“Don’t Look Back”

I had a wonderful time up in Falkirk for the launch of Razur Cuts V. They’ve got a brilliant scene & a wonderful magazine up there. I’m delighted to be included alongside stellar talents such as Fee Johnstone, Martin Geraghty, Julie Rea & Chris McQueer. Here’s the story I’ve got in Razur Cuts V, which is fittingly about my love of Teenage Fanclub -:

hofner-guitars-verythin-vintage-26174

Splitting up with Carol hit me hard. I mean, don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of occasions while I was with her I felt so miserable I could have cried. That initial euphoria because you’re getting your hole on a regular basis, followed by the all too brief period of loved-up running around in slow motion holding hands is wonderful. It soon wears off once you’re saddled with the nightly job of shouting at her kids for not doing their homework. Sometimes getting your marching orders can be a bit of a relief, but when the relationship P45 arrived on Boxing Day late morning, after I’d given up the chance of a ticket for Blackburn away and a day on the drink with the lads, I really didn’t think we’d quite got to that point. Or at least I hadn’t.

The psychological kick in the bollocks caused by rejection and the sheer oppressive loneliness of being by myself once again, is a tough hand to play. Not to mention that grinding sense of injustice, as I hadn’t really done anything wrong; in my eyes at least. According to Carol, who really ought to have considered retraining as a counsellor, the main reason for calling it quits was because I consistently disappointed her by not living up to the exacting standards required to be her life partner and the kids’ stepdad. In other words, I was shit at DIY, didn’t have a bottomless pit of cash to bring to the table and found her interpretation of normal family life, which mainly involved sitting in front of the box every night, soul destroying.  Apparently my performance on that last fateful Christmas Day, keeping out the way and drinking cans while her relatives sat around the dining table complaining about immigration, was the last straw. Never mind the EDL rally in the next room, my conduct had been “rude, unpleasant and socially unacceptable.” Well, useful to get that learned.

We didn’t keep in touch. Not surprising really. I may not have had much in the way of self-esteem once she’d finished shoeing my heart up and down the road, but I still had a soupcon of dignity. Sure I was miserable and alone, but I still had some pride. I wasn’t going to beg her to take me back by promising to change. Fuck that. I’d much rather sulk in the house or slump on a bar stool than compromise my ideals. Also, Geography played its part as well. If you measure the town and surrounding areas from the coast to the western approaches, it’s about 20 miles long and 6 or 7 miles wide. A decent stretch of land, containing a million and a half people give or take. Big enough to hide if you want anonymity; piece of piss to remain ignored if you’ve nothing in common with the person you’re avoiding.

I suppose I did the usual things newly single middle-aged blokes do at first. Went on the batter, sometimes with mates and sometimes alone, then had a health kick. Joined a gym, kicked out the carbs, graduated from spinning classes to mountain biking, ran a 10k. Hiked the Camino de Santiago for a cancer charity. Read a load of books. Watched some films. Researched yoga. Even thought about getting a dog for company. Signed up for CAMRA membership and developed a taste for citrusy IPAs. Told everyone who asked I was taking a relationship gap year.

Most importantly, I got back into music. Live gigs. Underground releases. New stuff and classics I’d missed to plug gaps in my knowledge. Bought a decent12 string semi acoustic and an amp. Found my technique improving by the week. Started writings songs. Played a few of them at open mic nights at The Bridge. Went down well. All in all, I was having a pretty good time. Feeling relaxed in my own skin. Enjoying solitude as much as company. Even work was tolerable these days.

Out of nowhere came the offer to open for this young Scottish singer/songwriter at The Bridge. It blew me off my feet. This fella was seriously talented. I’d seen him supporting Andy Irvine at The Irish Club two years back and as a guest with Mike Heron at Sage 2 in February, but this show with his band was part of a tour to promote their new release. I’d bought it on the strength of a five star Quietus review. Totally justified as well; split half and half between obscure traditional stuff and his own contemporary songs, it was my album of the year. Linked 60s West Coast pop with a splash of Folk roots and classic Glasgow indie guitars.  They were going from town to town. Playing small rooms. No PA; just the backline and local support. I wouldn’t get paid, but you couldn’t turn it down. Half an hour to make myself a name. Eight numbers. Six of mine and a pair of Teenage Fanclub covers. One by Norman and one by Gerry; the Raymond numbers were still too difficult. I practised dutifully until the songs shone.

Thursday evening, almost the weekend with a Bank Holiday to come, I got away from work early, did my meditation then walked into town, guitar case in hand, rehearsing my between song patter.  I headed up the stairs. Exchanged handshakes and introductions. Tuned up. Let the band finish their soundcheck. When they headed for pre gig pizzas, I ran through a couple of numbers. Sounded ok. Breathing was under control, so I put the guitar back on the stand and nipped down for a drink. Stage time 8.00; an hour to kill.

CAMRA knowledge led me to Consett Molten Ale (4.5% amber bitter with a floral aroma and smooth aftertaste). The Bridge was busy. It always is early evenings, but I still got a stool at the bar.  I took the pint a bit slower than normal. Didn’t want to blow my big chance by getting sloshed. Needed distraction tactics. Farted around on my phone. Read the print off the wine list. Surreptitiously scoped the room, not flattering myself the shower of suits sprawled out round the place were there for my big moment. Point of fact, I didn’t see anyone I recognised in the bar.  And then I did.

It wasn’t stage fright, but I almost bolted for the door.  Stood ten yards along the counter was Carol. The first time I’d clapped eyes on her for knocking on two years. The woman I’d walked on a bed of white hot coals and eggshells to accommodate. The reason I’d wasted a significant part of my life and why I was feeling so good now. What was I supposed to do? Or say? Before I’d figured out an answer, she clocked me and shrieked a hello, with far more joy in her voice than I’d been used to, then bowled over. It was around then I noticed she was with this enormous bloke who was clearly her beau. She got the introductions over with. This was Budgie, a fact reinforced by a colourful tattoo of such a bird on his upper arm, surrounded by the motto The Big Budgie. It spread its wings as if preparing to fly, as his bicep bulged and flexed while he crushed my fist in his. At least it was my strumming hand. Unpleasantries over; the banalities began.

Nice to see you again. You’re looking different. In the time since we’d split, I’d dropped about 10kg, grown a beard, put my hair in dreads and started dressing like I was a member of Fairport Convention circa 1969. Carol studied me with a mixture of alarm and bafflement that suggested she believed me to be both homeless and mentally ill. I looked at her and Budgie, trying to hide my fear.

During our time together, Carol always moaned I spent too much on clothes. Ok, I used to like the old Ralph Lauren, Paul & Shark and even Stone Island designer gear, mainly because it was almost flattering when my gut was at its widest. I soon saw through posh threads as another aspect of social conformism and kicked them into touch. These days, I revelled in looking outlandish. I’d learned to be a free spirit and wanted to celebrate that fact.

She also used to complain I never complimented her on how she looked, which was the case I’ll admit. It was work issue skirt and blouse or Primark in front of the box. She was all about conformity and normality, so I hardly looked twice most days. Now it seemed she’d been taking fashion tips from Richard Allen, or Budgie, or both. Bleach-blonde feather cut, Myra Hindley style, red Fred Perry, black Harrington, drainpipe Wranglers and oxblood Martens; did they play Skinhead Moonstomp when a handler put you on hold at the Nat West call centre she ruled with a rod of iron? Was it her mid-life crisis? Or his? Half a head taller and twice my weight, Budgie’s stature was reinforced by his yellow and blue Mohawk (if you’d called it a Mohican, he’d have knocked you out I reckon), Demented Are Go t-shirt, Union Jack braces, camo pants and para boots. He could have put me on a life support machine.

Instead he bought us all a drink. Cider for them, of course. Turns out they’d met on-line about 6 months after Carol ditched me and he’d moved in pretty sharpish. Had his own building company and was doing up a barn conversion for the whole family. Ready to move in six months or so. Then they’d fix a date for the wedding, which you’ll have to come to. I made a mental note to be busy that year.

They were out for a few pints (she used to drink Tia Maria when I knew her), before heading to the Academy for some Ska and Oi package tour. Songs for swinging meatheads.  I didn’t mention how she’d only listen to Robbie Williams or Duffy back in the day, but I did tell them what I was doing there and why I had to split soon. Fair play they were genuinely impressed. Wished me luck as we exchanged handshakes and farewells.

Up the stairs. Squeeze out a piss. Walk on stage unannounced. Explain who I am. Play the songs. Get a warm round of applause from 60 punters. Namecheck from the headliner. Invited me up for the encore. Strum along to Everything Flows. Loudest applause I’d ever had. Offers of more gigs. Vague promises to record my stuff when I’ve written more. Couple more celebratory pints after closing and a taxi home.

In the house, I check my phone. A dozen friend requests. Punters and musos, I accept them all. Mistake. One of them’s Carol. Immediate message; gr8 2 cu 2nyt. Punch back non-committal thanks.  Phone beeps again; u lookin gud babe. Switch the fucker off and the music on. Teenage Fanclub. Grand Prix. Side 1. Track 4.

Wake up the story’s over…

Got my mind set something else so it’s hard to see…

I don’t need a guiding light to lead me in the dark….

(Don’t look back) on an empty feeling

(Don’t look back) on an empty feeling

(Don’t look back) on an empty feeling

(Don’t look back) on an empty feeling

 God Bless you Gerry Love; you read my mind.

 

rcv

Advertisements

The White Feather

Issue #4 of glove is out now; via PayPal to iancusack@blueyonder.co.uk for £3 UK, £4 EU & £5 Rest of the World. It’s definitely the best one yet, comprising 48 pages of top quality outsider fiction, spoiled only by my piece which follows here -:

Glove 4

On November 18th I was an unused substitute for Wallsend Athletic in our away fixture at Redcar Town. As is my role in such instances, I took the flag and assumed the role of linesman, whereby I stand parallel to our left back, or most deep-lying defender. Consequently, I was at least 70 yards from the Redcar goal. Towards the midpoint of the second half, we scored a goal following a melee at a corner, to make the score 3-2. My eyes followed the ball and after it entered the net, I moved back towards the halfway line, ready for the restart. Because of an outbreak of shouting, I turned around to see the cause of the disturbance. I am unsure exactly what happened next, but I do know Michael Harrison was sent off, presumably for his involvement in an altercation with a Redcar player.

At full time, I went across to the Redcar team and offered them my congratulations on their win (the final score was 4-2) and to express my disappointment that there had been some unpleasantness in the game. By and large the Redcar players were keen to play down the incident, though a couple were vociferously insistent that there would be some measure of “revenge” enacted; as I did not know any of these players (nor have I seen them since as Redcar conceded the return fixture in December), I gave vaguely conciliatory platitudinous responses as I was unsure they were genuinely angry, or seeking to find confrontation with me.

This is where I must explain something of my own character and personal beliefs. I am a pacifist. I have never hit any human in my life, even as a child. I have never had a fight, though I’ve suffered unprovoked assaults in 1979 and 1992. I am, despite my appearance and hobbies, very far from the typical north-east bloke. Indeed, during 2017 I endured a complete and utter mental breakdown, which necessitated sick leave from March 4th to November 2nd. During that time, and to the present day, I have been under the supervision of mental health practitioners, specifically Dr Mary Moore from Newcastle Mental Health Crisis Team, as I was considered a significant suicide risk. The causes of this breakdown were the repeated instances of abuse I suffered as a child, adolescent and young adult from my parents, categorised as sexual (mother), physical (father) and emotional (both). As a result of the repeated emotional, physical and sexual abuse I suffered, I have spent my entire life plagued by feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, with an unshakeable belief I’d be better off dead, which have profoundly affected my interactions with both genders.  A report into my mental health, from September last year, states the following -:

He recognises that many men frighten him, particularly if they are confident “alpha male” individuals, as he perceives them as potentially aggressive or confrontational. He describes his feelings of fear when close to such individuals as overwhelming. His levels of anxiety remain high. In my opinion, these are connected to trauma he experienced as a child which has left him with long standing and deeply entrenched feelings of low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, lack of personal value and rage.

 Having endured serious bouts of mental ill health from the age of 16 onwards, I am delighted that I have medical insight, to help me move forward. The realisation that I have a long-standing fear of aggressive, confrontational males explains almost everything in my life so far. I have always sought the last word and stand up to what I perceive is bullying, not with my fists but with words, as I see something of my father and the repeated years of vile abuse he inflicted on me. It is something I’ve never been particularly successful with.

Now, I’d guess at some level I’ve always been argumentative, or disputatious about anything and everything; music, politics and books are as important to me as football and the interpretation of such topics is obviously far more contentious and personal than the events of a football match. This is presumably why I’ve always been enduringly fascinated by the sociological and political aspects of football culture, rather than the actual minutiae of how the game is played. Because I’ve spent so much of my life discussing recondite interpretations of literary texts with other effete bourgeois pseudo intellectuals, therefore I’ve always struggled to deal with ordinary, working class men. This attitude may sound simply like snobbery, but I’m convinced it has a clear psychological basis in the fact I am unconsciously standing up to my late father, who repeatedly abused me up to the age of 21.

My father was a weak man; a violent, dictatorial bully who treated me like a dog. He made it clear he owned me; I had no right to personal freedom, in a physical or mental sense. Certainly, these days his conduct and that of his co-abusers would not have been tolerated in normal society. They would be in jail.  He never allowed me to have opinions of my own, he belittled every single aspect of my life and he assaulted on a weekly basis, but I forgave him because he was coerced into this behaviour by my mam, whose sexual abuse of me is simply too shameful and degrading for me to detail here, and because I had no choice but to love him.

My entire life has been blighted by the abuse I suffered. It seems obvious to me that the reason I seek out conflict with strong, aggressive male types, often in authority, is because I see in them something of my father and I suppose I am unconsciously expecting to suffer the same kind of abuse as I suffered for the first couple of decades of my life. Because all I knew in my childhood was hatred and aggression, I am terrified by it. Hence why I attempted to apologise to Redcar as, subconsciously, I was apologising for my own inadequacies.

Following the game on November 18th, I received a phone call a few days later from the Redcar player with whom Michael Harrison had been in dispute with; I believe he is called Terry Martin. I presume he got my number from the Wallsend Athletic website.  I found this conversation stressful and disturbing as I was unprepared for it. To try and get him off the phone I simply agreed with what he said as I was overwhelmed and intimidated by this contact.  Since that date I have not spoken to him and do not have his number.

Subsequently, an officer from Cleveland Police phoned to inquire whether I would make a statement about what I had seen on. I politely declined and have had no further contact. Despite my lifelong fear and hatred of the police, I managed to assert myself and refused to acquiesce to their menacing demands for a statement. If I had given such a sworn affadavit, I am convinced I would have been an unreliable witness as such was the level of my mental illness at the time, I would have been unable to articulate an accurate account of events that I did not wholly see as they unfolded, involving upwards of 16 people, perhaps 70 yards from where I was stood.

 

2017 CV

cv-for-collection

2017 saw me have 8 stories & 3 poems published. The one I’m most proud of would be Kinnegad.

 

No and Yes in Razur Cuts #2

Ballybofey & Shopping in Glove #1

Businessmen in Hand Job Anthology

Kinnegad in Paper & Ink #10

Pigmeat in C-O-N #1

Hair in Glove #2

Hard Brexit in Low Light #1

Brave Men Run in Glove #3

Cycling in Eye Flash #1

Didn’t Happen in Razur Cuts #4

Didn’t Happen

Razur Cuts IV is out now; you owe it to yourself to grab a slice of Scotland’s finest Lit Zine. In its pages, you’ll find this one of mine; the first story I’ve ever written entirely in an approximation of the Geordie dialect -:

 

RC IV

wi woh ganna meet at thu clubhoose aboot two o’clock n watch thu Mackems git laced by Spurs afore headin up Osborne Road , n then Stevie Robson put thu block on it – place woh double fukkin booked – all thu bairnzes teams havin tha Chrismis dos – pass thu fukkin parcel n that sorta shite – nee way ah cud say oot  tu’im  like – nor afta Davey Mitch got haaled in foh questionin – prehistoric allegations of touchin Stevie telt iz, gittin it aal wrang az por fukkin usal – corse thu geet big fukkin elephant in thu changaz foh thu club iz thu crack aboot mega compo foh parents n guardians coz wi’d arsed up thu fukkin safeguardin procedures, Charter fukkin Standard oh nee Charter fukkin Standard – thoozinds oh NE6 welfare mams caalin Claims Direct, gettin tha hopes up aboot Florida holidaz, botox n tit jobs, wih infinite amoonts oh tabs n peeve hoyed in anaal – last fukkin thing wi need wi wor dodgy finances an nee cuntin insurance – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

problem still fukkin remained aboot thu ladz Chrismis do – thi’d been sound az fuck – nee bevvin on Frida – ah could tell – all oh thum torned up sharp n nee fukka hoyin Red Bull or chud doon tha necks – canny point away to Bishops n aal – grafted thu whole fukkin game – wi owed thum a decent peeve but nee cunt hud a plan til Crazy Joe Innes pulled a fukkin massive rabbit oot eez hat az me n him sat shotgun wih Jimmy Tourettes steerin thu minibus back – CJI hud hord Big Red waz havin one oh eez Gentlemen’s Afternoons thu morra, back room oh The Sun – club aalways had a standin invite tu eny oh Big Red’s social gatherins az eez owld fella helped set thu cuntin club up years back –  looks like a fukkin White Chrismis afta all shoots CJI n wi woh aal still bad laffin when Jimmy dropped iz hyem – took it steady on thu Satda neet – few cans n then got me heed doon afta thu footbaal on thu telly – big fukkin bevvy on thu Sunda ahead of iz – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

up canny orly next mornin – shit n shampoo then a fry up in ASDA wih thu papers, afore caalin doon thu club to see if oot wa gannin on – fukkin stowed oot wi bairns in tha footbaal gear n tha radgey mams aal on thu WKDs n pints oh snakey fore sun’s owwa thu yardarm – Stevie’s deein hiz bit tu heed thu compensation cunts off at thu pass wih festive hampers full oh buckshee smokes, bevvy, iPhone 7s n groceries – aal on thu hoose, an aal knock off probly – Slade n Shakey blasted oot frum behind thu bar where he’s hoyin oot free drinks in his  Chrismis gansey n Santa beard – fukkin helmit – wir a fukkin footbaal team nor a cuntin food bank – wi needed tuh flog loadza domino cards tuh pay foh Stevie’s largesse so ah made aboot a dozen laps oh thu bar, deein the raffle –  pund a strip – cunt’ll nivvir git draahn like, but yi knaa the fukkin score…

ah gorrin The Sun just az Motherwell against Dundee woh kickin off – wasint tha fukkin interested like, but yuh need tu knaa times n stuff case thu poliss start nosin aboot – CJI n Lord James Tourettes alridy stud at thu coonta in tha club polos, enjoying a pint n a canny size brandy each – greedy owld cunts…

  • bit orlee tu be hammerin thu owld Courvoisier innit?
  • on thu fukkin hoose man, yi fukkin daft cunt – nee way ah’d be putting mi hand in mi pokkit foh quality bevvy like this’n barks Jimmy, brandishin thu glass boot half a inch frum mi dial – shut ya fukkin hole n git stuck in – fukkin Chrismis man n Big Red’s payin – yi knaa thu fukkin score

 nee need tuh tell iz twice – seconds later ah’m restin mi palms on the coonta watching  Yvonne fillin iz a geet big Remy Martin while mi Guinness settles – fukkin champion – ah tek a skeg roond thu place n see aboot half a duzun footbaalers stud in a group unda thi smaala telly, lookin norvis – gelled hair, Ralph Lauren shorts n ganzeys, distressed jeans n pairz oh fukkin white sand shoes like wi hud tuh wear in PE aboot fowty years back – all suppin Corona wi bitz oh lime in – cuddint drink fukkin hot watta, younginz – when thah on thu pitch wi tha numbaed shorts, playin tha profoord positions n displayin porsinal idiosyncracies, thu aal seem tuh be individuals, but heah in thu bar, thuh aal blend inta one fukkin amorphis lump oh late teenage n orlee twenties soft cuntism – mind, ah cud see why tha woh shitein thazells when a tek a fortha glance roond n see who thu majority oh puntaz in heah are – despite what it sez owwa thu door, Big Red iz thu numba 1 cunt in charge oh The Sun – fairlee fukkin obvious tha’z nee way he’d gerra  drinks licence wih hiz CV oh nefarious conduct stretchin back aalmost thorty yearz – hence eez got Arthur n Yvonne runnin thu joint forrim – course aal thu 2 oh them dee is sorve thu fukkin drinks like – Big Red is thu brainz oh thu fukkin operation n a virry fukkin far frum silent partna – corse eez got nee fukkin accoontancy qualifications, but thu cunt knaaz aal aboot cookin thu fukkin books n usin The Sun foh launderin hiz ill-gottin coin – meks iz bit thu usual way foh blokes oh hiz demeanour – floggin coke, steroids, tabs n pillz, accordin to hiz puntaz preferences n requirements, well az sortin oot protection foh smaal biznissiz at a reazonable price, deein thu doors in thu toon, not tu mention thu odd bit oh extortion n intimidation when required – mebbes shootaz if needs be – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

it gans withoot sayin Big Red, huge n fukkin strang tho ee iz, cannit dee aal that graft issel – hence why hiz squad’s oot in force – a gatherin oh fower duzzin shaven-heeded n baald chunky mental cases – aal attired in similarly chunky Italian knitwear, all off tha fukkin nuts on toot n roids – nigh on thu 50 hardest blokes frum Byka, Waalsend n Waalka crowdin round thu back bit oh thu bar – ivray fukka heah iz 100% reliable – totely loyal tu Big Red n ready tu gan tu war ASA fukkin P, if needed – thuh might be pushin fowty n upwards, but these cunts look afta thassels – not one oh thu fukkaz iz fat – fact – n thaz so much Stone Island on show wi cud be attendin Mazsimo Osti’s borthday party n not Goodfellaz dubbed wi Jimmy Nail deein all thu taalkin – or shootin n baalin more like, az yi cannit hear fukaal oh thu commentary during thu forst half oh thu Jock game, wih the room split in 3 distinct factions – radgies at thu back, younginz standin roond unda tha telly, starin at tha feet, scared ti say a word, messin wih tha phones, n us 3 awld cunts at thu coonta, taakin aboot wor seazon so far – me n Jimmy Tourette’s rekkin wa deein areet – top 6, n still in the league cup – not fukkin gud enough, ah’m tellin yiz claims CJI, still annoyed az fuk aboot gannin oot thu Vaze at hyem tu them cunts frum awwa Cumbria – owlder wi get, more thu footbaal club’s wa life – aal oh wiz – nigh on thorty yearz oh playin, then managing n runnin the fukka, frum Sunday mornin kickaboots tu bein best amata team in thu city n getting tu thu last fukkin 8 oh a national knockoot cup – me, Joe n Jimmy – aalways knaad thu fukkin score

wi woh in a world oh wah own when some cunt starts clangin thu bell like it’s lasties –  Big Red drawin attention tu thu fact it’s party time –  sorry tu wake yiz, but ya need tu git thru thu back room ladz, n enjoy yasells – wi aal heed inta thu function room – aal thu hard lads nash sharpish, followin Mein Host like eez thu Pied Piper oh Green Street – me, CJI and Jimmy tek it easy, letting thu crood thin oot, while thu players just shuffle in behind wi, like frightened bairns off tu thu dentist withoot tha mamz –  Big Red’s on thu door, shakin hands n deein a meet n greet – up close yi can see how fukkin massive thu cunt iz – well owwa six n a half foot – still in 34 waist keks like – thu Big Unfriendly Giant, crushin yah hand in eez mit az an expressin oh thu power imbalance in aal wah relationships with im – mek sure ya get stuck right inta thu buffet fellaz, afore thu lasses swallow ivray fukkin thing gannin – ah’m just aboot tu remark ah’m fukkin clammin n cud dee wih sum bait, when ah clock Big Red’s approach tu caterin isn’t precisely festive – there’s nee scran – instead wi get cigar boxes full oh spliffs on each table, aal oh which are groanin unda thu weight oh freebie bottles oh champaz n Moretti in bukkits oh ice – n the piece de resistance – a generous wrap oh Charlie foh ivry cunt that comes thru thu door – not to mention several broon envelopes for thu hard lads up front, foh sorvices rendad – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

wi aal just gettin sat doon at thu geet big roond tables when ah notice thu stage iz aal lit up – loadza fukkin silver foil decoratin thu backdrop n a set oh thum awld disco lights pulsing in time tu thu lo volume hard hoose rave shite Big Red n his squad git aal nostalgic owwa coz it meks thum misty eyed aboot Ibiza n quality pillz quatta a century agan – n then thu entertainment starts  – coupla plumes oh smoke n these fowwa lasses appear – cannit really caal thum strippaz coz tha aal ownly in bikinis – erotic dancaz on minimum wage with 30% extra cellulite hoyed in– ah divvint knaa whooze thu most exploited: thu lasses, Big Red who shelled oot foh thum oh thu puntaz, lappin it aal up – thu radgies are gettin louder n fukkin louder, hoyin beer owwa thu laasses, n thu footbaalers are even more nervous, fiddling wih iPhone apps under thu table n that, oot tha fukkin depths, while Joe n Jimmy are still at it hamma n fukkin tongs aboot thu FA Vaze game – daft cunts – ah git mesel a pair oh Morettis, n shoot back doon thu bar, see how thu Jocks iz gannin on – shite like thu lasses dee nowt foh iz – ah mean whern ah hit fowty ah made a plan to nivvir torn doon a game oh footbaal oh mi hole az yi nivvir knaas if it’s ganna be ya last chance, but that was fukkin years back n yi knaa the fukkin score…

ah get mesel a pew up at thu coonta n notice thuz aboot 8 blokes in tha thorties come in – bit younger than Big Red  n iz squad –  one oh tha cunts woh familiar – self-styled fashion impresario Robin Conway – been aal owwa the paperz n local telly – set up some fukkin on-line fashion site foh soft cunts in tha 30s who wanted tu mek up foh loosin tha hair by pretendin thu used tu proply be in thu knaa back in thu day – Internet Threads Klub – aye, that’s reet, I T fukkin K – pitiful, deluded saps – aal dressed like thu been oot hill waakin oh summik – ah knaa it’s supposed tu be thu look oh choice foh mid-life crisis pretendy casuals, but apart from thu fact none oh these clownz cud put a tab oot, it looked like tha gannin tu a fancy dress do az Chris fukkin Bonnington – daft bobble hats, orange n yella Fjallraven anoraks, cords tucked inta stripey fukkin socks  n Adidas dappaz straight oot thu box – fuk knaas what tha deein heah – ah just ignored thu cunts n watched thu footbaal –  hadn’t took it on me bets but ah still wanted tu knaa thu fukkin final score..

inta thu last 5 n Dundee gerr an undeserved equaliser followin a fukkin mega pagga in thu box tha’s like tryin tu gerra taxi outside Manhattans in Waalsend at hoyin oot time on Boxin Day – mutterin tu mesel standard oh thu Jock top flight’s fukkin worse than Sunda morning footbaal doon heah, ah gan forra piss n when ah git back ah seez thu younginz frum wor fukkin team aal leggin it oot thu pub door, coz tha taxis torned up – ofta leafy Jesmond n thu posh bars fulla nice lasses n comfy corners tu git taalkin tu someone special – ah knaa ah sez tha soft az fukkin shite, but ah divvint blame thu younginz foh bailin oot – got thu potential tu get really fukkin messy heah this afta wih thu bugle, thu lasses n Jimmy Tourettes on thu brandy – cunt’ll tek a double Viagra n be up on stage wih thu lasses deein a strip afore long –  ah try tu see thu war oot in Switzerland, so to speak, gettin Arthur tu hoy iz another Guinness on – n then one oh thu Mountaineering Daduals deliberately, accidentally brushes against iz when getting thu drinks in n sayz nowt by way oh apologies – aal ah hear iz Eight Moretti sweetheart in a voice blendin a private school education, sooth o thu Tyne upbringing, hint oh a lisp n thu kind oh arrogance warrantin a smack in thu mooth – mind ah sez nowt – not one foh botha me theeze days – specially when it’s 8 onta one – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

lookin at thum thru tha mirra behind tha coonta, ah reckon thu rest oh thu Hikin Club are frum Shields – fat n owld afore thu time – faux internet footprints az top lad NME n Bender Squad hoolies back in tha day, or so they rekkin –  taal tales aboot collectin Fairy Liquid train vouchaz, comandeerin work transits tu gan tu Forest midweek n gerrin tha bus bricked at Coventry  – mind nee fukka ah kna ivver hord oh thum, much less recaaled standin shoolda tu shoolda, gannin toe tu toe wih Millwaal, Chelsea n thu Cockney Red cunts in The Flyin Scotsman,  afore this cunt whoze actin thu chap wi me become tha Fuhrer –  gobshite grass, or so thu story gans, from Boldon whoze mekkin a killin from floggin this outdoor casual clobba tu soft twats like thu fat boys – cunts shouldn’t be heah, full bastard stop – Crazy Joe iz just oot thu netty, still deein eez fly up, stickin eez heed in thu bar tu look forriz when thu interlopers mek foh thu back room – Joe tries tellin em it’s a private party, but one sly cunt shoves im oot thu way – five yearz back Joe’d a shot the fukka deed – now ah’ll ee can dee iz keep eez balance n a bit dignity – ah’m not havin that, so ah’m up kneelin on thu coonta n ringin thu fukkin bell like it’s thu start oh a World Heavyweight fight – ah expected Big Red n the ladz tu come borstin oot the back room, aal metaphorical guns blazin – instead thu Hikin Club git swallowed up by thu bowels oh thu back room az thu door slams shut –  CJI grabs thu stool next tu iz n ah shoot im up anotha brandy n pint –  wi give it 5 minits n let thu dust settle – yi knaa thu fukkin score…

when wi wander thru, it’s aal owwa – Jimmy Tourettes is asleep face doon at tha table wih one oh tha lasses g-strings draped owwa eez heed – more significantly, half thu Shields fat lads are nursing bad heeds, borst mooths n nascent shinaz – mind coupla them seem more bothad about the rips tu tha bonny coloured hi-viz anoraks, nee doubt occasioned by a propa hidin on thu deck – one cunt’s lost a few teeth, teachin im Rockports may not be az stylish az two hundred pund dappaz, but thu dee far more damage – worst state is thu leader oh tha pack – Robin Conway’s doon on aal fours on thu stage wi iz keks roond iz ankles, these daft fukkin sky blue n pink hoopy socks up tu eez kneez , while one oh thu dancing lasses is deein im up the shitta wi a massive fukkin strap on, mekkin thu silly fukkin bobble on eez wooly hat boonce aal owwa thu fukkin shop – sat not 5 yards away, straddlin a chair n filmin ivray fukkin squeal, ouch n grimace on eez iPhone is Big Red, laughin eez fukkin heed off n tellin thu lass to gan in furtha az Conway’s gettin harder wih ivray stroke – fukkin torture but nee worse than thu cunt disorves – lesson numba fukkin one roond heah iz neebody evva teks thu piss oota Big Red n survives intact – soon Big Red’s seen enough n tellz thu lass tu give owwa – despite the undignified fart as the dildo came oot eez hole n thu streaks oh shite on thu shaft, aal eyes are still on Robin, who’s fukkin cryin az ee adjusts eez Selvage jeans, squashin eez slightly owwa big tu be accidental hard on inta eez keks – fukkin shame of it – eez haddit – nevva even finishes eez peeve afore gannin to slope off, probly tu thu waalk-in centa wi thu Shields Casualties, but just az eez aboot to dee one, Big Red callz im back n asks if thu’v enjoyed tha aftanoon

  • didn’t happen, snivels Conway, heed pointin straight doon tu tha floor
  • good lad, laughs Big Red, waving thu iPhone containin footage oh Robin’s finest moment – yi knaa the fukkin score alreet – have ah gud Crissmis… cunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling

Last year, I had the poem Fishing published by Paper & Ink zine (https://gilipollez.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/fishing/); this year the inaugural issue of Eye Flash contains my poem Cycling, on a similar theme…

royal canal

Cycling

 

Tracing the cycle path from Drumcondra to Kilcock,

I decant a steaming lake of piss on the tow path;

seven pints of Dungarvan Helvick Blonde.

 

Unkempt grass and weeds don’t hide my task.

I crouch behind the bike,

diluting gallons of oil crusty water.

 

Tarmac moistens from the agitation,

while boiling slash pours through my fingers

all along the banks of the Royal Canal.

 

Hard Brexit

The very wonderful Hi-Vis Press have just launched the stunning Low Light magazine. It is simply a sensory feast of words & images. I really strongly urge you to buy it, not just because I have this story printed therein -:

 

Tony reckoned the best thing about living in Shields was the fact the bookies opened at 8.00 on a Saturday morning. Free bacon sandwich and hot drink for the first dozen punters as well. He was always there in good time for that little bonus. Also, the early start meant he had a reason to get out the house sharpish and enjoy the fresh air, especially as Linda was always at graft. Ever since he’d took bad and got paid off,  Saturdays were his only treat; spending hours in the bookies while he had a bit coin in his pocket. The rest of the week, he plugged the work shaped hole in his life on line; getting his head round important stuff on You Tube and Facebook .  Stuff that his new mate Glen from the NE33 Loyal recommended he take a look at. He’d met Glen last year and they clicked immediately. Caught up at least once a week. Generally Saturday mornings over a breakfast freebie and The Sporting Life.

Before he got sick, Tony’d not been bothered about politics or any of that shite, but now he’d time on his hands, he realised the world was changing. So was he. Maturing intellectually. Ready for the impending conflict Glen had told him about, between the West and the Jihadists. The New Crusades. He’d learned a lot about current affairs from articles Glen sent him by Britain First and the like. He’d accepted friend requests on FB from patriotic heroes like Jayda Frandsen and Tommy Robinson. Felt touched and a bit proud they saw through his problems and valued him for the man he still was underneath it all. A nationalist soldier who’d taken a stand outside the Mosque on Laygate the other month with the rest of the lads from the NE33 Loyal. Defiantly drinking cans on a Friday afternoon, even if it was so cold he’d had to wear gloves.  You had to show the Muzzies who ran this place. So fuck if the Yemenis had been around since the 1890s or that Muhammed Ali had his marriage blessed there in 77, this was a town for white Christians. Linda’d not been happy like, partly because he was drinking and partly in case people saw his face in the paper but so what? She should have been proud he’d made his point. Drawn a line in the sand against the invaders.

Linda and Tony were struggling. Money was tight. Care work. Every shift imaginable. Six days a week. Eight quid an hour for microwaving ready meals and changing piss-wet bedding. No travelling time included. Chewing her nails on a delayed bus. Fretting about smelling of ammonia. Him; DLA transformed into PIP. £80 a week. Barely paid the electric. Three monthly medical assessments. See whether the malignant time bomb in his head was ticking faster. Gets worse and Tony’s in the departure lounge. Gets better and they’ll knock him down to ESA. Stays the same, there’s the next 13 week check-up on the horizon. The results for the latest one were due any day. Linda had set a reminder on his phone. He didn’t use it much now. Buttons were too small, though he kept it about him to stop her going radge.

She’s anxious all the time. Shattered from work and worry. Texting him on the hour, every hour to make sure he’s alright. The stress doubles when she’s back indoors. His memory’s shot. Doesn’t remember what they talked about an hour ago. Even worse if he’s been on the lap top all day. Worn out as bad as her. Angry and frustrated. No sense of decorum. Broken emotional handbrake. Hundreds of tweets and status updates about Islam destroying the British way of life. Stuff slagging off the EU. Corbyn. Phrases about gays she couldn’t ever have imagined him thinking, never mind saying when he’d been in proper fettle. Mood swings when she complains how it makes him seem to the rest of the world. A thug and a bully. Tony won’t listen to her.  Can’t accept he isn’t the normal bloke he’d always been. Disproportionate response. Boiling rage and harsh words. She sits on the back step; chain smokes and cries. He watches telly; forgets their row, asks for his bait. Battered prawn balls with curried chips for him. Endless cups of tea with double sertraline for her. Tears on her pillow. Drool on his.

Another Saturday. Sunniest one of the year. Linda’s on the 7.22 bus to Whiteleas.  A blanket bath and a mixed berry Oats So Simple for some old lass with vascular dementia. Tony’s on the back step with a Lucozade and some Hula Hoops. She’s given him a tenner for his bets. Weekly pocket money. Curls it round his phone in his left front pocket. Won’t need to buy food if he gets to the bookies for opening time and his freebie breakfast. Rest of the week she leaves him a couple of Greggs pasties. Works his way through a multipack of crisps and a big bottle of fizzy pop on top of that, with the curtains shut and the radiators on. Cloudy sickness sweats fill the room. Sunday, always a roast at her mam’s. Eats it with a spoon because the knife and fork are no help these days.

Linda used to love their Sundays, back in the good times. They’d drive for miles, talking about the future. Laughing. Sometimes a lazy drink. Sometimes a quick one in the sand dunes of a secluded bay. Then, once they’d shacked up, they’d collect her mam and dad. Take them out for dinner. And now, her dad’s gone and Tony’s no relation to the bloke he once was. Car went when the job did. Now they try and walk down to her mam’s. Slow steps. The odd stumble. Two miles an hour, but you can’t risk putting him on the bus in case he starts. Injudicious comments.  When he first came out of hospital, he was forever getting thrown out of pubs and shops for saying something outrageous or offensive. Now they avoid the risk, though her heart stops every time a Polish registered car or an Asian shopkeeper crosses his sight. Tony just can’t help himself. Or doesn’t want to.

Sun’s cracking the flags on the back yard. Going to be a hot one. Summer apparel out the wardrobe. Ditches the Help for Heroes hoodie her mam got him for last year’s Armistice Day Parade. Lyle & Scott cap instead of the Diesel beanie. Tony always covers up. BNP hijab. Hides the post-operative scars on his funny shaped head. Chemo killed his hair. Made his skull swell. Can’t manage laces now, so it’s K-Swiss slip-ons that were her old man’s. Lonsdale shorts and the North East EDL polo Glen gave him as a reward for heroic conduct at the Mosque demo the other month. Tony knew his country was fucked, so is his health. Docs telling him the thing in his head was inoperable. Fuck did they know? Born in Karachi. Over here planting bombs. Their family taking jobs from the white worker or benefits from the workless class. Tony deserved his bit. He’d grafted for it in the past. Now he was poor and poorly, someone should have cared for him. The government didn’t and sometimes it seemed Linda didn’t, working all the hours to avoid him. That’s why being a warrior for his race gave him an identity. A purpose.

Feet slapping on the pavement and the back of his neck getting burned. Down the bank to William Hill’s. Before he became politically aware, he often used Paddy Power. No more. Fenians. Principal financial backers of the dissident republican movement. That’s what Glen told him. Anyway, Tony got barred for pulling down an Irish tricolour in the PP shop at The Nook when his Cheltenham bet flatlined back in March. The manageress was just opening when Tony arrived. First among unequals. In the door and the young lass who worked weekends had a trestle table with a pile of bacon sandwiches and a pair of jug kettles. He got a big cup of milky coffee and his regular breakfast roll, then perched on his usual stool bottom left corner to check the form.  Writing was getting hard these days. Hands couldn’t grip the pen properly.  That’s why Glen was so good, filling out his slips. Split his stake 50/50 between horses and football.

Tony could see alright, so reading was no bother. In fact, his eyes were still sharp, which is why he noticed a trio of beguiling purple beauties tucked into the top of the pen dispenser above his head. Three twenties. Sixty fucking quid. Nobody could have dropped it this morning. Probably left overnight by a flush punter on a roll. Fair game. Spoils of war.  Illness and political awareness denied Tony a conscience. The manageress and the Saturday girl blathering about some soap opera shite, so he acted quick and careful. Palmed the notes into the hip pocket of his shorts. Inconspicuous, he manoeuvred off the stool and lumbered to the door, mumbling about not seeing anything he fancied and was away. First time in years he’d left the bookies with more coin than he went in with.

Slogging it back up home was tough, but concentrating on putting his feet down in the correct sequence stopped Tony thinking how he’d have to explain the cash to Linda. Halfway back he stopped for a breather. Took a pew on a bench opposite the One Stop on Marsden Drive. Five minutes of dry heaves through his mouth before he felt normal again. Hot and thirsty from the bacon sandwich. Hadn’t had time to drink the coffee. Ditched it when he made good his escape.

It was one of those accidents of fate when Glen came round the corner at a bit of a jog. Running late for his gambler’s nutrition, he eased off the gas when he spotted Tony and slid down next to him. Usual pleasantries exchanged, though Tony was baffled by the Staffordshire bull terrier puppy on the raggy length of rope wound round Glen’s wrist.  Leaning across in his skunk impregnated Superdry with the hood up, like a White Power niqab, Glen confided he’d bought the dog from a bloke outside The Ship last night for £20. The pub had a No Dogs policy and the canine vendor needed to get pissed. What’s a fella to do?

Tony told of his secret good fortune. He thought it a shame he couldn’t treat himself to a proper bevvy for a change, to celebrate. Glen was able to explain how they’d have the best of both worlds. Spend some of it on drink and take the rest home. Fuck the consequences. Tony smiled. Long time since he’d done that. Fished in his back pocket and peeled off a twenty. Glen tied the dog (he’d called it Churchill as it was proper English and hard as fucking nails) to the bench and came back with a box of Carling each (none of that foreign shit; a patriotic British beer). Tony still had forty quid winnings left as well. That would please her. Linda was always worried about money. Sixty hours a week and half her coin went in tax to pay for asylum seekers and nonces to get their teeth done. Not fair. Hard working white people like them should be rewarded by the state. Glen always told him that and Tony knew he was right.

The day grew on and the two of them sat, drinking, discussing, sweating. The docs reckoned Tony shouldn’t touch alcohol, not in combination with his medication, but they were only saying that because of Islam. He wanted a nice lager. Deserved one. Deserved as many as he needed. And the more he sloppily poured down himself, the more distorted and blurred the sounds and sights of Shields and Glen became. Tony’s head was heavy and he grew weary in the dazzling sun. He needed sleep, but still had cans left. Maybe a little rest would give him the strength he needed to finish things off.

The buzzing of his phone jerked him awake. He’d fell asleep face down on the bench. Patch of piss at the crotch of his strides. Phone and tenner for the bookies damp in his front pocket, but not ruined. Slowly he came round. Text from Linda saying she was finishing work early and would be back soon. She was bringing back his favourite from the Golden Pearl. Drink had sharpened Tony’s appetite and the thought of battered prawn balls made him salivate. He turned to tell Glen he had to get home, but Glen and the cans were gone. Only the Staffie remained. Subdued and whimpering.

Tony couldn’t leave it behind, so he patiently untied the rope and coaxed the puppy to its feet. Just past noon and he’d already been pissed and was now badly hungover. Linda would be furious. No she wouldn’t. He had a dog as a present. They could take it for walks. Teach it tricks. Also, there was the money he’d found. Tony was an earner again. In vain, his hands rummaged through his other pockets for the magical twenties. They’d gone too. Only the now yellowy tenner she’d given him that morning remained.

At the house, he went round the back, where Linda was sat on the step as usual. Biting her bottom lip. Cuppa and smoke in one hand. White A5 envelope in the other. Looking up, her eyes betrayed neither love nor recognition. Only fury at the sight of Tony shambling home with a snapping stray who immediately took a slash against the back gate. His slurred apologies only made things worse. Linda tore the letter from the envelope.

“No discernible change in patient’s condition or prognosis,” that’s what the Consultant says. You’re going to be like this forever. No tragically early death or blessed release. This is the new normal. This is the future and I can’t fucking stand the thought of it.

 She came at Tony. Screaming oaths.  Belabouring the baffled drunk with tiny, puny fists of impotent rage. It was only when she turned on the cowering Churchill and launched a kick to the dog’s midriff that Tony reacted. Grabbing her by the wrist, he tried to make Linda see sense. Calm things down. It didn’t happen, so he pushed her away. He’d forgotten how light she was. Feathery bones in a paper sack. She fell over the dog like it was a meat tripwire. Went full length. Landed head first. Banged her temple on the concrete driveway.  Didn’t move. Blood trickled and mixed with the ageing remnants of motor oil stains that remained from the good times.  Linda was still and quiet. Tony took Churchill inside and shut the door. They shared the battered prawn balls, but Tony kept the curry and chips for himself. Satisfied, the two of them dozed on the settee.

Around six o’clock the emergency services finally came. An ambulance for Linda. The dog handler for Churchill. A pair of burly coppers in short sleeves for Tony. The weather was still gorgeous. Tony blinked at the sunlight, then laughed when told to mind his head when they put him in the back of the van.

hard brexit 2