Sunday, 29 April 2012

Me & Christine Dean

It was about half six and we’re all fucking steaming and then I’m all smiles because Christine goes and turns up completely out of the blue. Fucking bingo. No doubt out looking for me. She’s put make up on and she looks so tasty it’s unreal and I catch her eyes. They sparkle like stars, shine and twinkle as our sights link up. I smile over at her and she smiles back. I’m cool as fuck. She’s in my pub and I’m on a roll and feeling great and she just looks fucking stunning. She’s got her brown hair in two neat brunches that stick out like the eyes of a Dalek but I like it. I’m not even put out that she’s accompanied by those two fatties. I say hello when they come to the bar and I get blanked by the trogs but so what do they think I care when it’s only Christine Dean I’m interested in. I try to make conversation, ask what she’s been up today and all that, but I can hear the sound of my voice and it’s dull as fuck and I’m realising that I’m more pissed than I want to be right now. But fuck it. Even though I’m bursting for a piss, I do the honours as I get all three of them drinks. No hard feelings towards the two unwanted guests. Nothing is going to bother me tonight. Christine wants a bottle of orange Bacardi Breezer and the fat cunts want Smirnoff Ice. I give them their drinks, make my apologies and then I shoot off to have a piss. It was a truly magnificent piss as it goes. Total satisfaction. All that release. I’m well happy. Well sorted what with Christine turning up. Coming in here to see me. I even on this occasion make the point to wash my hands. I had them under the blow drier when Terry Slade came in with John Hollis and they look at me like there’s something wrong with me because I’m doing something we all should do when we’ve had a piss. Moments like this make you realise how much you let standards drop when you’re out on one. As I leave John Hollis says something and then they both laugh but I don’t hear anything clearly as the drier is still noisily doing its stuff. I just walk out. And then I worryingly wonder for a minute if I was supposed to turn it off. I feel stupid for a second but I’m on a roll here and get a grip as I come back into the bar and look for the girls.  
I’m now all smiles, Jack the Lad, with clean hands and a dirty mind. Bring it on. And then just when I am full of the energy of a man who is a brilliant success, the moment goes and collapses, fucking falls apart right in front of my idiotic face. I can disappointingly see that all of them have moved well away from the bar and are at this moment flirting like fuck around the lads over in the far corner behind the pool table. I wouldn’t have minded if it wasn’t for the fact that because Christine  was a million leagues above her fat mates, she therefore had all the focus from the boys. Fucking Johnny Startup’s trying to charm his way right in there. I’m not gay but we all know he’s a good looking fella. He’s really plastering on the wit and flattering words about how tidy Christine’s looking and is she out to meet a bloke and do we know him. She laughs says she’s seeing no one and it’s more than fair to see the whole scene’s putting all this fucking needless pressure on me. What the fuck is going on here? I really feel sick and don’t know what to do. But I had to do something. I couldn’t let things get out of hand here. So I went over to where Stevie and Garry were. Took up my position there. Billy was also now clowning around with that cunt Johnny Startup and Kev Morgan was also flirting like fuck with Christine – she’d see nothing in that bald cunt, surely – and then Terry Slade and John Hollis came out of the bogs and sinisterly they’re still laughing (at me?) and this laughter now mixes anger up with the paranoia and fear as they both swagger over to the corner where I should be based. Where my girl is. John Hollis says something to Christine as he goes passed her and she hits him, but there’s no menace as she’s disconcertingly wearing a smile. But I reckon he must have touched her up, pinched her arse. Another fucking cunt fucking my night up, signing on to be my enemy. I’m losing the plot here. My fires burning. And who can blame me? Just listen. They’re all now laughing. Loudly. I shouldn’t have gone for a piss when I did. I should have held in my piss, stayed about and made sure Christine stuck by me. Been wiser and waited until it was absolutely safe to leave Christine with this lot of scum while I took a piss.
“I’m getting wound up here?” I say before drinking half a pint down in one.
“What you on about, Jim?” goes Garry.
“Nothing,” I reply. “Who wants another?”
He then calls his son Anthony over; he had been playing pool against himself.
“No thanks mate,” Garry then says. “I’ll see you two later when I’ve dropped him back. About an hour, okay?”
Stevie then decides he wants to get something to eat and goes with Garry and Anthony out the door Even though I’m invited along, which was nice of Garry, I sensibly decide to stay put so that I can keep watch over any further situations that I may need to police if it all starts to get really messy. I decide to get some air and see the boys off out the front and when I come back in the pub, seeing Johnny Startup grabbing hold of Christine and then her screaming and laughing oh so fucking loudly, causes me to make a big mistake. I hit the top shelf and with it all clarity about what unfolds during the next hour or so. I vaguely recall Terry Slade and John Hollis going at some point and then out went Billy with Kev Morgan. I am certain they went down the Chill ‘n’ Grill kebab bar. That left just the girls and that big cunt Johnny Startup. I was stuck at the bar on my own. Feeling and obviously looking like a fool. I wished so hard that Stevie and Garry would make a speedy return. But they never came did they and so I did the next best thing. I waited for my moment. It seemed to take forever. But it did finally arrive. My moment. It came when Johnny Startup finally went into the bogs and I made for the corner like a rocket and as she had her back to me I grabbed hold of Christine  and pulled her round. She said something and so did Maureen Harper, with her face all screwed up. Fucking ugly cunt. I don’t know what they were saying but I regained consciousness and roughly believe the conversation went as follows:
“What the fuck you up to then, eh?”
          “What you up to more like. Get off me, Jim, you’re pissed!”
          “Trying to get me all fucked up and jealous are we?”
          “You’re pissed, Jim. What you fucking doing?”
          “You do know what I mean here. You know exactly what I mean and what you’re up to. C’mon. Let’s go outside a minute. Sort this out.”
I grab hold of her arm and pull her towards me. So then Maureen Harper has to grab hold of me and now I’m in a spin and I’ve got both fatties in my face and now all three of them are turning on me. The bitch army. Fucking slags. This is madness. Being attacked in public by a bunch of slags. It’s times like this when you realise that maybe on certain occasions, a bloke should be allowed one punch. To calm down a fucked up situation. Show them the rules. Remind them where the mark is, where they’ve crossed over too far. And now while I’m still under attack, out comes Johnny Startup from the bogs and he jumps right in and tells me to leave the ladies alone….or else. Fuck off cunt. Ladies? You’re more pissed than I am mate. Mate? Hmmm. As I was saying somewhere back there….mate. Fucking slags. That’s what they are. Plain and simply. Fucking slags. In any language. Universal translation. Fucking slags. For fuck’s sake, I’m getting worn out here and now Startup’s bringing it on, threatening me, seriously, that he’ll batter me if I don’t fuck off now. He gives me a hard smack in the ribs. It hurts and I try not to show it. I nearly topple over as it goes. Startup’s standing there ready to deliver a few more strikes and I back off instantly. Fucking hell where I’m I? I can’t see the coastline. I’m drowning beneath the cruel waves. Then, with me staggering badly towards the edge of the bar, feeling the sting on my chest where that cunt has hit me and from nowhere arrives Stevie and Garry on a lifeboat – how long you been gone my real friends? – don’t seem like five minutes and they’ve got Billy and Kev Morgan on board with them and everyone’s in on the scene and I’m really not sure what’s fucking well going on here, there’s voices, like everyones talking over each other, all talking, shouting out at once, and I’m spinning, fucking ready to fall over maybe and now someones got their arm round me and it puts pressure on my sore ribs and now I can see that we’re all outside in the front car park and Stevie and Garry are doing their best in telling me I ought to call it a day for my own good and then I don’t know how this has all come about but here I am walking home alone and it can’t be even half past eight yet on a Saturday night and I’m not happy with events as they stand and as for my so called mates, well they’re cunts. They’ve really let me down here. Every fucking one of them.
          When I get in the old girl also has to go and start on me as well. Thanks mum. Well appreciated. You telling me what a state I look. Kicking me while I’m down. Bang out of order. Why don’t you kick me in the ribs mum. Kick me where that cunt bully Johnny Startup nearly snapped them. He’s done boxing. He knew what he was doing. Picking his spot with those fists. Fucking can’t believe someones hit me. Can’t believe it! It’s making me depressed and the old girls still in my face. But I don’t say a word back. I’m better than her. I just get some crisps out the cupboard and go upstairs. She’s lucky I don’t just pack my bags right now and walk out on her. That would have her in tears. She’d melt in the loneliness. Without me here. She obviously thinks I haven’t seen how she’s grown in confidence since I came back. How the scene I’ve made here has allowed her to regain a former self. Let her grow and glow. Even if it is a total false dawn. I could really bring her down if I wanted. An easy job. No effort necessary. But I’m better than that. She doesn’t know what a good son I really am. After an unhappy stumble upstairs, I’m soon registering how fucking well pissed I am once I’m sat on my bed. As I’m also still full of so much passionate spite, I sensibly decide that what I really should have here is a pissed up heavy wank over some sluts as a tonic to support my deflated spirits. Yeah that’s what I needed to do. But where the fuck I’d put my latest couple of mags I couldn’t remember. So I got an old mag out of the cupboard but soon got bored with the same old tits, fanny and arses and anyway, all movement in my right arm pinched my ribs, real biting pain. So much in fact, that I almost had a good mind to go back down the pub and wrap a pool queue round that cunts face, break his fucking nose and then boot the cunt as he went down holding his brain so it didn’t roll out like a pea out of the pod that was his head. Let him know who he was fucking with. But that never happened. I wanted that to happen, of course I did. But that never happened as I never left the room let alone the house. I was soon lying on my back, still and careful, nursing my ribcage, hopeful and ready to fall asleep. And fortunately, even with all the pain I was in – in mind and body – that didn’t take too fucking long at all.

An extract from the novel Green Light To Paradise by Joe England 

Sunday, 22 April 2012


That year I first went to football, 1986, actually turned out to be a good one for West Ham.  So much for Long John crying about the lost past, forgotten glory days. It was West Ham’s best ever season in the league. I know this. I appreciate the irony in it all. For that year, on West Ham’s last home league game of the season – versus Ipswich, who else – Long John went to the game alone. He could have taken me. I mean, there I was, home from school, having heard the buzz all day. About how West Ham were close to being champions. I really did think that Long John would walk in the door, grinning, tell me to grab my coat and then we’d be off, in his van. But that never happened. He never came home. He went to the game straight from work. Or maybe he hadn’t gone into work at all that day. The date of the game – April 30th 1986 – was a famous day. You should know that. It was the day of the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. A nuclear meltdown that sat next to my monumental let-down. I watched the teatime news highlighting the concerns that experts supposedly had about how the gentleness of wind could carry radioactivity in its arms all the way to England and then drop a death plague on our doorstep. The end of the world loomed as me and Mum ate a jacket potato topped with coleslaw and grated cheese. Mum was worried and left over half of hers. I had my concerns too. About the future, about tomorrow at school, about what exactly was I going to say to everyone now? You see, I was that certain that I would be going to the game that I had over-talked, badly. I had made myself the centre of attention, citing titbits of match-stats as a result of having my head buried in books about West Ham that belonged to Long John. Books that I had been reading manically when I realised that there was surely a strong possibility that I was about to be going to my second game of football.
          “Did you know, that John Lyall is only our fifth manager since Thames Ironworks became West Ham United FC in 1900? Chelsea have had as many managers in the last five years.”
          “You ever actually been to West Ham, Silver?” Michael Taylor’s much older brother had said, while gate-crashing my informative playground lecture. I could have crumbled, but I had the wind of truth lifting my wings.
          “Yes I have. Wednesday’ll be the second time I’ve been to West Ham versus Ipswich this year. I went when we played them at home. In the cup it was. Did you go to that game?”
          No one else in my year at school, in our small crowd of tiny infants, had been to a game before let alone the cup game versus Ipswich. By his lack of response, neither had Michael Taylor’s older brother been to the one game I had. This promoted me to new heights and I felt mighty in being able to brag about going to the biggest league match in West Ham’s history. For I stupidly believed that the bond between me and Long John would be set ablaze, a fire of love between son and father blazing at long last, with him so impressed on route to the game with my recently indulged appreciation of some of the history of West Ham United. And there we would be. My first game against Ipswich to be superseded by this. A game that if won, would place The League Title within sight of Alvin Martin’s hands. I had definitely over-talked about how I was going to the game. But that never happened and I didn’t know what I was now going to tell everyone at school. It was no good just turning up at the school gates in a claret and blue scarf, bring along a few of Long John’s programmes that go all the way back to when his dad used to go to football at West Ham after the war. I had done all that already. Many times. No, they would want to talk to me about the game. I would soon get found out. The disappointment in not going meant that there was no way that my small brain was going to be able to inspire a lairs performance. I was gutted that I hadn’t gone. It would be written all over my face. I would be forever shunned, a bullshitter. All I had to recount was what had been on the telly. Chernobyl.
          Long John came home in the early hours. I heard an argument start, both voices at war. Then silence. In the morning, I looked for a programme to take to school but he hadn’t left one out. West Ham had won the game and had gone second in the league and you’d have thought that Long John would have been ecstatic. But when I spoke to him, when he got in from work the following night, he was anything but happy that West Ham were right behind Liverpool with one weekend remaining and a game in hand; as extraordinary as it sounds, they really did have every chance of winning the league. But instead of celebrating the win, when I asked him about the game he narrowed his face and said how the winning goal scored from a penalty should never have been a penalty and how he was saddened that as a result, Ipswich would be relegated. It was all very strange at the time. But I never put two and two together. Unlike now. How he not only betrayed Mum and his family, but his club too, one that was also supposed to be for life.
          I guess when looking at the facts of circumstance, fate all boiled down to Tony Cottee and the toss of a coin. Back in January he scored the extra time equaliser in the 106th minute that took the tie to a second replay and then the venue for that second replay – once again, Portman Road, Ipswich – was determined by a toss of a coin. It was pure chance I guess that Long John met our now long established pantomime villain on that first replay. Maybe he bought her a Bovril. Maybe he couldn’t get in the West Ham end and went in her end; quite literally. Bumped into her in the cold, two shuddering bodies and bought her a Bovril. That’s what I have always pictured. If the second replay was at West Ham and not back at Ipswich, I swear Long John would never have made that final move to leave Mum. I just don’t think he would have made the effort. Not his style. He simply wouldn’t have bothered. Mum would still be alive and Long John might even have mellowed in age enough for me to call him Dad. Yes, it was the second reply that did the damage, which ultimately mapped out the road for him to go back to Ipswich again to join hands with that blonde witch, the fatal road that ultimately led to Mum dying. We’ll never know for sure the full details, but I reckon that everything changed for the worse on a cold snowbound Tuesday night in Ipswich back in February 1986, when Tony Cottee scored a late equalising goal and then the toss of that bastard coin determined Long John was back to Ipswich for more of the same.

Extract from the novel, Barking Frog by Joe England

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Got It On Vinyl

“Do you mind if I turn on the radio? It helps me keep my focus on driving within the guidelines as laid out in the Highway Code.”
“If you must.”
“You don’t drive do you?”
“It’s only a temporary situation.”
“You still banned then?”
“I haven’t hired you for the benefit of your fucking jawing.”
“Now that’s what I call, more like it.”
Pavement turned on the radio and rapidly moved the dial from an irritating Sunday afternoon talk show to a station that appeared to play classical music with a choir. It lasted for the entire journey. Uninterrupted coverage. Perhaps a live broadcast. I am not saying I actually enjoyed listening to classical music, but it did allow me to relax again, feel comfortable with myself. I then went into a trance as I stared out of the window. I found myself considering my life. How I had ended up here, in the back of Pavement’s car, driving to pick up a guy who we were then going to introduce to Lenny Fenton and then mentally torture. My stomach tightened as we passed the stand-alone tin church and then we took a left at the Tried For Treason.
“Do you mind if I speak?” Pavement said as he slowed down moments later, after finally locating the turning that should lead us to two more turnings – one left, one right – and then into Spooner’s road. At long last Pavement was treating me with the respect I deserved. Like he should have fucking well done from the start. But there was no point getting myself stressed about the past now. The fact was this. I was the one in charge again and I was the one who had done all the hard work so far. I mean, it was me who had single-handedly brought about the pick up.
“Yeah, you can speak,” I said. “But keep it brief.”
“Thank you. I was just wondering if you had you been listening to this?”
“Hardly had any choice.”
“Do you know who the composer is?”
“Want to know?”
“Not really.”
“Johann Sebastian Bach.”
“Thanks for letting me know.”
“My pleasure. We have been enjoying the Saint Matthew Passion. I know this well.”
“Is that a fact?”
“It is. I know this very well indeed. Got it on vinyl, imported. Perfect for a Sunday though. Don’t you think? You can, of course, be an atheist and still get pleasure from Saint Matthew Passion. The crucifixion, after all, is there for everyone to enjoy.”
Pavement then aggressively suddenly swerved to the left without indicating and pulled up kerbside. A blue transit van beeped its horn as it passed by.
“Fuck you wanker,” growled Pavement.
“Are we here?”
“Can you turn off the music then please?”
He seemed to take forever in responding.
“You seriously sure about that?”
“I actually think we should leave it on. While we sit here and ponder.”
“Don’t you think it creates an environment of rich intellect with a silent undertone of impending doom?”
“Turn it off,” I said.
“Surely a perfect soundtrack?”
“I said turn it off.”
He finally obeyed.
The flat that Adam Spooner said he lived in was above a launderette that conveniently happened to be situated in a ghostly parade of boarded up shops. Such a typical student setting. The one that projects the student lie. In all of its glory. The student lie of the apparent hardship of a young poor ambitious person’s life. The temporary struggle until the return to the nice house with mummy and daddy when University has run its course. Pulp definitely nailed it to the mast with the lyrics to ‘Common People.’ Amazingly, one sharp beep and there he was. I might have been losing it since I had been up, but seeing this four-eyed-kid come out beaming the joy and excitement of being with people he genuinely thinks actually take a sincere interest in his career path, allowed me the opportunity to once again take a metaphorical backwards step and intelligently refocus on why I was here doing this. I thought about the sharpened words Bob Sloane pierced my heart with last Sunday, the way my brother Mark always treated me like some cunt and Vera Vaughan and her misguided viewpoint of why I am what I am. But above all of that I realised I felt something for Carol Lawns. She
had something I was certain she was going to give me back after all of this. I was going to give her something back too. Something that Malcolm obviously never did or could. I was definitely going to fuck her brains out after all this. I felt warm inside. Yes, the gear had done what Pavement said it needed to do. It had sorted out my head. Adam Spooner might as well have skipped all the way to the Mercedes. By his smile he definitely seemed impressed with Pavement.
“Good afternoon, sir, I hope you’re well,” Pavement said to Spooner as he opened the rear door.
Adam Spooner was holding a black puffed jacket and he was wearing a black T-shirt with the words PEEPING TOM on the front in orange stencil.
“I am very well, thanks,” he said.
Pavement smiled into the back of the car at me and then closed the door once Spooner was inside.
“Hello again Charlie and a good afternoon to you.”
“Good afternoon to you too, Adam,” I said, half turning my head, so to ensure I did not make eye contact. “Great to finally have you on board.”
He then asked if I had a cold but I was still getting this warm, satisfying rush. I seemed to definitely want to forget about what Pavement had stolen off of me as I now wanted to concentrate hard on how I had made this happen. This very moment. This very moment and
how if it had been placed in the hands of fools, this would have never seen the light of day. Come on, give me some credit here. I have made this creation. This, what we had before us now. I have made this. Me. Not fucking Pavement. Me.
“Did you get to the Chelsea Harbour okay?”
“Sure did,” I replied, while picking at a fingernail.
Pavement’s name for the day was Ronnie Falcon and as Spooner made himself comfortable, I formally introduced them to one another.
“Nice to meet you too, Mr Spooner. Did you bring a copy of your film then?”
I threw Ronnie a fixed stare. I was in charge of that sort of talking.
“Sure did!” Adam Spooner then said, running ahead of himself and grinning like an idiot, pulling the video out from within his folded jacket and then stupidly waving the tape about like it was a tambourine. So there it was then. The video tape that killed Malcolm.
But Spooner did not get too long doing that though before the Falcon swooped and had it out of his hand.
“Sorry, you don’t mind, Mr Spooner?” said Pavement, without making any effort to conceal the evil fun plastered all over his face. “You see, we’re all just dying to see it.”

An extract from The Roadside Picnics by Joe England