Sunday night was punk night at the Royal Standard, and Paul and John were heading that way again tonight. As they waited for the bus, chewing mouthfuls of Hubba Bubba, they chattered, excitingly, about which bands might be on:
"I'm sure Generation X are on tonight. Isn't that what it said in the paper?" asked Paul.
"Nah. They were on last week. It's Slaughter and the Dogs for sure!" responded John.
To be honest, you never really knew who was gonna be on until you got there. Last week, for example, they had C Gas 5 on, but neither of these likely lads could remember cos they had got pissed on 2 pints of lager – they were only 13, after all.
As they waited for the bus, which was late as usual, it started to rain. They huddled into a doorway for shelter. They couldn’t let their spiky hair, spiked up with soap, get wet as they’d end up with a head full of bubbles. Bizarre but true.
“Where’s this bleedin’ bus?” asked Paul, shivering. “We’re gonna be late.”
“We should be alright,” said John. “The bands don’t come on until 9, and it’s only half 7 now. Plenty of time to get pissed before they come on!”
They both laughed out loud. They loved the Royal Standard, they loved punk, they loved being able to get drunk on very little booze. It saved money, if nothing else. The thing they loved most was meeting all the other, older, punks at the pub. For ages they had thought they were the only ones in Bradford, but once they saw these gigs advertised in the paper, and had plucked up the courage to venture out, they realised that it was a proper scene and they were now part of it.
Another 10 minutes and still no sign of the bus. The rain was siling down, now, and they were having to huddle further and further into the doorway for shelter. Paul glanced at the door behind him. It looked to be the main entrance to a number of flats, which was confirmed by the 6 separate bells with individual numbers next to them that were located down the left of the door frame. At about shoulder height was a Yale lock, but no door handle. He looked out for the bus again. Nothing was coming. His Hubba Bubba was now completely flavourless and he was looking for somewhere to spit it, but he wasn’t going to the bin - which was at least 200 yards further down the road - in this rain.
“Here, John,” Paul said. “Watch this!”
He took the huge, sticky, pink blob of bubble gum from his mouth and started slowly, and methodically, to force it into the door’s Yale lock.
“This’ll freak ‘em out when they come back home!” snorted Paul, as he jammed as much of the gooey stuff into the lock as he could.
“Bloody hell, Paul,” John said. “They’ll go mad!”
They both laughed. This seemed like a proper ‘punk’ thing to do, after all.
“I can see the bus coming.” said John, “Let’s wait by the bus stop. We don’t want anyone
to think we stuck that bubble gum in there!”
The bus was still a way off, and was stopping at every stop on the way. As they waited, with their jackets pulled over their heads to keep the rain off their hair, they both noticed a man with an umbrella hurry past them, heading for the doorway they had just vacated.
Paul and John looked at each other, nervously. The bus was still a good half a mile away, so there was no quick escape in the offing.
The man was clearly struggling. Cursing loudly about ‘yobbos’, as he tried to get his key into the gummed up Yale lock. Paul and John looked at the approaching bus, back at the man, back at the bus, then at each other.
“Come on.” Said Paul, as they hurried over to where the man was frantically digging away at the bubble gum with the end of his key.
“What’s up, mate?” Asked Paul.
“Some little bastards have bunged the lock up with bubble gum!” said the man, angrily. “Can’t get the bloody stuff out. I only popped out to the shop to get some more milk, for pete’s sake. You didn’t see anything, did you?”
He stared directly at Paul, who shook his head, vigorously. John stopped chewing his bubble gum as soon as the man’s gaze fell on him.
“What about you?” the man said to John, “Did you see anyone stuffing bubble gum into this lock?”
“No, mate!” replied John, nervously. He couldn’t help noticing that the man was looking them both up and down in a very suspicious way, paying particular attention to the fact that only one of them was chewing bubble gum. He decided to seize the initiative:
“Can we help?” John took one of the safety pins from his jacket. “This should get that gum out. It’s worth a try, anyway.”
“Yeah, okay. That’d be great.” responded the man, clearly taken aback by this kindly gesture.
John set to work, supervised by Paul and the man, who was now talking animatedly about yobbos and hooligans and how you can’t really judge a book by the cover all the time as despite us looking a bit, you know, scary, we were helping him out and everything. Paul was nodding, sagely, while John dug away at the rock hard gum with the large safety pin.
“There!” John announced, “It’s all out. You should be fine, now.”
“Bus!” shouted Paul, as it pulled up to the bus stop. “Sorry mate, we’ve got to go.” He shouted to the man, as both he and John jumped on to the number 67.
“Thanks, lads!” Shouted the man, as he disappeared into the hallway and closed the door behind him.
John and Paul paid their fare and sat down at the back of the bus, right above the engine
for warmth. They burst out laughing.
“That was a bit close, wasn’t it?” laughed Paul.
“You owe me a fucking pint!” said John.
“Got any gum?” asked Paul. “I’ve lost mine.”
They laughed so much that other passengers started staring at them, but they didn’t mind. That was what people were supposed to do, wasn’t it?
H. J. Lawrence