Home Contact Us Archive
Part 2 - Windy Hill to Bold St
By Phil Thornton
He walks. He walks at speed. He walks with purpose because he has purpose. He walks with deliberate steps, with urgency, with intensity because he’s got a lot on his mind today. He has a lot on his mind most days. Windmill Hill is no place for his urgency and intensity and purpose. The trees only disguise the empty, hollow houses and the empty, hollow people he lives with; his ma, his step-dad, his kid sister, his step-brother, his step-sister. It’s a full-house, a house full of nothingness, of noisey nothingness, of shouted demands and lazy threats, of idle idiot rambling and the stink of greasy dinners and teas.
It drives him up the wall. He has to get out. He has to walk, to fill in that time before another cardboard box or plastic carton meal and that has been much harder since he was expelled. Now he has to sit in his dad’s and look after his two dogs; Pepper, a staff and Sally, a weird fusion of labrador and greyhound. He has to get there before ten o’clock before his dad goes to work or what he calls work, helping his mate scour old salvage yards for his second hand shop. His dad’s alright really, in his own way, doesn’t like to get involved, just likes to get on with own thing, his own limited pleasures, tells him he’s daft to give up school at fifteen but that’s as far as the paternal advice goes. He knows he’s clever, too clever for Windy Hill, too clever for his family and his mates, too clever for all of em but that’s what got him into this shit in the first place.
He’s got that fatal combination; brains AND braun. His mates got him to do mad stuff, he was a big lad, almost six feet and weighed fourteen stone. Biggest lad in their year, cock of the year but although he was bright, he let himself get involved in stupid pranks; played up to Boylo and that lot, always took the rap for them and they’d always let him. His ma didn’t give a shit, she was glad he got expelled so she didn’t have to cough up for a uniform or do all that parental bullshit, parent’s evening and all that. He was useful at home, looking after the two little uns, running messages for her, back and to the shops, that disgusting kernel of the community under the subway; the shop, the chippy.
Boylo had got him to twat that fellar there who wouldn’t buy em a few cans. He punched the fellar and the shopkeeper grassed him up to the bizzies and he got done for it, a suspended sentence and a fine. Boylo said he’d have to twat the shopkeeper for grassing him up now but he didn’t and Boylo called him a Paki Cunt and said he’d burn his shop down and the fellar moved out and another paki fellar took it over and Boylo sent him in to rob some vodka and he got caught and he pushed the fellar over to get out but it was caught on CCTV and he got done again and he did six months in Thorn Cross and that’s when he knew.
He walks out of the door, down the path where his kid sister’s tricycle blocks the gate and kicks it out of the way and he walks down the road with its half-arsed hedges and its low rise slums and under the bridge and onto the canal path. He could get the bus but that costs money and no-one believes he’s half-price and anyway he’d be there in fifteen minutes and then he’d have even more time to waste watching shite DVDs or his dad’s porn stash. He’s up at six every morning as it is, he can’t sleep, he gets anxious, has panic attacks now and then. He smokes green to calm himself down when this happens, drinks too. Smokes too much he realises. Drinks too much too. He’s fifteen going on fifty. His dad says this to him.
‘You’re fifteen going on fifty lad, get out and enjoy yerself.’
But he can’t enjoy himself. Who can he enjoy himself with? Boylo and the Windy Hill crew? All they ever did was hang around the shops, smoking weed, dropping tablets, snorting shite, bashed to fuck beak and bullying lads from other estates; Castlefields, Murdishaw. He felt like Windy Hill was the arse-end of the world; a featureless nowhereland where forgotten families were left to rot away behind woods and hedgerows and canals, behind the camouflage of concern. He walks past the yellow brick homes with their charming street names; down Westwood, past Eastwood, past Stonelea, past Bridgeway West and Lockgate West past Canal Reach and onto the canal itself. Sometimes he sits here and lights his first of the day but today he has no time for that because today it changes.
When he was little his dad took him fishing. They’d walk from their house and follow the path up towards Norton where all the new posh houses were, where he and his mates went on regular robbing sprees and they’d camp out some nights, do a full days fishing and pitch up a little tent by the fence and eat beans and sausage out of little tin pans cooked on his dad’s little gas cooker and he felt happy then. He was too young to realise that this place was no glorious rural idyll, the way they’d advertised it to his nan and granddad back in the seventies. He wondered why they ever left Liverpool the way they went on; Scotty Road this and Gerrard Gardens that and Greaty Market and the docker’s umbrella and Billy and Wally’s Hold Yer Plums on City and the Echo every night and Everton this and Liverpool that and scousers are this and scousers are that and woolybacks are this and woolybacks are that and there they were holed up in some crumbling, jerry built flat on Castlefields with that horrible fucking power station in Widnes facing them and deep down they know they made the wrong decision, that this wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be.
His dad was only six when they moved, he was by any standard a wool. No matter how many Everton tattoos he got, no matter how many ‘You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul’ stickers he put on the back windscreen of his battered Audi. No matter how much he mocked the locals in the Royal and the Quayside. Windy Hill lar! Closer to fucking Warrington than Liverpool, the back end of fucking beyond. This was where he was destined to spend the rest of his days. This was the place he’d dumped his kids. Well, today he would make his stand. Today he would change his destiny. He lights a weed, inhales deeply and digs his black Stan Smiths into the thin, frozen soil. It looks lovely when it’s frozen round here, you could almost forget that it’s a plantation, a plantation of transplanted people, people with no roots, no past, no future, no history, no traditions, no fucking ‘perspective.’ He had ‘perspective,’ he saw the big picture, he put two and two together, he fitted all those jigsaw pieces together and he made the decision to destroy one way of life, one way of living and replace it with another.
Maps! He’d always been fascinated by maps. Looked through his grandad’s old atlas, the one he kept in the small bookcase next to the gas fire. America was his specialist subject. He didn’t know why. Films, telly; everyone seemed happier in America even if really they were just as fucked off with the world as everyone else. He could name every state, identify them on maps; even the really little ones like Vermont. He could name them in alphabetical order :
He sometimes drew his own maps, imaginary places, islands, cities, countrys, continents, places he could escape to. Only Mr Jones had ever encouraged him. Jonesy gave him self-belief and confidence. None of the other teachers even pretended to educate him but seemed glad enough to get to the end of a lesson without any major incidents. He was no good at sums, no good at reading but he had imagination and Jonesy would spend time with him, pull him to one side and look as if he was giving him a bollocking but then put him onto stuff on the internet; books, exhibitions, paintings, all that caper. He liked nature too, he could name all the different trees in the woods by their estate and along the canal path. He’d draw trees, leaves, flowers, not that he showed them to anyone. He showed his maps and his sketches to Jonesy and he told him he had talent and needed to express it, to ignore the skits of Boylo and those wasters and do something for himself. But that was before he got stuck down, before he got expelled. Jonesy had actually called round to their house, tried to speak on his behalf with the headmaster but his ma wasn’t interested, she didn’t want to fight his corner, couldn’t be fucking arsed.
He’d started an art course, his probation worker had talked to him about it, only a few hours a week, something for him to concentrate on, focus on, something that’d get him out of his rut. He’d put a portfolio together; some of his nature stuff, some portraits of rappers, Eminem, 50 Cent, Xhibit, some weirdo stuff, fantasy pictures he’d copied from comics. A few maps he’d invented or copied the old maps of the worlds with massive mis-shapen Africas and missing Americas.
He had a plan, as soon as he passed sixteen next week, he was offski, getting out of this shithole once and for all. He’d met a lad inside, Colly, a little car thief from Orford in Warrington whose dad lived down south, Brighton or somewhere like that and he’d moved down to live with him when he got out, three weeks before him. He’d been in touch with him on Facebook, Collo told him he could share a bedroom with him at his dad’s if he wanted. All he needed was his bus fare down or try to hitch it and he could fix him up with some work, only helping his dad out doing building work but it’d be enough to tide em over. He’d spend the summer down there, maybe get a bird, start college, do an art A level or something. It had to be better than this. Anything was better than this.
He walked under the bridge and along the path towards Castlefields, past the new flats they’d built right next to the canal, the wooden facades almost giving a continental appearance to the area. He fancied one of these himself, imagined himself with a little lad, a son, called Jay, and his bird, a hairdresser or something, pretty but not sluttish, someone like Jenny McConville who he had a thing for but who’d been going with that cunt Kingy since year eight. He imagined slashing KIngy, disfiguring the pretty boy bastard for life so that none of the birds fancied him. All these birds, the birds he fancied at any rate went for cunts like Kingy; footballers, stupid fucking Beckham haircuts, whereas he got mocked as a big fucking stupid monster; Boylo used to walk behind him doing that half brained, mongy Frankenstein walk and the girls would laugh. He hated Boylo. Before he jibbed it to Brighton he’d do that cunt good and proper. Stamp on his stupid fucking head, break his stupid fucking legs, slash the cunt from ear to ear, stab the cunt a thousand times, chop the cunt up and put him in bin bags and throw them in the cut or bury em in Haddock’s Wood.
He stops by the Barge. He stops and breathes the cold air in and feels good for a few seconds, forgets that Saturday a month or so ago when he came down from his bedroom at his dad’s place to get a drink of lemo and caught some fat bitch sucking him off in the front room, the way his dad smiled at him as he embarrassingly backed out of the door and mumbled a pathetic ‘sorry’, the way the girl in her pink thong didn’t even stop gobbling him and when he came down the next morning found four lines racked out on the coffee table and a bluey flicking away on the telly. He’d snorted the beak and got off back to his mas and his dad had driven up there, grabbed him out of his pit and twatted him infront of his ma and his step-dad and all the kids. When they asked him what it was all about his dad just said ‘he’d robbed something off him’ and they accepted it, accepted his punishment, as he did. He didn’t fight back, even though he reckons he could take his dad. Yeah, Vinnie Mallon had a big reputation but he’d never actually seen him in action, never seen him actually fight someone worth fighting. Slapping his kids about or bullying little pricks in the alehouse, yeah he’d seen him do that and he looked a mean cunt, looked like he could handle himself, even though his weightlifting physique had turned to flab now he was in his mid-forties. When Brian, his step-dad had fronted him after he’d come round shouting the odds one day, he shit out, drove off in his poxy auction Beamer and then phoned Brian with threats of what he going to do to him. And Brian weighed about nine stone, stood about five foot six. But his dad knew Brian was a game lad, would’ve took a lot to put down and keep down. Yeah, Vinnie Mallon, hard man!
That was the turning point. That was when he knew he had to get away. Get away soon. His dad had tried to make it up to him. Took him out for a bevvy in the Barley Mow, one of those mad wool pubs that he now drank in. He even apologised in a roundabout way, boasted to Davey and Lee that ‘he’d had to give him a slap for snorting all his beak’ and Davey and Lee ruffled his hair and called him a proper chip off the block and he went along with this pretence all afternoon, as they bevvied and snorted and nipped back and to to the bookies and tried to chat up two girls who were only a little older than himself. He realised this was his future, a succession of cheap thrills, benefits and beer, beak and blowjobs in the bog of the Barley Mow. He’d read a story in the local paper that some kid had come out of jail and gone into the Barley. He’d met some old mate in there and bought him a bevy but the lad was skint and instead of getting him a bevy back, offered him a glug of his methadone instead. This lad had been on the gear but hadn’t used since being inside and his tolerance levels were shot. He collapsed a few hours later and died. The lad who’d given him the meth had denied even being in the Barley when the bizzies collared him but other regulars had spotted him and his girlfriend in there earlier and remembered them because his bird was trying to flog knocked off bacon.
His dad mocked this kid’s death, said they all deserved shooting, ‘fucking smackheads’, as he snorted yet another line of beak, not even hiding his addiction now. Not that he’d ever admit it was an ‘addiction’ never mind class himself as a ‘druggy.’ He knew where his dad’s stash was hidden, a proper eight ball bag hidden in one of his trainers in the back of his wardrobe. He’d found it trying one of them on, but they were too small. If they couldn’t see the hypocrisy, the pathetic disgrace of lives lived like this, then he could. Well, he’d be half way to fucking Brighton before he knew it was missing. Not that he wanted to make money that way but what else could he do? It was easy money, the only currency they had. He could bash it again, even though it was pure shite anyway, him and Collo could knock it out down in Brighton. Up here you had to watch your step, down there he reckoned it’d be a piece of piss.
He passes the Barge, the alehouse where he had his first proper bevvy, at his nan’s 70th birthday party three years ago. His dad had bought a pint of lager for him and his mate, Ando and they’d supped it and both felt pissed and started titting about, singing Everton songs, upsetting some of the reds, so that his granddad had to come over and tell them off….
‘Oh we don’t care what the red shite say
What the fuck do they know?
And if you know your history……..’
If you know your history! If you know your history…..it’s enough to make your heart go…….ooooohhhhhhhhhhhh! He didn’t know his history, he didn’t have a history, not a history to make his heart go oooooohhhhhhhhhhh at any rate. History ends here. The past. Now, it was all about looking forward, the future, piling that shite up and burying it. He walks on, walks a little faster now, good thoughts replacing bad ones for a while, good ideas, good feelings, good fantasies of a life that will improve, that must improve. He lights another bifter. He breathes in deeply and exhales loudly. He looks at the trees, the willows, the sliver birch, the elms, he hears the rumble of traffic now as the expressway joins alongside, by Astmoor, where his step-dad works, in some plastic moulding factory, where he said he could get him a warehouse job in the summer if he kept his nose clean. Like that was a big deal, a fucking warehouse job for minimum wage in a plastic mouldings factory with a bunch of fucking nobheads. He feigned interest, knew that he was atleast trying to look out for him, give him a break but all the same…..fuck that!
He has to cross here, over the old bridge, a small humpback bridge, he doesn’t know its name, didn’t even know bridges had names. Apart from the Runcorn bridge, everyone knew that. The path leads past the houses of the Sea Lane estate, where his aunty Jill lived, it was one of those estates that was considered posh when he was a kid, no council or LHT houses just private homes, some terraced, most semis. Sometimes he’d pop in for a cup of tea and she’d do him a bacon butty. His mum’s sister was a bit better off than the rest of them. Her husband, Uncle Rob worked nights at ICI, her two lads were at university, pair of pricks! Daniel and Luke, twin whoppers! He used to skit them all the time, call em fucking Boy Band benders. They both had stupid fucking spikey haircuts, dyed their hair, wore shite gear, proper fucking faggot clobber. Both had boss birds too, which pissed him off even more. They were four years older than him and even though he was bigger and harder than them, they skitted him, called him a chav and all that shit. ‘Chav!’ Cheeky queg cunts! He didn’t feel like dropping in on Jill today though. He didn’t like seeing her contentment, the proud pictures of her two successful sons all over the walls. He hears a bell ring behind him but ignores it. Let the fucker go round him, there’s plenty of room here, it’s not like there’s only a couple of feet to get past, like under the old bridge. The fellar on the bike passes him and mutters something in Polish, probably called him a prick or something. He doesn’t care. Let him call him a prick if he wants. He’s not the one who works shite shifts on the Astmoor the Polish cunt, fuck off back to Russia.
Past the narrow boats behind the timber yard, past the garden centre, past the curly bridge, past the Grapes and he’s almost at his dad’s house in Bold Street. He usually walks right down the path until it gets to the road, he doesn’t know what it’s called, the one that goes past the tyre place or sometimes he cuts past the school and through the narrow Coronation Street houses, these nameless streets that look older than time, or a time he doesn’t recognise, streets built for a different people, a different world than his. Almost his last day of living like this and he’s imagining the trip down to Brighton, meeting up with Collo, their first night out on the piss, all the good times they’ll have, all the birds they’ll be goosing, and all the boss things that lie ahead and…..
He didn’t even see him; the weirdo. He’s passed this dickhead before, scruffy twat he is, off his fucking head la, pure sick bastard, talks to himself all the time. He caught the prick touching the walls under the bridge the other week, rubbing his fucking hands up and down and talking to himself, the tit! He looks at the weirdo in his shitty kagool and his shitty trainees and he says
‘Fucking watch it y’prick!’
And straight away he knows he’s made a big mistake. Sees that look in the weirdo’s eyes but fronts him anyway. He’s used to people backing down, even fellars his dad’s age. He once started on three fellars in the Tricorn, offered them all out after he beat one of em at pool and they all shit out. But this weirdo was going nowhere. For a moment there’s a mutual recognition of what could happen here, where either of them could back off, walk away and that’d be that. He looks at the weirdo and the weirdo stares back silently and now he’s scared. Now he’s faced with the realisation that no matter how big he is, how hard he thinks he is, he’s just a kid and there are some proper twisted cunts out there, people he doesn’t know, people who don’t know him, people not intimated by his size or his rep, people who’ve had harder lives than he has, people with grudges and hatreds of their own; angry people, frightened people. The weirdo seems to smile and for a split second he relaxes then.………………..
Today he wouldn’t get to Bold Street. Today would be the last time he’d walk this path.