. If Marc Bolan can do it, then so can I!'"

Without the aid of tea leaves (tea bags aren't the same) it's hard to say what the future holds for Patrik Fitzgerald. The single is selling to everyone's satisfaction, and there's a couple more due out before the debut album. He's got about 24 songs on tape, "and there's my poems - maybe I'll do something along the lines of John Cooper Clark."

Patrik's already had one fan letter, from Edinburgh ("funny really, I've never been near Edinburgh") and one blackmail threat.

If he finds he can't write any more, he says, he'd like to go to the Bahamas. "I'd like to be a cult hero," says the fresh-faced youth. You and me both kid, but the odds are more in your favour at the moment.