1. Extract from 'SKINHEAD GIRL - an urban love story':
I stood. The dozen or so steps to Louise's front door? I couldn't hear my own footsteps, couldn't feel my feet moving over the floor. I felt like a dead man walking. The world seemed to belong to someone else. To exist somewhere else.
Louise hadn't followed me. Remaining seated in her living room.
We had only known each other for a few weeks, hardly any time at all, but just as Louise had said - and as I had felt - we connected. Not in a shallow way, but deeply, ridiculously, as if we had known one another in several previous lifetimes. And now? It was already over.
We had not parted with any anger. Far from it. We both knew this was not what we wanted. There was no question of blame or temper or anything like that. We were both doing this for her young son.
And so I left.
For some reason though, as I reached for the Yale lock on her front door, to open it, and walk away for good, I patted my hip pocket. The pocket where my tobacco would normally be. It was just an instinctive gesture, something I did whenever I left a place. But my pocket felt empty. And so I hesitated.
It was only tobacco. It really didn't matter. But that hesitation made me turn.
I turned and there, framed in the doorway to her living room, was my skinhead girl. Pale. Unsure. And watching me leave.
I straightened my back. Tensed. What should I do? Did I walk out? Or did I turn and go back to her? It was a horrible decision and not one I wanted to take.
"Wait", she almost whispered, her voice more raw, more husky than ever. "Stay. Please. Stay with me until the morning".
I didn't move. Because it wasn't my place to take that step. To make that choice.
So instead, and seeing that, Louise walked up to me.
"There are worse things we could do", she said. And with those few words, she pulled me close and pushed the partially opened front door firmly shut...
2. Extract from 'The New Plantation':
"If we were black, we wouldn't be in this fuckin' mess," said Vinny swigging beer from a tin and letting cigarette ash drop onto himself, "we'd be allowed to make a living just driving round in a big car shooting people, selling drugs and no fucker would dare touch us".
Brendan nodded his head, he didn't like it, he certainly disagreed, but he still nodded his head.
"If you think about it, we'd never even get into this whole fuckin' thing if we'd all been born black." Vinny dropped the now empty can on the floor. Then he picked it back up. Shook it and then dropped it again. "They have it all laid out for them now", he muttered, "That's what I mean. They've complained so fuckin' much that now they get whatever they want".
Marie laughed. Not really a laugh. More because she was angry but didn't want it to show.
"They do", Vinny went on, "And they don't need to drift about like this either. And if they ever do, it's just because they want to now."
"The old bill bother them as least as much as they do us", said Tat as bored with Vinny as Marie was angry.
And then no-one spoke for a minute or so.
Brendan lit another cigarette. Opened another can. At times it all seemed to matter, Brendan blamed himself for that and no-one else. "Yeah", he said, "but if I was black I'd still want to be here really. Not living in the city. Thanks all the same. Out here it's real."
"Yeah", said Vinny, "but if you were black we wouldn't want you here, mate."
"Oh fuck off", said Marie, rising, standing. "Speak for your fucking self. What are you? You're just another ignorant brewhead with nothing to say or do so you get pissed all the time and blame everyone else for your own inadequacies and your own mess!"
Brendan smirked at Tat. Tat smiled hugely. And Vinny straightened up a little. A lot.
Vinny had only happened onto the site late that night. They all knew him from the other site a few miles away, the Downs. Or rather, they knew of him and said hello if they met. For Marie, however, he had already been around too long. Philosophised his ignorance too often and too loudly and, to make it worse, had drunk too much of their shared beer.
"You've been chucked off the Downs and I'm not surprised", she continued, "and now you sit here all night, moaning about every fuckin' thing you can think of and now you're onto some other shit."
What had been a dull day had now taken a nasty turn. But at least it made for some entertainment. A little light cabaret at the end of the day.
"What are you", said Vinny, defensive, "a fuckin' nigger lover?"
Marie moaned, "A what? Jesus Christ. What century are you from?"
Brendan still said nothing. Neither did Tat.
"There's good and bad everywhere", finished Marie. "In everyone. Makes no difference what colour they are mate or whether they're gay or Chinese or twelve fucking foot tall".
Once again it all went quiet.
Brendan and Marie were travellers who belonged nowhere. New Age, the media called them, if that really matters. They lived near the popular Downs site. But they didn't really care for it. It was the opposite end. All dream catchers and wind chimes. Latter day hippies. One end of the rainbow. Self-dyed jumpers and people who thought that everything would be wonderful if it was all left to Mother Nature and rune stones. A place for dreamers and idealists.
"I saw Mitch the other day", said Tat at last with a sniff and changing the subject. "He was looking a bit better".
But the cold outside was now matched by a little bit of bitterness within.
Some more time passed and Marie gave up and went to bed...