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Stoney sat opposite the professor in the cafe above the book shop, somewhere he didn’t feel too self-conscious, somewhere where the sight of a man with a five inch scar running down the right hand side of his face, from his temple to the corner of his mouth talking to a balding, bearded, unkempt man in his late 50s wouldn’t attract too much attention. He knew it’d be almost deserted in here, it always was. He wondered how they made enough money to survive to be honest, but he liked it here, this was part of his new life. The old Stoney would’ve despised this kind of place, despised the people who ate here, as well as those who worked behind the counter, selling veggie shit to hippy cunts. The Old Stoney would’ve told some university professor twat who wanted to interview him for some research project to fuck right off.
He gave an inward chuckle to himself when Professor Michael Johnstone came shuffling through the door, looking every bit the stereotypical academic whopper, although he had to admit that he too looked alarmingly like the archetypal football hooligan; shaved head, scar, designer casual clothing. Infact when he first started coming to The Nook café he was regarded with suspicion and sometimes outright hostility, so it worked both ways. Once he got talking to Louisa who ran the place and Ramon, her Chilean boyfriend, they put their mutual prejudices to one side and now he’d chat to them about their politics, their interests, their personal lives. He’d learned to open up a bit and not to treat everyone he met as a potential enemy.
Stoney knew he’d never bump into one of his old associates in a place like this; the greasy spoons and all day brekky joints in town perhaps or, now that most of em thought they were a bit sophisticated perhaps one of the newer coffee and muffin yards in the precinct or even the Mediterranean eateries in the so-called ‘cultural quarter’. But he felt safe enough here, not that he was worried what anyone else thought about him but he just couldn’t be arsed anymore. Couldn’t be arsed explaining himself, justifying himself.
‘Who was that nobhead you were talking to?’
‘What have you been telling people?’
You’d think they were some paramilitary guerrilla group they way they got paranoid about outsiders, and indeed that’s how they saw themselves, how Stoney used to see himself. They really did believe that they were some kind of cross between an army and a Masonic guild, and at one point Stoney had been Grand Pooba, infact it was thanks to Stoney that their activities, which boiled down to little more than the odd fight with mirror images of themselves from different cities, became inflated into some kind of noble crusade, given moral legitimacy and intellectual weight via his own pretentious leanings towards ancient military history. He had galvanised what was, when he took over, a rag tag collection of petty criminals, junkies and psychopaths into one of the most feared firms in the country. But he saw through all that now, saw it for what it was; just another futile form of self-defeat. He’d had plenty of time to evaluate his perverted code of honour inside. Five years infact. He’d wised up and began to apply himself to something a bit more positive and worthwhile. He knew it sounded like a cliché but he sincerely wanted to ‘give something back’ maaan!’ It was one of his workmates at the parole service where he was volunteering as a mentor who’d read something about some university fellar doing some research into football hooliganism and said it might do Stoney some good to talk to him.
He wasn’t interested at first, he’d always hated those cunts from Leicester University leeching off hooliganism to forge careers for themselves as ‘expert sociologists.’ What the fuck did they know about owt? He’d read all their books, they always got it wrong. He’d even thought of doing his own memoire but there were hundreds of them now and what did he have to offer? More of the same bullshit, the same braindead boasting dressed up as social history? Nah, fuck it, that was all in the past now and he needed to look to the future.
A few months later, he’d got a phone call. It was this professor Johnstone. His mate had passed on his phone number to the academic and he’d contacted him, asked to meet up and perhaps do a preliminary interview, nothing heavy, just an hour or so of his time. He was hesitant at first but the prof’s soft Scots accent and his undoubted interest seemed to be genuine enough. This, he assured Stoney, wouldn’t be just another hatchet job, another flimsy piece of middle-class voyeurism into the lives of the underclass or indeed a dry treatise on the male condition in a post-industrial society. He wanted depth and detail, he wanted the whole story, the big picture and it wasn’t for some tedious ten bob book but for his own research on various aspects of gang cultures.
Stoney stirred his cup of weak, milky tea. He’d already eaten the two perfectly poached eggs on toast waiting for the professor to arrive. He was late and appeared flustered upon entering the small, claustrophobic room, with its low ceiling and musty furniture. They’d exchanged a few pleasantries, got the small-talk out of the way and without much fanfare the professor switched on his fancy digital recording device. An open question to begin with ;
‘Describe the first time you witnessed crowd violence at a football match’ and he was away.
‘I don’t know if it was the first time I’d witnessed it, the aggro, but it’s the one that sticks in my head. I was about 7 or 8, maybe younger, me dad was a Liverpool fan, big Liverpool fan, it was either Liverpool or United by us, one or the other, a few Everton, one of two City but not many. He’d take me to Anfield, I was only young, started going when I was five or six so this was 71, 72 around that time. The Kop in those days, this was when it was chocka, I mean really chocka, they’d score and you’d end up miles away from where you was stood or if you got in front of one of the stantions, you’d get crushed. There was all kinds of injuries, people getting passed over to the St John’s ambulance on the side of the pitch but even though I was only little, I never felt scared in there. Somehow I’d always find my way back to me dad, kids would get passed overhead, it was amazing really. So many people in such a small space but never any violence, people standing on eachother and pushing to get a decent speck, but apart from the odd little scuffle, nothing really kicked off and in those days there wasn’t really many away fans either.
We used to go all over the ground, the Kop, the Kemlyn Road, the Main Stand, even the Anny Road, infact the Anny Road became our usual speck, before the fences were put up, you’d try and get right by the wall, it was always full of mad old scouse women with loads of rosettes and scarves and stuff and you’d try and squeeze in and get on this low white wall, and sometimes the police would let you sit on it, depending on how many were there, but Anfield was always chocka then, this was when Liverpool were the best team in the country and the kop would sing ‘You’ll Never walk Alone’ and to a kid, seeing all that, all those scarves, from one end to the other, thousands of em, it was just breathtaking really. The Anny Road would sing it too and it’d be like a smaller version of the kop and even then I remember this animosity between the Kop and the Anny Road. They’d section off the corner of the Anny Road for away fans if any bothered to turn up and sometimes it’d kick off in there. I’d never really see it but you could hear it going off behind you and I suppose the harder lads would go in the Anny Road to get at the away lot, so it became this competitive thing between the Anny Road and the Kop, you’d get the Anny Road lot singing
‘Kopites are gobsites’
like they were being shithouses every time they’d break into ‘scouser aggro’ or something when it was kicking off. I remember watching it go off between Newcastle once, we must’ve been in the Kemlyn Road I think, and there was a gap of about ten foot either side with a few coppers in between and it was just mobs charging into eachother, proper fighting all the way through the game. It seemed to be accepted then. The coppers would fly in, lamp a few people, drag a few out but it was no big deal, I think the coppers enjoyed it as much as the hooligans. I think that’s why me dad started taking me in the Kemlyn Road, in the seats to get away from the aggro, because it was getting worse around that time, the early 70s. It wasn’t the same in the stands though, I preferred it in the Kop or the Anny Road, not that I was tough or owt, far from it, but it just more of an experience, more exciting.
It was in the Kemlyn Road that I got a laugh off fellars. Someone had hoofed the ball right over our heads and we were like half-way up and I shouted ‘the floodlights aren’t playing mate’ and that got a laugh, all the fellars round me were laughing and me dad was smiling and I think he liked that, having me there, wisecracking with these scousers. It was weird getting fellars laughing at you, made yer feel grown up I suppose, that was the closest really that I ever got to me dad and those games were special because you felt a part of something. Me dad’d finish work, come home, get changed and take me down the Oak, his local and have a few in there. He picked up his mate, can’t remember his name now, Colin I think. We had this Hillman car, it was fucking massive, and when he stopped for petrol, you’d get these football tokens, little like coins that you’d stick on a chart and Colin or whatever his name was would always buy me some, so I liked him. Sometimes it’d be just me and me dad, I remember Liverpool was like fucking New York or somewhere cos we were form this little town and to a kid Liverpool seemed huge, we’d drive up through Woolton, Allerton, up through Childwall, Old Swan, Tuebrook, I still remember all the little plaques with the names on, the little Liver Birds on em and then we’d park up in some massive car park and walk down the cobbled streets to Anfield.
All the houses in Anfield were all these bayfronted Victorian ones and the roads seemed to go on for ever, I always thought it must be like winning the pools to actually live in Anfield to be that close to the stadium. You’d get down to Breck Road, outside the Kop and we’d go the chippy and me dad’d get us some chips and a meat and potato pie and those were the nicest fucking chips I’ve ever tasted. Probably just bullshit nostalgia but they were fucking gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than then, stood outsaide Breck Road chippy, all the people, thousands of em, all queuing up to get in the kop, the police horses pushing everyone into the wall, the smell of horse shit and vinegar.
The professor smiled and caught Stoney’s.
‘What about the violence you witnessed? The Liverpool v Newcastle game?’ he politely asked.
‘Oh yeah sorry, fucking hell I got a bit….haven’t thought about it for years to be honest. No, this wasn’t the Newcastle game. I don’t know if it was before then or after, I’m sure it was before though. For some reason we were in the Main Stand which we never really went in, sometimes me dad’d put me in the boys pen at the bottom but I never liked it in there because it was full of these horrible hardfaced scouse kids, I preferred it with the fellars to be honest. I think it was the same day we met Shankly. I’ve never seen men behave like that before, grown men all acting like a bunch of kids. We were outside the Main Stand trying to get tickets off the touts and suddenly Bill Shankly just appeared right infront of us and it was like you’d seen fucking Jesus or something. I know people go on and on about how Shankly had this aura about him, how he was worshipped but it was true. All these people crowded round him and he just said something to me and me dad, a little joke, and it was like you’d been blessed, he’d actually spoken to you. Even me dad, I’d never seen him that excited before, never shut up about it for years. You see those photos of the fans kneeling down infront of him, praying to him and that was genuine. I don’t know what it was about him but he just had this way about him, it was, what’s the word?’
Stoney looked at the professor as if he’d automatically know the word he was searching for.
‘Messianic?’ the professor offered.
‘Yeah, messianic mate. Bang on! Shankly was the fuckin messiah as far as we were concerned.’
The professor finished his mug of tea and looked at the counter on his digital Dictaphone, then checked his watch. Stoney noticed these obvious signs of impatience but fuck it, he was in no hurry, it was no skin off his nose. He wasn’t even getting weighed in for it, he was doing this cunt a favour not the other way around.
‘Do you need to be somewhere?’ Stoney asked with a sternness of tone that indicated his displeasure.
The professor suddenly looked up and turned a page on his notebook, on which were scribbled various questions.
‘No no’ he mumbled apologetically, ‘take as long as you want. It’s all relevant.’
‘Do you want another brew mate?’ Stoney asked.
‘Er yeah sure, no milk for me thanks.’
Stoney caught Ramon’s eye at the counter.
‘Two more teas please Ramon, one with no milk lad’
Ramon nodded. There was still nobody else in yet but it was still too early for most of the lazy arse students who usually frequented the place.
‘You were telling me about the Chelsea game’ the professor said looking at his notes.
Stoney looked perplexed for a few seconds.
‘Oh yeah, that’s right, we were playing Chelsea, I remember it clearly because I’d never seen the Kop with an empty space before, the whole corner where the Kop meets the main stand had about twenty or thirty feet which was empty because there was these Chelsea lads below us in the Main Stand and they were launching these slings or something into the Kop. I remember all the fellars standing up, you’d get em all moaning ‘sling ‘em out’ all that, and that’s all I remember, something like slings or something like that, being thrown by these Chelsea lads at the Kop and this big open space opening up on the Kop and no-one had seen anything like that before, you could see the Liverpool fans in the middle of the Kop trying to get across to em, trying to make their way over to the corner to try and get at the Chelsea lot but not daring to go in that open patch.
It must’ve been near the end of the game because we always stayed to the final whistle but me dad decided to go a bit earlier and we were walking out into the corridor under the stand to get out and some of these Chelsea lads were stood in there and they were going ‘you’re not sending us out there’ to the bizzies, it was weird to hear Cockney accents, proper Cockney accents, that’s what struck me and their clothes, it was all long hair and denims, that typical bootboy look. I was only young, maybe seven, so it must’ve been 72, 73-ish and the bizzies and the stewards were trying to throw them out and me dad put his arm round me and got me through em. It was really dark, I remember that, it wasn’t winter, just dark under the stand in this narrow walkway and when we got out it was really bright and there must’ve been about a thousand or more scousers waiting for em, all baying for blood.
It was fucking terrifying but also exciting. You could tell these Cockneys were shitting themselves because it was only quite narrow between the Main Stand the houses behind, only a bit of a car park and the whole space was just chocka with scousers trying to get at these twenty or so Chelsea boys. That was the moment I just knew, I’d be a football hooligan one day. There’s just something about that image of coming out of this dark tunnel into the bright light and just seeing this fucking huge mob of lads trying to get at these poor fucking Cockneys. I mean fair play to em, Chelsea cos I don’t think anyone before them had done anything so outrageous, apart from trying to take an end, and you’d never take the Kop, not in those days anyway. They’d managed to disrupt the game, get all these scousers after their blood, not many of em really and lived the tale the tale. It’s one of those things where I ask lads now, Liverpool and Chelsea lads who I know, ‘do you remember when Chelsea were firing slings into the Kop?’ and no-one remembers it, maybe I dreamt it or something.’
Stoney noticed the professor stopped making notes at this point and looked up at him.
‘I didn’t dream it,’ he said defensively, ‘it deffo happened. Deffo. Liverpool v Chelsea 1972, 73 maybe, couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8, me dad had his car robbed not long after and we stopped going and that was that.’
Stoney still sounded hurt by this.
‘How did that affect you?’ the professor asked as Ramon placed their mugs of tea on the table.
‘Cheers mate’ Stoney said to Ramon, taking up a defensive posture on his chair. He didn’t want to get dragged into any fucking shrink shit. He gave the professor a cold stare.
‘How did what affect me?’
‘Your dad not taking you to the match,’ the professor answered returning his stare with what Stoney perceived to be a half smirk on his blotchy, beardy face.
‘How do you think it affected me?’
‘I suppose it upset you.’
Stoney stared the professor out giving a sarcastic nod. He detected a change in the professor’s body language, noticing how it had suddenly become more animated now they’d turned the subject onto more personal areas, the old father-son bullshit that these cunts always seemed to get boners for. Stoney could sense the next question coming.
‘What was your relationship like with your dad?’
Stoney fell silent. He visibly bristled.
‘I’m not….’ the professor sensed he was treading on uneasy ground. Stoney leaned forward placing his arms on the table inches away from the professor.
‘Look mate, let’s get something straight,’ he almost whispered, giving his words added menace, ‘I’ve come here to talk about football, I don’t mind telling you anything about what I got up to with the lads but let’s leave me aul fellar out of it OK? That’s none of your fucking business.’
The professor coughed nervously and leaned back away from Stoney. He switched off his recorder and closed his notebook.
‘I’m sorry, maybe we should leave it there for now.’
Stoney could see the professor was a bit frightened; maybe he hadn’t left his old ways behind him at all. He’d obviously intimidated the poor Scottish fuck. Maybe he was fooling himself, perhaps he’d never be able to leave it all behind, his past was always going to creep up on him at some point. The mental scars weren’t as obvious as the physical scar on his face but they went much deeper. Stoney leaned back again.
‘Sorry you’ve had a wasted journey,’ he said with a more conciliatory but slightly sarky tone.
‘No, no, not wasted at all Mr Stone, it’s been very valuable but maybe we should leave it there for now and perhaps speak again soon.’
‘Fair enough’ Stoney replied sensing that this prick wanted to get out of there and on the next train back to JockoLand as soon as possible.
‘How much was the tea?’ the professor asked putting his book and equipment carefully back into his fancy shoulder bag.
‘It’s on me mate.’
The professor stood up and reached across to shake Stoney’s hand. Stoney hesitated for a second and briskly shook his cold, weak studious hand. He didn’t grasp too tightly but made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the way it had gone. His body language reverted back to old poses and postures and this was classic ‘studied indifference’. It’s all a front, everything’s a fucking front. Stoney was a time-served, City and Guilds Front Merchant and the vibe he was giving off to the professor said ‘do what the fuck you want pal, I haven’t travelled 200 miles for a cup of piss weak tea and an old story about Cockney dickheads with slings. If you can’t take a bit of anti-Freudian advice then fuck you and fuck YOUR dad while you’re at it.
The professor hooked his bag over his shoulder, mumbled an insincere ‘Goodbye’ and shuffled out of the Nook as self-consciously as he’d shuffled in only half an hour earlier. Ramon came straight over to Stoney and in his best Scouse-Chilean accent asked;
‘Who the fuck was that?’
Back at the office, Johno, who’d fixed the whole farce up in the first place asked Stoney how it had gone.
“Fucking waste of time lad.”
Johno nodded a bit guiltily, as Stoney took out his files from the cupboard.
“Who’ve we got in today?”
He wasn’t in the mood for any more analysis but Stoney could tell that Johno wasn’t gonna let him off the hook that easily. His body language spoke volumes, and he dropped five or six heavy files on his desk and stared menacingly at his workmate, who was intrigued by his former life, always asking questions, wanting to know how did what to who and why. Johno averted his eyes and began feigning interest in his laptop screen. Stoney decided to have a bit of fun with the whopper. He sat down then kicked over the waste paper bin next to his desk.
“It’s your fucking fault Johno.”
Johno looked up anxiously.
“I never wanted to meet the prick in the first place, I told you I didn’t.”
“I know but..”
“But fucking nothing you soft cunt.”
Stoney stood up and was now leaning over Johno sat cowering opposite him.
“It’s not healthy for me to keep raking over the past OK?”
“OK, sorry” Johno whimpered
“My CPN told me I had to let go of all that, concentrate on the future, and this prick starts asking me all these questions, I’m telling him shit I’ve kept buried inside for fucking years but he kept fucking pressing me….”
Stoney could see Johno becoming more terrified as his tone went from anger to almost tearful. Jan and Sheila in the next office were stood watching them through the partition window. Stoney stared at them and while Johno was desperately trying not to catch his eye, winked at them. He decided t up the ante a bit while he had Johno dangling. He kicked his chair over and walked around to where Johno was sat. Jan and Sheila had now got the rest of their office watching the performance. Johno stood up and held his skinny freckled arms out. He was about the same age as Stoney but looked a lot older, as if he’d been born forty years old. He had the physical appearance of a man who’d spent thirty two years sat at a desk, filing away reports on juvenile delinquents. That’s why he got such a buzz off Stoney and his tales. He’d missed out on all that. For such a massive Liverpool fan, he’d never been to a match in his life. He was never off the Liverpool FC websites, the fan forums, had Steven Gerrard as his screensaver, You’ll Never Walk Alone as his mobile ring tone, always wore his replica top to the pub yet had never been inside Anfield. His dad wouldn’t let him. Too many ruffians. Too many ne-erdowells. Too many lads like Stoney. Dads!
“I’m gonna go back inside now thanks to you!” Stoney yelled.
“Why what happened?” Johno asked, still holding his arms out to stop Stoney getting any closer.
“I gave him a dig, cheeky cunt, asking me about me dad, no-one’s asking me stuff like that, do you know what me dad did to me?”
Johno shook his head and began to move around Stoney trying to make his way to the door but Stoney blocked him and lunged at him, getting Johno in a headlock.
“Get off me, I’m sorry mate.” Johno squealed in a pathetically high pitched voice. Stoney began laughing and released Johno from his grip. Jan, Sheila and the others from the admin office were all pissing themselves as Johno broke free and stood red-faced, trying to regain his composure.
“I had going there didn’t I?” Stoney laughed ruffling what was left of Johno’s receding reddish, grey hair. He moved back to his desk, picked his chair up and sat down but Johno continued to stand, comically straightening his shirt and trousers.
“Fucking cunt!” he whispered under his breath.
“Oh, sit down Johno, fuck’s sake lad. I was only having a laugh.”
Johno looked around into the next office. Only Jan was stood there, still smiling at Stoney and seeing this, Stoney now felt a bit guilty for making a show of Johno. OK, he was a bit of a tit, but he was harmless enough. What pissed him off though was that whilst he was doing this as a volunteer, getting a few bob expenses and that was it, whereas Johno was on over thirty grand a year. Thirty fucking grand for sitting on his arse all day making up bullshit statistics for the Department of Lies. Take yesterday for example. Johno had fixed him up with four separate meetings with young lads in and out of nick, lads on the persistent offenders register, thought they knew it all. Stoney had got through to one of em but the others weren’t interested, they were just trying to please their POs or evade a stretch by playing the system, meeting people like Stoney to make it appear as if the government were attempting to tackle youth crime in positive and innovative ways, when all it boiled down to was trying to save dough on prison bills.
Stoney knew the score and fancied himself as a bit of a social worker stroke mentor stroke community leader, the usual positions that former yobs and crims tended to occupy in the post-industrial landscape. He’d spent six hours trying to get these cunts to listen to him, spent a bit of time with them, listening to their all too predictable life stories and offered his brand of no bullshit guidance. He wasn’t their dad, wasn’t their teacher, wasn’t their screw, wasn’t their PO, he was just letting them know that they all had options. They were all still young enough to get off the gear, give up their petty criminal activities and make a go of their lives. And after it was over and he was back in the office with his reports, what did Johno do but file them in his drawer to type up in a mad rush a day before the deadline for his monthly management information report. No, he far too busy typing his never-been-to-a-match-in-his-life opinions on various fan platforms with all the other Sky TV armchair bores.
“Look mate” Stoney cuddled Johno “I’m sorry lad, didn’t mean to show you up.”
Johno ignored him and picked up the phone, as if he’d been distracted from urgent business. Johno could fuck things up for him, if he wanted. He was still on trial with these pricks, still trying to work his way in, see what the score was and carve out a position for himself, maybe even launch his own graft, a charity maybe for reformed hooligans and tearaways. He just needed a bit of respectability, a few months, a year maybe to prove he was ’cured’ that he could hold down a steady job, discipline himself. Johno was talking to his mate.
“Yeah got a few days off, thinking of going over to the Dam, d’yer fancy it? No, I’ve cleared it with em here, no probs mate. Yeah, just me at the moment, get the Easyjet over, book a room when we’re there…..”
Stoney sat at his desk and looked at Johno opposite him. He was childishly blanking him now, putting on a show. The Dam! Who was he fooling? Probably no fucker on the other end. He switched on his PC, went straight to his emails. Usual shite. This meeting’s been cancelled. That meeting’s been moved to a different room. This report’s overdue. That report needs completing. Then a message from someone called firstname.lastname@example.org. He opened it.
I’m sorry we appeared to have got off on the wrong foot today. It was my fault entirely and I can only apologise. I now realise that I should have been more professional and explained in more detail the project I am planning and hope that you can still play a valuable role not only in bringing your own experiences to a wider audience but also help shape how the project develops. I am In Liverpool again on 15th June. I hope you can meet me again and we can continue our interview. If not, I entirely understand your feelings and wish you well for the future.
Professor Michael Johnstone
Soft twat must’ve emailed him on the train home. Maybe he’d been a bit harsh on the prick. Maybe he wasn’t gonna go all Freudian on his ass anyway. It was true though. He didn’t have anything to say about that cunt. Not to some professor anyhow. He’d kept it all bottled up for years. Maybe that was the problem. Who was he fooling? He was as self-deluded as Johno there. He KNEW that was the problem. One day they’re sharing chips and meat and potato pie outside The Kop, the next he’s moved out and left them for some slut from Winsford. That was that. All that shite he’d told the professor about the car getting robbed. Well, it WAS true, it did get robbed outside the ground but they’d continued going for another season or so. Then, fuck all. No birthday cards, no Christmas presents. Not a peep for seven years. So, no two ways about it, he had what the Yanks called ’Issues!’ Issues he still hadn’t resolved or even attempted to resolve if he was being honest.
Maybe he would meet the professor again after all. He knew it wouldn’t get all that simmering hatred out of his system but atleast it did him good talking about the match, triggered off a few memories he’d filed away for years. He’d actually enjoyed the interview until the old bugbear, his dad had come into the frame. He mailed him back.
He scrubbed that. He hated using the word ‘Dear’ especially if it was going to a man. Pathetic he knew but still, that was the way he’d been brought up.
Was that jokey? Ah, fuck it!
No worries mate. Think I was a bit hard on you but as long as we keep it to the football then I’ve got no problem with meeting you on the 15th.
Just put Stoney.
Stoney pressed ’send’ and relaxed a little. He sat back in his chair and looked at Johno who was still blabbing shite to his non-existant mate. Johno nervously looked across at him and Stoney smiled. Johno gave a tentative half smile back.
“OK mate, gotta go lad, I’ll get on Easyjet now and book the tickets.”
“Going the clog are yer?” Stoney asked.
“No, Amsterdam” Johno replied looking puzzled.
“Yeah, I know,” Stoney smiled and shook his head, “doesn’t matter.”
“Nothing mate. You been before?”
“No, well we went to Holland once with school but never actually got as far as Amsterdam. You been?”
“I lived there more or less for three years.”
“Did you?” Johno’s face lit up at the prospect of more tales of larceny and daring do.
“Knew these Ajax lads over there, top lads they were.”
“I’m Feyenoord meself” Johno said rather cockily. Feyenoord! Never been to Anfield never mind the stadion.
“Are ya?” Stoney asked with a dismissive tone that Johno picked up on.
“Yeah, Ajax’s boys are all fucking Yids aren’t they?”
Stoney just stared at his colleague. He now looked embarrassed.
“I mean they’ve got a lot of Jewish supporters haven’t they Ajax” he spluttered.
“Yeah they have. One of the lads who I stayed with was Jewish, why Johno have you got a problem with Jews?”
“Me? Have I fuck, I’m not Mel Gibson, just saying I prefer Feyenoord that’s all.”
Johno returned to his computer screen again. ‘Tit!’ He thought.
YGGYFHKI – Part 3
It was the Monday routine again. Stoney drove to his ex’s and picked up little Jade, the light of his life, the one true achievement of his forty three years on planet Earth. She’d had his six year old daughter for the weekend with that whopper of a boyfriend she’d left him for almost two years ago. Whilst he was inside! Bitch! He didn’t really know how he’d ended up with her in the first place. She’d been Kavvo’s bird for years, Kavvo treated her like shit, Kavvo treated everyone like shit. Everyone apart from Stoney. Kavvo was loyal to Stoney, the only one Stoney could entirely trust to stand toe to toe with him whatever the opposition. He’d proved himself time and time again, even when they were outnumbered and on the back foot. Stoney was no suicide merchant, he knew when it was time to beat a dignified retreat and sometimes when it was right to beat a very undignified retreat and get on yer fucking toes and run for your life. Instanbul had been one of those times. European aways were usually a doddle, even in places with reps like Rotterdam when they’d seen off Feyenoord’s mob with only fifty lads. Numbers didn’t usually matter, it was who you had, not how many you had and Stoney had surrounded himself with only those who he knew could mix it and not get on their toes at the first sign of danger.
Instanbul was different though. He’d never experienced anything as frightening as that night, the first time they’d gone over to Turkey mobhanded and ended up barricaded into a small café as irate Galatasaray fans attempted to smash their way in, waving machetes, huge knives, iron bars and anything else they could get their hands on. Twenty of them against two hundred or more. Little Jay had been grabbed and Stoney went to his rescue but got stabbed in the leg and it was only Kavvo’s intervention that had saved him. He’d grabbed a knife from behind the counter, ran out and had looked menacing enough to back the Turks off for a few seconds giving Stoney and Little Jay just enough time to get back inside the café before the useless Turkish bizzies arrived and gradually dispersed the mob. It wasn’t too much of an exaggeration to say that Kavvo had probably saved his life that night and he still required immediate hospital treatment for his leg wound, whilst Little Jay escaped with only a few bumps and bruises. He never forgot that night, the night he got serious, the night he truly appreciated that what he was involved in wasn’t just a laugh, wasn’t just a day out with the lads and a bit of posturing for the bizzies. After that night he only wanted those he truly trusted around him and he trusted no-one more than Paul Cavendish.
Kavvo was reckless sometimes though and some of the others felt he got them into more scrapes than he got them out of. Stoney was a bit more strategic, not that he tried to elevate what they did into some pseudo-military operation, well he did a bit, modelling himself on the ancient Greek general Epaminondas who’d conquered the Spartans with his small band of warriors, The Sacred Band. Back when he’d been in the army himself, he’d read up on all that stuff, military history was his specialist subject. Epaminondas, Alexander, Scipio, Caesar, Marcus Aurelius. He studied them all. Cromwell, Napoleon, Rommell too. He’d developed a kind of philosophy about it, that mankind was pre-programmed to violent acts, and that, rather than attempt to channel this aggression into sport or other more peaceful pastimes, you just had to accept that aggression and warfare would always be with us and that hooliganism was as noble an expression of this human spirit as any other. Infact, if anything it was a purer expression of manly virtue than all those so-called wars and conflicts he’d been involved in as a squaddy.
He’d just missed out on the Falklands which at least had an identifiable enemy and had something of the old spirit of battle about it, even if the outcome was never really in doubt. He’d completed three tours of Northern Ireland and there was nothing heroic or noble about that. Just bullying and revenge attacks, hiding in alleyways and shooting plastic bullets at schoolies throwing bricks and petrol bombs. He’d lost a good mate, Andy O’Neill in Derry. Road side bomb blew both his legs off and he bled to death. He was nineteen and ironically his aul fellar was Irish, not only Irish but a Republican too. He’d gone to the funeral and the do was back in this Irish pub in Birmingham and some of the lads refused to go in but he spoke to Andy’s dad and his uncles and they were all fiercely pro-IRA and no matter how much he argued the point they wouldn’t concede the central point that The Brits had colonised their country and had to leave. The fact that Andy had died as part of this occupying force was unfortunate but they’d begged him not to join up and disowned him when he did.
He got into a bit of a tussle with one of his uncles when he’d asked him why, if he was proud of his country and loved it so much, he was living on a shitty council estate in Birmingham, working on the building sites. Andy’s dad had intervened and calmed it down but Stoney knew it was a bad idea to hang around and got off. His confusion only deepened after this. Something Andy’s dad had said to him wouldn’t leave him.
‘How long do you think it’ll take you to become a sergeant?’
‘Dunno, about ten years, maybe’
‘How long do you think it’ll take you to become an officer?’
‘I don’t wanna be a fucking officer mate.’
‘They’re all Ruperts’
‘You mean they’re all rich cunts?’
‘Yeah, public school kids’
‘How long did it take them to become officers?’
‘Dunno, think they all went to Sandhurst.’
‘Are they any good?’
‘Are they fuck! Useless bunch of cunts the lot of em.’
‘So why do you put up with it?’
‘That’s just the way it is.’
‘It is if you put up with it son. You’re just being used.’
‘How am I being used?’
‘All you young lads, you can’t see it can yer?’
‘See what mate, you’ve lost me.’
‘Who’s interests are you protecting?’
‘The country’s interests, that’s why you’re allowed to sit here in my country moaning about it pal.’
‘Do you feel safer now he’s dead, will I feel safer if you die?’
‘I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about mate.’
‘Wise up son!’
Wise up son! Son! Who the fuck did he think he was the Paddy fucking cunt? His son was dead, he wasn’t his son, he was nobody’s son. But he did wise up. Back in the barracks when the Geordie sarge screamed in his face, he butted the prick, put him on his arse. He got a hiding for it, a proper one from the sarges then placed on the block and sentenced to four months. Fuck em. Wise up son! Wise up!
Stoney opened the door and Jade got in the backseat.
‘Hiya babe, put yer seatbelt on love.’
She was stood at the front door. He never came out to wave her off. Probably already out of the house, doing whatever he did in his fancy office, probably drove there in his fancy fucking car, not as fancy as Stoney’s mind. Volvo 4x4. Class! Stick that in yer fucking briefcase solicitor boy! Jade waved at her mum and Stoney gave her a quick nod. She just stared at him and turned around.
‘Did you have a nice weekend Jade?’
‘Yes, we went to Blue Planet.’
‘Did yer? Just you mummy and Richard?’
Stoney frowned. She’d never mentioned this prick having a son. Pierce! Sounded about right. Just the sort of name a prick like him would give his lad.
‘How old’s Pierce then babe?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Is he little or big?’
‘Bigger than you?’
‘Yeah! He goes the big school’
Stoney almost crashed. He looked at Jade through the rear view window. No wonder she’d not mentioned it. Stoney was now in full on suspicious, para mood.
‘Does Pierce stay at mummy’s house?’
‘Yes, he stays in my room.’
Slam! Stoney spun the Volvo round causing the driver behind to swerve and almost crash into oncoming traffic. The driver beeped. Stoney stared at him. The driver looked away.
‘Daddy why are we going back?’
‘I just want to speak to mummy darling?’
‘What about daddy?’
‘Nothing important love, just want to speak to her about a few things.’
Stoney screeched to a halt outside her door.
‘You stay here love’ he told Jade as he slammed the door shut and banged angrily on the door. He could see her silhouette as she walked quickly down the stairs and opened the door.
‘What the fuck are you doing letting a teenage lad sleeping in my daughter’s bedroom?’
She tried to close the door on him but he put his foot in the gap and shoved it open. He could hear Jade crying in the car.
‘Fuck off Kev y’don’t know anything about it’ she screamed as she walked into the kitchen.
‘I know I don’t, you’ve kept that one very quiet haven’t yer?’
‘He doesn’t sleep in Jade’s room.’
‘Well that’s what she’s just told me.’
‘Once! When we didn’t have the camp bed and he slept on the floor, on a mattress, do you think I’d….’
‘Think you’d what? See I don’t even have to say it, you know it’s out of order. How old is this kid anyway?’
‘Fifteen! Are you fucking kidding? You can’t let a fifteen year old lad in the same room as a six year old girl you soft fucking bitch’
‘You don’t even know him Kev, fucking calm down will yer?’
‘I don’t need to know him – Pierce! What kind of name’s that to give a kid anyway? It’s not fucking on, you should’ve told me this kid was sleeping in my house’
‘Who still pays half the fucking mortgage?’
‘Two hundred quid a month? You think that covers the mortgage and all the costs of clothing and feeding a six year old do you?’
‘That’s all I can fucking afford at the moment, you know I’d give you more if I…’
Suddenly they both turned as they heard Jade sobbing loudly behind them.
‘Stop it! Stop it!’
Stoney turned and picked his sobbing daughter up and clutched her tight.
‘That’s it Jo, she sleeps at mine every weekend from now on!’
He walked towards the open front door and marched towards the car.
‘I don’t think so Kev’ he heard her shout behind him. He gently placed Jade on the back seat and fastened the seat belt around her. She was still sobbing, the tears running down her flushed cheeks.
‘It’s OK babe, mummy and daddy are just shouting cos they love you.’
He heard her shout ‘phone me when you’ve calmed down’ and heard the door slam shut.
After dropping Jade off at school he got into work still seething. Johno wasn’t sat at his desk, which was a surprise as he was one of these cunts who like to get in at the crack of dawn, sit there on the internet until everyone else gets in and then crack on they’ve been grafting all the time. He knew all Johno’s snide little tricks, knew that he was doing half his graft and that Johno called him all the cunts under the sun behind his back. Stoney ignored Jan who was stood chatting to Donna the sunbed queen. They both stopped talking as he walked in to the small office and looked over at him. He knew Jan had a thing for him but knew that Johno had a thing for her and although he despised the little prick, he didn’t want to antagonise the whopper until he had his feet under the table.
‘Had a nice weekend Kev?’ Donna asked.
‘Don’t ask’ Kev replied and sat at his desk without another word. He noticed Donna smirking at Jan and Jan, who was quite attractive in a posh hippyish kinda way, walked past him and out of the door, He looked up as she passed and she turned. He winked at her and she smiled nervously and closed the door behind her.
‘What do you think of Jan then Kev?’ Donna asked, her stupid walnut face cracked in a strange reptilian grin.
‘She’s alright, why?’
Stoney turned on his PC and took a file out of his desk.
‘She’s single you know, well divorced anyway.’ Donna continued.
‘Where’s Johno?’ Stoney asked ignoring her clumsy matchmaking.
‘He’s gone to Amsterdam remember?’
‘Oh aye!’ Stoney nodded. So the little runt wasn’t making it up after all. His mind turned from the anger of the Pierce saga to memories of his time in The Clog. It was just after Kavvo had died when he moved there, somewhere he could get his head together for a few weeks, a few weeks that turned into a few months and eventually lasted almost two years. He knew a few lads who’d moved over there for different purposes in the mid-90s; Tony O had gone over to oversee a bit of import/export and Jimmy D had moved to work in some fancy IT job that just happened to be close his new bird’s flat. He didn’t need any more madness so plumped for Jimmy’s offer of a bed for a week or so but soon felt as if he was in the way and although neither he nor his Dutch sweetheart openly said anything, he sensed the atmosphere wasn’t conducive to another week on the sofa.
Tony O lived in the city centre in a lovely apartment close to the canal and kept very irregular hours. Stoney knew the score, never asked him about his business and ignored the many people who passed through the doors, those who either eyed him suspiciously or ignored him altogether. It wasn’t the best place to sort yourself out after the death of your best mate. He lasted a month before Tony introduced him to Big Henk, one of the Ajax lads who had heard all about Stoney’s exploits at home. He and Henk shared a common interest in football, funk and floozies and their pad by the Vondelpark became party central for the Ajax lads for a while. Martijn, Piet, Frank, David, these despised Joden all of whom apart from David weren’t even Jews.
Up to that point Stoney had never snorted or indeed touched any drug, other than the odd weed. He hardly ever drank either. His rather severe and puritan lifestyle was the source of much ribbing with the other lads who regarded his strict, Spartan regime as a joke.
‘You take everything too seriously’ Kavvo always told him, ‘you need to loosen up a bit mate, enjoy yerself.’
Well, Kavvo’s idea of loosening up and enjoying himself had got him drowned. High on E, high on coke, high on ale, high on sex, high on life, he went for an early morning swim off the coast of Ko Samui, leaving his brass for the night sat on the beach. He never came back and the brass rather than reporting it, went and robbed what was left of his dough but was caught by the local cops after his real girlfriend reported him missing later that day. It hit him hard. It hit them all hard because even though Kavvo had many enemies in the crew, he was respected and feared. A loose cannon, a loon but a good lad to have around nevertheless. They all had a whip round for Joanne, his ex-missus and mother to his ten year old son, Louis. It was Stoney who went round with it, almost three grand in total and at first Jo refused to take it but after an hour or so of pleading, she finally accepted the gift and thanked him, before breaking down and relating all the terrible things he’d put her and Louis through. He felt guilty listening to her, as if he was partly to blame for his mate’s behaviour, which in a way he was. Having only met the girl a few times he ignored all the antics of his best mate, all the fucking about, all the coked fuelled shagging and whoring he did. He didn’t condone it, encourage it like the other lads who put him up to all manner of things, things they’d never do themselves. Stoney just accepted it, laughed along with the rest but in a fatherly way. Jo appeared vulnerable then, appeared small and frightened and defeated by life. He ended up staying the night but disgusted with himself, flew out to the Dam straight after the funeral, the funeral that she didn’t even attend.
When he got back, she wasted no time contacting him and after the madness of the Clog, the beak and the brasses and the non-stop orgy of football and fucking and freaking out with the F-siders, the run ins with PSV and Feyenoord and Den Haag, the constant fucking bevvying and snorting, snorting and bevvying, he needed a break. Needed to get back to his old regime for a bit, get all that shite out of his system and the last thing he needed was his former best mate’s ex-missus on his case. She wouldn’t take a hint though. Wouldn’t take no for an answer and somehow, he didn’t even know how it happened, a mixture of guilt and boredom perhaps, he ended up moving in with her, ended up fathering a child to her and that’s where it changed, where she changed.
‘When’s he back?’ Stoney asked Donna.
‘Tomorrow I think, he’s left you a note on his desk.’
Stoney got up and walked over to the desk opposite. A piece of A4 had been placed under the keyboard of his PC.
‘Tell Kevin to complete the report on Thomas Machin.’
Who the fuck did he think he was? Tell Kevin! Tell? No-one told him what to do. He already had Tommy’s file out, he knew it needed completing, he didn’t need a fucking weasel like Johno to tell him that. He clicked on his email inbox. Third message down. It was that beaut of a professor again.
Hope you’re well. Are you OK to continue with our interview this Wednesday? I’ll be in Liverpool at 11 o’clock perhaps we can meet in the same place as last time? Please let me know if you can attend or not. Many thanks.
That’s all he fucking needed. Still, if he could square a few hours away from this shower of cunts, then it’d maybe look good for his future CV; the reformed thug turned social worker, community leader, youth mentor, hooly sociologist! That was the blag. He typed slowly with clumsy, deliberate compressions.
Yeah no probs.
See you at 11 in the Nook.
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