Friday, January 25, 2013

Fucking Northern Monkeys.

They are really getting on my bastard tits but I’m trying to keep it on a level.  You know that scene from Reservoir Dogs where they get allocated their nicknames?  Well that’s not a fictional scene it’s more like a fucking documentary.
“Mr Blonde., Mr. White, Mr Pink, Mr Brown.....”
Here I am organising a heist with a bunch of no neck fuckers from north of the Watford gap and all they can argue about is what they are going to be called.  Any minute now you know that one of the knob-jockeys is going to make the classic snooker joke “Shall I take the easy pink or the difficult brown”?  Jesus fucking Christ I wish I was back in Canning Town.  Firmed up with people I can trust rather than these chumps.  We’re standing in the yard trying to look inconspicuous practicing our prison 1000 yard stares.
“Shall I take the easy Pink.........” one of them starts.  “Shut the fuck up” I say cutting him off quickly.  He’s a big fucker this one so best set the tone straight away.  I’m small in stature but big in heart. If it comes on top then I’m all business and I’m sure he could easily get on top of me and pin me down but if that happens all I’m going to do is bite off his nose and run like fuck.
“I’ll allocate the pseudonyms” I tell them.  “The what?” says another lairy looking one.
He’s got some kind of speech impediment to go along with his lack of brains.  Apparently a real nasty fucker if it comes down to a straightner but I’m convinced his tongue is too fucking short leaving him sounding like Joey Deacon on acid.
“Nicknames cover names not our real fucking names” I tell him.  “That way if we get sprung and have it on our toes you don’t know who the fuck I am.  Or any of the rest of this....... I want to say shower of shit but manage to stop myself in time.  “Or any of the rest of this crew” I finally blurt out after what seems like an age but they don’t seem to notice.
 “Right, here we go” I tell them, names and roles coming up.  Pay a-fucking attention:
“1, You big cunt” – pointing at the snooker joker. “You’re Saracen and you are the main muscle.  I’ll tell you who and or what to hit and when.  No more no less.  You can do that right?
“Or the difficult brown” he mumbles to himself.  Holy fucking Jesus.  Still he’s built like an armoured car so he’s going to prove useful.
“2 and 3 – You are crowd control.  This is to mumble mouth and his weird mate who looks like he could take off running at any minute.  He’s a pent up piss flap of adrenaline whose face quite frankly needs punching in.  “You Mumble Mouth – You’re Zamire and you, Duracell bunny you’re Kalim.
It’s exhausting coming up with nicknames never used before.  Every fucking firm or crew in the country is suffering from the same problem.  No self respecting face can be seen to be taking a shit cover name.  It’s just not on.  Problem is for every fucker wants to be the “Iceman” or the “Godfather”.  No battle scarred Glaswegian or Geordie wants to be “Captain Twinkle Toes” which makes my life doubly difficult.
“4 and 5- You are the grabbers.  Get your shit together and make sure that when I give you the nod you fill the bags to the brim.  You – moody fucker, you’re Ribero.  You Blondie – You’re Cindy.
“Cindy, fucking Cindy?  That’s a girl’s name you little cockney twat.” Says the pale one with an extremely nasty look in my direction
“It surely is, I reply but since you were once a woman and had a dick constructed in a Thai clinic it not only confuses Saracen over there but the authorities will be chasing a Minge not a man, ok?”
“For the minute” says Cindy all team work and effusiveness with a look that says I’ll be lucky not to be meeting Dr Dick’s work firsthand with a blade at my throat when all this is over.
“Sthoo Wot’s yer name” asks Zamire. 
“Me, I’m Flash” I tell them. 
“Like the floor polish?” says Cindy with a mean look. 
Without pause I lash out and catch Cindy right in the knee with a beauty of a kick.  Lightning quick, it’s snapped out and back before he knows what’s happening.
“Shiiiit” he slumps against Ribero who just glowers and holds him up.
“It’s Flash ‘cause I’m fucking quick, fucking clever and I’ve got great fucking hair ” I stare at them all, one by one, straight into their eyes.  Each one looks away first.  That’s the key to this business, being able to go from idle to full throttle in the blink of an eye.
“So now we know who we are and our roles we can get on with the final planning” I tell them and they all nod their agreement.
“We are going to take the stash down this afternoon.  We know that there’s been a re-supply as we’ve got two on the inside keeping eyes on and they’ve given us the nod.”
Laura and Rosie the insiders had done their job to perfection.  I’d not even had to talk to them, all it had taken as a judicious nod on their way past that morning and I knew the job was on.
I’m giving the final briefing when my hair starts to stand up on the back of my neck.  Everyone knows that feeling, the feeling of being watched.  It’s a throwback form our ancient history buried deep in our DNA.  Modern folk ignore it – me, I trust my instincts every time.
“Scatter” I tell the crew who recognise the urgency in my voice.  They nonchalantly wander off either singly or in pairs at most. 
The itch is still there on the back of my neck making my mane stand on end.  I turn a casual 360 degrees and clock the farmer watching me.  His eyes boring into me. 
Fuck him I think and chomp on some grass whilst casually making my way towards a juicy patch of nettles I’ve spotted.
“I just don’t trust him” the farmer says to his wife over lunch.  “He’s been trouble since we let his owner bring him onto the yard”.

“Exactly what can you not trust about a Shetland Pony” she replied.  They are just too cute.  I love him and he’s got a great mane.
“I know it’s mad but I think him and the rest of the horses are up to something, they keep eyeing up the new hay in the side barn..................................”

Brian Tuck

It's A Nice Day

It’s a nice day.  Sunny and warm and so you set off walking.

It is a nun who brings you back.  Which is kind of funny now, when you think of the subsequent fascination you've had for them. 

The time you photographed one, hop-skip-tripping among the rocks on Whitby beach. 

And The Sound Of Music; you can do without the film obviously, but it’s always nice to see another defeat for the Nazis.  Get in there, you beautiful nuns!

And you admire their strength.  Their resolve.  Their faith.  The feelings of safety and care and integrity they suggest.  Somehow unblemished by all the shit that’s going on around them.

You hadn't even been missed.  Three years old and for your legs, a long way from home.  But bright enough to tell a stranger where you live. 

Carrying your two favourite toy cars [one for each hand] and the nun from the convent returns you. 

Your mother standing hard by the twin tub.  Already old and dreaming of what might have been.  Always doing the washing.  Hand to her head in scary realisation.

Thanking the nun. 

Forty miles away, Ian and Myra have been busy.

It is the sixth of May, nineteen sixty five.

Martin C

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Life Lesson

We were up in The Bronx, just off Bainbridge Ave, we’d gone to see a play, The Country Boy, crowd of us from Queens, two cars full. It was a bitterly cold night, wind chills in the minus numbers, with a real feel factor of ‘fucking cold.’ Bainbridge was great back then, chock full of Irish bars, The Roaring 20s, or De Niro’s as we called it on account of one of the barmen bearing a passing resemblance to the great actor; The Villager that never seemed to close and only really got going after 4.a.m.; Fiona’s just off the Ave, where they gave me pints of water and told me to drink it upside down, to cure my hiccups then filled me full of Jamies; The Blackthorn, home of The Monday Club – you all know what a Monday Club is, I’m sure?; and The Innisfree where the Guinness was real good.
We’d had a few in Queens before heading over, a great mix of young and old, native and immigrant, drinker and, nah, we were all drinkers. It was a wild time. We came out of the last bar and made our way to the Arts Center where, as they loved to remind you, ‘You really are off Broadway.’ Off Broadway was good, the plays there were great and on more than one occasion they’d held up the start of a performance after actively encouraging the audience to go get a few pints to carry them through to the intermission. It was theater how I thought theater should be. Tony, a house painter, hardline socialist, Dub, heavy drinker and hopeless romantic had told me before of impromptu theater in the bars back in Ireland and I used to think that was real theater, that was how it should be, take your story to the people. The arts should not be the preserve of the well off. Tony was a good guy. I liked him a lot. He had charisma. We walked past the homeless guys sat on the corner smoking and huddled under blankets. Jesus homeless in New York and you choose to sleep in The Bronx? I looked around and Tony had gone. I asked his wife and my girlfriend, who were walking behind, if they’d seen him. Behind them he reappeared clutching a case of beer which he gave to the guys on the street.

His pace quickened and he was soon beside me again. I’m ashamed to say, the look on my face obviously required an explanation.
‘Jesus Johnny lad, we’d surely need something to help us through the night if that were us sleeping there.’
None judgmental compassion.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Yank and a Sheila

A Yank and A Sheila

I first met Anna Foster as the southern sun set on a jetty or a warf (or a plank or a pier or whatever you call it) off of Melbourne Beach. “Would you like a beer?” She asked. “What kind?” She said, “Does it matter?” Introductions were quick - I’m Chris. I’m Anna and these are my friends X,Y, and Z(ED). It didn’t matter because I didn’t think I was going to be that long. A 12 pack gone and another one on the way via friend Y... or was it Zed? Bull sharks reminded onlookers of their presence with an occasional fin. It didn’t deter the local mental Aussies as they did running jumps off the jetty. Anna was that comfortable in-between of pryful and friendly. The setting sun brought an even larger glow of her fiery red hair. She joked on more than one occasion on how she was “ginger”. That it was some sort of badge of honour or a badge of repulsiveness. “It happens,” was my reply. “What - being ginger?” was hers and with a shit-eating grin I would nod in agreement. She was playful and her agile banter was sexy. To her, I was a “yank." Quickly condemned as a "thick yank" but only because the Americans she had come across before, lacked a sense of humour, her Aussies had so well.

My time in Melbourne was spent drinking at night and hiding from the heat during the day. Although I had set out this evening to avoid the nightlife, I knew that probably wasn't going to happen. Then again, I wasn't putting up much of a fight with myself. Anna had that great way of telling you what you were going to do in a way that might've come across as a question. "You're gonna come with us to this bar?" Like I had a choice. Like I wanted another choice.

The sun set slowly at first as the ferry to Tasmania  gently floated off into the horizon. It reminds me of places I've never been to. The dark night came in quicker once the initial drops of sun rays began to sink away. We got up and walked back toward St. Kilda. The collection of backpackers drowned out the soft breaking waves against the shore. Music thumped out of every bar and with a tug at my arm we were nestled up against a crowded table. Anna shouted at the barman... 5 long necks she said and I was asked again by friend X where in America I was from. New York. "What do you do there?" I told her I worked in construction. Perhaps not the romantic answer she was looking for, but unfortunately it was the truth. Anna turned back toward me. Her sharp turn sent a fragrance filled slap of her red hair across my face. "So yank," she said. "What's next for your great Australian travels?" I wasn't sure to be honest. I was in Melbourne longer than I planned out to be, letting a flight to Brisbane 2 days ago leave without me. She laughed hard. She laughed like it was the first time in years.

Beers in Australia went down lovely. Before you realized you could be 20 drinks in, searching for some sort of change for another round. So much for a quiet sober night. 3 bars later and kisses under street awnings. "Not bad for a yank." Not bad at all I thought. Being far away from home gives you great powers I believe. No nonsense banter; awkward mulling over work or relationships. In her front door, bits of clothing disappearing one by one, where they land no one cares. Another little tug of my arm and we're in her bedroom. Crashing against something cold, the corner of my eye catches a glimpse of the room. Spacious with a small terrace with a view. I'm brought back with a final drag onto the bed and the last bits of clothing unclasped and yanked off with a liberating tug.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Gummed Up

Gummed Up
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

Tube Incident

4.30 on a Tuesday afternoon and I had just managed to get on the tube before the doors shut. I glanced around and spotted a spare seat near the door to my right, perfect for making the quick platform change three stops up the line before heading off to collect our son from the childminder's.
I was just about to take a brief glance at the Metro newspaper, that had been left on the seat beside me, when I noticed a man stood in the aisle at the far end of the carriage. He was actually standing right in front of a young woman who was sat in the very last seat. The woman looked distressed and was asking the man what he was doing and what he wanted. She was clearly feeling intimidated, which was unsurprising as the man was staring, unblinkingly, directly at her without saying a word and was stood so close that their legs were almost touching.
We were still in the station as I observed this uncomfortable scenario unfold, with – as you might imagine – absolutely no one offering to go to the woman's aid. I watched for a few more seconds and, when I realised that the rest of the carriage was taking no interest whatsoever, I decided to do something and walked over:
"Is everything OK?" I asked the woman, who pretended it was and nodded in my direction with a thin smile on her face. I glanced at the man, who seemed none too pleased to be snapped out of his trance-like state, as he watched me walk back to my seat. I sat down, picked up the Metro again and began reading about tube fare increases as the train, finally, pulled away from the platform. It was then I noticed movement from the corner of my eye and, glancing to my right, I saw the man moving, purposefully, towards my seat.
As the man loomed into view, I took the decision to simply ignore him and keep staring at the paper, after all, I only had three stops to go. He arrived and, as he had done with the woman, took position directly in front of me, very close, with his arms crossed in a menacing manner. After about a minute, I decided to try and break the tension by attempting to converse with the man. I looked up to see a young, black man, aged maybe about 30, with short hair, wearing a 3/4 length, crombie-style black coat, black trousers and black shoes. He looked a little unkempt; a few days stubble and a slightly scruffy appearance, but the most striking, and unnerving, aspect was the manic, staring eyes, drilling into me as they had done with his previous target.
"Can I help you?"
"Is there a problem?"
Still nothing.
At this point, two black businessmen, sat just behind the man, could see what was going on and tapped the man on the hip, saying:
"Come on, man. Leave it now!"
"GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!" hissed the man, menacingly, whilst maintaining his wild,
unblinking stare directly at me.
It was now that I contemplated the gravity of the situation and, as we pulled out of another station, I wondered whether he was armed, whether he was going to slash or stab me, maybe pull out a gun? I started to wonder what the childminder would do when I didn't turn up, or ring. What would my son and partner think, or do, once they heard the news? Would the Metro be running a headline about a lone commuter, stabbed to death by a drug addict/care in the community nut job on the Piccadilly line? The overwhelming thought at that moment was, what a crap way to die; killed on the way home from work, on a Tuesday afternoon.
Suddenly, it was my stop. Shit it was the nutter's too. He walked to the door and stood, staring at it. I took my place next to him, wanting to show I wasn't scared, not intimidated. Shitting myself. Other passengers stood around us as we pulled into the station. The train stopped, the doors opened and the nutter and me stepped on to the platform at the same time. He turned right and strolled off, as if nothing had happened. I watched him leave, watched him walk off to who knows where, and reflected on whether I had been brave, stupid or cowardly. Ultimately, it didn't matter, as the most important thing was that I was still alive and would be able to see my son and my beautiful partner again. I crossed the platform, got on my connecting train and found a spare seat by the door - perfect for making a swift exit at my station - and buried my face in my paper.
H. J. Lawrence

The Red Box

The Red Box
Chancellors are allowed to drink Alcohol during the budget speech but that’s not for me.  So I’ve followed those men of the people Brown and Darling by opting for “Standard Water” as they like to call it. 
Booze can dull the senses and I have kept a little something special in the red box ready for me as a reward.  I want to be at my best when I return and I did get quite a buzz from waving the box outside No.11 this morning before heading off to the House of Commons.  Yes, its got facts and figures in but the other contents mean so much more than to me.
The press always think they know what box contains and mostly they do.  The idea is to judiciously drip-feed the content of the budget so the public get the bad news in little chunks.  They become inured. A cut here, a cut there is all part of the bigger picture but of course your normal man in the street is too thick to see how the medicine will work given time.
Now drip feeding the press is all well and good but there are some things they can’t find out about.  My little treat is one of them.  A small black leather case tucked away inside the red box underneath the white papers and budget fluff.
We swoop into Downing Street in my official car and it’s straight into No 11 for a post-budget debrief.  Pleading a need to freshen up first, I dodge the welcoming phalanx of Secretaries, Under-Secretaries and other hangers on and make a bolt for the private apartment in the attic.
They’ve probably not noticed I still have the red box with me but that’s all part of the plan.  Freshen up can mean many different things to many different people.
Apartment door locked, I open the box at the desk and slip the black case out into my hand.  Case and I make our way in the bathroom and lock this door as well.  This is too important to have someone blindly wander in on me.
Disrobe, shower and then dry off, finishing naked in front of the over sink mirror.  I reverently open the black case and gaze at its interior.  The centre piece is the razor blade.  It has that dangerous sheen of something that is truly lethal but also overwhelmingly beautiful.
Clasping the blade I move over to the bath.  Sitting on the edge I run my left hand over my scars.  The tops of both legs are covered, each one a memento of a difficult decision made, a path chosen and blessed relief received.
Swinging my legs over into the bath I draw the razor of a patch of virgin skin on the side of my right thigh. As I begin I ask myself who else can be entrusted with making the difficult cuts required to save the country? Who else can understand that cuts whilst painful will bring glory in the end?  I’m not a man of the people but if the people knew my sacrifice then would they understand more?
 The blood flows freely and I receive my redemption.

Brian Tuck

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Small Town England

So I had not been out in the Town since I had moved up from London. The Town was now run down since the pit closed. I had lived at Sunnyside for nearly 3 years. I had not bothered trying the local nightlife as I had been warned it was rough and shit. Tough men, who had grown up down the pit, were now reduced to wearing hairnets packing sushi for the supermarkets. You could see the white uniforms through the windows as you drove past in the dark. The factory worked 24/7 keeping those sandwiches coming.
 The Town had an identity crisis. Its claim to fame was that its local hospital (opened by the local golfing hero) delivered the most smack addicted babies in the UK. It had a thriving Goth scene, which says it all. Mick Jones the striker from Leeds retired there to run a sports shop. The local Polish workforce found it an affordable place to be, they brought it some respectability, because they actually got up to go to work.
Gypsies would come into town on a weekend seeking revenge for one of their family who got stabbed in the local nightclub and died. So a taxi driver told me. It had its edge in a strange way. There was only one shooting I was aware of in the few years I lived there.
I worked in the nearby City and Steve would take the piss out of me for living in the Town. He told me I needed to get into the real world move to the City. Safer he told me. Friendlier. Classier.
On my first night out I walked into the Town on my own. It was the Friday before Christmas. People were out to have fun. The first few pubs I walked into, I got a few strange stares, it was probably my black eye. That was a proper cowardly attack from behind. I had been sipping my champagne, in my dinner suit talking to the girl from accounts.
“So you really not wearing any knickers? Show me..” as she opened her legs in front of me, I felt the pain in the side of my head. He hit me from behind, real bad timing on my front.
So much for the City being the place to be. My first night out in the City and I end up with stitches and a black eye. The other guy got locked up though. And at least I have a scar to tell people the tale. I never saw the girl again.  I never finished the champagne.
Back in the Town I am out celebrating the run up to Christmas on my own. All the local girls are dressed in little Santa dresses. Everyone is having fun.
I power through a few ciders, before going on to neat vodka, I just can’t handle the pissing.
I was having a cigarette later on in the area confined for smokers, out the back. It was quiet out there you could hear people talk.
I assumed she must be 18, she was drinking in the pub. She introduced me to her friend. I asked them if they wanted to come back to Sunnyside and they came home with me.
I never felt the need to move into the City.

Jon Pawson

Food? Football? Records?

I used to marvel at the kids getting school dinners. How do they do it? Are they on free school meals? Don’t they have any records? Don’t they go to football matches? Do they get tons of pocket money? Do they have jobs? Monday to Friday I’d starve, sometimes I’d cave and get a fish cake from the chippy, cheapest thing on the menu but most of the time I’d just try block out the empty feeling in my stomach, the dull ache in my forehead. To me it was worth it.
Every Thursday evening I’d head across town straight after school with my mental list of records I’d heard on John Peel or Dave ‘Kid’ Jenson’s show, or read about in the NME, or had recommended to me by a mate. I loved music and I still do. A pocket full of change rattling away as I wandered through the Merrion Center and on up to Jumbo Records. Hungry but happy. Somehow all the emptiness just disappeared the minute I got my hands on the latest Wah! Single. Seven Minutes To Midnight v some lumpy old spuds and a bit of flavourless meat? No competition.
The Go-between’s?
Never heard of them.
You think I’ll like ‘em?
They’re on Postcard, you like Orange Juice and what about that Aztec Camera one I told you about last week?
You’re right, yep, I’ll take it. Thanks.
From the age of twelve to sixteen I don’t think I put on more than 10lbs, most of that going on during the summer holidays. I had, what I considered a decent record collection, I managed to get to most Leeds home games, it was only 25p in the Boys Pen or sometimes we'd just hang around outside until they opened the gates for the last 30 minutes, and I got to aways when you could get a platform ticket for 6p and bunk on the train. I don't imagine that there’s too many people in the 40s look back on theschool dinners they ate too fondly do you?


Why I Smoke

I've always been against smoking. Since the day I can remember, the fumes, the stench, the taste; nothing drew me to the “death sticks”. My mum used to smoke and I hated it. She would never do so around the kids, but you could smell it on her clothes and on her breath after she'd have a fag.

I have no idea whether that spurned my sister on to take up the habit, while my brother was the same. Then disaster struck – she was diagnosed with cancer. It may not have been as a result of smoking, but it was a wake up call nevertheless.

Anyway, she made a full recovery from her first bout before it made a relapse. She died on the 14th of September 2003, a heartbreaking day for my and my family and as a 15-year-old, an incident that would shape me for the remainder of my life.

I often thought to myself whether I would start smoking, but usually resisted the urge to despite my brother and my best friend taking it up. I managed to steer clear of the trend and, despite the odd fag or two on a night out a Uni – the dreaded social smoker – it never grasped me in its murky hands an enticed me into starting.

In the end, I moved to London with my then girlfriend, now ex, the f**king c**t that she is. We had a flat in Finchley, first with her friend, then a friend of a friend after the first housemate turned out to be a t**t of colossal proportions.

Anyway, life was pottering on nicely. I may've been in a s**t job at a highly revered retail outlet, struggling to force my way into the tough world of journalism, but I was happy – settled, if you will. Perhaps too much so.

A little over 12 months ago, she uttered the four words that is enough to bring any grown man to tears - “we need to talk”. My heart sank. We broke up. Well, she broke up with me, thus the aforementioned insult which I still stand by to this day. I fell into a state of manic depression. I tried to kill myself on two separate occasions, both with a knife to the wrist after having one double vodka, red bull too many.

I was stressed. Stressed that I couldn't find work in my desired field of practise. Stressed that I had to move home. Stressed that the girl I thought loved me turn out to be a fraud. I was merely a stepping stone, much like Tottenham Hotspur were to Dimitar Berbatov.

I had to relieve the pressure somehow and that's when it started. “Dave*”, I asked. “Can you make me a rollie?” I needed something, anything to take the demonic thoughts of depression and death out of my mind.

I didn't want to turn to alcohol; it just wasn't me. It began with that one rollie. I couldn't roll on my own and it would p**s my brother and friend off that I couldn't. “Why don't you f**king learn?!” they often barked at me.

It never stopped them from doing so, nevertheless. But, with the ever increasing cost of fags, I knew I had to. Either way, once I started I couldn't stop. I've tried before, going three days without a cigarette, which ultimately led to me feeling miserable, anxious and just a downright pain in the a**e.

One day I'll quit; maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe when I'm old and grey. But at the moment, no sir – quitting smoking isn't an option. I still use the time to smoke to relieve stress. When I have writers block or have written so much that I need a break; it's the best time to light up. The yellow finger nails, breathe worse than a badgers a**ehole and the possibility of developing cancer – I couldn't give a f**k at the moment.

And it's the stress of everyday life that continues to see me stroll to the backdoor, have a play on Twitter and enjoy the first fag of the day, any time from 12pm onwards.

Ben McAleer

*This name isn't correct – I don't have a brother called Dave. But I do have a brother who smokes.