Glad I left the Rose and Crown. Gets rowdy after midnight. Only art in that place was on forearms, only religion was on fingers. Everyone dressed the same. Skint. But still 40-quid Fred Perry double-tips, buttoned-up, pinching against 20-quid Harringtons. 60-quid Docs, marching drum-beat against beat-down laminate. 16. Just left school. On the dole next week, might as well drink. Matter of time. Everything is always just a matter of time. Everything shut down. No smoke from smokestacks, no industry in industrial centres. Local politicians call my borough the beating heart of London. But it is lifeless. Just anger with a shrug of violence. No purpose, no point. Welcome to Battersea. I’d rather be at home than in the pub. I’d rather sit in this two-bit bed, in darkness, surrounded by the sound of the Specials. Comfort in the crack of my dad’s ring-pull Tennant’s. Six a night. Seven and dad gets too sad, starts thinking about mum. I beat the walls in my room, thinking about mum. Bruises on wallpaper and knuckles. I can’t stand the wallpaper much longer. I can’t stand the cuts and bruises. I think about the day mum took me to the Isle of Dogs. We watched the sun set over the Blue Bridge. We sat on concrete like it was the beach. Seemed like the tide was knocking against the Thames. Sounded like waves. Maybe none of it was real. Should put on English Rose, I suppose. Mum’s favourite record. Loved that record, she did. Named after that record, I was. God, I’m soppy when I’m drunk. I miss her when I drink. Having nothing to lose makes me angry. I wish I had something. A girl. Money. New duds. Something. 16. I can’t quite work out how violent I am. I might be like my old man, angry and lonely, or I might be like his old man: worse, much fucking worse. I reckon my old man would have been rougher on me had my mum been around. Might have beat me the way his dad beat him: clenched fists, sovereigns, working boots. My old man said he hated his old man working in steel. Rough trade, he said. But he lied. He hated steel-capped boots. One blow and you’ll struggle to breathe for a week. Welcome to Battersea. I remember my dad laughing when I shaved my head. Must have been 12. I had no mates at the time, but I smoked fags all day, so some local skins asked me to a party. They got out clippers, almost immediately. Blonde locks gone. Said I was a skin. Rite of passage. Dad looked surprised when I walked through the door. He asked if I was Red or NF. Red, I said. I didn’t really know what that meant. I just knew NF was bad. Dad smiled. Said I looked like my mum. Cracked two Tennant’s. Cheers. I remember the cutting words: Your mum was a red. Welcome to Battersea, he said.
by Ioan Marc Jones
From: Every Day Fiction