An extract from Chin Music: From Under a Cloud on Heartbreak Hill: a new book by Gary Knapton.
If a frightened female voice claims that her bloke is knocking her around and a couple of bobbies turn up to realise that the call was a set-up it’s too late once the Old Bill are inside the building. No escape routes. Nice and secluded. The delights of Brutalist architecture.
The police then take a revenge beating and learn the lesson for future protection of their staff. It can take eight or nine policemen just to contain Karl. He’s a giant. Let alone a group of five or six residents.
Thing is, when the local ferals out of The Foyer hostel are at my front door with their EDL buddies, seeing me as ripe for a good homophobic kick-in – they don’t know that the police no-go rule applies. And I do.
And the rule works in both directions. So if I can’t call the police out and you’re up to no good on my block, neither can you. So you’d better be taking me out because if I’m still standing when you’re through, you’re in real trouble, potentially.
Buddy, Geoff, Slater, Billie The Kid – they’ve all done plenty of stir in Strangeways. They used to re-house them here on The Hill right out of their long-term stretches so a good few of my neighbours and friends and the people I now like and can trust, have “ninety-nines”. A long term lease of ninety-nine years to remain on the block as a tenant here as long as they behave and pay their dues. You know, council tax and rent. The big two.
Water doesn’t stop running out of the tap if they don’t pay that bill. The electricity is on a cash only key and will cut after the five pound reserve is up but I’ve seen these hardened men. A few days by candlelight never killed anyone. It’s better than a cell. They’re improvising on toilet roll and tea bags when I call round but not in an unhygienic way – which may be hard for you to comprehend in these whiter than white clinical times.
Good men. Real people with real stories to tell. Men and women that I can rely on. Who have my back. Jay literally offers me his last five pound note when I mention, just in passing, that I’m skint. I refuse. I didn’t mean it like that. But he’s got the note in his hand and he’s offering.
The last time I ever see Jay he’s sat on the floor in the corridor on the twentieth floor with his wife and kids as my lift down makes a stop. His situation didn’t compute at the time but he asks me for some cigarettes or money for some. I sense a new concern in the energy field in that secluded space. I tell him to wait there and I go down to Tony’s and buy him a packet. I then take it back up and he nods in appreciation as I hand them over.
Here are my diary notes from January 2018 exactly as I wrote them in at the time.
Attacks in the lift & mall
Witnessing attacks from window on Sunday 14th January with Nicole
Evidence – witnesses and cameras
Police hate crime logged. 101. 999. WPC Weaver. This on 14th Jan. On 24th January 2018 I learn that my case worker has changed from PC Leslie Warburton Marsh to WPC Catherine Magnall and I get the formula for working out her email address. The 101 contact handler advises me to call the council housing office as she herself is a landlord. I place an email to Catherine on 24th and the 101 contact handler logs my request for her to contact me at my request on the mornings of 24th and again on 25th January. She is on duty but unavailable to take my call when I ring in on this most recent occasion.
Thursday 25th at about 10am I place a lengthy call to activate (mobilise) the “rogue landlord team” in the council with a specific request not to contact my landlord, who i state to be XXX and XXX. My reference number is F85125 and my receiver is a really pleasant and supportive lady called Jane @ customer contact to housing standards. She informs me of a hate crime team here too that feds into the police.
The same evening Chris Gleave leaves me voicemail explaining how my landlord must be notified. This is the S21 revenge loophole, btw. He offers the fire brigade as an alt option. He leaves me email.
Neighbours ‘grass’ allegations. I suspect this isn’t OG prison talk as much as strategic implied pressure on me to not have the police in the building where most people are smoking weed etc. Yet I can’t be sure that it’s not both.
Jackson Lees. Short but great advice.
Jessica at LGBT Foundation re the legal advice surgery for a free 30 mins. She emails me a lawyers contact details for me to follow up. This is Kirsty Almond at Alfred Newton Solicitors and I am given her landline and email address. I email Kirsty a top line briefing at 950 am on Thursday 25th January
That evening I get voicemail from Holly at Alfred Newton offering me her number. I make a call to Holly on Friday 26th and leave a message with a colleague. I am told to expect a call.
I get the numbers for Shelter and the Residential Landlord’s Association in a bid to reach out for wider help, after reading an article in The Guardian where these two organisations are referenced in a story about tackling rogue landlords. This is Friday 25th January 2018.
Lewis re Osman advice. Again. Concise but essential new paths for me to pursue.
Osman Warning research. Real and immediate danger. Evidence logged. Not arrests made. Do I fulfil these criteria?
Strangford. The door. 12th Jan recorded call to Leanne. 3 calls to Leanne on Monday 22nd January and a call from Pedro (in person) who drills in the three missing screws to my doorframe yet the problem is not resolved and despite both Pedro and Leanne promising quick feedback as to James (the fitter of my new door) intentions, nothing has happened at all by Thursday, except that my door handle moves further off the frame it is bolted to with every forced closure. It is now when I speak with Jane (above) re the rogue landlords team. Yet I am not left feeling good or powerful or in control. It feels as if I have just put more trouble for myself up ahead on record. But there is a palpable sense of courage and agency too. I intuit that the fight must be taken, by me, to the big guys. Or I already lost.
Salford Street Security. Daniel & Garry. The vests on eBay. Advice on ‘wearing a piece’.
Jo Moby on record at The Foyer re Conor Bradbury and Amy by phone
My neighbours apathy. Alison Hulme and Nicole Chidwell. Innocent and guilty reasons for going it alone.
Natalie is scared off
I make an after dark escape to Mum’s for the week
iSentry, iCloud and Stagecoach mobile travel pass. Restructured my data for safety.
On 22nd Jan I obtain a four week sick note from Locum GP Lucy Friedman at Ordsall Health Surgery. The next day I submit it to UC via my job search DWP Consultant James Smith. It buys me a window to go all out on this case without having to meet obligations of searching for work. A short window yet if I am dedicated and courageous, it may be enough.
I read page 272 of Omar El Akkad’s American War;
‘My sheltered world shook with the realisation that it was possible to live this way. I’d been raised in the shadow of walls; she was of the river.’
That word. Sheltered. And that other word. Shook. I think of Natalie.
I open my twitter messages and read the last one from Kirk. My friend in London. His final advice to me is ‘Write what’s happening. I’d buy it.’
I sit in Costa with this paperback book headed for Kirk when I’m through. Slow beat blues piping through the tinny ceiling speakers, competing with the whir of air conditioning filters.
About a half dozen other customers in this giant new coffee shop. All blue green light in the early winter dawn. How high they build hospitals, observed Larkin in the seventies. How massive they make Costa’s and Poundlands and Cash Converters. Knapton. 2018.
Does my Barista look like a younger , Eastern European version of Linda Cardellini or am I having a middle aged breakdown? Both – is the word that rattles my skull as the most valid answer to that question.
Write what’s happening.
My neighbour and I stand at my window with binoculars and watch the Bradbury twins literally mugging people at the pelican crossing island in front of the block. Two hundred and fifty feet below where we stand in my lounge. I’ve got the eight by forties. She’s using the cheap pair I picked up on ebay. Good enough, though. She heads off for the elevators to get down there and stop them. She’s hard as nails and angry. A good soul. We see an old man walking with a frame get body-checked and we see the glimmer of his phone pass into Conor’s pocket. They’re picking on the single mum’s with prams and the old people. The Bradbury’s are sixteen. Under the age limit for a stretch in prison. They just get fortnight spells in youth centres and they come out even tougher. Invincible.
Is that the best you got? Say their cheeky adolescent smiles.
I call the local police station- Pendleton and I ask for precise technical advice on self-defence – on how I can wipe these kids out without being charged for assault. My neighbour on the twenty first floor has windows that open fully – so you could jump right out or throw something big out. A tumble drier or bodies. A well worn channel of waste-disposal. Word passes along the block grapevine that I am welcome to use his facility to make the Bradbury’s expire but it’s not my style. These lads have been dragged up through orphanages and hostels with no role models ever. I detest their behaviour but I feel like I know them in my heart. They need help from people like me in a good mood before they meet people like me in a bad mood. Otherwise they won’t make it to Strangeways on their eighteenth birthdays.
Jo Turnbull at Swinton CID calls me back and she is really helpful. I’m walking a tightrope here. I’m desperate to engage the authorities in my support – desperate to breathe the oxygen of urgency and agency into a sleepy, uncaring society where collective conscience is fragmented and nobody takes ownership of the grand design of the core of the matters at hand. At the same time, I don’t wanna get nicked for lamping a cocky minor. Yet if I clock one more whack from behind from some total unknown that I never saw coming – the upshot of a kid secretly filming me declare my sexuality and circulating it to the gangland and the EDL boys, then I won’t be responsible for my actions. Well that’s the phrase we all use. Thing is, I am responsible and I will continue to be so. Always. And you too. Actions have consequences.
The lads that run the local security cameras in the hood tell me the blind spots where I can take the rascals and put the boot in without detection. Wear gloves and a stab jacket is their advice. But again, I know I’m way too old fashioned for that. I don’t want to join the problem and add to the violence.
Then again- this is Manchester. Emmeline Pankhurst. Peterloo. The Working Class Movement. Engels and Marx.
The language of the ‘hood ain’t verbal persuasion.
And remember, I cannot call the police. My 999 ain’t heard. This is 2018. This is inner-city Salford. The green and pleasant land of England.
This is Chin Music.