Friday, September 10, 2004

Chapter 9

I started working Wednesday to Friday with me dad at Goodwill and Chant’s. Just to fill in. You get some poxy apprenticeship and the pressure’s on to stick around for three years. It was a doss. The punters took the piss out of me but I wasn’t bothered.
It was all a bit dodgy and complicated though. Mum didn’t show any signs of coming back off the sick so me dad put it through the books that she’d started back, and paid me her wages. Dad said if Goodwill or Chant ever came in, to just say I’d popped in to see him. I shouldn’t’ve even been in there being under eighteen. Plus I kept signing on.
My dad was a funny mix like that. A real chancer some ways. He started off as a bookie’s runner before it went legal. He knew loads about fixing the odds on dogs and all that. But other ways he was dead straight. Even back then he wanted me to follow in his footsteps or some daft bollocks. Fuck that. That’s why I dyed me hair green the week I started. To show him who was doing the choosing.
The music was getting me out of the house a lot. Herman let everyone use the skittle alley for band practices. I said to the others I might as well move the drums down there, then we could use it too. I said how us practising in the shed was making Mum’s nerves worse.
The band was coming together. Patrick picked up the bass quick and he could sing a bit; Animal was good on guitar. We even had a name; Hello Cruel World. It was something Christy used to say to himself when he was pissed off. We said yes to it so he wouldn’t feel left out of things. He knew Patrick and Animal didn’t see the point of him. Once they joined it was like you could see him shrinking. He just stood to one side fiddling with his tray of radioes.
It was a lie about me mum’s nerves. I wanted the drums down the Merman so I could play with other bands. I tried to get in with The Bad Detectives. They weren’t interested then but I’d’ve been doing them a favour. Ian drummed like somebody playing the xylophone in school assembly, and his timing was slack as piss on a plate.
But The Shakespeare Monkees were glad to have me. That was Ed and Fred and Linda. The twins were funny as fuck, like some sort of double act. I remember Eddie explaining the name.
He said, ‘You put enough monkeys in a room full of typewriters they’ll produce the complete works of Shakespeare. We reckon if you stick us in a room with some instruments eventually we’ll come up with something like “I’m A Believer.”’ Then Fred said how The Monkees didn’t write ‘I’m A Believer’ and they started having this massive row.
They could be funny peculiar too. People said Ed went a bit mental in London. With studying and that. It was his idea to call themselves the W twins. Partly they nicked the idea off Mark P from Sniffin Glue but mostly he was paranoid about doing the zine while he was signing on. Fred wasn’t bothered. He’d started work doing graphics on The Echo. Their dad was on the print there, same as Patrick. Fred never stopped feeling bad about earning more than his old man.
Linda I couldn’t get used to. Dead serious. Short black hair, glasses, looked like Joe 90. Dressed like she’d found her clothes in a skip. She had this beige raincoat she’d drawn big checks on in felt tip. Used to use a binoculars case as a handbag. She smoked Three Castles. It turned her lips brown.
They were hopeless to start with. Early on, Linda and Fred only knew one chord each. They used to take it in turns to play the chord they knew. I lost me rag with Fred once. I said, ‘You’re supposed to count the fucking bars between chord changes.’
He looked a bit put out and said, ‘Oh. I didn’t think anyone actually did that.’
In the end I settled for whacking the Bontempi on me kit when it was time to go into a chorus.
You’d’ve never thought Ed and Fred had already been in a band up in London. The other two, Vic and Ritchie were still up there, in a squat on Seven Sisters Road. Later they formed a band called The Pigs. They had their own label; Finsbury Pork Records.
I couldn’t understand the twins coming back to Portland. London was always like magic to me. It was where music come from; St Pancras, Chiswick, Deptford Fun City. It was where you could lose yourself, not have to answer to any fucker. Ed and Fred would tell me about gigs they’d been to in London. Back home I’d look up the addresses in the A-Z. Then I’d fall asleep and dream of getting on trains.
So round about then I was barely ever home, what with work and band stuff. That and us going round to see Animal’s mate Olly. We were smoking like Trojans even back then. Just homegrown. The five of us’d troop round his house and get out of our boxes.
Phil thought Olly’s shit didn’t stink. I could see Phil turning into him, twenty years down the line. Sometimes he’d go round theirs straight from work and read to the kids while Olly and Denise took it in turns to do the tea.
I could take it or leave it, all that cosy bollocks. I thought it was boring. We’d be on the sofa skinning up. Denise’d be sat stuffing envelopes for CND or something. Olly’d be telling Phil about India, or talking to Animal about getting more veggie stuff put on in the canteen. The odd game of Scrabble was about as lively as it got.
It felt to me like you were always under manners round there. Like one time there was this thing with Patrick and Christy. Christy was always a hog for it. A J reached him, he’d keep hold of it for ages. Annoyed people. There’s a sort of manners expected.
This one night Patrick leaned over and snatched the joint Christy was hogging. He went as if to smack Christy’s hand. Like he was a kid. He just said, ‘Don’t be so fucking greedy.’
It wasn’t anything. But the look Denise give Patrick. Like she was going to kick him out. They loved Christy them two, Olly and Denise. He’d be off staring into space, glum as fuck, one of them’d give him a nudge in the ribs and say, ‘Chin up. Skin up.’
Trouble was, the only other place to go for a session was round Patrick’s, depending on the shifts his mum and dad were working. Phil shared a bedroom, Christy’s mum never went out, and I didn’t want to be round ours anymore than I had to.
Animal’s wasn’t an option. He had five greboe brothers and he shared a room with two of them. That was why he talked so quick. As a kid he had this stammer really bad. Said it come from trying to get a word in with all those brothers. He got over it by talking at ninety miles an hour.
First time I went round his place the stink of cats nearly knocked me over. His dad used to dry out the old cat litter on top of the storage heater. Animal said, ‘Sorry about the smell. Me brothers had a few people back from the pub last night. For a piss up.’
A piss up the wall, it smelt like.
In his bedroom there was a stripped down Triumph Bonneville laid out on old newspapers. Above his bunk there was drawings of birds. Magpies and that. I thought it was Alison that done them, but it was him.
It got so we were round Olly’s so much, and he was giving us so much gear that it looked like we were taking the piss, even though he had a greenhouse full of it out the back. So Phil asked if we could buy some. Olly looked doubtful. He said how it was risky. Fuck knows with those teeshirts he wore, if the D.S. hadn’t got him by then, they were never going to.
He weighed us an eighth each. You could tell he wasn’t set up for dealing. We had to stick the dope in old fag packets, matchboxes, bacofoil, all sorts.
On the bus we couldn’t stop talking. I had this B & H packet full of homegrown stuffed down me kecks. I walked back from the bus-stop looking over me shoulder non-stop. I put the gear in the bedside cabinet. I couldn’t sleep; kept wanting to take it out and look at it, smell it.
For a while there was more dope floating about than we knew what to do with. I started knocking some out to Ed and Fred. So I suppose I’m the one who started it.