April 15, 2011

"The Heart Of Saturday Afternoon" - Paul D. Brazill

Back in the Seventies, Sir Elton John apparently considered Saturday night to be "alright for fighting" - and I bet you those platform shoes could give you a good kicking too - but what the hell did he do on a Saturday afternoon? Maybe Elton, like me, spent most of the time wandering around a 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/


  1. Ha - nice one, Paul! Man, that took me back. I can remember seeing many copies of Deep Purple's 'Come, taste the band' piled in a basket at Boots. What a place to be sold off from - R'n'FR, baby! As for the 'nick and mix', pinching a sweetie from Woolies was a rite of passage. Great piece, really enjoyed that.

  2. Reminds me of the halcyon days of my own youth! Nice one Paul.

  3. I had forgotten all about records being sold at Boots! But you are right..that's what we did, wander from shop to shop looking through the records. I loved going upstairs in John Menzies which was the 'serious' record shop in Killie. But you could also buy records in Woolies, Boots, the Granada TV shop and a variety of independents that were there one day and gone the next.

    Being very sophisticated and making a coffee last forever while endlessly talking about boys....aah! those were the days!

  4. This was life before you were old enough to get served in pubs,eh?

  5. I'm going to sound like a total Yank here, but what does the expression "Halcyon days" mean?

  6. Great stuff and a nice glimpse of where all Paul's terrific stories and characters originate.

  7. Hi! Paul D.Brazill...
    I'am glad that I popped over from your place to take a "peek" as you, reminisce so vividly, about time spent in a shopping mall with close friends and the people encountered during your..."visits" at the mall.
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;-D

  8. Hey! I know that Pic! ; ) Great - I have my own similar memories and no doubt stood behind you in a queue somewhere one dusty, boring Saturday afternoon with my grubby mitt tightly holding onto a 50p bit.

  9. Ben, there you go:


    everyone, thanks for stopping by.

    Effie, with ten bob you could get a Top Of The Pops LP from Bruce Moore's!

  10. I was thinking more like John-the-Con ... passed by last week and pleased to see he was still in business.

  11. I worked there for about 8 years!

    have a look at this from Phil Dodd


  12. I never did the mall as hangout thing but I worked at J.C. Penney right after high school and got a good taste of the mall experience. Funny how you can have such excellent memories from such a shitty job. Your mall crawl brought those back. As you say, "Halcyon days" A-1 as always Paul!

  13. Terrific story, Paul!! You sound like you were one of "those boys" my mother warned me about... hahaha! My mother needn't have worried though... my BFF Talia and I got in enough trouble on our own, thank you very much!

    I remember the time I got caught nicking a Hello Kitty purse from this little shop in the mall... Mama was HORRIFIED!! She drug me back to the shop and then to church for confession. When my friends (they were "oh-so strait-laced") at school found out, I was like a "heroine" to them... Lol!! Yes... as you say... "halcyon days..."!

    Cool stuff here, Paul... another great place to "hang out".. ;=)

  14. Good 'un, Paul! Saturday afternoons... Brings me back. It was a Saturday afternoon when I realized my "guest" had fallen in love with me and I knew that the Stockholm Syndrome really worked.

    I want to know what your nickname then was, Paul!