Why do violent men want to tell me their life stories? He started talking to me at the cycle stands, so I said good morning to him. His name is – he reeled off at least eight names, including “Ulysses”- What’s your name? “I’m Abigail,” I said. “You are named after the love of my life, who lives in Southampton,” he said. He asked if I would like to go to his girlfriend’s birthday party, on 5 May in the ——– pub by the ——— centre. Come between 8 and 9 and he will give me an invite. He then told me he had read me as transgendered, because of my voice.
“But I don’t care about that,” he said. “I don’t mind if you want to be transgendered.”
No, I did not say, “Gosh! Thanks! That’s really kind of you, permitting a stranger to do this harmless thing.” Rather, I said that I don’t care either, and I don’t mind people knowing. That’s why I do this- I took off my helmet, and put on my wig. “My friend said I should go to the toilet over there and change in private, but I don’t care,” I said.
He can do anything, because he is going to prison. He’s just been cycling in the Arndale Centre, which is against the law. He kicked the soft tyre of the bicycle lying on the ground- “I’ve got those inner-tubeless tyres”.
-It’s great to be transgendered. You can be a man and have sex with a woman, have sex with a man and get pregnant
-We don’t have womb transplants.
-You could adopt…
Someone has dropped a letter from the Council. An award of benefit, a demand for payment, something more personal- he picks it up, reads it, says “Interesting” and stuffs it in his pocket. A woman on walking sticks picks her way, slowly, resentfully, past the bicycle lying across the usual path round the corner.
He showed me his T-shirt, and explained it. It is black, with pink Gothic writing. “Real men wear pink!” I said. “Yes, because we’re not afraid to show our heterosexuality. ‘Gay’ used to mean happy,” he said. On the front, it reads,
It’s an acrostic. Up the Hammers. On the back, it says FTW then ADGD then there’s a pink silhouette of a seated cat. What do I think FTW stands for?
“Fxxk the World,” I said. He did not demur. It could be Floreat the Wombles, I suppose. GD is Gail Dawson his girlfriend, and AD is their daughter, the most wonderful thing he has ever created. The cat is he himself.
Anyway, he’s been charged with disobeying a policeman who told him to stop and put his hands behind his back, and breaking the wrist of that policeman. The policeman put him on the ground and caused this- he points to a graze on his forehead. He’s been in prison twice, but only [slang term].
He has studied Jujitsu, a bit of Karate, a bit of Akido. Jujitsu is soft power, go in soft then hit hard. “Use the energy of the opponent against him,” I say. “No, that’s Judo,” he says. He could have really hurt that policeman and he didn’t. He shows his stances. You bend the front knee, or your opponent could break your leg, he says. Yes, kick the knee. If his front leg is bent he can’t be pushed over. Go on, push me as hard as you can. I push him, and he indeed does not fall. But if the front leg is straight and the rear bent he can be pushed over. He rolls on the ground. “It’s always OK to fall, because you can roll into a break-fall,” he says, “Just always keep a guard and be ready for a scissor-kick”. He mimes it once or twice, then takes my arm gently and shows how he could break my wrist.
He is a soldier of fortune, but the British Army rejected him. He used to live next door to some Provos, and they were friends with a real IRA man who taught him all he knows about soldiering. Like, how to make a Molotov cocktail, with whisky or other alcohol, a light-bulb bomb- drill a hole in the metal base, fill it with paraffin, fill the hole with wax, they switch it on, the wax heats up and melts and boom. He showed him how to make a fertiliser bomb, a matchbox would be enough. Bleach bomb-
-Yes, bleach in the toilet, something else in the cistern. [I want to keep up with him.]
No, a bleach bomb. Someone blew up his garage in Southampton with a bleach bomb. He came home and there was this hole blown through the back wall. The other garages did not blow up, because there was thick ice and snow on top of the garage.
-Absorbed all the energy.
-Exactly. Anyway, they had rigged up the garage so a brick swung down and hit him on the head. He rigs up his garage with booby-traps.
-Fishing line with hooks?
-No, you don’t need hooks, just twine at neck, waist and ankle level as a trip wire, a brick to swing down and hit the head, then you’re in the dark tied in the twine. You have to let policemen postmen and bailiffs onto the curtilege of your property but not over the threshold. He sets up his booby traps when he goes out- when he is in, he is the protection.
-I can’t remember your name.
-Just call me Bill. Do you like to be ‘Abi’ or ‘Gail’?
-I like the whole thing. I am Abigail.
-All right then. Come to the party. Bring £10 to pay me so I can pay for the drinks, because charity begins at home. And bring me a present, something Hammers related, maybe a keyring with a hammer on it, I’ll get lots of those, not that Lionel Messi thing because it’s £350, you don’t have to spend that much. He’s been a Hammers fan since his aunt took him to a game, she had a spare ticket, she asked him if he wanted to go, he said who’s paying? she said You are.
I thought the party was for his girlfriend.
I have to go, as I am late for tea with my friend. I wonder if he has tried stand-up. He is highly intelligent with wonderful felicity with words. He may be going to prison. See also Ben.