I found this on my PC last night while I was listening to Jeff Buckley. What a great album that is. This is part one. I think its from 2008. It's quite nice. Might have to develop this...this is for my friend Carolyn who I've just made contact with. If GW goes boobs up, at least I'll have remade some great friendships which is more important than anything else.
Every time I hear “Mojo Pin”, the first track on Jeff Buckley's seminal “Grace” album, I always think of first person Playstation shooter, “Alien Trilogy”.
And then I think of New Basford. The house I rented there in 2001. The filthy green sofa with the unimaginable dark corners under the cushions I was scared to clean or even examine. The carpet that was ancient even two decades ago, the mites toothy and voracious. So clear are the feelings the song elicits, I could still be living there.
Matthew was four and times were tough. I was on my uppers as my gambling life was going through one of its traditional, infinite, cyclical downturns. I must have listened to Jeff Buckley’s album every night for a year and I worked my way through Trilogy twice.
At the time, I was renting a house from a friend of a friend. The friend of a friend had left his wife and kids and moved to Arnold with his new woman, a hard faced Scarlet with cheekbones as sharp as switchblade knives.
He wanted to sell his house, but no-one was buying. Renting was a fall back option. The house was a two up two down on the gangster front line in New Basford.
Angels fear to tread in New Basford. Demons fear to tread in New Basford. Curtains black with cooking fat, no paint on the doors. Rusting cars on bricks, wheels removed. Sirens. Gunshots in the distance. The angry sound of drum and bass occasionally drifting into the living room from cars with blacked out windows. The brick walls of the rows and rows of terraces, thick with grime, the sweat of the now extinct working man, the immovable soot of the mills, the burning, sweet smelling jute of the eviscerated, condemned brewery.
At the time, I was working in a hard drinking office, one of those where, for five nights a week, there was always someone to go drinking with in the City. Sometimes ten or eleven people. A real marriage wrecking office, that one.
I was drinking hard every night, sometimes coming home at midnight after the pubs shut on a Tuesday, a Thursday; sleep on the afore mentioned sofa or on top of the bed, unable to get out of my suit and tie. Then I'd go to work. I must have been fun to sit next to.
At the weekend, I'd lose what was left of my wages on the horses before Matt came round to visit. I was living on fried chicken, kebabs, chinese, curry, chips. In all that time, I never brought a week’s shopping from a recognised supermarket. I just couldn't face it. I couldn't face all that expense at once.
The only friends I had I worked with, and they were mostly misfits and drunks. The ones who weren't misfits avoided us misfits, stayed their year in the office, progressed to something better and then left, never to be seen again. They didn't come to the reunions. They never write.
My goal in life was to work, to drink and to smoke.
Boy, did I smoke.
I smoked in the morning when I awoke. First action; eyes open, reach for the Bensons and lighter, watch the inky blue monoxide trails snake toward the ceiling as I laid on the pillow.
I smoked before breakfast, after breakfast, during breakfast. I took breaks at work for a fag and had fag breaks during fag breaks. I must have smoked ten to twenty thousand fags in my time at New Basford. It was a comfort thing: You could argue my self-esteem was pretty low at that time and I wouldn't argue the point.
I can't even remember the name of the road now, but I remember certain aspects of my life there.
My next door neighbour. First, there was the mum who screamed at her kids, my seven thirty alarm call. Three kids under five; urchins, depression-era kids, angels with dirty faces on one of the toughest roads in the City.
To this day, I have never heard such venomous shrieking, such rage in action: I didn't think it was possible for a woman to reach such grand operatic notes.
After a month or so of the screaming, I went round to have a natter. I couldn't take it any more. When I saw her, I've never seen such a sweeter, more polite woman. A cherubic, beaming face. Hi, she said. Come in. Have a brew, she said. I introduced myself, forgot what I was going to say, and went home. The next morning, the screaming started once more and I hid my hungover, throbbing head under the pillow.
One afternoon, Matt and I had all her kids round. It was August, a sweltering day, and I spent the afternoon watching Newbury Races and sitting on the cobbled step with the door open, smoking, drinking Stella, watching the cars go by in my shorts, imagining bonking the young single mother who lived directly opposite.
Short blonde hair, blue eyes, a pink vest top, denim skirt like a tea towel, not an ounce of fat on her and tattooed arms and legs. Full sets. A sleeve on one arm. I think one of her hands was tattooed too, but I never got close enough to check.
Those tattoos. Body art, they call it. To this day, I am simultaneously attracted and repulsed by tattoos on women. Call me old fashioned if you must.
(I spoke to her once, but she was thick as a brick – nothing in her head whatsoever - and I lost interest. You cannot beat talking to an intelligent woman, tattoos or no tattoos, Stella or no Stella. Thick women rot the soul).
That day was blinding hot. Matt and the kids ran riot in the house, throwing pans around, emptying biscuits on the carpet and spraying each other with lemonade, and I joined in when Atavus won the Hungerford at 40/1 paying that months’ rent. I took the gang up to the off licence and brought them masses of sweets and toys and while Matt didn’t bat an eyelid, being used to it, those three kids were amazed. I imagine they didn't get many treats.
The neighbour left shortly after, taking the kids and the screaming with her, to be replaced by a young couple whose bedroom backed onto mine.
Every night was the same story. The agony and the ecstacy, the pounding of the headboard. An epic of avuncular, prosaic, gutteral, basic, caveman sex. Every night. I queried both the truthfulness of her enthusiasm, then I queried my past stamina. I'd never heard anything like it. Wham bang thank you maam multiplied by a hundred. The Terminator meets Red Sonja. Thin walls, built by ancient brewery owners with an interest in getting their workers up early in the morning rather than comfort.
I could hear everything. One summer night, the enthusiastic lad went at it for just under three and a half hours. I timed them, taking the beginning point as the first pounding crack of the headboard against my wall. After half an hour, I went downstairs to watch Late Night Poker unable to take it anymore and after that had finished, I went back upstairs, and they were still at it.
Her throes of passion were literary, almost biblical and I held my hat off to him – that was all I could do, apart from blocking my ears with toilet paper.
“...was there a voice unkind in the back of your mind
saying maybe you didn't know him at all
you didn't know him at all...”
(Part II tomorrow, apropos of nothing)