Thursday, 27 November 2014

Hockley in Nottingham - an extract from Violent Disorder

In conjunction with the terrific Bodicia's A Woman Wisdom website,whose interview special with me will be published soon, I post an extract from the novel "Violent Disorder" that takes place in Hockley, in Nottingham, one of my favourite places. This chapter has been edited for brevity.

HobNob’s best friend was a sixteen year old boy, his son, Mini-Beefy. 

He had been given his nickname as a seven year old by an old girlfriend of his dad who remarked on his power-packed size. Stocky, short and bulky then; he had grown tall and lean as time passed by, until today as the two of them gave each other high-fives outside the Ladbrokes on the south side of Victoria Centre, he was actually taller than his father.
Not that that would be difficult. 

Dressed in jeans, a Helly Hansen black sports blouson, trainers of a brand his dad didn’t recognise, he had lost weight since the last time, a good half a stone. Blonde and handsome, it was often remarked that it was fortunate that he had inherited his mother’s looks and his dad’s brains rather than the other way round.

Beefster, his dad said. How are you, son?
I’m fine, dad. How are you?
Not bad, son. Been training?
Three times a week, Mini-Beefy replied, casually.

The two of them chatted away as they walked to the Red Hot World buffet for dinner. On Thurland Street, they ambled past the Thurland Hall, a spectacular dive, an old-fashioned drinker going back to Victorian times. A fine old pub fallen, like so many, on hard times. Inside its sonorous maw stood one long circular bar and a froth stained wooden floor. 

Sitting outside, traditional Nottingham drinkers; mostly old Forest, Mad Squad, Randall’s Vandals, St Ann’s, Sneinton, A-Block.  Skinheaded, ear-ringed, pockmarked, prison-tattooed, strident, vociferous, blind drunk. In some cases, one baby step away from living on the street. 

A Forest pub through and through: Notts fans tended to avoid it. A few years ago, Forest had been promoted from League One and the celebrations outside the Thurland went on long into the night. Every ex-Forest madboy turned up that night. HobNob and Bull who had been up at Chesterfield, walked past and winked at a few of them, but mostly, it was pointless fighting with Forest, Notts being a supplanted ethnic minority and patronised unmercifully because of it.

Turning the corner toward Hockley, HobNob stopped to put a bet on at the Ladbrokes – a tenner on some unlikely third favourite up at Market Rasen – while Mini-Beefy waited outside. 

Father and son then walked up into Hockley, past the Amigos kebab house, past Levins, the high-end diamond dealers and the Cantonese eaterie where the Cantonese themselves eat. Past Spandex Sammy’s, the trendy gym, always packed, and the all-you-can-eat Starving Stallion. 

People ambled by, an endless flow, some towards Hockley, some emerging from there – with yashmaks and burkas, shopping bags and buggys, pushchairs and mountain bikes, skateboards and IPhones. 

Smoothly and silently, the tram glided in an arc across the long shadows of buildings with newly stone-blasted Edwardian facades. The magnificent Gentleman’s Casino, all the upmarket brands, all the Lacostes and White Stuffs, all the Diesels and Benettons. Spotlessly clean, modern, chrome and steel, laminated and polished, incongruously embedded in disused banks. Dickensian brokerages made of incredible stone.

They crossed the road toward an old bookies, now a supermarket satellite and stopped in front of a boarded-up pub, a chalk-face portico. He pointed to a hotel with sign intact, about thirty yards down, on the left.

There’s the George Hotel. Skully and I used to go in there with all his mates.
Forest lads?
That’s right. I didn’t often speak, but Skull knew most of them, being Forest.
Mum sees Skull about.
I know, but I’ve not seen him for donkeys. He’s my second oldest friend. I should contact him, but it’s difficult to keep friendships going at our age, Beef.
I bet it is, dad.
Yep. What are you having in the buffet? Predominantly Indian or predominantly Chinese?
Predominantly Chinese, dad, I think.
Good choice.

Hockley is the shopping street of choice for all Nottingham’s students and young transmetropolitans, with its eye-wateringly expensive designers, its extraordinary boutiques, its eccentric milliners, stubborn cobblers, high-end confectioners, gothic raptures, EMO bazaars, eclectic jamborees and plethora of coiffeurs – some charging up to thirty seven pounds for a gent’s short back and sides.
Thirty seven pounds.
They discussed this, stopping outside Jerome’s, a charcoal and silvered imbroglio, with an astonishingly sparkling windowpane the full height of the frontage. It appeared to be more like a nightclub than a barber, all seats occupied, six men waiting, reading papers and playing Crash Bandicoot on complimentary Playstations.
This barber here, Beefster. Look at the price.
I know. I can see. Thirty seven quid.
Thirty seven quid for a haircut.
And there’s a queue, dad. You tell me this every time.
Do I?
Yes, you do, dad. Thirty seven quid for a just out of bed haircut. Your mate wrote about it in UV.
Yes, he did.
Mini-Beefy grinned. Next thing you’ll be telling me about is the criminally priced return ticket on the Skylink to the airport.
Eight quid. It’s incredible. Eight quid.
Oh, and the just out of bed haircut is now out of fashion. The new trendy haircut is the one Danny Craig has in the new Bond.
That’s the one. Still thirty seven quid, dad, but a different cut, Mini-Beefy said, wryly grinning.
I could never pay thirty seven quid for a haircut, HobNob replied.

Two young men in matching black short-sleeved shirts, winklepicker shoes and impossibly tight black trousers walked past and into the shop. They heard HobNob. 
One of them winked at him.

They walked past Stoney Street, and The Angel – where HobNob spent Christmas Day a few years ago in one of his trenches of despair – and the Left Lion offices, underneath a training centre for pole dancers. Stoney Street is Hockley’s border, an invisible line, like the border between Iraq and Iran, evanescent, permeable, indistinct, a cut-off point where Hockley ceases to be bijou and desirable, a place to be seen, a place to swank, and becomes Nottingham again – threadbare, tacky and worn out. 

The transformation happens quickly: England’s bipolarity writ large. One minute you are walking past a pair of beautiful Scandinavian-looking women with moussed blonde hair, golden jewellery that would shame Croesus, fur coats of dazzling, febrile colour, talking into Ipads and tottering about on three hundred quid a pair stripper heels, and the next, in the blink of an eye, without knowing how, as if you had gone through an unsettling jump in the space-time continuum, you are in the middle of a punch-up between two homeless arguing over a hat while standing outside an off licence that has no business being there. An anomaly, a border oddity.
There is a porn joint that sells sex toys with names (including one called Modok because of its oversized head), and a kebab palace that never closes, not even for Christmas Day. 

At the bottom, is the dirtiest charity shop in the City, servicing the biggest homeless hostel outside London. At the outer limits of Hockley, there is the decadent (and very dead) Berlins Bar, which in turn, signals the beginning of the politically mythical Southside Corridor. That’s a sight. Boarded up for over a decade and a half after an eighties decade of serving the cheapest drinks possible (and hosting some of Nottingham’s most evil fights), Berlins is an eyesore, yet, as HobNob told Mini-Beefy, they would have sorted it had the money to develop the area not been sequestrated by the wicked Tories and the middle class southern establishment.

Never mind, he said, in conclusion, there is always the Red Hot World Buffet House, and for that, we will always be grateful.

Violent Disorder is available on Amazon Kindle from Green Wizard Publishing for 77p/99c 

It is also available in paperback.

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