Book Extract 2

For years my Dad was a toolmaker. He did it from the 60s
until the late 80s. These were the glory days of British industry. An era when
a man would go to work in the morning, drink 20 pints in his lunch break and
then return in the afternoon to his work station to proudly operate heavy duty
machinery with heroic disregard for his own safety or the eyesight of his
colleagues. It was a golden age of tough guys arseing around with fire, sparks,
steel and soft pornography. An age before health and safety castrated the
British workplace hooligan. My Dad and his mates in that tool room combined
factory floor horseplay with unadulterated hairy arsed thuggery to create a
world that was all their own. There’d be blind drunk blokes propped up against
their machines with strict instructions from the foreman to just stand there
and not to touch any buttons. Blokes lighting their fags with blowtorches like
Kenickie in the Greased Lightning bit in Grease (The coolest thing ever. Do not
repeat do not watch Grease if you’re trying to quit smoking. The sight of Kenickie
lighting his fag with an acetylene torch will make you want to spark one up in
homage. He also fucked Rizzo which I would say makes him man of the match.)

Mostly my Dad worked with what seemed to be a horde of clones of John Bonham out of Led Zeppelin.Blokes with longish hair, beards, capped sleeved Adidas t shirts and beer
bellies you could whack with a sledge hammer without knocking the wind out of
the owner. But in amongst all of these cookie cutter hard arses there were many
colourful characters too. The most colourful rogue’s gallery this side of
Gotham City. The sort of guys who stick in your mind even if you just catch a
two second glimpse of them in the street being acknowledged by your father with
a nod. One of them was called Popeye. He wasn’t called that because he was
missing an eye or had a chin like Davina McCall’s arse with a corn cob pipe
sticking out of it, but rather because he was very heavily tattooed. And I mean
heavily tattooed in the old school way . I mean, you see loads of heavily
tattooed people now, blokes and women who have whole sleeves done by the time
they’re 25. Emos, that kind of thing. Popeye though, had those kind of sleeves
where you build them over the years depending on when you’ve got a bit of
disposable cash. Kind of like one of those things on a Maori’s face that chart
their life story. Popeye never had any tribal stuff though, it was all
traditional designs. Hearts, daggers, women in the nuddy that sort of thing. In
the style of a drunken merchant seaman, hence the nickname.

Some of these guys I never saw, they existed only in my Dad’s quite frankly ace anecdotes of tomfoolery.  Many of the stories involved this guy called Ted. Ted was in his late fifties and pretty much deaf as a post and he wore a hearing aid (he must have fucking hated Morrissey with his cosmetic one). Today if you subjected a man to relentless prankery because he was deaf , you’d be rightly hauled up in front of a tribunal , but in the Thatcher era tool room Ted was fair game. Ted apparently usedto respond to any question with a prolonged and quizzical “Eh?”. My old man imitating this at the dinner table and being a 7 year old kid , which isthe only living organism with the capacity to be crueller and less politically correct than a 1980s Chippenham toolmaker, I used to lap it up big style. Of course the mockery wasn’t done behind Ted’s back, my father’s tea time impersonations were just the cherry on top of a cupcake of good natured persecution. One of the
tool room boys’ favourite harmless pranks was to stand right behind Ted as he
was going about his business and make a series of bizarre hissing and whistling
noises in an uncanny impersonation of a hearing aid going haywire. How they’d
laugh as Ted would frantically fiddle with his ear piece. That’ll teach him to
have a legitimate medical problem.

Of course it wouldbe foolish to paint Ted as some kind of martyr, he was as bad as the rest of them, and when a new apprentice would start, Ted would be in the thick of the
mob. Apprentices were of course there to learn the trade of making tools so
you’d think that on their first day they’d show them how to use an abrasive
wheel or something. Tool making however was just their major subject. They also
had to do a minor in malicious mischief. So the first thing that happens to an
apprentice tool maker when he starts work is that every senior toolmaker
descends on him at once like a swarm of muscular ,overall clad locusts. First,
the hapless newcomer has a broom handle thrust through the sleeves of his shirt
and across his back leaving him unable to move his arms from an outstretched
position. Then as he frantically struggles to realise what is happening to him,
a hook will be placed under the central point of the handle at which point the
presumably panic stricken apprentice will be hoisted up on a winch until he is
left hanging in a grotesque parody of the crucifixion. Whimpering and turning
ashen as his new found workmates stand below pointing and laughing like
medieval peasants round a ducking stool. That’ll teach him to leave school and
go to work. The irony is that when my Dad would tell me about this, I’d find it
hysterically funny despite the fact that while the apprentice was being
subjected to this indignity, I’d have been at primary school getting grass
cuttings shoved up my nose by bullies in a grisly Mengele-esque experiment to
see if it agitated my hay fever. I should have empathised with the apprentice
but so caught up was I in my vision of the tool room that I ignored the plight
of my fellow whipping boy.

Some of my Dad’stool room tales still have the power to make me double up with laughter. One of my favourites then and now involved a guy called Ray who like me used to have hay fever and the dust in the tool room used to make him sneeze a great deal.
Now this wasn’t amusing in itself even on the tool room level but then one
glorious day, Ray sneezed so hard that his false teeth flew out of his mouth
and into the wheelbarrow full of red hot swarf that he was pushing. Hilarity
reigned supreme as Ray made a farcical attempt to fish his falsers out of the
quagmire of red hot metal they’d landed in with his bare hands before they
melted into an unrecognisable lump thus rendering him unable to eat his dinner.
I thought that was the greatest story ever told when I was seven and in my book
it takes some beating even now.

 

There was one profoundly strange fellow who featured so heavily in the tool room stories that my dad actually took a Polaroid picture of the gloriously bizarre specimen to
bring home and show me so that I could put a face to the tales of madness. He
looked like a cross between Ted Bovis out of Hi De Hi and Uncle Fester and his
name was Gilbert as in O’ Sullivan or like the green alien on Get Fresh. Gilbert
was one of these people who despite having nothing physically, mentally or
psychologically wrong with them per se just isn’t right. You could have put
Gilbert in front of a panel of the most distinguished doctors in the land for
24 hours observation and they’d come to the same conclusion as his workmates.
Gilbert just ain’t right is all.  Gilbert wasn’t a tool maker of course. Putting a chap like Gilbert in charge of any kind of machinery was a step too far towards the abyss even with the tool room’s cavalier attitude towards safety. Gilbert’s responsibilities within the
infrastructure of the factory went no further than sweeping up the tool room
floor. Mind, someone has to do it and Gilbert seemed happy enough indeed the
most noticeable thing in the Polaroid photograph was his big smile. Of course
my Dad used to do impressions of Gilbert when he got home from work. He was a
regular Bobby Davro was my old man. After he was done with recreating Ted’s
“Eh?!” catchphrase, he’d move on to an impersonation of Gilbert. Gilbert’s
‘thing’ was that he used to call everyone ‘Yogi’ regardless of what their
actual name was. “Alright Yogi?” he’d say to everyone in the morning by way of
greeting, presumably smiling with that same beaming rictus as in the
photograph. Fuck knows why it was ‘Yogi’, my Dad didn’t seem to know why
either. Maybe Gilbert was a more spiritual man than met the eye. More likely
though was he was a fan of the cartoon pic –a-nic basket snaffling bear. The
only person he didn’t call Yogi was the foreman whose name was Mr Merson. He
didn’t call him Mr Merson though, that wasn’t Gilbert’s style. Gilbert used to
call him ‘Mr Mercy’ and drive the man to despair by constantly inferring that
he was about to marry the bewildered foreman’s daughter. “Morning Mr Mercy!”
Gilbert would beam as he swept his way past “I’m gonna marry yer daughter Mr
Mercy!” Of course he wasn’t going to marry Mr Merson’s daughter. It’s entirely
plausible that Mr Merson had no daughter to begin with. It was just one of
Gilbert’s flights of fancy.

 

One classic Gilbert story took place in theearly 80s when the Duke Of Edinburgh came to visit the factory. The weeks leading up to the visit were heralded by Gilbert proclaiming “The Dukie’s comin’! The Dukie’s comin’” as he went about his sweeping. On the day itself,
the Duke arrived in true Dukely style in a helicopter which landed in the
factory car park. Gilbert, who had never seen a helicopter before was of course
very excited. At lunchtime, Gilbert was approached by an arch piss taker named
Freddy Lynch who asked him if he’d like to go outside and “feed the
helicopter”. If this story related to any other group of individuals then I’d
scoff at the supposed authenticity but given what I’d already been told about
this bunch of reprobates I find it very easy to believe what followed which was
Freddie putting a length of string around Gilbert’s waist like a leash and
leading him out to the car park with a bag of ready salted crisps which he
preceeded to throw to the helicopter like you’d do with fish to a sea lion.
Glorious fucking madness.

 

The Zeus of these tool room legends though was man who was a godlike figure not just on the factory floor but in the town as a whole, for Harry Clark was supposedly the
hardest man in town. This was of course debated by some. Some contended
that the hardest man in town was actually an aging tattooist and sometime
boxer called Pug (he had a face like one apparently). Of course both Harry
Clark and Pug have both long departed to that big pub car park in the sky, so
the steel cage Texas death match in the Neeld Hall that could have determined
which man was made of tougher stuff will never take place, unless of course
someone with good computer skills did a computerised dream match like the one
in Rocky Balboa, but I doubt anyone has the time. Whether or not he was the
hardest man in town, there was no doubt that Harry Clark was as hard as a
coffin nail from a gangland funeral. Fucking with Harry Clark was only
recommended for those who have grown tired of having a fully functioning body.
Many a wannabe barroom brawler of the 1969-1990 period saw their dreams of
being a bad ass shattered along with their pelvis when Harry Clark’s steel toed
work boot acquainted itself with their testicles. Of course being hard isn’t
just about hurting people. When you see programmes on Bravo about “Britain’s
Hardest” or whatever bollocks, it’s usually a collection of fat bullies in
sports wear boasting about all the people they intimidated in “Lahndan” before the
Yardies or whoever turned up and sent them running scared to Essex to write
boastful, self aggrandising autobiographies. Real hard men don’t use guns or
knives. All they need is their fists, feet, forehead and the occasional pint
pot or glass ashtray if their backs really up against the wall. They’re not in
gangs or “firms” they’re lone wolves living their lives by their own rules and
god help the poor fucker who tries to derail them. They’re less Ronnie Kray,
more Jesse James. Outlaws. Desperadoes. Nowadays ‘fighting’ is different. Ten
wankers in designer clothing will strut around a town centre until they find a
bloke who is half the size of the smallest one of them. They’ll kick him around
like a hackey sack for a bit and go home to their girlfriend whom they will
tell they ‘got in a fight’. In Harry Clark’s day it was one on one. No weapons,
no filming it on your mobile and putting it on Youtube. It was a more honest
thuggery. The bloke you were going to fight would be a fighter himself most
likely. You’d go outside so as not to ruin the decor of the pub, club or
takeaway, remove all wedding rings and identity bracelets and ideally your
shirt and shoes too, and then just hammer each other on the cobbles until only
one man can walk any more. The victor is then duty bound to carry that loser’s
twitching body into the nearest licensed premises and buy him a drink (which
must be poured into his mouth if he can no longer use his hands). From that day
on they are bound by the code of small town brawling to be best mates. Those
are the rules. Harry Clark may have been a reprobate and a thug but he was
bound by codes, rules and lines which must remain forever uncrossed. He was a
thug alright but an honest one.

 

Like many of these tool room behemoths I never actually saw Harry Clark with my own eyes for many years. I just heard about him and not just from my Dad either. Fanciful
accounts of Harry’s inebriated escapades even reached the playground of our
primary school where it was rumoured that Harry Clark had been barred from the
West End club for breaking the ‘American Pool Table’ as it was known in the
days when pool was still a bit of an exotic transatlantic import. H hadn’t
accidentally ripped it of course or dropped fag ash on the felt. The mighty Harry
Clark had supposedly had a row with his presumably long suffering wife and head
butted the table in half. That was exposed as a fallacy when my Dad told me
that Harry had actually done it with his fist. As well as being a destroyer of
pool tables, Harry Clark was also something of a cordon bleu. My Dad told me
that every morning upon his arrival in the tool room, Harry would make himself
breakfast. Thsi would consist of a toasted cheese sandwich, cooked to the
traditional tool room recipe. To make a tool room toasted sandwich, simply take
two pieces of white bread and one sizeable slice of English Cheddar cheese, put
them together and hold the whole thing in the blast furnace with your bare hand
until it turns to charcoal with a cheese centre. “When they’re black, they’re
done” Harry would say as he stood with his hand in the blazing inferno.

 

I finally saw Harry Clark when I was 9. I came home from primary school in my Daisy Duke pyjama top I wore instead of a sweatshirt , to find my Dad sat on the settee
with a guy that I knew instantly had to be Harry Clark. He looked like he was
chiselled out of something. Perhaps rock or granite, actually frozen meat would
be a better analogy. If you took a big piece of frozen beef, like the one Rocky
used for a punch bag, and hacked away at it with a sparkplug until it took on a
vaguely human shape you’d get a reasonable effigy of Harry Clark. His hands
were like shovels. Not the sort of shovel you’d use to dig your allotment but
the kind on the front of a fucking industrial digger. He had fists the size of
Judy Finnigan’s tits. He was wearing one of those jackets that real hard arses
tend to wear. Not a Stone Island or an MA1 flight or any of that bollocks but a
non descript grey windcheater obviously bought by his wife or mother because
they figured it’d never occur to him to spend his wages on anything other than
the boozer, the bookie or the chippy . Clothes are functional to a man like
Harry Clark. They keep you warm and prevent arrest for public nudity. The Harry
Clarks of this world could give a shit about fashion. What sticks with em
though isn’t the jacket or the glasses or even those gargantuan hands but his
glasses. I’d never seen anything like them before and I never have since. Harry
Clark was wearing glasses that I swear to Christ he had made himself out of
bits of other people’s broken glasses.

I didn’t need to ask Harry Clark what happened to his glasses. It was obvious. During whatever lunacy he’d been in the thick of that meant he couldn’t go home and face his
wife and was therefore sat on our sofa, Harry’s glasses had been destroyed. How
is not important. They could have been crunched under someone’s hobnailed boot,
at the bottom of a lake or even being kept as police evidence in a GBH case.
Whatever, they were gone. Now whereas a member of polite society faced with the
loss of his spectacles would curse his luck and go to the opticians for a new
prescription. But that’s not the Harry Clark way. Not on your Nelly. The Harry
Clark way is to spend the eight hour working day scouring the tool room
,looking in every corner, every drawer, rummaging through every bin including
Gilbert’s dustpan until you find enough fragments of other people’s broken
glasses to knock himself together a Frankenstein’s monster built not from the
cadavers of dead criminals from the corpses of wrecked spectacles. It was a
work of art really. He had one chunky NHS, Buddy Holly type lens on his left
eye, a trendy rounded John Lennon one on the right, gaffer tape holding them
together at the bridge of his huge flat nose, and a couple of fuck off six inch
nails holding wildly contrasting arms onto his cauliflower ears. He was reading
the paper. Looking at Linda Lusardi’s tits with this bizarre sideways glare
which was obviously him trying to make his eyes adjust to his own makeshift
prescription. Now when you’re seven years old, with a head full of Spider-Man
and Cookie Monster, you immediately lose any ambitions you may have had about
jumping off the good ship geek and reinventing yourself as a tough nut. It just
can’t be done. One can no more decide one day to become a career shit kicker
like Harry Clark than one can suddenly decide they’d like to be a triceratops.
I’m rambling again. The booze has kicked in now. Anyway what I was getting at
is, that was my Dad’s work mates. In 1989 he became a fitness trainer at the
Olympus. An environment where men like Ted, Gilbert and Harry Clark simply
cannot exist. Where hanging an apprentice from a winch would most likely result
in police action and no one would dream of taking a three quarter witted floor
sweeper out to feed crisps to a aviation vehicle. So a more civilised work
place then. But a much poorer one for it.

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Shark Jumping Punk Classics

I wrote this years ago for my Myspace blog which I never go on anymore but thought I’d post it here for any punk enthusiasts

What I like about file sharing is not the whole screwing the record industry thing but the opportunities for obtaining rare or deleted records. Some of the hardest old school punk records to find are ones that feature the band undertaking a startling change of direction that alienates their whole fanbase. More often than not this change involves the band going “soft” and producing either a hair metal album or one with loads of
lighter in the air ballads on it. I fucking love these albums and I’m not sure
why. I think it’s the perversity of putting on an album by a band with a
distinct sound and hearing something that makes you think you may have put on a
mislabelled record or soemthing .Here are some of my favourites of this type of
album

Bad Religion – “Into The Unknown”: Bad
Religion’s second album has been completely disowned by the band and I actually
don’t see why. It may sound absolutley nothing like any of their other records
featuring as it does loads of synths and acoustic guitars but the track
“Billy Gnosis” is one of my fave BAd Religion songs. You have to
download this as the band have refused to reissue it and an original vinyl copy
will cost you shitloads and probably turn out to be a bootleg anyway

Discharge- “Grave New World” : This is
probably the most surprising entry on this list. Discharge have been credited
with pioneering everything from crust punk to thrash and death metal with some
classic seven inches that made you feel like you were being kicked about by
bellowing mutant buffalo/bootboy hybrids so their venture into hair metal must
have really pissed some people off. Apparently when they toured America with
the material on this album they were pelted with garbage cans. Vocalist Cal
sings with the kind of Sunset Strip type screech usually associated with Winger
or Stryper (although he’s probably in actuality trying to sound like Robert
Plant). Guitarist Bones (usually the man of the match on Discharge records) was
replaced with Steve “Fish” Brookes who employs a “widdly
widdly” style reminiscent of The Wyld Stallions after they had those years
of guitar lessons and emerged from the phone box with beards and babies in
papooses.

Rose Tattoo – “Beats From A Single Drum”:
I’m aware that the mighty Aussie band Rose Tattoo aren’t actually a punk band
but being the most stripped down raw rock n roll band on the planet meant they
were as popular with street punks and skinheads as with metalheads. They were
name checked on the liner notes of the “Oi! Of Sex” LP and songs like
“We Can’t Be Beaten” are bona fide skinhead anthems. Vocalist Angry
Anderson was a short stocky tattooed little Staffordshire bull terrier of a man
and the rest of the group looked like extras from the film “Chopper”
Their fourth album “Southern Stars” was a lot more polished than the
three knuckle sandwiches that proceeded it but in terms of hardcore fanbase
bamboozling it’s got nothing on this synth drenched affair which features
“Suddenly” better known as the theme to Scott and Charlene’s wedding
in Neighbours. The most astounding track on this is “Winnie Mandela”
a hair metal song in praise of the then banged up Nelson’s missus. I know of
some more shall we say idiotic members of the Skinhead cult that didn’t much
like the Specials “Free Nelson Mandela” so fuck only knows what they
might have made of this. Skrewdriver’s dipshit frontman Ian Stuart loved Rose
Tattoo and covered their songs sometimes. This album then desreves classic
status for the sole reason that it may well have made him cry

SSD – ” Break It Up”: Society System
Decontrol or SSD were one of the first bands to take Minor Threat’s
“Straight Edge” and “In My Eye’s” songs and turn their
philosophy of abstinence into a fascistic monster. “The Kids Will Have
Their Say” and “Get It Away” LPs are early hardcore classics but
are nevertheless performed by chunky sportswear clad thugs who would probably
happily knock every one of your teeth out for eating a liquer chocolate at one
of their gigs. Like many suburban jock types who formed hardcore bands SSD are
from a very metal background and their third LP “How We Rock”
combined hardcore with AC/DC type hard rock but on this their fourth they went
for an all out poodle head sound thus devastating a generation of straight edge
zealots who had to wait until SSD bassit Jack Sciarappa and Negative FX singer
Choke formed Slapshot later on. wether or not SSD traded their PE teacher look
for a Quiet Riot look at this time I don’t actually know. I should also point
out that I do in fact like SSD and Slapshot before I get flamed by enraged
straight edgers

Although it’s funny to hear battle haredened punks
turn into Dokken wannabes the bands on this list should be applauded I guess
for having the courage to go with their artistic vision rather than pandering
to fans and critics even if that vision isn’t anything like as good as their
original one

 

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My All Time Greatest Car Cassettes Part 1

This is kind of a greatest albums of all time post but solely relating to ones I owned on cassette between the ages of 5 and 14. These are ones I mostly listened to on a walkman with sat in the back of my parents car . Some are pop records but most are children’s novelty records, TV tie ins or book on tape type things relating to 80s movies or comic books. A lot of people woudl have you believe that they grew up listenign to all kinds of credible 5 stars in MOJO magazine type stuff and so this series is a tribute to the kinds of records people actually listen to in their formative years

 

 

The Krankies – It’s Fandabidozi

 

I still listen to this one quite a bit. Yes.
Seriously. No wanky irony, this is a great record and I listen to it often. I
don’t know if I’d like it half as much had I not grown up thinking that a hard
arse Glaswegian and his schoolboy bride were the pinnacle of funny but this is
on the whole a great, super catchy LP of bubblegum pop. “Hubba Dubba Dooby”
could have been a major chart hit if The Sweet had recorded it and although the
title track is usually cited as a prime example of vinyl wastage I find it
pleasantly stompy. It has that backbeat that all the best Glam records have
that you can drive the toe of a ten hole Marten boot up a hippy’s posterior in
time to. “The Haggis Song” and “Jimmy’s Gang” are great fun too. Inevitably it
isn’t all underrated bubblegum brilliance. “Tony Macaroni” is an appalling tune
about a stereotype Glaswegian/Italian chip shop owner who later turned up as a
character on the “Krankies Elektronik Komik” TV show. Yeah there undoubtedly
were and still are guys in Glasgow who talk like that and it’s probably based
on some guy Ian Krankie bought chips off of back in the day but I doubt that
his last name would have been fucking Macaroni. The cover of Conway Twitty’s
“But You Love Me Daddy” is near unlistenable and further confuses the issue of
how the bloody hell the two characters are meant to be related. I went with my
parents to see the Krankies live when I was about 7 in Paignton and I remember
asking my old man whether Jimmy was Ian Krankie’s son or younger brother. The
revelation of the truth was far worse than the discovery that there was no
Santa Claus. Nevertheless, make all the dogging jokes you want but there’s some
great stuff on this album

 

Madonna – I’m Breathless

If this was a straight up greatest albums list then I’d maybe  put “Like A Prayer” here on the strength of the title track and “Dear Jessie” alone but this is the Madonna album I most enjoyed and listened to as a kid who was presumed to be a raving homosexual for liking Madonna instead of happy hardcore.It’s a soundtrack of sorts to the Warren Beatty Dick Tracy movie in which Madonna starred as Breathless Mahoney which was the reason I owned the album having been a fan of Dick Tracy since they used to show the bizarre animated UPS series on ITV on Saturday afternoons. For those who haven’t seen that it featured all of the proper bad guys like Pruneface, Flat Top and Mumbles but had Tracy himself sat behind a desk and secconding the police work to a series of offensive ethnic stereotypes such as Joe “Velly Solly, Excuse Me Prease” Jitsu, gluttonous Irish flatfoot Heap O’ Callory and Mexican idler Go Go Gomez. It was repeated on Wacaday when the film was out but I can’t see that it will ever be shown again by any sane channel. Dick Tracy comics were hard to come by back then so i was super stoked when the film came out cos there were all kinds of reprints and merchandise which this album sort of is and isn’t part of.  All the tracks are in a retro 30s style withthe exception of “Vogue” which feels a bit like it’s been tacked on the end cosit was the single. I suppose it is about the golden age of Hollywood though but the hi NRG sound is a bit incongruous next to a period piece tune like “More”. The best known tune from this apart from “Vogue” is probably  the “How the fuck did this get on Top of thePops and mainstream radio” classic spanking fetish anthem “Hanky Panky” a few of the tracks on here are pretty much catchy kitschy novelty type tunes, “GoingBananas” being a prime example, but there are also some killer Stephen Sondheim written ballads too. And there’s even a duet with Mandy “You Killed My Father
Prepare To Die” Patinkin. Beatty does some vocals too and he can’t sing for
toffee but it’s only a few lines.  I felt vindicated in my love of this album above some of Madonna’s more established classics when I read that it’s actually a personal favourite of hers. “I love every track on that album” she said in some interview or another that I can’t
find right now.

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Straight Outta Chippenham Extract

This is an extract from my novel Straight Outta Chippenham. This is a fictional work and not an autobiography. All people and places are fictional except for the name of the town. Oh and Schwarz Brothers is a real and very delicious burger bar in Bath.

Crabby always looks like the most stressed man in the world
when he walks in the pub.

He always takes off his hat and shakes his head. As usual
he’s covered in batter stains. If it wasn’t for the logo of the chip shop on
his polo shirt you’d think he was a plasterer, judging by his trousers. The lad
behind the bar tries selling him a pint of Guinness that he poured for someone
about 20 minutes ago that fucked off without drinking it. Obviously he refuses.
Every Saturday he comes over for a pint at half eight while Zack’s shutting the
shop. Then he drives Zack home at nine . That half hour is Mike Crabbe’s
Saturday night out, the poor sod. Like I said, he always looks stressed but
tonight he’s got a look on his face like he’s been given a guided tour of Gary
Glitter’s holiday snaps. I offer him the rest of my bag of crisps. Worcester
Sauce flavour, supposedly. Fuck All flavour is more like it. My fault for
presuming that a bag of crisps is going to be a culinary delight jut because
there’s a black and white photo of a fucking plough on the front of it. Crabby
has them anyway, which is surprising when you remember that he works with
potatoes all day and should be thoroughly sick of the sight of them. As he digs
into the bag of blandness he says:

“I just heard a fucking horrible story, mate.”

“Let’s hear it then,” I say, cos Crabby’s a man of the world
so the story will be properly horrible.

“Right, four lads go to Bath…” he begins, screwing up the
empty bag of crap crisps.

“Is this a sex story?”

“Hmmm. Yeah. But the sex isn’t the horrible bit. Anyway,
four lads…”

“Is this a Helen story?”

“Ha ! Ha! No. These four lads meet up in Bath..”

“Chippenham lads?”

“One from Chippenham, other three are from Bath…”

“So it’s really more like this bloke from Chippenham goes to
Bath and meets three lads.”

“If you like, yeah. Anyway, they meet up by the falafel
place. You know where that is, don’t you?”

“No. Where is it?”

“Surely you must know. By the taxi rank.”

“I don’t know it. Is it relevant to the story?”

“Not really.”

“Can I pretend they met up by Schwarz Brothers? Just so I’ve
got an image in my head.”

“Yeah. Totally. Anyway, they meet these two girls, right?
Local girls. And one of the lads…”

“The Chippenham lad?”

“No. One of the Bath lads. He asks her to suck his cock. And
she just does it. Right there and then, gets his cock out and puts it in her
mouth.”

“In the middle of Schwarz Brothers?”

“Well, no, in the falafel place. But in your mental
scenario, yes. In the middle of Schwarz Brothers she sucks his cock.”

“Right.”

“Anyway. One of the other lads. One of the other Bath lads
asks her mate to strip.”

“Is the guy from Chippenham Barry?”

“No. Not Barry.”

“Cos usually when I hear stories like this, Barrry’s in the thick
of it. Even if he’s just stood watching whatever sordid capers are going on.”

“Agreed, but it’s nothing to do with him. But this girl
strips off…”

“In the middle of Schwarz Brothers?”

“No…Yes, in the middle of Schwarz brothers. It’s honestly
not relevant, mate.”

“Yeah, but I like to have a mental image. Especially if it’s
girls stripping.”

“Anyway. The girl who gave the lad from Bath the blow job.
She says she’s got a flat over by Vicky Park. You know where Vicky Park is,
don’t you?”

“Of course I know where Vicky Park is. Everyone knows where
Vicky Park is.”

“Alright. Alright. It’s just I would have thought that
everyone knew where the falafel place is too.”

“I don’t care for falafel. I went backpacking when I was
about 20 and that was like all there fucking was to eat in Denmark and
Amsterdam and it didn’t soak up the beer very well. People go there for the
draw but they forget how good it is for getting pissed. I met up with this guy
from Portugal there and we..”

“Can I please finish this horrible story?”

“Yeah. Of course. Sorry.”

“They walk over to her flat.”

“By Vicky Park?”

“Yes, by Vicky Park.”

“Is she still naked?”

“Is who still naked?”

“The girl who stripped off. Was she just walking through
Bath in the nuddy or what?”

“I doubt it.”

“How much did she take off to begin with?”

“I don’t know. I just know that she stripped off in the
falafel place.”

“Schwartz Brothers, you mean.”

“Look ,it’s honestly not relevant. I doubt she got totally
naked and I doubt she walked down to Vicky Park naked.”

“It wouldn’t shock me that much to see a woman walking naked
through the streets now. I’d be taken aback I guess, but not shocked like I
would have been say ten years back.”

“I know what you mean. But anyway. They get to the flat.
Now, before they go in the girl whose flat it is tells them that her brother’s
upstairs asleep and that she thinks it’s only fair to warn them that he’s a
bummer.”

“A bummer?”

“A bummer.”

“So is she just being homophobic, or is she warning them
because he just goes round indiscriminately bumming anything in his path, man
woman or animal? Like what you think a bummer is when you’re 11.”

“No, she’s just saying that he’s gay.”

“And she’s warning them because?”

“Well I suppose she’s ignorant enough to think he might bum
them all.”

“On a whim?”

“Yeah. So they go up to the flat and the girls get naked and
everything and start, you know, lezzing up and stuff. Now, one of the lads…”

“Is this the lad from Chippenham?”

“This is the lad from Chippenham. He starts robbing the flat
while they’re busy lezzing up. He takes the playstation and sticks it up his
jumper. He has the girls’ credit cards out of their jeans, and then he goes in
the bedroom to see what he can rip off from in there, and when he walks in
their there’s a huge fucker fast asleep on the bed.”

“The brother?”

“The brother. The bummer himself.  So the Chippenham lad walks over to the
bedside table and there’s a blackberry so he skanks that too and then he goes
back into the living room where he finds one of the girls.”

“The blow job one or the one who stripped?”

“The one whose flat it is.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t establish which one of them it was
that owned the flat either.”

“I don’t know, it honestly doesn’t matter which is which but
one of them is getting fucked by all three of his mates.”

“The Bath lads.”

“The Bath lads are all fucking her.”

“And her mate?”

“Watching telly, apparently. She must have seen her mate
fucking multiple guys a lot, and therefore isn’t bothering to watch. It must
have become tedious to her.”

“That’s pretty fucking bleak. Is that the story then?”

“No, not quite. The Chippenham lad goes back into the
bedroom, if you can believe this, to get the wire for the Blackberry. So he has
to walk past the brother again.”

“And he wakes up?”

“No. He steals the wire and then he fucks off with all the
stuff he’s nicked and gets the train back to Chippenham.”

“What happened then?”

“That’s it. That’s the story, mate.”

“Really?”

“Yep. really.”

“To be honest, mate, I was hoping for a better ending than
that. I thought that the brother was going to wake up…”

“And then bum rape him for robbing him?”

“Well, yeah. I thought it was one of those cautionary bum
rape tales like that one where someone says that their mate’s cousin’s
neighbour went to a sex show in the Dam and they put him in the stocks and then
a woman rubs her tits in his face and asks him to buy her champagne and he
can’t afford it so the MC guy clicks his fingers and this bloke comes out
and…”

“Yeah. Well it’s not one of those”

“Still pretty grimy stuff though. Who told it to you?”

“That new lad that started working for me last week.”

“So he’s the lad from Chippenham?”

“The very same.”

“He’s like 16 years old, though.”

“Tell me about it.”

“And this is supposed to have happened when?”

“Friday night.”

“Bollocks.”

“What do you mean bollocks?”

“He’s talking bollocks is what I mean by bollocks. I put it
to him that none of this ever happened and he’s making an ill-judged attempt to
ingratiate himself in his new job by painting himself as some kind of horrible
sex adventurer.”

“Why do you think it’s bollocks?”

“Cos of the falafel place”

“Why does that make it bollocks?”

“Cos I can’t see any of the participants in this story being
in a shop that sells nutritious vegetarian cuisine. The location has let him
down. Even if it was Schwarz Brothers I wouldn’t believe it. In fact the
setting being Bath, which is full of poshos, is highly dubious too. Tell him to
change it to Swindon and a fried chicken place if he’s going to tell this in
future.”

“I think it’s true, mate. You’ve got a funny view of Bath if
you think that couldn’t happen there.”

“Well, if it’s true then I’m presuming you’re going to give
this little fucker his cards.”

“Sack him? Why?”

“Cos he’s a fucking thief! An unrepentant thief at that. A
thief who likes to tell boastful anecdotes of his disgusting sneak thievery on
his lunch break. He’ll rob you, mate.”

“He won’t rob me. He wouldn’t shit on his own doorstep. If
he was planning to skank me he wouldn’t have told a story like that.”

“Who else was he telling this story to?”

“Zak and Charlene.”

“What was their reaction?”

“They think he’s a cunt.”

“As do I. You are now in the unenviable position of having
an actual factual cunt on your payroll.”

“That is true.”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“I dunno mate. You can’t sack someone for being a cunt.”

“They’d take you to a tribunal.”

Poor old Crabby. He really thinks this little urchin won’t
fuck him over. Mind you, Crabby knows a lot of people, so fucking him over would
be unwise in the extreme if you ask me.

At this point Jason Lamberts, another actual factual cunt,
walks in. Nutbar. I remember once I was in the Fours having a piss right at the
end urinal and Lamberts is at the opposite end. I’m terrified that he’s going
to start on me but then this guy walks in who I’d seen about, but didn’t know
him. Aged about 40-something, probably. Anyway this guy starts pissing in the
urinal right next to Jason Lamberts, which is utter madness. I’m wanting out of
there but I’m having a seemingly endless piss. So I’m looking dead ahead at the
wall essentially being held hostage by my own urethra when I hear Lamberts go:

“Are you looking at my cock, matey?”

Obviously the guy has made the fatal error of looking
downwards and Jason Lamberts is convinced that he’s the subject of an impromptu
penis examination. Before the guy can open his mouth to say that he was doing
nothing of the sort, Lamberts pisses on him. Turns round and aims a jet of
Blu-WKD-infused-urine at the poor sod. Hoses him down like. The bloke sort of
stands there looking at his now-piss-soaked-clothes, and he’s obviously coming
to terms with what has just happened. Then he looks up and his face suddenly
goes properly Phil Mitchell purple and and he grabs Lamberts by the scruff.

Now, the weird thing was that Lamberts suddenly became
enraged. He’s angry because he’s pissed on someone and they’ve violently
objected. That’s the sort of bloke he is, in case you hadn’t already guessed
from the pissing thing. So I zip up and leave shortly before two grown men with
their cocks out come barrelling down the stairs in a sort of embrace of
thuggery. I was like Indiana Jones with a boulder of violence rumbling after
me. The bouncers come over, and of course they’re Jason’s chums, aren’t they,
so they grab the poor pissed-on bloke from behind and let Lamberts pummel him.
That’s what passes for justice on a Saturday night round here.

Anyway the arrival of
Mr Lamberts is our cue to fuck off. We finish our drinks at speed and put our
coats on.

“You want a lift up
the top of town?” says Webby.

“Hmmm. I’m gonna go to the Duke.”

“Why the fuck would you want to go to the Duke?”

“They’ve got that nice cider in there. Cheddar something. I
had some ages ago and never got round to going back in there.”

“That’s cos it’s a shit pub.”

“Nice cider though.”

So I bid Crabby farewell and walk over to The Duke. The whole
town’s dead as usual. The Oak haven’t even bothered opening. It’s a Saturday as
well. This town is truly becoming like a ghost town. Neville Staples came here
to do a gig about 5 years back and I’m betting he hasn’t had such a response to
that song since the Thatcher days. When he was singing Concrete Jungle and it
got to the line “Can’t dress just the way I want, I’m being chased by the
National Front.”

He sees me stood down the front, Mohawk, eyeliner, leopard
print trousers and Teddy Ruxpin T-shirt, and reaches out to shake my hand.
Fucking ace mate. This town has got two hearing aid shops and no record shops.
There are NINE fucking mobile phone shops and six kebab shops. Idiocy.

The Duke  used to be
jam packed on weekends. When I was about 15 it was the pub that all the cool
kids in my year could get served in. In the sixties there was a lot of acid
dealing going on in there, so my Grandad, who was CID at the time, went down
there with his partner disguised as hippies. His partner was the huge mofo. I
forget his name but even as an aged man he was an intimidating presence so fuck
knows what he was like previously.  Any
way this guy’s been told to cut out beer by his doctor and drink wine instead.
So he goes up to the barmaid and orders a pint of wine. Couple hours later the
barmaid sidles up to my Grandad and asks if he’s Old Bill. He asks her what
makes her say that and she takes him upstairs where the big fella’s led on the bed
in one of the guest rooms spark out and saturated with vino vomit.

Of course The Duke is far too dull for any ace capers
nowadays. I walk in and there’s two aggro looking twats in rugby tops playing
pool and a couple of bikery grebo types at the bar. There’s Brian Johnson era
AC/DC blaring out of the speakers. Not “Back In Black”, which is the only good
record he made with them, but one of those shit ones like “Fly On The Wall” or
“Flick of the Switch”. Bon Scott spinning in his drunkards grave. The barmaid
looks at me like I’ve got two heads, of course. You’d think she’d be less
contemptuous given the horrendously bad trade they’ve got. The two grebos are
also looking at me like I’m some sort of cunt. I never know what to make of
that lot. They seem a bit right wing to me.
The Iron Crosses and the Hell’s Angels volunteering to go to Vietnam and
all that caper. I’m probably reading too much into it.

“Yes, please?” says the barmaid and I can’t remember what
the fuck the nice cider was called. So I foolishly say:

“What kind of cider
have you got?”

To which she gives the dread reply:

“Strongbow.”

“Just Strongbow?”

“Just Strongbow.”

“You haven’t still got that nice cider? Cheddar something.”

“Cheddar Valley?”

“Yeah, that was it.”

“No. Just Strongbow.”

Now the grebos are glaring at me, so I do the most stupid
thing in the world and say:

“Ok, pint of Strongbow it is then, please.”

I fucking hate
Strongbow. It’s an affront to cider. I should have just gone somewhere else.
Now I’m stuck with a pint of what tastes like quite literally piss and vinegar.
I don’t fancy leaning on the bar cos of the grebes and I’m not sitting by the
pool table where the rugby shirt twats are playing. That leaves the quiz
machine so that’s another quid spent. Why did I come here? There’s no Family
Guy game on the machine, just the far inferior South Park game. This is like a
horrible parallel universe version of the . The Bizarro world or something. I
drink just under half of the foul chemical pint and fuck off. Never going there
again. Even if they bring back the nice cider. I blame the grebos. I’ll decide
later on what grounds, but I blame themhttp

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The Jack Ketch Society Extract 4

 I found this half finished on my hard drive so I thought I’d try and tie it up and post it. This is from the same proposes novella but from a different point of view. This is supposed to be an extract from the memoirs of a prison guard that have been stopped by the Home Office because of their candid nature. The inspiration for this was the book Her Majestys Pleasure by Robert Douglas. In his book Douglas speaks of his time in the condemned cell watching over Russell Pascoe who was the last man to be executed at Horfield for his part in the murder of a farmer. Douglas wasn’t present at the execution but did spend the night before with Harry Allen the then chief executioner mentiones in earlier extracts. He also claims to have witnessed Allen coming into the condemned cell and shaking Pascoe’s hand as Jimmy Newman is described as doing previously. Douglas’ book is the only source which mentions the hand shake. In this extract it is implied that the main character (who I’d intended to be called Steven Collier for the start but isn’t named in the other extracts) uses the hand shake too at this stage depsite his objections to it earlier on. This pices was written a while after the others and the back story is a bit different. Originally I’d intended for Collier’s father to be a guard and for Albert Pierrepoit to be his mentor but in this piece Collier has taken over form his father. I just couldn’t decide which back story was better to be honest. The procedure described at the end of the piece unbelievably has some basis in fact and a similar thing supposedly happened to Albert Pierrpoint’s father Harry in the 1920s. I’d highly recommend the Robert Douglas book to anyone interested in this subject matter but it a lot of it, particularly Douglas recalling the last night beofre Pascoe’s execution, is bleak reading.

The public executioner and his assistant arrived at 4 o clock the afternoon before. The last execution at Horfield had been three years previously , a year before I started the job, so I’d yet to meet the infamous Steven Collier. Collier was a stocky man in his early 30s, much younger than I’d expected, he was dressed in a black t shirt and jeans with short cropped dark hair. The assistant Lloyd  was an old friend of Collier’s and they had driven up together from the small Wiltshire market town  where Collier ran a pub. They weren’t what I was expecting at all. I always imagined the hangman as being a creepy old man in a suit but Collier and his pal just looked like two ordinary lads. This helped them get through the small but angry crowd of anti capital punishment protestors who’d already gathered outside the prison. They looked more like they’d come to fix the plumbing than to end a man’s life. When they walked into the Officer’s Mess they were warmly greeted by the other lads many of whom knew not only Steven Collier but also his father Jack who had retired in the mid 90s. The executioners didn’t bring much stuff with them. Just their change of clothes for the next morning , wash bags and a wallet of DVDs. The infamous “black box” containing the tools of their trade had been sent from Pentonville the day before along with the main beam for the execution chamber.

      The prisoner they had come for, Shane Clark had been guarded round the clock in the condemned cell over the last six weeks by guards working in shifts. Because these guards would inevitably build a relationship of some kind with the condemned man, the rules dictate that the prisoner must be actually led to his execution by two guards who have had no previous contact with him and tomorrow that meant me and Frank Cooper.  Frank had done this job at the last execution here. He couldn’t remember the name, he said, but it was a guy from Hartcliffe who smashed a man’s head in during a burglary. Frank said that even though it wasn’t very pleasant being in the chamber when it happened, that it had to be better than sitting playing Playstation with a man who was waiting to die .What’s more, he said, it was all done by five past 8 and you get the rest of the day off.

       Shane Clark and his friend Guy Thorne had been sentenced to death for the murder of a postmaster in Devon. In court, neither man had admitted to firing the shot that blew the man’s head off so they were both found guilty of capital murder. During the trial it had emerged that Thorne had been knocking off Clark’s girlfriend and they had to be kept apart in the dock. The two were to be hanged at the same time in different prisons, Thorne at Exeter and Clark was with us. I heard Collier say that another executioner called Jimmy would be taking care of Thorne.  Frank said that Collier had mentioned this Jimmy several times when he’d been at Horfield the last time and that Collier and some of the older guards seemed to view this Jimmy bloke as a bit of a joke. Clark still hadn’t confessed to shooting the postmaster and apparently neither had Thorne. At this point one could still have saved the other’s neck by owning up but such was the bad blood between the two men, this seemed highly unlikely.  Georgie who’d been on condemned cell duty earlier that day had said that all Clark had done for the last six weeks was bang on about what he was going to do to Thorne when he was reprieved.  It was Georgie’s last shift with Clark which was a relief to him as the Governor was now on his way with the chaplain to tell Clark that there would be no reprieve and that this was his last chance to say whether or not he’d pulled the trigger that day. As Collier and his mate looked at the pizza menu they’d been given we could hear the sounds of Shane Clark shouting and trashing the condemned cell. Hearing that rattled me and I began to wonder how the hell I’d cope the following morning if Clark blew his top when we came for him. The executioners scarcely batted an eyelid as they decided on a large Meat Feast. I suppose they must have become immune to hearing things like that by now.

       Frank introduced me to Collier and told him I’d be on the job in the morning.  Collier had the strongest handshake I’ve ever felt and he spoke with a soft yet thick West Country accent. It was an eerie feeling  shaking hands with a man who was rumoured to have executed nearly 100 men. His father’s grand total was said to be at least four times that. Collier asked me if I’d assisted before and I said that I hadn’t.

   “You’ll be alright matey” he smiled reassuringly “I know this Clark bloke’s having a big fucking hissy fit now but he’ll have lost all his fight by the morning and he’ll just want it over with. The quack will give him something to make him sleep tonight and that’ll still be in his system when we take him. All you have to do mate is hold him up. Just put your arm through his arm and walk with him into the chamber and stop when I say. Then when he drops you just put your arm down and let him fall. It’s just in case he faints or something but I doubt that’ll happen. This bloke’s a hard case or at least wants people to think he’s one so he won’t let on if he’s bricking it”

    He may have sounded callous and indifferent but his casualness actually made me feel a lot better. He seemed so in control of things.

    “One thing though mate” he added “Whatever you do, make sure you’re stood on the plank of wood that’s over the trap, and hold onto the rope. Not the rope I’m going to be using but the one with the big monkey fist knot at the end. Cos if you fall down that hole it’s a nasty drop.”

   “Even without a rope round your neck” Lloyd joked

  Collier briefly glared at him but then smiled again

  “It’ll be fine. It’ll be over quick too. Me and this guy are the quickest fuckers on the list” by this he must have meant the Home Office list of “persons qualified to carry out executions”. “I’m talking seconds not minutes. He won’t know what hit him right Lloydy?”

     On paper it looks like Collier was boasting but it came off more like he was trying to put me at ease than impress me.

 “Right let’s go and have a look then” said Collier .We walked with him to the Condemned Cell door. Collier leant down to look through the spy hole and sucked his teeth like a builder looking at someone’s poor quality DIY efforts.

 “There’s nothing of this fucker Lloyd” he whispered to his assistant. “I’ve seen more meat on a bloody supermodel. He’s gonna need  seven foot”

“Do you need to shake hands?” asked Lloyd

“Fuck that” replied Collier. “Did you hear him a minute ago kicking off? He’s too highly strung for that. If he clocks who we are we’ll never get any fucking kip tonight. Seven’ll be plenty. “

“I fucking hate the long drops Steve. I don’t like the noise”

“Everyone hates them. You only hear it for a second though and it’s better to overdo it than underdo it matey. “

  I asked Frank what they were doing

  “They’re looking at him to see how much drop he’ll need. How long the rope has to be. The bigger the bloke the shorter they drop him. If they give him too much it’ll pull his head off. Too little and he strangles. Clark’s a skinny little smackhead so he’ll need to drop a long way. The doctor will give them the exact height and weight but they need to look at his neck too”

 “When’s his visit” Collier asked Frank

“His mum and his girlfriend are coming at 6”

“Okay while he’s doing that me and Lloyd’ll set the drop. He can’t be anywhere near us when we do it though cos I’m going to test the trap door.  It was three years ago since I was here last and I don’t want it sticking tomorrow. If he’s over in the visitors bit he won’t hear”

   At about 7 o clock the pizzas came and Collier and Lloyd changed into t shirts and track bottoms. They spent several minutes arguing about what they wanted to watch on the DVD player. Lloyd was trying to convince Collier to give the new season of Family Guy a go but the senior man was insistent on watching King of the Hill which Lloyd declared to be boring. Collier countered by saying that Family Guy got on his nerves and that he found King of the Hill relaxing. While they argued Frank turned on the rolling news which was all about Clark and Cooper. Kay Burley was outside Exeter prison as a black car entered through the front gates. The crowd were pelting the car with eggs and other projectiles and a young lad with dreadlocks had jumped on the bonnet. Collier and Lloyd were in fits of laughter at this.

   “Old Jimmy never fucking learns does he Steve?”

 “I know! He’s been on the list over thirty five fucking years and he still hasn’t learned to go in the back way the big hairy bell end. He ought to get that car fitted with hippy bars or something to keep them off. “

    “Would you fuck Kay Burley Steve?”

  “She’d love it wouldn’t she? She’s always like a bitch on heat when she’s covering executions on the telly. But no,I wouldn’t fuck her with Jimmy’s cock. Horrible Tory bitch”

“I can’t believe you vote Labour Steve. You’d be out of a  job if they ever got in”

“Would I fuck. They’d never get rid of us. Joe Public would never stand for it. All these wankers outside protesting bang on about the workers and they’ve got no fucking idea what the working classes want.”

“And what do the working classes want Mr fucking Engels?”

“Dead nonces, dead crackheads”

“And your missus of course.  Nation’s sweetheart”

   Collier was married to a well known pop singer and national sex symbol.  The contrast between her sunshiney television demeanour and the callousness of the man sat on the chair opposite me was quite disturbing.

“Busy at the moment Steve?” asked Frank

“Strangeways next week and then that’s it for now.”

“Is that the vigilante?” asked Frank with a chuckle

    He was referring to a case that had been all over the papers for weeks. Four men in Oldham had discovered form a list printed in the News of the World that a convicted paedophile was living on their estate. After a night’s heavy drinking they decided to take the law into their own hands and forced their way into the house named in the list. They dragged the man who lived there out of his home and hung from a lamppost with a tow rope. Arrested for murder, the men were sure that no jury would convict them for lynching a child molester. Unfortunately for them however, the sex offender in question had moved house some months previously and they’d in fact drunkenly executed a former soldier who had been decorated for gallantry in the first Gulf War. Three of the men were sentenced to life imprisonment and the ringleader sentenced to death.

“Yep. Silly fucker” replied Collier

“You’re going to show him how it’s done then Steve?” said Frank

“Matter of professional pride matey” said Lloyd “The prick was trying to do our job for us. Unamused weren’t we Steve?”

“ I just hate those sort of pricks” sneered Collier “Reading the News of the World ought to be a hanging offence in itself”

   I wondered if Collier’s distaste for the paper was anything to do with the shots of his wife getting out of a car at a film premier and showing her underwear a few weeks previously. 

“As Lloyd says it’s also the sheer bare arsed cheek” he continued “I’ve worked my arse off for years learning this craft. It’s a science. It can’t be done with a skinful by some bunch of neckless arseholes who’ve seen Death Wish too many times. I know what all those demonstrators think of me but I’ve never strangled a man to death in my life. What they did to that squaddie is one of the worst ways you could die. I take every possible precaution to make sure no one dies like that cos you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. Even if they’d got the nonce they were going for I’d feel the same way. “

    The door burst open and the governor stood wide eyed in the doorway.

   “I’ve just had the governor of Exeter on the phone” he said breathlessly  “Thorne just confessed to his lawyer that he did the shooting”

   Collier jumped to his feet

 “No disrespect sir but is this a fucking wind up?”

“I’m afraid not Collier. “

“Why? Why now? This isn’t a fucking film. Why would he suddenly say now?”

“I don’t know Collier but you know as well as I do that Clark won’t have to go now”

“So what happens now?” asked Lloyd “I mean we’re here aren’t we. This hasn’t happened to me before”

“Me neither” said Collier “Not this late. Not when I’m already at the nick”

“So what happens now?” said Lloyd “we get paid off yeah?”

“Do we fuck” said Collier grimly “Paid by the neck aren’t we. We don’t get any money if there’s a reprieve you know that Lloyd”

“Yeah but we’ve set the drop” Lloyd protested

“You’ll obviously get your full expenses” said the governor “But I’m afraid we can’t pay you your full fee for executing Clark if he’s been reprieved. I’m very sorry gentleman but as Mr Collier says this is quite unprecedented.”

“So do we just go?” said Lloyd

“Nope” said Collier “First we have to tell him he’s been reprieved”

Lloyd looked utterly incredulous as if Collier had lost his mind

“Us?”

“Yeah. We have to go with the governor. That’s what’s in the Home Office rulebook. “

“I’m afraid Mr Collier is right” said the governor

“Ok” said Collier “Has the quack given him anything yet?”

The governor shook his head

“Then in that case Frank, you and your mate had better come with us in case he kicks off”

“Why would he?” said Frank “We’re telling him that he’s getting reprieved why would he kick off”

“Cos we were going to kill him” said Lloyd

“Shit, Shit Shit!” Collier started muttering to himself

“You’ll be alright Steve” said Frank “There’ll be us four plus the two that are already in there with him”

“It’s not that” said Collier “It’s the thought of Jimmy fucking Newman getting paid and me getting fucked off”

    Eventually Collier composed himself and he and Lloyd changed into their suits.  As we headed towards the condemned cell my stomach was in knots. I was glad the execution wasn’t going ahead but I was still very nervous thinking of what was about to happen. How would Clark react to the shock of the reprieve? Would he guess who Collier was? And if so would he take a swing at the man who had come to the prison with the intention of leaving him dangling from a rope?  When we reached the door of the CC there was a brief hesitation before Collier nodded to the governor who in turn motioned to Frank to open the door. As the door opened, Clark jumped to his feet dropping the Playstation controller to the floor. His eyes were wide with fear at the sight of the governor and two men in suits.

  “Fuck’s going on?” he shouted  “You said it was in the morning! You lying bunch of cunts!”

“Calm down Clark” said the governor softly before repeating himself louder as Clark started ranting and raving

“You’ve been repreieved mate” Collier said . Clark looked puzzled. “It means you’ve been let off. We’re not doing it now. They’ve changed their mind”

“Who the fuck are you?” said Clark pointing at Collier “You’re the fucking hangman aren’t you”

“My name’s Steve. And I prefer executioner but yeah, I was going to do it. Nothing personal mate.”

I thought this condescending attitude would make Clark lose it but he stopped shouting and just began breathing quickly and heavily

“Fetch the doctor” the governor said to Frank

 “Your mate coughed” Collier continued “He said it was him who fired the shot.”

“Thorney?” said Clark disbelievingly

“Yep. The same guy I heard you screaming about how you were going to rip the bollocks off of earlier” smiled Collier “Bet you don’t think he’s such an arsehole now mate? He’s just saved your fucking life”

     Clark collapsed back into his chair “Aww fucking hell” he groaned “Thorney” . As he began to sob bitterly and repeat his friend’s name over and over I was even gladder that he’d been reprieved. If he reacted like this to being let off then I dreaded to think of what it would have been like taking him to the gallows. Then Frank came back with the doctor

  “What the hell are you doing here Collier?” snapped the doctor as he produced and began to fill up a syringe

 “Home office regulations” said Collier as the doctor rolled up Clark’s sleeve “It says in the rules I have to be here. Do you think I wanted to do this? Yeah you probably do you pious…”

“You two can go now. Take the rest of the night off” the governor said to me and Frank. I didn’t need telling twice and we hurried back to the mess.

“So where does Clark go now?” I asked Frank “Back on the wing?”

“The hospital more like” said Frank opening one of the beers. “He’s had a bad shock hasn’t he? Not just all that fucking palaver but spending  weeks in the CC waiting to die. We’ve got wreaths downstairs that his family sent here for fuck’s sake. I’ve never seen anyone come so close. Never. And even when they get let off a couple of weeks before they end up in the looney bin more often than not. It’s the stress I suppose. Mind he’ll have to do at least 15 now. 15 years banged up. I’d sooner be fucking topped son. I really would. “ 

 

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The Jack Ketch Society Extract 3

  This is the last extract from this for a while cos I can’t find any other bits that are anywhere near complete. This one sees the narrator going into a pub other than the one he owns and running into trouble.

 

As soon as I sit on the stool I realise that the worst case scenario has happened already. In fact he’s standing right next to me. It’s the hulking figure of Tommy Garrity . I hanged his brother Danny in ‘99. He I didn’t like doing it. I’ve only done four locals. First one was in 95, I wasn’t that well known then so I didn’t get much grief, that black guy whose name escapes me who kidnapped the guy who owed him money and the guy died, a crackhead homeless guy who stabbed a shopkeeper to death in a farcical armed robbery, the farmer that shot the pikey kid in the back and Danny Garrity for shooting Jamie Miller. A horrible three weeks each time. The Garritty one was particularly bad though cos he was 18 and the papers made a big thing of it. I honestly thought they’d commute him. They often do with young lads with a lot of years ahead of them. I don’t do many teenagers and even when I do it has to be something pretty nasty they’ve done for it to go the distance. I couldn’t go anywhere for those three weeks. I was trapped at home , I had his mother ringing me up, and most worryingly in the context of this exact moment, his brothers were putting it about that they were going to fuck me up big style if I did the job, which of course I did. It would have been Jimmy Newman otherwise and he’d have hurt the boy. Also that prick would have had the money and I hate it when he gets Bristol jobs over me. He was a brave lad in the end was Danny Garritty. Scared shitless of course but that’s what real bravery is I always thought. Mark Hicks wasn’t brave he was just batshit crazy, he’d have to have been to do what he did to that girl. I felt sorry for young Garrity, Jamie Miller was a cunt of the highest calibre from what I heard. Nasty fucking bully. I knew his brother from school and he was a cunt too. The Garrity’s are well dodgy but not bullies. Danny had a bad coke habit and he got in debt to Jamie Miller who being a heartless cunt of the first order started threatening to have Danny’s girlfriend gang raped. From the likes of Miller, that’s no idle threat. So Danny goes to Bristol and buys himself a gun doesn’t he? Breaks into Miller’s flat late at night and puts one in the back of his head while he’s asleep. He claimed self defence which I thought was perfectly reasonable but the jury were having none of it because Miller was asleep and Danny’s defence couldn’t prove the threats so the prosecution said it was just a drug related killing. I felt genuinely sorry for him. I’ve got no time for druggies usually but even less for the cunts who peddle the stuff and at the end of the day Danny was trying to protect his girlfriend who I’ve heard is still catatonic up at Green Lane even now.  Me and Cheryl went on holiday after I’d done the job. To get away from the press not the Garrittys. Cheryl wanted to move away for good but I was having none of it. Anyway I never bumped into any of the family afterwards cos I just keep to my haunts which are right over the other side of town to theirs. Then Joe and Liam Garritty went down for big bird for knocking over a warehouse and that just left their Mum. And Tommy of course, I forgot about him because he was only 14 when it all happened. Then he grew into a big scary man and I just hoped I’d never bump into him. I’m hoping to fuck he doesn’t recognise me. In my mind he’s been looking at a photo of me every day and memorising my features but that’s bollocks because he’d be able to find me in seconds. He’d just have to turn up in the pub. Their Mum’s never come round and given me grief either. I guess they just want o put the whole thing behind them. Either that or they’ve done the correct thing and directed any abuse at the Millers or their own rubbish defence team. He doesn’t know who I am. Everyone knows my name round here but not everyone can out a face to it. There’s no publicity shot of me obviously so the papers always use a really shit paparazzi job they got of me on the way out of Winson Green once wearing a hoody and shades. I’m not allowed to do telly for obvious reasons so there’s no reason for anyone to know what I actually look like as long as I don’t walk around with a noose in my hand.  Unfortunately while I’ve been thinking about whether or not he’s going to recognise me, it suddenly dawns on me that I’ve been staring right at him.

  “Can I help you mate?” he says in a sinister flat monotone. The polite version of “what the fuck are you looking at?” rather than a genuine offer of service.

“Sorry mate I thought you were someone else. I was wrong” I reply with a trembling sphincter.  

“You look like Old Bill mate” he hisses “I can tell Old Bill a mile off mate. I can fucking smell them! You stink of fucking bacon mate”

He’s got the most hate filled eyes I’ve seen in ages. Filled with the insane hatred of law enforcement that’s perfectly understandable in a bloke who’s lost most of his family to British justice.

 The barmaid rushes over. I think I recognise her. She was about three years below me and she had cartoonishly huge tits. I had a go on them once. Everyone used to. What was her name? I can hardly tell her how I remember her.

“Calm down Tommy for fuck’s sake!” she says “You think everyone’s Old Bill. Just go home okay? I’ll see you there later”

 Blimey Garrity’s shagging her! Even those tits haven’t mellowed him out though it seems.

“Bollocks! This cunt’s fucking Old Bill!” he says it like it’s one long word as he grabs my lapels and immediately screams in agony. I’ve had razors sewn into my lapels for years now for instances such as this. Not so much angry relatives but just punchy little twats who want to say they chinned the hangman. Garrity’s cut his fingers badly and he’s on the floor with them stuck in his gob making muffled crying sounds. The barmaid screams. Now’s not the time to tell her I felt her tits at school. She’s shouting about calling an ambulance and Garrity’s shaking his head and making muffled protestations to the contrary. He’s clearly so steeped in suspicion for the authorities that he wouldn’t call the fire brigade if his bollocks were ablaze. Doug the landlord appears now, understandably wanting to see what the fuck’s going on. I know him well from pub watch meetings. He knows exactly what I look like and who I am. Shit. He looks at the whimpering figure of Garritty and then at me and his round face goes purple with rage making him look like one of the Ribena berries from the adverts.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” he barks at me

“I’m having a drink” I reply

“You know Tommy drinks in here! Why the fuck would you come here?”

“I didn’t know he drank here. I wouldn’t have..”

“He cut him” says the barmaid

“He cut himself” I reply

“Call the Old Bill Tracey” says Doug. The girl at school wasn’t called Tracey she was called Mary. I remember now. Mary Melons we called her. This is a different girl with cartoonishly big tits who looks similar to her. Doubly lucky I never said anything then.

“Look Doug” I say “The Old Bill aren’t going to nick me are they”

“No” he sneers “Because you’re their fucking bagman aren’t you? You kill people for them. Like you killed his brother!”

Tracey puts her hands over her mouth and gasps. Of course now Garrity’s on his feet again and lunging at me with his bleeding hands. I feel so sorry for Tommy. None of this is his fault. He’s been dealt a bad hand of Jeremy Beadle proportions. Nevertheless I can’t miss work because I’ve been torn limb from limb by an enraged bereaved hard case so, as much as it pains me to do so, I whip out the pepper spray that my good friend Detective Inspector Biggs procured me and let him have it in the face. This will hurt like fuck as it will not only burn his eyes but his cut fingers too when he instinctively rubs his eyes.

“I didn’t want to do that Tommy!” I shout as he screams like a peeled banshee in a vat of vinegar “I didn’t want to do what I did to Danny either. Really I didn’t. But I had no choice both times! I’m sorry!” and then I bolt it with the barmaid screaming in hysterics as I run out the door. This is what comes of going to other pubs. What happens when you get out of your comfort zone.  No one can get me in my place. Garritty will be after me now and he knows my face. And I’ve got to see Doug at the pub watch meetings haven’t I? I’ll have to send someone else. Cheryl’s going to do her nut There’s blood all over me. Real blood not the usual metaphorical stuff.

 

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The Jack Ketch Society extract 2

 I didn’t start writing “The Jack Ketch Society” in any particular order  so this bit doesn’t follow straight on from the last extract. It’s the narrator recalling his first job as an executioner’s assitant under Jimmy Newman who was mentioned in the previous extract. The narrator is supposed to be from a non existant Witlshire town near to Chippenham hence his venomous comments about Calne. I though that he should have at least a bit of a misanthropic streak to be able to do his job. Judging people on things like regionality helps him dehumanise the condemned men and women and thus stay sane. Although he refers to “Uncle Albert”  the narrator isn’t an actual nephew of  Albert Pierrepoint. The diea was that his father was a prison officer who worked with Pierrpeoint on execution days and became very close to him. I pictured the narrator as a child listening to Pierrepoint’s stories sat on his knee and deciding to follow in his footsteps. Harry Allen  and Jock Stewart referred to here are the last two chief executioners. I have presumed that they woudl have carried on for some time in their job in this reality where they were never made redundant. Also Peter Sutcliffe, The Black Panther and the arsonist Bruce Lee would have certainly been hanged in the 70s if captial punishment still existed. The word “sonner” that Newman uses is an archaic West Country verison of “mate” and rhymes with “gunner”. My Grandad and my Uncle Ken used to say it a lot when I was a kid and I sometimes end up using it myself because I like it’s unique West Countryness.  The title refers to Jack Ketch who was an infamous executioner employed by Charles II and known for his clumsiness and barbarism. The idea was that the hangmen of this reality have their Christmas dinner booked under the name “The Jack Ketch Society” both as a dark joke about the job and as a cover.

 

 

I did my first job at Horfield 1992. I was assistant, Jimmy Newman was number one.  I remember getting the letter, the way my old man was you’d think it was Christmas morning. I can remember the bloke’s name.  Jason Smith. A lot of the names you forget cos you do so many. Uncle Albert used to keep a diary with all the names in and how much he gave them. Mine’s just got the location and dates and what I got paid. Like I said before, I hardly ever get any cases worth remembering. Albert’s diary’s full of German spies and all that. Mine would just be an endless list of druggies and luckless twats. This bloke Smith was about 25. Gets roaring drunk and glasses some bloke in the Jenny Wren in Calne. Gets the guy in the neck and he bleeds to death. Severed his jugular didn’t he the muppet. Now normally you wouldn’t get topped for that but this bloke he glassed was an off duty copper wasn’t he? Cop killers always go the distance. Even that Bentley kiddie that Uncle Albert did in the 50s got topped and he didn’t even do the shooting. So I got the train up to Horfield, I wore that one suit I had back then for weddings and funerals and suchlike. Three button, a bit like a tonic suit. I was worried that turning up dressed like Suggs might be a bit inappropriate until I clapped eyes on Jimmy Newman. He was dressed like a fucking gamekeeper. Tweed jacket and cream coloured trousers. He looked like the sort of bloke who’d knock on your door if you owed the Wurzels money. He had a tie on with the woman out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit on it. I Couldn’t believe it. I thought to myself, this specimen will be the last thing that Jason Smith ever sees. When we come through the door he’s going to be expecting the prison doctor to take off his wig and reveal himself as Jeremy Beadle and the whole thing is a big hilarious joke and he’s not getting topped after all. Maybe it’ll be a good thing , I thought. Maybe give him a bit of false hope. He might think he’ll go through the trap and land on the sofa in the studio next to old withered hand himself. And then the off duty copper who isn’t dead after all will be brought on and Jason Smith will be consumed with incandescent rage but will force himself to laugh along with the audience cos no one wants to be seen as not having a sense of humour do they? But it wasn’t a wind up. This was how Jimmy Newman dressed to break people’s necks for money. I still think there should be some kind of dress code for this job.

  Anyway even though I immediately thought the guy was a cunt of the first order, I was still a true crime geek back then so I was kind of in awe of him a bit cos of the famous cases he’d done. The Black Panther and Bruce Lee, the arsonist not the Enter The Dragon bloke. Really those should have been Harry Allen’s but he was double booked when the Panther got done and Bruce Lee was the same day as Sutcliffe and there was no fucking way that good old Harry was going to pass up that one being born in Yorkshire . After I’d shaken Jimmy’s hairy banana bunch of a hand, he says

“Righto , let’s ‘ave a goosegog at this Smith kiddy then eh?”

  The bloke’s enough of a cartoon character to be on a novelty tie himself, I thought. So we went with the Governor up to the landing to have a look through the spy hole at the accidental cop killer. From drunken thuggery to capital murder. I would have felt a bit sorry for him but I knew right from the start that thinking like that would fuck you up. Jimmy peered through the hole and sucked his teeth like a builder does at your attempts at DIY.  After about two minutes he turns to me and tells me I’d better have a look. It was quite eerie looking through that hole at the bloke whose life we were going to end in the morning. He looked like a native of Calne right enough. Rat faced bloke in a shell suit. Roll up hanging out of his mouth and reading Fiesta. Class act.

 “I reckons six foot two” said Jimmy “But then he’s wiry inne’? Strong. Stuck that pint pot clean through that copper’s throat he did. I need a closer look.”

 What the fuck does he mean “a closer look”? I couldn’t believe what happened next. The Governor opens the door and walks into the cell. Jimmy follows him. I didn’t know what the fuck else to do so I just walked in behind them. Smith puts his noddy mag down and The two screws stand up. Jimmy steps forward and offers his hand and Smith probably confused as fuck just instinctively shakes it. Jimmy goes

“How you doing sonner?”

And Smith just gives him this look that says “how the fuck do you think I’m doing I’ve got about fourteen hours to live you big bearded cunt!”. But he just says

“I’m alright I s’pose. Nice tie matey”

Then the Governor says something about the chaplain coming at 7 to see him and we all walk out and the screws shut the door again.

“Strong handshake” Jimmy says “Very firm grip. Better make it six foot five”

Un fucking believable. Smith must have thought Jimmy was from the home office or something. I mean you wouldn’t expect your executioner to :

a)      Dress like a farmer in a Two Ronnies sketch or..

b)      have the gall to shake your fucking hand the night before

I was gobsmacked. I said to Jimmy about what Uncle Albert told me about judging it form looking through the hole.

“OId Albert had his ways, I gots mine” he snapped in that fucking Wurzel voice “You ain’t working with Uncle Albert youse working with me. Remember that sonner.”

Having been put in my place we went to get our quarters to put our bags down while they took Smith out for exercise so we could go back and set the drop next door to him. Our quarters, was a cell. Not as big a cell as Jason Smith’s. Not as nice either. The condemned cell’s actually pretty fucking sweet compared to all the others in the prison. It’s twice as big, you’ve got on suite toilet and shower so you don’t have to slop out or risk being bummed. You’ve got porn, unlimited baccy, a telly and video or DVD player nowadays. The one at Wandsworth’s even got internet. Everything you could possibly want to take your mind off of the inevitable. Our quarters had a telly, about four bottles of Budweiser and a pizza delivery menu. There was a bunk bed for us to sleep on. I knew right away that Jimmy was the sort of territorial twat to demand top bunk and I shuddered at the thought of him keeping me up all night with whatever horrible nocturnal habits this idiot had.

 Our tame screw for the night asked us what kind of pizza we wanted. Jimmy asked for Farmhouse. Obviously. So we got to work setting the drop and all the chalk and copper wire shit you have to do every time. It’d be tedious in the extreme if the price of fucking it up wasn’t so high. These were the only times I ever saw Jimmy Newman act like a professional. Even a dipshit like him knew what would happen if Jason Smith was accidentally executed by beheading instead of hanging tomorrow. When we’d finished we went back to the cell and were basically locked in for the night.

 As we sat watching Noel’s House Party, I couldn’t help thinking about the handshake. Surely he’d have asked the screws who the bloke with the nice tie was and they’d have had to tell him something. Maybe that’s why I thought it was so out of order, cos it was unfair on the screws who have to make up some story to cover up Newman’s act of blatant tawttery. Whatever they tell him will be exposed as bullshit at nine o clock tomorrow and Smith will go to the grave thinking they’re a pair of lying bastards. The fact that the governor opened the door straight away suggested that Jimmy did this a lot. Probably every time. Was he that shit at judging a man’s strength by looking at him or did he get off on shaking their hand knowing that the next time he touched them he’d be strapping their arms. Maybe it was common practice. Maybe Uncle Albert and Harry and Jock Stewart and all the others did it too and I’d been bullshitted to my whole childhood. It was starting to mess with my head and Jimmy’s running commentary during the Generation Game of what he’d like to do to Rosemary “What’s On The Board” Ford wasn’t helping me keep my pizza down. He wouldn’t talk about any of his cases. When I mentioned Bruce Lee he just moaned that he was conned out of doing Sutcliffe and that there was a conspiracy in favour of Northerners in this game and blah blah fucking blah. Twat.

  I barely slept that night. Smith probably had more sleep than me. If it wasn’t nerves keeping me awake it was Jimmy Newman’s porcine snoring and ferocious wind breaking. Every time I was starting to drop off he’d let off a fart that sounded like the beginning of “Night Boat to Cairo” and wake me up, meaning I spent most of the night laying wide awake, thinking, in a cloud of horrible Farmhouse pizza guff gas. Thank fuck I had my walkman. Guns & Roses “Appetite for Destruction”. You might think that would be a weird choice to make you sleep but loud music has always relaxed me. As I was listening to Paradise City and the line

  “Strapped in the chair of the city’s gas chamber, Why I’m here I can’t quite remember..”

  It made me think of how much hassle those American gas chambers must be to operate. Once you’ve filled them up with gas you have to drain them apparently and get blokes in gas masks to clean it. What a pain in the arse that must be. Uncle Albert always used to watch executions if he got the chance when he was abroad on holiday and he told me he went to California with Auntie Annie and while she was looking at the Golden Gate bridge he managed to blag his way into San Quentin to see some bloke get the gas. He just phoned up apparently told them who he was and they gave him a pass or whatever. He reckoned it took the bloke about twenty five minutes to die. He was disgusted. He saw an electric chair job another time he said but he wouldn’t talk about it.

 In about 95, me and Cheryl went to Orlando and I saw in the paper some bloke was getting the chair so I did the same as Uncle Albert. Blagged my way in and gave Cheryl some cash to go shopping at the mall with. The screws were all really nice, treated me like visiting royalty, but Jesus Christ, the actual execution. Horrible. There were sparks coming out of the poor fucker’s head. It’s meant to be death by electrocution but he clearly burned to death. The smell was appalling. Nearly on a par with Jimmy Newman’s pizza farts. I mean people shit themselves when they hang but it doesn’t cook. Any assistants who moan about the clean up after a job in Britain ought to be made to clean up after an electric chair job. I’d sooner be sat in the fucking thing. It took a lot of Disney World rides to put me right after seeing that I can tell you.

 So anyway. Me and Jimmy get up at 7 the next morning. I had a wash and a shave and a bacon sandwich. Jimmy of course didn’t bother washing he just put the telly on and banged on about what he’d do to Lorraine Kelly. We went and checked everything in the chamber, reset the drop and closed the trap and then we went back to our cell and waited. My job that day was a piece of piss really. All I had to do was strap Smith’s legs together and get the fuck off the trap before beard face pushed the lever.  Technically I’d have to be ready to take over if Jimmy dropped dead or something and there’s also the matter of what if Smith blows his top, which he’s clearly no stranger to having glassed a copper to death in anger. In training they told us about these what if? scenarios. The main thing is that whatever happens, the bloke has to go down the hole no matter what. If he passes out in the CC, then you’re supposed to strap him to the nearest chair and carry him. Would Smith conk out before we got him to the drop? He’s obviously big and brave with a skinful of whatever panther’s piss they drink in Calne, but what about stone cold sober? I mean they give them a drink first, big glass of brandy. But the tame screw was telling us that Smith did fifteen fucking pints that night so maybe a large brandy won’t have any effect on the sod.

 Soon enough we’re stood on the landing, me, Jimmy, the Governor, the doctor, the Under Sherriff and a couple of other suits. There’s coconut matting on the floor so Smith won’t hear us coming. We rely on shock and surprise in this game. The more banjaxed the condemned man is the easier it is for everyone. If everything goes according to plan, the fucker won’t know what’s hit him. He’ll be sat on a cloud thinking to himself “what the fuck happened there?” I can see that Jimmy’s chewing gum of some kind. Not unusual really. Uncle Albert said that his Uncle Harry always used to suck a Werthers Original or some other kind of old school sweetie when he was waiting for the signal. About one minute later, this big fuck off blue bubble suddenly appears out of Jimmy’s face, expands to about the size of a watermelon, and then bursts. Some of it gets stuck in his bumpkin beard. What next from this utter tool? I’m amazed he doesn’t have a squirty flower in his buttonhole. They must be used to his bullshit at this nick cos no one’s batting an eyelid.

 Then the Governor nods and the screw unlocks the door. Showtime at last. We walk in and Smith is already standing. Jimmy walks up to him and you can see his face lighten up for a second. Obviously being from Calne he hadn’t worked out who the mysterious handshaker from the night before was, even with a whole night to dwell on it. Then he sees the straps in Jimmy’s apeman hands and his face changes. He’s about to open his mouth when Jimmy says:

“Turn round and put your hands behind your back”

  The screws are guiding him but he’s turning round by himself. He’s breathing heavy and clearly bricking it but he’s not going to give us any bother. As Jimmy spins him back round, Smith says

 “I didn’t know he were Old Bill. Honest. I were fucking rat arsed. I didn’t fucking know!”

  I don’t know why he’s saying this. As if we’re all going to go “Oh fair enough he didn’t know it was a copper when he glassed him to death. We’d better let him go then hadn’t we”. Fucking Calne-ites. Jimmy doesn’t answer he just says

 “Follow me sonner. Don’t say anything else, just follow me. Ok?”

Smith nods shaking like a fucking leaf and the two screws push back the wardrobe. Now this is the clever bit. Smith must have seen at least one old movie with a hanging in it and he seems like the sort of bloke who believes everything he sees in third rate movies. Therefore, he’ll believe that he’s about to be taken outside for a long walk to some kind of shed where he’s going to be stood on the scaffold and asked if he’s got any last words and all that bollocks that they do in third rate movies. The reality though, is that he’s spent three weeks next door to where he’s getting topped. In between ogling the Fiesta Readers Wives and moaning to the screws about how he didn’t know the bloke was Old Bill, he’s bound to have wondered what the fuck the wardrobe is for. He’s only got a prison uniform and the clothes he’s going to be topped in and the screws aren’t trying on a dazzling array of outfits, so he must wonder what the point is of having it there. Well the point is that it’s covering the door that leads to the chamber. Smith is going for a walk but only a very short one. He’s been living next to the drop shop for the last three weeks. That’s the element of shock that helps us.

  The floor of the chamber at Horfield was and still is nicely varnished and shiny. Why I have no idea. It’s not like the condemned man is going to write a letter of complaint to the prison board about the shabby appearance of the execution chamber. There’s a cross on the wall the condemned man faces too, as if anyone gives a fuck about any of that shit nowadays.  The screws lead Smith onto the trap and Jimmy stops him on the chalk mark. This is my cue. As Jimmy’s getting the cap out of his pocket I get down and strap Smith’s quivering shell suited legs tightly together at the knees. This is firstly so he can’t use them to stop himself going down the hole and secondly if he shits himself, we don’t have to clean it up. Harry Allen once said to me thank Christ women started wearing trousers. When they all wore skirts it was well complicated apparently. Rubber knickers and all that. Anyway as soon as I’ve got him strapped I’m off the trap and stood with my arms by my side to let Jimmy know I’ve finished. Then Jimmy pulls out the cotter pin and pushes the lever.

  The big varnished doors fall down and make a very loud crashing sound indeed which covers up whatever noise it makes when he drops. I had to look when he went down. I didn’t have to but if I was going to progress in this game I had to get used to it. Also I’d played my part in this so  I should see what I’ve assisted in. It wasn’t pretty. How could it be he’s falling down a hole and being stopped six feet five inches down by a metal washer behind his ear. It knocks them out cold, it must do, but they’re not dead straight away. So the Doc goes down the steps into the pit and listens to his heart. The doctors really don’t like any of this. You can tell by their shitty attitude towards us. Pompous fuckers. We don’t sentence them to death, we don’t knock back the appeals there’s no reason to get shitty with us. Once the doctor’s confirmed he’s croaked you’d think that would be the job over, but you’d be wrong. It’s only half time. Now we have to wait an hour, just in case he rises from the dead like fucking Lazarus I suppose, and get him taken down off the rope and on the stretcher for coroner, who has the extremely difficult and perplexing task of working out how he’s died. Could it be hanging perhaps?

  Anyway while we’re waiting we go and have a chat with the Governor. He asks after my old man and then asks if I’ve seen Uncle Albert lately. I say no, but I hear he’s not a well man at all. The Governor says that even though he never saw Albert at work he saw him at prison service Xmas dos and stuff when he was a screw. Everyone loves Uncle Albert. Everyone except Jimmy though, I get the impression. Although he’s clearly been told that me and the Master are close so he’s keeping his sub normal mouth shut on the subject but when Albert’s name is mentioned he’s got a face like a smacked arse. Why I don’t know, Albert quit in 1955 and Jimmy only got on the list in 68. I think he’s just threatened by everyone else who’s ever been on the list. Nowadays I don’t see much of Jimmy, thank fuck. He’s still number one for every job in the South West which is annoying because I’m pretty much unofficially the overall number one now and all the work right on my doorstep  goes to that oaf. Mind you he’ll get unlucky one day. He’ll make some almighty fuck up that the screws can’t cover up out of sentimentality. No matter how horrible the crime perpetrated by one of Jimmy Newman’s customers, I always feel a bit sorry for them.

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