FASCISTS, SPIES & LIES
I was at Aldgate East Tube station, on a warm afternoon in June. As the train doors closed, they forced their way on. I’d seem them already on the platform, looking. They diverted their eyes away when I looked at them. You can’t be driven by paranoia, thinking fascists are everywhere. But their adrenalin was obviously pumping. Maybe they thought I’d recognised them.
I guess they just looked the sort, if that’s not rude. Late 30s, cropped hair, tattoos and cans of lager (them, not me). Where was Titus, my aging and angst-ridden minder when I needed him?
Upon entering the carriage and standing in front of me they did a dance, a little two-step whilst they summonsed the courage in one another to attack me. Slow motion kicked in as I prepared myself for their attack. “Facking red cant, facking nonce.” They were cockneys. One threw his can at my head and missed. Oh fuck me, here we go.
The other kept feeling around in his pocket. He either had a small knife or a massive cock. I shrugged my shoulders. I’m only going up Brick Lane for a curry. It shouldn’t be this hard.
What with it being London, a sex circus could’ve boarded the train mid-performance and your average Londoner would’ve barely bothered to look up. A fist came down on the side of my head. Ouch. That hurt. They began beckoning me to get up and fight, kicking me in the shins and jumping around like monkeys. “Let’s ‘ave it you cant, how facking ‘ard are you, you cant?”. I recalled some training we did once. Was I supposed to roll into a ball or turn my back? When did I ever say I was hard?
It was a proper commotion now. Someone down the carriage mumbled something like “enough of this thing” from behind their Daily Telegraph and the two goons became distracted just momentarily. Then the second can hit me in the face. Such brutality finally stirred the carriage. A man in broken English was coming to my rescue. He was Italian, a little bespectacled man in his forties, shooing them away. “Fuck off you cant,” one of them began, walking towards him. I looked around; Londoners had their ponderous heads down in their newspapers reading horror stories about violence on the underground.
As the train pulled into Whitechapel, the feet and the fists rained down. I covered my head as they began stomping and grunting. It was taking ages for the doors to open. A woman began screaming “Stop it! Stop it!”, but it only made them go harder and faster. “Facking nonce, facking nonce” was all they could shout. Everyone hates a fucking nonce.
And then there was silence. Just a ringing in my ears. Like a cartoon character, I saw stars. My teeth were loose. The doors opened and off they ran. I hate pity. “These are very bad men.” the Italian told me, handing me my rucksack. “They tried to steal your bag,” he said, outraged.
I went home smelling of cheap lager and with a splendid black eye. I also had a limp. I looked like a right cunt. “You’re home early,” she said, barely raising her head. It was the second beating I’d taken from the fash in a year. But I’d had worse; a few years before, in Dagenham, we’d been photographing an English Defence League march that broke away to attack two Asian lads. They then turned on me.
Before long the fridge at home was filled with beer and chocolate sent from work, plus the obligatory investigation began where Titus would begin a fruitless search around Whitechapel before coming to mine to pace the floor, cracking his knuckles demanding retribution and malt whisky.
Despite the heat, he was wearing an old leather coat I’d left at his house during the winter. I let it slide. “This hurts me more than you,” he groaned. Unimpressed by his angst, my missus poured him his malt and pointed to my face. “The evidence would suggest otherwise,” she said dryly.
Titus insisted we sit for the next few hours studying the CCTV recordings from outside the house. Titus saw a pattern or some other nonsense. “Why don’t you go on holiday, Maff?”
He then decided to stay the night, plonking his large arse in the armchair facing the television. We ordered in a curry. I took out my new credit card and booked the family a rare holiday. We never stayed anywhere for long.