An Extract From The Book: Fish – Operation Electric Man By Kelvin Rush.
By the time the electric man came to empty the money box, there was only a few quid in there. I knew for certain I would be in big trouble, which is why I legged it to the park, before dad got hold of me. Over a six week period, I’d stolen well over twenty quid, and would now have to suffer the consequences. I’d spent most of the money on cigarettes, sweets, and playing golf at the local course. I usually played a round with Goody. I didn’t have any golf clubs of my own, so I borrowed his half set, and he used his dad’s Ping clubs. Goody was the one who encouraged me to break into the electric meter in the first place. He was always telling me how easy it was. Because he’d broken into his own meter at home, and had never been caught, he always sounded convincing. And he was like a dog with a bone, that wouldn’t let go. ‘It’s easy money Fish, you won’t get caught. I’ll show you how to do it. It’s a doddle!’
In the end I gave in, and just look what happened. My Gran says I’m far too timid and easily led, that’s why I’m always getting into trouble. ‘You’re like one of those lost sheep,’ she once told me. ‘Always looking for someone to guide you back home.’ I love Gran, but I don’t understand half of the things she says. How could I be a lost sheep, when I’m one of eight siblings? It doesn’t make any sense. If I was easily led by someone like Goody, who wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, I must have been like putty, in the hands of Sidney Marsden. Compared to Goody, he was the Brain of Britain, and he was no Einstein that’s for sure. So what does that make me?
Me and Goody had only known Sidney Marsden for a few months. He just suddenly appeared one day and never left. I think we first met him at the local park. We were kicking the football to each other on the field, when Sidney popped up from nowhere, and started kicking the ball with us. He’s been hanging around like a bad smell ever since. We’d like to get rid of him but we can’t, for one simple reason: We’re both terrified of him! Although we’ve only known him for a few months, everyone else on our estate seems to know who he is. That’s mainly due to his infamous reputation for being a bit of a nutter, and a very violent nutter at that. Everyone calls him Psycho Sid, although I’ve never heard anyone call him that to his face. I wonder why? He was very intimidating, and not someone to mess with.
He was three years older than me and Goody, so I’ve no idea why he wanted to knock around with us. But one thing was certain, we couldn’t tell him to get lost. No one told Sidney Marsden to get lost, unless they were incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid. He was also a lot older than he looked, and could even get served in the pubs with alcohol. He once told me he went to school drunk one day, smacked one of the teachers, and then got suspended for three months. I don’t know if it was true or not. He didn’t go to the same school as me and Goody, so there was no way of knowing for sure.
Sidney was a beast of a boy. He had arms like tree trunks, and was built like a tank. Not the lightly armoured A15 Crusader tank. Oh no, Sidney was more like the E-100 Super tank, with a heavy artillery system, 140 tons of sheer power. I love tanks. I have done ever since I got an Airfix model of the Chieftain Tank for my birthday. And I love war films. The best one ever, was A Bridge Too Far, staring Michael Caine, Dirk Bogarde, Edward Fox, Anthony Hopkins, and Sean Connery. Mum and dad got me a brilliant World War Two encyclopedia for Christmas. It has over 500 pages, and is crammed packed full with interesting facts, and amazing colour photos. I think it’s probably the best present I’ve ever had. Our Sharon said it’s that big, it would be ideal in the toilet, pushed up against the door. The door’s broken and doesn’t close properly. It keeps opening when ya having a poo, which is a bit embarrassing, especially if mum and dad are waking past.
Sidney had a chubby fat round face, full of acne potholes, and a skinhead haircut. On some occasions, when his skin was all oily and his acne had flared up, his face looked like a hot buttered crumpet. Me and Goody howled with laughter many times, at the state of Sidney’s face, (behind his back of course). He also didn’t have a neck, well not one you could see anyway. If you looked at him side-on, his head was the exact same shape as a giant watermelon. To finish off his dashing film star good looks, he had a missing front tooth, which he said had been knocked out in a vicious fight. ‘I might av got mi tooth knocked out,’ he said. ‘But I still won the fight, and I bit off half his ear and spat it out.’ It all sounded a bit far-fetched to me, but I certainly didn’t question him. In all honesty, Sidney Marsden had one of the scariest faces I think I’d ever seen, and I’d seen some scary faces roaming the streets on our estate, I can tell ya. He also had a ferocious temper, that he would unleash at the drop of a hat.
I remember on one occasion, me, Goody and Sidney were sat on the wall outside Cod Fellas Fish Bar in town. We each had a bag of chips with scraps, soaked in salt and vinegar, and were just sat there minding our own business, eating our chips. Then two boys came up to us. I’ve no idea who they were, but they looked about seventeen. One had long unkempt black hair, a bit scruffy looking, wearing jeans and a Black Sabbath t-shirt. He was quite tall and skinny, and he stunk as well. He had a kind of musty smell around him, like his clothes needed a real good wash, and so did he. The other boy was a lot smaller, with cropped blonde hair, shaved at the sides. He was wearing a light blue adidas tracksuit and white trainers.
At first I thought they must have been Sidney’s mates, but he didn’t say a word, and just carried on eating his chips. Then the boy with the Black Sabbath t-shirt, stood right in front of Goody, no more than a foot away from his face. The moment he opened his mouth I knew there would be trouble. ‘Giz a chip mate,’ he said, as he stuck his right hand inside Goody’s bag, and pulled out a handful of greasy chips, shoveling them into his mouth while smiling. Goody just sat there motionless and didn’t say a word. I suddenly felt a sickening feeling right in my gut. Having grown up on a rough, northern council estate, I knew when things were about to kick off. And things were most definitely about to kick off.
— There was always trouble on our estate. Kids fighting, stealing cars, breaking into houses, you name it. I’d seen kids being headbutted, kicked in the face, even stabbed on one occasion. I hated violence, and wasn’t much of a fighter. I’d had a few scuffles here and there, but they weren’t what you’d call real fights. Goody was the same. I don’t think he’d even been in a proper argument, let alone a fight. We were both quite small for our age, and skinny as rakes. In all honesty, we didn’t have the strength, to knock the sugar off mum’s apple pies. (Maybe that’s what the boys thought too.)
The second boy with the blonde hair, sat down on the wall next to me, only a few inches away. I can’t deny that at this point, I was starting to feel a little scared. Without saying a word, he reached over and ripped the bag of chips right out of my hands. Instinctively, I tried to grab the bag back. However, the next thing I knew, I was flying backwards off the wall, doing a half somersault, and landing face down in the gravel. The boy had belted me right in the face with the back of his fist. My nose exploded, like a puss-filled boil that had just been lanced. There was blood everywhere. I was lying on the gravel in a daze, not really knowing what was going on. I just about managed to stagger back to my feet, and slump down onto the wall, before it all kicked off, big time.
Sidney stood up, with a mad, evil look on his face, and held out his bag of chips to the blonde haired boy. ‘Here pal….. av some of my chips,’ he said. Before the boy could respond, Sidney went absolutely mental. I’ve never seen anything like it before, he was like a man possessed. He forcefully shoved his bag of chips, right in the boy’s face, before releasing a volley of left and right hooks to his head. The poor boy didn’t know what day it was, as he screamed out in pain, before falling off the wall and collapsing to the floor in a heap. Then Sidney kicked him in the stomach, really hard three times. The boy cried out after each kick. Sidney was wearing his Dr Martens boots, so the pain must have been unbearable. I don’t know if the boy was unconscious or not, but he didn’t say very much, and he wasn’t moving either.
The other boy with the Black Sabbath t-shirt, stood there like a waxwork dummy. Sidney grabbed hold of his neck with his left hand, and pushed him at great pace towards the chip shop window. He then proceeded to bang the back of his head several times on the glass. You could see the window bending, as if it was about to shatter any second. The few customers inside the shop, who were queuing up for their fish and chip dinners, looked gobsmacked to say the least. The boy was pleading for Sidney to stop, but that only seemed to make him more angry. He swung the boy around a few times, before dragging him by his t-shirt across the concrete floor, just like a rag doll. The boy’s t-shirt instantly ripped down the middle, revealing his fleshy chest, that was soon covered in dirt and debris from the floor.
Sidney then callously kneed him in the head. The boy squealed out in desperation, (just like a rat that had been shot and wounded). Sidney then kicked him twice in the groin, and then once in the face, before the chip shop owner came frantically rushing out of the shop. ‘That’s enough!’ he shouted, as he stood firmly in front of Sidney and grabbed hold of his shoulders. ‘They started it!’ bellowed Goody, who was still sat on the wall holding his bag of chips. ‘I’m not bothered who started it!’ said the chip shop owner. ‘But I’m finishing it! So you can all do one now! before I call the police!’ The mere mention of police instantly got Sidney panicking. He had a suspended prison sentence hanging over him, for aggravated burglary, and couldn’t afford to get into any more trouble.
— He’d broken into the local grocery store, run by Mr and Mrs Ross, who lived in the flat above the shop. He got in through the back window, using a large kitchen knife to force it open. Mr Ross, (who was in bed at the time), heard someone ransacking the shop downstairs and called 999. The police arrived shortly after, just as Sidney was fleeing the scene. He was caught red-handed. He had over one hundred pounds stuffed in his pockets, which he’d stolen from the till.
He also had two carrier bags, filled with packs of cigarettes, three bottles of Bell’s Scotch Whisky, endless bags of cheese and onion crisps, three crunchie bars, five mars bars, six cans of orangeade pop, and a half-eaten pork pie, (which he insisted on finishing in the police car, while being driven down to the station). He was charged with ‘aggravated burglary,’ rather than just ‘burglary,’ as he was carrying a knife. According to Sidney, aggravated burglary is committed, when the offender has a weapon of some kind, at the scene of the crime. In the hope of a lesser sentence, Sidney told the judge, he had no intentions of using the knife on anyone, and only used it to force open the window, to get into the shop. The judge didn’t believe him, and gave him a twelve month suspended prison sentence, and one hundred hours of community service. And he had to pay costs.
The chip shop owner, who was a dainty Chinese man, and a lot smaller than Sidney, still had hold of his shoulders. Sidney, who was now desperate to get away, before any police arrived, gave the man a stern push. The man staggered backwards a few feet, just about managing to stay upright, before Sidney yelled out: ‘Leg it lads! Leg it!’ The three of us ran like the clappers. We ran down the street, over the bridge and into the bus station to platform 6, to get on the bus home. Luckily for us, the number 39 was already letting passengers on. We jumped on the bus, went straight upstairs to the top deck, then ran down the aisle to the back row of seats. We were all panting, gasping for air, (just like those tired horses do, at the end of the Grand National race, you see on telly). We sat down and mulled over the event.
Sidney was all pumped up with adrenaline, and seemed to be on a real high, as if he’d just had a drug fix or something. Considering he’d just inflicted so much pain on the two boys, he didn’t seem to have an ounce of remorse, or compassion. ‘I’ve got a reputation to keep up,’ he said. ‘I can’t have two little shits like those boys, getting the better of me.’ I think Sidney enjoyed his notoriety, not to mention the respect he got from people, (albeit because they were terrified of him). Me and Goody felt sorry for the two boys, even though one of them had busted my nose, (which was now swollen and very sore, but thankfully had stopped bleeding). I can’t speak for Goody, but I felt sick to my stomach about the whole incident. I was also hoping the boys weren’t too badly hurt. They could have been dead for all we knew, especially the blonde haired boy, who may have been kicked unconscious.
It was a relief when the bus finally began to pull away from the station. I wanted to get as far away from the crime scene as quickly as possible, and forget about the whole thing. A few minutes later, the bus conductor came upstairs. He was a Pakistani man, a bit on the large side, and was dressed in a smart black uniform, with a white shirt and black tie. He had a shiny silver ticket machine, and a brown leather cash bag, both strapped around his neck criss-cross style, neatly nestled on either side of his fat waist. He stood there glancing up and down, looking for passengers, and soon realised that we were the only ones on the top deck.
He seemed a little hesitant, as he slowly walked down the aisle towards us, like he was expecting trouble or something. It must have been a bit of a shock, to see me covered in blood with a swollen nose, and Sidney looking really confrontational to say the least, with his skinhead haircut, Dr Martens boots, scruffy drainpipe jeans, black t-shirt, (with a large red Anarchy logo on the front), and a ripped black leather jacket. The conductor stood in front of us, with his right hand firmly on his silver ticket machine. (Maybe it was some kind of secret weapon, that could be deployed in a split second, should there be any trouble.)
‘Fares please,’ he said in a light voice, while holding out his left hand. Goody, (who’s turn it was to pay for the fares), quickly rummaged through his jean pockets, before pulling out six pence, which he gave to the conductor. ‘Three to Kimberworth please,’ he said. ‘Three to Kimberworth young man?’ replied the conductor, as he lifted up the flap on his cash bag, and dropped the money inside. He then aligned a few buttons on the front of his ticket machine, before frantically turning the black handle on the side several times, until three tickets rolled out from the slot. ‘There you go young man,’ he said, handing the tickets to Goody. ‘Thanks a lot,’ replied Goody, as he took the tickets, and gave one to me and Sidney.
The conductor then reached inside the top pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a dark blue neatly folded handkerchief. ‘Here you are young man, wipe the blood away with this,’ he said, holding it out for me to take. I don’t know why, but as I took the handkerchief and thanked him, I started to cry. Maybe it was the delayed shock at having my nose busted up. Or maybe it was seeing the horrible violence inflicted on the two boys. It may have even been the compassion from the conductor. Whatever it was, I couldn’t control it, and seconds later I was blubbering, like a starving child with a missing mother. Sidney looked embarrassed, as I continued to sob uncontrollably. Then he blurted out: ‘Make sure there’s no snot or bogies on the handkerchief.’
The conductor roared with deep laughter, revealing a perfect set of straight white teeth. (I’d only ever seen teeth like that on the telly before. Only film stars like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever had perfect teeth.) ‘Don’t worry,’ said the conductor, who was still laughing. ‘It’s a brand new handkerchief. I always get a few at Christmas, so I’ve got a draw full of them at home. I certainly haven’t blown my nose on it, that’s for sure.’
‘Yeah…..! you’ll tell us anything!’ shouted Sidney jokingly, as he dangled his legs over the seat in front. The conductor leaned over and gave my hair a real good ruffle with both his hands. ‘You get that nose seen to young man,’ he said. ‘It looks to me like it could be broken.’ I nodded and smiled, still sniveling. ‘Yeah, will do,’ I replied. The conductor then walked back down the aisle and down the stairs. I opened up the handkerchief, and began to wipe the blood from my face, neck and clothes. I used my reflection in the glass window to remove as much of the blood as possible. I then gave my nose and eyes a real good wipe, before scrunching up the handkerchief into a ball, and shoving it up the right sleeve of my jumper.
Goody, who was sat next to me on the back row of seats, put his arm around me. ‘Are you ok fish?’ he asked, looking a little concerned. By now I’d stopped crying, but was feeling rather sorry for myself. ‘I’m ok Goody thanks….. I’ll survive.’ Sidney shook his head rapidly in disgust.
‘Look at you two!’ he snarled. ‘Ya like a pair of puffs, all lovey-dovey. Why don’t you give him a kiss Goody while ya at it?’ Goody was noticeably embarrassed, and quickly removed his arm from around my shoulder, and retreated to the seat next to the window. ‘I was only making sure he was ok Sidney,’ said Goody a little sarcastically, (which wasn’t the best idea).
‘Well! You can see he’s ok Goody!’ snapped Sidney. ‘You don’t have to put ya arms around him. He’s only got a bloody nose ya know. He’s not been shot or anything like that. I’ve been stabbed a few times, kicked in the goolies, and hit over the head with a hammer, and no one has ever put their arm around me, and asked me how I was. And if anyone tried to, they’d be in big trouble.’ I didn’t say anything at the time, but I remember thinking, poor old Sidney, I bet he’s never had much love or affection in his life.
Fifteen minutes later the bus arrived at Kimberworth. It pulled up at the bus stop, outside the Black Hut community center. The three of us were stood on the lower deck, next to the doors as they opened. Sidney got off first, followed by Goody. Before I got off, I turned to the conductor, who was stood next to the bus driver. ‘Thank you for the handkerchief,’ I said. The conductor raised his thumb and smiled. ‘You’re welcome young man. Now you make sure you get that nose seen to.’ ‘I will do,’ I said, before getting off the bus. ‘Me and Sidney are nipping up to the park to cadge a fag off someone, are you coming?’ asked Goody. The last thing on my mind was fags. ‘No, I’m gonna get off home Goody, and get this nose cleaned up.’
‘Ok Fish, see ya later.’
‘Yeah see ya Goody, see ya Sidney.’
‘See ya later pal.’
I got home shortly after and walked in the kitchen. Our Sharon was helping mum with the ironing. Mum was doing the ironing, and Sharon was neatly folding the clothes, and piling them on top of each other on the dining table. The pile must have been at least two foot high, and on the verge of tipping over. As soon as they clapped eyes on me, they looked in complete shock. Our Sharon, (who’s always been a bit of a drama queen), started shouting like a lunatic: ‘Our Martin’s been stabbed! Our Martin’s been stabbed!’ I must have looked pretty bad, as my nose was all busted up, and there was still quite a lot of blood on my face and clothes. ‘Calm down Sharon, of course I haven’t been stabbed. I’ve been punched in the nose that’s all.’
Mum rushed over towards me. ‘Punched in the nose love!? Punched in the nose!? Who on earth would want to punch you in the nose love!?’ (Mum always said the right things, and always made me feel safe, secure, and loved.) She then took hold of my chin, and gently moved my head from side to side, while closely examining my face, like she was a nurse or something. She looked deep into my eyes, in my ears, and right up my nostrils, before cautiously prodding my nose a few times, with her soft forefinger. ‘Well love, I don’t think it’s broken. Now tell me exactly what happened, who did this to you love?’
‘It was two boys in town mum. We were sat eating our chips outside Cod Fellas, and they just set upon us.’ Mum’s loving, caring, placid demeanor changed in an instant. ‘Cod Fellas…..!? Cod Fellas…..!? What have I told you about Cod Fellas…..!? How many times have I told you not to go anywhere near Cod Fellas…..!?’ (I was beginning to wish I’d gone to the park with Goody and Sidney.)
‘We only went for a bag of chips with scraps mum, that’s all.’
‘I’ve told you before Martin, there’s always trouble at Cod Fellas, that’s where all the idiots hang out, and there’s always violence. Don’t you remember that young lad that got stabbed outside Cod Fellas, a few months ago? It was all over the news. I don’t think he was killed, but he was certainly badly injured, scarred for life I think. By the way, does that nice Chinese man still own Cod Fellas? He was on the telly being interviewed about the stabbing, if you remember.’
‘Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that mum. He was a little short Chinese man wasn’t he? He was actually there mum, he ran out of the chip shop to stop the fighting.’ Mum nodded her head and grinned, as if she knew the man. ‘Yeah, that sounds about right love, they don’t scare very easily those Chinese. They’re very family orientated the Chinese ya know. They all live in the same house, generations of families, all living in the same house, how great is that? And they live to well over a hundred ya know. That’s all the fish they eat, and I don’t mean the fatty, battered fish you get in our chippies. They eat raw fish the Chinese ya know. Imagine that….. raw fish.’
‘I think it’s the Japanese that eat raw fish mum,’ said Sharon. ‘Not the Chinese.’
‘Oh no, no love, it’s the Chinese, that’s why they look so young and healthy.’ Then mum’s brain backtracked slightly. ‘You say the Chinese man ran out of the chip shop, to stop the fighting? What fighting?’ ‘Oh you don’t want to know mum. It wasn’t so much a fight, more like a brutal beating. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even want to go to Cod Fellas in the first place. I sort of got dragged along.’ #
Mum finally let go of my chin. ‘Dragged along love? Who by? Who did you actually go to Cod Fellas with?’ ‘Erm….. Well, I went with….. With…..’ I didn’t want to mention Goody, and certainly not Sidney Marsden. Then our Sharon stuck her oar in. ‘I bet it was Goody wasn’t it?’ she said in a clever, smug tone. ‘It was him, wasn’t it? It was Goody mum, him that broke into our shed, and nicked the lawnmower.’ (Sometimes our Sharon was a real pain in the groin, and this was definitely one of those times.) Mum didn’t look pleased. ‘Was it Goody Martin?’ ‘Well….. erm….. erm….. Ok….. yes it was Goody mum. But like I’ve told you a million times before, he wasn’t the one who nicked the lawnmower, it was someone else. Admittedly, Goody was in our shed, but he wasn’t there to nick anything. I said he could borrow the lawnmower, cos theirs wasn’t working. But when he went into the shed, the lawnmower wasn’t there, someone had already nicked it.’
— Whenever Goody’s name was mentioned in our house, the infamous lawnmower incident was always brought up, time and time again. It was always used as evidence to blacken his reputation. I don’t know what the big deal was anyway, the lawnmower in question was a right old rust bucket. We’ve got a better one now, (although that’s not brilliant). Mum wasn’t in the least bit convinced. ‘All I know Martin, is Goody was seen by a few people, rummaging around in our shed, and the next thing ya know the lawnmower has been stolen. And he’s also been in trouble with the police before.’ Mum always brought up the police. ‘That wasn’t for stealing mum, that was for riding a motorbike with no tax or insurance. And how can he get tax and insurance, when he’s only ten years old?’ I could see mum was having none of it.
‘Look Martin, Goody is a bad influence love, I’ve told you that before. I’ve told you to keep away from him, but as usual you never take any notice. If you’d av kept away from him like I said, you wouldn’t be stood there with a bloody nose.’ I could see I wasn’t going to win this battle diplomatically, so I got really angry and let rip instead. ‘It wasn’t Goody’s fault mum…..! We were set upon by two boys…..! How is that Goody’s fault?! Everyone keeps going on about him like he’s Dick Turpin or something!’
Because of all the commotion, the kitchen was soon swarming with siblings, wondering what was going on. ‘Wow…..! look at our Martin’s bloody nose!’ squealed our Julie. ‘Did you hit him back?’ asked our Tracey. ‘I bet ya nose is broken, you’ll be off school for ages,’ said our Robert. ‘How many were there? and did you know them?’ quizzed our Debra. Mum was certainly in no mood for curious siblings. ‘Right you lot,’ she said. ‘Get out of this kitchen, go on get out, and let me see to our Martin’s nose.’ (Mum was acting like a cattle rancher, as she quickly rustled up the herd, and hustled them out of the kitchen. It was just like watching big John Wayne in the film: The Cowboys.)
Mum spent the next fifteen minutes or so, cleaning up my nose. She soaked a flannel in warm water, and gently wiped away the dried blood from my nose, face and neck. Although my nose was bruised and swollen quite badly, mum insisted it wasn’t broken. ‘If it still hurts when the swelling has gone down, we’ll see what the doctor thinks,’ she said. ‘Right Martin….. get those clothes off, they’re covered in blood. They need a really good soak in cold salt water. Then you can get upstairs for a bath. Go and put the immersion heater on for the hot water.’
Twenty minutes later, I was laid in the bath thinking about Cod Fellas. I was beating myself up for not fighting back, after being belted in the nose. I should have at least retaliated. I suppose I did in a small way, when I tried to grab my bag of chips back from the blonde haired boy, after he snatched them from my hands. Mind you….. that’s when he walloped me. I’m a rubbish fighter anyway, so there was very little I could do.
To compensate for my total lack of fighting ability, and to keep all the bullies at bay, my tactic was to try and make people laugh instead. Luckily, I was quite good at telling jokes, and impersonating celebrities off the telly. My limited repertoire, included Michael Crawford, from Some Mothers Do Ave Em. Hughie Green, from Opportunity Knocks, and Bruce Forsyth, from The Generation Game. My best one was Steptoe and Son, I could take the old man off to a tee. Everyone watched Steptoe and Son on the telly, so it always went down well. It was also Sidney Marsden’s favourite programme. He would often say to me: ‘Do the old man from Steptoe and Son. Go on, do the old man.’ I would willingly oblige and he would howl with laughter. It felt good making Sidney Marsden laugh.
Although I was very scared of him, I also admired him in some ways. He always seemed to be in control and he wasn’t scared of anyone or anything. Nothing seemed to bother him. Not even when he went to court, for nicking lead off the fire station roof. When the judge gave him a large fine and put him on probation, he smiled and thanked the judge, before leaving the court room. Even when the fireman caught him red-handed nicking the lead, it didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. The fireman had just begun his night shift at the local station. He was upstairs in the kitchen making coffee, when he heard a noise on the roof. He opened the window, and saw Sidney twisting and tugging the lead, desperate to rip it off. He wasn’t even trying to be quiet. ‘What on earth are you doing up there?’ asked the bewildered fireman. ‘I’m nicking your lead, why what’s the problem?’ joked Sidney. He stayed on the roof refusing to come down. However, by the time the police arrived forty minutes later, the temperature had plummeted to below zero.
Sidney, (who was only wearing denim jeans and a black t-shirt), was sat halfway up the roof, curled up in a ball shivering violently. His face was beetroot red, and his acne had flared up, revealing countless unsightly spots all over his face and neck. It looked like his head had been dipped in a can of polka dot paint. Sidney was well known to the police, as he’d been in trouble many times before, mainly due to theft and violence. ‘Come on Sidney,’ said one of the police officers. ‘You can’t stay up there all night lad.’ Sidney didn’t argue. He came down from the roof a few minutes later, and was taken to the station, and charged with attempted theft.
Sidney Marsden was one of the reasons I’d started smoking. I’d never even took a drag of a cigarette, let alone smoked a full one, until I met Sidney Marsden. Sidney and Goody were regular smokers, and they encouraged me to try it, on many occasions. In the end I gave in. I started off by having the odd drag here and there, and before I knew it, I was a fully fledged five a day smoker. Smoking also made me feel like a proper grown up, and part of the gang. And it felt good when I was dishing out the fags to Sidney and Goody.
That was another reason why I took so much money from the electric meter. So I could buy more cigarettes. There were lots of times when no one had any money. Goody would try and persuade me to steal a few more quid. If I refused (which I often did), then he would get Sidney to have a go. It wasn’t so much persuasion with Sidney, it was more like intimidation, and you couldn’t say no to that. Me and Goody would often get into arguments, when he’d refuse to steal more money from his own meter. He would always use the same excuse: ‘It’s too risky at the moment Fish. I think my dad’s getting suspicious.’ (A likely story.) Goody was another reason why I stole so much money. He asked me to lend him ten quid, and he would give me twelve back. He literally begged me for the money. He didn’t tell me what the money was for, but he did say it was a matter of life and death. I felt sorry for him, so I lent him the money. What I didn’t know at the time, was he wanted the money to play on the slot machines, at the snooker hall in town.
Lots of people played on the slot machines, while they were waiting for a snooker table to be available. And with a massive thirty pound jackpot, there was no shortage of punters, ready to feed the rip-off machines. Although Goody was underage and shouldn’t have even been on the slot machines, the manager of the snooker hall didn’t seem to mind, (especially when Goody was pumping the money in, faster than a scared rat up a drainpipe). At fifty pence a go, it wasn’t long before the ten quid was quickly swallowed up.
Ironically, when a kid on our estate called Deano, actually won the thirty pound jackpot, initially, he wasn’t even allowed to keep any of the money. The snooker manager told him, it was illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen, to play on the slot machines. And unless Deano could provide ID, to prove his age, he would have to hand all the winnings back. Deano, who was only sixteen, was absolutely livid, and began screaming aggressively in the manager’s face. ‘But you saw me putting money into the slot machines! And you never said anything then! It seems you don’t mind me putting money in, but as soon as I win anything, you want it all back! It’s an absolute outrage!’ Some of the regular snooker members agreed. They took Deano’s side, and after a few more heated arguments with the manager, Deano was allowed to keep half of the money.
Goody was going to give me the twelve quid he owed, once he’d sold his Raleigh Chopper bike. He was selling the bike for twenty quid to Paul Scott, who lived on the next street. Once I’d got the money, I was going to change it into fifty pence coins, and put the coins in our meter, before the electric man came to empty it. At least that’s what the plan was, but as usual things soon went belly-up. Goody did sell his bike for twenty quid, but when his dad found out, he took him straight round to Paul Scott’s house, and bought the bike back. (At least that’s how Goody tells it.) Leaving me once again, up shit creek without a paddle. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Goody had also been borrowing money from Sidney, who was now threatening to break his arms, unless he got his money back. All in all, it was a right old mess. I’m not sure who was in the worst position, me or Goody.
An Extract From The Book: Fish – Operation Electric Man By Kelvin Rush.