Well, we had the end of course reading evening at City University on 4 July. It was a really nice occasion, with all of us reading well, and it felt like our pieces and our delivery did justice to the quality of our writing. Now we've just got to finish our novels!
I read an extract from Undertone. It's quite short, but it is quite a lively section, and hopefully gives a nice flavour of how the book will read. It is from chapter 7. Meacock, Carl's cousin, is beginning to educate Carl about the political realities of 1980s Britain. Enjoy.
Extract from Undertone by Jim Minton
‘You see, sometimes if you want to conquer the enemy, you need to form what they call a political alliance.’
Meacock shut the door to his flat, took another drag of his rollie, and blew a smoke ring, making a face like a goldfish.
‘Think about them blackies in London, Carl, them who were rioting down that Broadwater farm.’
I nudged him. ‘I thought you said we wasn’t to call them blackies, Meacock? They’re black people aren’t they?’
Meacock shuffled his feet, and sniffed. ‘Well, Carl, when I’m talking in erm...political terms, it’s important for me to errr.... to be able to express my thoughts in the ways that I see fit, like.’ He took another drag of the smoke, and nodded again. ‘But for you and ya new mate, I’ll keep to black people.’ And he winked at us.
I grinned, then said ‘What’s them rioters got to do with me fighting Guthrie like?’
Meacock threw his head back and laughed loud. I wasn’t sure it was that funny like. Then he stood up straight. ‘When the riots happened, son, it wasn’t just the black youth. They was out on the streets with students, with punks, skinheads, anarchists, all sorts.’ He leaned down towards us. I could see a geet bit of bogey about to drop from his sneck. ‘All of them had one thing in common, son. They was all against the police.’
He stood back up. ‘That’s called forming a political alliance, Carl.’
He dropped his cigarette end into the weeds by the garden path, then unfolded the paper from under his arm. That was the signal that we were done for the morning.
‘See you tomorrow then, Meacock?’
He grunted, and sat himself down in the sun on the wall to chomp away on the Curly Wurly I’d nicked for him earlier.
I crossed the road to the park. I was sorting through the last of the papers I had to deliver, when suddenly a geet blast of noise from over the fence made us nearly jump out me keks.
‘Roorooroorooroo.’ It was like someone honking on a car horn over and over. A huge dog was charging across the playfield, heading right towards us barking his head off. ‘Roorooroorooroo’
Meacock’s mate Rodge was chasing him, shouting ‘Spike! Spike, man! For fuck’s sake come back here you daft knacker!’
But Spike didn’t want to know. He was coming at us fast. I felt me legs going wobbly, and started legging it back up the road to escape him, me newspaper bag flying behind us.
Meacock was still on the wall reading his paper. I looked back across the street just in time to see Spike hoy himself over the fence, and land in one bound in the road, his gob wide open, massive teeth bared.
I ran, but the dog was catching us up. I could almost feel his breath on the back of me neck. Just as I got to the end of his wall, Meacock looked up. He grinned through his little ginger beard. Then his eyes went wide and his mouth opened, and I felt Spike barge past us, launching himself paws first right onto Meacock. They landed in a heap, Spike’s tail wagging like a windscreen wiper going berserk, as he covered Meacock’s face in slaver with his big fat tongue.
‘Yeugh! Gerrroff us, man!’ shouted Meacock, straining to push the beast off him. But Spike had wrapped his front legs round Meacock, and was digging his furry head into his knackers. They rolled on the ground until Rodge caught up, panting, and helped Meacock heave Spike off him. Meacock got up, looking radgy as owt and booted the dog, hard, his doc marten thudding into Spike’s side. Spike yelped out and Rodge had to pull him away. ‘How man Meacock! Less of that!’
Meacock spat on the ground. ‘Ye’ve tekken your animal fucking liberation too far, Rodge. Someone needs to learn that dog a lesson.’
Rodge crouched down to cuddle Spike, then led him back out onto the pavement.
I looked at Meacock. He was shaking and when he caught me eye he said ‘And ye, ye ARE a fucking magnet for bother, aren’t ye?’
I felt meself go red, and me mouth filling up like I was going to be sick. I zipped up me kagoul tight, and walked away. As I crossed the road, Meacock shouted after us.
‘Son. I never meant nowt bad.’ I turned, and saw him wipe his hands on his jeans.
‘Politics is a tough game, though, eh?’
I nodded, and he went inside, saying ‘I’m off to get this hockle cleaned off of us.’
I walked back on up the road biting me tongue, not sure whether I was about to laugh or cry.