Diary of a Bad Lad – The Novel – 1st 47 pages

“A Diary of a Very Bad Lad”

Edited from the original police dossier of evidence


Jonathan Williams


The following has been edited from the original dossier of evidence presented to the Crown Prosecution Service by North Essex Constabulary. It consists of computer diary entries by Barry Lick, additional diary entries by Michael Booth and Paul Birtwistle, together with transcripts from a number of digital video tapes that were seized from premises belonging to Tommy Morghen. These were originally edited into some form of narrative by the team investigating what came to be known as “The White Coppice Case”; which, besides containing documentary evidence of murder, also suggested that persons within the night club security business in the North-West of England were involved in the importation and distribution of large quantities of cocaine.

The CPS decided not to proceed with the case on the basis that this ‘evidence’ was not only circumstantial and unreliable; but also, due to the demise of the above-mentioned diarists, it could not be contested in open court and hence it would be impossible to separate fact from fiction. What is clear however from this evidence is that some, if not all of the murders were committed by two Dutch drugs dealers whose mutilated bodies were discovered several months later in a canal near Alsmeer; and thus the case was no longer of concern to the UK authorities.

As a result Mr. Morghen’s solicitors were able to successfully argue for the return of all this material – material which then went on to form the basis for the film, ‘Diary of a Bad Lad’.

At Mr. Morghen’s request I have condensed the original dossier into something of more manageable length. In doing this my focus has been strictly on the material which ‘tells the story’. Throughout it has been clear to me that Barry was seeking to protect his sources by often turning fact into fiction. Not only did he change people’s names, he also falsified their descriptions; as well as going to the extent of creating accounts of events which, for dramatic purposes, bore little relation to the truth.

It also became clear to me that Barry was deeply affected by his suspension from work, and I have dealt with his account of this in full. It is my own personal believe that this seriously affected his judgement – that because the college had accused him of being some form of ‘bad lad’ for taking what he considered to be an honest approach to the teaching of Media Studies, he’d go and show them just what ‘bad’ is when it comes to tabloid-style journalism. This could have been fair enough if he had not shamelessly exploited his position in order to recruit others to his endeavour – others who he knew would be only too willing to follow.

Jonathan Williams, 2008

2 September.

Hi! My name’s Barry Lick. My business card says I’m an “Independent Film Maker”, which isn’t strictly correct. Really it should say: “Frustrated Independent Film Maker”.
To begin with I did have some success, making a series of big budget environmental documentaries about the destruction of the world’s rain forests for Channel Four. But that was back in the days when they were interested in “Big Issues”, rather than “Big Brother”. So now you know I’m a bit of a risk-taking-radical as well as a bona fide filmmaker.
It wasn’t just because Channel Four went popular that the work dried up. Just about everyone who’s done anything for the Channel soon finds out how things work. Channel Four isn’t a TV company, it’s a publisher. It doesn’t employ any production people, only bureaucrats – called “commissioning editors”, and clerks – called “assistant this”, and “assistant that”, whose job it is to put as many hoops and hurdles in the way of the independent producers who make all the shows that the Channel doesn’t buy from America.
It wasn’t so bad in the early days as there weren’t that many independent film and TV producers around. Back then Britain only had a couple of film schools, along with one university and a couple of poly’s where you could learn the trade, so there wasn’t that much competition. But that was before Thatcher began to revolutionise the education system by introducing market forces. However that was nothing to do with the demands of the labour market. No, students were the market. Universities and colleges had to put ever more bums on seats, and the only way they could do that was through putting on courses that students wanted to do, rather than society needed. And, let’s face it, a lot of starry-eyed kids like you lot want to study the media. The market for media education mushroomed, and pretty soon media students outnumbered the total number of people employed in the UK media industry. And a lot of them started pitching ideas to Channel Four.
This had a number of effects. Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of economics knows that an increase in supply brings down the price. But quality programmes still cost money, so it dumbs down the content. But media studies also dumbs down the quality on the supply side. Let me explain:
Once upon a time, before Media Studies, the BBC recruited people like me – people with Oxbridge Firsts in history, politics, international relations, literature, physics – you name it; and then trained them in the arts of programme making. Then the ITV companies would come along and poach people with offers of more money. But at least those people knew what they were doing.
But media studies graduates haven’t studied anything other than a rag-bag of post-modernist philosophy, some largely Marxist inspired media sociology, a bit of media history – don’t worry if you don’t follow any of that – and have played about with, at best, some semi-professional equipment. And most of the people teaching this crap have never worked in the media in their lives – they’re only doing it to satisfy the demands of their student customers. The students graduate and they’re desperate for work. But they don’t have anything to say, so they’re suitable fodder to work for virtually nothing on game shows and life-style programmes.
None of this was Channel Four’s fault, but it was a situation the Channel had to respond to. And if you’ve got a lot of people beating a path to your door, well, you feel guilty if you don’t give at least some of them a crack at it; so give them a one off, or a bit of a series. But after that it’s someone else’s turn and you’re out of the loop.
You might think I sound bitter about Channel Four, that I’ve got some sort of chip on my shoulder, but I’m not. I mean: what would you do in their position? And it’s not just Channel Four either. Go into the newsroom of any regional ITV company and you’ll find hardly anybody who’s on a permanent contract. Most have only got one for three months, six if they’re lucky. They’re all there, answering the phones and pitching for themselves. “Hello,” they say, “my name’s so-and-so and I’m a freelance journalist working for ITV.” They’re all worried about how they’re going to pay the mortgage next month. They spend their free time trying to come up with an idea they can pitch to their employer that’ll get them another three month’s work – and they don’t get paid for developing ideas. And they’re trying to keep feet in other doors. They’re writing articles for trade magazines, doing night-time graveyard shifts at weekends on local radio, or maybe a couple of hours a week teaching in some local college. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I mean, that’s how I came to end up having to teach you lot.
Of course there are some of you who’ve believed the hype that there’s never been more opportunities in British film and television. Sure there will be loads of TV channels coming on stream, but that’s just going to spread the money even more thinly. Sure there’s a big upturn in British film production. There’s National Lottery money, British Screen Finance, FilmFour, European money, tax breaks for private investors. But lots of the films being made aren’t even getting distributed. Why? Well a lot of people say it’s because the Americans control all the cinemas, and they should be forced to show a certain percentage of British films. But I don’t think that’s the case. Cinemas aren’t charities; they’re there to screen films that audiences want to see. They don’t have a problem in screening British films like “Trainspotting”, or “The Full Monty”, but why should they screen crap? And that’s what the funding system’s set up to produce. Here’s how it works.
Let’s imagine, and I’m sure it’s the case, that some of you out there listening to this lecture – and it’s nice to see some old faces as well as all you new recruits. Yes! Come on! Let’s have the ex-students put their hands up! See, they’re here because they haven’t got jobs, so they’ve come along to cop one of Barry’s gigs. And, OK, I did put the word about that I was going to tell the truth this time – that they might get something out of what I was going to say. But, where was I? Oh yes, some of you out there might be aspiring feature filmmakers. So you’ve written this script. And you’ve been lucky – you’ve managed to avoid being infected with the idea that “The Piano” is a great movie and it’s things like that you should be writing. No, let’s say you’ve actually discovered for yourself some of the secrets of low-budget filmmaking. But I’m running ahead of myself, I should tell you them first.
Audiences are looking for cheap thrills. Cheap means one location. Thrills mean sex and violence. So, rule number one is: put a maximum of a dozen characters in one location and have them cut each other up – “Reservoir Dogs” – am I right? Rule number two comes from Hitchcock: “Torture the women” – just look at all that Wes Craven stuff. Let’s take an actual case study. Michael – that’s Michael sitting at the back, the little guy with glasses, he’s one of my most talented ex-students. He’s won prizes at festivals, and he’s had a couple of scripts short-listed by both the BBC and Channel Four. He’s also spent a long time trying to get a feature film off the ground. Michael, do you mind if I talk about “Day-Tripping”? Cos I’m going to anyway. Right? Good, here’s the pitch.
There’s this guy called Brett. He’s a bit of a lad, a bit of a chancer. He likes drugs, pornography and women, but his girlfriend’s threatening to ditch him if she catches him playing around again. Brett has a mate who works in a porn shop, and one day he pops in for a chat. His mate’s got a problem. The boss is away on holiday, and he couldn’t resist taking five hundred quid out of the till for a crate of really hardcore porn that someone offered him cheap. You might not realise this, but you don’t get any real porn at all in British sex-shops, so this stuff is worth thousands. Brett’s mate planned to sell it under the counter, but when he had a closer look he saw it was too hot to handle. Sure there was a lot of Dutch gang-bang and lesbo-action stuff, but the bottom of the crate was full of kiddie-porn, nuns performing with donkeys, even a few snuff movies. He’s totally paranoid about it, and he needs to have the money back in the till before the boss comes back or else the boss’ll break his legs. Brett offers to help him out. He’ll give him six hundred for the whole crate, but he won’t have the money till the end of the week. So his mate says: OK, but if he doesn’t get the money he’ll tell the boss and Brett’ll get his legs broken too.
Brett is well made up, but he spends most of the week getting stoned and looking at the porn, rather than selling it. Time’s running out, and he starts getting paranoid too. He needs something to calm him down, so he goes round to a scabby little dealer mate of his for some smack. They get wasted and it turns out his mate’s got a similar problem – some big dealers let him have a load of smack on credit, and he hasn’t the money to pay them back. But he’s got a plan. Why don’t he and Brett rob this little local night club. He’s got a couple of guns that he’s looking after for some crack dealer. All they have to do is make a couple of masks, burst in at closing time, wave the guns around, and they’ll be home free. They load up on whizz and do it. They get away with the money but it all goes wrong. The club’s owner ends up getting shot in the arse and the police have issued their descriptions. Brett can pay off his debt for the porn, but he needs an alibi.

Now Brett knows this stinking rich recluse, a pervert named Conrad who lives miles from nowhere in the Lake District. Conrad likes kiddie porn and cocaine. Brett rings him up and offers him both – at what Conrad thinks is a cheap price, but Brett is actually setting up a situation in which he’ll be able to blackmail Conrad into giving him an alibi. Brett then sees that he’s an opportunity to impress his girlfriend, Lisa, by taking her with him for a weekend at Conrad’s. But Lisa insists that they take this really drippy couple with them.
Brett borrows his uncle’s van, hides the crate of porn in the back, and they set off. En route they get hopelessly lost. Night falls, the van breaks down, and there’s a storm brewing. They go looking for a phone box, but all they find is what seems to be an old abandoned derelict hospital. The storm breaks, so Brett decides they’ll have to shelter there for the night.
It turns out that it used to be a mental hospital which was closed down under the “care in the community” scheme. Basically that meant that all the patients were kicked out and left to fend for themselves. But the hospital used to have an experimental ward for the treatment of very dangerous psychopaths who, thanks to a bureaucratic error, were kicked out onto the streets as well. Some of the psycho’s stuck together and, after spending some time living in cardboard boxes, decided to go back and squat in part of the old hospital. They do not want to be disturbed – and now these two young couples have turned up, threatening to ruin everything. But it is an opportunity for them to have a bit of fun – of the rape, mayhem and murder kind – and so begins a night of utter terror…
OK. So you’ve not only written this script, you’ve also made a forty-minute pilot on U-matic which has been a great success in some major festivals. So you approach FilmFour, and what happens? They turn you down because the idea’s too commercial! Then you approach all the funding bodies I mentioned earlier, and you find out they all have the same catch. They won’t even look at it. At best they’ll come up with half the money – as matched funding, which means you’ve got to have raised half the budget already. And even if you have, there’s no guarantee they’ll come up with the rest. So, instead of being in a position of being able to get on with such as developing the script and making sure it’s going to be excellent, you’re faced with maybe having to spend years trying to chase the money. It’s all the wrong way round. If they were to say: we’re definitely interested, we’ll come up with half the budget, but we want to see some more development and we’ll give you twelve months to find the rest, you’d be in with a chance. But, when you read the small print you find out that they’re committed to funding projects of “artistic and cultural merit”, i.e. films that people don’t want to see, so you don’t have a chance any way.
Right, well I can see that a lot of you are now wondering why on earth you enrolled on this course in the first place. And why no one told you any of this when you applied. Well, it’s just the way the system works now. Colleges and universities sell courses, so you’re here to pay our wages. But it’s not all bad. This course is the equivalent of three A levels, but it’s got a better success rate and we get more students into university. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun. Some of you may be sensible and decide to concentrate on journalism, so you might end up with a job on a local paper or a trade magazine. But if you think you’re just going to walk into a career in film and television, forget it. Sure you’re unlikely to get anywhere without a degree, but the most important things to have are: a very thick skin, an ability to never take no for an answer, more ambition than Tony Blair, boundless enthusiasm, and a willingness to work on absolutely anything.

– O –

That’s pretty much the content and the tone of what I said in my opening lecture.
Afterwards some of the ex-students invited me for a drink that evening. They were all, broadly-speaking, working class – the core of a group who’d actually finished at the college three years ago. The best group I’d ever had. At least they’d all been completely commercial in their outlook and knew what audiences wanted. In their first year I’d let them make a magazine programme, called “The Unexplained” which was all about ghosts, human spontaneous combustion, things like that. And they’d done a slasher video, which got them a lot of festival success, in the second year. Both had been written and directed by Michael. And I’d had to keep what they were doing hidden from the Christian-Mafia that ran the college. Maybe that’s something I should expand on a bit.

It had all started in the late 80’s when the college appointed a new principal, John T. Hughes, B.A. – a real Thatcherite managerial type with an ego the size of Canary Wharf, and a born again Christian – which meant that, as far as he was concerned, he didn’t just have the Tories on his side, but God as well. He was a vicious little man with so few initials after his name – I mean, B.A! Not B.A. (Hons), no M.Ed, no management qualifications – that he insisted in sticking an initial in the middle of his name: T – for TOSSER. He couldn’t wait for all Britain’s colleges to be incorporated as PLC’s, cos he’d then be a chief executive. Every night he’d go home and read American books with titles like “The Managerial Revolution”. At least that’s what he’d tell everyone whenever he called endless so-called staff development days when he’d stand at the front with his ‘PowerPoint’ slides and his financial projections. It was all “dog eat dog”, that we’d got to “recruit or die” if we wanted to keep our jobs, and that he’d keep us all on our toes by “maximising the irritation factor”. Students weren’t students anymore, they were “customers” whom we had to compete for in the market place. He set up layer upon layer of management – and you could instantly recognise the managers because of the little fish symbol lapel badges that they wore on their jackets. He even set up a recruitment task force which toured the county’s secondary schools, showering them with expensive promotional materials, and which handled all of the applications, interviews and admissions. The college had to present an image of being totally business-like, professional, and respectable; and he spent a fortune on hiring design consultants with a brief to make the college look like the headquarters of a newly privatised public utility company. The classrooms were still shit, but the corridors and the entrance – which now led into the “administration center”, looked fantastic. Anything that he found remotely offensive had to be taken down or painted over in the college’s corporate colour scheme – and that even included an exhibition of life-drawings in the Art block!
But he was a brilliant hustler for money, although not necessarily for money that the teaching staff actually wanted. No, what he did was to set up a self-financing “Office for Resource Development”, with a brief to trawl through every possible funding body that the college could tap into – which mainly meant European money, and to “professionally” apply for it. Money poured in for “resource-based learning centers” – i.e. rooms full of computers which no one knew how to use, “broad-band networks” which linked every staff room into the “management information system” – a means whereby managers sent you E-mails telling you that the faculty was already overspent, so if you wanted any chalk you’d have to buy it yourself, and for a “media center” with a target to recruit more than one hundred students onto media courses, and produce “resource-based learning materials” so that the college could save money by ultimately time-tabling one-third of all courses as project-based work, supervised by technicians, in the rooms full of computers that no one still knew how to use and which were already out of date.
These two tasks: teaching students and producing “distance learning materials” were to be done at the same time. I mean hairdressing students had to cut hair and run the salon. Hotel and catering students had to make money running the restaurant and the bakery shop. Motor vehicles students had to run the repair shops. So media students could earn their keep by making the materials through which other students would learn. He seriously thought that my job, as lecturer in video production, was to be in charge of such a barmy process. I tried to explain to him that I had a syllabus to teach, and that’s what I was paid to do; that it wasn’t my job to be the unpaid author of teaching materials, which he expected me to do in my own time, and which were aimed at putting other members of staff out of work. But he’d just brush me off and tell me to take it up with my Dean of Faculty. At least the Dean was a decent old bloke who’d originally been a sculptor. He simply told me to ignore it. “Just keep your head down and get on with recruiting and teaching students,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Tosser will soon get another bee in his bonnet. He’s too busy playing at being a manager to know what goes on in the college.” He was right. At least it looked that way, but actually he spent a lot of time protecting his staff from Tosser Hughes’ attempts at bullying people. Finally he couldn’t take it any more and accepted the principal’s offer of early retirement. And that was when things got to be really bad.
Tosser replaced him by promoting Matthew Reed, someone from Business Studies and a devout Catholic, as the new Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts. I mean, can you believe it! What’s more Reed looked like a war criminal – someone who’d worked as a “doctor” in one of Hitler’s death camps: steel frame glasses, ferret features, and a head as bald as a bullet. Reed started investigating every member of staff. He came into the Media Centre and demanded to see all the student productions. I wasn’t worried. My students had the best pass rate in the whole college, and we’d already won several prizes in student festivals. There was no way in which they could touch me. At least that’s what I thought. But, Hey Presto, a week later I’m called up in front of the principal.
“How do you explain this?” says Tosser Hughes, brandishing a copy of “Jane’s Story” under my nose.
Now “Jane’s Story” was the student production I’d been most proud of. It had been made by a group of students when the moral panic about child abuse had been at its height. They’d contacted various charities and written a short drama about a sixteen-year-old girl, Jane, who’d been sexually abused by her father for several years. Jane’s a new student on a media studies course at a college. There’s the end of term Christmas party, but Jane is very withdrawn. Secretly she hides behind a curtain in the TV studio and waits for everyone to leave. She then proceeds to set up a camera and a microphone, sits down in front of it, and records a suicide note which tells the whole sad story, punctuated by a series of flash-backs, culminating in how she’s now discovered she’s pregnant by her father, before swallowing a bottle of pills. Fortunately she’s found by a caretaker who’s going round locking up the college for the holiday. The tape’s found, everything comes out, and the father – played by yours truly- is sent to gaol.
One of the flashbacks had been a sexual abuse scene. I’d only agreed to it if it was very toned down, that the abuse was suggested rather than shown. But the Christian-Mafia went mad. Tosser ranted and raved about what parents would think if they knew that this sort of thing went on in the college. He ended up issuing me with an official final written warning that was to last for five years. And if I was ever hauled up before him again I’d be out. It was pathetic. He’d broken every procedural rule in the book. I hadn’t had any union representation, and he didn’t have a leg to stand on. If he ever tried to carry out his threats I’d sue the bastard for wrongful dismissal.
At least some good came of it. Matthew Reed did know something about employment law. He knew he’d be implicated and begged me to just keep my head down. And it did focus my attention on finding a way out of the place. Somehow I was going to have to get back into production.

Anyway, that’s enough of the background for now.

I met the ex-students after work in “The Pleased Sheep”. Birtie and Roxie had both graduated a few months before and were desperate to work on anything. And then there was Michael, my most talented student ever. Michael had only lasted a year at Uni. Despite what he’d been told at his interview, they’d done no practical work at all. He’d spent most of his time developing his ideas for some “slasher” movie scripts; but the staff, none of whom had written a script in their lives, had told him he needed to learn to walk before he could run, so he’d jacked it in and was trying to plough his own furrow. He’d been doing part-time factory jobs and writing like mad. Both the BBC and Channel Four had short-listed some of his work, but it’s really hard to make that final breakthrough, especially when you live “up North” and not in London.
They were all pretty depressed. What Birtie wanted to do was to act, especially in anything written by Michael, and we all knew how good he was. Roxie was a Goth, all black clothes, silver jewellery and death mask make-up. She was into doing horror movie special effects, and you could tell just by looking at her that she had talent. She was a pretty good technician too, both on camera and sound, which had got her some work with a local wedding video maker – who did have a bit of a problem with her appearance. Well, just imagine it: someone’s paying for their daughter’s wedding video and the person on camera looks like an extra from “Brides of Dracula”! And Michael, well he was so stressed by more than two years of nearly making it that about the only thing he could talk about was how he’d been diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome. Michael was the most desperate of the lot.
“It’s a real piss off,” said Birtie, starting on another pint. “We all did your course and it was absolutely brilliant. You were so positive. You really got our hopes up. But it was all lies about how we were going to make it. And then we went to Uni and since then it’s been nothing but shit. You were right to say what you said in your first lecture this morning, Media Studies is nothing but one big rip-off. I should have done what you did, Michael, I should have walked out at the end of the first week. I feel like I’ve wasted three years of my life – three fucking years!”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I haven’t got the stomach to go on teaching it much longer. But I’ve got a feeling we might have been barking up the wrong tree. And that’s what I want to talk with you lot about.”
They were all keen to hear what I had to say.
“OK, let’s look at the problem. If you shoot anything on film it costs a fortune. Let’s say you were to do something on 16mm. The TV companies hardly use it anymore, but they’ve got a lot of old stock that they’re never going to use. It only takes about a day on the phone to find someone who’ll give you more than you need. Spend about a week on the phone and you might get most of the kit. But, whatever happens, you’ve still got to pay the lab for all the processing. And to get anything shown in a cinema it’ll have to be blown to 35mm. By the time you’ve finished you’re looking at more than fifty grand in lab costs. But film’s soon going to be a thing of the past. The broadcasters don’t use film anymore, but they’re still making things that look like they’ve been made on film. Things like “This Life”; it looks like super 16mm, but it’s actually made on digital video.”
“Yes,” said Michael. “But it still cost £400 a day to hire a digital Betacam…
“And you need access to some very expensive post-production kit,” interrupted Roxie. “It doesn’t come out of the camera looking like film – you have to electronically process it afterwards. And you still can’t show it in a cinema.”
“True, but what’s so important about cinema anyway? What I’m suggesting is making stuff for virtually nothing.”
“Oh, come on, man,” said Birtie, “I’ve spent the past five fucking years acting and doing God knows what else for no money. I mean, how many fucking festival prizes do you have to win before you get paid? I want to be rich!”
“And famous,” I said.
“All right then, how?”
“Go straight to video. Look, I’ll give you an example. Video stores buy the copies for £40, and they take all the rental money, there’s no royalties involved. The production company gets about twenty-five per cent. That’s ten quid for every copy. I saw some figures the other day for “Beyond Bedlam”, you remember, that scabby little rip-off of “Silence of the Lambs”. It hardly got any cinema distribution, but they made over £80,000 in its first two years on the video market.”

“But,” said Michael, “cinema release meant it got reviews in all the film mags. And it did star Liz Hurley and Keith Allen. I can’t remember what the budget was, but it probably cost over two million, so…”
“Yes, I know. But I’m not suggesting making a horror feature. I was only using it as an example of how much the video market’s worth for a film that virtually no one’s heard of and which isn’t exactly a cult classic. But the point is there’s a lot of cult horror stuff that people only watch through the video rental market.”
“I’ve got a lot of that at home,” said Roxie, “some of it was made as much as twenty years ago. Things like: “The Evil Dead”. People are still buying and renting them. But they still cost a lot to make.”
“Yes, but video’s changing all that. Let me give you another example. Porn films in America are a bigger industry than Hollywood, and it’s not because of stars. It’s the same with low-budget horror – they rent them because of the covers. A typical American porn film nets about $250,000. For a long time they made them on film – good production values and a budget of around $50,000. That’s an average cost return ratio of five-to-one. Then cheap digital video came along, and some people realised you could make a porn film with a camcorder costing a bit more than three grand. Once you’ve bought one, and you’ve also bought a cheap computer-based editing system, you can make a porn video for little more than the cost of the actors. I mean, there are people in the States making porn for less than $5,000, and they’re making ten times the profit of shooting on film.”
Birtie’s interest had really picked up. “Heh, heh,” he chuckled, “Barry’s planning on going into the porn business. And I’m going to star. Yes!” He punched the air with his fist. “I’m going to shag all those women. In the fanny, in the mouth, and up the arse!”
“Shut up will you,” said Michael, “Barry’s giving an example. It’s pointless trying to make porn in England, it’s illegal. And besides that, you’ve only got a small willy.”
“How d’you know?”
“I’ll maybe tell you one day.”
“Has that Lisa Kensington been saying things to you? Cos if she has, she’s a lying cow!”

I thought it best to get back to the subject, so I said: “Sure porn’s pointless in England. But crime and violence aren’t. And you don’t have to make something that looks like a feature film either. Just look at all that “Police Camera Action” stuff, or “Caught on the Security Camera”, or those tapes of footage of public executions; they’re just cut and paste jobs, made for nothing. But people pay good money to rent or buy them. I mean, where would newspapers like the Sun, the Star and the Sport be without sex, crime and violence? It’s what the public wants.”
“Yes,” said Michael, “but, even if you had some cheap digital video equipment, just about the only thing you can make on no budget is that video diary stuff.”
“That’s precisely what I’m proposing. People love reading violent crime stories, or watching things like “Crime Watch” on the telly. But they never get to see the criminals, to see what they’re like and what they do – as it happens. It’s like, well, quite a long time ago I was standing on a street corner, talking with Les – a mate of mine who teaches at the college, when this guy stopped in a van. He knew Les and they had a bit of a chat – it was incredible, all about various people he’d put in hospital, things like that. Afterwards Les apologised for not introducing me, but he said that the guy was someone I really didn’t want to know, Someone who was the biggest cocaine dealer in the area. Someone who owned several houses that he ran as brothels. Someone who ran most of the nightclub bouncers. I didn’t think much about it at the time. But the other day I thought: what a subject for a video diary!”
Birtie sat back in his chair and laughed. “This is getting fucking stupid,” he said, “there’s no way some big-time criminals are going to let you follow them around and film them in action!”
“So what? Nick Broomfield made a very successful documentary about how he followed Margaret Thatcher around America trying – and failing – to get an interview with her. No, what I’m proposing is that we start off making a video diary about a small group of frustrated filmmakers who are trying to find some criminal who’ll agree to be the subject of a video diary about themselves – a video diary within a video diary. And we don’t even have to find a real criminal either. We start off recording us trying to find out as much as we can about this guy; interviewing people, and, if we have to, encouraging them to make things up. It only has to look like a video diary. Maybe we can persuade some real criminals to let us follow them around – we just say we won’t film anything they’d get arrested for. Finally we get to Mr. Big, except he’s played by an actor. I mean, if the Sun and the Sport make up stories, then why don’t we?”
Birtie slapped the arms of his chair with the palms of his hands and shouted, “Brilliant! I’m well into this. When do we start?”
“Well, it could be quite soon. Like I said, I’m completely pissed off with the college, but I still need to pay the mortgage. But I’m seriously thinking of seeing if they’ll let me have a part-time contract.”
“But we’ve still got the problem of not having any equipment,” said Michael.
“Actually,” I said, “that might not exactly be the case. You know that Sony DVCam we were talking about? Well the firm we get all our equipment from at the college is trying to persuade us that it’s what we should be investing in. In a way they’re right. Everything we’ve got is now well out of date and it’s been battered to death. If we don’t go digital we’ll start losing students to other colleges. Any way, they’ve just leant us a three chip DVCam on trial. It’s not Betacam quality, but it’s good. The broadcasters have started using them for bits of news, cheap “fly on the wall” stuff, daring action sports, that sort of thing. Of course there’s no point in letting the students use it, as we’ve got nothing to edit it with, so there’s nothing to stop me from taking it home with me. Borrowing microphones and a fish-pole isn’t a problem, so we could start shooting as soon as they’ve agreed to giving me a part-time contract. But there’s nothing to stop us getting together, kicking some ideas around and doing some research. Editing’s just a bridge we’ll have to cross when we come to it.”
“I might be able to help out as well,” said Roxie; and she went on to explain how Roy, who ran the wedding video business, had been thinking about buying DVCam and a digital editing suite at some time in the future. “But,” she said, “we could always copy the footage off onto VHS and do some rough edits on what he’s using at the moment.”
“D’you think he’ll mind?” asked Michael.
“Not in the least. He’s completely mad. In fact he’ll probably lend us some other bits and pieces. He’s got a decent tripod and a few lights. In fact he might even come up with some sponsorship money!”

“Great!” I said, “Everything’s falling into place. I’ll ring everyone as soon as I’ve heard what the Dean has to say.”

– O –

It was a beautiful morning and so I walked down to the college. September has become a glorious month, hasn’t it? More the last month of summer than the first month of autumn. I stopped and watched a squirrel scurrying about in the trees at the edge of the park; and then, as I went to continue on my way, I nearly trod on a large flying insect that was walking on the pavement in front of me without a seeming care in the world. Isn’t life wonderful, I thought. And then I noticed that it had one wing outstretched, and the other one was obviously missing. I took me several minutes before I did the right thing and stamped on it.
My mind was finally made up. I’d run some calculations through my head. If they agreed to give me a 0.5 contract I wouldn’t have to pay so much tax, so I’d probably take home just about £800 a month. I could live on that.
I arrived at the college a bit after nine and made my way to the staff room. For
once I was giving thanks that it was induction week.
Induction week is a waste of time. It bores the students stupid, but it’s something Tosser Hughes insists on. Each member of staff, provided that they’re not a “personal tutor”, just has to give his or her students an introductory lecture to their part of the course, and then the personal tutors take over. Personal tutors are supposed to look after the well-being of a group of about twenty students, who they normally see for one hour a week. They’re supposed to do things like provide “learning support” and “study skills”. Actually it appears as if they’re supposed to do vastly more than that – they’re supposed to follow everything in the college’s “Guide to the Personal Tutorial System” – a document of more than eighty pages which no one’s ever read. It’s all window dressing. The real job of the personal tutor is to do everything in their power to stop students from dropping out, to chase after them if they miss any classes, and to make sure that every student applies for higher education. The reason for this is simple; any student who doesn’t meet the government’s targets loses the college money.
But during induction week they have to take their groups of students round with them, making sure they fill in all the enrolment forms and get their ID cards, and showing them all of the college’s facilities. The most important of these are the “learning resource centres”. The students find out that at least twenty-five per cent of their course consists of “self-directed-resource-based-learning”, which means that they have to spend at least five or six hours a week sitting in one of these rooms in front of a computer. And they need to know that this is not a doss. They need to know how the system works. The student ID cards have bar codes on them, and whenever a student goes in or out of one of these centres, they have to swipe their card through a machine. This information is automatically recorded by the “Management Information System”, and it means that personal tutors regularly have to spend hours making sure that their students have been spending the required time each week in front of a computer, instead of skiving off in the pub.
The nerds don’t mind this at all. They’ll spend hours playing the computer games that they bring with them from home, or trying to access porn over the Net. Other students soon get the system sussed. They just give the nerds their cards and get them to swipe them in for them. Some of the personal tutors even secretly encourage them – it keeps Tosser Hughes off their backs.
I’m the only person in my department who isn’t a personal tutor, so I soon had the staff room to myself. I looked around. What a dump. In the drive to pack in ever more students, every available space had been turned into a classroom. There were only four of us who taught “vocational media studies”, and we’d ended up being giving what had been a cleaners’ storeroom before the cleaners had been sacked and their jobs put out to contract. Four broken old wooden office desks, a filing cabinet, a few shelves, piles of paper, and one ancient 386 computer. But at least I wouldn’t be disturbed while I wrote an e-mail to the Dean. I switched on the computer and typed in my password: “anarchy”. I picked up the kettle, went and filled it with water from the toilet down the corridor, and then made a brew. Finally the machine had accessed the network, and I typed and sent my request. It would probably be a few days before I got a reply, and that would just be the start of the process. If they agreed they’d have to appoint someone who I could share my job with, so I’d be looking at January at the earliest. The prospect of all that waiting was already making me feel even more depressed.
It was Thursday when the reply came. It just said that the Principal wanted me to meet him in his office at ten o’clock the following morning. The prospect of any meeting with Tosser Hughes always made me nervous, but at least there was the prospect of things moving faster if he was involved from the start. I put on a suit for the occasion; he liked little touches like that. I reported to his secretary. He kept me waiting for a few minutes, and finally she showed me in.
Tosser’s office was about four times as large as my staff room. He was sitting at the far side behind his desk in his shirtsleeves. A chair was placed in the middle of the floor in front of it. Matthew Reed was sitting to one side, looking red-faced, stiff and uncomfortable. I walked in, sat down, and crossed my legs.
Tosser looked at me and said, “I’ve had nothing but complaints about you. I’ve had parents ringing me up and writing to me saying that you’ve been telling their sons and daughters that it’s, and I quote,” he looked at a letter in front of him, “A complete waste of time doing media studies, that they’ve no chance of getting a job, and that they would never have allowed them to enrol if they’d been told that in the first place. Others have complained that you were talking about sex and drugs and violence, which you seemed to treat as a joke, and that you used foul and abusive language in front of the students. I have to inform you that you are not obliged to say anything, and that, pending a disciplinary hearing, I am ordering a full enquiry into your conduct. As of now you are suspended. Under the terms of your contract you are not allowed to have any contact with any member, staff or student, of this college, nor to set foot anywhere on the campus. You are also not allowed to talk to the media. Mr. Reed will now escort you from the premises in order to ensure that you comply immediately with these conditions. That will be all.”
I have to admit it, I was stunned. I just sat there. Reed took me by the arm, helped me up, and escorted me from the room. Outside he said, “Come with me to my office. We need to talk.”
He sat me down and made me coffee. “This is completely off the record. And you know it’s the case. You heard what the principal said; even I’m not supposed to talk to you. Between you and me, John’s been under a lot of pressure lately. The government’s had to cut the college’s budget again. It’s all because of their insistence on sticking to the Tories spending plans, and John doesn’t know how he’s going to balance the books. He really is under a lot of stress. Now you don’t have to tell me anything that you don’t want to, but I would like to have some idea as to what this is all about.”
“Stuff and nonsense,” I said. “It’s not my fault if the people who do the recruiting behave like double-glazing salesmen; I’ve got a syllabus to teach. And nothing that I said strayed one inch from any of the objectives on that syllabus.”
“That’s what I thought. I know you’ve been keeping your head down. Since I’ve been Dean I’ve had to come to terms with how creative arts isn’t the same as business studies. You might be a bit flamboyant, but you’re not stupid. But I don’t want you to do anything rash.”
I thought: I bet you don’t, you’re already implicated.
“I want to make one or two suggestions. First of all make sure you’ve got a copy of your lecture notes; and if they’re not very full then write up a detailed account of everything you said while it’s fresh in your mind. I’ll end up having to do the investigation, and I’m very busy so it’ll take rather a long time. You’re suspended on full pay, so you’ve not got any worries in that department. But all of this must be placing you under an enormous amount of stress. I understand that. By the time the inquiry’s finished you’ll probably be a nervous wreck. Strictly between you and me the Corporation Board’s not very happy with John at the moment. You know, Labour MP and a Thatcherite principal who’s losing his grip. I can see them making him an offer he’d be foolish to refuse. If we can delay things till after he’s gone, it’ll all blow over. But you might end up having to get the hearing postponed on the grounds of ill health. If we work together on this we can probably spin it out till after he’s gone. Just look at it as a year off on full pay. But I would suggest you start looking for another job as an insurance policy, and I’ll always write you an excellent reference if you need one. Are we agreed?”
“Definitely,” I said.
“Right. And please, don’t do anything rash. Now, do you need anything from your staff room?” I shook my head. “Well in that case you can find your own way out. And, good luck!”
We shook hands and I left. I hadn’t had such a spring in my step for years. What a good job it was that I’d taken the Sony DVCam home with me. I mean, I was the only person who knew anything about it, no one was officially allowed to talk to me; with a bit of luck I’d be able to keep hold of it for months.

– 0 –

Around teatime I rang Les and told him most of what had happened. Les is one of the college union reps and one of my oldest mates. It was a good idea. Les drove straight over. He said he’d organise getting a regional union official on the case. I felt like telling him not to bother, but I knew he made sense. Les was a few years older than me, almost fifty. He’d always been pretty wild. He’d been a Mod in his youth – one of those Northern Soul boys who’d break into chemists’ shops at night and steal loads of amphetamines. He’d spent years working in cotton mills where he’d learnt to play the trumpet. But he’d never been that interested in all that Hovis commercial soundtrack stuff. No, Les had spent years playing in a variety of local R & B bands. He’d always been a union organiser, and it was through the union movement that he’d finally gone to Ruskin College, and after that to Sheffield University where he’d done a degree in sociology and politics. Like me Les had smoked a lot of dope. He’d also done a lot of cocaine. Most of that had stopped once he’d become a teacher, but he still hadn’t completely lost his roots among the low-life.
Les seemed to want to carry on lamenting how awful it was working in education. It’s what most teachers are like these days: they’re so ground down by it all that they can hardly talk about anything else. I changed the subject. I told him about how I’d got this idea for making a low-budget documentary about people who were making out through crime and the black economy, and about how he’d actually given me the idea in the first place.
“Do you remember that guy who stopped in his van one day when we were standing on the corner outside Woolies after college? The guy who you said ran a string of brothels and was going on about having just put someone in hospital?”
“That must have been Ray Topham.” Les paused for a moment scratching and playing with the goatee that was part of his “I may be fifty, but I’m still cool” image. Teaching clutters everyone’s head up with so much crap that it’s hard to remember anything. “I’ve got it now,” he said, “He was in his builder’s van. He’s a very bad lad, y’know. Why d’you ask?”
There was something in Les’ voice which betrayed a sense of some sort of affection. I mean, he hadn’t said – “He’s a right bastard”, or something to the same effect. And this Ray obviously had a liking for Les, otherwise he wouldn’t have slammed on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the road for a chat. I was already wondering if Les could arrange for me to meet him.
“Tell me about him,” I said. “Ray? Me and Ray go back years. It’s the Northern Soul connection. Mr. Speed. He’s always been a bit crazy. We lost touch quite a few years ago, around the time I went to university. I’ve only bumped into him once or twice since then. I can’t say I regret it. He isn’t the sort of person you want to know anymore. Mind you, it’s not really his fault.”
“Oh? How come?”
“He’s a bit younger than us. He started work on the buildings in the 70’s. He was never one for taking any crap from anybody. He used to regularly buy Socialist Worker off me. At one time he was a regular contact and I used to take copies round his house. He became very militant and organised a few wildcat strikes over union recognition. But he was very undisciplined. He organised a strike on a big site down in Bury – some office development. One night a lot of stuff got sabotaged. Ray always claimed that the bosses had done it, something about an insurance claim. But Ray got done for it. I can’t remember how long he got sent down for, but I know he didn’t get any remission. He was always beating the screws up. He claimed that they used to set him up, that it was all a conspiracy organised by the Freemasons. Soon after he came out he found out he’d been blacklisted and he couldn’t get a job. He’d always been a bit of a dealer around the clubs, and he’d made quite a few contacts when he was inside, so he started doing it a bit more seriously. He got work as a nightclub bouncer. He’d supply just about anything, but I don’t think he ever got into smack. He invested the money in property – I mean, you could buy back street houses for next to nothing back then. He did them up and started renting them out. Pretty soon he was running most of the bouncers in the area, even doing the posh clubs. That’s how the brothels came about.”
“How come?” I asked.
“There wasn’t much of a market for drugs in the posh clubs. It was more prostitution; prostitution and a bit of cocaine. It was just another market that Ray moved into. He was always one of those macho working class blokes who treat women like property, so it didn’t give him a problem.”
“How come you know all this?”
“Cos I was still taking Socialist Worker round his house. He wasn’t stupid. A lot of dealers let the money go to their heads. They end up dripping in gold jewellery and driving around in BMW’s. But not Ray. He was still living in a council house with his beat up builder’s van parked outside. None of the neighbours knew. He had a couple of Alsatians and people would leave him alone. And he never kept anything on the premises. You know, it was incredible. He lived with this woman, Julie. He probably still does. He treated her like a servant. I’d go round there and he’d tell her to make me and him a cup of tea, or get us both a drink. The telly would be on. He had this big satellite dish in the garden, but he’d never change channels himself; he’d tell Julie to do it, even if it meant calling her from the kitchen. And she’d have to ask his permission if she wanted to leave the room – even to go to the toilet! Sometimes he’d say, “Well I’m talking to Les, so you’ll have to wait”.”
“How did you put up with it?”
“It was more of a joke. I mean, he knew what my politics were, so he was doing it more to wind me up. It’s what he’s like. You can never tell with Ray if he’s being serious, or just winding you up.”
“How did you start losing contact?”
“He was spending his money abroad. He bought a hotel in the Turkish part of Cyprus – something about it being a long term investment that’d be worth a fortune when everything was sorted out out there. There’s some tax dodge as well. He explained it to me once, but I don’t understand all that. Something about it being where his companies are registered. He might even have taken out Turkish-Cypriot nationality. It was all a long time ago now, and I can’t really remember. He was forever going on to me about things like that. It was as if he needed someone to talk to, someone he could trust, someone who wasn’t involved. Anyway, once he’d got everything organised in Cyprus he didn’t need to pretend quite so much. He bought a house somewhere in the Ribble Valley and we lost touch.”
“Do you know his address?”
“Haven’t a clue. Even if I did, I’ve no idea if he’d still be there. But I know he still controls most of the drugs in the area, so he’s still around.”
“Any ideas about how I could track him down?”
“You could try asking someone who knows most of the dealers. Try asking Ted.”

– 0 –

I rang Michael as soon as Les left. Good old Les, Les left, still on the left, still flogging Socialist Worker on Saturday mornings outside the Market, still taking the paper round to contacts and trying to recruit “the ones and twos”. Left Les. If he wouldn’t agree to say what he’d told me on camera then we’d get someone else to play him, someone to play “Leftie Les”.
Michael was in. He usually was. If he wasn’t at work he’d be upstairs in his bedroom at his parents’ house, bashing away at his slasher-movie scripts on the keyboard of his Apple Mac. I told him about how I’d been suspended – and maybe for as long as a year. I told him we’d got the DVCam. Even better was the news about Ray Topham. Michael was so made-up about it, I had to calm him down. “Look,” I said, “we don’t know if anyone’s going to play ball with us yet.” So I told him we all needed to work on setting up a database of all the weird and dodgy characters we could find out about. “Listen,” I said. “It doesn’t matter how many hours of footage we shoot. It isn’t film so cutting ratios don’t come into it. The more we get, the more choices we’ll have when we start editing. It’s drama we’re after. It doesn’t matter if we’re a bit ambiguous with the facts. We’re not out to make something for Panorama, it’s more a video version of one of those old ‘True Crime Detective’ stories.”
Michael agreed to ring round the others and start getting them on the case. We’d all meet in a few days and start getting properly organised. Michael said he’d do the paperwork, setting up the database, designing interview release forms, call-sheets, stuff like that. Good old Michael, any excuse to play with his Apple Mac.

– 0 –

I went out looking for Ted. Les was one of the first people I’d met when I’d moved “up North”. Christ! That was quite a bit more than ten years ago. God, doesn’t your life just slip away when you get stuck in teaching.
Within a few weeks Les had introduced me to Ted. Now I don’t want to sound disrespectful to Ted, I’m not. But recently there’s been a lot of debate about whether the Neanderthals actually really died out, and you could say that Ted was living proof that they didn’t. Ted is built like the proverbial brick shithouse. He’s well over six foot, weighs about two-hundred-and-forty-pounds, and has a strikingly low forehead with pronounced brow-ridges over his eyes. He’s also extraordinarily hairy. Ted is someone you definitely wouldn’t mix it with. Ted’s a hard man, but he has a sentimental streak. He’s also always felt that he owes me a favour.
When I first met him he was going through a bad time. He’d lost his job, which meant that the house he’d just started buying got repossessed. His wife left him, and she gave him a lot of problems getting access to his kids. He was very parochial, the sort of person who’d never been abroad because he didn’t want to have to eat “foreign muck”. I
remember I gave him a black olive once. He didn’t want to try it, but he gave in, popped it in his mouth, bit on it and broke a couple of teeth. He didn’t even know they had stones in them. Ted was in a situation in which he had to make out as best he could. He started dealing blow and whizz. He always had good stuff. He also worked weekends as a bouncer. I realise now that the two facts were probably connected, and that somewhere, way back in the background, the connection spelt “Ray Topham”.
But it wasn’t the sort of life that Ted wanted to live. He loved his kids and wanted to do right by them. Most of all he wanted access, but he couldn’t find a proper job; there weren’t any. Much to everyone’s surprise Ted packed his bags and went to Holland. It was the making of him. He came back regularly to see his old mates and to try to see his kids, but his wife wouldn’t do anything about lifting the injunction she’d taken out against him. He had a steady job in the building trade, and he spent his holidays travelling and seeing much of Europe. He still liked his drugs, but the fact that dope was legal in Holland had very much changed his attitude; to the extent that he didn’t have any time for people who spent all day stoned out of their heads, who couldn’t keep it under control and just have an occasional smoke in the evening or at weekends. Mind you he’d always bring a little present with him whenever he came to England – just a condom or two full of grade A skunk that he’d stuff up his arse. But he did know a bit about how drugs were seriously smuggled. I remember him telling me one day about how a lot came in through Manchester airport. It involved the baggage handlers. An unaccompanied suitcase with a particular tag on it would be put on a plane from Amsterdam. The baggage handlers at Manchester would retrieve it, slap a new label round the handle, and put it in with the bags from an internal flight from London, so it didn’t go through customs. The courier would be on the London flight and he’d simply collect “his” suitcase and walk out of the airport. It was that simple. Ted knew about it cos one day it had all gone wrong. Somehow the customs had finally found out and the airport was crawling with them. Apparently it was totally obvious to anyone who was in the know, and so the boys in baggage handling simply chucked the case onto a cart taking the baggage out to a flight bound for New York, where it spent several hours going round and round on the baggage re-claim at JFK.
But then life went pear-shaped for Ted. Ted liked a drink. One day he was a bit pissed and suddenly remembered that it was an old mate’s birthday, so he decided to fly over. He got stopped and searched, and the customs found a bit of blow that he’d forgotten about in his pocket. They checked his records and found he had some outstanding fines for I don’t know what, and he got banged up on remand. The judge sent him down for a few weeks, mainly because of the unpaid fines, and that was the end of his time in Holland. Some friends put him up, but he needed to sign on, and for some reason it wasn’t cool for him to sign on from their place, so he came and asked me. I was happy to oblige; so, once a fortnight he’d pop round to pick up his giro. It went on like that for about nine months. It was sad to see him going down hill. He’d had to go back to dealing to make ends meet, and it got so that he was always out of his head. Gradually we lost contact. But he was never one to forget a favour.
Les told me that the last time he’d seen Ted he was a lot more together. As far as he knew he was still doing a bit of dealing, but that he’d been finding work as a local builder. He’d met some woman and they were living together in a rented house on Sandy Brow. Les gave me the address. I’d have laid money that the landlord was: Ray Topham.
Sandy Brow’s one of the steepest streets in town. It’s lined with old terraced houses with tiny front gardens, which pre-date the cotton boom when most of the town was built. It’s also on several bus routes so it’s all double yellow lines and there’s nowhere to park. It’s not that far from where I live. It was a nice evening and so I decided to walk over, the route taking me through a park which had been constructed as a philanthropic gesture by one of the Victorian mill owners.
I found the address, opened the gate, walked up to the door and knocked. As I waited I noticed that it had recently been replaced. A woman answered. She was quite young and she was holding a baby. I thought that it was looking as if Ted was finally doing all right.
“Is Ted in?” I asked.
“Yes. Who wants him?”
“Tell him it’s Barry. Barry Lick.”
She turned inside and called over her shoulder, “Ted! There’s someone called Barry at the door!”
A thin and nervy looking young man, who obviously wasn’t Ted, appeared in the vestibule. “Yes?” he said. “What do you want?”
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, “I must have come to the wrong house. I was looking for Ted?”
“Well that’s my name. So what’s it about?”
“Yes, but I’m looking for a different Ted. Ted Goodbody. I was told he lived here.”
The young woman suddenly looked as if she was about to have a fit. “Fuck Off! Fuck Off! How many more times! We don’t know him! We don’t fucking know him!” she screamed.
Her husband persuaded her to take the baby inside, saying that he’d deal with it. “Don’t take any notice of my wife. Her nerves are bad ever since the police raid. I can’t say mine are any better.”
“Police raid?” I said. “What happened?”
“The police only kicked our door in at five o’clock in the morning last week, looking for that Mr. Ted Goodbody. He must have been renting the place before us. And they wouldn’t believe I wasn’t him. They just charged in, about seven of them, and turned the whole house upside down from top to bottom, looking for drugs. It was hours before they realised their mistake. All the time the baby was screaming. And you know what? They didn’t even give us an apology. They think they can treat you like dirt if you live in this part of town.”
“I can well understand the state you wife’s in. There’s no need to apologise. I was only looking for Mr. Goodbody because someone recommended him as a builder. I didn’t mean to trouble you. So you really have no idea where he moved to?”
“None at all. And I wouldn’t know him from Adam; so I’m sorry, but I can’t help you there. But if I was you I’d find another builder. People say Topham’s are very good – cheap too. You could try giving them a ring.”
Topham. There was that name again. All those years of never hearing it, and now it seems as if I can’t stop tripping over it wherever I go. It’s enough to make you think there’s a plan to the universe after all.
I said goodbye and left. I walked back down the hill towards the park. I’d only gone about fifty yards when I suddenly thought: this is getting ridiculous. There on the other side of the road was Ted, stripped to the waist, laying stone slabs in a little front garden. He looked up, saw me and called me over, inviting me in for a brew.
Inside the house was a mess. Most of the plaster had been knocked off the walls, the kitchen ceiling was down, the staircase had been ripped out, a ladder led to the upstairs, and the air was full of dust. Ted put the kettle on and apologised for the state of the house. “It’ll be nice when it’s finished, mind,” he said. It turned out that an old lady had lived in it for most of her life. She’d never had any money so, when she finally died, there was loads that needed doing to it. Ted had been living over the road and had had his eye on it for some time. He’d snapped it up for little more than the cost of the funeral.
“I know,” I said, “I’ve just come from your old place. Les gave me your address, but he obviously didn’t know you’d moved.”
“Did the wife answer the door and give you an ear full?”
“As a matter of fact she did. It’s not surprising. Her husband told me about the raid.”
“Dreadful business that. They should sue the bastards.”
“Looks like you were lucky though.”
“You could say that. And if you’ve come round looking for blow, I can’t help you mate. Everything’s clean for the moment.”
“That’s all right, I packed it in a long time ago – which isn’t to say I won’t have a puff now and again if someone passes me a joint. So,” I asked, “what happened?”
“Fucking smack heads, that’s what. This town’s terrible for it. There’s three smack houses on this street alone. And that’s only the ones I know about.”
“So why don’t they get busted?”
“Cos they’re cunts. Fucking little sneaks. They’d shop their own grandmother for a gram of smack. The pigs just pick them up, keep them in the cells till they start to cold turkey, and then give ‘em some in return for them fingering someone. It was that bastard down at number forty-four; had to be. He got lifted. They held him for twenty-four hours and used the bastard to fit me and Billy up.”
“Not Billy the whizz?”
“The very same. Daft cunt went and scored a weight off the bastard and a few ounces of powder. Told him half of it was for me. Next minute they’re smashing our doors down. Thank god the bastard didn’t know I’d moved. But Billy’s being held in Preston. That little cunt’s going to get his legs broken, except you don’t know that. And if I was that young couple I’d sue the bastards!”
“You’re not seriously going to break his legs, are you Ted?”
“Not me personally. But I’ve made arrangements.”
“These arrangements wouldn’t happen to involve a certain Ray Topham by any chance, would they?”
“That cunt? You must be joking. What makes you think that?”
“Les was telling me about him. He said you knew him. He said that, underneath it all, Ray was pretty sound.”
“Well Les is a twat. You fucking middle class liberals are all the same. Always making excuses for people and blaming the system. If you pushed him he’d even make excuses for Hitler. He simply can’t understand that some people on this planet are born bad. And Ray Topham’s one of them. He should know better and keep his mouth shut.”
“Actually,” I said, “it was me who was asking him.” And I went on to tell Ted a bit about the film, although I didn’t explain how we wanted to make a video diary about Ray. I just said that he might agree to be an advisor to me and Michael on this crime thriller that Michael was writing. It wasn’t long before he said, “You’re fucking mad!”
Ted’s one of those people who can clam up when he wants to, and this was obviously one of those occasions. All I could get out of him was, “Because I say so, that’s why.”
“But it is true what Les says, that he controls most of the cocaine in the region?”
Ted smiled at me, tapped the side of his nose with a finger, and then mimed closing a zip across his mouth.
“OK,” I said, slightly changing the subject, “but I know you once knew quite a bit about the international shipment of drugs. Would you be prepared to talk to me and Michael about that?”
“Could we film it?”
“Fuck off.”
I didn’t want to do it, but I needed a break; and so I said, “Oh, come on Ted, you do owe me one.”
After a very long pause he said, “OK, I’ll talk to you and the lad. But I can’t tell you much. It’s cocaine you’re interested in, but crack and smack are not my scene. Still, I might be able to find someone who’d be prepared to talk to you. Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do.”

Diary Extracts: Michael Booth, 23 September

I feel really made-up. It’s the first time in weeks I haven’t had a pain in my guts. Barry’s fixed up an interview with a guy called Ted. He came out with an amazing story about how the police went to raid him, but they went to the wrong house and gave some young couple loads of grief. He suggested that me, Roxie and Birtie pretend we’re still students and go round and see if we can get an interview with them. I said we should say we’re from Granada cos it would make them more keen to let us do it, but Barry vetoed the idea as it might get us into trouble.
Birtie knows this guy who lives near him – some old hippy-type. Apparently he’s completely mad. He’s a local dealer and he’s completely off his head. Birtie says he’s got a son who nicks tabs of acid off him and sells them to kids at school. It’s well out of order – the kid’s only ten years old!
The guy walks with a limp. It’s cos he’s got a terrible mouth on him. He gets pissed and stoned all the time and he shouts at people in the street like a mad person. Some guys ended up giving him a right good hiding. Birtie says that once he’s started you can’t shut him up, and he’ll talk to anybody. We all thought he’d be a great character to have in the film, even though I’m sure he’s got nothing to do with this Ray Topham character. But Barry says he can make people say anything when he starts editing, as long as you’ve got enough stuff to work with. Birtie’s sure he can fix up an interview. Barry wants me to shoot it in an NYPD Blue-style: all wobbly camera and little whip pans
so that we can use a lot of jump-cuts.
When Barry said Ray Topham had a house in the Ribble Valley it reminded me about this girl I know called Vanessa. She’s about twenty-three and she does absolutely nothing with her life. She’s got her own place and she’s signing on. Her parents are stinking rich. And they just happen to have big house in the Ribble Valley! They’ve also got a place somewhere in Florida and they’re always going over there for months at a time. When they’re away they get Vanessa to look after the place. And they give her at least a hundred-and-fifty a week for doing it. She just blows it all on drugs. It’s mainly dope. And she’s always skint, so she just gets more money off “mummy and daddy”. She’s always throwing parties when they’re away. I’ve been to one or two, but once you’ve been you don’t really want to go again. Vanessa’s a terrible show-off who’ll do anything to be the centre of attention. She’s nice looking, but the way she behaves is a real turn-off, so no one wants to go out with her. The first party I went to she got so pissed and stoned she didn’t know what she was doing. She was trying to snog everybody, even the girls. Everyone was pushing her off. Finally she’d got some bloke on the sofa and before you know it she’s got his knob out and starts giving him a blowjob – right in front of everybody. And then she gagged on it and puked up all over his trousers! Like I said, most people only go the once, but Barry thinks we could make her look as if she’s the bad lad’s daughter and we should definitely go and film one of her parties.
Oh yes, Roxie said there was no problem in borrowing some lights and some sound stuff from “Wedding Bells”, and we’re probably going to start shooting – THIS WEEK!

– 0 –

We shot the interview with Ted today. It was just me and Barry. Barry’s right, he really does look like a Neanderthal. I wish he hadn’t told me. As soon as I saw him I could hardly stop myself from laughing. But he’s a really sound guy, even though I don’t know how he manages to live in a building site. We did the interview in what’s going to be his kitchen. Barry wanted it shot off a tripod, so I didn’t have much to do. But there was so much dust about I was worried about getting scratches on the tape, so I ended up taping a plastic bag over the camera. Purely by coincidence it was a good job I did.
Ted was only going to tell us the story about how drugs were smuggled in through Manchester Airport. We had a few false starts cos Ted kept saying how it was all a long time ago, which wasn’t what we wanted. Ted’s a man of few words so we’ll hardly have to cut it down at all.
Suddenly Barry slipped in a question about Ray Topham, which didn’t please Ted, who demanded we turned the camera off. Because of the plastic bag you couldn’t see the tally light so I only pretended to do it. Barry made out like he was trying to push Ted into at least giving us something – he used to be an actor and he’s really good at conning people – but Ted was really firm with him, saying there was no way he was going to talk about some cunt who had prostitutes cut up if they crossed him and used his bouncers to put decent respectable dealers out of business – things like that; in fact just about everything we wanted.

We’ve just finished doing a rough-cut of the interview we did with Tony D. It’s amazing what we’ve made him say. It looks really good. We used all these cut-ins of Tony lighting joints, rolling joints, even a really good C.U. of smoke being sucked into his mouth. It’s got loads of pace – very Shane Meadows, a bit like something out of “Where’s The Money Ronnie”.
Birtie was right; he is a completely mad old hippy, absolutely off his face. He’s really thin. He’s one of those people with a profile like Mr. Punch, or the man-in-the-moon. If he loses all his teeth he’ll end up with his chin just about touching the tip of his nose. He’s got this straggly beard and his hair doesn’t look as if it’s ever been washed. Maybe we should add a bit to the standard “No animals were harmed in the making of this production” caption – except for Tony’s head lice! His house is such a tip you’d think he’d got a compost heap in his living room. His furniture’s all junk and he’s got all these wind chimes and dream-catchers hanging from the ceiling, which he’s painted with pictures of wizards and astrological symbols. I wouldn’t have minded, but a kid of six could have done better. And he’s got all these little bowls full of salt scattered about in peculiar places – on the floor by the door, perched on top of the bathroom window, things like that. He said it was all something to do with Feng Shui, whatever that is. Once he started he just went on and on about it, saying it was all to do with balancing energy flows in his living space (man). I took the piss by saying it sounded like acupuncture for houses – and he went and got a scrap of paper and wrote it down!
Birtie had told him about the film, but he’d almost completely forgotten about it, fucking pot-head. At least he’d remembered we were coming. We were all there and we’d had to drag two boxes of redheads with us cos it’s so dark in his house. I was on camera. Three hours of shooting hand held. Barry got me to shoot from all sorts of different angles – head on, from the side, low angle shots with Tony’s hands holding a spliff in the foreground – which made it look enormous. He even made me do little whip pans between his hands and his face as he was rolling joints. My wrist still aches.
Roxie went numb with holding the boom mike, trying to follow Tony who couldn’t sit still for a minute and kept leaping up and acting things out. Birtie was doing the interview – if you can call it that. He just reminded Tony that we were making a film about things that were “well out of order” and the sorts of people who did them; and after that he never shut up. Barry was listening to everything. It’s amazing how he can concentrate. He doesn’t seem to miss a thing. It’s almost as if he instinctively knows how to give things shape. Every so often he’d get Birtie to ask a particular question, and they were all exactly what we needed in the edit. He slipped in one about Ray Topham. Tony said he’d never heard of him, and went back to going on about how it was a good thing that primary school kids were dropping acid and taking magic mushrooms. “Man, they’re really expanding their consciousness”(!) He went on for ages about how some guys had broken his leg, which wouldn’t have happened if ‘E’ was put in the water supply(!) About how the rave scene was getting really heavy since it had gone commercial, and he seemed to have this thing about some bloke who’d bullied him at school who seemed to delight in hurting anything. Apparently he had this big dog and he’d cut one of its legs with a knife, really slashed it – and for no reason other than Manchester United had lost. A mate of his had gone round and rescued it, so we decided we’d get a shot of Tony and the dog if we needed a cut-away.


Transcript of edited interview with Tony D

V.O. We spoke to Tony D, one of the many victims
of the violence perpetrated by Ray Topham’ s

Birtie: What do you know about Ray Topham – I
believe you both knew each other as

Tony D: That bastard. He used to bully me at school.
He bullied everyone. He’s the sort of cunt who’d
torture insects to death. Man, he’d pull their wings off and
he’d burn them with his magnifying glass. He said he
was making them fucking dance! He’s always been like it.
He likes fucking hurting people, man. He’s a fucking psycho. I’ve got this dog and he cut its fucking leg.
Can you believe it man. It’s got a scar that’s that long!

Birtie: Why did that happen?

Tony D: Fucking drugs man. It’s not the fucking “summer
of love” anymore. The rave clubs are a really bad
scene, man. It’s all run by the bouncers. You have to pay them if you want to sell gear in
the clubs. There’s people paying them four hundred quid. Four fucking hundred pounds, man.
And it’s the people who run the bouncers who’re
selling them the gear in the first place! It’s the
way the system works, man. It’s all the same,
it’s all fucking capitalism!

Birtie: What happened to your leg?

Tony D: I was standing outside this club in Blackpool,
completely off me face, and these four guys
jumped me. They’d got fucking pool cues! They
broke me nose, broke me leg. I was in
hospital for weeks!

Birtie: Why did that happen?

Tony D: Fucking drugs, man. It’s all fucking drugs. It’s
all got completely out of order. There’s even
kids dropping acid in primary schools. I’m
telling you straight man, it’s a fact.

– 0 –

Ted may well have come up trumps. In fact I’ve been so busy with shooting and editing and meetings that it’s been a quite a few days since I’ve had time to write any of this up.
Ted called me and said that he’d been talking with an ex-cocaine dealer called Charlie C., who was prepared to tell me a bit about how the business worked. Ted took me round to meet him and introduced me, but he didn’t stay long. On the way he told me that Charlie worked as a carpenter and joiner, which was quite plain to see the moment we walked in through the front door.
Charlie obviously did pretty well out of the time he spent as a dealer. He’s got a really nice large Victorian terraced house up on the Ridge, which has been completely renovated. The windows had all been replaced with stained hardwood copies of the originals, as had all the internal doors and the staircase. The skirting boards were at least twelve inches deep with ornate mouldings, there were dado and picture rails in every room, and the walls were papered in what I took to be copies of designs by William Morris.
Charlie was in the back parlour. He’s middle-aged, very tanned, thin and wiry, and the remains of his hair have been closely cropped. He was sitting by the fireplace in one of those large Dralon covered reclining armchairs. He had a nice face. Throughout the whole evening I don’t think he ever stopped smiling. I thought he looked…comfortable.
He was busy. A youngish couple were in there with him, sitting in front of him on a couple of dining table-type chairs. They’d been saying something as we came in. Ted left and Charlie motioned for me to sit down in an easy chair at the other side of the chimney breast. Straight away the young man started up again as if I wasn’t there. He was Scottish and sounded, and looked like, a character out of an Irvine Welsh novel. His accent was so broad and he was talking so fast I could hardly follow a word he was saying. All I could make out was that he’d recently come out of prison, and that most of what he was saying was about smack and some nutter who’d been his “pad-mate”. I heard him saying something like, “Ah caud nae gi any kip. Ah wuz gayin tae batter the cunt. He spint awe fuckin night bangin is haid agin the waw. Said e’d gaut a fuckin haidache. Daft cunt.” I soon got bored. The pair of them were really skinny. He’d got short sandy hair and a terrible pasty complexion. His woman had on a sky blue rayon mini skirt. The material was all bagged and had lost its shape, and her blotchy legs stuck out from under it like two discarded ice lolly sticks. She had a pair of brand new black “Kickers” on her feet, the ones with the really clumpy soles and heels. Despite the fact that the day had been warm and sunny, they were both wearing greasy old sheepskin coats.
Finally Charlie said he’d see what he could do – I’d been paying so little attention that I had no idea about what – and they left.
“Now you know what it’s like,” he said as he turned and looked at me, his face breaking into a sympathetic smile. “He was off heroin before he got sent down again. The trouble is the prisons are full of it. Still, enough of all that. Ted says you’re making a film. Why don’t you tell me about it?” And then he said, “You don’t mind if I make a smoke, do you?”
“Not at all,” I said. Charlie skinned up, and as I talked I shared some of it with him. It was good stuff: skunk. It made me garrulous. I began by telling him how I’d spent two years helping Michael in trying to get “Day-Tripping” off the ground; and how, despite it all, we still hadn’t got anywhere – that’s why we were now working on “A diary of a very bad lad”. Throughout it all he just sat there, smiling and listening.
When I’d finished he said he thought it was a great idea, but that there were one or two things wrong with the concept.
“You need to know how these things work,” he said. “Sure I know Ray. But even if you could get him to co-operate, you’d end up with a very boring film. You see, the people who don’t get caught – the really big fish – keep everything at arm’s length. As far as the world knows, Ray’s just someone who’s made a career for himself as a landlord. He’s a successful builder who buys properties, does them up, and rents them out. If some of his tenants happen to be running a massage parlour, then that’s their business, not his.”
“So how does it work?”
“Well I’m not saying this is how Ray does it, or even if he does it in the first place. I wouldn’t know anyway. I was only small time and I stopped before I got caught – it doesn’t pay to be too greedy. If anyone’s doing it big time, then everything has to be kept separate, disconnected; no one must know what’s really going on. It’s not like going to the shops. Arrangements get made and a courier takes a bag full of money to an address in Holland. The courier doesn’t know what’s inside it, and he’s never met the person who gave it to him before. He’s only told what to do with it. Similar arrangements are made by the supplier. The shipment always ends up at a different address. It used to be hotels. The importer and a few regional distributors would check in under the cover of them all being there for a business conference. They’d put on a bit of a show, and it’d all be done and dusted. The only problem the importer would have would be in laundering a lot of cash. But don’t ask me about that, it’s all done by bent lawyers and accountants.”
“You said it used to take place in hotels. Why did things change?”
“The hotels started installing twenty-four hour video surveillance systems. It didn’t pose much of a risk – they didn’t exactly install them to spy on their customers. But there was a case where a security tape led to several people being put away. Now it’s mainly done by renting big country houses. You know, places in Scotland and that. It just looks like a bunch of businessmen off for a weekend of shooting and fishing. Provides a cover for the shotguns as well.”
“But,” I said, “All this seems to depend on a heck of a lot of trust. I mean, doesn’t anybody get ripped off?”
“Sometimes. But it’s very rare. It usually happens to someone who’s trying to break into the market and doesn’t know what they’re doing. Often it’s done to test out someone who the suppliers don’t know – to see what they do and how they react. Like I said, you can’t be too careful. You can’t be seen to be involved. You can’t be seen to be connected. But you need to have eyes and ears everywhere, and it’s those people who are the really bad lads.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s not just trust. Like I said, trust has to be built. But it also has to be enforced. It doesn’t matter if the couriers, or the small time dealers, get nicked – they don’t have a clue. But the people who are higher up the chain have to let the people who are under them know what’s what. Smaller ones know they’ll end up in hospital. Bigger ones end up dead.”
“So you think it’s those sort of people we should concentrate on, and not someone like Ray?”
“Definitely – and there probably are people who’ll talk to you. But I doubt very much if they’ll say anything on camera. They might if you can disguise their voices and faces. They all think they’re a bit flash. Still, like you said, if they won’t, you can always get some actors.”
“But how can I get to meet some of them?” I asked.
“I’ll give it some thought. You and this Michael seem pretty sound. In fact… look, d’you mind if I change the subject?”
“Not at all.”
“That film script of his you were talking about. What was it called? ‘Day-Tripping’. Now that sounds like the sort of film that’s right up my street. I might even know some people who might, and I mean just might, be interested in putting something into it. Why don’t you tell me a bit more about it and I’ll roll another joint.”
It was really late by the time I left. I didn’t manage to persuade Charlie to say anything to camera. Not that it mattered. I could always say it myself as a voice-over, or maybe even straight to camera. But I was wondering what he might come up with.
It didn’t take long. Apparently most of the cocaine in town gets distributed by some woman. She’s the one who supplies the people who supply the street dealers. Her name’s Joanne and she’s agreed to talk to me. Bingo!

– 0 –

I’ve been round to the address Charlie gave me. Joanne answered the door. She’s got this really nice top floor flat. The garden’s a mess though. She told me it’s because it goes with the flat downstairs which has been empty for months. She’s been trying to get the landlord to do something about it, but without success. Joanne is pretty stunning, a real babe, someone who looks like she could be posing on the front of “Loaded” or “FHM”. I’d seen her a few times around town. I mean she’s got looks that you don’t easily forget. She’s a single parent with a six-year-old daughter. I can’t remember her name, and she’d already gone to bed.
Joanne kept looking at me, and she said, “I’m sure I know you from somewhere.” It turned out we have a mutual acquaintance: Gaynor, who was a student on the creative writing evening class I ran a long time ago; we’d go drinking afterwards, and we continued to stay in touch for quite a while. Gaynor was Jewish. She had a lot of talent, but her life was a mess. Trouble seemed to follow her about. She was always going off somewhere. She went to Morocco where she got in with some rich Arabs, but she had to leave in a hurry. When she told me about it she said she’d been lucky to get out of the place alive. I thought she had a fertile imagination, especially when she started telling me she was having all this hassle with the Jewish mafia in Manchester, and that she thought one of them was a MOSSAD agent. She had to get out of the country again, and went to the States. She was soon back, but it wasn’t long before she went back again…and again. Still I did know it was true that she threw some pretty wild parties that certain police officers and certain professional footballers went to. She showed me some Polaroids once, and I would have called them orgies rather than parties. Finally she ended up moving to New York, permanently. She told me she was getting married and that she’d send me her address. But she never did. Joanne laughed when I told her. “She did spin you a tale or two,” she said, “She was always good at making things up. That’s why Ray liked her so much. Some people are good at keeping their mouths shut. But the best are the one’s who can make up the most believable stories at the drop of a hat – like Kevin Spacey’s character in “The Usual Suspects.”
“You mean,” I said, “Gaynor was working for Ray?”
“Isn’t it obvious to you by now? The trip to Morocco? Come on, what d’you think that was about?”
“I really don’t know. She said it was a holiday. But I suppose you’re suggesting it was hash. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you tell me?”
“It was still mainly hash in those days. Ray had established a bit of a toehold in Manchester, and he was thinking it was about time he started cutting out the Jewish mafia and importing it himself. Gaynor did the research for him, but it didn’t work out. It all turned a bit nasty and Ray had to back off. But Ray’s a good businessman. He knew that whatever’s big in New York soon ends up being big in England. There’s a lot more money in coke and Ray decided to get in on the ground floor.”
“So that’s when Gaynor started going to the States?”
“You might say that. Gaynor used her fanny to work her way in with some Cuban-exiles. They thought she was just some English girl. And if you’re English in New York they think you’ve got class. It only took a few trips before she’d found out everything Ray needed to know. She made a lot of money out of it and got out. But she didn’t go to New York to get married, she used the money to set up an exclusive S & M club near the Chelsea Hotel. She owns a whole chain of them now, and a mail order fetish clothing firm. It’s probably why she never sent you her address.”
I asked her if she’d give me Gaynor’s address, saying that I’d really like to get in touch. It wasn’t a problem, Joanne dug it out for me, and gave me her phone number as well. But I was starting to wonder how it was that she seemed so willing to talk to me. I knew she’d only told me about things that had happened some way back in the past; but, unlike Ted and Charlie, she didn’t seem to have a problem in talking about Ray. I suspected that she’d probably filled both her nostrils with coke before I arrived and it was making her bold and talkative – like you’re really in control. It was how it had made me feel on the few occasions I’d taken it. Still, I put the question to her just the same.
“Why?” she said. “D’you think this is how I plan to spend the rest of my life? Dealing coke until I finally get busted, or someone cuts up my face. And what’s a working class Lancashire lass with no qualifications like me to do? I’ve only got my looks, and they won’t last forever. But I’ve always wanted to be in films. Charlie says it’s got every chance of being a big success, so it’ll help get my face known. He says you’ve got some other ones in the pipeline; so, who knows, there might be other things that I could do for you.” I thought: with a body like yours – you can’t imagine the half of it – but I didn’t let on. “I mean,” she said, “you could always do a film like this about Gaynor. And I could help you with it.” This was getting better and better. “And I can’t see as how I’m taking any risks.”
“Why’s that?”
“Well, for starters I know you’re going to be making a lot of this up.”
“True,” I said. “It’s drama we’re after. But it is going to be very much based on fact.”
“Well I don’t see as how any of it could possibly count as evidence. You won’t exactly be using anyone’s real names. At least not if there’s any risk of any comeback.” (Shit! I thought, she’s right. It was something we were going to do in the film, but we needed to tighten up on our own security. Thank God everything so far hasn’t been printed out. It’s all in me and Michael’s Apple Macs. We’re going to have to get together and change a few people’s names. Still, aren’t Macs wonderful? It’ll only take a few minutes. But it is something we’re going to have to watch in future.) “Even if you got shots of someone getting a beating: who’d know if it was real or acting? They’re not exactly going to press charges. It’s the same with me. But you can’t expect me to do anything for nothing. I’ll only do it if I’ve got a contract saying you’re hiring me to play this “Joanne” character. And seeing as how Charlie also says it’s got every chance of making a lot of money, I’m going to want the contract to say I’ll get at least twenty per cent. After all, a girl’s gotta live, as they say.”
I was taken a-back. This Joanne was some tough cookie. “I doubt if we could stretch to that. Maybe ten.”
“Make it fifteen, throw in a clause about the Gaynor film, and you’ve got yourself a deal. As far as I’m concerned you can follow me about with a camera as much as you like.”
“Done,” I said. “I’ll get Michael to draw something up.”

Diary Extracts: Michael Booth, 03 October.

The Joanne question’s given me loads more work, but at least it’s focused our attention on MONEY. Barry’s the one who’s always going on about contracts, but he expects me to do all the paperwork. Up till now it hasn’t been much of a problem. The Guerrilla Film Makers Handbook’s got a load of examples of film paperwork in a section at the back. It’s really useful. But it’s a good job I’ve got a scanner; otherwise I’d have to be copy-typing everything.
We’ve just had a really long meeting. We weren’t exactly happy about Barry telling Joanne she could have 15% of the net – even though he did say he’d beaten her down from 25. I only hope it proves to be worth it. But there was still the question about how we were going to split the rest. And it really needed to be sorted. We ended up agreeing that we were all in it together, but it was obvious that we’d all be putting different amounts of time into it. We ended up deciding that we’d all have to keep time sheets. Once it’s finished we’ll tot everything up and use the figures to work out everyone’s share. Barry says he knows an entertainment lawyer who he’ll get to draw something up for us to look at. But that raised the question of expenses. Barry’s paying for everything, not that it’s been much so far – just a few boxes of tapes and some odds and sods. But his house is turning into the production office, we’re using his car – he’s had to increase his insurance cover – and we’ve no idea what we might end up having to pay out in future; so it’s only fair that he should get the money back. It’s the same for the rest of us, so we’re going to have to record all our expenses as well. So I’ve got to do the forms! I wouldn’t mind, but all this paperwork is starting to get me a bit of grief from my mother. It’s OK for Barry; he’s getting paid by the college to do this. Roxie and Birtie are signing on, and they both do bits and pieces on the side. But I’m still living at home. I can’t really complain about my mum and dad, they’ve no illusions about how hard it is to get on in this business, and they’ve always encouraged me ever since I started making little Super-8 movies as a kid. I haven’t exactly told them the truth about “BAD LAD”, they think it’s something we’re doing as a bit of fun. But mum’s started getting worried about the amount of time I seem to be spending on it, saying how they can’t go on subsidising me forever, and how I really should be concentrating on getting a proper job.
But there’s still more that I’ve got to do. Barry says we’ve got to change certain people’s names. It’s not been a problem with regards to the paperwork. I just had to use the “Find/Change” commands, so Ray’s now Ray, Ted’s now Ted, Joanne’s now Joanne, and Charlie’s Charlie. We decided not to bother with people like Tony D, so it only took a minute. But me and Roxie are going to have to go through all the tapes and get rid of all the occasions when anybody’s used Ray Topham’s real name. All those bits are going to have to be re-recorded so that Ray’s the name which is actually used. I can see it being a nightmare. I’ve got this mate Simon who’s a really ace soundman. He’s got a fancy computer-based set-up. But the problem is: it’s a PC and not a Mac. I can see us ending up having to do a few re-takes – and we’ve only just started filming.
All this name changing could end up being pretty confusing. I’ve decided to start developing some sheets – a bit like character sketches – so we all know who’s who.

Diary Extract: Paul Birtwistle, 12 October, 1998

That Joanne is a real blonde-haired BABE – except the blonde ain’t REAL. You should have seen what she was wearing. She’d got on this really short black crochet dress. It was more holes than material. You could see everything through it – black Wonderbra and matching high cut panties. And the legs on her! The sight of her gave me such a stiffy that I had to nip into a toilet and have a wank!
She took us out for a tour round the clubs so we could film the bouncers and do some interviews about drugs with the punters queuing outside. Barry wanted the shots of the bouncers to look like they were being filmed secretly. I was worried about security, but Joanne had brought this guy Tommy along. He’s something to do with the firm that runs the bouncers at the clubs we went to, so they knew what was going on. He also got the bouncers to act as minders when we did the interviews.
Tommy’s really flash. I’d say he’s in his early thirties. He’s got this shaved head like a billiard ball and wears a black four-button Armani suit. You could have used him as one of the characters in “Reservoir Dogs”. There were so many of us that Tommy said we should go in two motors. He’s got this three litre series 5 BMW. It’s all black like his suit, even the windows. Barry wanted to do an interview with him as he was driving along, so him and Michael and Joanne went in Tommy’s motor, and I got to drive Barry’s Saab with Roxie and the kit. It was TOP. Tommy drives like a LUNATIC, and it was all I could do to keep up. When we’re rich I’m going to get a TURBO!
Roxie got the shots of the bouncers out of the window of Barry’s car. I was driving, cruising really slowly down the street, finding good places to park on the other side of the road and shoot from. Basically I was directing the whole sequence. The best bit was when we were outside this club that was on a street corner. The entrance was on the main road, but there was this deserted street that went down the side. Barry came over and said some guy had just been caught selling drugs inside and was about to be thrown out. We started shooting and pretty soon a bouncer dragged the guy out. He’d got his arm up his back in an arm-lock, but he was really mad, struggling and shouting and trying to kick the guy. Tommy was talking to the guy who was on the door. Suddenly he flipped and grabbed the guy as well. They dragged him round the corner and smacked him about a bit. It was nothing serious, punch in the stomach, knee in the bollocks and a dead-leg. Just like that, very efficient. Didn’t even ruffle their suits. Afterwards the guy got up and limped off down the street. It was really cool.
There was one bit of a fuck-up though. At one moment Tommy started doing his nut about how he couldn’t find his bag. Apparently a lot of the bouncers get paid in cash at the end of the night. Only a few of them are permanently employed, and it’s part of his job to pay everybody off. Tommy takes the money down and gives it to this guy who’s in charge, but somehow he’d lost it. It turned out I must have put it in the boot of Barry’s car with the rest of the kit. I thought he went a bit over the top, behaving like a right drama queen. Between you and me I think he’s gay, especially as a lot of the clubs were in the Village , where he seemed to know just about everybody….

read it all in paperback (294pages), or as a download, at http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/diary-of-a-bad-lad/13511505

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