A Clockwork Beestonia

Tonight I did something that  I regretted.

Yes, anyone who knows me personally would say that should be my daily diary entry, nay, my epitaph, but tonight it grates.

I come out of Sainsburys, and two lads are squaring my locked-up bike up.  I’ve had a couple of beloved cycles nicked in the past, so I get a little pro-active. Barking at them ‘My bike! Get the effing eff off!’ is possibly not the best way to go about things. They slink off ‘we were only looking, its a nice bike’ and I felt a sudden surge of guilt. It is a nice bike, and I should of pointed out to them the wonderful gear-set, or the new braking system I had installed. I should have encouraged their interest, but a cumuli-nimbus of anger built and I thundered obscenities at them. Shame.

They weren’t devilish Droogs running wild in a dystopian Beestonia, they were kids, bored, slinking around, as yet unable to go into pubs, nightclubs or girls… so slinking. Trying to integrate..what better outside these cathedrals of adulthood, supermarkets?

Yet lets demonise them. Its a lot easier. Lets splash fear over the media and lock ourselves in the house so we are afraid to go out and comfort ourselves in ITV, the Daily Mail, and reactionary right-wing dogma. Make them seem to be an army of anarchistic nihilistic hate-filled hoodies and sit at home, seething, dreaming up ways to wipe out this generation of hate. Ban them from this, stick them in the army, lock them up, lock them up….

Before you bring back the birch, consider this. Crime is in free fall, the streets are safer than ever. Things do flare up- I know this after recent scrapes with knife and bottle-wielding juveniles (see Beestonia passim)- but  after my brushes, even then  I never felt like rounding up anyone in a hood and slinging them in the Trent.

So boo to Steve Carr and the Beestonia Lib Dems for using the recent little rash of previously reported silliness as a headline (Focus newsletter, a usually sensible rag) as an excuse for claiming that ‘your area is becoming blighted with anti-social behavior, drug dealers and victimisation’. Its not. It exists, but never more than ever, and nevermore to make you stay inside, panic and barricade your doors. Problems do occur, they do afflict, yet to make political capital out of them smacks of desperation.

It leads to people like me to tell kids to stop looking at his bike.

Steve, I admire you as a politician, but this is cheap, this is desperate, this is grabbing. As a Liberal you should be looking at why you perceive this.

To steal a line from the late, wonderful Bill Hicks, its between looking at the world  through the eyes of fear or through the eyes of love. One is easy, one is truth.

Tabloids have an obvious vested interest in the eyes of fear, the eyes of hate. Hate is an easily aroused emotion, fear a reaction more easily trigged than any other.Use it tabloids. A headline saying ‘YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE’ is more eyecatching than one that says ‘NOTHING MUCH HAS CHANGED’. Pragmatically, they have a point,news about what mistakes were made regarding BabyP are always going to shift more papers than stories about how social  intervention has saved children. Yet I say sod pragmatism, its still unhelpful, nasty and only going to result in problems that would previously never have occurred, and stymie the careful, intelligent work that goes on amongst people whose primary concern is other than that of the size of Jordan’s tits.

As we become older, and thus more likely to vote, we become more likely to believe this crap. We now own houses (I don’t, though still  have a vested interest in the intactness of my rented windows), do less anti-social behaviour ourselves, and feel a gulf opening up between  ourselves and new generations. I was recently sitting in the Crown with an-ex Skinhead (before the look was hijacked by the far-right) who expressed his feelings about the collapse of society, despite being a relic of the generation that were, with the punks, going to destroy society as we know it. As were the Ravers, the Crusties, the Hippies, the Rockers, the Mods, the Beatniks, the Teddyboys.. a patriarchal society will always fear the soon to be patriarchs. Im not going to get Freudian on you, as I’m sure I don’t need to point out the pattern and reasons here.

What is dangerous here  is the blaming. Its all skewed. Who are  truly the bad guys? Maybe an electoral system that isn’t really representative (fight on this point Steve, surely its where you truly have the political high round)?. The lack of facilities and lack of options for youth? (as a Staplefordian youth I remember my options were either a Christian youth club,  playing games of knock-a-door-run,cat creeping or drinking Thunderbird Wine on the Rec on an evening, guess which came last in my choices)…

Or maybe the problem is perception. Maybe whichever way we look at this, theres always going to be a minority,and its a tiny minority, of youths who are going to cause some trouble, just as its a vast minority of young adults who are going to start fights in nightclubs while everyone else dances and snogs and regrets that last Sambuca, just at the occasional dinner party someone will act like a twat after one two many glasses of Chateu du Bourgeois and kick off.

It will to some sound glib. I dont have kids, but I have been one. You too. And Im not too old to remember that on  a bored evening being chased by those more seemingly fortunate than you-those with tellys they could control and access to nicotine and alcohol-that was fun. We meant no harm. Punish those that do, Absolutely, but don’t on one hand tell our kids off for becoming more studious with improving GCSE results whilst on the other hand wishing them all dead cos your wing-mirror was bent back.

And whatever you do, if you hold power, don’t use it to score cheap points. I’m off to find a park bench to knock back a bottle of  white cider.Laterz, err, lol.

Dragons of Beestonia.

I’m not a true, geographical Beestonian. Its a confession I need not be ashamed of , as Beestoniaism is a state of mind, as many of my readers who live in other parts of the world, or other parts of Britain will testify. To quote Monkey-Faced airline-fiend Ian Brown, ‘Its not where you’re from, its where you’re at’, and I know that from Texas to Thailand, there are Beestonians as pure as  the most long-toothed Rylands-Dweller.

So in mid-december 1973, in  the type of  blizzard that would make the whole of London stay inside for a week my mother went shopping with my visiting gran in Helensborough, a town in West Scotland on the banks of the Clyde. I wasn’t due for at least another fortnight, so when my gran made my mum laugh so hard she fell over (by pointing out a man with an uncanny resemblance to a vole), I was woken and decided for the first and only time of my life to get up and out early. A blast of Pethadine, a few strenuous pushes and POP, out comes the Future King of Beestonia, so ugly the midwife slapped my mother instead of me.

Years go by, and  I am invited by my parents to revisit my roots, as they are going back there as part of the on-going nostalgia tour they embarked on once all my siblings abandoned the nest. I agree to join them, out of curiosity and the fact its quite a pretty place, but for a greater reason. For here, I think I have my  first memory.

Its not hazy, but over-garish. Its legs, its movement, its me sitting down being pushed, its the sudden plunge into darkness, its the adjustment and re-focus, its the terror, its the Dragons. Dragons across the water, nodding on long necks as they stooped down to eat, yes of fire, massive, blazingly bright in their reflection in the water.

The  Dragons are what really fooled me, what really made me sure thew whole memory was fake, distorted, and calling into question the idea that I had any memories of Scotland whatsoever.  I could easily account for the rest, the legs due to the fact I was being perambulated in a pushchair and that would have been my view, the garish colours due to the fact it was the early seventies, but the Dragons?

We hit Helensburgh, and its a beautiful,waterfront town with a classy promenade and an understated pier. A day or two are spent enjoying the May mildness, ferrying round Loch Lomond, driving through the hills, with myself all the time looking for something, anything, that would associate me with the terrain and Proustian rush me back to the days of my immediate youth.

But nothing. Not one spark, not one suggestion, just this over-riding sense that how could one live here for two years, and not recognize its beauty, its  majesty? Here are the mountains, the lochs, the sweeping vistas…but where are the Dragons?

The over-riding sense is: the Dragons  weren’t there. The Dragons were never there. The Dragons, this one tenuous yet important link to my life before Beestonia didn’t exist. Pack away the kilt Matt, unstuff that Haggis.

Disgruntled myself and my then-girlfriend stroll into town, my mission as disappointed as those who seek Atlantis and ElDorado,  my mission over. Dragons dont exist, dragons are fantasy. I suggest to my partner a drink. She agrees. The promenade, laden with pubs, is visited.

I dont care anymore, i tell myself, I don’t care. I recite, internally the mantra of Ian Brown again and again. I still was born in a beautiful place, I still can support Scotland tacitly in sporting competitions and anything nationalistically inclined. Its over.

A great night is had. I get drawn into a restaurant through its fried garlicy-wonderfulness, then pubs, many pubs, concertinaing up and down  the promenade with gleeful randomness. I tell  various strangers in similar states of intoxication  of my predicament, they express their sympathy in insincere back slaps and consolations, and it shrinks to nothingness. These are great people, this is a great time. An earlier trip to West Glasgow reinforced the cliche that the best people to get hammered with are the Scots, just ahead of Geordies and the Irish.

Terrible karaoke is sung, numbers never to  be rang are exchanged, and we all stumble onto the street. Staggering down the promenade, arm in arm with my then-girlfriend, I shout farewells to my temporary best friends, and head down, head home.

It catches the peripheral vision first, and is such a shock I spin round with intent to see what I thought I see, and im right. There be Dragons.

Over the broad expanse of the Clyde, in the docks of Greenock, was a huge crane, indistinct in the day, but by night illuminated and massive , a steel neck shining brightly in the blue-ink dark, a head of metal glowing out over the horizon…a Dragon, and the Dragon i’d seen three decades prior. I saw it then, and it all came Proustian- rushing back, an avalanche of memory and feeling, an emotional link to the very young me that bypassed the decades past…

There Were Dragons.

Beestonian Debris

Its a funny old place, is Beestonia. I was talking to friends in London recently and my tales of the place and its veritable oddness raise more than a few disbelieving eyebrows. I haven’t even scratched the surface on this blog; as yet many of my more salacious tales are still subject to me typing them out in detail then deciding not to publish in the cold light of sobriety. They sit on my computer, imprisoned within word files  waiting for my internal judge to exonerate and set them free…but till then, the tales of Parzone, Beestons Most Wonderfully Camp Psycho; The Village Hotel Sauna Chronicles and The Horrific Journal of a WineBarrel Regular must remain behind bars.

But until then, a few little smithereens of my experience of this great suburb/Empire.

PART ONE;

Politics: The election is still a few months off, May most likely. Regular readers will both know that my particular allegiances lie in support of the incumbent MP, and as suCh I was pretty unhappy to see a recent schism in a coalition that seemed to be forming. Beeston itself is stratified diversely on a political level, but on a Borough level, where we are all Broxtonians, we are represented by a reasonably strong Labour party.  The Tories however are a strong threat, MP Palmer’s majority well within a swing to the Dark Side, where doth lie Anne Soubry, the perma-tanned, big haired former TV presenter who isn’t Robert Kilroy Silk. Back to the dark Tory days of Jim Lester will be not good for here, even if you believe Nu-Labour needs a clear-out on a Parliamentary level.

Despite never meeting him, I will declare an interest here in that Nick has been a supporter of this blog for some time, but my appreciation of him, as I suppose his appreciation of my work, is all down to merit. He has been an effective, honest MP for the 12 years we’ve had him, and the constituency has benefited through his diligence.  There, I said it. I wrote to Jim Lester in 1993 about concerns regarding the Criminal Justice Bill fermenting in Parliament, he didnt even honour me a reply.

It seemed that party politics were being put to the side by the bizarre but brilliant coalition springing up here, where the Lib Dems agree to get tactical and back Palmer at the expense of the Tories. Even more weirdly, but rather hearteningly, a significant wing of the Tories also decided to back Palmer.

They were reprimanded by Dave himself, quite wonderfully. I was once called a ‘Very rude young man’ by Anne Widdecombe after ringing her PA after the 2001 General Election for a comment for the BBC , a moment tht ranks in the top 5 of my proudest moments on earth. I thus hope the Tories for Palmer get such a warm glow. There is something oddly amusing about getting told off by a Tory. Its like being spanked with the 1950’s.

But there are fractures, with the Lib Dems suddenly deciding that, ah, they do have a greater chance here, thus they cant set aside. There are possibly much more hidden, diverse, complex reasons why they have backtracked so, and Im not that well connected to say. Or even postulate. I will say however, the Carrs, who run a chunk of Beeston for Nick Whatsisname’s Party, would be best off backing down. To not do so is tacitly -an they know how the land lies here-backing a Tory Broxtowe. They hold what is a trump card in deciding a hung parliament, surely the whole point of their existence until the world swings custard-coloured.  Heres hoping they’ll not swing right.

Part two will follow tomorrow.

 

Beestonian Snippets: The Walker.

A new off license opens, and on finding a two bottles of wine for a fiver deal- and not total vinegar, but not one you want to keep in your mouth for long lest teeth dissolve-I become a regular patron.  The shopkeepers are a rotating bunch of well-groomed middle-eastern men in their early twenties, with a seemingly deep love of loud banging  garage and cheerily cheesy house music.

We exchange hellos, even in the street, but I have no idea of their names, their lives..anything. I lazily assume they are Turkish, and toy with the idea of striking up conversation regarding my travels round Turkey. I say travels, yet its only two ‘expeditions’, one a package holiday to Bodrum and a Ryanair-budgeted few days round Istanbul. I never get round to it, however.

One day, conversation does arise, unexpected, and as you’ll see, not the usual chit chat.

‘Can I pay by card?’ I  ask one evening.

‘Sure’ says the youngest of the staff, ‘But its an extra 50p’.

‘Thats ok’ reply I ‘Can’t be arsed to walk to the cashpoint’

A look flickers across his features. ‘I too am tired of walking. I understand. I spend years walking’

This is a bit gnomic for a reply other than ‘Eh?’ Thus, I turn to him as I punch in my PIN, and say just that.

‘Eh?’

‘I walk from Iraq to Turkey, then across Turkey to Europe. It took me many years. But not to, and that fascist bastard Saddam (he splutters with rage here as he spits out the syllables of the decapitated dictators name) would have got me, as he got my family. He kills the Kurds, he hated the Kurds, he hated me and he would have killed me’.

My PIN is accepted and I’m invited to remove my card.

‘So after my father died, I walk. I am a child but I walk.  I walk through Iraq, and see the dead, and I walk on. I get to the border, and have to run when they are not aware, and once clear, I walk again. Through Turkey, and they spit on me, the Turks, for I am a Kurd, and they do not want the Kurds. So I walk. And I walk and I walk’.

I slip my card into my wallet, and the wine into my bag. I feel a little awkward, and ask ‘Where then?’

‘My friend, then I am here. The walking is over.’

He must be a few years younger than me, possibly 28, 29. His features are handsome and angular, yet then I see in his eyes the tiredness, and realise its not the result of the 12 hour shifts he seems to work; its more ingrained than that, deep. I was 16 at the time of the first Gulf War, and the ensuing Kurdish persecution. While I marked out the weeks and months of those times in bottles of cider, Rock City gigs, and french kisses and copped feels with that once alien species, girls; his chronological markers corpses, pursuit, homelessness.

I  accept my receipt with a ‘Thanks’ and as I turn to go, feel I must say something, anything. This man has known unbearable suffering, terrifying adversity, and heres  me only able to match his story with ‘yeah, around the same time I spent my bus fare after a Mudhoney gig on last orders at the Bell and had to walk home. Without a coat. ‘ I don’t say that, instead I say ‘Well, heres to you not walking again’, and give him a hearty nod, and leave the shop thinking what a profoundly stupid thing I’ve just said.

 

I’ve since only ever paid with cash. Must be guilt.