It was half-past one, a much more civilised time to be up and about. Colin’s hangover was almost gone, thanks to a fry-up and several more mugs of tea, and he was sure he’d be able to shrug the rest of it off once he got outside. His hair was standing proud and erect once again, and he wore a fresh set of clothes. It was an Exploited and tiger-print trousers day, he felt it as soon as he woke up for the second time that day.
“Bye Colin,” his grandmother called out from the living room. “Don’t forget it’s your Granddad’s birthday tomorrow, you said you would take me to see him.”
Colin had forgotten, but he didn’t let on. “I will,” he shouted, and closed the door behind him.
To Colin, Granddad was just an old black and white photograph on the living room sideboard. A photograph Colin was never allowed to touch without being yelled at to leave it alone. His grandfather died less than a year after he came home from the war, just before Colin’s mother was born. He was trapped in a cave-in down the local coal mine, and it took his co-workers three days to dig him out. By then he had suffocated to death.
Colin knew he had died a long time ago, but didn’t find out the circumstances of his death until the day his grandmother caught him filling in an application form for the National Coal Board, soon after he left school. “You’re not working there,” his grandmother said when she saw the form, and tore it up in front of him.
Colin caught a bus into town and headed into the shopping centre. He found Brian sitting on a bench outside Woolworths, reading Sounds.
“About fucking time,” Brian said, looking up from the newspaper. “Have a good lie in, did you?”
Colin shrugged, then sat down next to him. “Felt a bit rough so I went back to bed. Why, how long you been here?”
“Fucking ages. I went to sign on this morning, didn’t I?”
“Anything interesting this week?” Colin asked, nodding at Brian’s newspaper.
Brian turned back a few pages and held it up. “There’s a Beki Bondage interview, it says they’ve got a new album coming out soon.”
“Yeah? I’ll have to start saving up then. What’s Pressbutton up to this week?”
“Dunno, I haven’t got that far yet. I was reading the gig reviews, there’s one for Cockney Upstarts in Camden.”
“It say anything about pigs’ heads?”
Brian laughed. “Nah, does it fuck.” He closed the newspaper, then folded it up and balanced it on his knee while he took out his cigarettes.
Colin reached out for the newspaper and turned to the back pages to read the cartoons. He laughed. “Fucking hell, it gets madder. There’s a woman with light bulbs for tits. I don’t know what that Curt Vile is on, but I wouldn’t mind having some.” He folded the newspaper up with the comic strip on top and handed it back to Brian.
“Nah, drugs are for fucking hippies,” Brian said. He smiled and shook his head while he read the comic strip. After he finished he rolled the paper up and stuffed it into the inside pocket of his leather jacket.
A three-year-old girl skipped past, then turned and stared at Colin and Brian. She pointed excitedly. “Look, mummy! Mummy, look! Look at the funny men!”
Colin pulled a face at the child, then raised his arms and roared. She stepped back and squealed in delight. A woman grabbed the girl’s arm and shook her. “That’s naughty,” she said, “don’t point at strange men.” The girl looked back over her shoulder as she was pulled away. Colin poked out his tongue at her.
“So what are we doing today then?” Colin asked.
Brian shrugged. “Dunno. Just hang out here, I guess. Not much else to do.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.
PS: If you want to read the Alan Moore comic strip from Sounds, you can do so here:
The Pressbutton one started on 12 July 1980.