Thursday, October 19, 2006

In Memoriam (He Was A Childhood Friend Of Mine)

Where do I start with the story of Paul Day or Paul Bowyer as I once knew him?
Let’s go back to ninety-eighty two, the year the football world cup was held in Spain, and a council estate in East London
And a hot summer’s day
I met PB by the giant rubbish bins
At the bottom of our block of flats
Paul was smiling a big white toothed smile and on his cheek were many dotted marks made by the speaker of a radio
Where he’d stayed up listening to music all night and I laughed because he looked weird
But when he told me the story, about how he had stayed up all night, fighting sleep, to catch some pirate dj’s graveyard shift I was glad, because at ten years of age it is good to know your hero is a rebel
A rebel undefeated, undefeated by life and the system
A system that has the awesome ability to destroy anything and everything in its path
But that was a good long way, way away

And we walked along in the bright light of a dusty summer’s day, heat waves shimmering in the distance, tarmac melting on the dusty roads
Of the council estate where the gardeners had turned the earth in the flower beds creating plenty of dirt bombs for us to use later on
To throw with all our might
At each other
Or at car windows, or the wall of a house, just for a laugh
And then to run, run, run into the horizon, and run into the day, into the streets, towards the night,
And if you had seen us then, you would have admired such vitality, such great hunger, such innocent intelligence, such lust for life,
Thinking what a waste, what a waste, what a beautiful waste, what a lovely beautiful waste

And Paul talked about the world cup and how he wanted the England team’s world cup single, how he would do anything for that single
Knowing full well that I possessed that single,
Only the very first record I ever bought,
‘This Time We’ll Get it Right.’
But although it was the first record I ever brought, it was rubbish, just like the English football team was rubbish,
And then the surprise, when Paul asks, the facial dots from the radio speaker rapidly disappearing, to reveal his flawless brown skin, chiselled like a young god, an Adonis, ‘D’ya wanna swap that England record geez?’
Me sensing a trap, but eager anyway, ‘What for?’
And then a small miracle;
‘My Specials EP.’
‘My Specials EP? The one with Too Much Too Young, Longshot Kick De Bucket, Liquidator, Skinhead Moonstomp, Guns of Naverone on it, no don’t lie, don’t lie, but I kept my cool and with bated breath,
“I dunno, they’re shit ain’t they?”
Paul, maintaining his cool like me, but even more so coz two years older, “fucked if I know, but fucked if I’m ganna ask ya again.”
Me trembling, knowing I want that record more than anything, more than an Atari games consul or a Mongoose BMX, always had done, and the England record was proper shit, ‘Alright den,’ I said.
‘Sweet,’ said Paul all nonchalant, like he wasn’t bothered, and I don’t think he was coz the last I saw of him he was wheeling away like a ballerina, like an ace, like a diamond.
Oh yeah I forget to tell ya that PB was only the best footballer of his generation, even better than me, and let me tell you I was good, but PB was better, a bonafide talent, a dusky genius of the streets, the streets of East London, where I lived in the flowering of my dynamic youth………………………….


And then the world fades away. And I’m trying to get that emotion back, lets try to get that emotion back, I’ll tell you its hard, because I’m trying to describe how we grew up, which is hard. Thieving was the only way. And you may mock and criticise and look down your noses, but we were forced to do it,
Because like Lennon said, they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
But we were no fools, no mugs, just on the ball, sharp as a knife, quicker than quicksilver, raging like an unstoppable hurricane
So we stole a lot of stuff, but only from large department stores, Taxing we called it
And every week went up West on taxing missions
When we should have been in school
Learning the words of books
Or sunning ourselves on a dirty riverbank in June
And then we got caught
And that first arrest was the start of the long decline


I’ve a story to tell about my childhood friend and his name is Paul Day, Paul Bowyer to you and me
It’s decidedly not a feel good story, but you will hear it anyway, even if what you’re hearing is not very comforting
Call it a tale for our times
And despite the odds I’m ganna tell it, I’m ganna tell it till my lungs burst


And the short day came when me and Paul Bowyer went out separate ways
Leaving behind the glory days forever
Days spent on the old estate
And I travelled the whole world trying to escape from the nightmare
A nightmare created for us by the establishment of our green and pleasant land
But PB was never going to be able to escape, he was not like me, or lucky like me
Arrested time and time again by the police
Burglary, followed by armed robbery, followed by prison, and then in and out of prison like a criminal yo-yo.
And probably when I was in New Zealand, wandering the streets of Auckland searching for the meaning for life, PB went on a dirty protest
A dirty protest, and now at 31, a grass and really a non-conformist, a real bona fide non-conformist, someone that would have made Theroux jump for joy in his own Walden
But the dirty protest was to be PB’s last hurrah
For PB, the greatest footballer of his generation hung himself, with whatever prisoners hang themselves by, it might have been torn sheets, or razor blades, but really these things are unimportant, because he is dead,
Crushed like a cigarette butt in the gutter
One so tall and good looking and full of life
And I salute him, oh yes I salute him, I salute a true non-conformist,
And I’m still alive, but sometimes I wish I’d been brave enough to join him
Amongst those angels in the sky, with their heads held so high, above those who oppressed them, and they know who they are,
Jeffers said, ‘Be angry at the sun,’ and I am angry at the sun and
Those who condemned PB so easily,
And they know who they are,
The weak, the greedy, the selfish,
The one’s who couldn’t give a shit
That one’s who sleep easy at night
But one day we will have our dance
And then we will sing our songs, and everyone will sing our songs,
The songs of the underground, the songs of the innocent, the songs of the brave!

Joseph Ridgwell

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