This is a fiction. Don’t believe for a minute that any of it`s true.
“It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away.”
Back in 1990, Clare was renting a room in a council flat, sublet from another couple of scousers, on The Tulse Hill Estate. Her bed was a mattress thrown on a couple pallets on the floor. Clothes, make-up, and magazines were everywhere. Sometimes, after a night partying, I`d stare for what quite possibly could have been hours at the silver fish racing around the cold tiles and my bare feet in the loo.
I was skinning up on a dresser draped in second hand fabric. My rock-star barnet pulled back in a ponytail. Sporting white Levis, a Blanc Bleu sweatshirt*, and Timberland boots. I`d paid for, well I hadn’t actually paid for any of it but I`d “purchased” the lot on my first credit card. That was the card`s sole purpose – picking up something new to wear at the weekend for me and my sister, Becky. I`d worry about paying for it later. I was drinking Red Stripe, and what resin I spilt I brushed off the dresser, into the can. There were four of us in the room, me, Clare, Martin and Ruth, waiting for the taxi that’d take us to the club. If I hadn’t been so self-obsessed I would have noticed that no one else was drinking, no one else was smoking. I might have seen a little horror in their eyes. But I wasn’t and I didn`t.
“I go out every night and I sleep all day”, sang Sinead, on her cover of Prince`s Nothing Compares 2 U. She of suede-head and doe-eyes. I given Clare a copy of the record as part of a valentine, and I`d meant it, I really had. The gift, both a declaration and an apology.
“Since you’ve been gone I can do whatever I want, I can see whom ever I choose”.
It was me that was gone. I mean to begin with we`d go clubbing together, maybe, once every fortnight. Clare was preparing for law finals, so was a lot more sensible. Me and Martin would go on reccies, looking for new places to go. But Martin, again, was a lot more balanced, sane. When we`d drive over to Echoes in Bow, he`d make me blow the smoke from the weed out the window. For them, this thing was fun, it was something you did, but it wasn’t something you did all the time. But then neither of them were the ones buying the gear. I ended up going out every week – Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes Sunday. Sometimes Monday. I mean sometimes I`d go into town with Clare on Saturday, stay at hers, then go out on my own the following night. She’d just refuse to go. Such were the times that, in a club, I didn`t look odd, well not that odd, on my jack, and everywhere I went I knew somebody. Often it felt like everybody. Suddenly the shy mummy’s boy was popular. I guess it went to my head. What’s that rap tune with that line, “The girlies are free, `cos the drugs cost money”? I forget**, but I`d be alone at the bar with a bag of pills in my pocket, and I wouldn’t be alone for long. A gratis cheeky half here, and a couple on tick there. Toilet stall tristes and teeth marks I did my darnedest to explain away. The E and the attention actually had me believing I was attractive. Ruling the dance floor, shaking my King Charles mane and doing my best Michael Hutchence. “Vaguing” I think someone from Boys Own called it. I mean I was fucking losing it, I knew I was, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t feel like I had any reason to stop. No cause to press the pause on the self-destruct.
It`s easy in hindsight to say that this was a cry for attention. That all I wanted was for Clare to notice. For someone to fucking notice and pull me up. That if she’d asked me to, I would have quit. That if she’d shouted “What the fuck are you doing?”, “I love you”, then I would have come to my senses, cleaned up my act and have packed it all in. But knowing what a cunt I can be, it`s more than likely that reasoning with me wasn’t an option.
“All the flowers that you planted in the back yard all died when you went away.”
That line had me me thinking of the garden back home. It pretty much ceased to exist once my mum moved out. Hot-footed it as soon as the first alternative to my dad’s bellowing and bullying turned up. I can close my eyes now and picture the empty gray lot – the circular washing-line and the pre-fab`d concrete – topped with barbed-wire – that fenced us off from a brick-works, and an electrical substation. When mum left, dad had the dog put down, so the only time the garden really got used was when me and Becky sat out there and shared a joint. We`d be puffing while the old man would be out on his nightly five mile run. Pounding the streets in a rage that still hasn’t left him. Neither the joint nor the run did anything to help anyone. Dad would sometimes take his heartbreak out on Becky. I`d have to hold him back, until he calmed down, and then wounded he`d walk off calling me a “poofter”. “I never thought you had it in you”. Which I guess was a compliment. Kinda.
Dad`d follow me around, at my shoulder, shouting, this tight ball of grief and pain. Fucking moaning, moaning, moaning, as I made dinner for me and Becky, and, on strict instructions, made sure not to leave any mess. To be fair, again with that benefit of hindsight, we ran my old man ragged. We`d have people calling constantly – this was before mobiles, so the phone was on the wall in the hall. We`d have taxis dropping off, even picking up packages. People were desperate – it wasn’t only us taking their chances on black marketeering, dancing, and a chemical means of escape. Non-stop crazy, with folks, characters, coming and going. We were too caught up in it to even know what normal was. I didn’t think of it as dealing. I wasn’t making dollars, just getting mine for nowt. On top of all that I was also nicking Dad’s valium, which can’t have helped.
Then there was the time that he threatened me with a kitchen knife, and I just snapped, blacked out, pulled another from the draw, and screamed, “C`mon then”. At which point I`d had to move out. I took a box room in shared house, with a bloke from work. Good-looking and a little bit smug, he was a catholic who`d bring a different girl back every Saturday night, kick them out, and then go to church. I wasn`t far from home, so I could keep an eye on Becky. I was living on a diet of baked potatoes, beans, booze, dope, and ecstasy. Earning the nickname, Bobby Love, which strangers probably assumed was due to the “love” that I sold, but close friends knew was really a nod to a gag ripped from a Rik Mayall sit-com: When Davro*** says “I`d be nowhere without the fans”, Rik replies, “Bobby love, you are nowhere.”
I was lying in that sublet room on the Tulse Hill Estate – clothes, magazines, make-up everywhere – fucking out of it. When I rolled over to skin up, there was my valentine. A 45 in amongst the debris, stepped on and broken. Uncared for, unnoticed. I didn’t know if it was Clare, or if I`d done it, but it was broken all the same. Claire had been my anchor. Without her there was no one left to question or shout.
“It’s been so lonely without you here, like a bird without a song.”
God, that song, it always made me cry. The story was that they filmed the video in one long take. An unflinching close-up of Sinead as a tear rolls down her cheek. The one-take thing turned out to be a lie, but the tear was real. Sinead remembering her own mum as she lip-synched that bit about the back yard****. Years later I was in a taxi, traveling north of the river, to drop off some gear, and pick up some mates, when it came on the radio. I mean, I was already high, so my defenses were down, but it certainly freaked the cab-driver out.
*Blanc Bleu was a high-end-ish casual brand – which was very popular – for about a minute – at the “raves” held at The Downham Tavern, in Bromley, near Catford. Blanc Bleu had a tiny shop on St Christopher’s place – off Oxford Street. The designs featured smiley faces – of course – and teddy bears. Goodness knows how we got away with it.
**The song is KRS-ONE`s The P Is Free, and the line is actually “The girlies is free `cause the crack costs money.”
***Bobby Davro is an English light “entertainer”. Popular in the 1980s.
****There`s whole other story here.