Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Walk on the mild side

I walked home from work today, and as I did so I passed through a part of town that I haven't been through in a long while. I lived there for several years, mainly while I was at college. Perhaps inevitably, it threw up a number of memories.

Here are a few of those memories: I read an article once in which the writer started every paragraph with "I remember...". It was irritating when I first read it, and took some getting used to. Now, I've grown to like it and it seems to suit these recollections. So:

I remember feeling a little perturbed to find out that there'd been some kind of mini-riot in the area a few weeks before I moved in. I'd moved there after a huge argument with my previous landlady, after living on what was apparently one of the most deprived housing estates in Europe, and I wondered if this was a case of "out of the frying pan.." Soon after moving in I was watching the news with a friend and one of the big stories was of a major police operation, I think they were doing drugs raids. I'd remembered hearing lots of sirens early that morning: so that was why the streets on the television footage looked familiar...

I remember one road being a hangout for the drugs dealers, I couldn't walk down there without being accosted: regardless of my then-straggly-haired appearance, I really wasn't into anything stronger than alcohol. The dealers used to scare the hell out of me til I got used to it. Though there were very occasional exceptions, if you didn't hang around or try and cause trouble, you didn't get any trouble in return. I remember one dealer coming up and walking next to me:

Dealer: What you saying?

Me: Nothing.

Dealer: Why not?

Me: Nothing much to say really.

Dealer: You want something?

Me: Yes, I've come down to get fish and chips.

Dealer: Don't go to that one then, the chip shop round the corner's much better.

Me: Thanks, I'll give it a try.

I remember a different occasion where I was coming out of the chip shop and a guy who had an iron bar started giving me some verbal abuse and waving the bar. Without thinking I blurted out my standard response to the dealers, which was "No thanks," and which confused the hell out of him so I just carried on walking home.

I remember a loud knock at the door one day, and three rather intimidating-looking men standing staring at me. Before I had the chance to say anything one of the men looked me straight in the eye and uttered the word "Dosh." Oh shit, I thought, is there some kind of protection racket going on now?

I was staring blankly at him, and he said it again. "Dosh!" I wondered how I was going to get out of this one. I decided to play for time, feeling very nervous since all three men were staring at me, unsmiling. "Dosh?" I asked, shaking my head slightly and frowning.

"Yes, is he in?"

I was completely thrown now. Is who in, I wondered aloud. "Dosh! He does live here doesn't he?"

I couldn't believe it, here was me expecting some attempt at extortion: it finally became clear that they had a mate called Dosh who, as it turned out, lived a couple of doors down the road.

I remember a friend of mine getting mugged in the most passive way possible. On the street with all the dealers, someone beckoned to him to cross the road. So my friend crossed the road, and got mugged.

I remember a guy who took a lot of drugs, who had come to visit one of my housemates. Our cat had gone into the kitchen and helped itself to some mushy peas which were left on a plate. When it ran back into the living room this guy freaked out, seeing what he thought was green foam emanating from the cat's mouth.

I remember I used to love living there.


Pixie said...

Only you would have that sort of a dialogue with a drug dealer.... brill.

lavenderblue said...

I stand at a local bus-stop, frequently.
There are dead and new flowers bearing the show of grief for a man kicked to death but a few weeks ago.
I remember too.

But Why? said...


Which is the decent chippy? Is it still there?

trousers said...

pixie, that dialogue did happen (not that you've suggested it didn't) and was very odd: I was always on my guard, and I couldn't quite believe the change from tense, in-your-face kind of posturing through to advice on the best chippy. It was only afterwards when I was telling a mate that I realised how funny it was.

lav, I'm really sorry to hear that. It must be very unsettling (to grossly understate such a thing). It's weird looking back, there was the potential for that kind of stuff to happen but overall everything seemed very contained and, as mentioned, if you didn't look for trouble then on the whole you weren't likely to get any coming your way. I'm sure it wasn't quite so neat but that was my experience.

Hi but why?, good question, but I didn't walk down that particular road this evening, so I can't enlighten you I'm afraid. The one I usually went to (which was good anyway) was on the main "druggy" road, and I didn't walk up there today either: I wonder if that was partly due to that sense of needing to be on my guard still being there in my thoughts.

szwagier said...

The repeated I remember refrain, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit, brings to mind (so as not to use that word again ;o) ) the Shangri-Las of all people.

Walking in the sand...

zola a social thing said...

Nice one Trousers.
I guess there is a strange sense of "being brave" in those situations.
This is much more than mere bluff ( which is usually and quickly seen through and then hammered to pieces).

I remember fighting times too. When once a person went down he or she was left alone. Job done as it were.
Today I suspect that kicking-in the head is what happens when a person is down.
Such is what I am learning from my recent UK jaunts.

zola a social thing said...

Taking a walk on the Mild Side was always to sip the slops as the barman smiled. But it was cheaper that way.

To take a walk on the Bitter side was more expensive.

Have you ever been with a woman who had bitter on the left tit and mild on the right tit?

lavenderblue said...

Vinegar Tits ?

trousers said...

Don't be embarrassed szwag. I don't know the song you're referring to, mind you: the only one of theirs I can think of is the "obvious" one.

Dunno about being brave, zola, I remember being scared though for a good while at first: really to be more accurate I should have made the last line in the post

I remember I grew to love to love living there.

szwagier said...

This one.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

hmmm...did you? really love living there? or did you just love the stories that grew out of living there? or was it just that edge of precipice thing?

Pixie said...

Dave Blogs is this something like the chronicles of narnia, of have you changed your name.

trousers said...

Hi lav, now there's a name I haven't heard in a while!

szwag, I'll have a look at that. Haven't done so yet: why do I feel a slight sense of trepidation?

wayfarer, I added a qualification above, that it was more accurate to say I grew to love living there. If these memories I've typed up were representative of the sum total of the experience of living there, I don't know whether I would be able to say that at all.

They're representative of the memories which came back to me most vividly the other day though, which is why I haven't included any "nicer" (for want of a better word) ones. There were many nicer experiences, and one or two less pleasant ones, but they didn't come to mind when I wrote this.

pixie, it was supposed to be a play on Joe Bloggs. "Supposed" being the operative word here, I think.

lavenderblue said...

Erm.........how was your Grandma's Party ?
( getting back to the nicer side of life )

Ario said...

Sounds like Kirkby-in-Ashfield, where I lived once.

Sounds like Bristol, where I lived once.

Sounds like Birmingham, where I lived once.

Repetition can be poetic. It can also be extremely annoying in the wrong hand (i.e. me ;)).

Whilst chuckling along here it did make me curious wherabouts it is you live. Promise I won't stalk ya.

trousers said...

Oh, it was low-key but nice thanks, lav.

You lived in Kirkby-in-Ashfield ario? What a small world this is: not that I lived there, but it's very much my neck of the woods.

DJ Kirkby said...

Wow what an unusual post. I really enjoyed this!

szwagier said...

I do remember one thing.
It took hours and hours but..
By the time I was done with it,
I was so involved, I didnt know what to think.

I carried it around with me for days and days..
Playing little games
Like not looking at it for a whole day
And then.. looking at it.
To see if I still liked it.

I did.

I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat..
The more I look at it,
The more I like it.
I do think its good.
The fact is..
No matter how closely I study it,
No matter how I take it apart,
No matter how I break it down,
It remains consistent.

I wish you were here to see it.

From the man who claims not to listen to lyrics - me - my favourite. This post reminded me of this rather excellent song, too.

zola a social thing said...

Always suspected that Trousers and the Szwagiman were Pinkies.

Reading the Signs said...

Great stuff, Trousers.
Like slightly different coloured beads strung on the same necklace. Actually, the 'I remember' thing is something Natalie Goldberg recommends as a creative writing exercise and I have done it myself quite often, finding it strangely enabling because when you begin to peter out you just go back to it - like a mantra, I suppose.

trousers said...

Hi dj, and thank you!

I love the I repeat myself under stress line szwag. Which neatly sums up the fact that most of the lyrics I like gain meaning through repetition. Can't think of any examples as I type however, which is a bit rubbish. And I'm still a bit scared to click on the Shangri-La's link...

zola, is that a reference to the song quoted by szwag? I assume not for some reason, but I thought I'd ask :)

signs, thank you for those words.