Friday, 21 December 2012

FLASH FICTION, GUEST AUTHOR: Fairytale of New Holland - by Loz Harvey

‘It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank...’
The jukebox could hardly be heard over the murk in the Magna Charta pub. Another Christmas Eve dodging drunks on the dockside, all full of hooch and ammunition and a year’s worth of pent-up pot-luck. The factory had closed at lunchtime and the team had spilled up the streets into the pub.
Now, glancing out on the debris of a late night badly in need of a refit, Jaynie wondered which of the wannabe Shane MacGowans she’d be fighting off later. None of them knew the words, but they’d got the impression down-pat, she thought. Cocksure, toothless, swaying their way towards closing time with a soundtrack of Slade and The Rubettes.
Every Christmas had been the same for as long as Jaynie could remember. Since the ferry stopped. It was the 80s, but could have been last week. “I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true,” he’d said on the pier, off to art college.
She had been 14 then, waving on the shoreline as the ferry made its last voyage to the city of vinegar and chips, now just a dim collection of lights best viewed half-cut at the edge of the timber yard. She waited a while for him to return, but the land crossing was inconvenient, he’d said, and involved three changes. He still loved her, but it was the train company’s fault. Thatcher’s fault. So she was stuck at the Magna Charta with the lads who couldn’t afford to be anywhere else. They were neither handsome, nor pretty. She could be the queen of New York City, or Sheba, or New Holland as much as they cared. As long as she pulled the pints and made sandwiches for the pool team.
The singing reached an inebriated crescendo. Men were bellowing Kirsty Macoll’s part as if being an old slut on junk had never been so alluring. Scumbags, maggots and cheap lousy faggots hugged each other in the stale lounge bar.
“I could have been someone,” Jaynie thought, “And not just anyone,” as one of the fabricators made an ill-calculated move and knocked himself out on the slops tray.
Teeth dislodged, he hauled himself up by the rope of the last orders bell, while singing Galway Bay. He grinned and said something unintelligible. Jaynie took a second look and released it was him. Older, bleaker, drunker, merrier. But him.
And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.



‘Fairytale of New Holland’ was first published in Article Magazine in December 2008 and featured in the 2010 Fathom Press Anthology. Loz Harvey lives in Sheffield and writes the blog Articulated: Laurie.

Friday, 7 December 2012

FLASH FICTION: With An Unbeliever On A December Afternoon

I wrote this for the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death. It was originally published in Article Magazine in December 2007. Seems a long time ago.

He said his name was Strummer.

I asked, what was he doing on top of a multi-storey car park in Scunthorpe? He shrugged, asked if I had a cigarette. Leaning into the lit match, he swayed forward and held my arm to steady himself. ‘You can smell the fish and chip shop from up here.’

‘Really?’ I said.

‘No, you can.’ He steered me to face the wind and told me to wait. ‘Only if it blows in the right direction.’ For a moment, I swear there was the faintest whiff of vinegar on the raw breeze, then it was gone in a gust of steelworks sulphur. ‘Did you get it?’ He said. ‘Love that smell – saveloy and chips.’ He flicked the fag end away and the wind took it in a shower of embers. ‘Gotta love a saveloy, man.’ He punched me on the arm and laughed.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘gotta love a saveloy’.

He eyed my carrier bag. I offered it and he helped himself to the pasty I’d bought for later. He took a beer from the bag. ‘You don’t mind…?’ He wiped his fingers on the arse of his Levis, opened the can as he walked to the edge and looked over. ‘It’s a long drop.’

‘I know,’ I said.

In the years since that bitter day in December 2002 - a day like this one with its emptiness and dread, I’d had questions. About the things he’d said, the gritty, important things, the politics, the honesty, integrity; had he meant it or cared in the way I did when he’d said it? He’d sent me down a path and as it was going so wrong, I wanted to know.

He looked out across the rooftops. ‘Listen son, don’t tell anyone about me being up here.’

I said I’d keep shtum.

He came back to the bag, swapped his empty tinny for a full one. I took one for myself. We dinked cans and wished each other all the best. I looked at my watch. I was late.

Did he want a lift anywhere? He said not.

My car wasn’t parked where I thought so I made another circuit under the CCTV’s eye. As I came back to where we’d parted, the door to the stairwell slammed shut, rousting pigeons. Sometimes, especially on days like these, you just have to keep faith.

(c) Nick Triplow 2007

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Part Four: Beat Surrender

My 'retained' ticket - note crap seat
It’s a cold December night thirty years ago. The tube to Wembley Park is packed. A load of mods and a fair few bemused and slightly edgy looking commuters. Especially when a ‘We are the mods’ chant goes up. Works its way down the carriage. There’s a bunch of us tonight, met up at Charing Cross.
Let’s get this straight, I’m more than pissed off. Since the news broke at the end of October and I bought my ticket – that oh so precious ticket – tonight’s left me with mixed feelings. I had a couple of large ones in the Maxwell before catching the train. So The Jam are splitting up. That’s it, end of. Weller released a cobbled together statement, a ‘personal goodbye’. It hardly seems enough to cover what this feels like. It’s been personal. A code to live by, a band taking your life and putting it into words and music.
Tonight feels like I’m about to lose something important, and somehow there’s a sense of knowing I won’t get it back.
At the end of this year the Jam will officially be splitting up, as I feel we have achieved all we can together as a group. I mean this both musically and commercially. I want all we achieved to count for something and most of all I’d hate for us to end up old and embarrassing like so many other groups do. The longer a group continues, the more frightening the thought of it ever ending becomes – that’s why so many of them carry on until they become meaningless. I’ve never wanted the Jam to get to this stage.
What we (and you) have built up has meant something, for me it stands for honesty, passion and energy and youth. I want it to stay that way and maybe exist as a guideline for new young groups coming up to improve and expand on. This would make it even more worthwhile.
I have written this as a direct contact with you and so you hear it from us first. But also to say thank you for all the faith you have shown in us and the building of such a strong force and feeling that all three of us have felt and been touched by.
Here’s to the future,
In love and friendship.
Paul Weller (Oct. 1982)
NME - November 1982
I can’t honestly say I remember much about the gig. There are snapshots: Stuart Adamson’s Big Country supporting: The Jam coming on: Strange Town: trying to get closer to the front: falling out with and losing my girlfriend and mates in the crowd somewhere: the end: walking back to the tube, cold, empty: eventually making my own way home.
A few days later some of my mates went down to Brighton for the last gig. I thought about it, but had some bridges to build and I didn't fancy going through the whole thing again. Turned out to be a smart move.
Thirty years on. Well, for the record I sorted it out with my girlfriend – a Beatles-themed ‘We Can Work it Out’ sorry I was an idiot card a few days later. But I was right about one thing, something did go when The Jam split up. I suppose I grew up a bit. There were no more dashes down to Our Price or Smiths or The Spinning Disc for the new single or the new album. No more obsessively collecting magazines and bootlegs. Top of the Pops became marginally less exciting. A lot more geezers in make-up and Dorothy Perkins blouses.
But the truth is, I’ve never stopped listening to The Jam - I'm listening now as I write this. I read that statement again and realise Weller was never more on the money than when he made that decision. I want all we’ve achieved to count for something. It did. It does. All the more so for never giving into reunions and million quid comebacks. Sometimes you need to know when to walk away and with all the Abbey Road specials, BBC4 Weller nights, re-issues and Gift retrospectives, there’s a few perfect moments –  memories that hold tight to that sense of honesty and integrity that The Jam seemed to stand for. I took what I could, then moved on.

Days of speed and slow time Mondays -
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday -
Watching the news and not eating your tea -
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls -

that's entertainment.