Chapter 6: Falling Apart
I regularly played the music almost full volume in the flat, which did upset some of the neighbours, while others shouted up for requests to be played. People could hear the music streets away.
I took very little notice of the few neighbours who complained until one day one of them tried bashing my door down. The guy went mad, "Your bloody noise has cracked all the plaster on my walls. There's lumps of it falling down off my ceiling. Just look at this," he said, holding out a handful of bits of plaster. "And I've got a constant headache."
"Wait there," I said. I went into the kitchen and returned to the door a few seconds later.
"Here, take two of these for your headache and here's something for your ceiling." I held out a box of headache tablets and a box of plaster.
The man knocked them out of my hand. "I don't think you're very funny. You're just showing off in front of your stupid brother," the man said angrily. Laurence went to walk away.
"You needn't run off either, you're the worst," the mans said. "You play them all day long, from the minute your brother's out of sight. At least this bleeding lunatic only blasts them out for a few minutes at a time."
"I don't mind your music loud," he said, "I actually listen to it myself. I'm just telling you, half the volume or I'm gonna break your sodding door down and throw the lot out the sodding window, and you and your stupid brother, if need be. Ok." I thought the guy was being quite reasonable, under the circumstances.
"Ok. I'm sorry. You have made your point and I have been selfish. I will keep it turned down, ok. Now do you want any of these tablets, because I've got a headache now?" I said.
Laurence was getting me very angry at times as while I was at work he was letting dozens of people into the flat. They would mess about with all the disco equipment, mess all the records up and didn't show any respect for the thousands of pounds of equipment. Things were regularly going missing from the flat and the furnishings were being burned by cigarettes. I returned home from work one night to find the flat full of people. There was one kid sat on the arm of the settee, hitting the sides of it with a motor cycle chain. Another guy was stood in the middle of the floor holding his face which was pouring of blood. He had been slashed across the face with a small Stanley knife. I grabbed the chain off the kid.
"Get the fuck off my settee," I ordered.
"What's happened here?" I asked.
"He cut himself shaving," the chain kid said and started laughing.
"You better shut your mouth," I said. "I want to know what's happened here and someone better answer me properly and I mean now! Looks like you've had a real party in here."
Some kid was sitting behind my disco deck and put on another record. "You better turn that off and get the fuck away from my stuff, before I wrap this chain over your head," I said.
Laurence was sat with some girl on his lap. "Off," I ordered, talking to the girl, who sat laughing.
"You let this lot in here," I said to my brother, "You can tell me what's going on."
I turned to the people trying to leave the flat, "Sit down. Nobody is going anywhere until I find out what happened to this guy."
"I cut him," another guy called out.
"You lot can go now,"I said to the crowed gathering by the door.
I looked at the cut across the guys face. He was cut from his forehead right down and across his nose.
"Can you go in the bathroom and bleed in the sink?" I said. "You're making a right bloody mess in here."
I looked across the room at the guilty party, not the sort of guy I wanted to tackle. "So why did you cut him?" I asked.
"He's been bad mouthing my Missus," the guy explained. "I just told him to stop and didn't want any trouble but he went to pull a big sheath knife, so I cut him with this." He held a miniature Stanley knife in his hand, but I didn't want it!
I went to see the slashed face, bleeding in my bathroom, "Keep your bloody head over the sink. Look at my sodding flat... Knife!" I held my hand out for the knife. I wasn't worried about tackling this guy, with or without the cut face, but definitely without the knife.
"Looks like you all come here prepared for war, bloody motorbike chain, two knives any more knocking about?" I said.
"What did you pull a knife on him for?" I asked, "I bet you won't be so quick next time, will you?" 'Or maybe, you should have been a bit quicker, ' I thought.
"I think you better get yourself down the hospital and get your nose stitched back on properly," I said.
After everyone had left, I had a few words to say to my brother about the sort of people he was allowing into the flat. "The main problem is, you don't even know half these people. It's like you know one or two people but they are bringing all their mates, who you don't know." Laurence agreed to only allow his own friends into the flat and to keep a bit more control.
"And nobody plays on my deck, just you or me, nobody else. Half my sodding records have gone and the other half are all scratched up," I told him.
Laurence mixed with people very easily whereas I had always had great difficulty in mixing with people. Laurence continued to have people in the flat but generally speaking they were a little more civilized and the place didn't get wrecked quite so often. Laurence often had the place full of people when I got home from work but I still felt very much alone. He knew quite a few of the girls in the area and invited many different girls to the flat. Mostly they were just friends of his, rarely anyone special to him. One night I walked in to find my brother and about half dozen girls in the flat, one of whom I had never seen before and I managed to start talking to her. It had been about a year since I had split up with Stella.
About two days after our brief meeting, Marina knocked my door, "I left my bag here the other day. Can you see if it's still here, please?"
"I found it after you had gone and put it away. I don't know where you live or I would have dropped it in to you."
"How long have you known my brother?" I asked.
"I don't really," she said. "I know one of the girls who comes up here sometimes. I had only come over because her mother wanted her and sent me over to tell her. I had only been here a few minutes when you walked in." I quite liked the look and sound of this girl.
"Where about do you live?" I asked inquisitively.
"Just over the road," she replied.
"I'm going down the pub for an hour, I'm not sitting here all night. Would you like to come with me?" I asked. "We can have a chat down there, if you like."
We went to the local pub for a few hours and back to my flat. We started kissing in the bedroom but Marina started to become nervous as I started to run my hand up her skirt.
"I'm still a virgin," she said nervously.
"You're joking, seriously, really?" I smiled, somewhat surprised.
"Honest, I've never done it before," she said, straight faced, as she wrapped her arms around me.
"You don't have to do anything if you don't want to. I won't touch you if you don't want me to," I told her, "but I must tell you, I want to. I've never done it with a virgin before."
Marina could see that I meant what I'd said and was prepared to leave her intact and untouched.
"I do want to," she said. "Just don't hurt me, just be gentle, ok."
She was certainly no virgin by morning and my back had suffered. She clawed all my back but we both enjoyed every minute of it.
Marina's mother was none too pleased about what had happened. "You're not on the pill or anything and I bet he didn't use anything. Did he?" her mother said anxiously.
"Well, I'm very sorry young lady, but you're not going over there again until you've been on the pill long enough for it to have taken effect. He can come to see you over here if he wants. I just hope you don't find you're pregnant from this time," she said.
Once Marina was safely protected by the pill she was allowed to come over to my flat but was not allowed to stay over night. This didn't stop our sex life at all but spoiled some of the enjoyment, having to watch the clock. Sometimes I'd wind the clock back, so that she could stay an extra half hour. I hated to rush a job that should take time. It never seemed right to just steal a few hours just to have sex before taking her back home, half the time with her knickers in her pocket.
We saw each other daily and I did grow very fond of Marina and it was a good relationship. Marina and I liked to go to the occasional restaurant and the occasional pub and went out whenever we could afford to. Sometimes we just drove round in the car, to find different and daring places to make love. We made love in the grounds surrounding the reservoir and in the grounds of the local hospital and sometimes we just did it in the car. Occasionally we would make love on her mothers dining table or on the kitchen floor, while her mother was watching television, in the lounge, upstairs. I did eventually tell Marina that I loved her and I meant it, but I still loved Stella. The feelings I had for Marina were never quite the same.
I had been working in the restaurant for about a year when things started going wrong. I suddenly had my hours cut by nearly half. I was very upset about this and found it almost impossible to pay my debts on the suddenly reduced income. The newly appointed manager was demanding the same amount of work to be done in half the length of time. It was impossible. I had always worked hard and had never been seen to be standing around, doing nothing. If the jobs were not finished by the end of the day, I was required to work over time without pay. The manager was finding more and more work for me to do each day, until I was working a ten-hour day for about six hours pay.
The day came when I had just about taken enough. I was scrubbing some pans in the kitchen sink and the manager came over and threw a handful of knives in the sink. "Hurry up," he ordered, "I want the cold room done."
"Can you put the knives on the side next time, please?" I said, as a reminder and to point out the mistake made.
I had previously asked the kitchen workers not to put the knives in the sink as I couldn't see them in the water and had sliced my hands a few times. These knives were very sharp.
A few minutes later the manager came over and put a large pan on the top, ready to be washed. I picked it up and dropped it on the floor with an almighty crash. It was bloody red-hot!
"Bastard," I yelled, not directed at anyone. Hot pans were always put on the floor so that accidents like this didn't happen. The manager was fully aware of this and had always put hot pans on the floor.
"What did you call me?" the manager asked angrily.
I turned back to the sink. "Nothing," I said, "I just burned myself on that pan."
The manager spun me around, "Look at me when you're talking to me. I said, what did you call me?" he said and then threw another handful of knives in the sink.
I turned to the sink filled a pan with greasy, dirty, washing up water and waited. The manager spun me again and I threw the water all over him and went to the staff room.
The big boss came into the staffroom following the complaint. "You're sacked! Get your things and get out. You have five minutes."
I had been out of work for some time before starting work in a chip shop on an occasional basis, where Marina also worked on a part time basis. I did the occasional disco with Marina at a few pubs and clubs around Birmingham before giving up the disco game for good. I sold the estate car to a scrap yard for £15.00. I had saved some money and bought myself a Ford Escort. I sold most of the disco equipment and made a huge loss. I used this money to pay for repairs on the car to get it to m.o.t. standard.
Some trouble broke out one evening in the chip shop, while I was working. The manager of the shop lost his temper with a guy who had been kicking the gaming machine. The manager had told this guy repeatedly to stop kicking the machine but he took no notice. The manager physically removed the guy from the shop, who promptly returned and threw a house brick through the window of the shop. He then ran inside and put another house brick through a hot food cabinet.
The manager gave chase after the guy and called out to me, "Phone the police!"
The police came but couldn't catch the guy. Some days later my flat was burgled and my video and television were stolen. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't even report the incident to the police. I had bought these items in good faith off a guy I thought I knew, for a £100. It turned out the guy had pinched them from a nearby house. I had some money put away and managed to replace the items fairly quickly. I had quite a lot of fairly nice things in the flat and I had the feeling that the burglars had probably seen me returning to the flat. I didn't think they had finished the job they had started and thought they would be back. I secured the flat the best I could and insured the contents.
Within days the chip shop was also burgled. My car had been tampered with on a few occasions and I was beginning to wonder when the trouble was going to end. The car had a perfectly good alarm installed and wheel locks on all the wheels but I woke up one morning to find all the doors wide open and the boot and bonnet. The wheels had been removed and placed neatly inside the car. I was a little upset but I also saw a funny side to the pranks. These guys were professional idiots. They had gone to all that trouble and left over £200.00 worth of wheels behind! I had no doubts about who was responsible for the burglary and the car. It was just as if they were trying to make a point, which they succeeded in doing.
The manager of the shop had unbreakable glass installed at the chip shop, as he too thought these guys would return. About a month later, the manager and I both thought the trouble to be over. We were wrong. My flat was burgled again. Most of the furniture was stolen and almost everything that had been left behind, had been destroyed. Clothing had also been stolen and several items had been slashed with a knife. This time the two guys had the perfect alibi. They were both already in prison for more serious crimes, involving firearms. I knew they were responsible and had sent their mates to do the job for them. My flat looked as if a hurricane had gone through it. When the police arrived, I was sat behind the front door, which was literally hanging off, with a hammer in my hand. I explained why I had the hammer and showed the police the cut up clothing. It was sickening! I had no way of closing the door and was afraid of the burglars returning. The police could see why I was so worried but stressed that it was very unlikely they would come back as there was nothing to come back for.
Although there was very little left in the flat, I was afraid to leave it. The dog I had at the house in Edgbaston had long since gone. I was worried to turn my back on the flat so I bought a fully grown Alsatian dog from a half caste woman who worked at the chip shop.
The woman warned me the dog could be very aggressive but that was exactly what I was looking for, an aggressive man-eater of a dog. This was one mean, guard dog! The problem was he wasn't too keen on letting anyone into the flat and that included me. After three days the dog turned on me. I was getting ready to go out and was putting my shoes on. The dog started jumping all over the place excitedly, obviously wanting to go out. The dog jumped up at me, whining like a lost puppy, but he was no puppy. He was a big dog.
"Off!" I commanded.
The dog continued jumping around. I didn't think it wise to smack the dog after only having him for a few days.
"Off! You stupid animal," I ordered.
After bowing my shoes laces, I stood up. The dog was still jumping all over the place and jumped up at me again. This time I turned away from the dog and raised my arm out of the way. The dog jumped up and sank his teeth in the top of my arm and pulled me to the ground. The first bite had punctured the muscle in the top of my arm and the fluid ran down, leaving my arm limp and useless. I was wrestling the dog on the ground with one arm and the weight of my body trying to hold him down. I knew if the dog was able to get up he would have the advantage and attack again.
Marina was in the flat at the time and I was afraid of the dog attacking her as well as me. Eventually I managed to throw the dog into the hallway and close him out of the room. I tried to give the dog time to calm down. I still couldn't lift my arm. It was hanging and flopping about like a loose empty sleeve. In the finish, I had no choice but to shout from the window for a neighbour to phone the police. The dog was not going to let anyone in or out, he had turned really nasty. A police dog handler arrived and managed to take the dog away without any real problem and I was taken to hospital.
"The wound to your thumb is very nasty," the doctor told me. "The wound to your arm will be ok, provided you keep it clean, but this thumb is very nasty, he's really chewed it up quite bad. We may need to amputate!" I could hardly believe my ears.
"You want to chop my thumb off, because of a bloody dog bite. You must be joking."
"Dog bites can cause some very nasty infections and he's certainly made a meal of your thumb," the doctor told me. "Your thumb may become infected."
A nurse applied a clean dressing to the wounds, "You have to come back in a week so the doctor can take another look at it. You must keep it clean."
I never went back to the hospital and the wounds healed up perfectly well without any drastic action. I bought myself another dog, only this time I bought an Alsatian puppy so that I could train the dog myself. Despite being only fourteen weeks old this dog was a rather nasty animal and had already bitten some guy while the previous owners had the dog. He had already drawn blood. When he was taken out for his walks, he would jump up to try to attack people in the street and he was very destructive in the flat.
Laurence had moved out of the flat, some months before the burglary, into his own flat in the Hockley area of Birmingham. He was well settled and was taking his time in decorating the place, just the way he wanted it. When he had finished, he seemed to take the next six months admiring his work of art, clearly proud of his achievements.
In comparing my brothers flat to my own partly demolished one, I decided it was time to move on. All the trouble I'd had, made me feel sick of this flat. I moved out in 1984 and went to live in a private house in Oldbury, belonging to the owner of the chip shop. The owner of the chip shop owned three houses in Ashes Road. He and his family lived in one and the other two were rented out privately.
Soon after moving into this house, I bought an Alsatian bitch from a rescue centre to keep my dog company. I thought it might help to distract the dog from ripping the place to pieces. The dog had ripped a massive hole in my bed and literally pulled out virtually all the stuffing and ate it. This dog had pulled a glass bowl containing some left over mashed potatoe onto the floor, smashing the bowl. He'd stood there and ate the potatoe and the glass bowl! On another occasion one of Marina's friends had been at the flat and had volunteered to do some washing up of dishes. She took off her gold diamond and sapphire engagement ring, leaving it on the kitchen worktop and the bloody dog ate it! He was, without doubt, a very expensive dog to keep and this one meal alone cost me over a hundred pound! I could see no reason for the dogs destruction and scavenging. The dog was very well fed with proper food and he was well cared for, but he was eating me out of house and home, literally!
The dog didn't like the Alsatian bitch that I'd bought and constantly attacked it, probably wanted to eat that too! The bitch decided she was not going to stand for his bullying. She jumped a six-foot fence and ran away.
While working in the chip shop, I decided to buy a better car as the old Ford Escort had become unreliable and presented problems in getting to work in the mornings. I bought a 1975 Morris Marina from a reputable car dealer. Each day I drove to work from my home in Oldbury. After work, I would go to Marina's house and drive back to the house in Oldbury for a few hours before taking Marina back home, as she was still not allowed to stay overnight. We had been together for about two years when things started to go wrong and we started to drift apart. I was getting tired of driving back and forth several times a day and having to race my sex life, and my driving. Marina was not allowed to stay at my house overnight and the constant running about became exhausting. I stayed away from Marina's house and appeared at her door again a week later.
"What do you want?" Marina asked.
"Let him in Marina and don't be so rude," came her mothers voice from the kitchen.
Marina swung open the door and left me to go into her mothers ever smiling face, while she retreated to another room. I sat and had a drink with her mother who wanted to hear some explanation as to why I hadn't been to see her daughter. As my words left my mouth, even I realized just how pitiful they sounded. I was truly sorry, but didn't want to say so. I went into the living room and sat down next to Marina, who immediately got up and went to sit in a chair.
"What do you want?" Marina asked, talking down her nose at me.
"We can sort this out," I said, "I was just overtired and needed some rest."
"Well, go home and get some sleep," she snapped. "We're finished!" I pleaded with her on bended knee, but she was a heartless bitch. I left the house wishing I'd never stayed away at all.
Things started going downhill rapidly after that and the life I had was crumbling around me. I lost my job in the chip shop. The manager discovered that I'd been using the phone in the shop to arrange bookings for the discos, without his consent.
A few days later I went out in the car, in the snow and ice and skidded into the back of a stationary car. The damage to the other car was only a broken glass in a tail light. My own car was a wreck. The front wing had completely crumpled right up against the door. I paid the owner of the escort £50.00 in cash for the damage I had done to his car. I didn't want any problems from insurance claims. I had never had a driving lesson in my life and had taken and failed my driving test on the one and only occasion that I tried to become legal on the road. I had driven about six cars, on a provisional license and was insured in someone elses name, so I tried to avoid any accident claims, or any questions from the police.
Everything seemed to be going wrong at the same time. I had lost my girlfriend and my job. My dog had mysteriously disappeared, I had been given notice to quit the house and now I had wrecked my car. I went to the pub and got drunk. I returned home, got into the car and finished it off.
Christmas was approaching and the depression had already set in. My whole world was falling apart, everything crumbling around me. I knew most people were making plans and getting ready for the Christmas festivities. I considered Christmas to be the worst time of year, I felt so isolated and so alone and I hated it.
Shortly before Christmas, I went out to the car in the middle of the night and calmly shoved a piece of hose pipe up the exhaust tailpipe and the other end to the inside of the car. I climbed into the car and started the engine. My feelings for Marina had grown quite strong and I had grown to love her. I felt so very lost. I felt as if my mother had completely wrecked my entire life. I could not cope with the life I had, a life I never really wanted. What happened to my childhood, why didn't I have one?
I sat in my car drinking a can of lager. I could feel the poisonous gases of the exhaust fumes building up inside the car, choking the life out of me. My stomach started churning, heaving and I started to feel very sick. I was coughing and choking violently. I felt very dizzy and my head was so very heavy. I could feel my life being drained away, slowly suffocating myself to death. My grandfather and uncle had both committed suicide in this way so I knew my chance of success was. . .
I woke up in Sandwell General Hospital about twelve days later. The doctors made constant checks on me, checking for any heart, lung or brain damage.
"Hello. Do you know where you are?" the doctor asked.
I couldn't see properly and wasn't with it at all. I was in the intensive care unit, looking at the ceiling but my mind was not functioning. The doctors returned later in the day. I really thought I was actually dead.
"Do you know where you are?" I could see a ghostly figure standing over me.
"Do you know where you are?" he asked again. I looked at the ghostly figure, standing in white.
"I must be in Heaven."
The doctor looked into the my eyes, shining a torch into them. "What is your name?" he asked.
I had no idea. I couldn't remember. My memory had completely gone. I had no recollection of anything. After a while the memory of what I had done started to return and the thoughts came flooding back into my head.
"I'm still bloody alive. Why can't people just sodding leave me alone to die in peace?" I was so disappointed and sorry to be alive!
My father came to see me at the hospital. The hospital staff had found his telephone number amongst papers I had in my wallet after being admitted. My father was very upset and angry with what I had done.
My landlord and his wife, Kashmir, also came to see me. "It was me who found you," Kashmir said. She appeared very upset.
"You were dead," she explained. "When the ambulance arrived you were not breathing and I was trying to save you. The ambulance men said your heart had stopped beating. They had to put some 'electric pads' (fast patches) on you and had to shock you back to life."
"I came with you to the hospital and your heart kept stopping in the ambulance. You were dead when you arrived at the hospital. Everyone was running around. It was very frightening," she said.
On Christmas eve, I was released from the hospital and collected by Beverley's father-in- law. Beverley had married her long standing boyfriend, John, after becoming pregnant. They married in 1983 and my sister gave birth to their daughter, whom they named Stacey.
My father had left my mother very shortly after Michele's death. He was settled with another lady, June. Laurence was settled in his flat. He seemed to be smothered by friends while living at my flat but most of them rarely bothered with him after he moved from Ladywood. My brother visited my sister almost every day. My mother had successfully driven everyone away and was living on her own, although Laurence and Beverley did visit her occasionally. I believed my mother was happy enough. She had a house full of furniture, which my father was still paying for and nobody around to make bits on the carpet. I certainly didn't have any sympathy for my mother.
I spent Christmas at Beverley's home in Chelmsley Wood, with Bev, John, Stacey and Laurence. I could see that I had ruined their Christmas and was really very sorry about that. They never took their eyes off me as they knew sooner or later I would try again.
The Christmas passed without any real fuss or celebrations. Knowing that I was responsible for ruining their Christmas made me feel worse. Laurence insisted that I move into his flat in the new year and I spent the whole of 1985 at my brothers flat. Laurence was very angry with me and was trying to keep me alive. As Laurence only had a one bedroom flat, I slept on the settee in the living room while my own furnishings remained in Oldbury. Laurence would not let me out of his sight for any length of time. Every time he went out, I went with him. I could see my brother was concerned about me but my feelings were very deep and powerful. My wish to die was constant.
While living at my brothers flat, I climbed out of the twelfth floor window while my brother slept in the next room. I sat on the two-inch wide window ledge but could not find the courage to jump.
'What if I jump and I don't die? I'd be a cabbage for the rest of my life, ' I thought.
All my thoughts were negative and I couldn't find the courage to jump. I sat on the ledge thinking if I were to fall asleep, I would just fall off. I was so very desperately miserable and empty. My life had no meaning or purpose. Some days later, I took two bottles of sleeping tablets which I obtained from doctors prescription. The doctor was aware of my suicidal tendencies and the tablets he prescribed had no effect at all.
I had applied to the council for a flat of my own, but in reality I didn't want to be on my own. While at my brothers flat I just sat around most of the time, doing nothing. I rarely spoke to my brother or any visitors who visited the flat. Laurence didn't want me to die and was afraid to let me out of his sight, but he was also getting fed up of me being constantly around him.
"You don't need to keep watching me and can't change the way I feel," I told him. "You can't stop me from dying. We both know it's going to happen, it's just a matter of when, where and how."
Eventually I did try to get myself out of the severe depressive state I was in and tried to stop my brother from constantly worrying. By the time Christmas had arrived once more, Laurence had eased off a little and I started to show a slight improvement. Laurence went to Bev's for Christmas and I stayed at my brothers flat. I took Marina a Christmas present on Christmas eve and she returned it with her new boyfriend and her brother on Christmas day. I had not seen Marina since we had split up and I was missing her quite a lot. I felt very hurt by the return of the gift. I was so very depressed and lonely. I sat in the flat on my own drinking, staring at the television, absorbing nothing.
Chapter 7: Tears of Joy