Yesterday the rain managed to hold off all afternoon, so I decided to walk home through Aberdare Park. It was approaching four o’clock, and small groups of teenagers from the new ‘community school’ were making their way towards town.
‘Now hang on just a minute,’ I hear you think. ‘Isn’t the new community school just outside the town centre? Surely, if they were heading home they’d have been going in the same direction as you?’
Well, yes, in a manner of speaking that’s true – except that the new school wasn’t completed on schedule. It didn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve said for a long time that the last building project in this country to be completed on time and on budget was Stonehenge. It came as no surprise to anyone else, apart from the education authority, of course.
Having prematurely closed the three schools which were due to be amalgamated into the new super-school, RCTCBC had little choice but to reopen some of the existing buildings at the start of September. (They couldn’t reopen the Lower Girls’ School, of course, because they’d sold that off during the summer, as I told you in Last Chance to See…?) Staff and pupils alike are currently spread over three sites a couple miles apart, and it seems that a great deal of the school day is spent in simply getting from one to the other. Depending on whom you believe, the new building will either be completed by Xmas, or by next Easter, or in time for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. I’ll try and keep you posted.
Anyway, I was on the slight incline between the lower gates and the Industry Statue, heading for the middle gates.
At the same time, three teenage lads in school uniform were coming the opposite way. They were talking among themselves, and one of them deliberately broke off from his mates and walked towards me. I don’t know why, but I was instinctively braced for trouble. However, I was wrong. Instead, he pretended to accidentally drop something from his pocket and it landed on the tarmac between us.
At the same time the lad said, quite loudly, ‘Oh no, my drugs!’
I glanced at it before walking on; it was a miniature Ziploc bag containing a small amount of some green substance.
I was out of earshot before his mates were able to reply. I didn’t bother to look back, either, so I don’t know what happened next.
I can only assume that this kid, on seeing a fairly long-haired old hippy type walking towards him, had decided that he’d earn some kudos by openly displaying his stash in public.
Well, if he should happen to read this, I’m addressing this next bit directly to him:
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I was incredibly unimpressed by your whole act. For one thing, you need to develop your sleight of hand a bit. Anyone who saw it could tell that your ‘dropping’ of your stash was anything but an accident. Also, your shocked tones at realising you’d ‘dropped’ it might have worked in a school nativity show, or maybe an am-dram production of a Frank Vickery play, but you really need to work on your delivery before it sounds convincing.
Furthermore, when you’re a little bit older you’ll have to be a bit more circumspect about the whole possession schtick. You’ll soon learn that you shouldn’t advertise the fact that you’re carrying anything in public, in case you get stopped and searched. You certainly won’t produce your stash in front of a total stranger, who might well be an undercover copper or a police informer.
Most importantly, when you get older, and after you’ve spent a bit of time with the sort of people I used to hang around with, you’ll discover that a little bit of green really doesn’t count for anything. The big boys and girls – the sort of heavy people whom you’ll eventually come into contact with – will just laugh at your pathetic, trivial, infantile first steps into the world of drugs.
I’m talking about the sort of people who’d smoke your little stash for breakfast and then send you on your way. I’m talking about people who will take all your pocket money in return for a little bit of dope, make you run errands for them so that you’re ‘obliged’ to them, and eventually set you on the road to small-scale dealing. You might have some minor run-ins with the law, and maybe gain some ‘respect’ from your wannabe gangsta mates, but that’s as far up the ladder as you’ll get. It’s only the big boys and girls who get to live in the big houses, drive the expensive cars, and set up the front businesses to launder their takings.
You, on the other hand, will have to mix with the worst sort of lowlife, the ones who take every prescribed and non-prescribed substance known to humanity, because they think it’s a ‘cool’ way to spend their time. I’m talking about people who will do literally anything for money, just to feed their habits. I’m talking about people who become so desperate for their next hit that they’ll steal anything that isn’t nailed down, betray the trust of their families and friends, and end up in a sad, socially-isolated circle of junkie mates.
I’m talking about people who don’t usually make it to my age. Their lives tend to run out pretty quickly once they get into that pattern of existence. It’s unusual to meet a smackhead much past the age of forty, believe me. By the time they’re in their thirties, their bodies are pretty much washed up. Even the ones who manage to steer clear of the hard stuff aren’t always safe. I’ve seen friends of mine lose their sanity by playing with forces they don’t understand. By contrast, I fully intend to live well into my eighties, or even longer, and keep my mind in gear for as long as I possibly can.
So, little boy, I hope you now understand why I didn’t pay any heed to your pathetic attention-seeking behaviour yesterday. I’ve lived far too long, seen far too many things, and seen too many people whom I used to know fall by the wayside, to be impressed by your little baggie. Please keep it to yourself from now on – or I’ll acquaint you with another meaning of the word ‘grass.’ When I do, try to think of it as just an interesting form of extra-mural education for the weak-minded.
In which The Author narrowly avoids being upgraded
Less than half an hour after I posted my latest bitter piece about the non-existence of Aberdare, (see Nothing Ever Happens) I was in the park, only two minutes’ walk from my house. One day in the week, some friends of mine had decided to bite the bullet and play a Secret Gig. The first I knew about it was Friday lunchtime, when Doz H. sent me a bizarre text:
At 2pm tomorrow afternoon, Replaced by Robots will appease the Sun Gods in Aberdare Park at the Stone Circle. Receive transmission
Until the mighty Demons of RCT Parks Dept tell them to sling their collective hook, at least
Replaced by Robots have been around for over six months, but have only just emerged from their Cyber Suspended Animation to invade the Earth, starting with a small town in Wales. Doz (noisy bugger of Clay Statues renown) and my old friends Craig C. and Wayne B. (formerly of Serotonin) came together and started writing some songs. By now, the band has finally coalesced into a seven-piece. They played their first gig last Friday in Aberdare, and apparently in the week someone came up with the idea of a squatted gig in the park.
By the time I arrived, there was a good crowd sitting on the bank and the boys were already inside the circle. Even though it wasn’t the full line-up (Rhys couldn’t make it), a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, two keyboard players – one of whom doubles on vocals, and the other of whom doubles on trumpet, glockenspiel and samples – and a noisy bugger can make a nice unofficial racket for a Saturday afternoon.
I had a chat with them while I rigged up my video camera just outside the stones. The stone circle isn’t Neolithic, unfortunately. It was erected for the Gorsedd of Bards when Aberdare hosted the 1956 National Eisteddfod. (Oh, I’ve just realised – that’s four interesting things that have happened in town in the last century. I take it all back!) Still, it’s a good setting for a gig, especially with the sun blazing down as it was.
Now, bear in mind that they hadn’t consulted anyone beforehand. They’d just turned up with their gear, a petrol generator, and started setting up. Andrew L. told me that a police patrol car had done a full circuit of the park soon after they arrived, but left without a second look. While they were fiddling with the generator, a little Parks Department vehicle came along and stopped a short distance away. We all thought that the occupants would almost certainly cast a metaphorical rain cloud on the afternoon. To our amazement, they just emptied the bins at the end of the path and drove off again. Emboldened, the boys carried on setting up.
Sammy M., Kath’s foster-daughter, turned up with one of her friends while I was chatting to some of my mates. Kath had rung me earlier and we’d arranged an al fresco Tech Support Surgery. I’d set myself up as admin on Sammy’s Netbook when I was fixing it a few months ago. I didn’t really think it was wise to let a fourteen-year-old girl loose in the Windows registry, so I gave everyone else limited accounts and told them to call me if they needed help. It turned out that she needed to access the admin account in order to install a dongle, so we’d arranged to meet in the park. I sorted it out and asked them if they were going to stay for the band. But it was a sunny afternoon, and the park would be full of teenage boys, so they declined and went on the prowl.
The boys eventually got under way just after 2.30. Two songs in, the generator packed up. After a couple of abortive attempts to fix it, they decided to get a replacement. Leighton L., who was sitting next to me, kept referring to it as a ‘jenny’. I told him that, unlike my Jenny from 2009, at least their fucking jenny had made the effort to turn up.
There was a hiatus while we waited for the cavalry to arrive with another generator, so I had a chat with Carys, who was making a flying visit to Aberdare with her father and her baby. He’s six months old already. This year is flying by.
While the boys were fiddling about again, a member of the Park team arrived with a litter-picking stick. He made his way into the circle, and we were sure that he’d invoke some obscure by-law to chuck us all out. After all, the Code of Conduct for park visitors states ‘No alcohol’ amongst other things, and quite of a few of the gang had brought their own booze. There’s almost certainly a clause about ‘sturdy beggars busking in a public space’ or some such. Instead, he chatted to Andrew and Craig for a few moments before heading off again. Things were going surprisingly well.
At about 3.15 the gig finally got under way, and I got half an hour of decent footage, which I’ve cut into segments and posted to YouTube. The only untoward intervention by forces beyond our understanding came towards the end of the set, when a freak gust of wind blew my tripod over. Luckily, Eggy was on hand to set it upright again.
Apart from that minor glitch, the whole afternoon went incredibly well – with no licence, no security, no health and safety precautions, no public liability insurance, no intervention from the Powers That Be, and no trouble from anyone except Notos, the God of the South Wind.
Maybe that’s the way that things need to proceed around here. After all, David Cameron’s always on about the ‘Big Society’ and the need for people to empower themselves, without the State involving itself. Perhaps Replaced by Robots have inadvertently hit on something exciting. After all, if the people responsible for whatever goes on in Aberdare want to keep us in the 1950s, when only officially sanctioned entertainment was available, who can blame us for wanting to make our own fun every so often?
Being a Non-Linear Account of the Life and Opinions of The Author, Cross-referenced and Illustrated, with Occasional Hesitations, Repetitions and Deviations.
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