grey and nondescript shopping centre with a couple of other waifs and strays?
There were usually three of us: me, Theso (David Theasby) and Norman (Kevin Norman). Theso had a face so acne scarred that it looked like a chewed up toffee apple. Norman had a big barrel chest and long arms that reminded me of the character Monk from the Doc Savage books. Other odd sorts hung around - such as my nephews Kevin, Wayne and Lee - but we were the hardcore!
The usual walk centred around record shops - including Boots The Chemist! - and would segue into a trip to Woolworth's "pick n mix" sweet section, which we called "nick" and mix. Shoplifting from department stores, in fact, was one of the main activities. Did anyone actually ever BUY a Pan Book Of Horror Stories? The only one ever to get caught was Theso, who was taken to court for stealing a packet of jelly.
The shops, though, were full of the mercenary eyes of staff and busybody customers. The Laughing Gnome was a super-short Asda shelf stacker who never laughed. Mr. Barba also worked at Asda and had earned his nickname because, the moment you walked through the shop door, he would stutter "Ba-ba-ba basket over there."
Our nemesis - Dr. Doom to our Fantastic, er, Three - was a beige-suited Woolworth's under-manager with a Freddie Mercury 'stash who, the moment he saw us, would escort us straight back out of the shop. At some point we found out that he was called Mr. Whiffen, which of course earned him the nickname Cuddy Wiffer - local slang for left-handed.
The Battle Of Britain of our war with Cuddy was when we found his extension number and got my six year old nephew to phone and call him a c***.
Halcyon days, of course.
Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England - yes, the place where they hung the monkey. He is currently on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
He started writing short stories at the end of 2008. Since then, his stuff has appeared in loads of classy print and electronic magazines and anthologies, such as A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, Dark Valentine, Needle, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, and Radgepacket Volumes Four and Five. He writes an irregular column for Pulp Metal Magazine and he even has a story included in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. So it looks like he's getting away with something, eh?
His blog, You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? is here: http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/