It was around an hour after school and I was fucking my girlfriend up against the back of the bedroom door to stop any of my siblings from bursting in, The Stranglers ‘No More Heroes’ Lp was just finishing on the turn table…and so was I.
Someone started banging on the front door, a few seconds later my Mother’s screaming up the stairs
“Paul…Cricket Bat’s here…and he’s got a big bag with him, it better not be stolen goods…do you hear me Cricket Bat, if I find out you’ve brought hot shit here I smack you ‘round the cowing head, I’ve got enough to worry about with this pair of Bastards …Paul…Cricket Bat’s here, mun!”
“Alright, alright, I’m coming, for fuck sake!”
My girlfriend burst out laughing just as I whipped it out in time, the first splash hit her on the back of the head as she bent down to pull her jeans up, she lashed her arm out and I lost my balance and fell over backwards with my kegs around me ankles, getting a nasty carpet burn on my elbow in the process.
“You Bastard, you got it in my fucking hair again, never mind, it’s only a bit…I still can’t believe you shouted to your Mother that you was coming just as you were actually coming!”
“Oh fuck, I did, didn’t I…I didn’t mean it like that, I just meant I was on my way…shit!”
On her way out she sent Cricket Bat up, I stuck on ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’ by the Sex Pistols
while I waited for him to climb the stairs.
Cricket Bat was alright, we’d been good friends for a few years, we both moved to The Melyn area of Neath and had to fight our way into acceptance at first, we’d stuck by each other ever since, I don’t need to tell you why he was called ‘Cricket Bat’ just take it from me, he’s pretty handy with one and not in a sporting way.
He came bouncing in seconds later, threw a black ash bag half full of something in the middle of the room and squealed excitedly,
“Have a fucking butchers in there then, boy!”
So I did, whilst he pulled some Tipp-ex thinners from his pocket and started sniffing some off his sleeve, he offered me some, I turned it down again, explaining that I was 14 years old now, all grown up and I’d stopped all that sniffing shit, besides the migraines were becoming unbearable, I now only took adult stuff like cider, amphetamines, LSD and cannabis.
An old sniffing friend (and I have a few of them!) is a bit like an over protective mother, you try to leave the nest and cut the apron strings but they’re not going to let you go without a fight.
“Jesus Christ, it’s full of fireworks! I exclaimed pulled my head from the open bag.
“Where’d you rob these from…they’re all in locked cases in the shops?”
“I didn’t, bought the lot, receipts in the bag in case the Old Bill stop us. I did a pub till, side door was open, no one at the bar, I was in and out like mercury down a plug hole!”
“Later, I’ll tell you all about it later, come on let’s get moving!”
I put on my 14 hole-er Martens, threw my Cockney Rejects t-shirt in the corner (It had spunk all over it) and put on my burgundy Fred Perry, Crombie coat and Kiss Me Quick trilby left over from Neath Fair, grabbed our terrorist ash bag and we were off down the stairs and out of there.
We walked up to the end of the street and under the flyover bridge, then jumped over the fence and onto the railway tracks, stopping at one of the old wooden carriages so I could grab the glass flagon of Strongbow I had hidden, then made our way over to ‘The Old House’
The Old House, was a derelict building at the edge of an industrial estate and hidden in the armpit of the bypass and railway, we’d adopted it as our gang house, as we approached we started humming and clicking our fingers to The Addams Family theme tune, it was either that or face a barrage of bottles and bricks.
We hit the top floor and there sat against the far wall were, Slave (Sniffing a bag of glue) Blim (Toking on a spliff) and Colgate (Drinking a bottle of Diamond White)
Cricket Bat emptied the bag onto the floorboards and everyone jumped up excited, Blim started telling everyone again, about the time a couple of years ago when me and him had got hold of a couple of boxes of bottle rockets and took them up into town and fired them through an hoover pipe, we both took it in turns holding, right up at the big clock by Victoria Gardens and the Old Bill had chased us right back down and into The Melyn, were we disappeared into the back lanes and got away.
Slave grabbed a box of ‘Bangers’ took one out, lit it and just stared at it…BANG! it exploded in his hand.
“You daft fucker…I’ve heard they can take fingers off, don’t do that again, you muppet, it’s that fucking glue, stop it already!” yelled Blim.
“Let’s share them out then?” suggested Colgate with a big, wicked smile.
“You can all Fuck Right Off!” explained Cricket Bat.
“I’m keeping them all on me and I’ll dish ‘em out when and where!”
He took off his shoplifting coat (a snorkel coat, 1st and 2nd formers wear, with two pockets at the bottom and two breast pockets, he’d ripped out both breast pockets so that anything he put into them fell down into the lining and you could basically fill the whole coat up if the gear weren’t too lumpy!)
We all started emptying the packets and boxes and handing them to him, he filled up the coat, there were loads of them, five family boxes and other packets, when it was done Slave took the rubbish outside and burnt it, he liked fire.
It was Bonfire Night, and that’s normally Mayhem down The Melyn, last year someone blew up an ambulance ten streets away, they’d stopped collecting stuff for bonfires a couple of years ago after the 8 year old kid died, basically every few streets used to have one on whatever bit of waste ground they could find but rival streets would come and steal armchairs and shit from each others, one street decided to put a Sentry inside theirs and he fell asleep, a rival street came around and set fire to it three days before Bonfire Night with him inside it.
Now they had a firework display down by the canal, put on by the Christians, it was now almost dark already (Being November in the UK) and so we headed off down there, across through the industrial estate and out the other side.
There were loads of people standing about but most were in family groups, Slave and Blim were absolutely gutted, all the girls from school were standing with their Mothers, what a fucking shame.
The firework action was a bit shit too, a few patches of single fireworks going off, all lit by a single Christian male in each section, we walked over and stood by a new one starting, a Christian guy in his earlier thirties with glasses, looking like his Mother still dressed him in the morning.
He’d stuck a firework in the ground and looked up and saw us and said
“Right, everyone step backwards and keep going until I say so, we want to keep you all safe and sound!”
There was only us and about five younger kids watching and we all started stepping backwards, then we stopped and he urged us further back, so we took a couple more steps, then he pointed to Colgate and said,
“You, a little more to the left, that’s it!”
We all stopped, there was something not quite right with this, when I say ‘All’ I mean all of us except for Colgate…a second or two later and we heard a yelp… we all spun around and he’d disappeared.
All we could see were a pair of hands and Dr Martens sticking out of a road drain, the Christian had lit the firework and walked off into the crowd chuckling, ‘Ooh, that’s very Good Samaritan of you’ I thought with a laugh.
Colgate was actually stuck, trapped…his face was by his knees and his arse was dangling in mid air underneath him, he’s smashed his mouth with his knees and was bleeding quite profusely, if this had happened when he was by himself, he’d have been well and truly fucked, he’d have never got out of it, we had a job pulling him out and there were four of us, he was wedged in tight.
As soon as we got him out he wanted to go batter the Christian guy and we had a bit of bother talking him out of it, you can’t get arrested for kicking the shit out of a Church member, selflessly giving his free time to put on a firework display for the underprivileged children,
they would bring back hanging.
We were about to let off some of our own (Well, Cricket Bat’s to be exact!) when the Old Bill showed up, not for anything in particular just checking everything was alright and that there weren’t any trouble makers present, Blim assured them that none had been sighted so far but we would keep an eye out for them.
It was getting boring now, so we decided to stroll back into the streets of The Melyn and get some more cider and cigarettes from Blakey’s Corner Shop, when we got up on top of the metal footbridge Cricket Bat started pulling fireworks from his coat and handing them out to us all.
Slave let another Banger go off in his hand again, so we all tried it, it was stupid and dangerous but give teenage boys dangerous shit to play with and play with it they will, next came bigger fireworks, things were getting stupid now, someone was going to get hurt.
It happened as we were passing the gates to the last factory, a street away from Colgate’s house, we spotted my girlfriend and her sister walking towards us and Cricket Bat had a thing for her sister, so he started showing off.
He ran towards them laughing, holding a Roman Candle in each hand, shooting red, then blue, then green lights into the sky above their heads, unfortunately a spark hit the fuse of a bottle rocket sticking out of his breast pocket and when that took off the trail of sparks it left behind ignited the rest inside his coat lining.
He literally levitated about 3ft in the air and blew up, he flew horizontal to the floor, immediately jumped back up and then did a somersault, there were all sorts of different coloured flames and smoke coming off him.
We all just stood there in shock, not knowing quite what to do…until he HOWLED like a werewolf (Jesus Christ, I hope I never hear anything like that again!) it snapped us out of it, me Blim and Slave circled him and tried to rip the coat off him, which was much harder than you can imagine, especially because there were still explosions happening within it.
I yelled to Colgate to run to his house and get some water, as he fucked off running, the Security Guard from the factory gate came out just as we got the coat off, he took one look at Cricket Bat then went back in to call an ambulance.
We knelt around Cricket Bat, who was layed out on the pavement, the smell was unbelievable (Jesus Christ, I hope I never smell anything like that again!) and a few minutes later Colgate returned carrying (and I shit you not!) a teacup of water in his outstretched hand, shock is a strange thing, dulls the senses.
Slave leapt up and went nuts and they both started fighting, the ambulance turned up really quickly and the Security Guard talked to them, while we watched confused and concerned from the side-lines.
It was in the local newspaper the next week, how a Security Guard had saved his life, by ripping the coat off him, oh well, let him have it, there was no glory in any of this as far as we were concerned.
Cricket Bat was in the Burns Unit at Chepstow Hospital, for six months (I was to get day leave from Portland Borstal 3 years later to visit someone else there but that’s another story!)
when he came back he was never the same, it diluted his spirit some how?
He wouldn’t show anyone, but he did show me one day, we were in a gang graffiti subway and he lifted his shirt, about a year had passed now and it looked awful, still sore and painful, all different shades and colours of pinks and purples and no bellybutton or nipples anymore.
His family up and moved sticks a few months later, up Cardiff or Newport way, we never saw him again but I heard he came back while we were all in prison a few years later and he had joined the Army, good old Cricket Bat, I bet he ended up a fucking Hero.