After they were all let into the venue Colin and Brian made straight for the bar, while the others took ownership of a table nearby. Spazzo procured an extra stool from the adjacent table, and they all shuffled closer together to make room for Colin and Brian when they returned with the drinks.
“Here you go Stiggy,” Colin said, putting a pint of cider down before him. He sat down opposite and took a drink of his bitter.
Stiggy was staring at something over Colin’s shoulder. Colin turned to look, and saw the group of skinheads standing at the bar. Several had taken off their flight jackets, revealing British Movement T-shirts beneath. The large, older skinhead faced outwards, leaning his elbows on the bar. His muscular arms were covered in multi-coloured tattoos. The younger skinheads faced him, pints of lager in their hands, while the skinhead girl stood to one side sipping from a bottle of Babycham.
“What the fuck sort of cider’s this?” Stiggy said.
Colin turned back to Stiggy and watched him put down his glass and grimace. He shrugged. “I don’t know. The cider sort, probably. Why, what’s up with it?”
“Nowt. I suppose it’ll have to do, won’t it? You think me glue will be all right out there? There’s fucking two quid’s worth in that can, someone might nick it.”
“Nah, who’d want that fucking shite?” Brian said. “I wouldn’t mind that cassette recorder though if we’re out first. Got to be worth a fucking hundred quid at least.”
“I could do with a new cassette player meself,” Colin said, nodding. “Me old one’s broke.”
Over the next half hour the venue started to fill up with an even mixture of punks and skinheads, plus a few nondescript youths in casual jeans and sweatshirts. The mob of skinheads at the bar were getting louder the more they drank. They kept looking over at Twiglet and nudging each other, then laughing. One pretended to be a monkey and they laughed louder.
Twiglet stared back at them, his arms folded. “Fucking Nazis,” he said under his breath. “So proud of their white skin they cover it up with tattoos.”
Brian laughed. “Yeah. Here’s one for you. A skinhead walks into a bar. ‘Ow,’ he says.”
“You what?” Twiglet asked, looking at Brian.
Brian smiled. “They lowered the entrance bar, didn’t they?”
Twiglet shook his head and frowned. “What the fuck are you on about?”
“It was an iron bar, but it was okay because it only hit him on the head so no damage was done.”
Colin snorted. Twiglet sighed and shook his head. He turned back to look at the skinheads.
“You know what, Bri?” Colin said, smiling. “That was a fucking shite joke, your worst yet.”
Brian shrugged. “Yeah well, I only just thought of it so it probably needs a bit of work.”
“It needs a fucking lot of work if you ask me. Or better yet, just never tell it again.”
“All right, what about this one then? See that skinhead bird with the Babycham?” Colin looked and nodded. “It’s Baby-Sham69, innit? The skinhead version, as drunk by Jimmy Pursey when he were a baby.
Colin smiled. “Singing If the Babies are United.”
“There’s Gonna Be A Nursery Breakout,” Brian said.
“Hurry Up Mummy.”
“Red Nappy Rash.”
“You what?” Colin asked. “Which one’s that then?”
“You know, Red London. It was their first single.”
Colin shrugged. “Don’t think I ever heard that one.” He turned to Stiggy, who was staring at the skinhead girl. “What do you reckon Stiggy?”
Stiggy smiled when he caught the girl’s eye. The girl glanced quickly at the group of skinheads, who were busy throwing beer mats at each other, and smiled back before turning her back on him.
“You what?” Stiggy said.
“Do you know any Baby-Sham69 songs?”
Stiggy shrugged, still staring at the skinhead girl. “No, not really.”
* * *
The support group were a local punk band who introduced themselves as The Burglars.
“Smash the state!” the singer shouted, and an out-of-tune guitar started up. The guitarist stood with his back to the audience, as if he was embarrassed to be there. Bass and drums followed, and the singer launched himself into the song. He gripped the microphone stand in both hands and shook it angrily as he sang about how much he wanted to kill Thatcher.
The short song ended to complete silence from the audience. “Clap, you fuckers!” the singer shouted.
The skinheads at the bar started a slow hand clap, but nobody else joined in. The band started their second song, a cover version of an Exploited song that didn’t quite sound right with a Yorkshire accent.
“Off, off, off,” the skinheads chanted, punching the air.
Stiggy drained his glass and went to the bar. He stood next to the skinhead girl and shouted his order to the barman. The skinhead girl looked at the large skinhead, then turned away from the band to face the same direction as Stiggy. She leaned against the bar and took a sip of Babycham. Stiggy looked at her and smiled, then said something into her ear. She smiled back and looked away.
The band on stage continued to play, despite an obviously hostile audience who just wanted them to hurry up and finish.
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.