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The Dursleyites

By Mick Powerhouse Deal All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Action

Blurb

The summer of 1981 was the summer of love for Mike Sabbath. As he and his steadfast teenage companions struggle to come to terms with adulthood upon finishing school, they embark on a venture to rescue themselves from the drudgery of their low paid and uninspiring jobs. Yet there is danger ahead. The small old market town of Dursley, perched precariously on the edge of the Cotswolds, is rife with youth gangs, each eager to defend its territory in the face of adversity. As Mike Sabbath and his friends come under threat from a renegade group of angry mods led by the merciless Ally Bingham, they are forced into an alliance with the town’s 1950s nostalgia groupings; the teddy boys known as the Hound Dogs, and the rockabillies who call themselves the Stray Cats. Subsequently under the protection of the ‘Alliance’ Mike Sabbath and his cohorts attempt to continue their realisation into manhood, but the pressure and strain from being hounded by the over-zealous Ally Bingham soon tells and relationships begin to fray. Amid the mayhem the young and somewhat vulnerable Sabbath, an idealistic daydreaming peacenik, pleads only for harmony.

Chapter One

As dusk was beginning to cloak the red evening sky, five mopeds rattled up the steep Cam Pitch on the way to Burger City takeaway in the small Cotswold town of Dursley. As always there was an accepted order in which the bikes travelled, with the four older models taking the lead, leaving the newer speed-restricted Honda moped floundering at the rear. That particular Honda model would struggle up the long steep pitch but the rider remained patient and kept faith with his machine while at full throttle. While the first four riders wore tatty leather jackets, the young man at the very back wore a fishtail parka, complete with Union Jack decoration. It was his less than convincing attempt to declare to the world the fact that, unlike his comrades, he was a mod.

They rattled onwards into town as if on a mission. The front two riders enjoyed sporadically turning their heads to the poor wretch at the rear, jokingly taunting him with hand gestures that implied that his bike was a mere piece of junk. It was all the poor chap could do to retort with the two fingers.

Moments later the lads arrived at their destination, the Burger City takeaway along the Kingshill Parade in Dursley. They each parked their mopeds directly outside the place, removed their helmets and dismounted from their machines before stepping into the joint to order their food. Being a warm summer’s evening they were content to step back outside and sit on their bikes to snack on their burgers.

As they chomped enthusiastically on their food none of them could fail to notice several young men dressed in fishtail parkas stepping out from the neighbouring Kingshill pub headed for their scooters. No one could miss those machines. All were flamboyantly adorned with side mirrors and headlamps and fog lights of various sizes.

Mike Sabbath pointed over to the gang. ‘Fucking mods. Look. Over there.’

Tony Yammy, the kid with the fastest moped and the one who always remained at the fore during the rides through town, stretched over and pushed Mike Sabbath’s arm down. ‘Ellava stupid, Mike,’ he said abruptly but quietly. ’Don’t let them see you pointing at ‘em. It will only get their attention.’

Shane Holtham, the young wannabe mod who suffered with the speed-restricted moped, hurriedly swallowed his mouthful of food. ‘That’s Ally Bingham and his mates,’ he said assuredly. ‘They’re alright; they won’t bother us.’

Another Mike, Mike Lynton, assumed a flippant tone of voice as he turned his head to face Shane. ‘Well, they won’t bother you, Shane; you’re wearing a parka,’ he said. ‘The rest of us are in our leather jackets. They don’t take too kindly to us heavies and hippies round here.’

Tony Yammy stopped chewing his food and contemplated evasive action. Worriedly he looked over at the mods, then turned his head away sharply and said, ‘Try not to look over at them. If we don’t make eye contact, they should just get on their scooters and ride off.’

Mike Sabbath couldn’t avert his curious gaze. ‘Yeah, but look at them. Look at their scooters. They must weigh a tonne with all those mirrors and racks.’

Tony turned to him. Scowling he said, ‘What did I just say, Mike?’

‘Shit,’ said the other Mike, Mike Lynton. ‘I think they’ve seen us.’

Tony slapped the side of his bike. ‘Great, well done, Mike,’ he said, referring to the clumsy way Mike Sabbath had got the attention of the mods.

‘Just stay calm,’ said Sabbath casually. ‘Just be peaceful and they’ll leave us alone.’

Dave Hunter, another of the leather-clad crew, shook his head in despondency. ‘You and your love and peace mantra, Sabbo,’ he smiled. ‘Don’t think it will do a lot of good when they’re smashing our faces with crowbars.’

‘Fuck, they’re coming right towards us,’ said Mike Lynton as he cautiously closed the lid on his box of food.

The five lads braced themselves for confrontation as the gang of mods marched menacingly towards them.

Tony Yammy leaned over and carefully placed his box of food onto the ground. ‘They’ll get my fist down their throats if they so much as look at my bike,’ he said threateningly.

‘Relax Tone,’ said Shane. ‘Let’s just see what they want.’

As the mods approached, the biggest of them, Ally Bingham, stepped out in front and stood before the young lads. His companions remained several yards behind him in an attempt to give the impression that they were his bodyguards. Ally’s presence was formidable, for he was a big man with a looming stance and a cold expression which he meant to indicate that he was always ready for a fight. His black-dyed hair with blond highlights was in itself enough to turn heads in his direction. Yet his most distinctive feature was a slightly tired left eye, which veered to his right. While most of those who would meet this man would agree that this slight handicap made him look, if anything, more dangerous than he would otherwise look, Ally himself had always been sensitive concerning his lazy eye.

He stood before the young lads with a look of contempt. Holding his helmet in his left hand and with the key to his scooter sticking out of his right fist, Ally demanded, ‘What are you fucking wankers doing here? This is our patch and we don’t want any filthy smellies here.’ He then peered over at Shane. ‘What you doing with this lot, Shane? Thought you were one of us.’

There was an uncertainty in Shane’s voice when he replied. ‘Well, they’re my mates, like. We’re not doing anything, Ally; we just came here to get something to eat.’

‘You wanna pick your company better, Shane,’ said Ally. ‘You might catch something.’ He then eyed the mopeds. ’What the fuck are those pieces of junk? Where did you get ‘em, the fucking scrap yard?’

Tony Yammy calmly placed his helmet back on, as if crowning himself king. He wanted to be prepared for violence. ‘Better than those hairdryers you lot ride,’ he said with a hint of sarcasm.

Ally stepped up to Tony and kicked the wheel of his bike. ‘What you fucking say, Yammy?’ Placing his helmet awkwardly under his left armpit he then attempted to remove Tony’s helmet. ‘Get this thing off – I wanna feel my fist in your face when I punch you.’

As Tony pushed Ally’s arm away, both Mike Lynton and Dave Hunter leapt off their bikes and lunged towards the scene of the fracas.

‘It’s alright, guys!’ Mike Sabbath shouted over in the hope of preventing his two hard-headed friends from starting a brawl. Addressing Ally, he then made a plea. ‘Come on, pal. We ain’t doing you any harm. Let’s just go in peace.’

Ally turned in Sabbath’s direction, his face contorted in disbelief at the apparent insolence.

Just then another of the mods marched forward and stood before Mike Sabbath. The hateful look of his gaze burned into Mike’s eyes as he said, ‘What ya gonna do about it then, hippie? Gonna call ya mummy?’

‘Already called her,’ replied Mike Sabbath flippantly. ‘She’s on her way.’

With the exception of Dave Hunter, who was no longer in the mood for jokes, the other lads covered their mouths to conceal their laughing.

With his attention now switched from Tony Yammy to Mike Sabbath, Ally lurched in Mike’s direction. ‘Fuck off, hippie boy.’

‘Come on, man; it’s time for peace,’ reasoned the skinny long-haired sixteen-year-old Sabbath as he remained calmly seated on his bike, unnerved by the apparent threat.

‘Or what, man?’ said the other mod who was still eyeing Mike squarely in the face while he emphasised the word ‘man’. He was known as Sid Biggs, a short kid with a spotty face and a pugnacious reputation.

‘Or what?’ asked the precarious Sabbath. ‘I’ll tell you what. When my mum gets here she’ll send you all to bed early without any tea, that’s what. Then you’ll be sorry.’

Again with the exception of Dave Hunter, whose bitter expression was fixed on Ally, the others struggled to conceal their laughing.

‘You’re a fucking twat, mate,’ scoffed Sid Biggs before spitting on the ground near Mike Sabbath’s feet. ‘Give us a chip.’

‘Sure,’ said Mike. He then took a couple of chips from his box and threw them one at a time at his aggressor. ‘Do you want ketchup with that?’

‘You fucking cunt,’ growled Biggs as he brushed away the second chip which had landed on his right shoulder. With his teeth clenched he went to grab Mike off his bike, but Mike had quick reactions and immediately stepped off his moped to confront the man. He rested his box of food steadily on his saddle. Tony had already leapt off his bike, as had Dave and Mike Lynton, and was hurrying towards Mike Sabbath to offer him assistance.

‘We ain’t afraid of you knobs, are we?’ declared Tony, eyeing up Ally.

Mike Lynton drew his fist up into the air. ‘Yeah, if you want a fight,’ he shouted as he eyed Sid Biggs, ‘you’ll fucking well get one.’ He held his helmet up in his other hand, threatening to use it as a weapon.

Dave Hunter made the same gesture with his helmet.

‘Whatever, mate,’ snarled Ally as he too held his helmet aloft.

Just then a woman came stomping out of the burger bar. In a thick Birmingham accent and stern voice she said, ‘Now come on, lads, that’s enough. I’m not having this and I’ll call the police if I have to.’

‘It’s him!’ shouted Ally Bingham, pointing at Mike Sabbath. ‘He’s been throwing chips about. Nearly took my mate’s eye out.’

The woman stepped in amid the crowd of young men. ‘Look, I saw everything. These lads were just minding their own business.’

A middle-aged grey-haired man then stepped out of the burger bar. He too had a Birmingham accent. ‘Let’s be having ya, lads,’ he said cordially. ‘No need for all this; come on, there’s good lads.’

Ally eyed the man, then the woman and then nudged past his fellow mod, Sid Biggs, prompting him back to where the other mods had remained loyally in position. He then suddenly turned round and pointed at Mike Sabbath. ‘This ain’t over, hippie boy. Alright!’

Mike Sabbath stretched out his neck as he exaggeratedly ogled Ally’s face. Teasingly he said, ‘Sorry, which eye am I meant to be looking at, mate?’

Ally gave him his most evil stare. ‘I’ll be seeing you again,’ he sneered. ‘You can be sure of that, hippie.’

Mike Sabbath picked up his carton of food from his saddle and once more straddled his moped, seemingly unperturbed. ‘Right you are, Clarence,’ he said jokingly as Ally marched away.

Ally came to a grinding halt and about-faced. He pointed his finger directly at Mike’s head. ‘Like I said, hippie boy. This ain’t over. I’ll see you again soon enough.’ He froze in his position for several seconds for effect, keeping his hateful gaze fixed on the face of his tormentor. Having made his point, he then followed on behind his companions and scurried back towards where his scooter was parked.

Tony, Dave and Mike Lynton returned to their own machines. As Tony sat back on his bike he began to berate Mike Sabbath for inviting the mods’ attention in the first place and for deliberately heightening the tension with his sardonic comments.

As Ally and his crew sped off in the near distance, three of them gave the lads the two fingers. Ally waved his fist in the air as he rode off.

The woman from the burger bar muttered something under her breath, suggesting that the mods should clear off and not come back. She turned to the lads and kindly asked, ‘You alright lads? What was all that about?’

‘Nothing,’ said Dave Hunter. ‘They just wanted to cause trouble.’

‘Do you know who that big bloke was?’ she asked.

‘Ally Bingham,’ replied Mike Lynton. ‘He’s a couple of years older than us, about eighteen. He hates anyone in a leather jacket, that’s all.’

‘Well, if those boys pick on you again, best to call the police,’ she said as she made her way back into the burger bar. ‘How was your burgers by the way? Alright, loves?’

All five lads held their burger cartons up to gesture their approval.

The man followed the woman back into the burger bar. ‘Good lads,’ he said as he disappeared.

With his food finished, Shane disposed of the box in a nearby bin. ‘Do you wanna see if we can get a pint in The Kingshill,’ he suggested, ‘now that the mods have gone?’

‘We can try,’ said Mike Lynton. ‘Been kicked out of there before, but they might not remember.’

‘Why don’t we wear our helmets when we walk in?’ Shane suggested. ‘Then they won’t see our faces.’

‘Yeah, get that helmet on, Mike,’ said Mike Lynton to Mike Sabbath. ‘Don’t want them to see your face. Don’t want to put them through that.’

‘You’re funny, Lynt,’ said Sabbath. ‘I nearly thought about laughing.’

The five lads wheeled their mopeds the twenty yards from the burger bar to the pub car park and parked them where they would be seen from inside. They placed their helmets on their heads and made their way into the pub. No sooner had they done so than the barmen turned his gaze immediately towards them and waved his arm and pointed towards the door. The lads bundled their way straight back out.

‘Well, that plan failed,’ said Dave as they all jumped childishly down the main steps.

‘Don’t matter,’ said Shane. ‘Let’s try The Yew Tree.’

Off they scrambled to the next pub, only to be marched out a second time. Their third attempt, however, was successful. They rode back down Cam Pitch and along to The Railway pub, where they knew there was every chance that they could get served. They parked their bikes round the back of the pub and strolled their way into the lounge bar area, quietly confident and assuming mature and sensible demeanours.

‘You guys wait here,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘Given how tall I am they’ll naturally think I’m older.’

‘Go for it, Mike,’ said Mike Lynton, as he and the others sat at a corner table feigning innocence.

‘Yeah, you seem to get served more than most, Mike,’ said Shane, as if he were in awe of his friend’s special powers. ‘What’s the secret?’

‘Maturity,’ replied Mike Sabbath. ‘You gotta talk their language, like, walk their walk, pretend to be all adult and make everyday conversation.’ He stood to attention and quick-marched it to the bar. ‘Watch and learn boys.’

Within moments an elderly lady with thick-lens glasses hovered into view. Mike knew her to be the landlady and so made an extra effort to look sophisticated and mature. ‘Yes, what would you like?’ she asked kindly.

Mike leant on the bar casually. With a deeper voice than usual he said, ‘Four pints of Trophy Bitter, please, and a pint of lager.’ He was relieved when she began pouring the first glass without further questions. Mike looked pleased with himself. He quickly turned to face his mates and with a big grin gave the thumbs up.

The ditsy old landlady placed a second pint glass on the counter, although she had struggled to fill it. ‘I do apologise,’ she said humbly. ‘I just need to go change the barrel.’

As she made her way to the back of the bar towards the cellar, an elderly gentleman with a slight limp, whom Mike assumed to be the landlord, walked past behind the counter on his way to throw out some boxes. Mike took the opportunity to give the pretence of maturity. In a deep and serious but benevolent voice he said, ‘Morning’. He instantly realised his mistake and tried again. ‘Er, I mean afternoon.’ He acknowledged his second bungling mistake even before the words had left his mouth. ‘I mean evening.’ He was relieved to have got it right on the third attempt.

As the landlord walked past he simply gave Mike an odd look, and then disappeared without saying a word, a gesture that made Mike feel foolish.

The other lads had seen and overheard the spectacle and were in hysterics. An embarrassed Mike slapped himself on the head and cursed his stupidity. At that precise moment he was grateful that it was only midweek and that the pub lounge was therefore empty but for him and his friends.

‘Really mature, Mike,’ called out Tony. ‘I’m convinced.’

‘Yeah, you’re definitely eighteen, Mike,’ said Dave.

‘Very funny guys,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘It ain’t easy you know, pretending to be a normal, mature person. Especially for me.’

Shane laughed. ‘Yeah, it shows.’

A moment or two later, Mike Sabbath completed the purchase and carried the pints over. Sitting himself down with his own pint, he said, ‘So glad it’s Friday tomorrow. Work’s been so busy this week.’

‘Oh arr, how the fuck would you know, Mike?’ joked Tony. ‘You told us you don’t do sod all.’

Mike Sabbath raised his finger to emphasise his next point. ‘Yeah, but I have to sit there and watch other people work,’ he said in his matter-of-fact way. ‘It can be a real strain on the eyes.’

‘You just started at Cam Mills then, Mike?’ asked Shane.

‘Yep, been there nearly two weeks now.’

Shane continued. ‘That’s a Youth Opportunity Scheme like mine, ain’t it? What do ya do there again?’

‘Probably fuck all,’ interrupted Dave jokingly.

‘Can’t say it’s much of an opportunity,’ replied Sabbath as he flicked Dave on his left ear lobe. ‘I’m on the maintenance team, you know, going round painting things up, mending things and shit.’ He gestured towards the near wall, bringing attention to the paint. ‘In fact, the most interesting thing I have done there so far is actually watching the paint dry. It was last Wednesday. It was fascinating.’

Mike Lynton coughed into his pint as he took a sip. He tagged on Mike Sabbath’s shirt. ‘Paint dry?’ he said, before clearing his throat. ‘What a luxury. Sounds better than my YOP scheme, Sabbo.’ He hung his thumb over his right shoulder, gesturing in the direction of the Lister’s factory. ’Working down near that foundry at Lister’s is fucking knackering. At least you get out in the fresh air.’

‘Same here, Mike,’ said Dave, clinking glasses with Mike Lynton. ‘I spend all day in a bloody bakery pushing bloody dough around. It’s boiling in that place this time of year.’ Nodding towards Mike Sabbath he continued, ‘Looks like you’ve got the best job, Sabbs, out in the fresh air.’

‘Doubt it,’ said Sabbath, determined to be the one with the most mundane job. ‘It’s ellava boring.’ He placed his hand on Tony’s shoulder. ‘I reckon Tony here has the best job out of all of us.’

Tony Yammy shook his head in defiance. ‘Oh arr. You wanna try working in a greengrocer’s shop, mate,’ he reasoned. ‘Having to serve old biddies all day. Drives I mad.’

‘Yeah,’ said Mike Sabbath, ‘but I got to put up with the noise of all those bloody looms. Ellava racket.’ He pointed to himself and smugly declared that he had the worst job out of all of them. The lads each in turn protested that they had in fact the worst of jobs.

Mike Sabbath couldn’t let it go. ‘I spent most of last week chipping cement off old bricks so that they could be used again. Took me ages. Not much fun. Imagine that – spending all day with a lump hammer and chisel, trying to break the cement from old bricks. Soul destroying.’ He turned his attention to Tony. ‘At least you’re actually employed, Tone. I know you work for your old man, but it’s still a proper job. You get paid more, yeah?’

‘Do I, bollocks,’ complained Tony. ‘My old man makes me save most of my money by not paying it to me, then investing it on my behalf.’

‘What about you, Shane?’ asked Mike Sabbath. ‘You enjoy working at Bymacks upholsterers, right?’

‘Not really, Mike,’ Shane replied, looking to the floor in disappointment. ‘It’s just a scheme; I get paid the same pittance as you.’

‘Well, you’re on twenty-three fifty a week, right Shaney?’ asked Dave.

‘Yep,’ replied Shane. ‘Don’t think any of us are gonna get rich just yet. Still, better than being at school.’

All except Dave voiced their agreement.

‘I tell ya what happened yesterday,’ said Mike Sabbath, exaggerating his adopted Gloucestershire accent. ‘The guy in charge of the boilers told me to go fix this fucking weaving machine. I ain’t had no training, like, nothing, but I was given this poxy screwdriver and told to fix this great big bloody machine. So I go to this room where this machine is and this woman shows me where it’s not working, expecting me to know what the fuck I’m doing. I don’t wanna look a prick, see, so I pretend to be all professional, like I know what I’m doing, but I ain’t got a fucking clue and I’m fumbling around hoping that I can spot something obvious.’ He paused to sip on his beer and groaned mournfully. He continued. ‘Then suddenly this metal bracket just starts dangling in front of me, so I screw it back in. This woman don’t see me like cos it’s the other side of the machine, but I’m acting like I’m some sort of engineer and she’s believing it. So I finish fixing this bracket on and then I place the thread back on it and tell her to start the machine up again. She did and it worked. She was ever so pleased.’ He held out his hands and indicated a width of about three feet. ‘My head was, like, this fucking big. The woman could see that I was all pleased with myself and she calls out to one of her workmates, “Better open the door for him, otherwise he ain’t gonna get out of here”. Now all them women think I’m the man.’

‘You ain’t gonna tell them the truth then, Sabby?’ joked Mike Lynton, as he took a cigarette from his pack.

‘Nah, fuck that,’ said Sabbath, disgruntled. ‘Let them enjoy their fantasy.’

‘Flash the ash then, Mike,’ asked Tony as he nodded towards Mike Lynton.

‘Can’t, mate,’ replied Mike. ‘Only got two left.’

‘I’ll just have one of me own, then,’ said Tony, taking his own pack of cigarettes out from his pocket.

Mike Sabbath unzipped and removed his leather jacket, revealing his flamboyantly patterned and colourful flower power shirt.

‘Fuck me, Mike,’ said Tony, jerking his head back. ‘Did you throw up on that shirt or something?’

‘Anyone got any sunglasses?’ said Dave, as he placed his hands over his eyes as if he were trying to protect them from the glare of the sun.

‘Very funny guys,’ said Mike Sabbath. In a smug tone of voice, he then said, ‘You wouldn’t understand; it’s called style.’

‘Hippies died out in the sixties, Mike,’ said Shane sarcastically.

‘Yeah, so did the mods,’ said Mike Sabbath, pinching Shane’s parka. ‘But they came back,’ said Mike. ‘It’s the year of our Lord nineteen eighty-one and we have mods once again. And now, we also have the hippies.’

‘But you’re the only hippie in town, Mike,’ joked Shane.

‘Yes,’ replied Sabbath. ‘But all great movements start with one.’ For comic effect he took a leather headband from his pocket and placed it over his forehead, a gesture that made all the others laugh. That didn’t bother Mike; he liked the attention. In fact, he had convinced himself that he looked quite handsome with his headband over his forehead; along with his spectacular shirt and long blond hair that was parted in the middle, it made him look very much like a sixties hippie. It was a look he was enthusiastic about. His routine joke was that he had to work on his image merely to compensate for his slightly protruding teeth, thick dark eyebrows and his prominent Adam’s apple. That’s what his friends loved best about him: he rarely took himself, or anyone else for that matter, too seriously.

He feared little, nearly always using humour, along with some subtle patronisation, to fight his way out of a corner, which he did with an impish quality. A purveyor of the love and peace mantra, he had in recent times almost always been able to avoid physical confrontation by using his latent intelligence and his comedic qualities. He was certainly no wimp and in fact he was a fairly strong young man, but he rarely employed aggression and would often deliberate on how pleasant a world it could be if everyone could just be a little nicer to one another. The quest for peace and his arguments for niceness were at the heart of Mike Sabbath’s philosophy.

‘Peace, brother,’ said Dave, holding up his hand to make a two-fingered peace sign.

Mike Lynton then placed his pint down on the table with some force, spilling a small amount. ‘Anyway,’ he said with some authority. ‘Let’s stop pissing about. We need to think some more about our plan.’

Tony pepped up. ‘Yeah, I was gonna just say that, Mike.’

Lynton placed his elbows on the table and then rested his chin in his hands. ‘I think we need to decide what type of business we want to start,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘Then for each of us to spend tomorrow thinking about it while we’re at work and then meet up down here in the evening.’

‘Sounds like a plan,’ said Tony. ’I’ve got a good idea already. Was thinking of a motorcycle shop, either selling ’em or repairing ‘em. Or both.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ protested Shane. ‘You and Lynt are the only ones who know anything about bikes and engines and stuff. What would the rest of us do?’

‘Well, we’ll need sales staff, won’t we?’ explained Tony. ‘Me and Mike would be the mechanics, like, and you lot would run the shop.’

‘Yeah, but do any of us know how to run a shop, Tone?’ asked Shane.

‘Well, I help my folks run their grocery shop,’ replied Tony. ‘So I know a bit about it, and my old man would always help us out getting started.’

‘I think you’re onto something there, Tone,’ said Mike Lynton. ‘I think a shop’s a good idea. I’m into it. And I know a little about mechanics, but would always be willing to take a course and learn what I have to.’

‘Well, it gets my vote,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘So can we agree that we wanna open some kind of shop, then?’

‘Yeah, here in Dursley,’ said Tony.

‘I’m up for it,’ said Shane. ‘As long as we can all agree on the right type of shop so that we can all have an input.’

Mike Lynton gave Shane an enthusiastic hug. ‘I’m with Shane,’ he said. ‘A shop we can all run equally. So it’s agreed. A shop of some kind?’

‘I think it’s cool,’ decreed Mike Sabbath. ‘But I think that if we make a lot of money, we should donate lots to charity.’

‘What, like the local hippie commune?’ joked Tony.

‘Yeah,’ replied Mike Sabbath enthusiastically. ‘The local hippie farm. Now you’re thinking like me.’

‘Or the Peace and Love Trust,’ joked Shane.

‘Yeah, or that too,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘Or the local Nice Society.’

Dave stretched over the table and gave Mike Sabbath a friendly thump on the shoulder. ‘Nice one, Sabbs. The local society of niceness.’

Mike Lynton placed his hand down on the table and spread his fingers. ‘Right. We agree on a shop then. Everyone place their hand on mine and take the pledge.’

The others dutifully obliged.

Mike continued. ‘We agree that we will endeavour to open a shop. We will spend tomorrow thinking up ideas. Tony has already suggested a motorcycle shop, which is a contender, but we’ll think up some other ideas. Once we’ve decided, then we work equally as a team to make it happen, and then equally as a team to make it work. Any money we make is divided equally among the five of us. Agreed?’

The others took a brief moment to eye each other before declaring their agreement.

Shane Holtham lived on the modern Whiteway estate. Situated just up from an area known as Woodmancote, which lay to the southeastern end of the town, it was generously overlooked by the Twinberrow Woods, a lush woodland set within an area of natural beauty and perched on the edge of a limestone escarpment.

It was a steep ride up to the estate, and there was many a time when Shane worried that his moped wouldn’t cope. Returning home later that night and wary of the time, he turned his engine off several yards from his front gate and quietly wheeled his bike round the back of the house. He needed one last pee for the night, but didn’t want to risk waking his mother with the flushing of the toilet, so instead he relieved himself round the back of the old garden shed. With his spare key, he delicately opened the back door and tip-toed through into the kitchen. He poured a glass of water and drank it quickly before tip-toeing through the living room and into his bedroom.

He removed his parka jacket and placed it neatly over a chair before removing his shoes. With the bedside table light on low, he knelt down and turned on his small record player and placed a vinyl LP on the turntable. Just before he dropped the needle on the record, he took hold of his headphones and wrapped them around his head. As the music started, he turned the volume up and started playing air guitar and thrashing his upper body to the music of The Who.

After no more than a minute, his enjoyment was abruptly halted when his mother stomped through the door and turned on the main light. Shane sat to attention the instant the light came on and tore off his headphones.

‘Where the bloody hell have you been, Shane?’ demanded his angry mother. She was a short heavyset woman with wide hips and a rasping voice, and her presence was formidable. ‘Gerry came round tonight to talk to you about the apprenticeship up at Gloucester. You knew he was coming, so where were you?’

Shane turned the volume down on his record player to quieten the noise emanating from the headphones. ‘Was it tonight? I thought it was next Thursday.’

‘Next Thursday? What are you on, Shane? I told you quite clearly that it was this Thursday.’

‘Sorry, mum. I really thought it was next week. Can I see him then?’

‘Don’t ask me. He might have given it to someone else now, seeing as you let him down. Where the soddin’ hell have you been, anyway?’

‘Just out,’ replied Shane sheepishly.

‘Out where? I hope you haven’t been drinking in them pubs again, cos if you have I’m taking your moped away.’

‘I haven’t mum. I was riding round town with me mates, then went to Mike’s house to watch telly.’

‘You better be telling me the truth, Shane, cos I’ll give it to you if I find out you’re lying. And if you don’t understand that, young man, then you understand nothing.’ She swung her arm up to indicate what she meant. ‘I’ll bloody well give it to you.’

Shane raised his voice in frustration. ‘I’m not, mum. I was round Mike’s house. God’s sake.’

‘Don’t take that tone with me, young man. Mike who, that long-haired hippie boy?’

Shane screwed his face in frustration. ‘No, Mike Lynton. Just watching telly round his.’

‘What’s his phone number? I’ll ring his mother tomorrow and ask her, just to verify you’re telling the truth.’

‘He hasn’t got a phone in his house. His mum’s unemployed; they can’t afford it.’

His mother placed her hands on her hips and gave her son her abominable stare. ‘Well that’s convenient, isn’t it?!’

She stepped over to where Shane was sat on the floor and tried to sniff in front of his face. ‘Is that beer I can smell? You have been drinking, haven’t you? I knew it. Which pub was it? Was it that Kingshill?’

‘I haven’t been to any pub, mum,’ protested Shane. ‘I had a can of beer round Mike’s, that’s all.’

‘Oh really. He’s a pretty convenient alibi this Mike, isn’t he?’

‘For Christ’s sake, mum!’

She raised her arm again, indicating that she was about to strike him. ‘Don’t you speak to me like that. One more time and you’ll be sorry.’

Shane shook his head and grabbed his headphones and placed them back on his head to continue with his music. His mother yanked them immediately back off and slapped him round the head.

‘Mum!’ Shane protested.

‘I’m warning you, Shane. You better buck your ideas up, or else you’re out of here.’ His mother then bent down and turned his record player off. ‘It’s too late for that – you’ve got work in the morning. Try taking some responsibility for a change.’

Shane didn’t answer and took his LP off the record deck and put it back in the album sleeve before gesturing that he was about to get undressed.

The following day, Shane was at work and sitting quietly on a picnic table munching through his lunch. It was a beautiful afternoon and he was at least taking some pleasure from having the sun beam down on his face, which caused him to squint. He then took a small mirror from his shirt pocket, swiped a comb from his back trouser pocket and started to tidy his already nicely kempt mousey-brown hair, which he wore in a 1960s mod style, that is, carefully combed forward over his forehead and then parted in the middle. Although it was short around the ears, he did have some growth on the sides that allowed him to comb a thin strip of hair down either side of his face into makeshift sideburns; this, he felt, gave him a mid-sixties pop star look. He was by no means arrogant, but other than his beloved parka jacket his hair was the only visual aid at his disposal that conveyed to the public that he was a mod. On such low pay, as was the case with Youth Opportunity Schemes, and having to hand over a large amount of what little he did earn to his mother in keep, he couldn’t afford the stylish mohair suits the majority of Dursley mods would wear. While they could make their moves on the dance floor dressed smartly in their Union Jack blazers and boating jackets, Shane had to contend with his regular t-shirts and jeans. He did have a few smart shirts to wear, and at least some decent shoes, but that was the best presentation he could provide. It was his lack of modish fashion garments that would justify him wearing his parka whenever he was out socialising, no matter the weather or time of year. When he would take it off in a club or a public bar, he would suddenly feel exposed, like an imposter. Yet when the garment was draped over him he felt a part of something. Even if he didn’t ride with the town’s mod personnel, wearing his parka still made him feel a part of them.

A senior workmate then wandered over and invited himself to sit down opposite Shane. ‘Alright, Shane? Have you managed to redo that couch yet?’

Shane was feeling the old chap’s presence a little invasive. ‘Getting there, Bert,’ he responded, agreeably. ‘It’s getting easier the more I do it,’ Shane added, labouring his enthusiasm in an attempt to make believe that he cared about the couch.

‘Aye, it’ll take time, my son,’ said Bert assuredly. ‘You look like you’re deep in thought. You philosophising, then?’

‘Nah, just thinking over some ideas.’

‘Ideas, eh? That’s dangerous.’

‘Nah, me and some mates have got an idea to open a shop. We’re just going over some plans.’

‘That’s very creative for a man so young,’ said Bert, adjusting his flat cap. ‘What’s the plan so far?’

Shane was not inclined to talk about his career plans with the older generation. Yet he managed to relay what he hoped to be enough to satisfy Bert’s curiosity. ‘Well, I’m thinking like some sort of fashion shop, you know, like sixties fashion, selling clothes and memorabilia, that sort of thing.’

‘Oh arr? A sixties fashion shop? Not sure that would take off in a little place like Dursley. How many folk round here are interested in that sort of thing?’

‘Loads of us,’ declared Shane with a hint of objection in his voice.

‘Yeah, you kids maybe,’ smiled Bert with a swagger. ‘But how many of them are gonna wanna buy sixties clothes and stuff from your shop?’

Shane was irritated by Bert’s negativity, yet he assured himself that he would keep his cool and assert his case. ‘Yeah, but I’m thinking that it will attract loads of people from Gloucestershire, you know, get a reputation as a cool place and all that, yeah?’

‘Well, very fancy,’ said Bert. He gave an abrupt chuckle, then added, ‘Can’t say that’ll be easy; if you want my advice, I’d think about it some more. Anyway, why the sixties? Thought you kids were all into that new romantic stuff, you know, Duran Duran nonsense.’

Shane screwed his face up. ‘Duran Duran? Nah. I’m into mod fashion, you know, The Who and The Kinks and all that from the sixties. Loads of kids are into that round here.’

‘The mods, hey? That’s a bit before your time,’ said Bert as he took off his cap and rubbed his hand over his balding head, which caused a near-avalanche of dandruff to fall. Shane noticed but was too polite to show it, even though it grossed him out. ‘So are you one of them gangs of kids I see riding their scooters all over the place, then?’ continued Bert. ‘Looks like they’re up to no good. My boy used to be into all that stuff, so I know a thing or two about you youths and your culture.’

Shane found that last remark absurd but he continued, ‘No, I don’t ride with the mods,’ said Shane woefully. ’I know ‘em like, but I hang out with my own mates. Besides, I ain’t got a scooter, just a Honda moped. I’d look a bit daft riding that among a bunch of scooters.’

‘A mod with a moped, eh? So where’s your scooter?’

Shane paused to take a bite of his sandwich before taking a large gulp of his fizzy drink. He really did not want to talk about his scooter woes, but he continued. ‘Well, I was saving up for one like, then my old man comes and visits and takes my money, adds a hundred quid of his own and buys me a new Honda. He didn’t ask me if I wanted it; he thought he was doing me a favour. Couldn’t really give it back; he’d have gone nuts. But it don’t matter much; my mates all ride regular mopeds.’

Just then another colleague of Shane’s who had been listening in on the conversation interrupted. ‘So what, you wear that parka jacket of yours when you’re riding round with your gang then, Shane?’ he remarked as he sat himself down at Shane’s bench. Bert lifted his cap in the young man’s direction, acknowledging his presence.

‘Alright Wayne?’ Shane said, as he gave his workmate the thumbs up. ‘Yeah, it’s cool,’ he continued, referring to his parka jacket. Focusing his gaze on Wayne rather than Bert he added, ‘I stand out a bit cos my mates all wear leather jackets. What makes it worse is that cos my bike is brand new, it has restricted speed, which makes it go slower, so I can’t keep up with the other guys.’ He swallowed his mouthful of food as quickly as he could so as to continue before anyone could interrupt him. ‘Their bikes are older and go faster. I get some funny looks sometimes. People point at us when we’re riding through Dursley. I think they find it amusing that there’s four guys on mopeds wearing leather jackets and trailing behind them is a kid riding a Honda wearing a fishtail parka. It can’t look right.’ Shane looked down and gave a shy grin.

Bert adjusted his flat cap again and took a drag on his rolled-up cigarette. After he coughed heavily, he said, ‘So how come you hang out with leather jackets instead of parkas?’

‘Yeah,’ said Wayne. ‘What’s all that about, Shane? I seen you often enough riding round here with your mates.’

‘Well, they’re me mates like,’ replied Shane coyly. ’We were at school together. Sometimes I’d get picked on by older kids cos I was always into my sixties music and my mates used to stick up for me. I know a lot of the mods quite well, and some are me mates too, but I don’t think they’d want me riding round with them, like, not on me Honda. I’d make ‘em look bad.’

‘Well, good luck with that, young Shane,’ said the old chap as he relit his cigarette before bidding both Shane and Wayne farewell. ‘Good luck with your shop thing too,’ he said as he walked away. ‘But don’t forget to finish that couch after lunch,’ he added as he faded into the distance.

Wayne adjusted his seating position to take advantage of Bert’s absence from the bench. ‘So you going to The Stragglers on Saturday night then, Shane?’

‘Yeah,’ replied Shane enthusiastically. ‘Is there gonna be any trouble there this time? Cos I’ve got this mate who sometimes comes to The Stragglers with me and he said he was gonna come this weekend.’

‘Well I don’t think Ally Bingham’s gonna be there, if that’s what you mean. Him and his mates are off to some memorabilia thing down in Brighton, so I think it’ll be cool. Why, who’s this mate of yours?’

‘Oh, he’s Mike Sabbath. You’ve probably seen him about – tall kid, long hair, wears a freaky hippie shirt.’

‘Oh, I know, blond hair, a bit of a goofball.’

‘Yeah, that’s him,’ said Shane, nodding in acknowledgement. ‘Well, he likes going to The Stragglers, but there’s a bit of bad blood between him and Ally at the moment. I don’t wanna see him get the shit kicked out of him, like.’

‘What, a long-haired kid dressed like a hippie goes to The Stragglers where there’s loads of mods?’ Wayne shook his head and guffawed.

‘I know, sounds mad,’ smiled Shane. ‘But people don’t bother him cos he don’t cause no trouble, like. And he likes the bar cos we can get served in there, no problem.’

‘He’s ellava brave bloke, I’ll give him that.’

Shane lit a cigarette, gathered some phlegm in his throat and turned and spat it out. ‘I know, he’s mad. But he don’t care, like, you know. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, all into love and peace and all that, love thy neighbour, treat those the way you wish to be treated, all that stuff.’

‘Ha, well, he must be mad if he risks hanging out at The Stragglers dressed that way.’ Wayne gave the two-fingered peace sign. ‘Don’t think them mods are much into love and peace. Still, it’s his life. Anyway, Ally ain’t gonna be there, if that’s what you’re worrying about.’

‘You going?’

‘Me? Nah.’ Wayne stood up and stretched his braces out and let them snap back onto his chest, which caused him to let out a pitiful yelp. ‘I go down the Carpenters Arms on Saturdays.’ He stood up and told Shane that he would see him later.

Shane sat pensively for a few moments. The young man had an unassuming face with soft features, high cheekbones and a thin pointed nose, which made him look thinner in the face than he actually was. As such, his mild-looking countenance rarely hinted at his frame of mind. Yet with his awkward expression as it was at this particular moment, and with his head down and chin almost resting upon his collar bone, it would be clear to anyone who cared to notice that he had a lot on his mind. Being the inoffensive and easy-going kid that he was, however, it wasn’t for him to be bleating on to everyone about his problems. That was Shane’s modest streak.

His troubled relationship with his mother withstanding, his father had left him when he was still a toddler. Growing up, he would only see him during fleeting visits. A stern and uncommunicative man, he had never been much of a father to Shane, or his younger sister, yet Shane had always reluctantly kept him welcome in his life. Now that he was grown up and out of school and working, however, he had recently developed an indifference towards his dad; he made the effort whenever his father visited, but if he didn’t visit it didn’t bother him in the slightest.

He had mentioned to his workmate Bert about his dad buying him a moped instead of his desired scooter, and it was something that did in fact perturb him. As much as he had really wanted a scooter – and if he had one he would have still been happy to ride with his leather-clad mates – he had resigned himself to the disappointment. What really bothered him about the situation was that he knew his father was a stubborn man, and, as such, if he had asked for the bike to be returned to the bike shop, his dad would have been offended, and aggressive about it. He was the sort of cantankerous man who would blame everyone else. In this scenario, Shane knew that if he were to ask that the bike be returned then everything would be Shane’s fault. It would be a case of Shane is so ungrateful and Shane appreciates nothing. To save the peace, he had decided it best to make no fuss and simply accept the moped and pretend that he was happy with it.

Family life aside, Shane was a reasonably happy kid. This was even in spite of his additional concerns, his workplace woes. He had missed out on several apprenticeships he had applied for since leaving school, and he wasn’t at all keen on the Youth Opportunity Scheme he was currently working at Bymacks, the local furniture makers and upholsterers. His older workmates treated him like an apprentice, and, although he was not one, he was given the more menial of tasks, a sort of assistant to the apprentices. That was Shane’s lot for the time being.

Tony Yammy was a practical kid with a strong head on his shoulders and a willingness to argue his point until his adversary could see his side of things. In no way academically minded, he was nonetheless the sensible kid who knew how to seek advice on matters before plunging himself head first into any new venture. For his idea to open a motorcycle shop, he was under the confident assumption that he had the perfect counsellor in the form of his father, a successful grocery shop owner.

On the Friday morning, as Tony was restocking the apple section in the shop, he turned and asked his dad, ‘So, do you think it’s the right thing to do, dad?’

His father didn’t reply straight away, taking time instead to finish serving his customer. As he was bagging up some assortment of vegetables for his next customer, he turned to Tony. ‘Well, you know your way round an engine, son, and you know how a shop runs, so I think it’s something you can do. I’d take a course in bookkeeping first though; it’s important you keep your accounts accurate and up to date.’

He took another paper bag and filled it with tomatoes, and then took the corners and rolled the bag over three times to seal the top before handing it to the customer. ‘My son,’ he said to the elderly woman he was serving. ‘Thinking about opening up a motorcycle shop.’

The bemused old woman peered over towards Tony and then back at his dad. ‘Ooh, does he know anything about motorcycles?’

Tony’s dad wrapped up another bag, this time with walnuts, and handed it to the woman and asked for the money. ‘What he doesn’t know about motorbikes,’ he said with a wry smile, ‘you couldn’t even crack a nut with, madam.’

The woman gathered her paper bags together and placed them in a carrier bag. ‘Well, good luck, young man,’ she said, as she waved and walked over to the entrance.

Both Tony and his dad smilingly waved back.

‘So have any of your mates got any financial experience?’ his Dad asked, turning his attention back to his son.

‘No more than me,’ replied Tony, as he lifted a big sack of potatoes over to the potato compartments. ‘But we’ll have to learn, won’t we?’

‘And have they any mechanical knowledge of motorbikes?’

‘Well, Mike Lynton knows a bit about working on bikes, but I’d be the main mechanic. The others would serve the customers. Still, it’s not decided yet if it’s gonna be a motorcycle shop; that’s just my suggestion. We have to decide democratically.’

His dad stepped over to the sprouts compartment and took hold of some bags and emptied them into the nearly bare shelves. ‘Oh, so you’re a democracy, then.’ He called over to his wife, ‘Hear that, Jill? Tony’s in a democracy.’

With her attention fully focused on a customer, she merely replied, ‘One man, one vote?’

‘It would have to be,’ replied Tony’s dad. Turning back to his son he asked, ‘So with this democracy, Tony, where do you all propose to get the capital to start things up? You haven’t even got a bank account.’

‘Well, we can apply for a business loan. I’ll be eighteen next year, so I’d be eligible, wouldn’t I?’

‘Well, yes, but don’t go taking out loans in your name only. You’d have to take a loan together, as a group.’

‘That’s what we intend to do. We’re not rushing into anything; this is just the planning phase.’

Tony’s dad then asked another customer if she required any help. As he then filled a paper bag full of apples for her, he said to his son, ‘Well, you wouldn’t need a lot of capital for a repairs shop, but if you want to sell motorbikes you’d need a lot of start-up money to buy in the stock.’

‘I know, and that’s why I’m thinking of just starting with a repairs shop first,’ said Tony.

‘But who else knows anything about the mechanics? You can’t just have you and your mate at the back of the shop doing all the repairs and the others all serving customers in the front. That wouldn’t work.’ He then wrapped up the bag of apples and asked the customer for the money.

‘One of the others would be in charge of ordering all the parts,’ Tony explained. ‘And the other two would serve customers.’

Tony’s dad laughed. ‘Are you going to have that mate of yours, Mike, the tall one? You going to have him serve your customers?’

‘Mike Sabbath?’ smiled Tony. ‘Well, I’d get him to cut his hair first, and get rid of that shirt.’

‘You’d have to,’ his dad said with raised eyebrows. ‘Otherwise, you’d scare customers away.’

‘Nah, it wouldn’t be like that, dad. And anyway, Mike worked for us over the last Christmas period. You said that he did a good job.’

Tony’s dad shrugged his shoulders and reluctantly conceded the point.

‘Yeah, and we’d be professional like,’ added Tony, confidently.

‘You know what professional is like?’ Tony’s dad joked.

‘Well, we’d learn. You did, right?’

‘Well, if you want to go into business, the first thing you’ll need, other than start-up capital, is a good reputation. I’m sure your mates are fun to be around, Tony, but they get you into trouble. You’re not a kid any more, and hanging round with kids won’t do your reputation any good.’

‘I know, dad, but they’re me mates, and they’ll grow up soon.’

At that moment Tony’s mother interrupted. ‘When was it, love, two months ago wasn’t it, when your friends and you almost got in trouble with the police for sticking bananas up people’s car exhausts?’

Tony laughed.

‘That’s not funny, son,’ declared his mother. ‘If you get a criminal record, no one will want to do business with you.’

‘Yeah, but that wasn’t my fault, mum,’ protested Tony. ‘I told them it was childish, but they insisted.’

His mother tutted and shook her head, then turned to deal with a customer.

His dad then added, ‘Well, you didn’t have to go along with it, Tony. I know you pulled those pranks when you were a kid, when you could get away with it, but you’re a young adult now and reputations stick.’

Tony nodded. ‘I’m aware of that, dad. I’ll always hang around with me mates, but I’m done joining in their childish pranks.’

‘I hope to see it, son.’

‘Anyway, dad, how did you learn to be a professional?’

‘I started by working for a grocer for five years before I even entertained the idea of opening up my own shop.’

‘That’s why I’m working in here, dad, to get retail experience, you know.’

‘Well, I can’t argue with that, Tony. But what about your rivals? Have you considered that?’

‘What you mean, rivals?’

‘You know, business competitors. If you open the shop in Dursley, you’ve got Kidsons to compete with.’

‘Yeah, but they sell stuff; we’d just do repairs.’

Tony’s dad thanked the customer he was serving, and then walked over to Tony. ‘Well, if it’s just repairs, I wouldn’t go for a high-street shop. The rates are huge. You’d be better off with a garage somewhere out of town. Costs a lot less.’

Tony finished restocking the potatoes. ‘Right, dad, I’m going out for a fag. You coming?’

‘Yep. Jill? You okay for a minute? Just popping out for a fag with Tony.’

The two walked out the back entrance of the shop, which overlooked a car park, and lit up. As they sat on a pile of pallets, they continued to discuss the merits of the business, making jokes about some of the more eccentric customers they would deal with on a daily basis. To an observer from a distance, listening on as the two of them sat there side by side reeling off their witty banter, they could be mistaken for thinking them best friends, instead of father and son. The only real distinction, other than Tony’s dad’s extra weight compared to his son’s sturdy but slim build, was their hair. While his father was thinning on top, Tony wore his slick brown hair in a rockabilly quiff, which complemented his hardened features and deep-set dark eyes. The only other distinctive feature that set Tony apart from his father was his pathetic attempt to grow a thin moustache. To Tony it was classy and apparent. To others it was just bum fluff.

From a distance they noticed a tramp-like old lady walking towards them, pushing a decrepit, old-fashioned bicycle.

‘Aye up, here she is again,’ said Tony quietly.

‘Whatever you do, son, don’t talk about the weather.’

As they both tried to hide their childlike giggles, the old woman headed in their direction. She was close enough for them to see that her left eye was wide open and that her right was squinting. Her white hair looked as if it hadn’t seen a comb in years, and her drab, dark clothes were dirty.

She said aloud, ‘It was fucking pissing down last night, fucking pissing down.’

She appeared to be addressing Tony and his dad, so they both acknowledged that it had indeed been raining the previous night.

‘Left me fucking bike out, didn’t I? Left it out all night in the rain. It was fucking pissing down.’ The eccentric old crow then veered to her right and headed for the nearby precinct. Both Tony and his dad waved as she disappeared from view.

‘What’s her story?’ asked Tony.

‘No idea, son, but she’s been wandering round here for as long as I’ve had the shop. She talks out loud, but you can never be sure whether she’s talking to you. Just be polite and don’t engage with her.’

‘I’m worried she might cast a spell over us, dad. Know what I mean?’

‘You could be right,’ he said, laughing in response. ‘Come on, let’s get back inside and help your mother.’

Mike Lynton was an amiable fellow at his best. Always the class clown at school, his sense of humour and ability to make people laugh made him a popular kid. But there was also his ill-tempered side. Easily wound up by his would-be tormentors, his temperament could switch at a stroke. Yet as testament to his ultimate good character, his gradual maturation had seen him better able to manage that temperament; instead of a sudden over-reaction to any kind of provocation, he had by now engineered the ability to keep his vengeful urges on his cognitive backburner and wait patiently for a more appropriate time to get even with his enemies. He had demonstrated this very ability the previous night when Ally Bingham’s gang had threatened him and his friends. It had made him angry, but at the time he knew that he and his brethren were outnumbered on that occasion. He convinced himself that there would be a more appropriate time to deal with Ally.

In the meantime, the tall, reasonably handsome young man, who boasted sparkling steel-blue eyes and snake-like facial features, went about his business, doing his daily tasks at the R. A. Lister factory where he worked. Lister’s was a renowned manufacturer of engines and engine parts, and the hub of the local economy, being by far the largest employer in the area, and providing jobs for skilled engineers, young apprentices, foundry workers, assembly-line workers, factory hands and catering and administrative staff. With its history in the area rooted in the expanding industrialisation of the mid-nineteenth century, Lister’s, more than any other employer in the town, acted as the economic heart and soul of Dursley. Its importance in relation to the town’s economic well-being was paramount, although it was seemingly taken for granted by its workforce. By far the largest importer of apprentices from the local Rednock Comprehensive School, and the grammar school that preceded it, the factory provided an array of jobs for local working people from all walks of life.

Traditionally, Dursley’s trade had been in the manufacture of woollen products, namely cloth, but, with the revolutionary development of petrol and diesel engines from the early twentieth century, the town was to take on a whole new industrial identity. Lister’s engines had become renowned throughout the world, while the sweated labour and toil required to produce them became the pride of the town. As many old men would say to the younger generation, If you haven’t worked in a Lister’s foundry, then you haven’t really worked at all.

Mike Lynton could appreciate that sentiment to a certain extent. He was too young, thankfully, to have to endure the heat and pace of work in the foundries, but his job at Lister’s was equally mundane. His place of privilege was working on the assembly line, hesitantly keeping up with the packing of engine parts as they rushed up along the conveyor belt. Being on his feet for eight monotonous hours each day was quickly turning Mike into a cynic. He wanted something else from life.

With the last load of components packed before lunch, the conveyor was switched off, much to the gratitude of those slaving over it. The subsequent quiet was always welcomed. Mike took a sip of water from his flask and was about to make his way to the factory canteen when he felt a poke in his back, which made him jump slightly.

‘You alright, Lynt?’ asked a colleague who had crept up behind him.

Mike turned round, relieved that it was a friendly work colleague and not an enemy. ‘Yes, mate. But I’m ellava knackered. Standing at this cursed assembly line, it does me in.’

‘Yeah, tell me about it, mate. Ellava job that. Rather you than me.’

‘I was just thinking the same about you,’ said Mike. ‘I tell ya, all the years I couldn’t wait to get out of school, and now I am, I wish I was back there. Anything but this hell hole.’

‘Can’t disagree with you on that, Lynt. You taking your lunch break?’

‘Too right I am.’

‘Wanna nip over to the canteen?’

‘Lead the way, mate.’

Mike and his colleague walked the short distance to the factory canteen and stood in the queue.

‘Ah, ellava good, apple crumble for dessert today,’ declared Mike’s workmate enthusiastically. ‘Oh, got a question for you, Lynt. Dean Francis said he was gonna get tickets for the Thin Lizzy concert in Bristol next month. Someone mentioned that you’re a big fan, so Dean wants to know if you wanna ticket.’

Mike’s eyes lit up. ‘Fuck yeah! No doubt about that,’ he declared with a sudden good mood swing. ‘Where is Dean? Is he here today? I’ll tell him to definitely count me in.’

‘He’s working in the foundry today. You’re only sixteen, so don’t think you’re allowed in there. I’ll be seeing him later anyway. I’ll tell him you’re up for it.’

‘Terrific, mate. Cheers,’ said Mike enthusiastically. ‘Where’s he gonna get the tickets from?’

‘Dunno. I think he just phones up a box office somewhere and orders them.’

‘Box office? What, is that like a ticket agent?’

‘I guess so. Aye up, the line’s moving, quick march, Lynt. I want a piece of that crumble before it all goes.’

Mike stepped forward ditheringly. His eyes were adrift, as if he were in some kind of vegetative state. ‘Ticket agents,’ he whispered to himself. ‘Ticket agency.’

When Mike and his workmate were seated, eating their lunch, Mike was still deep in thought. He mumbled, ‘Got to be the best idea ever, best out of the lot.’

‘What?’ asked his workmate, who wasn’t sure whether Mike was speaking to him or merely thinking aloud to himself.

Mike shook himself out of his trance. ‘Oh, just an idea of mine,’ he said as he re-established eye contact. ‘Me and some mates, we wanna open up a shop at some point and we’re just putting together ideas as to what kind of shop it could be.’

‘Wow, that’s a bit creative. I take it from what you just said that you already have an idea of your own.’

‘Yes, mate. A ticket agency, here in Dursley. We’d provide ticket booking services for all events up and down the country. Maybe get into booking and organising the events ourselves. There’s nothing like that anywhere round here. It’d be a winner.’

‘Well, it sounds interesting, mate,’ said his colleague, gesturing his show of support. ‘Do you or any of your mates know anything about events promotion and shit like that?’

Mike shrugged his shoulders. ‘Well, no, not yet, but we’d learn. We’d do courses in it or something. I could try and get a job in one in Bristol, to give me a chance to see how something like that runs.’

‘That’s ambitious, Lynt. You thinking about opening a high-street shop, here in Dursley?’

‘Yeah, I guess so.’

‘From what I know, it ain’t cheap renting out shops in a high street. I guess you’d need to do your research first.’

‘Oh yeah, I know that. It’s not like we’re opening the shop next week. It’s like, a year or two from that. We just wanna put together our ideas first and then a plan. I know we’d all have to do our research, do some courses, get some experience and all that, plus we’d have to save money, or get a loan or something to get started. It’s a lot of work, but we’re only in the initial stages. Early days yet.’

‘Well, good luck with whatever you end up doing. Fair play to ya for trying. Anything to get out of this hell hole, am I right?’

Mike tapped his fork against his colleague’s cup, which made a ‘ting’ sound. ‘Well, you ain’t wrong, mate.’

Late that afternoon, after Mike had finished his daily toil in the factory, he sped home on his moped, riding up to the Kingshill area, which was situated midway between Dursley and the neighbouring village of Cam. He turned into the Kingsway area and rode slowly down a small street which contained a row of old council houses. He turned his engine off and parked his bike on the side of the road and made his way down some steep steps to the front door. Once inside, he immediately made for his bedroom. As he scrambled up the stairs, his mother asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, but he ignored her.

In his room, he rummaged through some drawers until he found some paper and a pen. He quickly placed a record on the turntable and then flopped onto his bed and began eagerly scribbling notes relating to his business idea. Moments later, his mother knocked on the door.

‘What?’ bellowed Mike, slightly annoyed at being disturbed.

His mother opened the door ajar and poked her head through, as if she were wary of making a nuisance of herself. ‘I asked if you wanted a cup of tea.’

‘No,’ replied Mike nonchalantly.

‘Okay, Michael, you don’t have to be so rude; a simple “No thank you, mum” would have sufficed.’ She stared at Mike, waiting for a response. There was none. Then she said, ‘And please turn that music down. I have a headache.’

Mike threw his pen to the ground. ‘Mum, I don’t want a cup of tea and the music ain’t loud. Will you please leave me in peace – I’m trying to think here, ain’t I?’

His mother then pushed the door open and stepped into the room. ‘Well, that’s a nice way to talk to your own mother, I must say. I only asked if you wanted a cup of tea.’ She stomped over to his record player and turned the volume down.

Mike swore under his breath and then leapt from his bed and lunged over to the door. He grabbed the handle and swung the door wide open. Pointing firmly to the stairway, he said in an austere tone, ‘Not now, mum, please. I’m trying to work.’

His mother paused momentarily, in an effort to determine an appropriate response. Her face contorted with hurt feelings, and then she said, ‘What is this all about? Why are you being so unpleasant to me these last few weeks?’

Mike looked her in the eye with a bemused stare. ‘What?’ he said in near disbelief. ‘You know what. You know exactly what the problem is, mum. Don’t pretend otherwise.’

His mother gave a heavy sigh. ‘Oh, for goodness sake, Michael. You mean to tell me that you’re still angry with me because of your inheritance?’

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ Mike said sulkily. ‘It’s my money. Nan left it to me. You have no right to keep it from me.’

His mother raised her finger in disapproval. ‘Now listen here, Michael. Your nan left you that six thousand pounds for you to build a future, not fritter away in the pubs. And I know you drink in pubs.’

Mike’s temper was heating up. ‘Yeah, but what if I needed that money now?’

‘What on Earth would you need six thousand pounds for at your age, other than to waste it on rubbish?’ She could see the anger in her son’s eyes and it frightened her. ‘Look, you can have that money when you’re twenty-one, when you’ve grown up a bit and can put it to good use. I’m only doing this for your own good, Michael.’

Mike grunted in disapproval. ‘Yeah, but what if I need it sooner? What if an opportunity to build my future came up before I was twenty-one?’

His mother stepped out of the room. ‘Well, if that ever happens, we’ll discuss it. Until then, you’ll have to wait until you’re twenty-one. That’s all there is to it.’

As she began to walk down the stairs, Mike poked his head out of the door. ‘Well, actually, mum, I have an opportunity now.’

His mother stopped halfway down the stairway. ‘What opportunity?’ she asked, mockingly.

‘Me and my mates. We’re planning to open a shop in town. We’ve been putting together ideas. That’s why I might need the money now. For investment.’

‘Investment?’ his mother said almost sarcastically, but with a hint of interest.

‘Yeah, for the shop.’

‘What shop, Michael? What do you know about running a shop, or any business?’

Mike was offended and angry. He leant back and slammed his bedroom door.

‘Dinner’s in about an hour’s time,’ declared a voice from outside his room.

He flopped back down on his bed and began making notes again. Once more engaged in his ideas, his hard stare instantly faded, and a look of animated enthusiasm returned as he scribbled away. The fact that his mother did not trust him made him angry. Yet, at this particular moment, it also made him more determined.

About an hour later, Mike made his way down into the kitchen and sat waiting for his dinner to be served. As his mother placed the plate of food in front of him, she babbled on about her plans to attend her niece’s wedding some weeks ahead. Mike registered nothing and ate his meal without once looking up. He had brought his pen and paper down and periodically noted something in between mouthfuls. He was looking forward to meeting up with his friends to discuss business later that evening.

The same day witnessed Dave Hunter struggling with some racking at the Stokes baking factory where he worked. He had the awkward job of shifting a heap of disused racks outside, but they were old and the wheels wouldn’t turn the way they were meant to, which made them cumbersome to manoeuvre. With only a narrow doorway through which to drag them, his simple task proved problematic. With at least a dozen racks to dispose of, Dave was attempting to force only his third obstinate trolley out the door when he started to show his frustration. Dave had a temper as good as anyone else’s, but it was his body language and physical gestures that more readily testified to his levels of aggression.

For sure he was unhappy in his job. Unlike many others of his school leaving age, who had moved onto government schemes for employment, Dave had secured himself an actual full-time job. The pay was better than that of a Youth Opportunity Scheme but the work was equally mundane. His only real task in the factory was to ensure the balls of dough were placed evenly on the tray after they tumbled off the conveyor belt, before placing the trays onto the rack. Once the rack was full of trays, all he had to do was to simply wheel it over to the oven, and then return to fill another rack. There was a Stokes retail bakery shop in Dursley town centre, which by all accounts was an enjoyable experience for the customers, who would often comment on the delicious smell as they came in happily to buy their fresh bread. Yet for the poor wretches slaving away in the Stokes factory, which was situated on the outskirts of town, the experience was anything but enjoyable. What embittered Dave also was the fact that he had to wear white overalls that were at least two sizes too big, and a white cap, which he felt made him look ridiculous.

As he attempted to drag the fourth trolley out the door, two of the casters locked and he had to exert a degree of force to so much as make the thing move at all. Eventually he lifted the trolley up and down aggressively and bounced it out the door. With sheer contempt, he slammed the trolley against the wall alongside the others he had already bullied out the door. Cursing under his breath, he then heard a voice behind him. It was a sarcastic and teasing voice.

‘What have those racks ever done to you?’

Dave turned and saw that it was Colin Bentley, one of the senior baking staff. Colin, a skinny, beady-eyed little man in his early twenties, who had a severe case of acne, stood right up to Dave. ‘Go easy on those things, mate,’ he said mockingly. ‘They might fight back one day. Then where would you be?’

‘What do you want, Bentley?’ replied Dave with a vitriolic snarl.

‘Nothing, mate. Just came to give you some advice. I hear that you and your fellow sprogs had a bit of a run-in with Ally and his boys last night.’

‘So. What of it?’

‘Nothing pal; I’m just saying. But I want you to know that Ally acts on his own. I don’t vouch for him. If he goes off and kicks the shit out of someone, it’s nothing to do with me. You understand that, yeah?’

Dave paused for a moment, but his eyes were glued on Colin’s. ‘Understand what, Bentley? You’re a mod; you all hang out together.’

Colin raised his voice. ‘Listen, pal: Ally’s nothing to do with me. He rides in my club, but I don’t control him. I’ve even told him more than once to behave himself.’ He took out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Dave, who declined. He lit a match, but the light breeze blew it out. It was three matches later before he finally lit his cigarette. Such clumsiness made him look foolish in Dave’s eyes, and he sensed it. Yet he continued his pretence of iconic cool. ‘Okay, I admit I don’t like you lot and your patchouli oil-smelling leather jackets and greasy hair, but I don’t condone gratuitous violence, even when it’s perpetrated against the jitters. And we work together here at this factory, you and me. I don’t want no trouble with people I work with, got it? So whatever bother you got with Ally, it’s nothing to do with me. Just wanted you to know that.’

Dave certainly did not trust Colin Bentley. ‘What?’ he said curling his lip. ‘You my mate now, then?’

Colin stepped up to within an inch of Dave’s face and blew out his smoke provocatively into Dave’s eyes. ‘No, pal, I wouldn’t say that.’

‘So what’s the point of all this crap, then?’ asked Dave, waving the smoke away and nudging Colin away from his face.

Colin shrugged his shoulders. ‘Dunno, pal. Maybe I’m just playing the nice guy. It’s in my nature. Or maybe I just don’t want you and your bender mates to go round putting me down just because of Ally, yeah?’

The two remained locked in their distrustful gazes. Making a tutting sound, Colin then turned and started to walk away.

‘Just one thing, Bentley,’ cried out Dave.

Colin started to turn back round, but before he completely about-faced he was met with an almighty smack on the side of the head. He stood stunned for a second, but before he could fully comprehend what had just happened Dave pummelled his face with several more punches until Colin was on his knees, desperately trying to cover his face with his arms. Dave was about to deliver a swift kick to the chest when a supervisor happened to step out. He stormed over and pushed Dave out of the way and picked Colin up. Once they were calm, the supervisor ordered them both into his office for a talk.

Come evening, as Dave was getting ready to go out, his wheelchair-bound older brother, Andy, wheeled himself out of his room and just about managed to squeeze himself into the small kitchen where Dave was blow-drying his long hair.

‘Pete phoned while you were in the bath,’ Andy informed him. ‘Said you got into trouble at work today for fighting.’

Dave didn’t answer at first and pretended not to notice his brother’s presence. With Andy sat impatiently in his chair, as if expecting an explanation, Dave eventually said, ‘So what?’

Disparaging of his brother, Andy said, ‘Well, that’s very mature, David, very mature. I suppose when they sack you, you’ll be having a party, yeah?’

Dave didn’t turn to face his brother, but remained focused on his hair as he stared po-faced in the small mirror that was hanging crooked on the kitchen wall. ‘Might just do that.’

Andy shook his head. ‘One of these days, pal, that attitude of yours is going to land you in a heap of crap. From what Pete told me, you’re like one warning away from getting the boot. Is that what you want?’

‘Bollocks’, replied Dave.

‘No, it’ll be bollocks for you, mate. Dave, come on, pal, snap out of it. You’re an adult now, not a school kid any more. So stop acting like one.’

Dave turned the blow dryer off, slammed it down on the counter to his right and ran his fingers through his now dry, long and wavy hair. ‘I ain’t acting like anything, Andy. That prick Colin Bentley was winding me up. He got what was coming to him. Why should I have to take shit from an arsehole like him?’

‘That’s not the point, mate. He didn’t hit you; you hit him. If they’re gonna sack anyone, it’ll be you. And then what?’

‘Couldn’t give a shit.’

‘Well, that’s apparent,’ said Andy, eyeing Dave up and down in disapproval. ‘Besides, you don’t want to mess with the likes of Colin Bentley. It’s a dangerous occupation.’

Dave exhaled loudly. ‘What, that spotty-faced wimp? He’s about as hard as the dough I have to handle every pissing day.’

‘Yeah, but he’s got a reputation, and more than that he’s got a lot of hard mates who for some reason look up to him. He’s, like, the head guy among those mods. God knows what’s gonna happen now once his crew find out what you did.’

Dave smashed the soft side of his fist on the counter and then calmly exclaimed, ‘Fuck him. And fuck all those wanker mods, bunch of poseurs the lot of them. Me and my mates are minding our own business and then they turn up and start threatening us. What, I should just take that lying down? Bollocks!’

‘Well, it’s your funeral, David,’ Andy said in a patronising tone. ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Anyway, if you want my advice, I’d apologise to him, at least for the sake of your job.’

Dave reached for a clean t-shirt hanging on the nearby clotheshorse. ‘Fuck the job.’

Andy banged on the side of the fridge. In anger he declared, ‘Fuck, Dave, you’re gonna get the sack if you carry on like this. We’ve got the rent to pay and bills to pay. The council don’t just let you off the rent cos you’re unemployed, you know. I can’t work, and with dad in the nick you’re the only one bringing in any money. Take some responsibility, why don’t ya?’

Before Andy could continue, Dave turned and shouted at his brother. ‘Bollocks, man! Why the fuck should I give a shit about a crummy little job like that? And don’t give me shit about dad like it was my fault.’

‘I’m not fucking blaming you,’ Andy interrupted sharply.

‘Well, it seems like it to me.’

Andy stretched over and grabbed a mug and then smashed it to the ground. ‘Fuck off!’ he screamed. ‘What, you want to spend the rest of your life on the dole?! Grow the fuck up, David. Jesus fucking Christ, I thought the days of you causing fights and getting sent home from school were gone, but no, you ain’t changed. You never …’

‘I don’t give a crap!’ interrupted Dave. ‘And you can pick that mess up, cos I ain’t.’

Andy waved his finger. ‘You never, you never learn, do you? You’re still like the rebellious school kid picking fights with anyone who looks at you the wrong way. It won’t get you anywhere.’

‘I don’t give a shit!’

‘Well I do!’ screamed Andy. ‘No matter what shit you get up to, no matter what stunt you pull, you’re my little brother. I have to look out for you, man, cos that’s my job.’

Dave started to calm himself. ‘Well, you ain’t me, are ya?’ he said, as he looked down woefully to the floor. ‘You don’t know what it’s like being me.’

Andy slapped himself on the forehead. ‘Aw, for Christ’s sake! I don’t know what it’s like to be you? You wanna trade, eh? You wanna be me and live in this fucking bastard wheelchair for the rest of your life? Cos I’ll tell you something, David. I’d give anything to be you, a young man with his whole life ahead of him, and a young man with two fucking legs.’ He began to sob. ‘Yeah, I’d be you, alright.’

Andy manoeuvred himself back out from the kitchen and rolled himself next to a living room chair. Dave remained still for a moment, seemingly pensive. He pulled his t-shirt down over himself and stepped out into the dinky living room.

‘Yeah, well, just making a point, Andy,’ Dave said, before adding gently, ‘I know what it must be like for you.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah, really. It’s just that this working for a living shit, it’s not what I thought it would be. I couldn’t wait to leave school. The thought of earning a living really got me going. I thought it was gonna change my life. But it ain’t, like. My job is hell. It’s more boring than school, and that’s saying something.’

Andy calmed himself down and wiped his tears away. ‘It won’t always be like that, Dave, trust me. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you’re not the only one working a shit job.’

Andy then wheeled himself over to a door that led onto the bathroom. Unfortunately for him, there was a small step he had to negotiate in order to empty his urine packs into the toilet. He made two attempts to get his wheelchair over the step before Dave gave him the necessary assistance. ‘I’m gonna empty my piss bag, then I’m gonna run a bath. You’re not going out just yet, are ya?’

Dave shook his head. ‘No, not going out yet,’ he said with his eyes to the ground.

‘Good, could you give us a lift into the bath?’

‘Yeah, sure.’

Moments later, Andy was undressed and Dave was lifting him into the bathtub.

‘So where you off to tonight?’ asked Andy, as he stretched out his arms and gripped the bath rails to help lower himself into the tub.

‘The Railway, at Cam,’ replied Dave, as he gently lowered his brother into the water.

‘They serve you in there, then?’

‘Yeah, it’s only Wally and Hazel. They’re both blind as bats, so we get served easily enough.’

‘Well, be careful.’

‘What do you mean, be careful?’ said Dave on the defensive. He stretched over to grab the soap off the sink and tossed it into the bath water. He gave his brother an unctuous look. ‘I’m always careful, me.’

About fifteen minutes past three o’clock on that same afternoon, Mike Sabbath was in his usual daydream. It was the time of day when he would randomly drift off into his thoughts and fantasise about realising his many dreams. On this particular afternoon, he was focused on his idea of opening up a record shop in town. He assumed that, because of his love of music, there would be no occupation that would suit him better. He dreamt that he would sell all the hit records from the charts and promote the big bands of the moment. In his thoughts, he assumed it prudent that his record store should specialise in rock music by playing the records in the shop all day and by providing an ordering service for rock rarities. He visualised the shop walls adorned with posters of his favourite rock bands and pictured himself offering discounts on the latest albums by bands such as Genesis, Supertramp, Rush and Rainbow. In his vision he had Mike Lynton serving the customers, Shane and Dave ordering the records for stock, keeping one eye on what was hot and what was not, while Tony would be out on the road promoting the business. Towards the end of this day’s daydream he was also beginning to see his collective as a sort of community service, an advisory unit to assist the public in making the right choices concerning their music: No, you don’t want to listen to Duran Duran – they’re total shit. What you need is a bit of Genesis in you. You know it makes sense. With such meanderings he was brimming over with enthusiasm. Yet his dreamy haze was rudely halted when his supervisor poked him in the arm.

‘I’m not going to tell you again, Michael,’ said the silver-haired man with a wonky eye. ‘That’s the third time I’ve seen you just stood there while everyone else is doing all the work. Now get a move on and help out.’

’Sorry, Roy, said Mike. He was annoyed by the intrusion yet remained respectful.

His supervisor, a short rotund middle-aged man named Roy Palser, pointed to a work colleague who was attempting to move some ancient racking. ‘Look, go and give Tone a hand. Take your hands out of your pockets.’

Mike meandered over and assisted his workmate with the racking, while trying to look interested in what he was doing. It was never easy for Mike to look like he was enjoying his work. As was the case with most of his old school friends, he was employed on a Youth Opportunity Scheme, whereby the government paid kids a pittance to work on behalf of an employer. Mike’s place of exploitation was the local Cam Mills, an ancient woollen factory famous for its cloth making, the by-products of which included pool table cloths and tennis ball coating. His job was on the maintenance team: fixing up buildings, keeping the grounds up to order, repairing machinery. The real bugbear for him, however, was that, while his senior colleagues got to perform the more interesting and creative tasks, he would often be stuck on his own to perform the more laborious activities, such as chipping cement off old bricks so that they could be reused. From those jobs there was no skiving.

On this particular day, the entire maintenance team were getting stuck into the thick of it. A disused building at the top end of the mill was to be cleared and fixed up to accommodate a new fleet of looms. At this stage, the workers were undertaking the mucky job of clearing all the rusted junk from the building before cleaning the place up, ready for painting and repairs.

As Mike was making a feeble effort to assist in the cause – attempting to help his workmates to move heavy, old junk to near the entrance ready for disposal – Roy Palser grabbed him by the arm and pointed to the outside.

‘Right, make yourself useful,’ he said, as if he were talking to an obstinate mule. ‘Go get the dumper truck and bring it up here. You think you can do that?’

‘Yep, I can,’ replied Mike enthusiastically.

Driving the dumper truck was about the only aspect of the job he enjoyed. Grateful for the opportunity of a break, he marched off down the rear side of the mill to retrieve the truck from where he had last seen it. When he arrived at the destination, the truck was nowhere to be seen. He dithered for a moment and looked around him. Then a young chap whom he recognised stepped out from a nearby entrance.

‘What you looking for, pal?’

‘It’s gone. Someone’s nicked it. The dumper truck. It was here this morning.’

‘The dumper truck?’ He pointed further down. ‘I think it’s down there, round the corner. Rex was using it earlier.’

‘Well, he does realise that I’m gonna have to call the police, right?’ Mike joked. ‘This is clearly a case of theft.’

The chap looked most puzzled. ‘You what?’

‘Never mind, mate,’ said Mike, as he continued walking alongside the mill. He made a left turn and could see that the dumper truck was indeed there. As he walked towards it, he peered to his right, over at the garage facility known as Ebley Tyres, which was situated directly opposite the front of the mill.

‘Oy, Dom,’ he cried out, raising his thumb in the air. ‘How’s it going, mate?’

The young man in question, an old schoolmate, looked up from where he was working on a car wheel. He gave his thumb in return. ‘Aye, Mike. You alright?’ he shouted back.

Mike walked over to the area in the garage where Dom was working. ‘Yeah, I’m cool’, he announced as he approached.

Dom stood up. ‘Ain’t seen you for a bit, mate,’ he said. ‘How’s it going at the mill?’

‘Well, it’s better than nothing,’ declared Mike as he perused the tyre-fitting facility. ‘Can’t say I’m gonna make a career out of it. Looks like you’re doing alright here.’

‘Yeah, actually, I’m loving it.’

‘Really? Isn’t it a YOP scheme, though?’

‘Well, yeah, but I’m actually learning a trade here, and they said they’d take me on after the scheme’s ended.’

‘Really? Nice one. You actually enjoying it, then?’

‘Yep, couldn’t wish for a better job, I reckon,’ he old friend said cheerily. ‘In fact, I’m thinking of opening up my own tyre place round here one day.’

‘That’s ambitious.’

‘So, what about you? They gonna take you on when your scheme finishes?’

Mike couldn’t help but laugh. ‘I very much doubt it,’ he replied as he shook his head. ‘My boss just bitches at me all day. I think he’s under the impression that just because I turn up here every day I’m supposed to do some work.’

‘That’s outrageous, ain’t it?’ laughed Dom.

‘I know,’ said Mike, shrugging his shoulders and holding out his hands in wonder.

‘Anyway,’ said Dom as he picked up the tool he had been using. ‘Got to get back to work. You still hanging out with Lynt and Dave Hunter?’

‘Yeah, course.’

‘Well, perhaps we’ll meet up sometime for a pint.’

‘Sounds good. Anyway, I’ll see ya around, Dom. Keep up the good work.’

Mike walked back to where the dumper truck was parked and climbed aboard. With the key still in the ignition, he started the vehicle up and revved the engine several times. He released the clutch but drove forward too quickly, stalling the engine. The guys who were working at the tyre garage couldn’t help but notice and turned their heads and laughed. Mike didn’t care. He appreciated the audience and raised both arms in the air, as if to acknowledge his circus act. Before he restarted the engine, he happened to look up and notice the large lettering engraved onto the front of the old building, which read HUNT AND WINTERBOTHAM. He had little idea who these individuals were, but he did at least assume that they were probably the owners from decades earlier, such was the age of the building.

‘I ain’t ever seen a Winterbotham round here,’ he whispered to himself. ‘But I know Roy Palser’s a Hunt.’

As he sped off, he made an instant decision to drive forward out of the premises and ride out along the road and make his way back in through the upper entrance. He’d never driven the truck out on the road before, and so he told himself that this was his opportunity to see something of the world. As he drove past Ebley Tyres, he gave another thumbs up to his old schoolmate, who returned the gesture. He continued onto the road and along to the top of the mill. When he arrived outside the entrance, Roy Palser was waiting impatiently.

‘Where the bloody hell have you been?’ he demanded.

‘Getting the dumper truck,’ replied Mike as he turned the engine off and climbed down from the vehicle.

‘Where’d you go for it, Cambodia?’

‘No. Rex had used it apparently and I couldn’t find it,’ Mike explained with little sincerity. ‘Had to walk round the mill to find it.’

‘And what the bloody hell were you doing driving on the road? You ain’t licensed to drive on the road. You trying to get me in a shitload of trouble?’

Mike turned his head to roll his eyes so that Roy couldn’t see. Thinking that there was nothing to be fussed over, he said, ‘Well, I don’t see any cops here.’

Roy stomped right up to him and pointed his finger into his face. ‘Now look here, kid. You’re taking too many liberties. You better start doing as you’re told, or else.’

Mike froze and stared Roy in the face, a gesture which indicated that he would heed his supervisor’s warning.

Roy gave a heavy and laboured sigh. ‘Well, come on then,’ he said, as he nodded towards a pile of scrap. ‘Hurry up and help get this stuff loaded.’

Mike stepped over to where the other guys were grabbing pieces of junk to load onto the dumper truck. He took hold of an old donkey jacket.

‘What you doing?’ said Roy, visibly irritated.

‘Putting this in the dumper truck. Why?’

‘That’s my fucking jacket, you dopey clown.’

‘Oh. Well, I thought it was part of the junk.’

Roy gave him another ticking off and made it clear to all that he despaired.

With Mike’s tedious day of work over, he was pleased when five o’clock came around. He arrived home at his grandparents’ house in a nearby village called Coaley, turned his moped engine off, and parked his bike conveniently between two cars at the front of the house. He placed the moped horizontal to the front and rear end of the two cars respectively, thinking nothing of the position, and walked through the front door.

‘Alright, grandad?’ he said as he came through the front porch.

His grandfather was slumped in an armchair reading a book. ‘Oh, hi Mike. Good day at work?’

‘Same as ever,’ replied Mike, removing his steel-toe-capped boots.

His nan then stepped into the front room from the kitchen, with a tea towel in hand. ‘Michael, take those bloody boots off before you come in here.’

‘What’s it look like I’m doing, nan?’ said Mike with an air of indifference.

‘You should take them off in the porch,’ his nan complained. ‘Don’t want those great big things bringing any muck into the house.’

Mike had removed one boot and was untying the laces on the other.

‘Do that in the porch, the porch, Michael,’ she moaned.

Mike took off the other boot and threw them into the porch.

‘Wish you’d do as you’re told,’ she continued. ‘Wretched child!’

Mike ignored her and went up to the room which he shared with his older brother. He was relieved to find that his older sibling was absent. He decided as such to put a record on before dinner was ready. On this occasion, he picked his Byrds Greatest Hits LP. As the opening track of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ played, Mike grabbed his steel-string acoustic guitar, sat on the side of his bed, and clumsily tried to play and sing along. Halfway through, he gave up and instead took hold of a piece of paper from the shelving unit in front of him and pinned it on the top shelf so that it was directly ahead of him at eye level. He adjusted his chord position and waited for the next track, which was ‘Turn Turn Turn’. As it started, it was audibly clear that he was much better rehearsed at this number. His strumming was rudimentary, but it was in tune and in time. He sang through the lyric sheet that was pinned in front of him without once faltering. As the third track played, he made a pitiful attempt to play some lead guitar, but soon abandoned the effort and instead eyed his bedroom posters of his favourite rock and progressive bands with awe.

Later that evening, rested and freshened up, he went to change his clothes. With his clean jeans on, he rummaged through his wardrobe to find his colourful hippie shirt. It was nowhere to be found. He trotted down the stairs and into the kitchen, where his nan was drying the dishes.

‘Nan, do you know where my shirt is?’

His nan tutted. ‘What shirt?’

‘You know, that green and orange one, with all the freaky patterns on.’

‘That thing. It’s on the washing line; it was filthy.’

‘Oh, only I needed it tonight.’

‘What did you need that silly thing for? You’re a working man now, not some child. Time you started dressing like one. You should take a leaf from your brother’s book, smarten yourself up.’

‘Yeah, right, nan. I’ll just wear something else.’

As he leapt back up the stairs, Mike could hear his brother making his way in through the front porch. Before he reached his bedroom door, he could hear his nan asking his brother whether he’d had a good day at work and advising him that she would heat his dinner for him in the oven.

Back in his room, he rummaged through his clothes and picked out a t-shirt. It wasn’t his best top, but it was at least partially tie-dyed with red and yellow patterns, albeit greatly faded. He told himself that it would do and pulled it on over himself. He grabbed his bike keys and some cash and went back down the stairs. As he lifted his leather jacket off the coat hanger in the corner of the lounge, his nan marched into the room.

‘For goodness sake, Michael. Are you really going out dressed like that?’

‘Like what?’ he asked.

‘Like some kind of yeti. That jacket smells, and look at that silly t-shirt.’

‘Nothing wrong with the way I look, nan. Half the kids in Dursley dress like this.’

‘Oh, really? Well your brother doesn’t.’

‘Yeah, well, he’s a hero,’ said Mike cynically.

‘And when are you going to get that hair cut?’ his nan continued. ‘I’m not having you embarrass me in front of the neighbours. Perhaps you should think of others now and then.’

Mike picked up his cycle helmet and walked out into the front porch and slipped his trainers on. ‘Bye, grandad,’ he said as he left.

‘Yeah, bye, Mike,’ replied his grandad, still slumped in his armchair. ‘Have a good night.’

When he stepped outside to where his bike was parked, he could see that the two cars that had been parked there had disappeared. This left his bike jutting out into the road, which looked both hazardous and ridiculous.

It was Friday night and the lads had convened at The Railway Inn in Cam. Mike Sabbath and Dave Hunter waited patiently at the bar to be served.

‘Good day at work, Dave?’ asked Mike.

‘Shit, actually,’ replied Dave as he rolled his eyes.

‘Oh, that good then?’

As they continued to wait, a small group of lads, each dressed in chic outfits and wearing large hairdos, bustled their way up to the increasingly busy bar.

Mike gave Dave a nudge. ‘Check out the new romantics,’ he said. His attention was then consumed when a barmaid asked him what he wanted.

Meanwhile, taking exception to the new romantic stood closest to him, who also happened to boast the most flamboyant of hairstyles, Dave eyed him with intent. One of the other romantics noticed and informed his friend that he was being stared at. The lad turned and looked at Dave, then laughed childishly as he turned his head back.

Dave continued to stare. Eventually the young man, dressed in a pure white frilly fop shirt and wearing a spiked-up mullet hairdo, turned back to Dave and asked him what he was looking at.

Their eyes were set on one another. Eventually Dave said, ‘You’re a poof, mate.’

‘Get lost, pal,’ replied the young man with disdain.

Dave kept his eyes glued on the lad. He really wanted a confrontation, but to his frustration the new romantic simply stared him out, and did so without apparent fear, even though he was only a fraction of Dave’s size.

Dave then added, ‘A big fucking girlie poof.’

The romantic rolled his eyes. ‘Is that the only insult you can come up with, mate?’ he said before he turned his back on Dave.

At that point, Mike, who had remained oblivious to the tension as he was being served, noticed the menace in Dave’s face as he continued to stare at the new romantic. ‘Nothing going on here, Dave,’ he said as he tapped Dave’s shoulder. ‘Let’s live in peace, mate, yeah?’

Dave suddenly went to grab the romantic by the neck, but Mike intervened in time and held him back. ‘Come on, Dave, leave it mate. Not in here.’

The new romantic turned back round and gave Dave two fingers before his fellow romantics summoned him over to a table. Dave looked on. He was fantasising about beating the living daylights out of his tormentor.

‘Come on, mate,’ pleaded Mike, whispering in Dave’s ear. ‘People are starting to notice. Fuck them kids. Let’s enjoy our drinks.’

When the drinks were ready, the two of them brought them over to the table and sat down.

‘What was all that about?’ Mike Lynton asked Dave.

‘Just some poofs,’ said Dave, seated with his back to the wall, still eyeing the new romantics from across the bar.

‘Who are they?’ asked Shane. ‘I ain’t seen them round here before.’

‘Out of town, I would have thought,’ explained Mike Lynton. ‘Most new romantics round here come from Gloucester.’

‘The city of fucking poofs,’ declared Dave.

As they talked, they could hear the hired band from the bar area warming up with their instruments.

‘Who is it playing again?’ asked Mike Sabbath.

‘Heritage,’ replied Shane.

‘Oh, Des Marshall’s band?’ asked Sabbath.

’Yep. Seen ‘em a number of times round here,’ explained Shane.

‘Can’t remember if I’ve seen them before,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘They any good?’

‘Reasonable,’ said Mike Lynton. ‘Des has a good voice. Guitar player is shit hot, too. He was a mate of my cousin’s. Mike Holder, I think he’s called.’

‘You think your cousin’s called Mike Holder?’ joked Mike Sabbath. ‘Close family, then.’

Mike Lynton clinked glasses with Sabbath. ‘Mike,’ he said pleadingly. ‘Why did you leave school and start working at Cam Mills? You could have had a career as a comedian.’

‘I know,’ said Mike Sabbath, pretending to cry. ‘Missed opportunity, or what?’

‘Or what,’ said Lynton.

‘So the band’s okay, yeah?’ asked Tony, looking at Shane but running his hand through Mike Sabbath’s hair as he did so.

‘Get off,’ said Mike, giggling.

‘They’re okay,’ said Shane. ‘They used to play a lot of Who numbers, and Small Faces, but they’re more into the Moody Blues now, which ain’t my thing.’

‘Anyway, lads,’ said Lynton, raising his voice so he could be heard above the increasingly audible chatter from the bar and the sound of the band rehearsing. ‘Everyone had a chance to think about a business proposal? I suggest we each take a minute and briefly explain our ideas and how we think it could work, yeah?’

Everyone said yes, with the exception of Dave.

‘Well, here’s my suggestion,’ announced Lynt. ‘I think we can go ahead with a ticket agency, you know, a ticket office, so people can book tickets for concerts and stuff. We could even branch out and run events in the area. We wouldn’t need a lot of start-up capital, and once we’ve taught ourselves the business there’s nothing stopping us. That’s it. Over to you, Tone.’

Tony was suave as he lit a cigarette. He paused for effect, then offered his idea. ’I think we should go for a motorcycle repair garage, like. People come in with their bikes and we fix ’em, do ‘em up.’ He placed his hand on Mike Lynton’s shoulder. ‘Lynt here knows a little about mechanics, but I can teach him the rest, so we’d do the repair work and the others can take orders and serve customers, order spare parts and do, like, the simple stuff, you know, cleaning the bikes, scrubbing chains and stuff. It would require low start-up capital, and renting premises would be cheaper cos we wouldn’t need to be in the high street. We could even sell accessories and bike clothing. My old man could give us loads of advice on starting up a business. That’s my idea, anyway.’

Lynt gestured towards Mike Sabbath. ‘Mike?’

‘I reckon we could do well to open up a record shop, like any other record shop, but we could specialise in rock music and stuff.’

‘But we already have a record shop in Dursley,’ declared Tony. ‘And one in Cam.’

‘Yeah, but like I said we’d specialise,’ argued Mike. ‘You know, be a bit different. Anyway, we’ve already got Kidson’s in Dursley for motorcycle repairs.’

‘Yeah, but the motorcycle repair shop wouldn’t be in Dursley,’ explained Tony. ‘It’d be on the outskirts, somewhere where it’s easy to get to. Anyway, Mike, I hear that the Cam record shop is closing down. Not enough business, see.’

Mike looked somewhat dejected. He paused to find some salvation, then said, ‘Well, we could diversify, you know, branch out.’

‘Like how?’ asked Tony.

Mike Sabbath was looking vacant and was desperate to think of an idea. Then he raised his head. ‘I know. We’d do other things,’ he declared.

The others laughed. Sabbath held out his hand as if pleading with them. ‘I mean, we’d sell other stuff or provide other services, like, like a ticket agency.’ He suddenly perked up and pointed to Mike Lynton. ‘Yeah, we’d be a record shop and a ticket agency. Customers could come in and book or collect their tickets, and then browse around and buy some records. Two birds with one stone.’

‘Actually,’ said Lynt in keen realisation. ‘I like that idea; that’s smart.’ He raised his pint as if to toast Mike Sabbath. ‘What about you, Shane?’

Shane appeared reluctant to offer his idea. ‘Well, not much really. I was thinking like, a sixties memorabilia place, you know, selling sixties clothes and mod fashions.’

‘Like a fancy dress shop?’ joked Mike Sabbath.

‘No, not fancy dress,’ protested Shane. ‘A real sixties shop. We’d sell authentic sixties fashions. And records.’

‘What about this, then,’ interrupted Mike Sabbath. ‘We can accommodate everyone’s ideas, you know. How about a record shop which specialises in sixties music in particular, sells mod clothes, acts as a ticket agency, and has a small garage round the back that repairs motorcycles? I can see it now. A customer comes in, books a ticket for a Genesis concert, and while there buys some records by The Who, then tries on some mod clothes, and then takes his bike round the back to be repaired. Sweet!’

Everyone laughed at the suggestion, even Dave, whose attention had hitherto been wandering.

‘Whatever they’ve got you on, Mike,’ said Tony, ‘cut the dose, mate.’

‘No, hold on,’ said Mike Lynton, attempting to reason. ‘We have to consider everyone’s suggestion, Tone. This is a democratic house, remember.’

Tony bared a big cheesy grin. ‘It’s a bloody nut house.’

Lynt nodded in Dave’s direction and said, ‘But we haven’t heard from Dave yet.’

Dave looked up awkwardly. ‘I ain’t thought of anything yet. Didn’t have time, got into a scrap with that wanker Colin Bentley. Boss sent me home to cool off.’

‘Shit,’ said Lynt. ‘Colin Bentley? Playing with fire there, Dave.’

‘Well, he was being a twat. I’m sick of people like him; think they’re someone when they’re nothing. Anyway, don’t wanna talk about it right now. How about a rock shop? We’d sell rock music, leather jackets, jeans, chains and various other rock god appendages.’

‘Rock shop,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘Well, that fits in with my amended idea. So when the customer comes to buy their tickets to a Genesis concert, they buy some records by The Who, try on some mod clothes, buy some chains and a leather jacket, and then they take their bike round the back to be repaired. It’s a one-size-fits-all dream.’ So satisfied as he was with his bright suggestion, he took an enthusiastic gulp from his beer glass before licking his finger and pointing it up in the air to convince the others of his bright idea.

Tony gave him a slight tap on the back of the head. ‘What will you think of next, Mike Sabbath,’ he asked, still grinning.

‘Yeah, thinking beyond the box there, Mike, like it,’ said Lynt. ‘So it looks like a shop that provides more than one service.’ He paused for brief reflection. ‘Actually, how about a biker’s shop? Not just rockers, but scooters, too. They could all come in and get their bikes repaired, and, yeah, we’d sell sixties records and rock records, and clothes. Really cater to two of the biggest youth fashions in Gloucestershire. But we wouldn’t serve new romantics; don’t like new romantics. Skinheads are okay, but no fucking poofs.’

‘I heard that,’ said Dave, concentrating his gaze back to the table where the young romantics were seated.

‘Tell ya what,’ said Lynt excitedly. ‘I think we’re onto something here.’

‘I agree,’ said Shane. ‘Mods and rockers. We could call it Mockers.’

‘That’s brilliant, Shane,’ said Lynt. ‘Well, I think the next stage is to do some proper research and then give the idea some flesh and bones.’

‘Yeah, we’d develop a business plan,’ suggested Tony. ‘My old man could help us on that.’

‘So, are we agreed?’ asked Lynt to everyone.

Everyone agreed without hesitation, although Dave only mumbled his concurrence.

As they continued discussing their prospective enterprise, the hired band began playing their set. Mike Sabbath was pleased to hear that their first number was Genesis’ ‘Turn It On Again’, to which he played imaginary drums with great enthusiasm, much to the embarrassment of his friends.

Roughly an hour later, as the band were taking a break, Shane and Tony took a turn going to the bar for what would be the fifth round of drinks.

‘Another lager, Shane?’ asked Tony.

‘Yeah, put some lemonade in it,’ asked Shane with due caution. ‘Don’t wanna be too pissed riding home.’

Tony found an opening and nestled in far enough to place the empty glasses on the bar in an attempt to get the bar staff’s attention. As he waited, waving three one-pound notes in the air whenever a barmaid looked his way, he just happened to turn his head round to the where the lounge bar entrance was situated. His eyes widened at the sight of three noisy middle-aged women with rasping voices who had just bundled their way in. He leaned over to Shane’s ear. ‘Shane. Your mum’s just walked in.’

Shane didn’t hear and stretched his neck closer to Tony’s mouth. ‘Hey?’

‘I said, your mum’s just walked in,’ repeated Tony.

Shane nodded with a grin. He assumed it was a joke. Tony nodded over to where the three women were trying to wrestle their way to the bar. Shane looked round. In a fraction of a second he was about to look back but then looked again in disbelief.

‘Fuck me, it is as well. What the fuck is she doing here?’

Shane made a feeble attempt to conceal himself behind Tony, who was almost four inches taller and of a much broader build. Together they shuffled their way to the other end of the lounge, where Shane made a lunge for the door. Tony walked over to the table.

‘We’ve gotta go, lads.’

‘Huh? Why?’ asked Mike Sabbath.

Tony pointed over to where Shane’s mother was situated. ‘Shane’s mum’s turned up, ain’t she? If she caught him here she’d go ballistic, and she’d tell the landlord that we were underage. We’d have nowhere to drink then. I suggest we get out of here.’

With that catastrophic thought in mind, they wasted little time in vacating. Once safely outside in the rear car park, they were better able to take stock of the situation.

‘Didn’t know your mum came here, Shane,’ said Lynt.

‘She doesn’t,’ replied Shane. ‘Not as a rule. Don’t know what she’s doing here tonight. She’s with a couple of the neighbours. Think one of them’s having a birthday.’

‘Fuck,’ said Mike Sabbath, clearly disgruntled. ‘I was just getting warmed up, too.’

‘Sorry, lads. We can always try another pub,’ suggested Shane.

‘If we can get served,’ said Sabbath.

As they all lit their cigarettes, Dave walked round the back of the pub to where their bikes were parked. Seconds later he returned, looking fraught.

‘Bad news, guys,’ he said in a dour tone.

‘You don’t look happy, mate,’ said Lynt, concerned. ‘What’s up?’

‘There’s about six mods round the back,’ growled Dave in frustration. ‘They’re sitting on their scooters.’ He raised his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the whereabouts of the mods. ‘They’re sat right where our bikes are.’

‘Shit,’ exclaimed Tony. ‘Did you see who they were? Wasn’t that Ally, was it?’

‘Couldn’t see – it was too quick,’ said Dave. ‘Luckily, they didn’t see me. What’s the plan?’

‘There ain’t no plan,’ declared Sabbath. ‘We’re fucked.’

‘Something like that,’ said Tony. ‘We can’t go in and we can’t go out.’

‘I’d keep your voices down if I were you,’ advised Lynt. ‘Don’t want those cunts hearing us. Try and think of something.’

There was a momentary pause. Then Mike Sabbath said, ‘Nope, nothing’s springing to mind.’

‘Try fucking harder,’ ordered Dave.

‘Tell ya what,’ said Lynt. ‘Why don’t we try and create a distraction of some kind.’

‘Yeah?’ said Sabbath. ‘So what do we do then, after we’ve distracted them?’

‘Dunno,’ admitted Lynt.

‘Great plan, Mike,’ said Sabbath. ‘We distract them and then just stand here.’

Dave was becoming visibly impatient. He was still a little wound up from his confrontation with the new romantic and was in no mood to be threatened. ‘Fuck it,’ he said, swinging his right arm in the air. ’Let’s just go round there and get our bikes. We’ll ignore ‘em. If they wanna pick a fight, so be it, get it over with. I’m in the mood to kick the shit out of at least someone.’

‘Well, that’s not my first choice,’ declared Shane.

Tony peered over in the distance. From his valiant expression, the others assumed that he had made a quick calculation of some kind. ‘Fuck it,’ he said as he narrowed his eyes. ’I reckon we can take ‘em. I’m up for it.’

Lynt punched Tony gently on the arm. ‘Well, I am too, if you are.’

‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ said Dave with clenched teeth, as he punched the palm of his hand.

Shane looked worried. ‘But what if they’re deliberately looking for trouble,’ he protested. ‘Not a good decision, lads.’

‘We’ll have to take that chance, Shane,’ said Dave. ’Besides, what if it is Ally Bingham and his mates? He’ll recognise our bikes and they’ll cause agro for sure. We don’t have to take any shit from them lot.’

‘Got it,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘No need for war when we can have peace.’

‘Aw, what?’ moaned Lynt.

Mike Sabbath made a plea. ‘Look, we use our brains over our brawn, yeah?’

‘What brains?’ asked Dave.

Sabbath grabbed both Lynt and Dave by the arm and dragged them closer to him. ‘Listen, four of us walk all the way round the other side, just by the fence next to our bikes. Hide there, right, while the fifth person goes round this side and gets their attention.’

‘Then what?’ asked Lynt, slightly confused.

’Call ‘em names or something,’ explained Sabbath. ‘Get them angry and make them chase their tormentor.’ He began to jog on the spot to simulate someone giving chase. ‘While they run round the building after him, the other four can nip over the fence and start their bikes up and make a sharp harp.’

‘What about the poor git that gets left behind?’ asked Lynt. ‘What, are we just gonna leave him to die?’

‘Trust me. I’ll be that man,’ explained Sabbath. ‘You guys go round that side and wait by the fence. As soon as they give chase round the building, leap over and start those bikes up quick and make a run for it. Don’t worry about me; I’ll think of something.’

Shane agreed that it was a better plan than fighting, but the others weren’t convinced. Tony, who had been up for a fight moments earlier, began to have second thoughts however. He recalled what his dad had told him earlier that day about reputations and how easily they can turn bad. He quickly adjusted his stance. ‘Actually,’ he said in retrospect, ‘maybe Mike is right. I reckon we should go with his selfless act of suicide. At least the rest of us will get out alive.’

‘Cool,’ said Mike Sabbath. ‘Glad you’ve seen the light.’

‘I was joking,’ said Tony, rolling his eyes.

Mike Sabbath then reasoned out his idea, and it took him a moment longer to convince the others of the cunning in his plan. They had seen him make lucky escapes from danger many times. They hoped he would do so again this time.

As soon as his friends were out of sight and on their way round to the other side of the pub, Mike braced himself and walked round to where the group of mods were situated.

‘Morning, girls,’ he said with his trademark sardonic wit.

The group of six mods suddenly stopped talking and looked over to where Mike was standing. He took a brief moment to see if he could identify any of them as Ally Bingham. Fortunately, he couldn’t. But he did recognise Colin Bentley.

‘What was that, mate?’ asked one of them.

‘I said, there’s this gorgeous horny bitch in the pub,’ advised Mike, trying not to laugh. ‘She’s looking for you. She says she wants to suck all your dicks. It’s true man, she just told me.’

‘I know you,’ said Colin Bentley, menacingly. ‘You hang out with that Dave Hunter.’

‘Well,’ said Mike casually, ‘depends what you mean by hang out. When they crucified my beloved Jesus and his mates on the cross, now they were hanging out. Me and Dave, well, we’ve yet to experience anything like that.’

‘Oh, really,’ said one mod, looking hateful. ‘Perhaps I could make that happen for ya?’

Mike recognised him. He was the spotty-faced pugnacious individual who had threatened him the previous night up at the Kingshill Parade. ‘Fuck it, I recognise you,’ said Mike sternly. ‘Sid Biggs. You’re one of those pricks outside Burger City last night.’

Sid Biggs stepped off his scooter. He was obviously keen on confrontation. ‘You threw your fucking chips at me, remember that?’

‘Yeah, but you said you wanted some chips,’ said Mike, who by now was struggling to think of the next step to his plan. Looking beyond the scooters he could see that the other lads had made it round the other side of the pub and were crouched over by the fence, concealing themselves among the overgrown weeds. Then he went all in. ‘Did I ever tell you that I think you’re all a bunch of fairies?’ He picked up a stone and threw it at Colin’s scooter, hitting it on the side of the headlamp. He then beckoned the mods to come after him.

Colin stepped off his scooter, the others following suit. Together they marched threateningly towards Mike, who at first edged himself backwards before making a run for it. The mods gave chase.

He ran back round to the entrance of the pub and leapt back inside. He had no idea why he had done so, but it was the only thing he could think of in his state of panic. As he ran in, he immediately noticed that one of the bar staff had left the bar hatch open in order to collect some glasses. Mike ran through it and was then able to make his way to the back passage of the pub. He ran through a tiny kitchen area and then out through the back door to the car park behind. His mates had already started their bikes.

Fortunately, he had been so quick that, by the time the mods had followed him into the pub, they were too late to have witnessed him scurrying along the back of the bar towards the rear of the building. They were confused and they dithered momentarily. It just so happened that at that moment the band began playing again. Their next tune was a cover of The Kinks’ song ‘You Really Got Me’. One of the mods turned towards where the band were situated and declared how much he loved the song. No sooner had he begun dancing to the music than Colin Bentley slapped him round the head and dragged him away.

The delay had lasted long enough to allow Mike time to start his bike. He signalled for the lads that it was all clear and that they should go. They wasted no time in riding noisily out of the car park and onto the road, with Dave taking the trouble to kick one of the scooters over just before he did so. The mods bustled their way back out the front entrance only to see the lads disappear in the distance. Within moments Mike Sabbath and his comrades were riding up Cam Pitch on their way to another pub and onwards to their freedom.

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