Skint & Demoralised

by Matt Abbott

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    2nd Edition CD run, with digitally printed cardboard sleeves and on-disc artwork. The CDs come shrink wrapped for protection, and the album was re-recorded at Eiger Studios in Leeds in November 2016.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Skint & Demoralised via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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      £5 GBP or more 


  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      £5 GBP  or more




The début spoken word album from Wakefield-born poet Matt Abbott. Re-recorded and re-packaged for the 2nd Edition in November 2016.
EXCLUSIVE TO BANDCAMP: 40 page PDF digital album booklet with lyrics and photography.
Cat.# NYMPH022


released August 14, 2015

Written and performed by Matt Abbott.
Recorded by Ben Corkhill at Eiger Studios, Leeds in November 2016.


Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.



Nymphs & Thugs Recording Co. UK

Nymphs & Thugs is an independent spoken word record label formed in spring 2015.

• Louise Fazackerley
• Matt Abbott
• Toria Garbutt
• Salena Godden
• Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross
• Luke Wright
... more

contact / help

Contact Nymphs & Thugs Recording Co.

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Track Name: In Church On A Tuesday Night
With a heavy-bodied aftershave aroma,
the tap room is a church on Tuesday night.
The soundtrack might be 'Girlfriend In A Coma'
but thankfully, the jukebox doesn't play that "modern shite."
Where distant lives and distant wives and worries wait outside,
in the tap room of the Ossett Brewers Pride.

The washing up was finished before the plates were even dirty,
desert boots slipped out the door at bang on seven thirty;
in four hours time they'll be lurching home, higher than a kite,
from the tap room that's a church on Tuesday night.

The picture's swapped for teletext:
Premier League on pause.
The picks of their accumulators'
pixelated scores.
Predict the unpredictable,
pin hopes on hopeless plights;
in The Brewers Pride,
the tap room is a church on Tuesday night.

This Farmer's Blonde is far too bland.
He must be blind to make that blunder!
Thirty feckless seconds,
my accumulator's all asunder.
Allus only one team short; I'm bound to get it right,
in the tap room that's a church on Tuesday night.

The politician's cameo for fifteen flimsy minutes,
but then it's back to tactics and the black ticks that'll win it.
Four quid on at Ladbrokes sees a generous return,
in a tap room on a Tuesday where they pray, but never learn.

One more jar and then the road,
debrief with our disciples.
Statistics like a secret code,
opinions all recycled.
Never mind this Spanish flair,
they need a bit of fight!
No nonsense in the tap room,
that's a church on Tuesday night.

Soaring highs and forlorn frowns
from filthy rich to Ipswich Town,
concerned that Burnley are going down;
they'll soon be out of sight.
The centre half's a dirty sod,
the barmaid knows to only nod,
we've got football: who needs God?
In church, on a Tuesday night.
Track Name: The Ballad of Babs in 13B
As the Avon lady peels apart the Customer Receipt,
Barbara shuffles awkwardly enough.
Silently she curses at the slippers on her feet;
depositing those wretched specks of fluff.

There's a wedding photo propped upon the mantelpiece.
She's watched her beauty fade from recognition.
With her arm wrapped 'round a man who's now a stranger;
two decades of the missionary position.

Barbara stands to make them both a brew,
whilst biscuits twist her arm in stacks of three.
She stumbles on a Facebook Group; The Class of '82.
It's heaven; Monday night in 13B.

And the pimpled Queens of Scarborough Comprehensive,
remind her of a girl she used to know;
those afternoons of innocence, spent dangling from the Pier.
She fondly reminisces with a tear.

And it wasn't too long after she'd ditched that fraying blue blazer
in favour of her garish disco threads
that Barbara found love for the very first time;
and not just Phil Oakey; this one was for real:

Malcolm Edward Norton.

She's recently discovered that Malcolm lives in Morecambe with Michelle;
the fat girl who'd borrow Barbara's mascara,
and then leave the top of the bottle all gammy whenever she gave it back.
Typical; the mucky cow.

She sits beneath the Artex ceiling's Nicotine complexion,
with Mustard swirls and a plastic chandelier.
A dimmer switch that hides her imperfections;
a centimetre's slip to yesteryear.

Last weekend, Barbara's brother came to see her,
with slip-on shoes, and a half-price Houndstooth scarf,
and the all-too-perfect perma-tanned Maria,
who's fourteen's more a fourteen-and-a-half.

And as boredom heads to the king-sized bed she seldom gets to share,
there's a chiffon quilt with an old Parisian print.
From a Summer Sale at Debenhams; discount debonair.
It almost looks expensive if you squint.

And it's not exactly Cleopatra's Palace,
with a urine-scented staircase, and a battery-powered phallus,
but it's close to work, and they're easy on the rent:
Just a shame for Barbara;
time's the only fortune that she's spent
Track Name: Marigolds
The very split second
his battered blue transit
began to reverse,
'Hatful of Hollow' was banished
from the hi-fi.

In marigolds
she serenades the kitchen
to The Cure,
revels in the glory
of her company;
nothing more.

"He'll be traipsing 'round
Tesco for hours,"
she thought.

"Friday, I'm in love."
Track Name: Drunken Culinary Kingdom
Fashion icons line the wall as punters patiently blink.
There's a £6 slogan t-shirt; luminous green or neon pink.
It's a Drunken Culinary kingdom; it's an existential sin,
if you've never left at 4am with gravy on your chin.

Bouncers awkwardly avert their eyes as they keep the peace in pairs.
Yep - you heard that right, folks; two bouncers on the stairs,
'cause if there's only one steak pie left and the rest is vegetarian,
we're heading for a performance, chaps, and it's gonna be a scary 'un.

Synthesised riffs from the Galaxy above
as drunken tiffs puts pride before love;
in the restaurant room with the picnic benches:
no Ladies & Gents; just Wankers & Wenches.

"I'll tell you what I fancy, love -
I'll have a bottle of Beck's from the fridge,
'cause you all might have stopped drinking,
but I'm from Horbury Bridge.
And I'm-- yeah, I'll have some gravy, love:
have you got any, err, bangers & mash?
Oh hey up, wait 2 minutes, like:
I need to get some cash."

You've spent the evening delivering a sermon; praising Pie Shop chips.
As we climbed the stairs I saw the salivation on your lips.
But as you grasp the polystyrene tray that's fit to feed a horse,
you go and bloody dowse the things in fake tomato sauce.

And you might have pecs and tats and tans and haircuts from the navy,
but I've seen you sitting sheepishly with chips and cheese and gravy:
if you go into the Pie Shop, and you actively avoid the pie,
do not expect to meet me soon and look me in the eye.

You can go to The Hepworth all you want for your arty farty needs.
If you're really feeling cultured, why not catch the train to Leeds.
But if you really want the jewelled crown in the Wakefield Westgate story,
it's the Drunken Culinary Kingdom in all its gravy glutton glory.
Track Name: 10 Things That Maria Hears Before Closing Down The Launderette
1. The sorry pathetic clunk
from the blundering mechanism
of the third machine on the left.

2. The contents of a coin bag:
dispersing an armada of coppers across the lino,
like frantic bodies running from a fire.

3. A snippet of scandal:
eagerly escaping the cool chapped lips
of a school girl sauntering past.

4. The wrath and the fury of a malevolent Mister Harris:
clutching his shrunken and once beloved trousers;
demanding only hell and earth as worthy compensation.

5. The sorry pathetic clunk
from the blundering mechanism
of the third machine on the left.

6. The contents of a shopping list:
tackling the inconvenience of a fortnight in the sun,
and delivered with a drone more honed for Barnsley than Barbados.

7. Fists fly as tempers flare;
a fight outside the chip shop.
The damning direct consequence of whispered school girl scandal.

8. Agonising over which grandchild's birthday to exclude,
during the methodical selection of seven separate numbers,
Sheila has her sights set firmly on the Thunderball.

9. The sorry pathetic clunk
from the blundering mechanism
of the third machine on the left.

10. The symphony of silence at five fifty-nine,
as the key finishes turning in the door:
for now, at least, fifteen hours of freedom.
Track Name: I Once Fell in Love With a Communist Vegetarian
Providence Street,
WF1 3BG.

Like the blundering runt of a cumbersome litter,
he's kicked out to the kerb.
With nothing but an ill fitting Pringle knit
to distinguish him from a tramp,
he's squints in bewilderment;
and somehow manages to summon up
a stockpile of expletives.

Passing paper boys prompt and provoke him:
prod away at his consciousness,
prick him into activity,
and torment his brain,
which is savagely skewered by daylight.

Cheap cocaine leaves a ghostlike complexion
on his clammy contorted face.
For a second, he notices me watching him,
inches forward with an arm outstretched,
and shouts for out "Fez!"
Who follows behind
on the hunt for UK Rooster
(which closed at 1am).

Paracetamol runs a mile from the task in hand,
as a taxi scans
and pulls up with reluctance.
The driver kindly coaxes the gent,
followed by his friend called Fez,
and they blindly bundle into the back of his Toyota
before failing to remember their address.

The episode is viewed from the comfort of sobriety
as I cling to distraction,
and find myself yawning like a chimpanzee;
three hours earlier than early.
The lay by is laid by a desolate car park.
I'm stood beneath a sign that reads
"Development Opportunity,"
and silence is for once quite disconcerting.

Providence Street,
WF1 3BG.

Watches tapped and nods exchanged
as fellow passengers gather in pairs;
peppered by us sorry individuals.
No coach on the horizon,
but plenty of patches sewn on jackets;
Doc Martens,
a hundred copies of the Socialist Worker,
flasks that only ever ferry "Fair Trade" cups of coffee,
and a petition that they'll pester us to sign.

She arrives in typically blasé fashion shortly after 7:
4 minutes after we were due to leave,
8 minutes before the coach actually arrived,
and 21 minutes since my Dad dropped me off.

Shoulders hunch,
as Converse meet concrete:
skinny jeans tighter than the vice on my vocals,
and her naked nocuous nubile face
that was destined to destroy.

Seventeen years from the cradle to the grave realisation,
that 4 hours packed in a poky coach subsidised by the Union,
and bound for a march on Trafalgar Square with 400,000 other fuckers,
was the only shot at intimacy I'd ever possess
in the company of this captivating Comrade.

We share an A-Level in Government & Politics,
share textbooks on Tuesdays & Thursdays,
share several views on Socialism & Sovereignty,
but are yet to reach an agreement regarding Mattresses & Pillows.

She's a Communist Vegetarian,
and forgive me for being fickle,
but as I nonchalantly offer up
a cheddar Cheese & Pickle,
from a Greenpeace rucksack
bearing a Soviet Hammer & Sickle;
I've reached the dizzy peak of post-pubescent
slap & tickle.

Providence Street,
WF1 3BG.

Nigh on half a million folk flood the streets of London:
the largest mass demonstration since the Invasion of Iraq;
protesting public spending cuts,
the Conservative cancer that riddles the NHS,
pensions plunging beneath the surface in a river of redundancies,
and us, The People's, rousing refusal.

Ed Miliband speaks at Hyde Park Corner.
Missiles are launched at The Ritz.
(I don't know which one was more effective).
Anarchists arrested in excess of 200 whilst Cameron quietly cowers.
Nurses revolt, teachers demand, and "Vive la Révolution!",
we've stolen a truffle from Fortnum & Mason.

At the tender age of 17 we marched and made a difference.
Surging crowds and riot vans; placards, masks and banners.
And on the way back to the coach,
as the Metropolitan jived with the Jubilee,
she grabbed my wrist:
anxious to keep us hip by hip,
amongst the chaos and the confusion.

The coach found Wakefield in darkness.
Our Pringle clad delinquent from the episode at dawn
was out on the town once more.
She headed home in a car with her Mam,
and I caught the final 127.

We'd be hip by hip once more on the Tuesday;
as the strip light flickered in the Politics block,
and Mr Woodstones delighted us with his lectures.
But next Saturday, she'd be at the hairdressers in Horbury.
Ed Miliband spoke at a bus depot in Hounslow Heath,
and I'd be watching Ossett Albion play against Nostell Miners Welfare:
not a single placard in sight.

I once fell in love with a Communist Vegetarian; aka "Lenin & McCartney".
8 years on since we both left College, I randomly bumped into her at Leeds Fest
She told me how she'd loved that day, and swore she'd never forget,
as we both stood in the queue for steak baguettes.
Track Name: I Matter
Now you see 'em. Now you don't.
Now you see 'em. Now you don't.

So a suit wearing stranger slips in the street.
What do you do?
You check they're alright,
if there's anything you can do to help.
And you offer to call an ambulance,
and you buy them a bottle of water.
Do everything you can to reach the Good Deed Feed.
And you see them off, and then carry on,
feeling snugly smug inside.

The BlackBerry buzzes and your bus was on time.
All well and good.

But on the same street, someone slumps in a doorway.
A thousand yard stare and a warm can of Oranjeboom 8.5.
A rolled up cigarette
Last week's clothes.
Rather ironically,
what you might call "bed hair."

And they might mumble,
or they might well have conviction.
When they ask you for less than you left in the tip jar at Costa.

Only this time, you don't stop,
or check if they're alright.
And you know that there is something you can do to help, but you carry on.
Fucking ignore 'em.
It's their fault, you think. Their choice.

But 50p costs a whole lot more than acknowledgement
as fellow a human being.

Let me ask you something:
how many times do you see a homeless person with a dog,
and instinctively feel sorry for the dog?

And they say there's a system in place.
A system to make the homeless become human again.
For these inconvenient scourges on society.

But if you take someone
who sleeps in a doorway in the rain,
or in a barn covered in crawling rats,
or who shits himself with no fresh clothes;
whose life is a never ending Groundhog Day,
walking the streets again and again and again
but with nothing to gain
except for the next meal,
or the next drink,
or the next hit
of filthy beautiful heroin.
If they're not behind bars at Her Majesty's pleasure,
they're imprisoned by the psychological traumas of reality.
They can't afford the 60 pounds an hour to see a shrink.
do you really think that they'd turn back,
if the system was anything like what it should be?
If the system was in place to meet the needs of the people
who need it more than you could even imagine...

'cause they live in a parallel universe.
And the system might seem reasonable
within your expectations.
Keeping meetings at 2pm, 3 weeks on Wednesday.
But this is a person who roams the streets 24/7.

Who's given up hope.
Given up on trying.
And the system, somehow,
has given up on them too.
If the people in place to help have given up,
how the fuck do you expect these to even start?
When should vulnerability ever meet blindly with disdain?

On this jolly game of Snakes & Ladders:
9 months of sacrifice and compliance,
1 tiny blip, and it's back to the start again.
Why bother?

Some will fail, and maybe don't deserve a chance.
But for once, let them enter a room as an equal.
And enjoy those simple words that everybody craves:

"I matter."
Track Name: It's a Cold Wind Down by The Don
He notices the tattoo on her hand,
which brushes her hair behind her ear,
as she chuckles
at a tedious remark.
Four white bread rolls,
semi skimmed milk,
orange juice with bits,
mayonnaise (on offer),
and eight bottles of San Miguel:
all it took to illuminate
a tedious journey home.

He falters three times,
as Green Lane meets with Alma Street,
at 10:59pm:
praying he'll convince her,
claiming casual coincidence,
he's frozen by the prospect
that Charlotte's smile
as she leant over him to reach some carrots,
and her assistance on the self service checkouts,
will disintegrate
off duty.

Groceries scrawled on envelopes
provide perfect excuses
for trotting to Tesco.
He's been anxiously waiting to ask her for weeks.
And as she mentions, twice in one sentence,
that she drinks in The Shakespeare after work,
he blindly strokes his chin,
purchases a scratchcard,
and then leaves,
completely empty handed.
Track Name: Arriva DJ
I've just worked
a 14 hour shift.
Most of it spent
standing up a ladder
beneath the baking sun,
adding undercoat to undercoat
with a £2.50 paintbrush.

So I'd just like to thank this
"Arriva DJ,"
with simplified synthesised symphonies
on his phone;
so generously broadcast
to the entire 127.
Track Name: If You Don't Know Me By Now
you always hear them say this,
whenever they've survived some great natural disaster,
or a terrorist attack, or a nuclear explosion,
or even when they've won the bloody EuroMillions.
"it was just an ordinary morning;
no different from any other day."

Jean's husband had been up and about for thirty three minutes:
singing out of tune to Absolute Radio
and forgetting to rinse the shower.
thirty three wasted minutes of usual fucking uselessness before Jean managed to conjure up the strength to drag herself out of bed;
gradually subtracting from the morning's "to do" list,
until she was left only with the absolute necessities.
the barefaced ugliness of adulthood's duties.

the first thing she notices as her legs swing out,
is how cripplingly cold it is in the world outside the duvet.
her bed, so recently as cosy as a womb,
is now a fond and distant memory.

she ties her hair up in a bobble.
showers. exfoliates. moisturises.
dresses. chomps on some toast.
grabs her keys.
kisses the useless fucker on the cheek.
and then rushes through the door.

the unforgiving February morning:
eyebrow raised, smugness sharpened, tapping at the watch on its wrist.
rewarding Jean's negligent lethargy
with an unprecedented parade of permatanned housewives:
faffing on the roads in four by fours
that've never seen worse than a pothole;
just so little Henry doesn't have to stretch his legs.

and when dawn broke that morning,
it left a thick layer of frost
on the windscreen of the brand new Toyota.
purchased three weeks ago,
apparently on a whim,
with the savings that she'd sidelined
for a sojourn in Seville.

Jean checks the time.
she curses at herself for running late once again.
dreading what smarmy retort she'll have to tackle as she tries to sneak unnoticed,
slipping a pre-booted laptop onto her desk and pretending to be on the phone.

she turns the key in the ignition.
that fucking Simply Red CD is in again.
she rummages through the glove box:
The Lighthouse Family, Rush, Oasis.
what a load of old toss.

Jean hears an ambulance race past
and instinctively glances up.
but what she sees, instead of a flash of blue lights,
is her life,
gradually unfolding,
at glacier pace:
the frost
on the windscreen
creeping up;
a millimetre
every second,
only to reveal
two footprints.
two female footprints,
pressed up,
against the glass.

two sizes or so smaller than her own feet, at a guess.
much bigger than her six year old niece's.
and left there,
quite clearly,
whilst her husband nipped out to the 24 hour Asda
for his pack of Ibuprofen.
a forty minute journey less than three miles down the road.
his own sick revenge,
for her weary refusals,
owing to the fact that she'd a headache?
or a clumsy instinctive cover-up on receiving a dirty text?

the first thing she thinks to do,
after switching off Mick Hucknall,
is to scan the car for knickers.
whoever the little wench was
(and you'd better believe she was a worthless little wench),
there's every chance she'll have left a souvenir
that the good for nothing scum bag will have clumsily forgotten to retrieve.

all that Jean can picture,
whenever she closes her eyes,
is Mark,
her husband,
of eight and a half years;
removing the knickers
with his crooked grin,
tossing them aside,
reaching for his zip,
and then lowering the seat whilst she fumbles with his buttons.

his broad, smooth shoulders,
flexing as he supports himself.
banging his head on the sunroof.
his finger in her mouth
as he silences the giggles.
the sweat on his brow.
his whispered instruction not to scratch,
so as not to be leaving any trace.

and the face that he pulls,
that only she should know:
jaw slightly clenched,
lip slightly curled,
teeth slightly showing,
bottom lip idle,
as he loses himself inside her.

that face that she might have seen,
as he fucked her in some lay by,
whilst Jean spread out in slumber,
in a king sized quilt cocoon.
Track Name: Fucking Council
united coincidentally by reluctant routine,
separated mutually with secret understanding;
our lives, five from seven, momentarily mirrored.

avoiding acknowledgement
(acknowledgement in itself),
neither could possibly break the silence.

you lost weight, your hair grew; you smiled more.
then they closed the path for road-works,
and i never saw you again.
Track Name: A Life On Auction
John joins the ladies in the blue rinse brigade;
the chuntering chorus of Rive Gauche girls.
Quilted coats and clouds of magnolia,
deceptively sweet for the devilish tongues
when the tram arrives two minutes late.

It's a funny old ride nowadays,
considering everything that's happened.
Everything that's changed as his life passed by,
and how it all looks destitute and foreign.

As the tram takes John from Malin Bridge
down Holme Lane to Hillsborough Corner,
and down Langsett Road to Shalesmoor
where he worked for most of his life,
the buildings baffle him one by one;
as if he's travelling through Stockport or Stuttgart or Sydney.

And as so often on the journey
that saw various degrees
of wrinkles in his grimace,
all beneath an unflinching hairstyle,
John exits the tram at Shalesmoor
and shuffles across the roundabout

There's a big tall shiny bastard of a building
right there on the corner;
driven like a stake through the heart of the cobbles,
with its glass exterior, its laminate flooring;
its jaunty angles and its "young professionals".
The same bunch of saps in the suits that surround him,
dodging swarms of students by the inch;
eyes locked insatiably on intergalactic gadgets;
limbs all on autopilot, minds in a trance:
he'd clip 'em 'round the bloody ear if they gave him half a chance.
It makes him feel sick.
We're meant to be in Sheffield, for crying out loud!

The crowd parts,
and the traffic stops,
and he's stood on the corner of Doncaster Road.

There it is:
next to the second hand car garage.
The beacon of his former being.

John finds his brain tingling in places he'd long since forgotten.
His weary, exhausted and cobwebbed exterior,
reflected with serenity
by the old Ship Inn.
His beloved "Dram Shop".
The haunted tavern of Kelham Island,
and the principal owner of his deep rooted nostalgia;
still knotting his stomach as though the decades had been days.

It was inside the walls of this tavern, in 1957,
shortly after MacMillan told Bedford, "we've never had it so good",
that his spectacled gaze caught sight of Edith,
and he danced for the very first time.
She, finding her second love;
and John, his one and only.

He has to steady himself as he scans the chalkboard;
a glimpse of The Ship Inn, 2014.
It paints a pitiful portrait of the house he used to know:
free WiFi, jacket potatoes,
ales from as far afield as Saltaire, Huddersfield, Ossett.
West Yorkshire?!

He passes the Nichols Building where his cousin Roy once worked.
Turns up Shepherd Street:
luminous condoms scatter the pavement.
Graffiti, empty warehouses.
Turns left onto Scotland Street:
a Chinese supermarket, a paintball emporium.
His head starts spinning and he goes to sit down but he can't seem to move for broken glass.

The sooner he gets this over with the better:
this is what he's dreaded since the day he's been alone.

Beyond the events of this morning's auction,
he sees no reasonable remaining existence.

John rests against the doorframe
of A.E. Dowse & Sons,
as if he's back at the crematorium
for Edith's last farewell.

The room seems much busier than it ought to be on a sunny Saturday morning.
Or at least, busier than expected; busier than he'd hoped,
which to be perfectly honest, meant anybody being there at all.

Every person that enters the room now poses a potent threat.
He's offered a seat, but decides to decline and pace around on tenterhooks.
He'd never struck himself as being sentimental,
but now he stands there choking on the simplest of artefacts,
and wrestling with the will to dart outside.

A few lots pass with mild amusement.
Cigarette cards, 45s; stuff anybody 'd sell.
Stuff John wouldn't mind collecting himself if he could bring himself to bother.

They almost serve as fleeting anaesthetic;
providing brief distractions from his thoughts.
But all the while he knows it's his possessions creeping forward,
and he finds himself completely out of sorts.

Because, and John's said this several times,
when all's been said and done, they're not his possessions at all.
He might well own them by law.
Might have every God given right to do whatever the Hell he likes with them.
Christ, most of 'em have been in his living room for forty odd years.
But those ticketed items at the back of the room,
tucked behind a Chesterfield armchair,
those possessions are only Edith's.

The auctioneer calls an unnecessary break,
and John takes a step outside.
The breeze that sweeps down Scotland Street sends a chill right through his bones.
His bottom lip quivers;
he hides this with a scowl.
"Don't be such a silly old fool,"
he snaps, "she's dead.
They're no more use than if I chucked them out to sea."
He senses concerned awkwardness from his audience behind,
and deems the second half more preferable
to sympathetic remarks.

His lot's first lot to bid.
"A selection of vintage furniture and homeware; all been well looked after,
starting with this G-Plan cabinet.
G-Plan cabinet, lot #615, who'd like to start..."

John's fragile chest contracts,
as the sturdy G-Plan cabinet
that Edith's parents donated on their 10th Wedding Anniversary,

is pawned
so candidly
for cash.

The Ercol suite from Midvale Avenue.
The Ferguson radiogram she'd cherished in the '70s.
The wedding dress she'd snoozed in, every single Christmas,
and her father's set of medals from the War.

Edith's existence
in a bundle of banknotes:
sixty years of memories
in twenty measly minutes.

Wheelers and dealers,
hustlers and pimps;
thrusting envelopes with bidding notes
and wedges full of cash,

into a fist
no longer fluent
in the currency
of value.
Track Name: Old Ma Bull
Never realised how odd it'd be
to put my belt on whilst walking down the street,
until I put my belt on,
whilst walking down the street.

It was odd.

Garden gate gossips at 339 unimpressed.
Then again,
they were drying bottles for the recycling bin,
with a tea towel.
Track Name: Open All Hours
a heavy sigh through nostrils. snarling and surveying the room.
another impotent day awaits;
urged on by late morning sun.
sleeping bag kicked off by jean clad legs.
neck aching. only one fraying pillow between the head and the floorboards.
one naked sweat stained pillow, in the word's first voluntary bedsit.
the double bedroom next door would be perfectly adequate but for the emptied suitcases of unworn clothing piled upon the mattress,
the hundreds of copies of Q and Fiesta that blockade the door,
and the lipstick insults, scrawled on the walls,
forbidding him from entry despite full legal ownership.
a desperate urge for a carrot coloured piss as he eventually comes to is all that raises him from his makeshift bed.
he kicks over an empty can on his way across the room, or at least, he thought it was an empty can.
in fact it was a largely empty can;
steady dregs of warm flat lager, flooding the neighbouring floorboards
and then trickling down the cracks.
the 3 foot tall refrigerator sits within arm's length of the bed.
enough food for 2 or 3 days, on the odd occasion when it isn't tinned,
and enough drink to see him through till sunrise.
Foster's; not a connoisseurs drink by any stretch of the imagination,
but men like this don't drink for pleasure, they just drink.
a double gulp for breakfast and a belch for morning prayer.
today, he thinks, will be different.
today I will write the world's last remaining epic.
today I will set upon the path that will see Tracey Emin yearn for my squalor,
see Oscar Wilde reduced to vulgarity,
and see all the whores and the cocaine and the liquor come flooding
like cockroaches through the door.
the television sits patiently in the corner;
gathering dust, bereft of a satellite or a license or a remote,
playing host only to the stack of 7 videos that sit loyally beside it.
the VHS companions that occasionally complement his mood.
they repeat, and repeat, and repeat amidst regular bouts of insomnia.
a collection of companions that somehow satisfy pretty much every aspect of his visual desire:
'Trainspotting', 'Dirty Harry', 'Debbie Does Dallas', 'Betty Blue',
the 1979 FA Cup final, Bill Hicks,
and a homemade tape containing 43 minutes of 'Only Fools and Horses',
the first ever episode of 'TOTP2',
an interview with John Major,
and 10 minutes of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'.
the primary source of entertainment, though, coming not from the fridge as some may predict but from the gramophone that takes centre stage.
the gramophone that replays the memories of his youth.
his antisocial teens. peroxide twenties.
the hatred of his marriage, the many affairs that carried him through divorce and now at last,
the tranquillity of solitude.
a whole lot more than 7 records scatter the floor.
last night: Johnny Cash, the man in black.
other current favourites include Georges Brassens, Jake Thackray, Billie Holiday,
The Doors, Bob Dylan's 'Blonde On Blonde', a rare 12" of 'Born Slippy .NUXX',
Petula Clark, an import of Jacques Dutronc, and an increasingly crackly Jimmy Ruffin.
the worst of this exile, this admittedly enforced and self imposed exile,
is the loss of the rush from the scent of female flesh.
it's been 16 months since he's had a shag. probably 3 or 4 years since a truly good one.
the electricity of their fingertips crawling up his thigh.
the adrenaline that courses when nails shred his back.
the tenderness of embrace. the intimacy. the warmth.
a long time ago, a fucking long time ago, this was a proud patch, see.
watercolours, 50 word poems and acoustic guitar ballads,
all regularly intertwined with groups of artists and intellectuals
engaging in laughter and infectious debauchery;
conversation punctuating drink fuelled sexual encounters
and hope, above all else, the toast of their never ending nights.
the sentiment occasionally still surfaces,
and the four walls still carry vague remnants of their past.
it is a shrine as much as it is a prison cell.
he cannot leave, because he cannot let go of what he once had.
he cannot escape, because without it, he is utterly unworthy of any greater alternative.
there is no greater alternative.
he must live with the consequences of the fuck up that he's spawned.
a pair of crimson sunglasses is an absolute necessity on rare events when he has to leave in daylight.
a filter placed on every single face he has to meet.
a warm red glow that somehow skews reality.
the alcohol, of course, that dominates his veins, is the predominant barrier that separates him.
but without the sunglasses?
no, it couldn't happen.
the day it all changed, he can still remember vividly.
no crimson tint. no liquid shield.
31st august 1997.
relatively early in the morning; too early to call anybody, put it that way.
'Doctor Who'; his favourite era, the first series in colour. 'Spearhead From Space'.
a news bulletin interrupted, insistent.
Diana, Princess of Wales, has died in Paris
after a high speed collision involving a car, and a wall.
a world in which Diana can be killed at 36, is not a world he wants to entertain.
no longer a world he wants to interact with.
for this man, there are no politicians peddling corruption.
no nauseating boy band sensations polluting the charts.
no natural disasters or need for humanitarian invasion,
sorry, 'intervention', whilst simultaneously raping oil resources.
the refusal was from then on no longer preference, but his mortality.
to live outside the bubble he'd previously formed.
to sit in this flat, drinking booze, playing records,
answering only to the postman and himself.
to masturbate and sing and cry and sometimes stop to eat.
a liquid lunch and a crimson tint.
he is Pinocchio. Peter Pan.
The Time Lord. The Lizard King.
Francis Begbie. Alan Sunderland. Goatboy. Dirty Harry.
Mr Greenfield. Mr Major.
Zorg, Ziggy, Del Boy and Donatello.
he is closed off from the world.
he is open all hours.
Track Name: Diamond Dogs II
His desperation dances in the drizzle in the puddles in the potholes on the bridge.
The layer after layer that gathers in his jacket is presented like a soggy badge of honour.
He stops to wipe his glasses on his shirt and then he listens as the River Don whispers at the sky.

'round the cobbled curves of Kelham Island, they say the streets shape like a diamond,
but don't let that deceive you;
'round here there's only rough.

They're full of missing persons that have never once been missed,
beneath the lampposts
and their mustard coloured mist.

According to Oscar Wilde:
"it has been said that the great events of the world
take place in the brain."

And right now muddled by midnight's mask, the bollards seem to find a female form.
Occasionally raindrops from low hanging drains all fall at once and imitate a heel;
its difficult when you're on this kind of warpath of desire to distinguish just exactly what is real.

A taxi driver inches past; his amber light irrelevant.
They both stalk the streets in the hope to hunt for punters but now she will hurl abuse,
as he passes with his heating and his radio and his cushion and his safety.

She waits there in the shadows; advertised but absent,
invisible but available, and patience long expired:
she might be pretty, if she weren't so fucking tired.

Rolled up cigarettes built from butt ends in the ashtrays outside Brooklyn Bar & Grill.
Some may say dystopian or post-apocalyptic,
but this is merely business as she reapplies her lipstick.

I am almost sure she'd dance on snow and would not leave a trace,
and even in stilettos she acquires a certain grace,
as she huddles in an arch by Cornish Place.

On the corner past the bridge, where Neepsend meets with Mowbray,
is the girl denounced as "dirty little sister".
Her voice hoarse from screaming at reflections she's terrified to see in the windows and the puddles.

To finish Oscar's quote:
"it is in the brain, and the brain only,
that the great sins of the world take place also."

To look at Kelham Island you're forgiven for mistaking that the setting here is nothing but industrial.
Generic archetypal manufacture-laden streets.
But the air of possibility, that waters seeds of sleaze, is what drives his brain to walk them once again.

And at first I thought I'd seen this as a sordid revelation:
he emerged from Dun Fields, she came down from Alma.
Their flashing tryst became a brief reality.

The standard proposition, as I'm sure you are aware, is "do you have a cigarette, my dear?"
Of course his fingers tremble, with his 20 deck of Marlboro, that he offers her from halfway in the road.
Shuffling on tip toes, to the pedestal he placed her on, she feels nothing but an upgrade from his wrist.

She asks him for his business,
but politely he declines,
before walking home, and howling, at the moon.
Track Name: Say You'll Be There
She'd prepared a pop filled playlist
so they could walk hand in glove:
avoiding life's congestion,
through the back streets of nostalgia.

Four years, and a hundred miles;
dual decades as distant strangers.
But still they manage to reminisce
on childhood's shared and sacred pleasures.

She remembers dancing
to 'Don't Stop' by S Club 7,
in the playing fields at St. Peter's
with Zoë's bouncing ginger perm.
He remembers rapping
to 'Re-Rewind' by Artful Dodger,
on the old abandoned railway track,
the final day of term.

It took 2 hours and 20 minutes,
but it was perfect.
When she finished,
with the twilight of the afternoon to spare,
she contemplated filling out the label with a gel pen.
It's his 29th birthday
which he's dreaded now for weeks,
but what better form of antidote,
than travelling back through time...?

She skipped her tea;
too nervous to eat.
He'd said he'd be here at 7.
She knew it'd be closer to half past,
but at 6:15, she settled.
His decision now defining
her defiance or delusion.

She passed the time with cigarettes
and neatly stacked the crap cassettes
and watched the clock
and made a drink
and tried to sip it on the brink
and checked her texts
then checked again
then downed her drink
and checked again
then tried to ring
but it rang right through
then tried again
but it didn't ring once.

"Welcome to the O2 messaging service for

She lingers by the mirror;
leaves the voicemail sat recording.
Mascara halted in its tracks,
at 25 past 9.
Protected cheeks bereft of freckles,
and hair no longer drawn by Disney,
but even with that wide eyed wonder,
"where on God's earth is he?!"

Twenty years of wisdom,
that should be there to guide her,
merely arrive in hindsight,
whilst wounds are getting wider.

The bedroom waits with baited breath.
Her feet get cold,
so she rummages for socks.
A car pulls up:
through naivety
comes nervous nausea,
but it's only Babs from 13B
in her taxi back from bingo.
well versed, well masked,
well past her sell-by date,
and well past caring.

As she plays the final song,
for the fifth time in a row,
she aches to tiptoe down the hall
and crawl between her parents.
Longs for worries such as:

Mrs Roberts set us homework and I haven't done it,
and last time she made me stand up in the middle of assembly.
Why does my dad always pick me up from parties
before we've had the jelly and ice cream?
And how come my school uniform is plain and maroon,
whilst the other kids' are poster red, with the school's name embroidered?

Sink beneath the duvet,
make a castle from the pillows,
as the Spice Girls sing a serenade
that resonates quite brutally.

A tentative request, that echoes through a lifetime:
faithfully borrowed from Now! 36 (side 1, track 1).

Say you'll be there...
Say you'll be there...
Say you'll be there...
Track Name: Amores Perros
There's a famous quote by Billy Bremner that says:
"Every time Leeds concede a goal,
I feel like I've been stabbed in the heart."
Now you don't need to have stepped much further than your own front door to know what the man was talking about,
and you don't really need to be a football fan either:
this is when you’re nothing but a vessel,
and nothing in existence compares to that one thing that holds you hostage.

I leave my hotel room at eight in the morning,
hand my key into reception.
The thought of a fried breakfast makes my stomach turn,
so I order a nice cold pint of lager instead.
I sup it in silence; that fat fuck Eamonn Holmes on the TV behind us, punctuating the awkwardness between me and the barmaid.
She looks startled and uneasy; not wanting to leave the bar for fear of what I might do behind her watchful eye,
but she needn't bother; I’m no danger to anyone besides my own sorry self.

I step outside and light a cigarette;
first shielding the flame from the hint of a sea breeze,
and then shielding my eyes from the early morning sun.
I walk up South Parade towards Fitzgeralds.
I catch a flashing glance from the old boy who sits outside.
He looks right at home there with his pint of ale and his morning paper,
but his eyes look lost;
as if he's waiting for something, and yet he knows it'll never happen.
He's got a Newcastle United badge on his coat,
so he probably isn't too far wrong.
I type out a text and delete it, stood opposite the York House Hotel.
I try calling and don't get an answer, but that's probably just as well.
She told me about him last night, but not of her own volition.
And the thing that winds me up is that I didn't feel a hint of suspicion.
On those nights we spent alone, we were the only two alive;
in this sunless hole, this paradise, and with only love to survive.
I remember the first thing she told me, as we both gazed out to sea:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
Well what the fuck does make me?

I climb aboard the 308 and buy a single ticket.
My head rests against the window, which gently vibrates.
Waves crash against the slim Northumbrian coast in the distance,
and seagulls float around gracefully in ravenous packs.
She didn't tell me his name; she didn't have to.
That doesn't bother me in the slightest.
His very existence is my moistened Adam's apple;
The saliva in my throat that's ready to wretch at any given moment.

I think of all those nights when she told me that she was crippled by her loneliness,
and that she felt suffocated and buried alive whenever she contemplated her future.
When she told me how scared she was,
and how nobody would even notice if she necked a bottle of Bombay;
leaping from the Pier, never to be seen again.
And all the while I believed her. Christ, I even cried for her.
And all the while she's been texting me,
and then not answering her phone because he's fucking her in her Mum's box bedroom,
and then texting me back once he's fallen asleep,
telling me that her phone had slipped under the cushion whilst she was watching TV,
or that she'd left it upstairs and not realised,
or, there was no signal in the pub when she was out with the girls...
They're the words that she used to describe them:
every single man she’s ever met.
"They're all just Nymphs & Thugs;
you're the only decent one I've seen yet."

Yeah, well that was then, but now I know the truth;
now I know about him, the other man,
the man who holds her:
keeps her stowed away in this soulless shithole.
And now I'm on my way to win her back.
I get off at the Bus Station on Bridge Street,
I cut along Union Street to get to Plessey Road,
I walk alongside Croft Park where the Spartans play,
past the clubhouse, and through the back alley leading to Cypress Gardens.
I turn left onto Princess Louise Road,
and then straight across the big green roundabout at Broadway Circle:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
I walk past the broken cash machine,
and then further down Princess Louise Road.
I turn left onto Newsham Road.
This is where I start to feel sick:
my heart begins to palpitate, I find it hard to breathe,
I light another fag;
a lengthy queue at the bus stop scowls and observes,
confused and concerned, disgusted but reserved:
fearful maybe, but they needn't bother:
I'm no danger to anyone besides my own sorry self.
"They're all just Nymphs & Thugs."
I reach the Co-Op on the corner of Southend Avenue.
I try calling her again; no answer.
I send her a text telling her to expect a knock on the door.
My throat wretches, and as I double-over,
I leave nothing but beer and bile in the bin.
I loiter outside the Co-Op, and then turn left onto Wordsworth Avenue.
I decide to take the long way around. I check my phone, but no response.
Wordsworth Avenue becomes Shelley Crescent,
I follow the curve around the green, and then I'm stood on Byron Avenue.

This is where she lays her head at night.
This is where she cries and this is where she dreams.
This is where he holds her close,
and where she's used me as a Councillor and a Therapist:
always there at the end of the line,
just to make her feel a bit better about herself.
And whilst I'd been building us a future,
this is where she dwelled on nothing but the past.
She told me that she was scared of the future,but I knew I was gonna make it better.
It was outside that clubhouse when I thought I'd stolen her away;
beside the lamppost and the bushes, safe from all the disarray.
And I told her:
"it's never enough for me just to know you're nearby."
But her shoulders were hunched; she couldn't look me in the eye.
This was tension that she carried, not the usual mystique.
And then her lips became a blade, and the beautiful was bleak.

And that's when it hit me.
That feeling that Billy talked about:
that sickening sense of loss;
that despair that just leaves you feeling redundant.
And now I stand here, outside her house, all alone.
And I've never felt so alone in my life.
And I can't help but thinking,
maybe she's lying; maybe she's just scared that I'll fall short,
and that she'll end up even worse than she was before.
Maybe she's just shacked-up for a fortnight with a local loser;
hoping it'll scare me off and leave her alone for good.
Her curtains twitch, and then her cool, cold face emerges.
Hers is a radiance that makes you forget yourself in an instant.
She stands there like a porcelain statue;
from here, she looks breathtakingly beautiful.
But up close, she's riddled with cracks.

Her front door flies open, and he's frog-marching towards:
"they're all just Nymphs & Thugs," and these girls are their rewards.
I use every muscle in my body, to stay here standing still:
one half is fucking petrified, one half's inclined to kill.
He measures me and sneers, and it's almost like he's pouting.
She's still inside her bedroom; crying now and shouting.
The neighbours ponder my demise or ITV,
and then he breaks my nose like you might make a cup of tea.
And as he beats me, I fall towards the floor;
I kiss this bed of concrete, lie begging him for more.
This sends a wave of rage to his Neanderthalic brain,
but for his woman that waits above? This is a fraction of the pain.
He finally stops; he spits and takes a breath.
He leaves me here defeated; an inch away from death.
He walks inside, and I just crawl towards the curb;
like a dying dog, I'm graceful: not wishing to disturb.

I wait for her to come down and help me lick my wounds
but there's an eerie silence, and that tells me everything I need to know.
Well he's just given her a damn good reason to be scared.
And who knows, maybe she does want to come down and see me, but she can't;
maybe he'd raise a fist to her as well.
But then again, she could've told me sooner;
she could've prevented this.
I guess love's a pretty terrifying burden,
and by Christ it doesn't half fuck around with your brain.
"It's time to take the bit between the teeth,"
that's what I told myself all along.

Yeah, well more fool me for going where I wasn't wanted.
I hope she's rife with guilt, lying crippled on her floor:
I hope she dies of shame after fighting a fifty year war.
But as I drip blood in the gutter, it's too late to pretend,
that in this world of Nymphs & Thugs, I'll love her till the end.

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