Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ratco's Goes Punk

Phil Garvey's Aunty Maureen said there was a Saturday job if he wanted it. At Ratco's, where his cousin Lisa had been working since she'd left school at 16 a year before.

‘This Saturday?’ said Phil. ‘I’ll be there, Aunty.’

Ratco’s was where Phil’s mum went when she just wanted the odd thing she’d forgotten. A tin of pease pudding for Phil’s dad, something like that. His mum normally went to Nicebury’s, a further ten minutes’ walk away. It was better stocked than Ratco’s and the meat wasn’t as rank.


Phil turned up at Ratco’s at 8.25 on the dot. Lisa was outside already, smoking a cigarette.

‘Here he is, my little cousin,’ she said, through a cloud of smoke.

‘I can’t wait to get my hands on those tins of pilchards,’ said Phil.

‘Sarcy,’ said Lisa. 'Ratco’s stock only the best pilchards. Pusscatlyck. They’re bloody gorgeous, Phil.'

Lisa smacked her lips against her fingertips.

‘Well I can’t wait to get my hands on ‘em. Stack ‘em. Price ‘em up.’

Phil wasn’t looking forward to the day. He’d never worked before and he never wanted to work in his life. Yes, he wanted to meet girls but he’d seen Lisa’s friends from Ratco’s and they weren’t his type. They were boring and normal, not intelligent. Phil prided himself on his intelligence. He wanted a girl he could listen to his music with, a prog rocker, not a soppy girl who was into sentimental pop songs. Phil was serious about his music and if a girl couldn’t appreciate Steve Milton’s fretwork she wasn’t the girl for Phil.


‘Who the fuck is that?’ thought Phil. The girl was a punk. She had pink, spiky hair.

‘Watch out, Phil!’

Lisa’s warning was too late. The girl had spat a greenie into his hair. His freshly washed long hair.

‘What the fuck?’ said Phil, pulling at the grollie. ‘What the fuck did you do that for?’

The girl who had come out of nowhere gave Phil a withering look.

‘I’m a punk. And you’re a boring old fart,’ she said. ‘A dinosaur. Part of the bloated establishment.’

‘You spat in my hair!’ said Phil.

‘Clever clogs,’ said the girl-punk.

‘This is Belinda,’ said Lisa. ‘She’s new at Ratco’s. Started on Wednesday.’

‘But she’s a punk. Punks are outside of society. Punk bands can’t play their instruments,’ said Phil.

‘I’m still ‘ere, you know,’ said Belinda, lighting a cigarette. ‘Who’s she? The cat’s mother?’

Phil wiped the mucus onto his handkerchief. It made him retch.

‘Ratco’s wouldn’t let you serve the public. Would they?’ said Phil.

‘Ratco’s are very forward-thinking and with-it,’ said Lisa. ‘It’s their new employment policy.’

‘That’s bollocks,’ said Phil. ‘Lord Reece wouldn’t allow it. He’s an old Tory.’

Lord Reece was the chairman of Ratco's. The firm had been founded by his grandfather.

‘But Lord Reece’s son is in a punk band. You’ve heard of The Knob Cheesers?’ said Lisa.

‘The band that got banned on the radio?’ said Phil.

‘They said the ‘c’ word on the Bill Munday Show,’ said Lisa.

‘Drunk old pervert,’ said Belinda. ‘I bet he wanks off to pictures of punk girls on the King’s Road.’

Two weeks previously The KCs, or Knob Cheesers as they were known by the kids who read the music papers, appeared on the Bill Munday Show along with a few of their girl-punk fans. Munday was obviously drunk and up for an argument. The Knob Cheesers’ guitarist was one Mickey Mucky, a skinny working-class urchin with a penchant for speed and fast chord changes. Phil had seen them on a late-night programme called In The Ear presented by ex-hippy now punk fan, Nigel Goodman. Phil thought they were a noise who had first picked up their instruments only recently.

‘Lord Reece’s son can’t be in The Knob Cheesers,’ said Phil. ‘He’s an accomplished session guitarist. He played on Brian Winsome’s Last of the New Borders.’

‘All I know is what we’ve been told by management,’ said Lisa. ‘Ratco’s has gone punk, a new punk ethos, they said. And it’s all down to Mickey Mucky being Lord Reece’s favourite son.’

‘I can’t believe Simon Reece is Mickey Mucky,’ said Phil.

‘He saw the light,’ said Belinda.


The store manager arrived and opened up. He was a 52 year old balding depressed-looking man by the name of Peter Durnley.

‘Hello, girls,' he said, then opened the door and went straight to his office.

‘Am I invisible?’ said Phil to the two others.

‘He’s been very within himself recently,’ said Lisa. ‘He's losing interest. He’s pissed off about the direction Ratco’s is going in. This punk thing is too much for him. Come on. I’ll introduce you.’

Lisa knocked on Peter’s door.

‘Come in!’ said Peter.

Phil followed Lisa in. Peter held his head in his hands, looking down at a ledger half the size of his desk. Behind him was a certificate awarded to Peter as Ratco’s Store Manager of the Year, 1972.

‘This is my cousin, Phil,’ said Lisa.

Peter looked up, looking at Phil with defeated eyes.

‘You’ll have to get your hair cut,’ he said. ‘The new punk ethos ‘n’ all.’

‘Lisa hasn’t cut her hair,’ said Phil.

‘I wear one of these,’ said Lisa, and produced a multi-coloured mohican wig from her bag.

‘Oh, no,’ said Phil. ‘You’re not getting me wearing one of them.’

‘What if I were to say to you your manager wears one,’ said Peter. He produced a mohican wig of his own from his desk drawer.

Peter put the wig on his head. Lisa put hers on her head. Phil was the odd one out in a room of fake punks.

‘What Lord Reece says goes,’ said Peter. ‘You may not like it, I may not like it, but when he gets a bee in his bonnet, it don’t go away.’

‘And then there’s the uniform,’ said Lisa.

‘Not bondage gear?’ said Phil.

‘Lab coats,’ said Peter. He went to a cabinet and took out a coat for Phil. It was a long lab coat, dyed orange with a silver anarchy symbol in the middle of the back.

‘Lord Reece’s design,’ said Peter.

Ratco’s logo was silver on an orange background. It was designed by Lord Reece’s father when the company was re-invented in 1927. Bold colours for a bold, forward-thinking company. Ready for the space age. Phil thought it looked cheap and tacky and these anarchy coats looked like an experiment gone wrong. Why associate a successful retail business with a worldview that there should be no political structure in society? How could Ratco's exist in a world without rules? Lord Reece’s father was eccentric but lucky with his logo. He'd tripled turnover in the year after introducing it. But the current Lord Reece had lost all business sense, surely?

‘What do the customers think?’ said Phil. His mother hadn’t been to Ratco’s for a couple of weeks so wouldn’t have known about the changes.

‘What do you think?’ said Peter. ‘They hate it. They’re nervous of the outfits and the hair. You can see the fear in the eyes of some of these little old ladies. All they read about in the papers is how the youth of today have lost all respect for their elders. And they come in here and instead of getting service with a smile they’re getting bad attitude. Staff spitting in their blue rinses. It doesn’t make my job easy. I’m used to running a tight ship with staff who would bend over backwards for the customers. You know that saying ‘The customer is always right’? Lord Reece has us thinking the customer is a 'boring old fart'. A 'dinosaur'. There is 'no future'. What kind of a message are we sending out? How do we expect to hold onto our customers? We used to be a respected part of the community, somewhere where local people could buy cheap products and not feel guilty for their lack of status. Now we treat people like scum.’

‘Wow,’ thought Phil. This was the manager talking, the man who was supposed to instil a sense of discipline into his staff. What had he walked into? Surely Lisa would have told his Aunty Maureen what was going on. But she never mentioned the punk thing to his mother at all.

‘It’s time I opened up,’ said Peter. ‘Uniforms on, everyone.’

Peter walked out of his office and headed for the front door. Phil and Lisa put on their lab coats and mohicans.

‘I suppose we’re lucky really,’ said Lisa.

‘Lucky?’ said Phil.

‘Lord Reece is anti-drugs. Just imagine if we had to take something, too. Though it might make the day go quicker.’

‘Christ, what have I let myself in for?’ thought Phil.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Crown Jools


Jools Holland is the new face of The Brennan JB7, the "revolutionary CD player with a hard disk that stores up to 5,000 CDs" or "computer" as the technology-minded amongst us might say.

The advert in today's Guardian is as much a promotion for the talents of Mr Holland as it is for this revolutionary piece of kit.

"Jools Holland is a pianist, bandleader, composer, singer, television host, founder of Squeeze and the multi-million selling Rhythm and Blues Orchestra," we are informed.

As the advert is aimed at old people like me who don't understand that you can load your CDs onto your PC or Mac, I am grateful to now be aware of Mr Holland's talents so that I can now go out and buy all the CDs he has played on, sung on and composed for, load them onto my new Brennan JB7 and then throw them away.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Take All That (2)

SHARON: I don’t know what this world’s coming to. That furniture shop in Croydon. Those poor people. How are they going to rebuild their lives? That’s their livelihood gone up in flames. And the flames! The firemen didn’t have a chance of putting it out. Carly’s man’s a fireman. Gorgeous brown eyes. Lucky he don’t work in Croydon. Wouldn’t have wanted to be Carly watching that on telly, worried about her man.

DANNY: What Crouchy did was amazing. That’s how to act when you’re a star. I couldn’t believe it when he went for that haircut. Only a small shop ‘n’ all. Bet he had to crouch down to get in it, heh, heh. Then I bet the barber had to lower the chair, Crouchy being so tall. That’s what’s called giving something back to the community. I don’t know where he’s from, Crouchy, but he’s earned himself a place in the heart of every decent person in this country by his magnificent gesture. Imagine someone that big in the world going into a riot area and saying ‘I am one of you’! I’d like to think I’d do the same if ever I was to reach that height of fame. Give something back to the community. Say ‘I am still part of you, I will always be that little boy that grew up in a working class area amongst people that are the salt of the earth.’ They still are, most of ‘em. It’s only a minority who cause trouble. It’s the gangs ‘n’ that, gang culture. These young’uns aren’t like the gangs we used to have, your Krays and your Richardsons. Now they were real community-minded people, looked after their own, loved their mums. How can you love your mum if you go stealing from your own manor? Some of the mums were shopping their own kids, knowing they’d got to learn what’s right from what’s wrong. And then there’s that poor mum who’s getting kicked out of her home because of the actions of her stupid son. Where is the thought there? What was that idiot thinking? Didn’t he realise what he could be jeopardising? Bloody madness. It’s the lack of a father figure, that’s what it is. You ask any single mother what they really need and it’s a strong man in their life. Someone the boy knows to look up to. If I was a dad I’d be there for my family. Ok, I may actually be a dad, probable since I’ve knocked off more birds than Russell Brand. But if I decided to have kids, that’d be it for me. That would be a binding contract for life between me, the kids and the kids’ mother. I’m sorry but that’s the way I see it, black and white.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dave's Wake-Up Call

Cameron this morning:-

"Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse(1) that has taken place in parts of our country(2) these past few generations(3)?

Irresponsibility, selfishness, behaving as if your choices have no consequences, children without fathers, schools without discipline, reward without effort, crime without punishment, rights without responsibilities, communities without control.(4)"

1. Sorry, Dave. Can't visualise a moral collapse. Unless it's like this.

2. Oh, the poorer areas. I see.

3. The Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron years?

4. These are just in "parts of our country"? Or everywhere? Are you saying we get away with too much? We have money and things we don't deserve? We couldn't give a shit about anybody else? We're looking after number one? We dismiss the idea of society? How on earth could this have happened, Dave? Please, can you explain how?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Take All That (1)

DANNY: I’m Robbie Williams. I’m not really Robbie Williams. I just sound like him. I know I don’t sound like him when I talk but when I sing you can’t tell the difference. I’m in a Take That tribute band. We’re called Take All That. Brian, he’s Gary Barlow. Darren, he’s Orange. Lee, he’s Little Mark. And Ian, he’s the other one. I’ve been a big Robbie Williams man on the circuit for a few years now. I’ve done loads of work in the area being Robbie Williams. I was very popular at karaokes. They came to see me, the four lads, one night down at the King’s Head. I was really getting into being Robbie, and it was Brian, come up to me, and said ‘Here, we’ve got a Take That tribute act, and now Robbie Williams has rejoined Take That, we think you’ll be ideal fronting us with all your songs.’ I was a bit suspicious at first. But the lads invited me along to a rehearsal a couple of days later at the local church hall. I must say I was very impressed by the set-up. They were very professional. Being no spring chickens themselves they weren’t throwing themselves around onstage like the early Take That but were more sophisticated and mature and I knew straight away I was going to fit in with them. It didn’t harm things that we’re all good-looking chaps, if I say so myself.

SHARON: I love Take That. I didn’t get to see them at Wembley but seeing Take All That was the next best thing. Lee is beautiful, same shape as Little Mark, but with lovely twinkling blue eyes. I wouldn’t say ‘no’ though I usually go for taller men. I haven’t had a boyfriend under 6 foot except when I was 15 and going out with Gary the footballer who had a trial for Charlton. But Lee, I’d make an exception for Lee. He looks at you as if you’re the only woman in the room, his eyes burn right through you. Look, he signed this picture of his eyes. Aren’t they gorgeous?

DEAN: I saw Take All That in some cunting corporate do organised by the pricks at work. It was horrendous. I mean, you couldn’t pay me to even go and see the original Take That as they are shit, obviously. Hormonal women’s music. But this, this was an abomination. A total and utter z-list load of bollocks. I spent the whole night at the bar, drink after drink, drowning my sorrows, watching all those women waving their fucking arms, singing along with those talentless bellends.

DANNY: We got on like a house on fire and I was soon gigging with them, driving the women wild. I tell you what, being on board with these lads has certainly perked up the old pecker. I used to get lucky about once a month as solo Robbie but it’s every night with these boys. It’s funny how Brian gets the best-looking birds as Gary’s the least sexually attractive member of Take That. But Brian’s got a lovely voice and he’s not as boss-eyed as Gary. But he can do the eyes if requested. It’s a gift he’s got.

SHARON: I had my feet done today at the precinct. We’ve thought about it for some time, Carly and me. We’d just had a coffee at Starbuck’s and thought sod it, why not? You only live once. So we got up there on those seats and plonked our feet into the tanks. God, those little fish were onto us quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. It’s, I dunno, it’s not ticklish like you’d think it would be. They don’t make you laugh. But it is pleasant being nibbled. One of the little buggers was going at it hammer and tongs as though he hadn’t eaten in a week. That was a bit disturbing as I’m sure I saw a glint in his eye. I could imagine him turning into a piranha and actually start eating the flesh. I must admit I did start to panic for a while but Carly saw the change in me and held my hand and calmed me down. Carly knows how to calm me down when I’m having one of my turns.

DEAN: Those little shits should be strung up. And their parents, some of those kids were almost children. It’s the something for nothing generation. Think they can have everything given to them on a plate. When we were young we made do. My parents and grandparents were poor but you never saw them rioting. If my dad, when he was young, had done anything against the law, my grandad would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. You just didn’t. You don’t piss on your own doorstep. You don’t piss on anybody’s doorstep but if you have to piss on a doorstep you don’t piss on your own doorstep. They’re different nowadays. Living on hand-outs, hard-working people paying so they can laze around all day then have the effrontery to nick tellies and trainers us hard-working people work bloody hard to buy. If you want nice things you should earn the money to pay for them and you can only earn the money to pay for them by getting a job. Why don’t they get off their lazy backsides and get a job? It makes me sick that our brave boys are out there in Afghanistan getting blown up while these scumbags take our taxes and slouch around all day then play the big hard man by burning down a pub or a furniture shop. If you think you’re so hard, why don’t you take your hard attitude to Afghanistan and fight the Taliban like real men do. That’s a real man. They should have set the water cannons on them. Set the water cannons on them then thrown the book at them then locked them up and thrown away the key.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Aimless (3)

We found our dream house. A three bedroom semi. Large garden for me to run around in. 1966, a year of affordable housing for an ordinary single-income working family.

I started school again. Even though it was a small school I was uncomfortable being with all those children. But the teachers were nice.

The alphabet was drilled into us. The times table was, too. We started to read about those lovely children, Peter and Jane. Peter and Jane loved each other like only brothers and sisters can. I wonder where they are now? Do they still keep in touch?

The Peter and Jane books were published by Ladybird. A different Ladybird made children's clothes. That really fucked my mind, man.

I was co-erced into playing with the girl next door as my mum and hers watched on.

Eventually I made some real friends. Or, rather, they made friends with me. The twins were nine months younger than me and in the class below. They were cousins of my second cousins so I guess that's how we ended up together. I was a spoilt only-child and had modern toys which they liked to play with, boisterously.

I was already a West Ham fan as West Ham had won the World Cup for England. Bobby Moore was my favourite player as he was blond, handsome and he was the world's best player. My choice of football team wasn't based on geography or tradition. My dad had been a Charlton supporter, the nearest club to Bexley. I was a glory hunter, just like those Surrey Reds. All I could see in front of my eyes was a future of trophies and winning heroes, crying with joy. A lifetime of success.

In my second year of school, my mum fell pregnant. School had already obliterated our previous suffocatingly comfortable relationship and here was someone else to make us that little bit more independent of each other. My sister arrived in November 1968 and from reports of the time you'd think I was absolutely besotted with the girl. Of course I loved her straight away but I didn't have then nor have I since had a paternal bone in my body. She was my sister, not my daughter, right? It didn't mean I would love other babies or ache for Tiny Tears dolls to bounce on my knee. It just wasn't in me. Yes, I might have looked like a natural father at six years old but that was just me being a natural older brother.

Though I had the twins outside of school, breaking my toys, in school I made friends one at a time, just as my dad had. There was a boy with the surname King. My dad said I should never trust anyone with the surname King. Were these my dad's republican tendencies coming to the fore? He was right, though, the King boy was not to be trusted. But not because he was called King, Dad.

Thankfully I was never bullied by any of the boys. No, not me. I was bullied by one of the girls! She gave me a Chinese burn! I told my mum, showed her my wrist and one afternoon by the school gates my mum got hold of her and shook the living daylights out of her. She wouldn't touch me again.

Apart from that incident I didn't have any dealings with the girls. I didn't play kiss chase like some of those young studs.

In the year of the clackers we crowded into the shelter out of the rain at playtime and made a cacophonous noise. Knuckles were hurt and eyes were dislodged. I was very nervous of clackers as anybody in their right mind would be. But I didn't want to show it. I closed my eyes and clacked for England. Then England banned clackers and parents and kids like me breathed a sigh of relief.

More hand pain came with the conker season. Clackers were out but conkers remained as part of the playtime curriculum. I went to the park with the twins and we'd throw branches up at the massive horse chestnut trees, bringing down conkers in their thousands. Conkers were either put in the freezer section of the fridge along with the ice pops or pickled in large jars alongside the onions. You had to prepare your conker for battle or you'd be at a disadvantage.

My literary life was gathering pace, too. I soon grew out of Peter and Jane and moved onto comics. None of those namby pamby children's books for me. I read Whizzer & Chips from cover to cover but never considered myself a Whizz-kid or a Chip-ite. I was my own man.

I read other comics, too. But never the super-hero type or that prat Roy of the Rovers. Mine were more down-to-earth, prototype Viz comics. My favourite character was a boy who played football in his unwashed bare feet. You'd see the skinny white urchin in the bath, his feet on the rim, nice and dirty.

We listened to Peter and the Wolf at school which was meant to scare us and Sparky's Magic Piano which actually did. We went on visits to the Commonwealth Institute to see how the rest of our monarch's people lived and we went to the swimming baths once a week. I was scared of the water but luckily I had verrucas which kept me out of it. I watched from the gallery. On every coach trip we took I seem to remember eating my mum's cheese and piccalilli sandwiches. The sickliness of coach travel and piccalilli complemented each other perfectly.

We rehearsed for the school concert. The word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was painted onto sheets of paper and hung up round the school hall. I didn't want to play the recorder. I fancied the Indian bells which I was given to tinkle every now and then. Why on earth would I not want to play the recorder? The recorder kick-started many a musical career. Satchmo himself started with this fine instrument before moving onto the trumpet.

In my last year of primary school I was given the responsibility of captaining the school football team, presumably to make me a bit more assertive, a leader of men. I never really enjoyed playing in organised matches the way I did in kickabouts. Kickabouts were more random, you got more involved, exciting things happened like running girls being felled by wayward shots. Silly girls shouldn't have been running, should have kept to their skipping.

In one match the cleverest boy in the school ran after a ball and ran straight into the air-raid shelter's iron bar. God knows why the air-raid shelter was still there, somthing to do with the cold war, maybe. So the boy's head was split open and there was blood everywhere. It didn't seem to do him any harm though, quite the opposite as he seemed to become super-intelligent after this incident.

I had no interest in playing games other than football. What's The Time, Mr Wolf? was fucking stupid. Kiss Chase was for the girls.

I remember just one fight from my primary school. And the fight was over music. Kid A thought Gary Glitter was the greatest artist who ever existed. Kid B thought that that accolade went to Marc Bolan. I was not fussed at the time and I'm not fussed now. There's room for all tastes in music listeners' worlds.

The build-up was more exciting than the fight itself. The argument and the anticipation had been ongoing for some time, at least a week, and a time and a place were agreed. The time: dinner time. The place: the playground. Children crowded around the two protagonists and a high-pitched chant chilled the air.

"Bundle! Bundle!"

The fighters went for each other.

Of course it was over in seconds as a playground attendant or "dinner lady" as we used to call any woman other than the teachers broke it up with little fuss. There was no blood, no black eyes. It was not conclusive who was the greater artist. Bolan went to his grave not knowing.

Friday, August 05, 2011

15 Movie Questions

Taking the baton from Tim, Annie and Rol, here are my choices. Feel free to do your own!

1. Movie you love with a passion.

Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train.

2. Movie you vow to never watch.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or any of that new American indie bollocks.

3. Movie that literally left you speechless.

The Vanishing (1988). Speechless and breathless.

4. Movie you always recommend.

Atlantic City.

5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.

Bette Davis.

6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.

Audrey Hepburn.

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.

Groucho Marx, though I'd be shit scared.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

Irene Jacob.

9. Dream cast.

The Once Upon a Time in America cast.

10. Favorite actor pairing.

Was going to say Michael Redgrave and dummy in Dead of Night but one of them isn't made of flesh and blood. So, Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon in Atlantic City.

11. Favorite movie setting.

12. Favorite decade for movies.


13. Chick flick or action movie?

A specific action movie: Clouzot's The Wages of Fear.

14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?


15. Black and white or color?

Colour. Especially the brilliant colours of the Powell/Pressburger films in the 40s.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Non-Stop Noel

Non-Stop Noel (mp3)

"What's this shit?" said Maud to Kate,
"Deal or No Deal. See that state?"
"Fucking hell, how old is she?"
"Younger than both you and me."
"Greed for money puts on years."
"Look at those two sad old dears."
"Can't they put on BBC?"
"They'd have to pay the license fee."
"So all we get is non-stop Noel?"
"It's not like being on the dole,
They can watch all kinds of shite,
They've all got fucking satellites."
"You're telling me that this is it,
Noel Edmonds, Smarmy Git?"
"He may look like a fucking gnome,
But he owns this fucking shitting home."