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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A teenager, a panel beater and a night to remember - for all the wrong reasons

This is an extract from some memoirs I have written for my children to enjoy (or endure)when they get older. A true story, it happened when, as an 18 year old, I had just split up with a girlfriend and was looking for solace. Did I find it? Not really! Looking back now I can laugh, but at the time it was a little bit scary to say the least!
Sensing that I was feeling a bit down and in need of a bit of cheering up, my friend and work colleague Pete, piped up one day, shortly after Jenny and I had parted company, ‘Why not come down to Fulham Friday night? You can come out with me and my girlfriend for a few drinks and crash at my place'. Pete was 10 years older than me and had ‘lived’ a bit. He'd been married, but they had split up after a few years as they had grown in different directions. Put simply, Pete wanted to drink – a lot – his wife didn’t. His average alcohol consumption in a week at the time I knew him was something in the region of 70-80 pints. Being young and impressionable it was something I thought I could only aspire to. And, given that he sounded like he knew how to have a good time, it seemed like a good idea!

Normally I would have gone home to my mum’s for the weekend, but this particular week I didn’t really feel like facing my friends and confessing to having failed yet again. I decided instead to take him up on his offer and join him and his good lady for a night out in downtown Parsons Green.

It wasn’t an area I was at all familiar with. I’ve subsequently visited and lived in plenty of places, but back then, Fulham and its surrounds were totally alien to me. However, I was sure it was pretty much like anywhere else. I needed cheering up and this was just the tonic. Yes, the more I thought about the prospect of a night out on the tiles, the more I warmed to it.

‘Never mind Jenny. I’ll survive!’ I thought to myself. Onwards and upwards as they say!

Friday came and we started the proceedings with a couple of liveners at lunchtime, prior to the main event in the evening. It was in the days when the first scratchcards were introduced to pubs by Ben Truman. They were a great idea, but Pete and I soon discovered there were only about 12 different ones and, if you drank enough beer, you would eventually know all of the answers to all of the cards.

So, for a reasonable initial outlay, you could pretty much ensure that after a while you didn’t have to buy another pint for the duration of the promotion as your pockets were full up with winning cards that rewarded the bearer with a free pint! It’s fair to say we took full advantage of Trumans very generous offer!

Having finished work around 5pm, we started the evening session in a pub opposite Parsons Green station whose name escapes me, and, after a couple in there, embarked on a mini pub crawl of the area. Along the way, as well as meeting Pete’s girlfriend Anne-Marie, I was introduced to another couple, Trevor and Carol, acquaintances of Pete, who tagged along with us for the evening and decided to come back to the flat for some more drinking shenanigans after chucking out time.

We popped into the off licence about 11.15pm to buy a few cans and everyone was in a good mood as we headed back to Pete’s place. Yes, I was definitely feeling a lot better for this excursion! This was so much better than sitting at home wallowing in self-pity and generally feeling sorry for myself!

Time pushed on and we had been drinking, chatting and laughing for 2 or 3 hours in Pete’s flat, when I asked him if he minded me crashing on his sofa.

‘Not at all mate. Had a good evening’?
‘Yes, it’s been great thanks but I’m pissed and knackered and need to sleep’ I slurred.

As I lay there on the sofa listening to the conversations going on, I smiled to myself and thought ‘OK, so what? Jenny left you. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. Life’s not so bad after all.’ And with that, I turned over and drifted off to sleep, perchance to dream.

What happened next however, wasn't quite so good. Fair to say in fact that the tranquility of my drunken slumber was being very rudely interrupted.

In stark contrast to my consolatory thoughts before dropping off to sleep, I now awoke to find Trevor sitting on top of me and repeatedly punching me in the face.

What had happened in the time since I drifted off was that Trevor, a panel beater from World’s End if you must know the full details, had come to the conclusion that I’d been chatting up his girlfriend, Carol. He had then proceeded to first of all beat her up, before laying into me.

Hardly fair that I was pissed and sleeping when he attacked me, but clearly he didn’t play by the rules. What’s that old phrase? ‘All’s fair in love and war’? Er, I think not. What a load of arse that turned out to be on this particular occasion.

Picture the scene, panel beater Trevor sitting astride me, giving my face a bit of a pounding, telling me that I’ve been "chatting up his bird all night". I hadn't, but clearly that was how it had come across to our Trev.

Anyway, as I tried to come to terms with what the hell was going on, Trevor then proceeded to utter the words that will be etched on my mind for the rest of my life. And here they are....‘You’re f***ing lucky mate, I normally carry a blade'.

It was at this point that I started to get a little bit concerned for my safety.

Pete and his girlfriend were nowhere to be seen - presumably they were engaged in the sort of stuff love is meant to be all about - and this guy had already beaten up his girlfriend and was now threatening to stab me. Oh joy!

For reasons best known to himself, Trevor thankfully decided to give punching my face a rest for a while. His arm must have been hurting from the exertion or something, bless him. I know my face was.

He disappeared for a minute, to where I knew not. But my mind made me try hard to imagine.

I was still in the throes of regaining full consciousness, but I suddenly had a dreadful thought. ‘What if he’s gone to the kitchen to get a knife?’. ‘I don’t want to die. A nice little symmetrical action man type scar placed discreetly on the cheek is one thing. I could go for one of them. In fact I've often wished I HAD one of them. But not a frenzied stabbing attack with a pair of kitchen scissors or a fisherman’s knife’.

Here I was, 18, drunk, drowsy, naive, miserable because my girlfriend had finished with me and in a part of London I didn’t know. It was the middle of the night and some nutter had got it into his head that I somehow posed a threat to him.

So do you know what I did?

I quickly surveyed the scene. Girlfriend lying battered and bruised. Pete nowhere to be seen, probably shagging. Nutter more than likely testing knives on kittens for sharpness out in the kitchen. 'Shit! I have got to get out of here' I screamed inside.

I decided I couldn’t risk going out of the front door as it was bound to be locked at this time of night and anyway 'Trev' would hear me walking down the corridor.

The windows looked fairly well secured, plus there were nets covering them. I’d never have made it. So, there was only one thing for it.

That's right folks. I decided I was going out through the cat flap!

Seriously, as I glanced around in genuine terror, I spotted that in the dining room door there was a hole obviously designed for cat size animals to freely come and go. No doubt given the extreme circumstances, the drowsiness and the cumulative effect of too many pints of lager, I had suddenly convinced myself it was also just big enough for a weedy teenager like me to somehow squeeze through.

‘Hang on a minute. What if I got stuck?’ I thought to myself. ‘Bad enough to get stabbed, but your arse being used as a hastily improvised carving knife holder? I think not!’ Just the thought of what might happen made me shake like a leaf.

Suddenly, thankfully and miraculously as far as I was concerned, with me seriously contemplating taking on the role of a rather large, feeble and non-ginger tom cat, much to my relief, Pete appeared out of nowhere to find out what was going on.

I tell you, I could have kissed him right there and then, but I expect, knowing my luck, his girlfriend would have had a pop at me too and it would all have got very complicated and even messier than it already was.

So, instead, I explained to him that his friend Trevor had, for want of a better phrase ‘gone f***ing mental and wants to stab me’. I then asked him, very kindly, if he could sort the bloke out as "I'm pissed, tired, shitting myself and probably suffering from a broken nose" that was now starting to throb as the adrenaline of fear that was coarsing through my veins began to wear off.

Pete disappeared off to have a word with Trevor and, a few seconds later they both came back into the room, Trevor shouting and gesturing in my direction, but thankfully with no knife about his person, Pete playing the middleman trying to restore a bit of order. Carol by this time was sitting on the sofa looking a bit puffy eyed and shaken. I got the impression it wasn’t the first and probably wouldn’t be the last fight that she and Trevor would have.

Hooray! A bit like the Colditz glider, a futile escape via the cat flap was put on hold!

As I recall, Trevor and Carol left shortly afterwards and I at last settled down to a much-needed sleep. Alone. Battered. Bruised. And feeling even a hell of a lot sorrier for myself than I had at the start of the evening!

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