The White Swan was packed with trendies, standing room only. An old Slade song played on the jukebox, and somewhere behind the crush around the bar a group of youths shouted along tunelessly with it. Colin would know those voices anywhere. He nodded to Brian.
“The gang’s all here.”
A young couple stood before the jukebox, arguing about what songs they should spend their money on. The girl, in a pink and yellow spotted summer dress, wanted Adam and the Ants. The boy, sporting a denim jacket, wanted Thin Lizzy.
“Scuse us, darling,” Brian said, and barged past the couple.
“Hey, watch it, you–” the girl began, then took in the Exploited skull painted on the back of Brian’s leather jacket. She turned to her boyfriend and frowned. “Bloody yobs,” she said when Brian was out of earshot.
“Fucking trendies,” Colin said, glaring at her.
The girl gaped at Colin and sniffed. She wrinkled her nose and stepped back, closer to the jukebox. “Did you see that?” Colin heard her say as he walked away.
Brian was talking to Twiglet, a gangly half-caste youth with blotches of darker-coloured skin covering his face, when Colin reached the far side of the pub. He was telling him about what had happened in The Queen’s Head. Twiglet’s massive afro hairstyle bobbed as he nodded his head in sympathy. Mike Thornton, in faded denim jeans and a plain black sweatshirt, looked on, frowning. Stiggy swayed by Brian’s side, holding a pint of cider. Even from a distance Colin could smell the solvents wafting off him.
“Colin, you cunt,” Mike shouted when he saw Colin. “I hear you got twatted by a midget. Fucking show up or what?”
Colin gave him a scowl and a quick V-sign before slinking into the gents to see if he could rescue what was left of his hair spikes. When he returned he expected more snide comments, but everyone seemed genuinely concerned about what had happened to him.
“Fucking skinheads,” Stiggy said. “We should do one of them, see how they fucking like it.”
“Yeah,” Mike agreed, nodding. He took a gulp of his beer.
“There was a bunch of skinheads at the back of the bus the other day making fucking monkey noises at me,” Twiglet said.
Mike shook his head. “Mate, that’s fucking bang out of order. What did you do?”
“Well what do you think I did? I’m not fucking daft, I just ignored them and made a run for it as soon as I got off.”
Mike nodded. “Yeah, you probably did right, mate. We should still do something about it though. Can’t let the bastards get away with something like that.”
Twiglet shook his head. “Nah, not really worth it. Anyway, skinheads all look the same to me. We’d only end up battering the wrong ones.”
“Would that matter?” Mike said with a sly grin. He drained the last of his beer and set off for the bar. Brian followed him.
“Oi Bri,” Colin shouted, “get me one while you’re there, I’ll give you the money when you get back.” Brian turned and gave him a thumbs up. “And get me a straw as well.”
“What do you reckon then, Col,” Stiggy said, “find a skinhead and do the cunt, or what?”
Colin was about to tell Stiggy he’d rather leave it when the opening bars of a Bruce Springsteen song, Born To Run, drowned him out. Mike cheered its arrival from the bar.
“Not this fucking shite again,” Twiglet said, covering his ears.
Colin groaned, it was the worst song he’d ever heard and seemed to be playing on the jukebox in The White Swan every ten minutes or so. He was just as sick of hearing it as Twiglet. He could hear Mike shouting along to it from the bar, and wished he would shut up. He didn’t understand what Mike saw in that type of music. Mike wasn’t a punk, he was just someone Twiglet was at school with, but he did like Sham 69 and Cockney Upstarts. As well as Slade, Garry Glitter, and boring old fart music like Bruce fucking Springsteen – there was just no logic in it.
When the song reached its chorus, Twiglet made up his own words and shouted them over the music.
“Scum like us, maybe we don’t give a fu-uck!”
Colin smiled and joined in at the next chorus. A group of trendies at a nearby table glared at them, then stood up to leave. Colin, Stiggy and Twiglet pushed past them to claim the table before anyone else had the same idea. They made space for Mike when he arrived.
Brian returned with two pints of bitter and put one down in front of Colin with a pink, curly plastic straw floating in it. Shaped like a helter-skelter, it had a love-heart shaped handle near the top with the words I love Babycham printed on it.
“What the fuck’s this?” Colin asked with a scowl.
“It’s all they had mate,” Brian said, grinning.
Colin put the straw to the corner of his mouth and sucked. The beer slowly twirled its way up the straw and into his mouth. Mike and Twiglet both laughed as they watched.
“Fuck off, you’re only jealous,” Colin said. He cradled his beer in one hand and toyed with the straw with the other, twirling it between his thumb and forefinger.
“You and Brian going down to Shefferham on Saturday for the Cockney Upstarts gig?” Twiglet asked.
Colin looked up and nodded. “Yeah, of course. Can’t miss something like that, can we? It’s not like they come this far north often, and it’d cost a fucking bomb to see them in that London of theirs.”
Stiggy scowled. “Fucking skinhead band aren’t they?”
“Are they fuck,” Brian said. “They were a punk band years before all them baldy cunts latched onto them. Anyway, I heard Manny doesn’t like skinheads either. One time at this open air gig he picked up this fucking metal spike and chased loads of skinheads across a field with it. That’s what I heard, anyway.”
“That would have been funny to watch,” Stiggy said. “I heard he throws a pig’s head into the audience at the end of their show as well. It’d be fucking brilliant if he twatted some skinhead in the face with it.”
“Where’d you hear that bollocks?” Twiglet asked.
“No, it’s true,” Stiggy said, “it were in me dad’s paper ages ago.”
“What paper were that then?”
“Dunno, the one me dad gets. There was a photo of it and everything.”
“It must be fucking true then, if it were in your dad’s paper,” Brian said, smiling and shaking his head. “Funny they never mentioned it in Sounds or the NME.”
“Well we’ll find out on Saturday then, won’t we?” Stiggy said. “I bet you a quid he does.”
“You’re fucking on,” Brian said. “Easiest money I’ll ever make.” He looked at Twiglet. “So who else is going then?”
“Spazzo’s deffo going,” Twiglet said. “Not sure about anyone else yet. There’s a few more that said they might go if they can scrounge enough money together. We’re meeting up at the train station buffet at six, probably see you there.”
“Six?” Colin said. “I’ll be at home having me tea then. What time’s the train?”
“Half past. But the next one’s not until eight so if you miss it we won’t be waiting for you.”
“Fuck your tea,” Brian said. “We’ll get some chips or something when we get to Shefferham.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.