Monday, 1 November 2010

My very first story . . .

Back about three years ago, I wrote a story.  Shocked me, tell you the truth.  Didn't think I'd sit down and all this would come out.  I posted it on a website, and pretty quickly it got noticed by the editor of the then fledgling Byker Books.  A little while later, I got an email saying they wanted it in their first anthology - Radgepacket Vol. One : Tales from the Inner Cities

Stories of mine went on to appear in the next three Radgepackets, something of which I am very proud.  But it all started with 'My Mate, Tel'.  Hope you enjoy it. 

 My Mate Tel
Some people deserve to die. My mate Tel wasn't one of them.

He was a good lad. Thick as a choppin block, mind, but heart of fuckin gold. We grew up together, me and Tel. Canning Town, Caledonian Street. He was at forty-two and we were right opposite, at thirty-nine. When I say 'we', I mean me and Mum. I never knew me dad. Pissed off soon as he found out mum was expectin. Took up with some tart up Walthamstow way, my Auntie Aggie reckoned. 

Still, I didn't need him. I had mum, and I had Tel.

Times was hard in them days, just after the war. Not a lot of dough goin round, you know, but we got by. Mum always saw to that. I chipped in where I could, of course. I had a paper round, and a few other odds and sods that brought in a couple of pennies. I'd hand it all over to Mum at the end of the week, and she'd ruffle me hair and call me her 'little man'. Then she'd go and grab a couple of Custard Creams for me, and a cup of milk, and I was the happiest boy in the whole fuckin world.

Tel had it hard, though. He'd come to school, bruises round his face, fag burns on his arms, you know the sort of thing. His dad was a real bastard, specially when he had a drink inside him. Tel would be sneakin out of his house all the time, leggin it across the road. Mum'd let him in, sit him down, an get him a couple of Fig Rolls.  And he'd just start ballin his eyes out.

A little while later, there'd be a bangin at our door, and it'd be his dad, half empty whisky bottle in one hand and a fag in the other, wearin the same old army trousers and filthy old vest. Mum'd say she just see Tel runnin down the street, towards the bus station or the canal, or something, and Tel would sneak back over his house a bit later, and shut himself in his room and not come out till mornin.

Tel's mum and dad was killed when his house burnt down. He come and lived with me and Mum after that.

Things was pretty bad for Tel at school as well. Thing is, Tel was a bit on the chubby side, and there was this horrible little bastard, Bob Cunningham his name was, kept teasin him, makin him cry. Always nicely turned out, Cunningham, never no patches on his trouser knees or grime round his collar like the rest of us. He lived over in Bow, and his dad had a fruit and veg stall over at Romford. If it weren't for his brothers bein at our school, I'd have give Cunningham a good hidin meself, but I was only a little lad back then.

This went on for a bit, till there was this one day Cunningham went too far. Took three teachers to drag Tel off him. When they did, Cunningham was out cold, blood all over his face. Tel was suspended for two weeks for that. He was in bits. Not cos of missin school, he quite enjoyed that, but the thought of hurtin someone, even some slimy little shit like Bob Cunningham, well that really cut him up.

Cunningham was found a couple of months later face down in the Limehouse Cut. The coppers reckon his bike slipped off the tow path in the rain. Poor bastard couldn't swim. He never stood a chance.

When we left school, me and Tel both ended up on the railways. He was on the night gangs down the Tube, and I was in the ticket office at Stratford. That's where I met my Pauline. She worked in the canteen. Long blonde hair, big brown eyes, legs right up to her arse.

Me and Pauline got married a couple of years later, and me and Tel sort of lost touch, you know, as you do. Saw him a few years after at Mum's funeral. Lung cancer. She could hardly speak at the end. I remember her on her death bed, asking me to lean in a bit, then she ruffles me hair and calls me her 'little man', one last time, sort of hoarse, you know.  Then she closes her eyes, and that was it. She was gone. Still can't think about it without fillin up.

Three or four years went by before I bumped into Tel again. Turns out he'd got himself involved with some bird down at the petrol garage, the one down by the dog track. They'd had a kid, she had an affair, he had one, then she slung him out. Wouldn't even let him see the kid. I was really worried about him then, you know, thought he might do something stupid. 

As it happened, he did.

Tel had been laid off the railways for being pissed all the time, see. The last straw come when he threw up over some city gent on Platform Three at Euston Square. I suppose there weren't no way back after that, to be fair.

So, Tel was skint, and he had this idea of doing over the post office on Burdett Road. I knew the one he meant, the one where the ironmongers used to be, opposite the electric shop. He said he knew how to get hold of a shooter. Well, I tells him it's a bad idea, but he's dead set on it. Said that all he needed was a few readies, just to tide him over for a bit. He sort of ground me down and, you know, through thick and thin, and all that.

It was all over the local papers the next week. When the coppers walked in, they found Tel sitting on the floor behind the counter, the post office girl propped up next to him, his arm round her, what was left of her head sittin on his shoulder. It seems she'd had her pretty little face caved in with the bottom end of a fire extinguisher. When the coppers told Tel to give them the gun, he put it in his mouth and blew his brains out. 

I'd begged him to come, but he'd just kept staring at me, sort of funny, like. I had it away on my toes out the back, chucked me gloves and t-shirt in a carrier bag, loaded it down with stones and lobbed it in the canal. 

Funny, hadn't been down there since I was a kid, with little Bobby Cunningham. 

Like I said, poor bastard counldn't swim.  

He never stood a chance.


  1. Pure class, mate. Been a long time since I read Radge 1 - just working my way through 4 now (I'm slow!). They're so damn good, and stories such as this are why. Hard to believe this was your first one - what a talent!

  2. Cheers, Jools. Seems a lifetime ago, this one. Mad to see the seeds are here in this story for what eventually became Abide With Me. The bare bones, you know. Like an old friend, this one. A psychotic, unbalanced, bonkers old friend, but an old friend all the same.

  3. Great story Ian; with a strong voice running all the way through it. I can see why BB snapped that one up and thanks for posting it here again.