Excerpt from an unnamed novel
Still, there was always the concept of dog years to take into consideration where a seven year old dog is approximately equivalent to a forty nine year old, age wise at least. An approximation the interviewer could more than vouch for having seen the next door neighbours twenty year old Doberman pincher who been put down only a month ago as it could hardly lift its back legs by then, not to mention the flatuation, dribbling and uncontrollable bowel movements. But then Manchester wasn’t even human never mind a dog which just as well really considering the negative connotations associated with being a dog. Manchester had more than enough negative connotations to contend with without having to add the dog ones, thank you very much. And after four years of the job having covered much of the Greater Manchester region and surrounding areas, so to speak, as well as observing everything that the areas had to offer the casual observer, the interviewer could only come up with the one conclusion really. And that was not only was Manchester a belligerent teenager, ala Kevin off Harry Enfield, there was also undeniable signs of psychotic tendencies, much akin to deriving pleasure from the maiming and killing small animals and insects, and if these tendencies where left unabated then heaven knows what they can develop into.
Even so, as far as the interviewer was concerned, who ever came up with idea of developing the term ‘Moss Side’ into brand name instantly recognised worldwide should be given a knighthood. Just think, a metaphor for violence, unrest, racial tension, social depravation, black-on-black killing, gun-related violence, bad housing, the appearance of the underachieving of young black men, etc., and in one fail swoop. There was no other word for it really. Absolute genius. Which was two words actually but why split hairs when all your ships come in at once. And as if to prove the point even further, there was yet another news report of a black-on-black male killing only this time in London somewhere where the victim was yet another fifteen year old regular churchgoer head of the church choir. All of which was pretty much par for the course but then you never know, someone might have been in a coma for the last thirty years so it was best to take no chances.
Shooting in the middle of the night, most likely black-on-black even though the police couldn’t confirm so at this early stage of proceedings, the standard school photograph of the victim when he was twelve years old, looking as sweet as pie like butter wouldn’t melt and so on, protestations and hand wringing from neighbours and friends who couldn’t believe such a thing could happen to a sweet young boy as such and such who loved his mother dearly and would send her flowers every birthday, which wasn’t actually always the case in fact but then where was the harm and besides it was all grist to the mill when creating the right atmosphere. And last but definitely not least, who just so happened to be an innocent bystander unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time not that any of this happened to matter in the slightest but then it was it was only bad manners to suggest otherwise not to mention gilding the lily. But then that was the media industry for you and besides, reality were very rarely good bedfellows so when the opportunity arises you grab it with both hands and watch your back in case someone else wants to take the credit.
Even so, it wasn’t hard to imagine the frustration amongst the news stations. ITV, BBC, CNN, and for that matter, good ol’ AL JAZZEIRA himself. Black-on-black killings were all well and good and always good for a couple of news reports at least. But well, a Moss Side killing, now those had legs. Not to mention the saving on good copy space. Not to mention the many Moss Side archive films and pictures available to hand. So much so that within minutes of the first shot being fired a complete new report would be recorded, edited and ready for immediate transmission on BBC News 24. Yes, the virtues of Moss Side as a metaphor. If you could bottle it you’d make a killing on the stock market.
One of the many perks of the job as far as the interviewer was concerned. The opportunity to free think with all kinds of ideas and associations cropping up. Still, even by his standards, franchising the Moss Side label was one of his better ideas by far, even if he says so himself. Imagine the possibilities. Instead of having to waiting for a killing to take place in Manchester, there could be a black-on-black killing anywhere in the country, London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, Aberwisthwith; and there you have it - A Moss-Sider. Much like a MacDonald’s, a Starbucks, a Toys-r-us, where the label could be transported worldwide and whether in Blackpool, Birmingham, London, New York, Washington or even Shanghai for that matter, if Shanghai ever had the misfortune of a sudden influx of African immigrants. Not that there would be too much of an issue if Tiananmen Square was anything to go by but then comparing Tiananmen Square to Moss Side was hardly fair really especially with Beijing having a couple of millennium head start on Manchester. But then at the very least it was a target to aspire to. And maybe later perhaps under the right circumstances, especially if the government did a u-turn and Manchester got the go-ahead to open up that new super casino, you never know. As the interviewer’s late mother was fond of saying. Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the tree tops.
All of which was all well and good but then there was more immediate matters to deal with. And in four years as Rajar interviewer obtaining radio ratings for BBC, commercial and any other radio stations going, another thing he especially hated was those damn door-bells you couldn’t hear from the outside. Still, the entrance light had gone on so that was something at least.
‘Hello, we’re doing radio ratings for BBC and commercial radio stations. We’re looking for volunteers …’
The piece is from my unfinished unpublished and as yet untitled third novel, based my thoughts, musings and other experiences as a market researcher collecting information on peoples listening habits. And being paid to do as well because otherwise what would be the point. All kinds of ideas popping into the head whilst walking the streets, knocking from door-to-door; in effect attempting to get a total stranger to do something which they had absolutely no intention of doing in the first place. Well, not until you happened to call. All of which, as you can imagine, is a basis as a rich seam for all kinds of reactions and experiences, you wouldn’t believe. You could write a book on ‘em, in fact, which funnily enough is my intention. So here goes, fingers crossed. Which brings me nicely along to on why I wrote this particular extract in the first place.
I entered the following transcript in to the Mediating Marginalities weblog on January 22, 2006, with the intention of provoking some sort of response on subject of Moss Side and all its associated issues.
I wrote Forever And Ever Amen, a semi-autobiographical novel about a boy growing up in Moss Side in the 1960s, partly in response to the shock I felt when reading about a shooting in Moss Side in the early 1990s. Apparently a school boy got shot in the face in a chip shop on Great Western Street. This was the same chip shop our family would go for our Friday evening fish and chips supper treat. Almost two decades later and I’m reading about a 15-year-old boy shot dead in the Recreation Park off Raby Street and Broadfield Road, the very same park where we played as kids. If these people are trying to completely screw up my wonderful Moss Side childhood memories then they’re doing a pretty good job of it, I’m telling you.
That was back in January 2006 and to date there has been no response. However, the piece is still there, to the credit of the Mediating Marginalities team, all of which will become clearer. About a month later I also posted the same comments on another weblog specifically related to issues related to the African and Afro-Caribbean issues within the UK, which had done a favourable review on my novel Forever and Ever Amen, again hoping to provoke some sort of discussion on the subject. However, within a week not only had the review removed but also my entry was also removed. So it was with this cowardice from that particular weblog that removed my entry in mind that I wrote this particular section from my latest and as yet unnamed and unpublished novel, again with the original intention of provoking some sort of response to the issue of such a contentious subject, safe in the knowledge at least that the piece will not be removed on the grounds of apparent bad taste.