Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way Chapter 7 AND THE END OF PART ONE!!!

Free Lunch

      -Excuse me, but I’m sure I know you from somewhere?
I replace the can of No Frills baked beans on the shelf and turn around to see the dishevelled figure of what could possibly be a girl.
   -No, I don’t think you do, mate.
   -Your face looks awfully familiar
   -You mean I look awful. Eyare, I remember you: you’re that Christian what reckoned god’d give us some money, right?
The girl, it’s definitely a girl, blushes slightly and holds out her hand.
   -I’m Sue.
   -Right. Gaz. Love the new hairdo.
Sue smiles in this coy kind of way and takes a moment to examine her feet.
   -Well yours is very…uh, interesting….how do you stick it up?
See how I’m progressing? Huh? I’ve even shaved me sides, bleached me mohie and dyed it green, stuck it up for the first time in a long time. Must be love eh? A peacock’s gotta woo his peahen and Kiwi deserves the best. When I get round to see her later she’ll be right chuffed…yeah, it’s gotta be love. I even got a bath round at her place, but she won’t let us move in. Too early or some such bullshit. But to be honest, I’m shitting myself. Cos Kiwi wants me to get clean. Uh-huh, you got it, not just in a bath sense. She wants me to finish with the gear.
   I wanna say something rude to this Sue, like I’ll stick it up your arse in a minute, love or I stick it up with whale jizzom  cos that’s what I usually say when people ask…cos I used to get it all the time. Not so much as an Alright or a  how are you just how do you stick your hair up? Yeah, I used to get cunts coming up to me asking me that all the time before I…how shall I say this? I didn’t exactly get disowned by my old friends, more I got sick of their constant hassle about the gear, you know? Yeah, before I drifted away…so I’m laughing at the old memories when I was down the Star and Garter and all the punk gigs, punk pillar, all that. Yeah, I used to go all over the country with them, knew punks from everywhere… good times. I miss them. So I just smile and say
   -Trade secret, that.
Sue laughs.
   -I won’t ask if I can touch it, then…I bet lots of people want to touch it, don’t they? It’s just so….tactile! So we meet again. So how are you, my friend?
   -Not so bad. Yerself?
   -Fantastic, thanks. I’m doing my first year in hospital.
   -So what are you? A nurse or a patient? They let you out of the asylum, then?
   -You’re funny. No, I’m a doctor.
Sue’s blushing again. I remember what Spid said about the ladies liking a bit of rough, oh my, oh my. Images of NHS medicine stores flit through my mind.
   -Doctor Sue.
   -Doctor Hawkins at your service. So how are you doing? Have you found a place to live?
I put four cans of beans and eight cans of tomatoes in my basket and she walks with me to the cheese and yoghurt refrigerators.
   -9p, alright, that. Yeah, I’m sorted, got a job too, off the social.
This is total bullshit, but it appears to impress Sue.
   -Fantastic. So you’re a social worker!
   -No, I got it off the social- the dole: you know. Nah, I’m an advice worker, but don’t ask us for any advice, mind, cos I’m still a trainee.
   -Gosh, how interesting. So did you read the gospel I gave you?
I’m not about to tell her it went up in smoke with the rest of the rubbish from my room, but I am tempted. After all, she told me to ask for the lord for help and the lord warmed me up when I was freezing half to death if you wanna look at it like that. Don’t look at me in a bad way. I didn’t mean it as an offence. I was cold. Right? Right.
   -No offence, like, but you’re never gonna convert me. I’m not interested and besides, I’m Jewish.
   -Are you? God has a very special place for the Jews. Do you practise?
Twenty questions, here we come. You didn’t know that, did you? Well, did you? I’m feeling like I shouldn’t have told her this. Is it guilt?
   Remembering Bubbe Ilyana, the stories she told. The woman in the wasteground. It’s very personal to me. I don’t like to let my front down this easily. There’s too much stuff. Stuff that scares me: stuff that I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling you. Why, you ask? Look at me: I let her down. When my mum got ill, I never thought she’d die. Bubbe used to cry and cry, wailing into the night when she found out my mum had cancer. No one expects their only child to die before them, but for Bubbe, it was worse. It was like after all she’d survived, all she’d seen and survived, to be punished like that, like she said; she just stopped believing in a god. In her God. Our God. She’d wail through the night to Hashem, muttering the Shema, whispering Tehillim every night, and after my mum died, she just stopped. She never lit the Shabbes candles again after that. Never.
   Yeah, don’t ask me about that. Like I said, I prefer to forget. I was just coming up to my thirteenth birthday when she died. When my Bubbe died. Just fourteen days after my mum.
   -Listen, Sue, I don’t wanna talk about it, okay?
Yeah, Sue’s god had a very special place for Bubbe Ilyana, alright, and for my mum, and for me. Except I’m sure you’ll agree, I’ve done this to myself, so just go stick all your bullshit in your gobshite pipe and smoke it up the chimney, will you? You don’t know nothing, little doctor Susie the shikse. Sorry, maybe that was out of order. But it just pisses me off is all. I wish I’d never told her.
   -Okay, but that’s brilliant
   The queues at the checkout are phenomenal. I take advantage of the crowds to check that the peroxide is securely positioned in the waistband of my trousers and fish in my pocket for change.
   -Shit, I don’t believe it! I’ve only lost a fiver. You can’t lend me the money for this lot until I see you again.
   It’s worth a try. I wish to fuckery now even more that I didn’t tell her about me being Jewish. But I’ve blown my giro already and I need my change for the phone. Sorry to disappoint you, but when the fuck are you going to understand that I don’t do all this shit because I want to?
   No one goes into that room in school where they have those little careers advice sessions, do they, and when the teacher asks them when they grow up, what do they want to be, reply, well, Miss, I want to be an intravenous heroin addict. Do they? WELL DO THEY? Yes, I’m angry, alright? You alright with that? Cos it’s not you with a fuckin heroin habit and a girl trying to put you through the fuckin land of hell is it? No? No. Then shut the fuck up. You don’t know me, ain’t walked in my boots.
   -Oh dear, gosh! You must have dropped it somewhere in here. Perhaps someone’s handed it in. Should I ask?
This is all I need. A tenner’s worth of shoplifting down my trousers and having to wait around looking like a dodgy bastard with ANARCHY emblazoned across my chest, whilst some do-gooder makes enquiries on my behalf. Thanks, but no thanks.
   -No one ever hands money in if they find it. I wouldn’t.
   -I would.
   -Well you’re one in a million, love, forget it.
   -But you can’t afford to lose five pounds either. It’s a lot of money to you.
   -Look, don’t patronise me. Just help us out here, Sue. I don’t have the time to go chasin around for five quid. I’ve gotta get back to work. It’s my first week, I’ll get the sack. You’ll get it back. It’s for food; I’ve got nothing at home. I’ve gotta eat.
   I could’ve been a doctor. Could’ve been a lot of things. Don’t look down on me; don’t pity me, and most of all, don’t think I‘m stupid. You think I’m nothing? You think I’m no one? Okay: let’s have a look at you. Think you know me, do you? There’re things you don’t know about me.
  -Oh, alright. I tell you what. I’ll pay for this on the condition that you come to dinner with me and my friends.
Now she’s scribbling her number on the back of an old receipt and handing it to me.
   -Sounds fair enough, cheers darling.
So I put my cans with Sue’s convenience foods on the conveyor belt and shuffle to the end of the checkout to bag it up. £1.08 and a not so hot dinner date. Not the best graft I’ve done, but it’s got potential.

*   *   *
   No. No. fuckin NO! It ain’t funny. I could definitely do without this. I drop the Kwik Save bag where I stand and leg it over to the front garden. The bastards, the fuckin evil bastards. I’ve squatted this place comfortably for over two years and I thought I was safe. Swear to god I thought I was safe. And now I come back and find all my worldlies scattered aimlessly over this overgrown wet grass and brambles and all the windows and doors boarded up with super-safe metal fascist barricading. Even the cellar windows. Okay, it’s not the first time. But look at my drawings, all scattered and smeared and smudged and blowing down the road with the litter and dog shit like rubbish.
I’m shouting to no one, to anyone who’ll listen, anger surging through my body, fists clenching, blood pressure going insane as I charge at the front door, kicking and thumping the brown barricade, roaring like a mad bastard.
And I want to cry, but tears won’t come. The sweat’s streaming down my face, and pure rage seeping out of my pores at the pure injustice
It’s just vindictive. Pure fuckin vindictive evil. Just because I’ve found myself shelter, just because I ain’t paying some bastard landlord who charges extortionate rent and never kills the cockroaches or fixes the roof, never mind the leaking sink. Now this place’ll probably just be left to fall down, left empty, just because if one does it, it’ll give others ideas about freedom, about squatting, right? Jealous bastards. It’s not like you think. It’s not like you think, this world. They won’t rent me their flats, won’t rent me their rooms. Don’t you know that? You fockin bastards. Pity the poor, do you? Well, don’t fockin pity me. Don’t worry about what’ll happen to me now, will you? Eh? That was my life in that room. Might look like litter to you, but it was my life.
   I need a dig. I need a fockin dig and I need it now. I give the door one, last, gut-wrenching kick before I dig my kit bag out from under my mattress, which lays now like a sad paralytic over chairs and drawers, and fill it with the sodden dregs of my life. I’m tense as fuck as I scrape my boots over the tarmac to Birchfields Park and head, smouldering, towards the rubble of some past church forgotten amongst the trees.
   I sit on a bench improvised from gravestones and shuffle through my pockets, through fucked up drawings, pencils and useless keys, looking for my works. The orange caps of syringes lay scattered around, their decapitated plastic bodies half-buried, trodden into the soil. My lighter will hardly keep its flame as I cook up. My hands are shaking and sweating despite the bag I had earlier and my muscles feel so tense that the handle of my spoon’s digging into my finger and thumb. The search for veins has become such a drag that I just give up and unzip my trousers and pull them down at the front to find my fem.
   Yeah, I know, I always said I’d never go in my femoral, ok, I said enough would be enough, that I’d call it a day. I remember saying the same about needles, the same about heroin, the same about cigarettes and the same about eating gefilte fish. So, it’s got fuck all to do with gefilte fish, but right now, I just don’t give a shit. I just need to blank it all out, get my mind off this hostile society. I’ll have a dig and gouch out here for a bit here in the park for a while; concoct a strategy to deal with the bastards. Just when I feel that snag of the needle passing from flesh to vein, Stakki’s words are playing in my head, mocking me


And as soon as I push the plunger, I know that I’ve done too much. I’m passing out onto the cemetery floor, pissing myself, dying amongst the ancient Christian gravestones. And there, in my head, before I lose consciousness, I hear Bubbe Ilyana’s voice and she’s singing:

 Shema Ysroel Adonoi elehenu adonoi echad .

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way: THE NEXT INSTALLMENT! Chapter Six

Helping you Back to Work

   The doors are locked when I arrive at the Jobcentre. A few people stand around outside, smoking, so I light up in the sod’s law that the doors will open and sit down on the curb. A girl cycles up and chains her bike to the bars that they put there for security, though I don’t know why they bothered, cos they’re kicked in and bent now at numerous attempts at robbing, most of them successful by the looks of it. A mangled, rust-flecked wheel, its tyre hanging off is attached to one of the poles by a D-shaped lock.
   -I’d bring that bike inside with you love
I tell her, eyeing the wheel and looking her in the eye. She thanks me and starts wrapping an extra chain around all the parts of the bike she can. Won’t stop ‘em robbing the handlebars or the gears, though, will it? I don’t know what’s up with me. One minute I’m robbing someone and the next I’m warning skinny women to look their bikes properly. Worth the smile she gave me, though. Real smiles don’t happen much. Why would I rob someone who’s signing on at the Jobcentre anyway? I’m not all bad, you know, seriously: I’m not.
   I hear the jangle of metal and everyone turns as a young bloke unlocks the doors. Here we go now, all streaming into the faceless grey room and heading towards various desks. I join my habitual signing queue, surveying my options. This is the worst hour of any given fortnight, give or take this and that. At the first desk, there’s the Caribbean woman with the dreadlocks. She’s my best option. I can have a laugh with her; she’s friendly enough, never gives me any hassle, just lets me sign and leave. The third desk’s got that obese ex-army looking bastard smouldering behind it, General Misery I call him. If I’m next and he calls me I swear I’m going to go look at the job boards and rejoin the queue. I never get past him without grief about anything he can dream up. Last time I was in here, he was telling me I had to cut off my mohie: I mean, the cheek of it, eh? I told him he couldn’t discriminate against me on the grounds of cultural identity and you should’ve seen his face turn from puce to beetroot, nasty fucker. I asked him if my hair could read or write or fill forms and he couldn’t answer. Just like school. I reckon that if I get the other bloke, it won’t be so bad. He’s constantly skiving in the back and probably doesn’t give a toss about his job. Someone’s with the woman and the General’s calling the woman with the bike up, leaving me at the front of the queue. Leaving me with the skiver, who’s still leafing through the files. Dirty bastard: always got his fingers in someone’s drawers.
   I look around. Posters for various schemes on the grey felt notice board. The reception. The jobs desk. A wiry woman with a rucksack is leaning forward, one hand on the jobs desk, job card in the other, waving it at the spotty official.
   -What do you mean I can’t get the job because I’ve not been signing on for long enough?
The bloke looks sideways
   -Not my rules.
   -Don’t give me this I’m just doing my job rubbish either: I’ve got a double first, an MA, fifteen years’ experience, and you’re telling me I’ve not been signing on long enough!
   -All I can do is sign you up for the course, but you don’t qualify for that for another six weeks, so-
The woman’s eyes bulge.
   -A course? I don’t need a course! I can start the job tomorrow! This is ridiculous!
   -Nothing I can do; like I said, it’s not my rules.
   -And they say they want to get people back into employment? This is ridiculous, ridiculous. Honestly!
This place does my head in. And she’s right. It is ridiculous. I mean, she actually wants a job: so give her the job! No wonder this country’s got such a high unemployment rate if people are asking for jobs and the Jobcentre won’t let them apply. As for me, it’s my turn and guess who’s calling me up. The skiver’s been calling my name for ages and I’ve been so busy sympathising with the jobseeker that I haven’t heard him.
   -Mr Fitzpatrick!
I smile at him and hand over my book.
   -Mr Fitzpatrick.
The bloke starts typing stuff into the computer, occasionally looking from the screen to my book.
   -I don’t think we’ve met before.
What? He gets up without waiting for me to respond to his comment, just walks over to the filing cabinets, starts rifling through them again. I lean back, hands behind my head and yawn. The woman they wouldn’t give a job to has gone, replaced by a group of blokes with mobile phones clipped on their belts or in their hands.
   -That ent worth botherin wiv, innit, don’t wanna be applying for something like that, innit?
   -He don’t wanna work in a factory, innit, ent you got anyfink in a suit shop, know what I mean?
   -Yeah, like a fashion outlet, innit-
The bloke’s taking ages. I’m shifting in my chair, wanting to get out of this place before it stifles me. The General’s calling his third client since the cyclist and here’s me, still sitting here. I wonder if this is how he passes his day, wasting as much time as possible so he does less work than anyone else. But he’s back now, and he’s still not asked me to sign.
   -Right. Mr….Fitz…patrick.
He’s pulling up his chair now and I don’t like the way he’s looking at me.
   -So what have you been doing to look for work in the last two weeks?
Here we go. I haven’t had this in a while. For fuck sake.
   -Looked through the Metro News on Friday. Applied for a couple of jobs in there and in the Big Issue.  That was for a caseworker, right, for the homeless.
It’s not all lies, you know. I always flick through the Metro. They still put loads of crap through the letterbox of the place I live. Sometimes I’m lucky. As for the Big Issue, I know plenty of vendors and I have a look through now and again. They were looking for a caseworker, so he can check. Caseworker my arse, I’ve my own case to work on without working on someone else’s.
   -I see. Any other jobs?
   -One’s this job up in Rochdale. Outreach worker for an Asian Community project. The other…
   -An Asian project? These jobs usually specify knowledge of ethnic community languages, do they not?
   -Nah, I’m really interested in the job. Listen, do you have a problem with Asian community projects or something?
   -Of course not
The wanker’s going red now. Stupid cunt.
   -Are you saying that you think there aren’t any Asian people who can speak English? Do you seriously believe it’s my only language?
   -Just leave it out will you. Listen, there was a woman in here earlier who was asking for a job, and you know what they told her?
   -Mr Fitzpartick
   -No, you listen, Steve, you listen, they told her she’s not been signing on long-
   -Mr Fitzpatrick
   -They told her she’s not been signing on long-
   -Can we just get back-
   -Signing on long enough
   -to the interview
   -O……K….could you please keep your voice down, Mr Fitzpatrick?
   -Are you listening to me?
   -OK, can we get back to the interview now?
   -Come on then, what did I just say?
   -Right, do you keep a jobsearch diary?
   -Yeah, I do actually. And I also listen to you, but you don’t listen to me, do you?
   My mouth might be moving faster than my politeness, but I’ve heard that one before and damn, this time I seem to have lost it again. I make a sham of looking through my pockets.
   -Do you have it on you?
   -I don’t believe it. I’ve fockin well left it at home again…fock sake…no way
-Could you mind your language please? Well, you must be aware that you should bring it with you every time you sign on, surely. You’ve been signing on for a substantial period of time now and-
   -No one told me.
   -O….K….well, it seems to me that you are deliberately reducing your chances of finding full-time employment.
   -What the f…
He’s typing into the computer again now and I swing round, leaning my elbows on the desk and have a look at what he’s writing  I believe that Mr Fitzpartic is deliberately reducing his
   -You spelled my name wrong.
   -Could you move away from the screen please Mr Fitzpatrick?
   -Or Mr Fitzpartic?
   -I said, you spelled my name wrong.
   -Oh, yes. Sorry. I’ll just correct that…
   -See. I could do your job for you. I’m doing your job for you and you’re saying I’m deliberately reducing my chances of finding work. Listen up and listen up good. You don’t know me and you’re telling me that you think I’m deliberately reducing my chances of finding full-time employment. The spotty bloke over there- I point to the jobs desk –he thinks the woman who was in earlier can’t apply for a job because she’s not been signing on long enough. Figure it
   -Mr Fitzpatric-
   -No, Steve, figure it out: this place ain’t helping no one.
Shit. Shit with a capital S. I mean, I like a good rant, but if I could snatch those seven little words from his ears and unsay them, I would. He smiles. Pulls my book out of its plastic sleeve and flicks through it. Rolls up his sleeves and, elbows on table and chin cupped in his hand, he pauses, stares at me long and hard, laughing voicelessly through his nose
   -Well. This time, I’m only putting a warning against your name on the computer. But if you fail to produce a completed jobsearch diary next time you sign on, I’m going to stop your benefit.
   -For fock sake, look, I can write down what I did right now…
   -I’ve already asked you to mind your language in here. I can cut your benefits right now if you prefer. And that won’t be necessary.
He’s shaking his head and I’m writing him a list of what I just told him on one of those scraps of paper with one of those little stubby black pens they have in there and sliding it across the desk towards him
   -I said, that won’t be necessary. I’m afraid rules are rules. And with that attitude, I can tell you now that you’re virtually unemployable, so I’ll be calling you up for a Jobsearch review interview, so that we can help you to match yourself to a job which suits you. You’ll need to bring evidence of all the jobs you’ve applied for from now until the interview.
   -Look, I know what I wanna do. And I am applying for jobs. Like the woman I was telling you about said, this is ridiculous. Seriously. Ridiculous.
   -Right. I see.  The skiver’s eyes narrow significantly. –Well, the interview will help you to develop your jobsearch skills. I have an appointment for you on the Friday after next at nine o’clock prompt. Failure to attend the interview will result in your benefit being cut. If you can report by half past eight to reception, there are some forms you will be asked to fill in whilst you’re waiting.
Skiving Bastard writes down the time of the interview on a slip of paper and hands it to me along with my book, a slitty smile manifesting itself on his reptilian face. Problem is, the stupid cunt’s either playing me for a fool, or he deliberately made me forget to sign on.
   -I need to sign on. Are you deliberately reducing my ability to sign on?
   -Uh, sorry, uh…
 So after one of the biggest doses of bullshit I’ve ever witnessed in this shithole, I sign on. What a palaver. All that crap for one poxy signature.
   -Good luck then, Mr. Fitzpatrick.

   I leave the social smouldering with rage, scowling as I pass the group of wannabe suit salesmen who are now hanging around outside the door. I cross the road and walk through the car park at the back of the curry houses and head to the chemist next door to the doctor’s surgery. Inside, an Asian woman is sitting on a chair, cuddling a toddler whilst she wheels a pram backwards and forwards with her other hand, waiting for a prescription. I see Gladys at the other side of the counter as I go up and lean on it. Had enough today and the day’s hardly started.
   -Alright, Gary, love?
   -Alright Gladys. Just had to sign on. Got loads of hassle, threatening to cut off my money.
Gladys shakes her head. She’s alright, is Gladys.
   -They trying to make you do slave labour again?
   -Worse. Will you give us two bags of ten?
Gladys pulls out two silver-grey resealable bags of needles from a box under the counter and hands them to me.
   -You want a bin, love? I shake my head –Don’t you worry, love, everything’ll work out for you in the end, you see if it won’t.
   -Cheers Gladys, love.
   -Now you take care, Gary, love.
   -Yeah, you too. See ya later.
   -Tarrar, love.
   I’m moving slowly down the streets, barely looking up, kicking the cans and scattered wrappers which cling around my feet, the opening lines of a Dylan song repeating itself over and over again in my head:

   Some-one’s got it in- for me,
   They’re- plant-ing sto-ries- in the- press.
   Who-ev-er it is, -I wish they’d cut it out
   But when they will, -I can on-ly guess.-

Songs my mother used to play on her record player. She loved Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen: all that stuff.

Summer’s on its way and onto the billboards are creeping huge pictures of Tony Blair, the New Labour election candidate for the general election next year, with demon eyes and the caption


Underneath in red spraypaint, someone’s written:


Do you think I’ll be voting? What’s the point? Honestly, what’s the point. Even if Labour do get in, they’re not real Labour anyway. Yeah, same old bullshit. As I head south down Wilmslow Road, the clock in the bakery rejects shop reads ten past nine.

*   *   *

   -So, what happened after I left then?
I’m sitting with Spid on one of the benches in Piccadilly Gardens, feeding the pigeons with the remnants of a stale Netto family white thick sliced loaf.
   -Forget it.
   -No, I wanna know. What did he say after I focked off?
   -Some shit about how you couldn’t face up to reality.
   -Fockin wanker. He’s well out of order.
I rip a slice into shreds and chuck it into the mass of pigeons. A lone sparrow dives for a piece, managing to peck a crumb before being bombarded by the diesel-blackened scrawn.
   -Can’t believe he only offered us a tenner for that system. Must be worth at least a couple of hundred.
   -Go down cash generator next, yeah? Stop changing the subject. Go on, what did the cunt say?
   -Kiwi well fancies you ya know. He don’t want his little sister on the gear; ya can understand it from his point of view.
   -Yer jokin! What? Kiwi? Never!
   -I know, she’s more into her party drugs and shit.
   -Nah, I mean she fancies me!
   -She’s liked you for ages, Gaz, don’t tell me it wasn’t obvious.
   -What the fock?
I’m smiling inside now. All this time…
   -I know, mate, takes all sorts. Fock knows what she sees in you, but some women like a bit of rough-
He’s pissing himself laughing now, and normally, I’d have started getting all arsy with him, but…
   -Cheers for telling us before, mate.
   -Well you know now, don’t ya, eh? Something you been hiding then, eh?
   -Spid, mate, I fockin love that girl…
I’m grinning all over now, standing up and flinging the rest of the loaf over the path and into the grass, followed by a flea-ridden flapping of wings.

*   *   *
   Five a.m. Light oozes through the mesh of membranous curtains as I flicker out of a light and futile sleep. I shift onto my back under the heavy army jacket which lays, crustaceous, draped over my blanketed form.
   Cringing awake in still-drunk opiate need. Primary opiate, secondary opiate: risk reduction harm reduction. Flashes of history, Irish- (Jewish on the maternal side), the maternal instinct, the far side, right side, left side, left, right, left, right; wrong. Left wrong, long-gone. Cat’s got the biscuit, mother, fine-featured, long-fingered, leaning into the oven with a cloth, cinnamon-hot oven-air scorching the down on her face. Terror. They put them in the ovens. And I sob to myself, never-known pain of a generation I have not witnessed.

About time too eh? So here it is as promised...a slight delay, but not too bad! So-
Apologies for the long wait. Many thanks to all those who have followed me from the beginning and to those just starting to read now. Without you there would be no blag.
Love and inspiration to all of you
Vee X