ENGLAND

My right hand shook as I scribbled as much as I could of this in my notebook. “Did you ever . . .you know, get into trouble . . . um, when you were acting outside the law like that?” was my halting question.

“Sure,” Connor said with what passed as a wry grin on his twisted lips. “The first time the cops grabbed me wiz in Oxford. A mob o’ aulder guys and me – no’ McMahon – took a train doon tae London. It wisnae furr the fitba’. Jist a wee change o’ scene.. We hid a terrific time. Oor boys wurr bullyin’ English guys in pub doorways, wavin’ open cutthroat razors in their faces as they threatened them. ‘Ah cut yer ear aff, Pom-gobbler,’ wan o’ oor mob wid growl at his victim, ‘whit urr ye gonnae tell them at work oan Monday when ye turn up wi’ a big white cloth bandage tied roon yer heid wi’ a big, floppy bow oan tap? Urr ye jist gonnae say somethin’ really crazy? “Haw, boss, Ah hid a wee accident when Ah wiz shavin’ this morning. Cut ma ear clean aff, so Ah did.” ‘Is that whit ye’re gonnae tell everybody?’ Right tae this day, son, threatening behaviour by Scottish fans in Pommy cities is very much par furr the course.”

I pretended to find his fantasy about a shaving accident amusing.

“What was so great,” I asked, “about subjecting other people to violence?”“Power,” he replied.

“ And these English folk you were threatening,” I asked, “just let you bully them like that?”

“Sure,” Connor said with a smirk. “As soon as ye showed them a blade and asked them if they wanted some o’ this, they crawed it.”

“They just meekly turned away?” I queried.

“Certainly,” Connor remarked with satisfaction. “Nane o’ that ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ nonsense goat a look in then, and still disnae. The meek are there to be smashed. They get oan the wrang side o’ me, they’ll inherit a chibb oan the jaw.”

In my gut I knew it was pointless to offer Christian articles of faith like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ to this man. He was displaying a trait I found disturbing. He exuded lack of remorse. He was completely indifferent to the hurt and mistreatment he inflicted on others.

“Another thing we done,” Connor said, laughing with the pleasure of the memory, “wiz follow English lasses oan the street shoutin’ ‘Hey, lasses, here’s fellas.’ They wanted nothin’ tae dae wi’ us and they aye ran away as fast as their wee legs wid carry them.”

There was a long pause in the narrative. Connor shook his head. “We stole a bus, a single decker,” the gangster admitted ruefully. “Well, ‘Gudgie’ Strachan wiz the wan that hot-wired it. A’ the guys piled intae the bus, me behind them. Ah didnae know whit wiz goin’ on. Ah was, Ah wiznae even eleven years auld. So we’re a’ singin’ aboard the bus when we run oot o’ fuel and Strachan guided us intae a lay-by jist ootside Oxford.”

“What did you all do?” I asked.

“Carried oan chantin’, Connor said. “Heart of My Heart, Keep Right On to the End of the Road, and Ah’m the Saftest o’ the Faimly a’ goat big licks fae us. ‘Don’t panic,’ Gudgie Strachan bawled as he conducted the singin’ fae the driver’s seat, ‘we’ve jist run oot o’ juice. Somebody’ll be alang in a minute.’”

“And did somebody turn up?” I asked.

“Aye, the polis,” Connor said. “We wiz a’ nabbed by aboot a dozen cops, and we wurr taken tae a nick in the city where we hid a weekend lie-in afore appearin’ in coort the followin’ Monday. The big guys goat lang sentences in prisons and borstals. Me, Ah wiz too young furr Young Offenders even, and they sent me tae St John’s Home for Wayward Boys in the city centre.”

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