BONG, BONG, BONG SMASH! I was soaking wet; had not yet worked out where the ear-ringing sound was coming from, and I had been covered with drink; a fizzy liquid spilled all around me on the floor. No time to guess what it was, though, as I had some spirited youth hanging onto my head as he continued to wrestle me to the floor.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever had any “dealings” with Matt Delito, as he’s said before he goes by a different name, and anyway, in my experience, all police are lying c***s. For the most part I am a well-behaved individual, but I guess I made some poor choices back in my teens, which mean I’ll never work for a company that checks criminal backgrounds, or ever be allowed into the United States. Don’t consider it the life of a petty criminal — I prefer to see it as me running a small business. A relaxation business. After all, I provide all my customers — a cross-section of the population so vast that I could not begin to categorise them — with the best skunk in Essex.
Think of my columns as you will, but all I'm tryin' to do is tell my side of the story, so PC Delito doesn't get all the say. I don't expect many of you to like me, but I am what I am. Innit.
But back to that youth wrestling me to the ground…
As I mentioned last week, alcohol and me have issues, but since my youthful days of running around town acting like a complete knob have passed, I am happy drinking larger knowing 97 times out of one hundred I will wake up in my own bed, mostly unscathed, and with the type of hangover only pints of "wife beater" leave you with. Rum/whiskey/vodka and coke on the other hand, I don’t deal with them nearly as well.
Late on a Friday morning, I was settling in for another day in my makeshift office, my office looking very much like a well-lived-in sitting room. Jeremy Clarkson’s opinions bellowing from the TV; the window wide open; the waves of stale smoke slowly exiting the flat. A quick clean-up of the living room; a tidy of the kitchen; a look at the collection of cans in black bags in the hallway that had been building up for almost a week. Yes, it was a busy morning, to be sure.
My flat has become a nightly gathering spot recently, mostly for Chaz and Jim, who were taking gear every night like it was going out of fashion; sitting and smoking half of it as soon as I passed it over. They both still lived at home, and couldn't leave until either their red eye had eased, or their parents had gone to bed. The fact they always brought a few cans with them basically paid their rent on the sofa each night; plus I liked the fact they respected my position in society: I had my own flat...well, a council flat; girlfriend; car and cash. But tonight was going to be different, as I was going out. Out-out.
The pre-arranged evening was a welcome change for me, not to mention being out with old mates who didn't just want to borrow a “bit” was also a nice change. These were my straight friends, well, mostly legit, although Dave and Paul loved "the sniff" and were still fairly lively in the boozer on occasion. Fact: they could not have a night on the beer without uttering the words, “should we put in a call?”, expectedly followed by a “yeah, why not”. But Martin was straight, had a great job in London and rarely came back home since he'd moved about 8 miles away. He was a magnet; people were naturally drawn to his wit, which was self-demeaning in the funniest of ways; a gentle giant in size compared to Dave and Paul, and a good few inches taller (not longer, ahem) than me.
The not-so-local pub we'd agreed to meet in was different to our usual haunts: I only really go to the same few places, as what is the point of going miles to drink in a different chain pub? One where I don’t know anybody, too.
I shrugged off my general lethargy that comes parceled with a chain-smoking habit, and jumped in a cab with Dave and Paul to the pub Martin had instructed to meet at. The taxi journey was made to seem twice as long, because Paul had issues with the driver’s beaded car seat and jewel-encrusted tissue box. Paul had no idea the taxi driver knew exactly what he was muttering under his breath, and ignorantly giggled in the back seat after every single utterance. When Dave told him to shut up, it did not help.
“Turn left, thank you, pleasings,” Paul laughed each time. then got worse.
I gave the taxi driver a tip and thought of the restraint he showed in not kicking us out of his cab on the motorway. It didn't matter now anyway, as we soon stepped out towards the pub, where we were met with a big grin, even bigger hug, and one swift motion from Martin, as he led the way to the bar. We naturally questioned his choice of pub, though he said he had never been in there before, but it was a good place to start as it was near his new home.
It was exactly the fucking same inside, of course -- not just the furniture, but the crowd. The same chavvy gangs; working-class 20-somethings "dressed to impress;" older groups, and a few families wishing they had left earlier. Added to this, Martin had only just realised how different the price between a Wetherspoon’s in middle-Essex, and his usual haunts in London were. and he began to return from the bar with rounds so large and varied, it was no time at all before I was flaming drunk. I was so so drunk; drunk enough to walk around the pub with one bollock sticking through my unzipped fly, asking any girl I remotely fancied if she had “seen my scotch egg? It fell off my plate and rolled….”, as I looked down at my crotch until the "lucky" lady recoiled in horror, and/or laughter.
Each time Martin returned from the bar, he changed the drinks order: rum, whiskey, jaegerbombs, larger, cider...it seemingly didn't matter to him. We drank hard and fast, with Martin buying more than his fair share; each time returning with the comment “this lot only cost £18; in London it would have been £50!” The more we drank, the greater the difference in cost, until he spoke about bars in London where a beer costs £7 and wine £14 a glass. To say he was showing off was an understatement.
The pub started to filter out, with large groups bounding out of the door, dressed slightly too well for a Wetherspoon’s, as they headed directly into the arms of a waiting minibus, to whisk them off to the local club. “We should go to a club,” with the the motion being passed by Paul. Most likely looking for the next cab ride in the hopes of a further opportunity to ridicule the driver. “Whose round is it?” Martin chipped in, his face clearly showing that he did not want to go anywhere else, given he was a short trip from home. A normal round followed as Dave walked cautiously back to the table; the sickly-but-damp carpet making his steps seem like Neil Armstrong's first on the moon. Dave would never be any good on the TV show The Cube; most of the four pints were all over the tray by now. As the glasses were lifted, I quickly picked up the rubbery oversized Frisbee and slurped a large mouthful of the spilt beer swill. We were being loud, and our roars swept through the almost instantly-emptied pub. The dimness of the location was more apparent. The crowd that was left was hugely inferior to the previous happy-go-lucky, going out-out girls and boys. Now my view was of a soggy crimson-patterned carpet, leading to two groups of youths; one group fairly normal-looking, with an equal mix of girls and boys sitting in the corner (fucking students, I thought), the second group of around six or seven lads all tracksuited from head to toe, with several ignoring the "no caps" policy. It was strikingly obvious that these lads were slightly younger than the average, or legal pub patron; I hazarded a beer-soaked guess that the oldest was 20, and the youngest around 16.
What was more apparent from my new view of the pub was that the younger group had taken an interest in us; our volume had obviously interrupted their intelligent conversation. As two or three of the young sportsmen glared as menacingly as they could muster in our direction, Martin bellowed with laughter as Paul yelled, “what the fuck are they doing?! I am not looking for a fight; I am 31 years old!” With that, Martin sank his pint and said he was going for a fag and a kebab or burger, or both. Dave was already walking towards the door when I suggested a “piss stop” to Paul was in high priority. As I stood up, a sly comment came from the crowd. Sober, it would have meant nothing, but at this stage of the evening, and the cocktail of drinks swilling around my stomach, I bellowed out a swift “WOT?” in their direction. With no reply sounding back, I walked to the gents with a slight swagger, and a “muggy c*nt” comment sounded loud enough to be heard. Still to this day, I am not sure if it was myself or Paul who said it, but either way I was flinging the door to the stinking bogs and draining the snake as quick as I could, while Paul had a swift trip into a stall.
As we walked through the small carpark, the pack/herd/school of chavs stared in our direction out of the window, not muttering a word, with the gaze of all six of them now on us, as they followed our trudge through the gritty carpark until we were some distance away.
“Fucking queers,” the chav in the brightest tracksuit hollered at us, having exited the pub.
“Fuckin' runnin' away!” said another.
“Fuckin' priiiiiiiiicks!” we heard from the first one, again.
Their vocabulary was limited but they were consistent, and although we were completely hammered, the four of us leapt into action. Me and Paul turned to the group, as we made our way behind the other three towards the kebab shop. Shit, it was only 100 yards down the road, far too close to the pub and youths I had just gestured a rude sign too. Fuck it, I thought to myself, as I turned and caught up with Paul who was close behind the other two.
As we waited for the cab to turn up, the youths grew in confidence and numbers as they walked menacingly towards us; every few feet stopping to discuss something, but increasingly looking towards Gary’s Kebab, Chicken and Pizza shop. Maybe they were hungry? Clearly not.
As they approached, it was obvious they were a group of seven again, were they the same people as before, though? Surely there can’t be many people out tonight, wearing that style of ill-fitting sports apparel?
The next 60 seconds were a blur, as the pack approached from the direction of the pub. Martin suggested we go into the taxi office itself, behind the safety of a closed door. “Why, I am not running away, they ain’t going to do anything, muggy c*nts!” I was stern; I was drunk, and it was a bad judgement call on my behalf.
Smack, the sound of a large wet fish being slammed onto a counter in a fish mongers. Dave came running (of sorts) past me; his legs rotating quickly but going in a different direction to his wobbling head. Dave crashed to the floor a few feet in front of me, which was confusing, as he was behind me 0.02 of a second before. What had happened?! I swivelled, but not before a familiar feeling dented my ear; the blow glancing off my head.
As the punches continued to bounce off various parts of my anatomy, the groups pounced with efficiency and accuracy that surely the US Army should take notice of. Each of us had at least two guys to contend with; my only hope was to get in close and get a hold of one. I am roughly 6 foot and around 15 stone, I thought I could man handle the youngster. His wire-like frame hid an inner strength I had clearly underestimated, and I quickly found myself in a head lock while he and his mate continued to bounce punches off my head. I was never quite sure who was hitting me -- was it the guy holding me in the head lock? Or the guy who was helping his mate boot me in the leg, something which left a bruise for five weeks? Then that bloody noise started.
As I fought to stay on my feet, I was quickly released and left, alone on the pavement; my palm now on the floor surrounded by chips; some salad, and paper blowing under the food. Not to mention loads of liquid -- it was still bubbly, and looked like fizzy wine? Who had brought bubbly to the scrap?! It took four or five seconds to survey the area, as Martin walked towards me, hand stretched out. He looked fine, but shit, Dave was being propped up by a police officer, looking dazed as his face dribbled in claret (not claret and blue, unfortunately.)
Where was Paul? There he was, sitting on the floor, holding the side of his face with two police officers leaning over him. As Martin grabbed my hand, another police officer lifted me under the armpit. As he lifted me, my hand naturally reached for the top of my head, as I realised I was soaked with blood; it covered my whole palm. Looks like I was on my way to hospital, then. Better see if I could have a smoke before being admitted, I thought.
The bonging had been a large bottle of beer that the chav scum had coshed me with (five blows it took to break it, apparently), leaving me requiring eight staples. Dave had 14 stitches for a hole in his chin, not to mention severe bruising and minor cuts. Paul was concussed, with heavy bruising, and a stab wound to the upper thigh from a broken glass bottle. Martin had suffered no injuries, and was the only one of my mates to actually come out on top. Like I said, he was big, and apparently the youths had been run off their feet, just occupying him as best they could.
It made me think: I was never hard; never feared, but I always had a go; never ran and always stood up for my mates. And that hadn’t changed. I was proud I could still be counted on to step up; there was no way I was going to be able to walk away from those young “pricks”, not when they had insulted all of us. I was not going to have a bar of that. Dave and Paul understood, they were from they same area as me, worked there, drank there -- this was kind of the norm, to expect the injuries and spoils of war.
Back in the local, the story of the fight has been told and told; its changed its course many times since, most recently with us having "won it" now, with the number of the Sports Direct-clad crew totalling at last count between 18 and 24. Martin was not in touch for a few weeks after the “big fight,” he said he was busy with work, but it didn’t really matter. Paul and Dave were back at that distant pub within a month, but that time, they took a minibus full of our pals with them, resulting in another "cracking" night apparently. Essex life just can't be beat.
Jamie Snoll is a pseudonym for a drug-dealer born and bred in Essex, who offers up a view from the different side of the law to our Friday columnist Matt Delito. Check back this Friday for Matt’s next episode.