"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Friday, 1 June 2012

New Basford Mojo Pin Part II

Once mislaid a fried egg in an unused cutlery drawer and found it three months later during a spring clean.  

Like many drunks, I used to cook a full meal at midnight, but even taking that into account, I couldn’t work out the physics by which the egg had exited the frying pan and found its way into the drawer. 

The yolk, no bigger now than a sheep’s eyeball, had turned solid and green, like a marble. Flecks of red and black, some microbial residue.

I’ve never seen that particular shade of green in nature. The hellish vomit ejaculating from Reagan’s mouth in “The Exorcist” would have been the closest match. I had wondered what the smell was too. I thought it might have been  a dead rat (Nottingham has a major rat problem) or the drains.The family up the road - keen DIY mechanics – had a habit of pouring motor oil down grates, which backed up the street's toilet waste.

But it was me all along.

Memories, huh.

One night, I drove back to the frontline and ended up being run off the road and into some parked cars by gangsters. Not the guys with the violin cases and the fedora hats, but the guys with the headbands and the black faces.

I was over the limit and driving blue Renault 18 with a garish red door I'd scavenged from a scrapyard near the races. Had a traffic cop followed me from town that night after work I would have been banned from driving for two years.  And I couldn't have complained.

Turning into my street, the car ran me off the road. As far as I could tell, the driver did it deliberately.  

Brave old me, full of lager and memories of when I could handle myself, gave the car two fingers in indignation.


They reversed to my side. Got out. I sat there drunk and paralysed as they surrounded my car with cricket and baseball bats in their hands. One stood at the front. Two either side. One behind. An unholy crucifix. 

Bang, bang bang. These lads couldn’t have been more than eighteen. 

When they realised that I wasn’t going to get out of the car to meet my certain death, they got bored. My car was a mess though and I sat on the bonnet looking up at the moon for the longest time after they’d driven off

One more little story: Just after New Year in the time I spent in New Basford, I walked from the canal to Trinity Square to catch my bus. I'd been drinking with my mother, bless her, a colossal drinker and party animal, then sixty. Guiness and Irish whisky. 

I wore a long dark blue Solicitors coat, which reaches down to my instep. I still have it – it's one fine looking coat. Trouble is, it's also a coat that makes people angry and you've got to be brave to wear it.

Nottingham went crazy for some reason in 2000, with the millennium, the New Labour experiment at fever pitch, the opening of Emmanuel House Hostel bringing in thousands upon thousands of homeless people from around the country.

You had to be there to believe it. The cops got it sorted a couple of years later but then? Scary place. Everywhere you looked on Nottingham's streets, there was a threat.  

Aggressive beggars. Emaciated whores. Drug addicted schoolkids. Post-millennial career drunks. Crackboys. Psychopathic girl gangs (they were scary). Homeboys. Gangsters. Casuals. Chavs. Rappers. Knifemen. Old Notts and Forest boys reminiscing about being a face. The first of the Eastern European emigres. 

This was the unravelling of the City, maybe even Gibbon’s end of Empire writ large. 

That night, I was threatened by at least five people on that memorable half mile walk to Trinity Square. I was abused, shoved, threatened, insulted, ridiculed. All because I didn't have money to give (this was true, I’d drunk everything but my bus fare, but try telling them that).

The coat didn't help one bit. I arrived at Trinity Square just in time to see a young lad in a red baseball cap punching the living shit out of a frightened bus driver. No-one helped, not even me. I stared into the skies and looked out for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or something else. 

William Butler Yeats wrote:

“That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Boarded the mini-bus behind. On the back seat, three lads and two girls were throwing peanuts at the rest of the tired travellers. They were cracked out, speeded up, lager, lager, lager. They were wiry, thin. From up North by the sounds, Manchester, Oldham. By the time the bus had got past the Forest cemetery, they'd thrown their last peanut.

I was just drunk enough: “Do you mind not doing that, pal”

I got out of my seat and stood above the young lad clad just in a blue casual shirt.
Bad move.
His tash bristled and his eyes flared. All three of them stood up and I'd suddenly entered a dark film. 
If it wasn't for their girlfriends - thank God - I'd have been a dead man and not one person on the bus would have helped me. 

The lad I admonished would no doubt have killed me had his girlfriend not sat on him.

My stop arrived and I alighted just in time. As the bus pulled away,they were all up against the window screaming and gesturing. I felt sorry for the people travelling down to Old Basford and Bulwell, still on the bus. 

That was a tough night.

Some years later, when I read about the father in Warrington who was murdered protecting his neighbor’s car by three young men out of their heads on cheap cider, I thought about that night on the bus

It had just turned eight thirty.
Eight thirty. Can you believe that?
Coronation Street had only just finished and all hell was loose on the streets of the City.

I went into the Star and sat there, at the bar alone, for two hours, drinking cheap double whiskies and halves of bitter. Was I drinking to forget? Who the fuck knows.

I stayed in New Basford for a year and a half. Then, via Sherwood and following the climax of a terrible, hopeless relationship with a lunatic, I ended up in Southwell, itself a particular circle of Hell.

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