Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 2

A continuation of Grovel Greg, Grovel - Greg moves to London.

It is 1976. Greg is a shy and naive 19 year-old, who has decided to take his chances in the big city.

He must pitch his wits against racism, unemployment, and people who want to take advantage of his inexperience.

But things don’t go well, and by the Autumn, he has disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Or has he?

In Part 2 Greg moves to London, and takes-up residence in the strange lodging house, "Turbot".

Part 3 is set in the present day, as his sister sets out to discover what really happened.

One chapter will be published on Movellas each day, until the story reaches its gripping conclusion.

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10. In Olly's Bedroom

Monday 12th July, 1976

The heat persists, although a little cloud develops as the day wears on. People are saying that the weather, at last, is about to break. In Manchester, Edrich and Close are eventually defeated, not by bouncers aimed at their heads, but by good honest fast bowling. Their demise is followed by the inevitable England collapse: by tea-time the score is 125 for 9.

And then it rains.

Not in London, but in Manchester, on Greg's telly. They have so much rain (and thunder) that play is ended for the day. The forecast for tomorrow is not good, either. This could be the greatest laugh ever, thinks Greg. From being in a seemingly unassailable position, West Indies could yet be thwarted by England's quirky weather, and the quirky resilience of England's old men. It would be, thinks Greg, a little like a Wolseley out-running a Ferrari. Greg wonders whether his father really is a 'broken man,' as Simon had claimed. But Simon was full of tosh last night, remembers Greg. It was just as well that Simon stomped-off in a huff when he did, otherwise he would have missed the last train home, thinks Greg. What a twat! Imagine orating all that racist twaddle! How do people get like that? Greg really would like a beer now. Or seven. But he has no money, so he wanders around Turbot aimlessly, trying to forget his craving. And trying to shut from his mind the fact that he has just lost two more friends- Simon and his Dad. This, together with Olly. And Leomi. And Nadia. He is not even sure if Derrick is still his friend. Not bad going for such a mild-mannered boy from the country.

            As he wanders through Turbot, he notices that the door to Olly's old room is ajar. This is unusual, as recently (since Olly had left), the room had been kept sealed by means of a padlock. Curiosity inspires Greg to peep into the room. On seeing no one inside, he pushes the door wide open, and walks in.

            There is much more gear in Olly's room than Greg had expected. He does not know if it is Olly's gear, or someone else's. Boxes, mainly. Some clothes. Greg does not know if they are Olly's clothes; he has only ever seen Olly wearing a denim jacket and jeans. And there is a typewriter- adding substantial weight to Greg's theory that it was Olly who had typed the letter inviting Madge to London. What is in those boxes? There could be ten of them, mostly sealed with gaffer tape. Everything is curiously tidy. The boxes neatly stacked, the clothes on hangers suspended from a rail. He had never considered Olly to be a tidy person, judging by how he used to leave the kitchen. But one of the boxes is not sealed properly. Greg peers into it. Inside, just a dull pile of old papers. He had hoped to see his diary in there. Then something catches Greg's eye:

            'Mark Loan move into Waterloo.' It is a publicity leaflet for Greg's former employer. Greg raises his eyebrows and starts to read. It explains what Mark Loan's business is, and how it is different to other loan companies. 'Personal Finance- a New Way!' There are pictures of the staff: a large one of Mr Markarian, of course, one of Dave Masters, 'Senior Consultant,' whom Greg recognises as one of the regular pickets, and Nadia. 'Nadia Zabbah, niece of Mr Markarian, Development Consultant.' Niece of Mr Markarian! Greg re-reads this several times. Niece. He hadn't known this. But he cannot see what practical difference it would have made, had he have known it at the time. Though he had been unwittingly treading on thin ice by seeing the boss's niece at lunch times. The leaflet can barely be a year old, but it already has an aged quality to it: Masters' jacket has a wide collar of the kind now out of fashion, Markarian is still sporting one of those ridiculous fat ties men used to wear about four years back. Nadia looks like a child.

            Greg rummages through the rest of the box. He finds a photograph- a very poor one that looks like its been taken in a hurry, of the street outside Mark Loan. Greg wonders why anyone would want to take a photo of that. He looks harder at the photograph. There is a girl in the photo: it is Nadia. Now Greg's curiosity is aroused: are there any other papers relating to Nadia here? He rummages frantically through the rest, but there appear to be none. There is a lot of handwritten stuff: lists of places, and times. 8.58 am, 8.55 am, 8.53 am, 9.00 am, 8.59 am, etcetera. Greg thinks: these were the sort of times that Nadia used to come into work! At the very bottom of the box is a brown paper bag that contains something soft. He pulls it out of the box and tips its contents onto the floor. Clothes: women's clothes. A complete set, all new and neatly folded. A white nylon blouse, a dark grey skirt, a bra and panties. The skirt is quite short...similar to the one that Nadia wore on the day that he discovered she had a boyfriend...could these be Nadia's clothes? Greg becomes alarmed. What if someone catches him in Olly's room, handling women's clothing? And what if something terrible has happened to Nadia, and these really are her clothes? He could get fingered for doing whatever it is that has been done to her. He chucks the clothes back in the box, and leaves the room, 'borrowing' Olly's typewriter as he goes. He feels entitled to do this.

 

Tuesday 13th July, 1976

When the English People wake-up on Tuesday morning, they feel cooler. The stifling night-heat of the last three weeks has gone. They have slept better; they feel refreshed. Some of them hope that drawing-back the curtains will reveal a wet day, as rain could yet save England in the Third Test. But it is dry, and England are blown-away in 20 balls.

            Greg is determined not to let this ruin his day. He resolves to spend what remains of it usefully: to make contact with Leomi, to try-out Olly's typewriter, and to give further thought to the Nadia-related items in Olly's old room.

            At Leomi's flat there is a West Indian man, decorating the exterior. He sounds vague, perhaps deliberately vague, concerning Leomi's whereabouts. "She's not here at the moment," and, on seeing that Greg is not satisfied by this, he adds "she said she was going away for a few days, I think."

            The man had looked surprised to see that Leomi had a gentleman caller. Greg wonders why might that be. Could the painter be Leomi's husband? Greg tries to decide whether the pair are a likely couple. He looks quite a lot older than Leomi; but Greg reckons that her lack of aesthetic quality may mean that she would not be too choosy about age. Greg tries to think-through the consequences of such a scenario. Had he just been a bit on the side (an idea he finds amusing)? Would her 'husband' (or whoever he was) be cross with him if he found out? Is it, therefore, over between Greg and Leomi? The answer to all these questions is potentially 'yes'. But Greg does not care. He does not miss Leomi. His mind is full of thoughts about Nadia. And he still plans to talk to Shaccara, should the opportunity arise.

            In his room, Greg starts to hammer-away on Olly's typewriter. It is clanky, but it works well. The ribbon is still quite inky. Certainly enough ink for a nice piece for AD. But Greg hasn't seen a band for weeks. So he writes from memory. A while ago, he had heard someone talking about seeing David Bowie arrive at Victoria Station in an open-top Mercedes. Greg writes as if he had seen this himself. The words come-out easily. He feels no guilt about this deception. Greg types enthusiastically, thumping the keys hard with his one-finger style. After half an hour of this, there is a fair page of quarto. Then, there is a knock at Greg's bedroom door. Greg panics. What if its Olly?

            “Thowy to bother you, Gweg. I'm wevithing fow my ectham tomowow and I am finding your typewiter quite loud."

            "Don't worry me old China," says Greg, "ten minutes and I'm done!"

            Had he really been typing that loudly? Maybe he had been hitting the keys too hard? What if he had broken the typewriter? Moreover, what if he had broken the typewriter and Olly had found-out? Could he afford to replace such an item, Greg wonders? Well, yes, of course he could- he still had his savings, hadn't he. Hadn't he? Greg checks in his drawer for his Post Office book. It has gone! He immediately suspects Olly. Greg finishes-off his article in a rage, then storms-off to Olly's room.

            Olly's door is padlocked once again. Someone has been to Olly's room since last night, and locked it. Greg contemplates kicking-down the door, but is stopped by the sound of men's voices downstairs. Greg dashes back to his room, but keeps his door slightly ajar so he can hear, and, possibly see, who it is.

            The voices talk in tough, business-like tones. They sound like they won't 'take any shit' (a phrase Greg has learnt since he has been in London). The men come upstairs. Greg hears the chain rattle as they unlock Olly's door. Have they come for the typewriter? Greg can feel the blood draining from his cheeks. With massive bravery, he peeps into the landing. He sees the two stocky black men that were with The Spiv and Shaccara at Derrick's party. When they are inside the room, Greg creeps out of his room, and goes downstairs. He figures he will at least have an escape route there.

            In the living room, Greg is surprised to find Shaccara. Fearful of being heard by the minders, he refrains from speaking to her. Shaccara seems to understand his predicament, and keeps quiet too. But Greg remembers the promise he made to himself: the next time he sees Shaccara, he will make a pass at her. He grabs a scrap of paper and scribbles "Elope with me" and hands her the note. She reads it and says nothing, but she looks offended. Then, after a pause, she smiles and grabs the pen from Greg's hand, and writes "I cannot". Greg mouths the word "Please." Shaccara motions with her eyes to the men upstairs. Greg smiles, and slips-out of Turbot. Outside, he sees a Mercedes with The Spiv inside, sitting on the back seat. But The Spiv does not look interested in Greg; he just looks bored. Greg wonders why Shaccara does not wait in the car with him, being as (so Greg believes) she is his girl. Perhaps she had wanted a pee, but once she had seen how decrepit Turbot is, she had changed her mind. Greg waits in the park until the visitors have gone before daring to return to Turbot.

 

'Zieg Heil!'

So! Ze controversy vill not die!

Did David Bowie REALLY give a 'Nazi-style salute' when he arrived at Victoria Station on 2nd May? Well, I was there, so perhaps I can shed some light.

  But first, I think we need a verb for 'Giving a Nazi-style salute'. How about 'ziegheiling'? Was Bowie REALLY ziegheiling? He, apparently, denies it ('ze fotografer caught me mid-vave'). But, put it this way, what would YOU think if you saw a bloke who looks like a Nazi, standing-up in a Nazi car, moving his raised arm through a broad sweep to a large triumphalist crowd? Put it another way, a lot of the kids in the crowd were ziegheiling back to him, so THEY thought he was.

  But no-one seriously believes that Bowie would invade Poland or gas Jews. He is merely giving us an intellectual exercise to chew-on for a while: what's so wrong with the 1930s, he is asking? Didn't we have STYLE then? Wouldn't things be easier with a dictator? All our problems could be DEALT WITH, rather than this shilly-shallying around we have with Jim Callaghan.

Personally, I rather like that old duffer Callaghan, but that's just me. To a lot of youths, he is synonymous with the ancien regime. To them it matters not that he is technically a politician of The Left: he represents the LAST generation: unequipped to deal with today's unemployment, racism, and general shit-ness. No wonder we have strikes and protests and punk and disorder. The irony of the whole thing is that if the protestors succeed in bringing Callaghan down, they will simply herald an even more reactionary government: that of Margaret Thatcher. Maybe this is what Mr Bowie is saying we need?

As for Bowie himself, he will survive. He will be the only act of the early 70s to do so. Slade, Sweet, Bay Shitty Rollers and even Bolan are crumbling before our eyes, in keeping with the cheap confection that they provide. In their place, we will have punk, equally cheap, but more 'now'. And reggae. And Bowie: quick-witted and talented enough to keep with it. But David, YOU HAF VAYS ENOUGH OF MAKING US VONT YOU! You needn’t resort to 'ziegheiling' to keep us interested!

 

Greg signs it-off  'A.T.Tude,' his alternative-style nom de plume.

For this, Greg is paid £100 by AD. £100! This is more than he would have been paid for two weeks 'real' work. Two weeks wages for half an hour of typing! Greg cannot believe it! Certainly enough to cover the money that was in his Post Office book. And he has been thinking about his Post Office book. Greg now thinks that he saw it after his diary went missing. This has moved suspicion somewhat away from Olly: it seems likely that Olly 'only' stole his diary. And shortly after that Greg began to lock his room, mainly to protect the telly that his sister had given him. The only person to have been in his room since then (that he knows of) is Leomi. Would Leomi have thieved his savings book? Could it be that her 'going away for a few days' is financed by his savings? He'd had the best part of £100 in there. Again, £100 for one night's 'work'- not bad going. Just for sleeping in Greg's bed. And she hadn't even had sex with him, that night.

He celebrates his gain by buying a newspaper. Inside is the same old thing: Uganda, the I.R.A. and strikes.

On Wednesday 14th July, Greg gets-up early. It is a warm day, but compared with the recent scorchers, it feels autumnal. Greg devotes the morning to unravelling the mystery of the various references to Nadia among Olly's belongings. First he must check that she is OK. He goes by tube to Waterloo, and then takes-up position in the street near Mark Loan, near enough to see who is entering the building, but (he hopes), far enough away to be unnoticed.

            Sure enough, at 8.57 am, Nadia walks-up to the front door of Mark Loan, and goes in. At least she is still alive. Greg feels again the longing he had for Nadia when he worked for Mark Loan, but he is at least able to leave Waterloo with a sense of relief that she is well.

            Then, back in Turbot, he gives the matter thought. Assuming that the stuff in Olly's old room was indeed Olly's, why would he harbour a collection of Nadia-related memorabilia? It could only be because he fancied her. Fancied her to the point of obsession, by the look of it. He must have followed her around and made notes of her movements. Because of this, he had become jealous of Greg seeing her at dinner times. And this led to Olly's nasty letter-writing habit: a novel method of getting even. A letter inviting his sister to Lonon, and probably a letter to Mr Markarian causing him to get the sack; both letters written as if by Greg. Greg shudders to think what the letter to Mr Markarian may have said. "Dear Mr Markarian, is it OK if I dick your nubile niece? Yours, Greg." Or, it may have been written directly to Nadia, who may have been so offended that she had shown it to her uncle. That would explain why she ignored him when he was sacked. It may have occurred to Mr Markarian that the letter could be a forgery, thinks Greg, but Mr Markarian would have thought 'Why take a chance?'- far simpler just to sack Greg and be done with it. Greg could easily be replaced. Afterall, if Mr Markarian was able to function without several striking workers, then he could easily manage without Greg.

            Then it hits Greg- Nadia's surname is uncannily similar to his landlord's. Zabbah - Zabbath. In fact, Olly called Mr Zabbath 'Mr Zabba'. It was Greg who called him 'Mr Zabbath,' copying the way the man from the agency had pronounced it. Nadia could, therefore, be Mr Zabbath's daughter! This could be how Olly had come to know of Nadia: he had (somehow) become aware of her in this context. It would also explain Greg's attempted eviction: Mr Markarian would have passed-on his bad feelings over Greg to his brother-in-law, and....yes, yes, it all makes sense, thinks Greg. Cheers Olly! You're a great mate! Just what I needed when I was new to London!

            Zepp is out, sitting his business exam. Bollocky is out too, at work, or somewhere. Greg thinks he is alone in Turbot. He angrily strides down the landing, and with a Kung-fu-style kick busts-open the door to Olly's old room. Once in the room, he locates the Nadia box, and steals the prize item- Nadia's panties. He retreats to his room and hides them in his drawer. Then he sits on his bed and bows his head. He feels lonely. He weeps. After a while, he lies down, and drifts off to sleep.

Simon told Greg that his father is a 'broken man'. But this is not exactly true. A 'beaten man' is a better description. Back in Bury, Greg's father reflects that life used to be simple. You left school, you learnt a trade, you worked hard and saved some money. Then you met a nice girl and got married and had kids. All you had to do then was bring them up. He'd been doing that OK, he thought. Look at Algernon- he'd been such a nice lad. Always clean and tidy, with short hair. And he was a hard worker. But now...a beatnik with no socks, according to Simon. Madge is OK, by comparison, though even she has started doing daft things like dyeing her hair. But it is Algernon who is his son and heir, he who would have to carry the family name into the next generation. His is a proud East Anglian family; but this rate its stake in the future is likely to be represented by a bunch of south London half-castes, he thinks.

 

"Greg. Greg." A woman's voice emanates from the hall in Turbot. Greg comes-to and wipes the tears from his face. He drags his fingers through his hair to make it stick-up in its now-accustomed manner. He goes downstairs to investigate. It is Shaccara! Greg has never heard her speak before. At once, Greg is both overjoyed and alarmed to see her. Overjoyed, because she has the potential to guide even a suicidal man to a state of ecstasy. Alarmed, because she is usually accompanied by The Mob.

            "Shaccara! Why are you here?"

            "Don't worry, Greg- Rankin's not with me, he's doing some business." Rankin: that must be 'The Spiv,' thinks Greg. Greg feels nice when Shaccara says his name. He had not realised that she knew what it was. He is still not sure why she is here, though.

            Shaccara is wearing a white blouse which, on any normal mortal, would look plain. Greg looks more closely at it. There are embroided patterns within its fabric- swirls, possibly a stylised sea-shell pattern. 'Nice,' thinks Greg- trust Shaccara to get it just right. She has an electric blue scarf, in some shiny material, tied loosely around her waist. The bright blue, the white, and her honey-coloured skin compliment eachother perfectly. On someone less cool such a combination might be a shambles. She has blue jeans with barely a hint of flare. In fact, the flare is so subdued, it cannot truly be considered a flare at all.

            "What brings you to our residence?" Greg offers, suddenly ashamed of his grotty surroundings.

            "I came to see you. [ME!!?? Thinks Greg. His heart skips a beat] I wanted to explain why I couldn't talk to you last time we met." Greg thinks he already knows why that was: because if Rankin's minders had heard them talking, they would both have been in trouble. "They're not after you Greg, they only come here to get gear out of that little room upstairs. But you can't talk about things like eloping with me in-front of them. If Rankin found out.....well, he can be a very jealous man."

            Greg blushes as he remembers the note he had written. When she sees him blush, she smiles and looks prettier than ever. To be smiled-at by a pretty woman is the sweetest flattery a man can receive. Greg is dieing to tell Shaccara how pretty she is. But he cannot think how to say this without ruining the ambience of their meeting. So he just says,

            "What ‘gear’ do they keep up there?"

            "Drugs. Heroin mainly, I think." Heroin, thinks Greg, that's serious shit. His heart skips another beat. All those boxes he saw in Olly’s room are stuffed full of drugs! And how calmly Shaccara said it! ‘Herion,’ she’d said, as if it were referring to coffee or buttercups.

            "Er, doesn't Mr Zabbath mind?"

            "Who's Mr Zabbath?"

            "Mr Zabbah, I mean; he's the landlord."

            "We don't rent the room from Mr Zabbah, whoever he is," states Shaccara, with child-like certainty, "we rent it from Mr Deere." Mr Deere- Olly! Greg has had almost as many revelations as he can handle for this week. Mr Deere indeed!

            "Mr Deere?"

            "Yes," continues Shaccara seriously, "he is one of the most respected drug dealers in south London." That Olly could be respected in any field (with the possible exception of petty theft), is itself a surprise to Greg; but surely the terms 'respected' and 'drug dealer' cannot not belong in the same sentence? Despite Greg's interest at hearing all this, the conversation is not going in the direction he wants. So he asks Shaccara what she does. She does not seem to understand what Greg means. Greg means 'what economic activity do you persue,' but Shaccara, after smiling disarmingly, thinks he means 'generally.' "Ride around in the car, go places with Rankin," she says, shrugging her shoulders.

            "What does Rankin do?"

            "Business. He is a business man."

            "Aren't you worried about telling me all this?" asks Greg.

            "Why?"

            "Because drugs are illegal.” Greg pauses, then says, “You did know that, didn’t you- drugs are illegal?”

            Shaccara says she doesn’t know whether they are or not. Anyway, she says, Rankin doesn't sell drugs: it is Mr Deere that does that.

            "How did you know my name," asks Greg?

            "You're a friend of Derrick, right?" Then, abruptly, she says "I've got to go now, Rankin will miss me."

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