Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


The Preface
Alex Greenwood

Born. Some how. In the north. The beyond. Said 'button'. More practical. Lived in a quiet neighbourhood until it moved to South Africa. Lonely - little - five years old. Spent hours dancing round trees. Like a fairy. Had wings. Went to school in an old house. Hidden away. Got older, started taping the radio. Reality did not touch. Only a matter of days. Memories slow down: first eleven years of life. Now in my memory tunnel, I am coming to an air lock. It won't let me through without a bit of hurt. Scars burst open, pus runs out down my arms and somewhere else. Shit. Forget - forgotten - lying - like a sour bitch. Where? On the grass, laughing at Joss cos he's got glue round his mouth and his nose. And he can't read proper, like. 'Gonna fuckin' 'it you. Shut up.' Where do they come from~these memories? They come from holding your breath in a dirty reservoir with concrete walls. They come from - what we called - comprehensive school. 'Cos looking back, you can't quite comprehend them. But - like legal aid - they don't exist no more. They're called som'at else now 'cos they created too many teenage mothers, punks, druggies and criminals. Well, up north they did.

Trials of puberty? What puberty? There isn't time to mess around with that 'getting used to your character' stuff. You're too busy fighting with an older girl with four tattoos and a love bite on her neck. You're too busy trying to keep Danny Thornton out of your knickers. Incidents appear like beacons on the road - "STOP CHILD!" - I'm on the crossing and I'm no longer a kid. - Don't knock me down - BANG! - Old industrial town smacks you on the head and won't leave until you are bleeding. And you bleed. Cars on fire, smack on the corners, a boy in your class gets into a fight and some fuckwit knifes his balls. What? But I only hate those years now. I didn't then. I didn't know any different. And I watch documentaries on the television about Northern youths and I have to leave the room to be sick. The smell of Thunderbirds and cider makes me panic. Yet I still say 'I wouldn't be me if I hadn't lived like that.' What did I want to be? What am I thinking of? Even the smart ones got pulled into the 'shit job, kid on the way' trap.

Who were those people I went to school with? I know that some have married, some are inside but the others? They disappeared into a street one day, into a house and they never came out. Concealed by rooms, doors, paper, statistics sticking them to the walls like they have been wallpapered over. Their clothes are the curtains, their faces, the windows and doors. They weren't really supposed to exist, these seventies children of high-rise flats and heroin who always made their own dinner. Whose mother came in pissed and threw up on the floor - ader calling them bastards. Where your brother wasn't really your brother but the son of a chap yer mam had picked up at the working mens' club. And at school, while fifteen year olds got pregnant and you started doing smack, they told you not to throw litter in the yard and always wear your school uniform. I think they forgot that some kids couldn't afford a Jumper.

I felt out of place because I read books to hide from the violence. People would say I was square so my cousin Troy beat them all up - then went back to his 'phet and ended up in Armley for dropping a grate on someone's head. He's a nice lad, though. Do anything for yen He once helped my Gran dig up a tree. Still, I managed okay. Still got a lot of problems.

Exposed to things too young. Everybody isn't like us'. Yet I was the only one who was aware of this. Don't look people in the face when I'm walking down the street. I might recognise someone I went to school with and I wouldn't know what to say when their three year old son looks dirty and swears to people passing by. They are the next generation now except this time it's rebuilt houses and crack. In the town where my school was, where I lived, my mother lived and my grandmother still lives: there's heroin addicts selling methadone to the young kids. Forty years ago, it was such a beautiful place. A wake-up call though. I got more street-wise. A good or bad thing? Started going to clubs young, I mean, very young. My experiences with the etiquette of the ripped generation had taken their toll on my face. I looked twenty-one when l was only thirteen. Dated - got my heart broken - laughed in his face - times that by twenty.

Gets a bit tricky now. Some important stuff is starting to hit me in the face as I am travelling through time. This is the part where I started to divide. Lives are intermingling and I know I'm going to end up in a mess. So stop - Take it by seconds - Breathe - Start again - I wasn't born until I hit fourteen. This makes things easier. . .

© 1998