Not being funny or anythink mate like he says, but ent you got nuffink apart from this old granddad music? I mean, it's cool and all, don't get me wrong an that, but it ain't exactly banging is it? I mean.
I pause momentarily in the demolition of my egg and beans. No sausage. Take a slug from a mug of lukewarm tea, three sugars. You need it, this time of day. I slowly look up at him, giving him the stare. This is not easy with watery supermarket own brand bean juice making a lackadaisical beeline from one corner of my mouth to my chin. I can feel the progress of the rivulet and want to twitch, but don't. Instead, I squint. He steps back. He's gone from being right in my face, leaning in, to a slightly more relaxed stance. For some reason he cups his balls with both hands, as though he's expecting a free kick, or a more obvious assault on his person. He's stood about a foot away now, but I can still smell his breath. It's last night's cider and some kind of rotten meat; or else it's this morning's, the eye-opener. I want to say to him, you should brush your teeth occasionally mate, I can still smell your mother's cunt on your breath from earlier, but I know I probably smell almost as bad. I stop with the squinting, swallow some beans, dab at my chin with the heel of my hand, rub it into my combat kecks. I fold some fried egg into half a piece of soggy white toast, pop it into my mouth, rub my palms over my thighs, yawn. When I open them he's still there. He hasn't moved.
It's 9:45 in the am mate, I tell him. Who the fuck wants banging at 9:45am?
My missus usually mate he says, scratching himself down there. Really, it's more of a fondle, the left hand standing close by in case it's needed. I look away.
Getting a bit old for that these days though, you know what I mean? he says, after a pause. Must be true what they say mate, you know, about women maturing later than men. About them getting much hornier much later on than us lot.
He does the air quotes for maturing. He does everything but wink. I look at him a little more closely, sizing him up. Think, you must be all of seventeen son. Where's your worry lines? I've fucking got 'em.
Gagging for it morning, noon or night she is, he goes on. Can't keep up with her, I can't. What about you? You getting any? You ain't a bender are ya? No offense, like.
On the tape, the granddad music segues from Concrete Jungle into Too Hot.
Andy Sparrow, Fritz and Rupert are there in the corner, eating quietly. You can tell from the civilised way Rupert cuts his sausage into little pieces he's never been to comprehensive school or prison. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he was a visitor once. Some kind of family bankruptcy and tax haven scandal in the seventies. What do I know? I don't know any of these people. And no-one tells the truth about their past anyway.
Ya aren't though are ya mate? says the fondler. That's how I'll think of him from now on, he's the fondler.
We are at breakfast. I mean, obviously we are at breakfast. Given the time and the food and the tea. But the name of the place we are at is breakfast too, except it isn't really. Let me explain.
Everyone just calls it breakfast. Its actual title is Swindon Daybreak. If you're homeless, or squatting, or sofa-surfing, then five mornings a week, you can just rock up and get fed, take your pick from a variety of clean jumble sale clothes. There's no underwear, but there are toothbrushes, toothpaste, cans of Lynx. I mean, Lynx, fucksake. I even saw some costume jewellery there once. There are no books. No showers either, but there are toilets. In my current squat there's a toilet, but Steve has blocked it up with the old newspapers he uses to wipe his arse. Steve's been described as ESSEX MAN GONE BAD. I've tried to unblock it, the toilet in the squat, I've put on rubber gloves and I've started digging around in there, holding my nose and mouth in the air as best I can, because although it's an old house there's actually nothing wrong with the plumbing. But there's just too much of it down there, and the further in you go, the more compacted it gets. Besides, if I ever got to the end of it, I have this mental picture of a giant rat waiting there to grab a hold of my hand and gnaw it off. Or something worse, an anaconda, or maybe a crocodile. Because you do hear stories. It's not just New York.
But I'm getting off the point here. The main thing about breakfast is the breakfast. It's proper café food, plus cereal: this is way before those cereal cafés in London, the hipster places. This is 1991. There isn't the internet or even mobile phones yet. I did see someone with one in the Rolleston once, a mobile phone. Great place for Friday afternoon drinking, the Rolly was, back in the day, might still be now for all I know. Some things don't change. Ideal lunchtime experience with a nice cold beer, it said in the window. Anyway, the phone. Fucking massive it was, one of the early ones. Like on that Trigger Happy TV. The bloke was wearing a shirt and tie like, not unusual for Swindon in the eighties. Or the post-eighties, I dunno what you'd call it, that hinterland between Rick Astley and Elastica. Hinterland. Fucking wasteland, more like.
Anyway, the bloke only pulled it out because it rang. Fuck knows who was ringing him, there can't have been more than about ten of 'em in the whole of Wiltshire back then. The office, I s'pose. So he pulls it out, he says yeah, hello? like. And immediately everyone's turned around and started staring and braying yuppie at him. This was back when the word actually meant something. It wasn't chanting, more of a low mass jeer, with this weird background groaning hum, like you used to do in school assembly to get on the teachers' nerves. There can't have been all that many people in there, but it sounded like more. Like school assembly all over again. I can't remember what happened after that. I suppose he went outside to take the call.
So that was my first indirect experience of a mobile phone. What the fuck was I talking about that for? Oh yeah. 1991. No hipsters, no phones. That's it.
Anyway, he's moved away now, the fondler has. He's got bored, given up on his enquiries into banging techno versus granddad music, and am I or am I not a bender, and he's sat quietly in the corner, demolishing a massive pile of marmalade on toast, stacked up there like American pancakes. He must have used up half the jar. And sitting quietly is a relative term. The way he's slurping away at his tea, you may as well give him a straw and tell him to blow bubbles, the fucking chimp.
The granddad music’s moved on through Monkey Man and into (Dawning of a) New Era. That's what it feels like here sometimes, being out on the edge of civilisation. Like something's about to snap, like, with a big old p-twaaang. It's like we're on the end of a taut length of frayed elastic, old and smelly and half rotten like granddad's braces, about to propelled into the unknown and there's fuck all we, or anyone else, can do about it. It's just coming. Everyone knows, but nobody talks about it. The M4 is just up the road by Chiseldon pit, the travellers site, connecting us to London, which is only about an hour away by train, but the only people I can think of who go up there are the petit-bourgeois goths with their parents' cars on loan, off up to the Slimelight for the night, or to see Fields of the Nephilim at the Kilburn Nash. We're like a gigantic wart that's grown off granddad's rancid nipple and encased half the width of one of the braces, and is slowly, quietly, patiently, eating it away. Something's gotta give man, you know I mean like? Something's gotta give and soon. I can feel it.